Saturday, July 30, 2011

Home Again in time for an AWESOME GIVEAWAY!

We're back from the beach! Thank you so much to all of the amazing women who guest posted for me while I was away!

So, the girls had a blast splashing in the waves and wearing goggles and jumping with no help into the pool. (Louisey, however, did NOT have a blast riding the plane, sleeping at the condo, or learning about why we don't rub sand into our eyes.) The girls slept in the back seat, (again, for Louise I use the term "slept" loosely), and Kurt and I drove through the night, so don't expect a detailed update until I've had about... oh, 40 thousand days of sleep. Until then, here's how vacation made us feel...




Of course we're looking forward to our next adventure and crossing off another item from my Summer Fun List! On Saturday we're headed to Idlewild Park for Louisey's first visit and to celebrate... I'm giving away 4 tickets to Idlewild Park here on my reviews page!

Woo! Give it up! Tell your friends! Go enter!


Okay. Time to lay on the floor with my zombie husband and watch kid's TV until bedtime.

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Friday, July 29, 2011

Guest Post by Sarah - Staycation in Chicago...

I'm at the beach with my family this week! In honor of summer vacation time, Sarah was kind enough to write up a guest post telling us about a recent staycation in her city of Chicago. Please show her lots of love and support!  (How about you?  Would you like to share your city with Last Mom On Earth readers?  We'd love to have you!  Go ahead and contact me with your guest post ideas!)







Skyline


The opportunity to do this guest post came at a perfect time. It's funny how that happens, but Husband and I were lamenting the fact that we wouldn't be able to take a vacation this year due to his lack of available time off. We truly enjoy our vacations, they are at once busy and fun filled but thoroughly relaxing and good for our souls. We enjoy the family time our vacations provide; the kind of family time where you're not trying to get somewhere or do something around the house. In my opinion, the best kind of family time; where you just get to be. So when I was offered this guest post on a staycation we went all the way. We booked a hotel in downtown Chicago and had a lot of fun (even if we were only gone 24 hours).

chickpea at chicago and damen


On our way into the city we stopped for dinner at a restaurant called Chickpea. It's Middle Eastern cuisine and it's amazing. I highly recommend the trio of dips and the falafel sandwich. The kids shared Dajaj Mihshew which is grilled vegetable and chicken kebab with rice. However, Daughter ended up stealing a lot of my sandwich (which was okay because I filled up on the trio of dips).

pritzker pavillion


If you're near downtown Chicago (which we were because we stayed there at the fanciest hotel I've ever stayed at), Millenium Park is awesome. There are always people there and when we went there was a concert by the Grant Park Orchestra at the Pritzker Pavillion. Oh and the concert was totally free (at least for the lawn) so we didn't feel bad only staying for part of it.

the bean


After we were done with the concert there was a must stop (requested by Daughter) at the Bean. It's technical title is Cloud Gate, but if you call it that you will look like a tourist. All the cool people call it the Bean.

the bean


We took our photos in it (along with 20 million other people - that may or may not be an exaggeration), and I think it will be the family photo. You should also be sure to walk under it and look up. It's a really cool effect and I did take a photo of it, but you should be surprised if you ever go.

foundtains at millenium park


After that it was a short walk to the fountains. We let the kids wade, but it was a little late at night for our kids to don their swim suits to go all out. It didn't stop other kids though and I would highly recommend bringing a swim suit.

fountains at millenium park


The fountains will spit at you and I think every child but my two love it. Daughter will run away from it and Son doesn't really move much when he's just wading. He just stands there, but if he's in a pool he wants to be all over. Go figure.

eleven city diner


The next morning we had breakfast (I would say brunch, but when it's 8:30 in the a.m. it's breakfast) at Eleven City Diner. It's a newer restaurant, but it has to old school feel of a true Jewish Delicatessen. Or at least that's what I'm told. I've never had bad food there, but if you can't decide where to start, I recommend the Open Faced Turkey Sandwich if it's lunch and then Eleven City Diner French Toast or the Tom Waits for breakfast. Unless you have a large appetite you will probably not finish any of those. If you go during the school year you might have to put up with some Columbia College art student hipsters, but it's a small price to pay for the amazing food. Other people also seem to love that they have Egg Creams, but not me.
After breakfast we headed to the Museum of Science and Industry. Chicago has a ton of great musuems to choose for and all of them are family friendly (even the Art Institute - Daughter actually really likes that one). We chose the MSI because we're members (so it was free), it's very interactive, and the weekend we were there was the Taste of Chicago downtown and the Pride Parade on the Northside. We wanted to avoid all of those. Here are some things you can do at the museum:

80 mph winds
experience 80 mph winds
air stream at MSI
discover how strong air streams can be
baby chicks at MSI
baby chicks! (always very popular)

After the museum we headed to Medici (Obama used to eat there - that is either a positive or negative for you, if it's a negative, don't hold it against them the food is amazing) for lunch, put on the swim suits and let them play in the splash park almost directly across the street from Medici.

splash park across from medici's


Before going home we picked up some milk shakes from Medici at the to-go counter. It took Son about 10 minutes before he was asleep. I'd say that's the sign of a fun day and a good staycation.


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shoes Before becoming a Mom Sarah received a Master of Arts degree in Sociology and worked with troubled youth. Currently she enjoys staying at home with her two young children and crafting whenever she has free time. You can see what she's up to over at Cerlandia



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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Guest Post by Audra - God Is Love

I'm so happy to present this guest post to you. It was written by my very own little sister, Audra. As I'm sure you've learned from reading my words, we were raised in a spirit filled, (read: wacko and oppressive), Christian environment. This piece is part of her take on what it's like to grow up in a small town with too much God in it. Please take the time to show her lots of love and support. She's an awesome person and an awesome writer and I'm so very proud to call her my own.

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I.

Pay close attention. Don’t move.
I stared until a halo formed around the Pastor’s head. His palms were cold against me. Any second now.

The halo grew to encompass my vision. He’s here.

Something flickered behind my eye, and my head jerked back against my neck. My eyes turned to the cross. Let Him have you. Release yourself.

My vision trembled along the cross section; the dark wood formed a defining line. I am with God. I am with Him, my thought chanted.

My vision tunneled by a bright light and the point along the wooden cross blipped out of existence. I was with Him.

But then again, I was still there. I wiggled my big toe. It sent a distinct message back to my brain. I never left. People reported a blackout before falling to the floor, jittering bodies and jabbering mouths, jumping Christian jelly beans. No need to doubt. I pressed my eyes closed tight and hoped for the blackout before I let myself fall back into the elder sisters’ arms. I tried to block any sensation, but I felt their hands, along my ribs, lower me softly to the ground. The carpet was thin on the baseboard by the alter. I tried to conjure the light, push a blank film across my mind, but I couldn’t stop my thought. Was this really God?

I struggled against my doubt. I thought of a sunrise, the distance from the star, and our perfect position for life. Created in His image. I was created in His image. I urged my faith. The sisters knelt down beside me and put their fingers in jars of oil to trace the line of my jaw. They rubbed the muscles in my face to loosen my tongue. I opened my mouth.

My tongue sat as a bulky, wet mound as I tried to give myself to God. I thought of His hands along my face and the tenderness He’d exude. My tongue would jabber in ecstasy. None of me, I thought, Not my tongue. And then, I let the gibberish wash across my mind and through my mouth, a bad mixture of baby babble and basic salutations from Spanish class.

I was thirteen.

I locked myself in my bedroom, and turned the lamp to shine on my face in the mirror. I opened my mouth as I had done before and watched as my tongue started to flicker, and I let the nonsense take me.

