I know my curves are delicious, but they are not for you. Consent is important.
When I say “please don’t kick me”, gently placing the soles of your filthy feet against my body and then pushing off with them is an asshole move.
You do not stock enough of the chocolate-covered almonds I like. This is unacceptable behavior.
— A chocolate fiend
Dear Bernie Sanders,
YOU HAVE LOST, okay? Kindly sit down.
Dear Proudfoot the Australorp,
Your job is to turn kitchen scraps and weeds and bugs into delicious eggs. Nowhere in your job description does it say “be a total dick by hopping the fence multiple times a day in some vain attempt to eat the peas growing in the garden.”
Knock that shit off, because you are a dual-purpose breed and three of us eat chicken.
— Your humans
Dear Donald Trump,
OMG STAHP. Get some therapy and work on yourself, and in the meantime don’t be airing that shit you believe in public because it’s dangerous and disgusting.
That strawberry ganache pie you make is fucking delicious. But every time I order it, your employees are like “Oh, the strawberry chocolate ganache?” and that undermines my faith in your food because, and I loathe that I have to even say this outright, GANACHE IS CHOCOLATE BY DEFINITION.
I notice that these same employees are never saying “Oh, you mean an egg omelette?” which would make exactly as much sense. Omelette = eggs + milk + whatever, ganache = chocolate + cream + whatever.
I don’t expect you guys to be Julia Child; I am aware that it’s a diner, but not telling your staff what the items on the menu are is clearly not working out.
Dear student loan companies,
Yeah, I know that I will pay more over the lifetime of my loan because I’m on a reduced payment plan now. But if I could pay more now, I wouldn’t have qualified for the reduced payment plan, so I’m not sure why you’re wasting my time and your money sending me mail about this fact unless it actually is the purpose of your existence to trigger my anxiety and depression.
“There is no use trying,” said Alice; “one can’t believe impossible things.”
“I dare say you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
—Through the Looking-Glass
My five-year-olds spent the weekend with their grandparents so that Robert and I could get in some quality couple time before the new baby comes and we descend into complete chaos and madness for a few sleepless, teary weeks.
To our credit, we did housework. And nesting work. We also ate sushi and watched foreign films, though, because that’s what grown-ups do. But when our sweet babes were returned to us by grandparents who had unwisely taken them to the zoo even though animals defecate (which fact five-year-olds are THE BEST at remembering, pointing out, and discussing at length), I was met with a moment of total panic.
My mother handed me a sheet of notepaper with the explanation that it was “Númenor’s presents list”. Apparently he’d demanded that she take dictation for this critical manifesto.
That’s right, folks.
My kid came home from grandma’s house with a Christmas wishlist.
Why is this a problem, you might ask?
Um, because it was December 5th when this happened, and I had already compiled the wishlists and distributed them through the family network weeks prior, not to mention that I had also long finished the shopping I was intending to do. Because we plan ahead in this family, at least when lists are involved. And in my defense, the wishlist I had was based on things I thought Númenor would like. I pay attention to the smalls’ interests and research toys and games and books constantly, and moreover, I asked them explicitly what they wanted for Christmas and they were both totally uninterested in telling me.
To be fair, that was in October. And when you’re only a few years old, the subjective time-dilation is extreme. Númenor probably genuinely couldn’t fathom wanting things for Christmas when I asked him about it with a jaw-dropping 11 weeks to spare.
And he has NEVER made a wishlist before. We don’t do Santa, so we never write letters to Santa, which means my children had to be developmentally capable of picking up this idea from fiction, and even then, they hadn’t previously shown interest in the activity.
But the fact is, he came home with a Christmas list.
And three things on it were alive, one thing was impossible, and two things flew right in the face of our standards for toys. Which left only one item. Which, to be fair, I already knew he wanted and had plans to make. One out of seven, I thought, would likely disappoint him.
Perhaps the worst part of this debacle was not the list itself, in fact, but that I found non-living, non-impossible work-arounds for things and Pinterest projects for cardboard versions of other things until I felt that I had satisfied his list, and only then did I realize that only ONE of my TWO five-year-olds came home with a list.
Which meant I had to ask the other one what he wanted.
