Saturday, May 31, 2014

grace in small things #9

I'm kinda bracing myself for the week ahead, as it will likely be an emotionally draining one. It's D's last full week of kindergarten (and includes his school's his end-of-year concert), Zach's parents will be arriving mid-week, Zach's graduation is on Saturday, and our BFFs move away the next morning on Sunday. Lots going on, and I'm kinda having trouble wrapping my head around all of it. But here are some things that have made me smile this past week:

  • We have a possible new lead on a rental house. I am cautiously optimistic... we don't know much about it yet, but the market isn't exactly plentiful and it would be really nice to have this nailed down. Here's hoping.
  • Zach bought ice cream sandwiches the last time he went to the store. Smart man, that one.
  • The boys had Ethan over for a sleepover last night. They had a grand ole time staying up late sneaking looks at books with a nightlight and playing all morning. I'm happy to give these guys as many hours together as we can while we're all still around.
  • I took a couple rolls of film to get developed the other day, always an exciting venture. I was pretty happy with how my flower pics came out, and I also took a several of the boys using manual focus and was happy to see they mostly came out really well. I now have a fresh roll of black&white loaded in the camera, though I'm having trouble deciding what to use it on...
  • Earlier this week we went on a field trip with Q's preschool to a dairy farm. The boys rode ponies and saw lots of cows, then gorged on ice cream and chocolate milk, and I got a ton of cute pictures which I'm still making my way through. It was fun.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

spring, on film

I snagged myself a roll of kodak ektar 100 film to use for capturing the gorgeous spring flowers blooming everywhere. I'm quite pleased with the results (I think the magnolias are my favorites). 

And a few non-floral shots from that roll...

Sunday, May 25, 2014

flowers to calm the nerves

I took a walk yesterday in the early evening. I had just heard of the Santa Barbara shooting and followed some of the early discussions about it online, and just when I thought my head and my heart might just explode I grabbed my camera and walked out the door. I've continued following the story since then, along with the #YesAllWomen hashtag, and I'm still furious and so sad about what happened, and the larger pattern of violence against women that this act is just one part of, but the walk did help calm my nerves somewhat. And, I got some pretty pictures of spring flowers and dandelions. So there's that. 

Friday, May 23, 2014

grace in small things #8

  • I bought the How Stuff Works book as an impulse purchase off the sale table at the bookstore downtown, and when I showed it to D he seemed as excited about it as I was. I'm sure we will utilize the internet a ton in our learning together, but I'm also pretty excited about building up an at-home reference library as well.
  • Q has been in underwear for something like 2 weeks now, with only a handful of accidents here and there. I am so hesitant to make any proclamations about him being officially potty trained, like I can't quite believe the process could really be this simple and easy with him, but well... yeah. Related aside, why do toddlers look so friggin' adorable in underwear? 
  • I picked up a bunch of books at the library a few days ago, many of which have become new favorites including this book about Captain Flinn and the Pirate Dinosaurs which we have now read about 582 times because, well, PIRATES and DINOSAURS. 
  • Even better, in searching for that book link I discovered that there's a whole series of these books about Captain Flinn and his pirate dinosaurs. We will be checking those out soon, too. 
  • We've been going through a bit of a rough patch with Q lately, he's just been a difficult.  I'm often reminded of that honey badger video, because Q just does stuff and just doesn't seem to give a shit.Which is not so great, but what I do feel very grateful for are those moments inbetween the chaos and the meltdowns and the tears and the wanting-to-tear-my-hair-out when he does or says something really sweet, or is just still enough that I get a chance to really look at his face, the softness of his features, and get lost in his beauty and my love for him. Those moments are my saving grace.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

list blogging 5.21.14

listening to: right now, this musician called Hozier. A friend on facebook posted one of his songs (Take Me To Church-- the song is beautiful, but as a warning the video is heartbreakingly sad) and now I am listening to his other stuff on spotify. So far I'm digging it.

reading: today I read through part of Alice in Tumblr Land, a book I picked up on a whim at the library. It's modern-day mini-retellings of classic fairy tales, with social media stuff thrown in. Pretty clever.  Yesterday I read through Cardboard, a graphic novel (another library borrow) that another friend recommended. I've never really read graphic novels before, but I really enjoyed it.