Deep down under the garbled gargle of my brainwash, a little curious girl with messy red hair peered over the kitchen counter.

I was a young poor Christian girl in a new school with older kids, bad boys, and flashy dressers. I tried to stay in the shadows. I hid my Bible on the bottom shelf of my locker, but the guilt of my shame grew to the pit of my stomach until I took out the book and carried it to my study hall. I wanted to be Christ-like. I slid the Bible out of my backpack

but hid the cover behind my notebook, and I read the secret words. My nerves gripped to scream that everyone in the room was watching. But, really, no one cared. No one seemed to notice me.

I wore baggy Christian t-shirts that proclaimed my faith. I sat in the corners and tucked my books against my chest but let the colorful lines show around the edges. A rough boy in my science class pointed me out from the other kids. My eyes darted across the room to the teacher. “Why do you always wear those shirts?” He demanded.

Spit pooled along his eager gums. My mind raced for a smart defense, something that would lead to God’s glory. All I knew was how to talk of God. My stomach grew around my chest and pushed my heart out in a visible thunder. I wanted to keep his gaze but my face sunk to the floor.

“Because she likes them, that’s why?” my cousin’s voice blurted out behind me in my defense.

I wanted to say something. “I believe in God,” I said in a whisper, but he didn’t hear me. My head warmed as the blood rose in my embarrassment. My cousin flipped her blonde hair over her shoulder. The boy turned away. I sunk my face back into my school books.

When I was thirteen, I used God to ease my shame. My life revolved around avoiding embarrassment and the anxiety that came with it.. I think I wore that t-shirt less frequently until it disappeared from my wardrobe, just in case.

Every night, I gave my devotion in small mummers behind my closed door. His message to me was, “Wait.” So I waited.

II.

I met my friend under the giant oaks. She giggled and twisted; her hair in a flutter, about a boy, she said, we’d meet. Unaware of the date and having nowhere else to go, I was urged to stick around.

He was a dark haired boy; a bad boy, he wore black t-shirts. His mouth pulled back in a knowing smirk, his lips in an alluring sneer. He knew the devil, my nerves turned in assumption.

We sat in a line along the roots in the ground, the hard bark against our backs. We watched the clouds between the trees until patterned scales formed in our skin. We thought to rub them away, we sat in a train, and then, his hands fell on my shoulders.

I tried to talk of God, but, he turned my attempts in jests. His banter spiked my attention. He was the backward image of my charisma toward God. His passion about nothing. Nothingness, and something.

We walked through trees and over worn paths to the rocky ledge. He offered me a cigarette, and I declined by my devotion.

III.

There was a bad man behind a godly mask. He took my devotion in his lies. I believed until I heard the truth. And, God let it happen.

IV.

I dreamed of you until I was a woman. Then, I left the dream for childishness.

V.

Across an empty bar with low lit orange lights, I saw the dark haired boy. He came to me with a smile and offered me the smoke. I put behind my notions of God and took the boy’s offer. He beamed to me from our connection and never left my side.

So, I ask you know, “Who is God?” I’ve always wanted Him to be pure love.

The boy behind those devilish eyes caught me by surprise. I took him with me and claimed my love for nothing but our lives.




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Audra and Mike were married in 2009 and had a baby boy named Charlie.  They're sure to live happily ever after.  Audra is a grad student, a reformed charismatic and the best mommy she can be.


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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Guest Post by Feather - Bigger Than A Kitten

I'm still on vacation, so today, one of my best and most awesome friends from in real live life, Heather, is going to share a little bit of her city-livin' with you. Please give her lots of love. You'll see after reading this why she needs it!
Is there something you'd like to share with Last Mom On Earth readers? Contact me with your guest post ideas!




Justin came up from the kitchen the other night, visibly distressed.

"What is it?" I asked. "I think, uhh...I think I saw something. Like an animal. In the kitchen. It ran into the pantry."

Apparently, he was standing at the sink washing a dish when he saw a flash of fur out of the corner of his eye. Whatever it was slipped under the 1/2 inch space between the closed pantry door and the floor. The two of us raced down to the kitchen and I flung open the pantry door only to HEAR something scuttling and then SEE an ENORMOUS, HUMONGOUS, GIGANTIC brown animal quickly burrow behind a toolbox sitting on the floor. I screamed like a little girl and Justin and I jumped onto the counter. I then proceeded to talk myself out of barfing. We were living with an unidentified mammal. I prayed it was a miniature horse or a cuddly kitten. But it was BIGGER THAN A KITTEN.

A lot bigger.
Did you just read that?
IT WAS BIGGER THAN A KITTEN.

I immediately called our landlord Lindsay, who lives in an apartment connected to the house, to explain that the shrieks she likely heard through the walls were not the sounds of Justin murdering his wife, but the result of me not completely seeing a horrible thing in our pantry. A horrible thing that was very likely going to somehow escape and bite us repeatedly with its awful pointy diseased teeth. Unfortunately, it was around 11:00 p.m., so there wasn't much Lindsay could really do, so we stuffed some towels under the pantry door and went to bed. And then I stuffed a towel in the crack under Eliot's door to be safe. I really love my baby's face, and I didn't want some unidentified thing that was BIGGER THAN A KITTEN to eat it off.

Here's the thing: Justin and I have lived in places where mice were frequent visitors. We didn't love living with rodentia, but we could somewhat calmly do what needed to be done to get them out of our house (and into mouse heaven). When we lived above the coffee shop (sorry to all of you patrons who know the place I'm talking about and frequently consume food and beverages there) the place was somewhat overrun with very cute, but very mousy mice. We kept all of our dry food in plastic bins with lids to make our kitchen less attractive. The poison behind the appliances didn't hurt either. But this thing, this animal in our house, the one in the room with all of our food? This thing that was BIGGER THAN A KITTEN? I couldn't wait for poison to maybe go into effect, or for some tiny little trap to maybe break one of its disgusting little animal fingernails. My baby's face was in jeopardy. We needed expert intervention, so I called Lindsay and begged her to call a professional. Then I prayed that what we actually saw in the pantry was an Armadillo.

Pete the Exterminator showed up the next day during a play date with our new friends from the neighborhood, Kim and her son, Whistle. Nothing makes a better first impression than a paid professional coming to trap a filthy, plague-ridden animal during your first getting-to-know-you session.

I held my breath as he opened the pantry door. The homemade rolls I made before the 'sighting' were half eaten and there were bread and cereal crumbs everywhere. One of the plastic tubs housing some rice and pasta was opened. The lid was off. As in, the thing BIGGER THAN A KITTEN opened it, which suggested to me that it had evolved and developed opposable thumbs.

Pete guessed it was probably a rat and noted that he didn't think we had an infestation as there were no droppings. He set some super-size traps brimming with what appeared to be a rat feast in the pantry and basement and told me to check them at least every 24 hours and call his cell if we caught anything.

And then of course, nothing happened for a couple of days. We checked the traps a few times a day, only half hoping that there would be something to call Pete about. Yay! if we caught it, but, then, ewww, dead animal BIGGER THAN A KITTEN. Yes, I'm sorry animal lovers, these were lethal traps. Especially since becoming a parent, I have a zero tolerance policy when it comes to anything that has a history of wiping out a third of the population of a continent.

I avoided the pantry and basement (you have to pass through the pantry to get to the basement) at all costs. Justin was the primary trap checker, I suppose in a valiant effort to protect his family and all of our faces. We had to take all of our salvageable food out of the pantry so there was really no need for me to go in there. Sadly, my cloth diapers had been mildewing in the washer since the initial fur sighting. I decided I had to buck up and save them.