And he wanted one impossible thing, one alive thing, one thing he already has (?!?), two things that don’t meet our guidelines, and that same item from the first child’s list that I was already making anyway.
You love them, and you do your best to give them a well-balanced, fulfilling, and overall positive life experience, and they go around asking for impossible things and exotic pets all the time, like that’s any way to behave.
Of course, that’s what children do; it’s their simultaneously inconvenient and inspiring function in society to be the ones tilting at windmills and dreaming the impossible dreams and riding off to brave adventures with their parents as their loving but often flummoxed squires.
And someday, soon enough, they will come to the inevitable end of their quests. Laid low by a reality that did not go away when they stopped believing in it, they will grow up. In twenty years, they may be making business plans instead of drawing a picture of the storage system for their happy rainbow dreams. In ten years, they’ll almost certainly be more concerned with the opinions of friends and external authorities than with quoting imaginary advice from a well-worn teddy bear.
But today, Númenor wants a Star Destroyer and a rectangle tank of deep-sea jellyfish, and Ithilien wants a pet baby talking opossum and a self-driving car that transforms into a self-flying plane. They never doubted for a second that these were things they could ask for and hope to receive.
There is a wild power in not knowing the bounds of reality or accepting the limits of possibility.
Honestly I’m a little jealous.
But mostly, I’m nervous about my ability to fulfill these requests.
Happy news has its own special way of completely demolishing a person’s life.
Celebratory things– like getting married, moving in together, having a new baby, starting a new job– they take just as much energy, attention, and time as their tragic counterparts do. But there’s an added sting: people expect you to be happy. You should be happy. If you’re anything like me, you ARE happy, somewhere deep inside, in all that mess of humanity and emotion.
But all you can see on a day-to-day level is how much work it is to be pregnant and trying to raise your older children at the same time. You feel that anxious pressure over money, time, preparation, and you are seized with that “how am I going to make this WORK?” panic in the middle of your sleepless nights.
People have all kinds of ways of dealing with this madness. I have a friend who started posting weekly pictures of her belly on Facebook when she was 8 weeks pregnant. People who are on bedrest often make countdown calendars marking each day until their due date or safe date as a tiny victory. Couples, especially first-time parents, sign up for birth and parenting and breastfeeding classes, even though it’s an open secret that this is a laughable prospect.
All these activities have two goals: first, to keep the mind of the expectant person so full that they can’t spare the time to freak out, but second, to make openings for people in their social networks and general vicinity to offer them help and reassurance.
A weekly belly pic means a regular reminder of your pregnancy in everyone’s feed. A countdown calendar gives you an opportunity to remind all your housemates of your incremental but inevitable journey. Classes are an explicit way to seek new connections and new sources of support based on your status as expectant parents.
Personally, I knit. I sew. And I felt and fold and sculpt and bead and work-work-work as much as I can. That keeps me distracted from the fact that I have made the incredibly foolish decision to let the children in my family outnumber the adults (oh help!), and, if I work on baby things, it provides a neat justification for talking about the baby, even with strangers.
Plus, you know, cuteness. Thriftiness. Et cetera. Not all crafting is about insecurity and escapism. Or, rather, my crafting isn’t entirely about insecurity and escapism. Not entirely.
So, to the lady who saw me knitting baby pants in the car outside the burrito place and asked what I was making and complimented my skills, even though it was just stockinette and seed stitch, thank you. To the friend who doesn’t watch Bob’s Burgers but told me my “Louise” baby bonnet was adorable, thank you. To the elderly relative who doesn’t quite understand what a sleep sack is or how cloth diapering works but is interested in having me explain it, thank you. To the understanding partner who listened patiently to a cumulative total of three hours of freaking out about the exact configuration of compartments in the diapering caddy, thank you.
Thank you for reminding me that I am not alone as I feather this nest.
You never, ever sleep alone, or a full night. How would you know it was 3am if somebody hadn’t wet the bed? How would you know it was 4:30 unless somebody had snuggled in next to you and miraculously managed to occupy 85% of the bed with a body 25% the size of yours?
Every meal is worse than water torture. Forget getting them to eat the damn food, how about deciding what to make for them– when making plain pasta is UNACCEPTABLE and making sauced pasta is UNTHINKABLE and presenting them with either dish a personal insult, what is it that they want us to do? How about bribing/threatening/manipulating/whatevering them into letting you prepare what they’ve demanded in peace, if they ever do decide on a single demand?