weather: we've had a lot of gorgeously warm sunny days lately. We've broken out the water table and squirters, and are having all sorts of talks about what IS and IS NOT appropriate for squirting with water. The Upper Valley is greening up and in full bloom.

loving: the golden glow of the end-of-the-day sunlight at this time of year, especially the way it lights up the superbrightgreen freshly newborn leaves sprouting on all the trees. I'm still trying to get back in the swing of running regularly again (why is it always so hard to find the time?), and trying to make a point to go in the evenings, when this light hits.

feeling: well, to be honest, a lot of the same mess of emotions I wrote about last month. Spring is beautiful and wonderful and amazing. Thinking of our upcoming move feels overwhelming. I find myself feeling annoyed at how much stuff we have and having to figure out what to do with it all. And there's that knot that keeps jumping into my throat every time I look at the calendar and remember that our best friends are moving away in just a few short weeks.

trying to figure out: housing in California. There was one 3bd duplex that was a strong possibility, but it was offered to someone else. Most of the other houses listed are available immediately, meaning too soon for us, and there's a strong possibility that we won't know our next address till the last week or 2 before we move. We did buy our plane tickets, we officially fly out west the last week of June. Whoa.

looking forward to: part of me wants time to slow down right now and extend this period for as long as possible. But part of me also is really looking forward to having all our moving stuff settled and done already, to being there, and getting to settle into this next phase of life, back on the west coast.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

flowers and ferns

I rarely bring my big camera along for kid-related outings, mostly because unless I have some back-up it's too hard to try to take pictures (at least ones that are more than just quick snapshots) while also keeping an eye on the kids. A week or 2 ago D's school went on a field trip to pick daffodils at the school director's home, and since Zach and I were both able to go I was free to bring my camera along and do my thing. 

There are many things about life in California, and the bay area specifically, that I look forward to, but I will miss something about the rural feel of life here-- all the green, all the trees, feeling so close to nature.  

Hello little leaf shoots, so happy to see you.
 Busy kiddoes picking flowers.
 D with one of his school buddies, showing off their daffodils.
 The chickens. They were quite popular.

 The daffodil collection.

 And other darling little hidden flowers...

 This old watering can may have been my favorite.
 Also, I love these ferns. I'm seeing them a lot right now. I love how they look as they curl up and outward. I also love how, when you see a big patch of them along a trail, it just makes everything look prehistoric... like I'm expecting diplodocus babies to walk past at any minute. 

Sunday, May 18, 2014

q&a on feminist mothering

Andie over at Blue Milk has a set of 10 questions about what it is like to be a feminist mother. I only just found this list today, along with a whole archive of other mothers' (and a few fathers') replies. It's some pretty interesting reading, and I'm gonna explore the questions myself and try to answer them. Beware: this is long and rambly and probably makes little sense, but I fear that if I wait and give myself more time to make my answers more polished I'll end up never posting this. So, here goes.

 1. How would you describe your feminism in one sentence? When did you become a feminist? Was it before or after you became a mother?

I'm not sure how to describe my feminism in a single sentence... a big part of it is wanting to liberate women and men from the rigid gender norms and stereotypes dictated by the patriarchy. Also, to borrow Flavia Dzodan's infamous phrase, my feminism will be intersectional or it will be bullshit.

I can't remember when I first heard of "feminism" or the word "feminist" but I have identified with the label for as long as I have been aware of it... certainly since my teens, long before becoming a mother. I never understood why I wouldn't want to call myself a feminist, because of course I believed in women being equal to men.  It seemed like a no-brainer.

2. What has surprised you most about motherhood?

How effing tired I am all the time? I felt like I knew what I was getting myself into when I had kids-- I babysat a ton in my teen years, I had loads of experience with kids. But nothing prepares you for what it's like to be responsible for the life of a tiny human being, to have them be so dependent on you. It is incredible and terrifying. Sometimes the weight of that responsibility can feel like it might just crush you. But it is also wonderful and amazing. My boys have taught me that I have a strength and resilience I never dreamed I had.

3. How has your feminism changed over time? What is the impact of motherhood on your feminism?

Back in my teens and a large part of my 20s I called myself a feminist but I didn't spend much time thinking about it. I thought of feminist activism as being mainly about things like supporting pro-choice legislation.