The first four traps were empty. The one closest to the dryer looked like some of the food was gone, but there wasn't anything trapped in it. It was in a darker corner of the basement, and as I was reaching for the cord to turn the overhead bulb on, I noticed some, well, there's no other word to describe it, I saw some squirts.

I initially thought these 'squirts' were some sort of rodent bait liquid from Pete’s treasure trove of lures. But they weren’t. They were blood squirts. And possibly some gut squirts. Then I saw the tail. And then I saw it. THE RAT BIGGER THAN A KITTEN. That's when I bolted up the stairs and committed myself to never again going in the basement.

Pete came by before Eliot's nap to empty the trap. He went downstairs to assess the situation and when he came back up, he said, "That's one of the biggest rats I've ever seen. And I've seen a lot of rats." He estimated its length to be at least 10 inches long. Sans tail. He said it was too big for the trap, and that's why the scene was so gruesome, what with the squirts and the entrails.

Reader, it was literally as big as a prairie dog. It was bigger than a squirrel. It was one of the biggest rats a professional exterminator has ever seen. That is pretty fucking big. THE RAT BIGGER THAN A KITTEN is gone, but I still don't feel totally at ease.

Pete said he couldn't figure out how a rat that size got into the house in the first place. Lindsay came over to check the perimeter and she didn't see any obvious ways in either. I'm really hoping that this was a fluke. That somehow it ran in while I was bringing groceries in and had my back turned. Right? I just have to be extra careful and this will never ever happen again.

Right?


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Heather Visnesky lives in Pittsburgh with her gorgeous and talented photographer husband Justin and her beautiful genius children, 4 year old Eliot and one month old June. She blogs sporadically at Butter Family Picnic.



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Guest Post by Stacia - Staycation Geneva, IL

In case you missed the memo, I'm at the beach all week! Some awesome women have volunteered to keep you company while I'm gone. In honor of summer vacation time, Stacia has written about a staycation in her city! (How about you? Would you like to show off your city to Last Mom On Earth readers? Go ahead and contact me with your guest posting ideas!)








I simply love the town we live in. Geneva, IL, it's a suburb of Chicago, about 30 miles west. It's got so much history and beauty. Our house is right near the downtown area where all the hubbub is. Every year we look forward to the festivals. We don't have to worry about parking because we live so close we can just walk. There's the Swedish Days festival (end of June) that goes on for days proudly celebrating Geneva's Swedish culture, as well as the Festival of the Vine (in September). That's a wine festival where vendors come from all over to show off their wines and local eateries serve their best of the best.





Every year the suburb I live in throws a festival called Midsommer  Festival – Swedish Days and every year something screws with our plans  to attend. Every year. This year was no different but we did our damnest  to get out there and see some of the festival. The rain was our biggest  opponent and then on the final day of Swedish Days there is a parade  and Ava, my 3 year old, came down with a 104ºF fever. Seriously?! But we  still went only because the parade route was only a block from our  house and even though Ava looked completely miserable she so desperately  wanted to go. Don't worry we made sure she didn't infect anyone.


Since we have a newborn son and a three year old to entertain we don't have much in the ole coin purse for big vacations and really... who needs it when you have a town like we have! Swedish Days has the really great, high fat, carnival food, bands rockin' out on the courtyard, vendors selling their hand made crafts and we can't forget the two hour long parade that had the famous Jesse White tumblers and the Shriners zipping around on their mini motorcycles and cars.

Our neighbors live right on the parade route which happens to be right behind our house. They BBQ'd while we sat under their huge oak tree in their front yard and got a front row seat for the parade. The sun was out and hot if you directly in it but it was amazing in the shade. It felt like an all American summer day.








 can't get more American than a hotdog, fruit salad and a cookie









For our family we have all we need for a staycation is right here in our town (splash pads, pools, homemade ice cream, parades, fireworks, restaurants) all of which we can walk to... although I wouldn't poo poo a tropical vacation if someone wants to front the moola for it. Any takers? I didn't think so. Since ya'll are being stingy I'm gonna pop my kid in the baby wrap and take a walk to Starbucks, cause my town is awesome like that. I can WALK to Starbucks!! Oh and that cute little bread store that sells the most amazing brownie cookies. Mmmm.



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Stacia is a mommy blogger of two... a 3 year old drama queen and a 3 week old newborn. When not on maternity leave she's also a full time graphic designer. Life keeps her very busy but she likes to get down to the nitty-gritty and tell it like it is MOTY-style over at Dried on Milk.


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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Guest Post by Chelsea - forget/remember

I'm at the beach all week, so a few of the most wonderful and amazing women I know have offered to keep you company. Chelsea is a beautiful, talented poet and she's one of the best, most honest and kindest people I know. Please give her lots of love and visit her blog, from the mouth of a mother to read more of her writing.




listening to bright eyes tonight on the living room floor while i reflect on years of parenting (and such a small fraction of parenting years they are), i expected to come here with something prolific to say. i listened to this album (i'm wide awake it's morning) so much, two years ago, sitting at my kitchen table in my first apartment when i had more than enough words for a thousand books. i have sangria in a mason jar that stirs memories, a string of awkward dates and unfamiliar lovers, summer and short hair and the fire escape or mother's day dinner cooked by my best friend who never forgot, he was my best friend then, and a cup of coffee from beezy's that i can still taste from a strange morning when i was up early and my clothes were in a bag at my side.

this is the first day of my life.

sometimes i think i don't know her, that she escaped from my gut and in the years that have passed she's forgotten or lost the biological ties, what does 'mama' mean? mama-who-takes-care-of-me, she says. sometimes i think she's a stranger, and i think that i just want her to like me.

sometimes i look at her and i forget that her dad's face is there too, i look for mine and i count the freckles, measure the length of her face, and i think her dad is a shape shifter, his face lengthening on certain nights and spreading across the horizon on others.

sometimes i forget to put my nose in front of hers and i stand over her instead.
sometimes i wish we were caterpillars stuck in the same cocoon, waiting for freedom and reveling in the silk.

instead, she tells me to get my arm off of her and she throws herself across the floor-bed, i'm cold i'm itchy i'm hungry i'm thirsty i can't sleep i want something in the whichever room is farthest or maybe the garage, and then she says softly, "why can't i say shoot you dead?"

see, she came home with a squirt gun and wanted to shoot me dead, and her daddy pulled all the threads of the earth together and explained gently that it wasn't funny, and she listened.

she listened and repeated it back.

and then, she asked me why. i told her it was because sometimes people shoot other people to kill them, and i thought before i spoke and wondered if my words would shake her little body like thunder, but she looked at me and blinked her pretty eyes and didn't say a word; i told her we would use it for fun, and that we would say "squirt squirt, i got you!" instead of "i shot you dead." see, sometimes people use their hands when their insides are about to explode and you know, we have opposable thumbs, we need to grab something, we need to hold on, and when we can't hold on to eachother, we hold on to something that mutilates, manipulates.

i thought about our hands, my hands, my mangled hands and his fingertips that press against each of my nails.

i thought about the way that every single word on this album tugs at the strings of my heart like a harp and that maybe they might be good wedding songs, and she says "grandma gave me a ring in a box at daddy's house with a dia...diam...a circle." i asked if it fit her, and she said no, it was too big. i thought about the rings we might find tomorrow or the dozens i have saved, i thought about his hands, i thought about the face i've only seen naked once before and it's strange to see a different face on the man you've hoped is your everyday forever, strange but satisfying, it's good to know the face of the one you'll wake up to a few thousand more times. twenty one thousand more times, if we lived another 60 years together.

i told an 87 year old woman tonight to go to calder's dairy farm, the farm that puts the milk in glass bottles. i wondered if she would, i wondered if she could make it there alone, i wondered if she was alone. she told me she couldn't change the blade on her lawn mower, but other than that she was totally self-sufficient and she's lived in her house since 1959 and i thought god, i hope i have the mind to speak like this when i'm 87. i hope i'm alive when i'm 87, 60 years and some twenty one thousand mornings from now. she's a customer i've seen more times than i can count, nearly every day that i've worked. i had half a thought to take her there myself.

i wrote because of the empty; how do you write the good stuff when you're full?

this is the first day of my life. from the mouth of a mother, in print.