Your war cry is “Just a minute!” They want fifteen totally contradictory things, surrender is not an option, and you’re just trying to get through the hour without having your head explode when they suddenly barrel in out of nowhere, shrieking and crying at you in the resonant frequency of your skeleton, and you know full well that they will show you no mercy if you ask them to slow down or start over.
Reason is not an option. No, they don’t understand that if they would just hold still you would be done by now. They don’t seem to hear you when you say that violence begets violence and remind them to use their words, and then they somehow conjure up surprise when they are in pain.
And yet, you are expected to know the explanation for everything. “What does ‘solitary’ mean?” “Why do birds have feathers?” “What do tarantulas eat?” “Why are oil molecules slippery?” “Why do they call it ‘French’?” “What kind of spider is that?” “What is that dog’s name?” “Why are rocks hard?”
You have memorized what tracks of what CDs are “robot songs” or “hey! songs” or “na-na-na songs.” You are secretly pleased that they like “Hey Jude” and “What I Like About You”, but you’re kind of embarrassed that they know so many words to “Domo Arigato Mister Roboto,” and you really hope they never sing “Centerfold” at Grandma’s house.
Movie nights are an unparalleled source of déjà vu. Yes, they want to watch it again. Even though they just watched it yesterday. Even though they can recite every line. Even though the songs have been stuck in your head for three months.
You don’t bother to guess what artwork is supposed to be. To you, it’s clearly a scribble surrounded by irregular boxes, but this is a heretical thing to suggest to the beaming illustrator of, apparently, a Star Destroyer attacking a baby echidna in a robot suit with the laser guns going pew pew pew and a spider web catching the laser blasts so they can be recycled at the depot and made into force fields red force fields.
All of your household rules can be expressed in pithy soundbites, the better for yelling across the playground like an idiot. “Be gentle and kind!” “It’s his body, so he gets to decide!” “Everyone has their own imagination!” “If you don’t have consent, it’s not a game!” “Use your words, and then get help!”
Sometimes, when you give advice, they listen. Maude and all the Golden Girls be praised, y’all, it’s a Bastille Day Miracle!
Getting into the car seems to take every muscle in your back and most of an hour. Address nudity, send to the toilet, help with shoes, maintain pace and stay on target, unlock door, demonstrate how to open door, wait, lift child, bend over, buckle, buckle, buckle, check shoes, check provisions and possessions, distribute car toys, defuse fighting over car toys, get in car, buckle, start engine, “rocket ship blasting off” countdown, drive away.
You no longer understand comedy.
They say: “Knock knock.”
You say: “Who’s there?”
They say: “Chicken walking across the road.”
You say: “Chicken walking across the road who?”
No answer, just hysterical, rolling-around-on-floor laughing.
What. Just. Happened.
History doesn’t seem to be the way you remember it. “When I was a baby, I just went into the ocean with my robot swimsuit submarine and saw a shark and I said ‘good mornden, shark, I want to be your friend’ and the shark said ‘no I will eat you’ and then I was eated up and I died.” — Ithilien, apparently still alive and uneaten
Context is a luxury. “Remember when we saw a movie at the drive-in lasted night, with the many women and the one woman growing a baby and one woman with black eyes and the white men driving-racing with a truck with monster-truck wheels and all fire and a sand cave full of ice and sand and there was an explosion?” –Númenor, describing Mad Max: Fury Road, which we saw six weeks prior
It’s a sacred and awe-inspiring occupation. Every day is a fresh adventure, and they learn and change so fast you can barely keep up, but they still need their scrapes and bruises kissed and want to snuggle when they are tired. They have sweet, baby-round cheeks, and long, strong limbs that carry them far and fast. They worry about impossible things (like teddy bears coming to life and starving because they have only stuffing and no digestive organs) and inevitable things (like their own death). They have tiny, mad, whirring, working minds, and the verbal skills to let you peek under the hood. They love to give presents and have parties and prepare for holidays months in advance. They tell you they love you, and they mean it.
start date: 20 February 2015 elapsed time: 2 weeks 5 days completeness: 65%
I hate this rug. I hate it.