Over the past few years I've learned much more about feminism and sexism (mostly thanks to twitter). I've become aware of how systemic sexism is in our culture and society, how it can hide behind seemingly innocuous practices. I have also become much more aware of the problematic history of the feminist movement, the way it has promoted the issues and concerns of white, middle/upper class, straight, cisgender women, and often excluded or even silenced anyone else. I have learned a lot about how sexism often intersects with racism, classism, and transsexism (and likely other -isms I am not yet aware of). I am constantly working on making my feminism more inclusive, on trying to rectify these injustices, on trying to amplify the voices of those who have been marginalized and help them be heard so we can all uplift each other together, without throwing anyone under the bus.

I've always been pro-choice but before being a mother I only really thought about that in terms of access to birth control, and someone who was accidentally pregnant and needed the freedom to make the choice not to be. Then thinking about my own pregnancy and birth I realized that there's a flip side to being pro-choice-- about pregnant people needing autonomy not just over things like birth control and the choice to carry a pregnancy to term, but also having autonomy over the decisions made in pregnancy and childbirth. I realized how important it is for people to have the right to refuse certain prenatal tests or treatment if they don't want them, or to make their own informed decisions on how to birth their babies (whether that be at home with a midwife or in a hospital with an OB, or whatever other options inbetween). That if our battle cry is going to be "Trust Women" then we need to trust women, even if their decisions are different from what we agree with.

Also, being a mother to two boys has opened my eyes to how rigid gender norms negatively affect boys as well as girls, to the messages they already receive about what it means to be a Boy and a Man.

4. What makes your mothering feminist? How does your approach differ from a non-feminist mother’s? How does feminism impact upon your parenting?

One of my biggest goals as a mother is to raise my boys as feminists. There are so many messages about men and women all around us, in our tv shows, our magazine covers, the way our toy aisles are divided, etc etc etc. These messages are so cleverly masked and so pervasive that we don't even notice them, they just seep into our subconscious. I have had so many "OH MY GOD" moments when I suddenly really started paying attention to something that I'd had completely taken for granted, and realized how sexist it really was. One of my goals is to make my kids aware of these things from the beginning. For example, we've had many discussions before about how many shows will have a cast of almost all male characters, with maybe one lone female. I'm also really big on consent. I want them to grow up always knowing how important consent is, for everything from tickle games to wrestling to, one day, dating.

I actively work against stereotypes, against the idea that there are certain things that are "for boys only" or "for girls only." As they grow up I want them to feel secure in knowing they don't have to fit any sort of a "macho" ideal. They can play with trucks in the mud and wear pink flowery boots while they do so. Etc.

Also, and I realize this may sound pompous or whatever, but I have two boys who will most likely grow up to have just about every privilege they could (white, middle-class or higher, good looking, presumably straight, presumably cisgender, etc). I want them to be aware of how they are and will be treated differently because of these things, to be aware of the systemic injustices still very much in practice today, and to use their status to break down the barriers that hold others down. Don't ask me how I plan to do all this because I don't feel like I have any clue what I am doing, but I'm working on it.

5. Do you ever feel compromised as a feminist mother? Do you ever feel you’ve failed as a feminist mother?

Oooooh boy yes. I've written about a few times when I've felt like an utter failure of a feminist parent. Mostly though I just feel like I don't know what I'm doing, or how to talk about certain things. Like how to talk to my 6 yr old about all the images he sees of sexy, skinny, scantily-clad women, just on things like magazine covers in the grocery store check-out aisle or painted on the side of a trash can while walking down a sidewalk. I hate those moments when I don't know how to address something in the moment, and so I don't, and that silence feels like complying with the standard norms. And, there's the fear that comes from knowing that ultimately I can't control what my kids think or what their values will be. But I have faith, and I'm just trying to do what I can to help guide them along.

6. Has identifying as a feminist mother ever been difficult? Why?

Yep.  Sometimes you feel like a killjoy. Sometimes it feels like you're fighting a losing battle against a giant tide. Sometimes you just wanna enjoy the show your kids love so much, without that feminist critique running through your head.