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Monday, July 25, 2011

Guest Post by Courtney- Don't tell me I'm amazing...

I am at the beach, getting my tan and freckles on. Since I'm going to be gone all week, a few kind and amazing women have offered to keep you company in my absence.

This first guest post was written by one of the most outrageously beautiful people I've ever had the pleasure of knowing. She is smart and kind and funny and opinionated and has great tastes in everything. She loves her family like mad, and she's well... she's fucking drop dead gorgeous is what she is. I'm so honored to have her thoughts and words here, in my space, for all of you to read. Please be sure to leave lots of love and support, because she totally deserves it. PS- Be prepared to be totally blown away by this piece, and have a tissue handy.

(How about you? Do you have a story you'd like to tell to Last Mom On Earth readers? Please feel free to contact me with your guest post ideas!
)




I am thirty years old. I am happily married. I am a mother of four--one boy and three girls (5, 4, 3 and 21 months, respectively). I am a biological mother. I am an adoptive mother. I am a foster(-ing to adopt) mother. I am a Scorpio (if you're into that sort of thing). I am ridiculously obsessed with cumulus clouds. I am stubborn. I am opinionated. I always wish on the first star I see in any nighttime sky. I am fiercely loyal. I am a cat person. I am addicted to soy lattes, red lipstick, short bangs, and high heels. I am many, many things.

However? I am not amazing.

Lately, I've been hearing those words--"you are amazing"--more than I care to admit. But before you're convinced that my ego is larger than the western hemisphere, allow me to continue. I am a new mom for the fourth and final time. My husband and I are fostering-to-adopt a beautiful three year old girl. She is amazing. No, really. Absolutely, unequivocally amazing.

Yes, she is amazing and I'm not just saying that because she's mine and gorgeous and heavenly and perfect all at once. She is a Shaken Baby Survivor. She has a Traumatic Brain Injury, a seizure disorder, Cerebral Palsy, some level of visual impairment. She is completely non-mobile.. She is completely non-verbal. She eats exclusively through a g button and will probably never eat anything by mouth. She will never go out for any sports in school. She will never win a spelling bee. She will never argue with me over curfew. She will never stress over college choices, majors, or occupations. She will never ask me to go shopping with her--you know, just to pick up a few items for her new apartment in the big city. She will never fall in love. She will never feel that immense joy of finding her place in this world as an adult. She will never hear her baby's first cry. She will never tell me her soaring hopes, her crushing fears, and everything in between. She will never tell me she loves me.

Since announcing her arrival to everyone in our world, people have said time and time again that we "are so amazing" for what we've done. But what have we done that makes us so amazing? We opened our home and hearts to a child; it was nothing more, nothing less. I have one son and three daughters and at the end of the day, they are all perfect and gorgeous and smart and sweet and spectacular...all of that and more, really. When I've pressed people for the reason behind the compliment (and I do believe it is said with the best of intentions), it usually comes down to one thing: how "little" we will ultimately receive in return.

It's hard for me not to be offended by this statement. Don't get me wrong, I truly do think the intentions behind this remark are nothing less than pure gold, well meaning, benign. However, I struggle with trying to express all that she's already given me, all that I will never be able to repay. Her presence in my already-amazing world has added another dimension I never knew I was missing, or that I needed. She is a total care child, yes. From a lifetime of diapers to administering fourteen rounds of medication every single day, what she has brought to my life...well, it's as close to a "religious" (spiritual, if you will) experience as I have ever been. Roughly a quarter of all shaken babies do not survive the abuse sustained. So already...this little girl has taught me volumes about what it's like to fight through it, even if some of the odds are stacked against you and willing you to succumb.

In caring for her, I've found there's a silence that communicates so much more than I could've imagined. Don't get me wrong, the conversations I have with my children--my son especially, as he's the oldest--are amazing. I wish I could bottle them. I love our hours of discussion with every fiber of my being. But in the silence with her, it's different. It's not as boisterous, but definitely as striking. I can't explain it, really. You just have to be here, living it. You just have to know.

Last night, my son (who usually caps off the bedtime circuit) crashed out early, my four year old and 21 month old daughter were both already out cold. It was just me, and just her. We watched a little television together and I told her some of the things I remember of my own youth. I cried to her then, as I just wanted--so much more than I can express--her to experience these still-tangible, memorable moments in her own life. I cried and then I apologized profusely. I explained that it wasn't that she made me sad, but that I wanted (so desperately) to have more than I could ever give her. As much as I love her and can't imagine my life without her, I would go back in a heartbeat, erase that horrid day from all existence, and never know her if it would give her back everything she's lost.

This morning, I woke up feeling refreshed. She greeted me, early, with her calling (a cross between a coo and a quiet yell) and suddenly, I felt more together. I looked at her sweet face and apologized for being an over-emotional mama. She understood. I don't doubt it for a moment. She got it. She gets it.

So am I amazing? Never. Not even close. Call me blessed, call me lucky. But save the word "amazing" for when you're speaking of her, when you touch her sweet hand and just know that her life, though altered, is bigger than it seems. Save "amazing" for when you realize a love that will forever remain unspoken can be just as strong as one peppered with constant conversation. Keep "amazing" for those who keep on going, who beat the odds, and who wake up to each new day willing to live it to the best of their ability. That is amazing. I am merely a bystander, blessed with the experience of being here with her, with all my babies as well as the love of my life, and knowing that to be in the presence of such greatness, of an overall, encompassing, familial love so much bigger than I thought possible...that is amazing. It truly is.


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Courtney, a long-time blog neglector, writes over at Love Will Lead - Blog. She is a bio/adoptive mama of four beautiful kids (5, 4, 3, and 1) and considers herself to be one of the luckiest gals in the world. She likes long walks on the beach, candlelight dinners...or realistically, any meal where she gets 15 consecutive minutes to eat. Her home site is Love Will Lead (dot) com.


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Friday, July 22, 2011

Everything has a last day.

We went on a special date, just Louise and me. She crawled through the aisles of the bookstore and I slowly meandered behind her, reading passages from crisp, unspoiled novels I knew I wasn't going to buy. Maybe someday.

She talks a lot, when she's alone with me. She points to things and tells me about them in her funny, amazing language. When something surprises or delights her, her tiny hand flies to her mouth and she chews on her perfect little fingers.

We came home to an empty house and I sat a carton of blueberries on the floor between us. My hands were clumsy and imprecise, picking up toppling handfuls and eating them without discretion. Louise, with her dainty, pointed fingertips, thought carefully about each berry before she chose it with an attitude of satisfaction and ate it, all by itself, like it was the most special and singular blueberry on the planet.

So much thought and care goes into chewing and swallowing a single blueberry when you're one years old.