Rationally, I know that a big part of why I feel repulsed by it right now is that I fall out of love with virtually all of my bigger, longer-term projects. I like RESULTS, and that’s not really compatible with braiding and sewing a rug together out of 2″ wide scraps of fabric.
But it’s more than that.
Projects that take “too long” for me underline that I am not in control of my life. I start to obsess about all the other things I’m trying to do that are taking too long– like how we aren’t making much progress on paying off our student loans, or how we aren’t mortgage-ready so we can’t build our house, or how I had really planned to have a new baby by now, or how I haven’t yet found the right midwifery apprenticeship, or how, no matter how much time and patience I put into my parenting, my children are still developmentally incapable of empathy or foresight.
I feel like I’m running up a loose sand dune– grueling work, not much progress to show for it.
My rational mind, of course, thinks this is all nonsense. “So you haven’t achieved every last one of your major life goals yet– you’re 27 freaking years old! Why worry about things you can’t control? Get over it, emo-kid. Some people in this world have real problems. You have a great life and are just pissy because you couldn’t custom-order it exactly the way you’d design.”
And that makes it worse, because then I feel guilty for feeling depressed, and then we arrive at what Allie Brosh describes WAAAY better than I ever could. Except that I can additionally pity myself because I have never broken through the barrier to the I-don’t-give-a-fuck-I-feel-nothing stage, and that kind of sounds like it might be nice.
Last night, while we were lying in bed and ostensibly trying to sleep, I was overcome by my freak-out and confessed tearfully to Robert– “I hate that rug.”
And he said, quite reasonably (and therefore EXTREMELY IRRITATINGLY): “Why? It looks great!”
And he’s right. But I’m right, too.
New to the rug this week are one of Robert’s old scouting shirts, more boxers, and scraps of some maternity pajama pants I wore when I was pregnant with Númenor.
It’s HARD to be an adult child. You have to give your parents gifts, and you’re way past the point where what they’ll cherish most is your handprint surrounded by too much glue and some dried pasta.
To be fair, it gets easier when you have your own children, because THEY can be your new glitter glue and cotton ball artwork– pictures of the grandchildren! OMG THE EXCITEMENT!
But sometimes you want to give your parent something from YOU, and not just pimp out their grandchild’s artwork or likeness in print. Then what?
I mean, their house is FULL of stuff. And if it’s not, they’re probably in a better position to buy what they need than you are because they’ve probably paid off their student loans already. Sometimes they’ve even paid off their mortgage, which is a kind of fantastical gilded-age wealth I dream about achieving myself (you millenials out there know what I’m talking about).
It’s easy to fall into a gift-giving rut with your parents. I know I have before — roasted nuts for my father’s birthday, pictures of my children for my mother’s birthday, a nativity for my dad for Christmas and homemade jewelry for my mom, art by my children for Valentine’s, Mother’s Day, and Father’s Day…it gets old.
This year I’m knitting instead. I knitted a great hat for my father’s birthday– he loves Game of Thrones, so I knitted up a beanie with “Winter is Coming” spelled out in colorwork and tucked enough Powell’s money inside to get one of the books.
My mother’s birthday is coming up in about a week, and I am just starting something for her. And I can’t tell you what it is, just in case she reads my blog.
The yarn is Cherry Tree Hill Supersock Select Semi-Solids in cherry. This colorway seems to be discontinued, but I highly recommend the yarn. It’s soft, springy, and tightly-plied, just like a sock yarn should be, and the color is amazing.
start date: 14 October 2014
elapsed time: 3 weeks, 1 day
You might have noticed I took a week off from WIP Wednesday.
I was discouraged. I spent all the last week of October rushing to finish the smalls’ Hallowe’en costumes, which turned out very well, I think, but rushing is demoralizing. It’s hard to take pride in something you feel you threw together at the last second.
And then I spent virtually all of this week sewing on snaps. It needed to be done, but it was mind-numbing. I sewed SO MANY SNAPS– 39 snaps, which is 78 individual halves that needed sewing. This marked only the second-ever occasion on which I have wanted a snap press. I’m not about to buy a tool I’ll only use twice in six years, which means that I struggle through seemingly endless snaps sometimes.