7. Motherhood involves sacrifice, how do you reconcile that with being a feminist?

I think that is only anti-feminist if the only one doing the sacrificing is the mother. I think parenting requires sacrifice. And yes, it's hard as hell, but it's also necessary and really damn important work. I think sometimes feminist discussions about mothering make the same mistake as the patriarchy, in devaluing caretaking simply because it has historically been "women's work." This view (devaluing caring of children) also feels kind of unfair and disrespectful to children as a whole.

8. If you have a partner, how does your partner feel about your feminist motherhood? What is the impact of your feminism on your partner?

He's basically on the same page as me regarding gender norms and giving our boys the freedom to break from them. There are aspects of my feminism that are more radical than his own views... But although we fall into the traditional roles of breadwinner husband and SAHM wife, he has always viewed our partnership as one of equals. I think our division of household chores is probably about 50/50, although it has fluctuated wildly over the years depending on our situation-- Zach did almost all the household chores during the first year or so after each of the boys' births, and we've gone through other periods like his first year of business school when he was so busy and gone from the house so much that most of the housework fell to me. It's constantly evolving and changing.

That said, when I read this dad's response I did recognize what he describes as an involuntary tilting of power in the relationship towards the father. In our case, this is partially inevitable since we depend on Zach's income and thus his career takes precedence. I don't know what to say about that, other than being aware of it and pondering how to adjust it.

9. If you’re an attachment parenting mother, what challenges if any does this pose for your feminism and how have you resolved them?

My parenting is fairly AP-esque. I do feel it is important to try to meet my kids' needs as much as possible. But I also feel strongly that my own needs are important, too, and that they need to be balanced along with theirs. I can't effectively meet their needs if I am completely frazzled and at the end of my rope. Also, many of the "AP" things we did, we did because they made life easier for all of us (eg- breastfeeding, babywearing).

I want my kids to know they can count on me for unconditional love and affection, that I will do everything I can to be here for them when they need me. I also want them to see me respecting and loving myself enough to take time for myself, do fun things just for me, or even just sometimes telling them Mommy needs a few minutes of silence and solitude on a difficult afternoon and they will have to entertain themselves for a bit.

10. Do you feel feminism has failed mothers and if so how? Personally, what do you think feminism has given mothers?

Oof, this is hard to answer. Feminism has done so much to empower women and mothers. It has also often looked down on those of us who choose to be at home with our children over a paid career. Feminism has given us more opportunities than we have ever had, and in some ways has raised the expectations and pressure on women to even higher levels. Most importantly, though, we still have a long way to go, but I am confident that feminism can get us there...eventually.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

grace in small things #7

  • The trees are all budding with fresh leaves and tiny flower buds. A few trees are already in full bloom. It feels like spring is about to explode, and while I realize that really sucks for people with pollen allergies (Zach's referring to it as the upcoming Pollen Vortex), my cameras are itching to capture this spring beauty. 
  • We're making strides in looking for housing on the west coast, and felt very grateful this week to have a some local friends we could call on last minute to check out a potential house for us. Yay for awesome people willing to help in a pinch.
  • Last week D's class went on a field trip to the school director's house to pick daffodils from her yard, a spring tradition. Zach and I tagged along, and the whole thing was darling, and I got some super cute pictures despite the threatening rain.
  • Little Q has been in underwear the past few days and keeping dry, and I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop but so far so good. I have been changing diapers for over 6 years now, and the thought of possibly maybe finally being DONE (at least for daytime) is very, very exciting. 

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

home again

Zach and I got back home today from  our whirlwind trip(s). We had an awesome time, and I got to not only attend but be part of the two funnest weddings I have ever seen. The rest of Danyelle's bridal party was made up of some very fun people, they were a great crew to spend the week+ with. And, Zach and I got to make a couple's weekend out of the Vegas part of the trip.

It was so wonderful and relaxing and liberating to spend that time away from the boys, to take off my Mommy Hat and not have to take care of anyone else for a few days. It was also really wonderful to get back home to them today, to see their faces light up when they saw me. It was great to get away, and it is even better to come back home again.

Now the kiddoes are in bed and I'm working on getting myself sorted again-- unpacking & laundry, going through all the emails I ignored all last week, trying to get my head on straight regarding all the stuff going on here (class pictures for Zach's school, fundraiser for Quinn's, upcoming field trips for Donovan's... etc). It turns out life goes on, even when you're off having fun. Welcome home.


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