Some children from my daughter's school, their mother is dying. So, we swoop upon them with love, making lists and baking lasagna, doing things that don't matter, but they mean something. They mean, "We are mothers, too and we couldn't imagine how scared and sad you must feel, to be leaving your children."

Lots of people talk about how a child should never die before a parent. I believe it's true. It would be a grief so complete and unbearable, I have no way to fathom it. And, I also can't imagine what it would be like to wake up tomorrow if I might die before the year was over.

Every movement my daughters make is holy. Little fingernails, they're so small you can barely believe that they're real. Tiny crescents of mud beneath them. What would my life be, if I understood that everybody dies. I pray they will be old and settled when it's my turn, but still. I will never be at peace with knowing they will breathe and eat and think and move around in the world, when I can no longer see them. They need me for everything. Without me, they couldn't survive. And the amount I need them supersedes their neediness by mountains and thunderclouds, by river mouths and inlets. The way I love them is the way rain permeates the earth, filling up everything that was begging, and the earth sighs.

"Everything has a last day." I read this on a blog today. A little boy said this about life. I almost can't take it, he's so smart and right and beautiful.

So, I'll be spending the week at the beach with my family. There will be restaurants and shopping and we'll all be stuffed into a bedroom that was made for a single person. There will be book lights and bubble wands and special, sugar cereal, just this one week per year. But, there will also be salt on the wind and a fat moon dangling above us while we sleep. Our summer congestion will be healed, I hope, and so will my sense of feeling like we're all too big for our lives. The ocean has a way of making me small and unimportant, like death and love are all a part of things, and that I know what I'm doing, just because I'm a person.

I'll bake and cry into the pen's ink when I write, I hope you all are making it, out there... and my children will reach for the glow of our doorbell while I'm rushing them inside and out of the heat. We will all die someday, and it's probably the right thing to do.






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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Indie Ink Writing Challenge - Not A Lady

This is my piece for this week's Indie Ink writing challenge. The way it works is that you sign up for the challenge weekly, and you'll be paired with another participant who will create a writing prompt for you, and you have a few days to write and submit your piece. (Click HERE if you'd like to participate next week.


This week, I challenged Alyssa Goes Bang with the prompt, "She wasn't a pretty girl."

I was challenged by Flaming Nyx. Her prompt was:

Fiction Piece: Oh, I think calling me a lady is overly generous and unjustifiable.


Here's my response.


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I sat low in my seat, grateful that I decided at the last minute to wear long pants. The theater was ancient and everything was covered in a barely perceptible film of stickiness and dust. "Do you like old movies?" he had asked me on Monday.

"I don't know," I said, although I did. I didn't like old movies, especially black and white films. I felt that the world before the late 1930's was dry and bled free of its color. I found the notion of a grey house with a white fence in a shadowy lawn to be depressing.

"There's something playing on Friday at the renovated theater that I'd like to take you to," he said.

I glanced at him over the top of my book. How long had it been since I'd been on a date? My husband wasn't really the date-night type, and even then. He'd been dead for seven years. I hadn't had sex in seven years.

"I'm not sure if I'm free on Friday," I said. "I'll have to take a look at my schedule for this weekend."

"Oh," he answered. "That's okay."

"I'm kidding," I said. "I haven't been busy on a Friday evening in years."

I was unable to have children. I wasn't meant to have them, I suppose. Now, there was gum sticking to the bottom of my shoe. Now, I was allowing my arm to rest against his arm in the cool dark. The projected beams were illuminating particles of dust above our heads like stars. Nothing about this felt right or good, but it felt very much like reality. It felt very much like what happens to you when you're thirty-eight years old and you've been alone for a long time. It felt like inevitability.

The actress on the screen was blond and beautifully curvy, her grey skin smooth and glittering in the flicker of the film. Her lips were painted black, which must have been the way red looked before there was color in the world. She smoked a cigarette dangling from a long filter. She held it between her teeth and dug around in her purse with a gloved hand. "Here," she said. "Take this and meet me at the station," and she passed a train ticket to a mustached man who was not yet her lover.

I glanced at the stranger at my elbow, the lines of his face. He had a scar near his eye. I leaned in to ask him how he'd gotten it, but decided against it. I would save that conversation. We were already occupied by the movie. I would remember to bring it up later to fill an awkward gap. He noticed that I'd shifted in my seat, though and he responded to my nearness by leaning his shoulder against mine and smiling at me.

The actress winked and tipped a bellboy. "Thank you, lady," he said and bowed a little, committed bow.

"Oh, I think calling me a lady is overly generous and unjustifiable," she replied, her white teeth flashing like perfect pearls behind her painted lips.

Later, when I was tired and up later than usual, I folded my sweater neatly on a chair in the corner of his room. Everything here was sensible. Everything in shades of blue and grey and white. His bed was covered in a duvet, smoothed at the corners and pillows lined up quietly next to one another, not a crease or a wrinkle to betray him. He said to me, "I think I've been waiting for you."

"I'm sorry," I said.

"I think you're what I've needed," he said.

What could I say? He had a hairless chest and his pajamas were plaid and flannel. A mirror hung next to his closet where he kept his clothing coded by color, there were no photographs on his walls. Not like my bedroom. I hung pictures of everything, the seasons, mostly. Landscapes and sunlight and falling leaves. My record of the time I'd spent with my feet on the ground. I wouldn't be calling him again. I wouldn't spend the night in this bed, again. I didn't care, I learned that much about myself from him. He used a condom to be safe and I didn't care about anything.

"What are you thinking about?" he asked, my breasts pressing against his powdery smelling skin.

"Where did you get this scar?" I asked.


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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

One of my dark secrets...

When I was in 5th grade, there was a boy named Jason who was wild and unpredictable. He had just moved to our town, but he had very quickly gathered a group of friends. I sat near them one day at the lunch table and listened uncomfortably to their conversation.

The group of boys were calling out the names of girls in our class, and Jason would say whether he'd like to a) Hold Hands with this girl, b) Kiss her or c) Have "bed sex" with her.

I was raised in a home dripping with, lathered, honey drenched, saturated with the wrath of the Lord. Although there were plenty of whispers about things happening in the dark corners of the sanctuary, (her uncle made her touch him during private guitar lessons... after his car accident he lost his impulse control and his daughter started peeing the bed... he gave the babysitter a ride home and she says he was drunk...) sex was not something to talk about, think about or even wonder about. If you wondered about naked bodies and what they did, exactly to make a baby, you were a sinner of the worst kind.

So, I was a fifth grade girl and we had started to learn about sex in school. They took all of the boys into another room and gave them pamphlets with blue covers, instead of pink. We learned about tampons and armpit hair, how to ease the pain of menstrual cramps. One day, the nurse put a condom on a banana.

I picked up little things about boy parts and girl parts, how the boy had a hotdog and the girl had a bun. I thought I had a pretty okay understanding of sex, especially since I spent the first few years of my formative life in a trailer park. The boy had a wiener that was pink and smooth and jiggly, and he would lay it in my bun, someday. Easy enough. And then somehow, magically, a baby was born.

I took some paper and markers upstairs to my room and I sat indian-style on my bed with a hard backed book in my lap, and I drew a picture of a naked lady with boobs, and a naked man, with a hotdog. They were laying in bed together. I labeled their actions as "bed sex" like that bad boy at the lunch table had done. And then my mother threw open my bedroom door.

I freaked out and jammed the picture under my pillow. She asked me what I was doing, and I told her nothing. Nothing! She snooped and found the picture, and the holy wrath of God the Father was upon me. I was in SO MUCH TROUBLE.

