Friday, March 29, 2013

The danger of having children close together

When my eldest was a baby and my hormone laden, only child self decided we should have several children close together, I had this vision.
My children would be as close in practice as they were in age. They'd be not just siblings, but friends. Dear friends. They would never be lonely.
This is an example of what really happens.

Last night, we were leaving JoAnn to go meet the DM to go to church for Turbo's first communion. I pulled out and even though I had looked behind me before backing out, a large truck whipped out of parking and nearly slammed into me.
Turbo noted, "That guy was a dick."
I told him that what he'd said was inappropriate ( but true). The girl said , "he's just a grossly inappropriate little person". Turbo hit the Girl. The Eldest hit Turbo.

Me: "Stop hitting!"
Turbo: "She insulted me!"
Me: "That neither excuses you hitting her or your brother hitting you."
Eldest : "It's my duty to protect my baby sister."
Girl:"I don't need you to protect me. I can hit people just fine on my own."

This is not what I expected.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

What do you think of things given to you?

Some questions regarding things given to you, and your obligations regarding them. (I'm intentionally not specifying only gifts for a reason, as you will see)
Is it your opinion that if someone gives you something it is yours, to do with whatever you want?
 Does that change depending on whether it was a birthday/holiday gift, a congratulatory gift/ or just something given for no reason?
Does it matter if you are giving it away (as in, a donation), regifting it, or selling it?
 What about hand me downs? ( I remember once getting a new-with -tags Dale of Norway kid's sweater in a bag of hand me downs. I *seriously* gave thought to selling it on E-bay, because I know what they're worth, but my husband thought it would be wrong to profit off hand me downs that way. I don't agree, but on the more convincing advice of a friend- that my kids deserved a nice sweater- held onto it and the two kids not allergic to wool got years of use out of it)
 Things bought second hand, but not for a gift giving occasion?
 Are you obligated to use gifts?
 To hold onto them if there's just no use for them, because they were a gift?
Is there any occasion when you are obligated to inform someone you are giving away or selling something someone gave you? (Personally, the only time I can think of is if you're breaking off an engagement or filing for divorce. Then, and only if it's not some kind of abusive situation, it might be polite to give back the expensive jewelry. If someone breaks it off with you, however, I say turning a profit on that ring is just fine).
Now, before anyone gets worried, I am not planning to hawk my overpriced anniversary band to buy a tungsten One Ring (I think about it a LOT, but it would not be worth the fall out) or anything else like that. As I look at our cramped house full of vaguely sentimental crap and hear my husband tell me how his brothers are still clearing their dad's house more than a year after his death, I question more than ever the idea that we can never get rid of things someone else gave us.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

In defence of fake niceness

I know a lot of people feel that they'd rather be around authentic jerks than fake nice people- I used to be one of them. One of the top reasons I hear given is that fake nice people are just waiting to stab you in the back. That may be true sometimes, but what if we give people the benefit of the doubt an assume that rather than being inevitable backstabbers, at least some of those fake nice people are genuinely trying to be nice, but it's a challenge for them and they're faking it til they make it? And yes, some of them can be grating sometimes. But I've come to find it less offensive than the people who don't try to not be asses.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Oh, crap! A Humbling Discovery about Waste Reduction

Warning: this post may be a bit TMI.

AS most of you know, I try to produce as little waste as I can. We don't buy paper towels, the one box of tissues my husband buys every winter is a luxury, we use cloth bags....yada yada yada. The main disposable thing I haven;t given up is paper cupcake liners and parchment paper, which I do my level best to compost.

Oh, yeah, and toilet paper.

That's a hard one to get around. However, I discovered this week on Tuesday that we had two rolls of toilet paper left. Knowing that I wouldn't have time to but any myself this week ( yes, my week is THAT busy!) and what would happen if I asked my husband to buy TP on the way home (he'd somehow also walk out with a box of cookies, a loaf of bread, and possibly a beer) I decided to find a way to stretch them. We usually go through a roll a day, so I knew I'd have my work cut out for me.

So I looked to the stack of mismatched socks that have been in my laundry basket for months but that it seems wasteful to throw out.

Yeah, I know some of you are horrified (hence the TMI warning) but with over a decade of cloth diapering under my belt and almost twice as long wit the lady cloth, I had no qualms. (Yes, I washed them). I spent all day yesterday using those old socks and.... we went through maybe 1/4 of a roll of toilet paper. This tells me I'm obviously using more than the rest of the family combined ( which would probably not surprise my husband). It looks like I have an obvious area where I need to work to use less resources. And maybe hold on to those mismatched socks.

Monday, March 11, 2013

An evolving vision for my future

"What are you going to do when your kids move out of the house?"

It's a logical question to ask a stay at home parent, and one most SAHPs will want to consider. Even if the family has lived comfortably on one income during the kid years, it's good to have an idea of how to spend your time.

My answer has changed over the years. For many years, money was much tighter than it is now. I have assumed that I would need to go back to full time employment when my kids were adults. In fact, there were times when I felt blessed to have eaked out the homeschooling this far.

My husband has often said over the years that I seem to view the kids becoming adults as like a "second graduation", and there's a lot of truth to that.
I have toyed with so many different options. Many have involved going back to school-to get a degree in child development, to fulfill my life long dream of being a paleontologist, to become a children's librarian (I often am told I would be great at this!), to study theology. I love ALL those ideas- perhaps so much that I could never choose.
Or, work at Starbucks, because the perks are so awesome.