I hadn't felt titillated when I drew the picture. I didn't draw it to get some kind of perverse kick. I was just interested in what this "bed sex" might look like, with the boobs and the bun and what not. My knowledge of sex was so scant and so imbued with secrecy and weirdness... I was just trying to make sense of the things I had been learning.

Well, now none of that mattered because my life was over. My mother was furious. She threatened to tell my father, although we both knew my father was an actual sex pervert who went around snapping people's bra straps and talking about women's "bosoms." She wouldn't tell him, I knew that, at least. What she would do was accuse me of being a monster, grill me about why I had done this terrible thing, give me dirty, knowing looks every time we were in a room together, and refuse to speak to me for about a week. When she did start speaking to me again, it was to threaten me and hold the dirty picture over my head. I remember that I was misbehaving in the back yard and she said to me, "You better cut it out. You're already in the dog house."

We never mentioned the picture or boobs or bed sex or buns or hotdogs. She just said things like, "You're already in the dog house," and I knew. Guilt and shame came raining out of the sky and I cursed myself for being such a disgusting, filthy little pig. Why, oh why, oh WHY did I do something so terrible and gross? You can't imagine how much I hated myself and felt all squirmy and tied up inside as I tried to sleep at night. You also can't imagine how much I internalized this experience, how many times I thought about it, even into adulthood, and how much shame I felt over the course of so many years.

We're afraid to talk to our kids about sex. I'm afraid to talk to my kids about sex. But really, what if my mom had just talked through that picture with me? What if she had been calm and discussed the body parts and what I had learned about them? What if I could have told her about Jason and how he wanted to have bed sex with some of the girls in my class? What if she could have explained about the bun, and how there's nothing magical or scary or weird about it. How it's just something that happens in nature, how it's for adults, and how adults do it to make babies?

Why did I feel scared and nervous telling my husband this story a few days ago about how I drew this sexy picture when I was 9 years old? Why did I feel like he was finding out a dark secret about me, and when he heard it, he was going to decide that I was a monster and that he didn't love me any more?

After the picture, there were times where something embarrassing happened, like once, when determining whether or not I had chicken pox, the school nurse looked down my pants at my butt. My underwear were old and the elastic was all stretched out, so they had fallen down and were bunched up in the seat of my pants. She said to me, "Aren't you wearing any underwear?" and oh god, I grabbed manic fistfuls of my oversized, stretched to the max undies and hiked them up as far as they would go. I felt humiliated, and my thoughts immediately rushed back to the bed sex picture.

Another time, at my brother's soccer game, I went inside of the unfamiliar, empty school to use the bathroom. While I was peeing, a janitor stuck his head into the bathroom and said, "Is anybody in here?" I said, "Yes, I am! Just a minute!"

When I walked out into the hallway, he was standing there next to a bucket on wheels filled with gray cleaning solution and he said to me, "What were you doing in the boys bathroom?" Wait, I was in the boy's bathroom? Shame, shame, shame, I would never tell anyone this because I was already a dirty freak because of the picture.

That picture colored my view of myself for a long time. It seems silly now, because I'm adult and I know all there is to know about cookout food and it's application in an adult setting. I know all about how the hotdog meets the bun. I have girls, now and they're too young to start asking questions about sex, but I understand how it's going to be a hard subject. I also understand that I need to be careful about how I treat them, while they're learning about this hard subject, because I don't want any part of their self-esteem as people to be dragged down and tied up because I have insecurities about their sexuality.

Childhood is full of those things that haunt you at night, make you feel alone and different and afraid. I wish it didn't have to be this way, but when an older kid takes your seat on the bus and then nobody offers a space for you to sit, and you end up in the front row with a kid who writes swear words on his jeans and doesn't have a mom... you come home sullen and uncomfortable and embarrassed. When your mom asks you what's wrong, you say, "Nothing!" because the shame is too great. Over such small things, the shame is too great.

It seems like a lot to manage, the fragile senses of self that our children carry. It makes me feel a little bit alone and afraid, myself, just thinking about it. But I'm the mom. It's my job to teach my girls what they need to know about the world. To demystify scary subjects. To let them know that they're people, and every person who came before them had to learn this stuff, too. It's my job to help support and diffuse the shame the world will inevitably place on them, and that they will mercilessly place on themselves. It is my job, most of all, to never be a contributor to that shame and to be aware enough of myself and the impact of my actions.

They are so precious. They are the most beautiful creatures ever to have lived.


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PS. I was inspired to write this after reading this post on one of my new favorite blogs, Love, Joy, Feminism.


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Monday, July 18, 2011

Making the most of our summer...

How are we doing on our summer fun list, you've found yourself asking? Well, the answer is... awesomest summer ever.

So far, we've crossed off:


3. Play in the waterfall on the North Shore

6. Go hiking

7. Go to the drive ins

9. Go to Soergel's Farm and have ice cream

11. Campfire bananas -
(Thank you Burgh Baby!)


12. Landscape the back yard

21. Have a snow cone

25. Smell a newborn

Thank you for helping me with this one, Baby June Bug.


29. Bobby pin updos

Thank you for helping me with this one, giant flower that I got in the strip for $2.


33. Iced Herbal Coffee Lattes with decadent flavored cream

37. Make Louisey's birthday cake, from scratch, all by myself

47. Pick berries

50. Bring flowers to someone



Click H E R E for our full list so see what we've yet to do!

Was having a fun picnic in the woods with our friends on the list? No? Well, it should have been because it was really fun.






Except that Scouty got her first bee sting!

Have I mentioned how thrilled I am to have a newborn in my life, again? She almost makes me want to get pregnant, because she's so pretty and tiny and sweet. Not quite sweet enough, though to convince me to go totally insane and try to stuff another person into this house. But still, pretty darn sweet.


How is your summer going?


Saturday, July 16, 2011

What's so bad about the color pink?

A friend asked about my last post,
"I'm going to play devil's advocate for just a moment here [...] imagine for one second that you DO raise Scouty to have a strong sense of self and someone who stands up for herself and what she believes in (which you will)... but then one day she comes to you and wants to try out for cheerleading. What would you do? My SIL was SO opposed to the whole "princess" thing, and no pink, and no girly girly stuff, which I totally get... but she went SO overboard about it. And then guess what? My two nieces are the girliest little princesses you have ever met, because really that's just who they are... To me, being a good parent is about protecting your kids and accepting WHOEVER they are... and some kids just really DO want be cheerleaders or princesses."



First of all, I totally don't view this question as you playing devil's advocate. I think it's a really smart and fair question, and it's definitely something I've thought about and considered a lot. I started to answer it in the comments, but it became a post all of it's own, so I hope you don't mind me writing out the world's longest response in this public venue. Keep in mind that my girls are 4 and 1, and I have no idea what's going to happen as they grow up. All I can do is believe what I believe and stand up for it. Your question totally doesn't offend me, even a teensy little bit, so don't worry! I'm going to do my best to answer it, and if, after my answer, we disagree about this whole thing, I will totally respect and admire and accept you, anyway. It's really important to me that people know that we can disagree about things without it changing the way I feel about you, as a person. (I think it's the only way to survive in the world as a very opinionated person.)


...


My daughters have a pink plastic princess kitchen. They have a little pink washer and dryer, tea party sets, countless princess dresses and tutus. Scouty will disappear upstairs and put glittery make up all over her face, and when she comes back downstairs, she has been transformed into a character she calls, Marvelous Girl, and she prances around the house being gentile and charming. (Actually, I think I have a cell phone picture of this, hold on.)She loves playing makeover, and has a gigantic collection of hair bows and accessories. She has a million adorable dresses and tons of pink clothing.


Marvelous Girl in action. She has not quite grasped the theory that make up is supposed to be subtle.



The point for me is that none of these things define who she is.

Right between her pink plastic kitchen and little pink washer and dryer, she has a black and decker mini work bench with battery operated power tools. She has a basketball hoop and an art easel. She has a shelf full of books and a tent. She has camouflage binoculars, bug catching supplies and a collection of robots. She calls her Monster Truck "Brave Digger" because she misunderstood when I read the words "Grave Digger" aloud, from his bumper. She has a Spiderman shirt and a Popeye shirt, and she wears them all the time. She has a wheelbarrow and gardening supplies. When we went to the store to pick out sandals yesterday, we perused both the "girl" and "boy" aisles, and she picked a pair that were blue and black, even though she was tempted by a pink pair with flowers. If she had picked the flower pair, I would have gotten them for her.

The point is not that I hate pink and discourage all tendencies in my children toward the girlie, flowery, domestic blissy. They are allowed to choose to play with whatever they want. Except sexy toys like Barbie and those hideous Bratz dolls... and all of the toys that are just like them. These toys tie into my objection to cheerleading, but more on that in a second.

Toys that are considered "girl" toys are all pink. They are. If you want to make a baseball glove for girls, just make it pink. There's nothing inherently wrong with the color pink, just like there's nothing wrong with orange or yellow or green. They'll all just colors. If you have a daughter who honestly, after being presented with all of the colors equally, (which is totally hard to do, in this world. No matter how hard you try to make things equal, your girls will still understand that they're supposed to identify with pink. It's just shoved down their throats everywhere they go.) But, if you did manage to present all colors equally and your girl simply has a preference for pink, then great. Pink is a great color, just like blue and brown and red and orange and purple. Who cares? It's just a color, when everything else is equal.

I don't believe though, that if you have a girl who has been presented with every option equally, she will just naturally choose to be a princess. She won't naturally choose to pretend to be fancy and wash clothes all the time, while the rest of kid world is dancing like crazy, digging up worms, learning acrobatics, playing ball, putting together puzzles, going down slides, jumping, running and throwing. Like I've said about my own Marvelous Girl they WILL totally choose to be a "girly girl" and a princess some of the time. But they won't be any more interested in being a princess than they will in being a kid. If your girl has an obsession that overrides her other interests, with all things pink and frilly and princessy, they have ingested a damaging message about gender.


My argument against cheerleading is similar, but it's not quite the same. I don't think that cheerleaders are obsessed with cheering, to the exclusion of other interests. Probably, for the girls who do it, it's not even about "cheering" for boys. It probably never occurs to them that they're acting out a role in a dangerous institution that is symptomatic of a sickness in our society. They are just being athletic and having fun participating in something that has existed since long before they were born, and has always been toted as being an in thing to do.

Just because it's not about being a part of a preternatural sex fantasy, or playing a role in women's failing objective to be classified as human beings, for the girls who are actually participating, or for the parents permitting their participation... doesn't mean that it's not those terrible, demeaning, oppressive, dangerous things to the rest of the world.

Like I said on facebook, after I wrote this post about Cheerleading, I saw in my statistics that somebody found my blog by searching the term, "cheerleader car wash teen p0rn bikini." Just because you're not purposefully allowing your daughter to be viewed by boys as something beneath them, or to be a sex fantasy for men lining up to have their cars washed by soaped up teenage girls so that they can google explicit material about it later, doesn't mean that it's not happening.

Just like, if my daughter wants pink sandals, I won't object... but if she wants one of those terrible Bratz Dolls, I will one hundred percent forbid it, if my teenage daughters really want to dress up in little skirts with visible, built in panties and jump around in front a group of boys, men and women who have all been conditioned to see my 16 year old daughters as sexualized beings, I won't allow it.

I understand that at 16 years old, I can't really STOP them from doing things, if it's what they really want. What I can do is live my life in a way where they're being fed positive information about gender, about being girls and women. I can make sure they understand why it's wrong to value women for being pretty, and men for being strong and capable. I can try to help them to be confident and amazed with themselves, so that they aren't as susceptible to negative input about what it means to be female.

Maybe I'm crazy, because the world is a pretty big place, but I'm going to argue that children who have been presented with all of the facts, who have been helped to understand why it is important not to succumb to the pressure to demean themselves, who have a sense of self-esteem that has been cultivated positively... don't believe that they are really just cheerleaders in their core. I know I can't compete with the influence of the world, once my girls are not under my constant surveillance, so, until then, I'll do everything I can to model something healthy and fair, and hope that in the long run, they'll choose what's best when they're counting on themselves to make their own decisions.

And if I'm wrong, and my girls want to be cheerleaders, I'll ask them to pay for it themselves, express my discomfort, examine where I failed, and support them and love them love them love them like crazy no matter what.


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Friday, July 15, 2011

We just want you to have it easy, honey.

I read a post a little while ago about a woman who received criticism for allowing her 6 year old daughter to choose colorful, outlandish outfits to wear in public, even to school. Her clothing choices weren't inappropriate in any way. They didn't restrict movement or break any societal rules, like... she wasn't wearing a bathrobe and a batman mask to kindergarten or anything. She picked things like rainbow knee socks and fluffy tutus. People told the mom, "You're making things hard on her by encouraging her to stand out." And also, "It's your job to do everything you can to protect her from being ridiculed."


This happens a lot during a young person's life.

When mommy and daddy tell their daughter not to dye their hair blue, get pierced, choose not to participate in school sponsored activities, listen to such dark music, make such dark artwork, be so loud about anti-racist point of views in the middle of Mississippi, date African American boys, hold hands with girls, read banned books, become an atheist, whatever. (Can you tell I'm being auto-biographical?)

Those things, for the most part, aren't forbidden out of a sense of animosity. Parents don't want their kids to make unpopular choices out of a feeling of love. And also, mostly, a feeling of fear.

We love our kids and we want to protect them. We're actually required to protect them. It's part of our job as parents. However, we have the equally important job of deciding what to protect our children from.

All too often, we push our fears and limitations onto our children in the name of protecting them. When your daughter decides she wants to wear rainbow toe socks and a tutu to the playground, there's no actual danger involved in letting her do those things. You might be afraid that other parents will look at you funny, or that another child might question your daughter's choices. I mean, so what?

When your 8th grader decides she wants blue hair, or that she suddenly identifies with a music and fashion scene that seems strange to you... why are you really discouraging it? What are you afraid is going to happen to your child? She might not be well liked? She might be criticized or judged? Is that really HER problem, or a problem built into a flawed society that is full of sickness and meanness?

Should we really endeavor to change our children, to suppress their imaginations and senses of self-expression so that nobody will take a second glance at them, or challenge them to stand up for the things they believe in? I don't get it. What is that really teaching them?

Our children must be small and mild and neutral and agreeable. After all, we want them to be accepted, right? We want them to have an easy life, right? We don't want them to have to go through the torture of being different.

What about the torture of feeling like you can't be who you believe you really are, inside? What about when your parents, who are supposed to support you and encourage you, no matter what, suddenly side with a bunch of strangers and give them the power to decide how you should look, what you should care about and enjoy, and who you should love?