Lately I have been considering a different vision. There are varied reasons. One, when people ask what I want to do with my post-full-time-parenting life, I realise I already AM doing it. I LOVE my job in my church nursery. I LOVE that people will pay me to knit, and that time is my only limiting factor in how much money I can make doing so. I  love the idea of expanding both those things, combining added nursery duties (perhaps at more than one church; I work two mornings a week at another church for their MOPS group now) with many more hours of knitting for money; maybe even open that Etsy shop people think I should open. I'd love it if in addition, I could make enough blogging to help supplement that. I would love to do enough of the things I love doing now to make as much money as one full time job.
Another reason? I have loved being a fulltime mom so much that I have always harbored a dream of spending some more years as a full time grandma. While I would love there to be some number of years between my youngest leaving the house and the grandchildren arriving (especially since the youngest is the only one currently sure he wants kids), I would not want to invest time and money in an education, just to have the opportunity to be a full time grandma present itself.
Lastly, we have been ENTIRELY debt free for the last year- no car payments, no mortgage. I love the feeling. It's incredibly freeing. While I know I could get grants for college, I'd have to proceed at a snail's pace to not accrue debt. I'm not willing to take on that debt.

 Since I hope nothing happens to my husband between now and at least the time I would qualify for Medicare, the insurance issue would not be a big deal. And hey, if it became an issue? I'd do the Starbucks thing.

Friday, March 08, 2013

Faitheist- an important read

Last night I finished "Faitheist: How an Atheist Found Common Ground with the Religious", and I was amazed at what an honest, kind and IMPORTANT book this is.

I think this book can be life changing for you if:

You're an atheist feels there must be a less adversarial way to relate to the religious.

You're an atheist who can't understand why your fellow freethinkers would bother working alongside to deluded religious people.

You're a person of faith who values diversity of thought and interfaith work, and you want to see the non-religious brought into the conversation.

You're a religious person feels your narrow definition of salvation is the only viable one, and you don't see the value in engaging with atheists.

In his book, Stedman recounts his experience as a man who went from an enthusiastic convert to Christianity,only to struggle with his growing knowledge that he was gay and that it seemed incompatible with his faith.  (Though it's worth noting that when he came out as a teen, he received open and accepting counsel from a Lutheran pastor. Lutherans FTW!) Stedman quickly moved through "angry atheism" to a desire to find common ground with his religious friends, and to work side by side with them on the issues of social justice that mattered to him.

The most touching story to me in this book recounts how Stedman and some friends were victims of homophobic slurs outside of a gay bar, and rather than ignoring them or firing back insults, Stedman engaged with them and shared his story. While there's no way to know if these men ever came to be open and accepting, what's sure is that sharing the very human stories we share- religious or secular, man or woman, gay or straight, is vital in creating a world where we all treat each other with respect.

Chris Stedman is  Humanist Chaplain at Harvard  and blogs at

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Parenting and feeling strongly

When my children were babies, and I found myself on a less mainstream path, I quickly discovered that almost all parents ( and a few people who've never had kids), have very strong feelings about parenting styles.  I'd be lying of I pretended I don't have strong feelings myself. Knowing that I'm a crunchier parent, you can guess that I think breastfeeding, cosleeping,responding to a child's cries,  not spanking, and cloth diapers are all very, very good ideas. (Actually, I feel we should reframe diapering not as a parenting choice but as an ecological one; more akin to the decision between a hybrid and an SUV than between breast and bottle. But that was another post .)

Those particular decisions are far behind me, yet I find we still fall into strong opinions. For example, my eldest has just finished applying to community college, where he'll finish his last two years of high school and his AA at the same time. (That's the theory, anyway). More than one friend has expressed that they don't  consider it a good idea, because 16 year olds are still children (not a view I necessarily share) or that they will miss out on important parts of high school (which is true, but I imagine any youth who found prom or high school football important would either forgo early entry to college or find a way to do them anyway)

I don't feel strongly about whether or not others should send their children to college early, but I do strongly want all my children to consider it, and I feel it's a good fit for my eldest. Firstly, both the DM and I believe in avoiding debt, and I personally consider avoiding debt to be more  important than the prom or the "experience" (read, luxury)  of living on campus. Secondly, if I could have avoided my last two years of high sc hool and gotten on with my life, and gotten two years of college paid for to boot, you can BET I would have done it. But most importantly, I recognise it as a highly individual decision; not just for families to make, but for children within families. My middle child has applied to an arts high school and my youngest hopes to go to the sister science school. Should they do that, they will have the opportunity to take college courses during high school, but as part of high school. What is right for their brother might not be right for them, who went right from home schooled to college.
Another friend has long been shocked at my total disinterest in involving my kids in sports, a disinterest that extended to knitting through the entire season of basketball that my youngest played.
I think it's important for us to recognize not only that what works for us might not  work for another parent, but that what works for us with one child may not work with another. Further, we often will fail to live up to out ideals, or may have to change them when life throws us a curve ball. I can't count the times I've heard a friend say one of the following:

"I planned to breastfeed, but ( I bled profusely after birth and my body was busy not dying; my child's heart condition made nursing too difficult for him; my spouse left and I was in extreme stress)"

"I never thought I'd homeschool, but then my kid (had a peanut allergy; was bullied; was misdiagnosed or not diagnosed with a learning challenge)"

"I was always going to feed my kids a whole foods vegetarian diet, but she's given hot dogs wherever she goes"

You can insert any number of scenarios here, but the takeaway is this: We ought to remain humble about our own parenting and others', and recognize that circumstances outside our control can throw things for a loop. We ought to recognize that no one way is right for everyone, and may not even work for all the kids in your own family. Let's trust that and lift people up, OK?