What about the fact that kids who choose to shove themselves down inside, who comply, who have an easy life and the approval of everybody? What happens when those kids wake up one morning and they're 30 years old and they feel sad all the time, but they don't know why? They feel like, despite growing up and achieving the things they were supposed to achieve, they have no idea who they really are. They lived in a way that made everybody happy. They didn't make unpopular choices, they didn't push any limits or break any invisible rules. They wake up and find out that they have no passion and no bravery and no real reason to keep being themselves.

It seems to me that our kids are people. They're not us. They're also not just a piece of society that we should manipulate and make decisions for. They have their own thoughts, their own tastes, their own ideas. Instead of trying to mold our children into something that will allow them to glide through an existence in a crappy world full of crappy people who believe stupid things, we should encourage our kids to be what they want to be, who they believe they really are. Maybe if they're big enough and bright enough and brave enough, it won't even matter to them that a bunch of stupid people think they're weird or unacceptable. Maybe they'll even be able to become something decidedly NOT STUPID and help other people to be less afraid to tell the truth about who they are, too.


It's my job as a parent to protect my kids from harm. There are so many harmful ways of thinking being shoved down everybody's throats all the time. I consider it my duty to try as hard as I can to help my daughters build a solid sense of self, to love who they really believe they are, so that they'll thrive in spite of, or maybe even because of the opposition of a mindless society full of boring, pointless conditions.


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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Indie Ink Writing Challenge - Dream

This is my piece for this week's Indie Ink writing challenge. The way it works is that you sign up for the challenge weekly, and you'll be paired with another participant who will create a writing prompt for you, and you have a few days to write and submit your piece. (Click HERE if you'd like to participate next week.


This week, I challenged Rishaaa with the prompt, "There wasn't any blood."

I was challenged by The Drama Mama. Her prompt was:

This is your dream.


Here's my response.



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This is your dream. There are so many of you. You are fanned out over the universe.

Upon impact, you become your grandmother. You see yourself, as she was, as a child. It is night and you're hiding in the stalks of corn, covering your ears and counting. The world is a shell and the sound of the sea is the air in the your lungs. You're cold suddenly, kneeling in the fertile earth. It will always be night. The stalks bend and sway. You're only a child and there is something in the corn.

There is something in the corn! You push at the thick green darkness, leaves cutting your hands. Tiny bleeding welts appear on your palms. You travel forever, and when you finally emerge, light explodes all around you, and you're just a thin, bending stem yourself. Your roots are warm and the soil is rich and bleeding water.

"Wake up," someone says. "Come on and wake up." You're tied to a bed and everything is moving.

"I'm thirsty," you say.

"Come on," the voice, again.

"I'm thirsty," you try.

"She's not going to wake up," another voice, a woman's voice says.

"I am!" you say. "I only wanted something to drink." There was blood before, but then you turned into a stone.

You become your grandmother again, only that isn't right. You are you, only you've lived for ninety years and there are little children running in the grass. The sunlight through their yellow hair and all over their golden skin is coming from the heart of you. You're warm and far away and you have known your life. You have children, but they are grown.

"Twenty-two year old female," a voice interrupts.

"Jesus," the woman says. "She looks like my daughter."

"My daughter will be giant," you say. "She will be big enough to block out the sun. She will change everything."

"She isn't going to wake up," someone says again.

They are speaking in tones like light. Their words fall like feathers and nestle softly over your body, hard as stone.

"I will have girls," you say to nobody.

Your girls are pebbles and you carry them in a pocket on the front of your apron. The weight of them there is comforting. Four of them, they keep you tethered to the ground. Your feet are always floating away.

"Shh, darlings," you tell them, building them a house of twigs and mud, decorating their tiny door with a sprig of lavender. You hold them, flat and cool and reassuring, in your fingers. Turning them over, their painted-on dresses are cracking. Their eyes were long worn away by your constant touching. "Here you are, my loves," you say and place your girls on the mud floor of their new home.

"You can sleep now."

Giveaway Winner


The winner of Goodnight, Dad is... (suspense)... Denise Bigley! Congratulations!

Contact me with your mailing info, Denise, and I'll send out your book!

Once again, thank you Wonder Dads!


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Monday, July 11, 2011

Cheerleader Car Washes and the State of Our Girls...

My husband was walking into the grocery store the other day carrying our one year old daughter and holding hands with our four year old daughter. High school cheerleaders from an upper class school district close to our home were hosting a car wash in the parking lot.

As my husband and my children walked past the group of high school students, most of them bikini clad sixteen year old girls, a young boy called out to him, "How about a car wash when you're done shopping, sir?"

Kurt ignored them and kept walking, carrying a wiggling almost-toddler and guiding our preschooler towards the store.

The high school boy and one of the cheerleaders kind of followed my family for a few steps and the boy called out, "How about a picture of her?" The boy had his arm around one of the half clothed sixteen year old girls. "I'll sell you a picture of her for ten bucks," he joked.

Okay.
Let me take a breath.
Because.

This is SO totally NOT okay.

It is not okay that I am bringing girl children up in a world where a teenage male would a.) feel comfortable with making a joke that sexualizes an under age girl, especially a girl who is his friend, to an adult stranger. b.) That he felt comfortable making that joke in the presence of two little girls. c.) That he found it appropriate to approach a father of two little girls in the first place. d.) Most of all, it is SO not okay that this sixteen year old girl laughed and accepted this joke.

Something is wrong with the way we teach girls to be girls and boys to be boys.

The fact that these girls agree to stand around outside of a store in their bathing suits is sad and troubling and despicable. The fact that the parents of these girls allow this is despicable. The fact that the institution of cheerleading exists in the first place is despicable.

My first impulse is to be disappointed in and disgusted with the boys who are making these kinds of jokes, but really... what do I expect?

These boys are male children who are given all kinds of damaging input about what it means to be a man, as opposed to what it means to be a woman. They are expected to treat girls, especially girls who submit to societal expectations about how their bodies are supposed to look and how they're supposed to present themselves; dressed in little skirts with matching panties who are willing to put time and effort into "cheering" for boys while the boys Think and Act and Do...

Boys are expected to treat these girls like sexual property with no value higher than being something stimulating to look at or something to bolster the ego of a man. We model this way of thinking all the time, especially by doing something like encouraging our young girls to stand around waiting for a boy to do something impressive, upon which instance they're supposed to bend their bodies, crawl all over each other and jump around doing splits to celebrate.

I don't care if it's fun for girls, or if it's a way to help them fit in and make friends. I don't believe you when you say cheer is a sport, too. I don't care if your teenage girl begs you, threatens to run away and hate you forever if you won't let her do it. It simply isn't okay to support our girls in devaluing, prematurely sexualizing and humiliating themselves, simply because they were born female.

Why wouldn't a young man take us all up on the offer to be superior, to have power over girls, to possess them sexually and use girls to feel better about themselves? How are they supposed to even know this kind of thing is unacceptable when we're acting it out, or at least condoning it ALL THE TIME? How are they supposed to know it's wrong when women themselves don't speak up to acknowledge how poisonous and damaging it is?

I don't know. I'm sure I have severe reactions to this kind of thing. I don't live in the same world where this kind of thing happens. I am used to sharing my life with liberal, capable, proud, accomplished women and their partners and families. Maybe lots of people wouldn't even notice a joke like, "I'll sell you a picture of a half-naked teenager so that you can exploit her for your own pleasure, sir, har har." Maybe I'm just not suited for the general public, but I can tell you, I'm not wrong about this.

My girls do not exist to be bought and sold and used up and put on display. That's not even sort of a funny thing to joke about, and I'll do everything I can to make sure I am modeling something better for them.


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