But I didn’t want to post about snaps.
So this is the progress I’ve made on the acorn cap beret. This is still the first one– I have *just* started the decreases at the crown of the hat. It’s still a struggle, but when I look back on how far I’ve come, I feel validated.
It was my grandfather’s birthday dinner. We were at a restaurant where they know my extended family quite well, and we were having a great time. Then, Robert took the smalls to the restroom, and suddenly my mother was equating losing weight with being worthy.
“Well,” she says to my grandfather’s wife, “[little brother] is going to have to buy some new clothes since he lost 90 pounds.”
A big freaking red flag goes up in my head.
And sure enough, my mother rests on the subject of just how much weight my brother has lost and how great it is for so long that I can tell he’s uncomfortable with it, too. My grandfather’s wife is shocked that he could have had 90 pounds to lose, she reminds him of previous weight cycling, she compliments his appearance and resolve, and she lectures him about how it’s obviously wonderful that he lost weight but he shouldn’t lose any more now that he’s skinny, as if he had lost weight to please her. Then my mother wants him to stand up and display how ill-fitting his clothes are, like it’s a badge of honor. He didn’t want to, he was embarrassed, he demurred. She relented, but only on the promise that he would allow everyone to scrutinize his appearance later, when he stands up to leave the restaurant.
During this last exchange, my children have returned to the table. I’m helping Númenor get settled again with his crayons, when I hear my grandfather say to my brother “Well, I wish you’d rub off on–” and then he gestures to his wife.
“EXCUSE ME!” I interject, loudly enough to catch the attention of the whole table, “We will only be discussing our bodies in POSITIVE ways in front of the children.”
An awkward silence. I wish I had interrupted earlier, I wish I had taken a stronger stance, I wish I felt secure forbidding diet talk in my presence instead of only feeling able to object to it on behalf of the developing psyches of my children.
I want to be angry. I want to channel righteous indignation and lecture these people, make them see the terrible impact of their casual violence in what is supposed to be a loving family environment.
I want to say “How dare you publicly criticize the appearance of your spouse?!”
I want to say “Do you know you’re telling my brother that he’s more worthy of love now that there’s less of him? Do you hear yourself purporting to be the authority on what he should and shouldn’t do with his body?”
I want to say “Did you even get your son’s permission before holding a public conference on his body and sharing his private health information?”
I want to say “Diet talk and other forms of body shaming are not child-appropriate, and I don’t care for them, either!”
Instead, I help Númenor read a few numbers on his placemat, and conversation resumes around me, thankfully on a different topic.
As we’re getting ready to leave, after cake and presents and singing, I brush past my aunt and my mother having a reprise of the same weight loss conversation at my brother, who looks as uncomfortable as ever. I roll my eyes and give him a look that I hope says “solidarity, bro” as I shepherd the smalls past so they won’t hear someone telling him how his body should look as if everyone gets a vote.
In the car on the drive home, with the smalls safely asleep in the back seat, I cry. And I yell (sotto voce, like you do when smalls are asleep). And I say “That is fucked up.” about 9874259 times. And I quote theological texts, which is not something I’m prone to do. As a very outspoken person by nature, I mourn my reticence, but if I could go back in time, I wouldn’t change the way I acted.
The fact is that I’m trying to have patience with my family, because we are all flawed and we all have to learn to get along anyway, but mostly because I don’t think they understand what they’re doing and if I try to dunk them into the Pool of Elizabeth’s Standards at the deep end, they will drown and think it’s my fault for having such an unreasonably deep pool. I’m letting them enter from the shallow end, in the hopes that they’ll want to learn how to swim over the next few years. I don’t know exactly what the timeline is, but I do know I won’t be tolerating this stuff by the time Númenor and Ithilien are tweens.
I don’t think that, when my parents were raising me in a liberal ’90s household, they truly understood how that would interact with my high sensitivity to injustice. But, as Beth recently pointed out, the Bible does say that I’m their God-given reward, and they are clergy, so they can’t claim they weren’t warned.
I was extremely displeased today to discover that yet ANOTHER kids’ movie has to go on the list of Movies Too Problematic for Small Children.
I had seen previews for The Boxtrolls, and it looked cute, and like perhaps it would have some good messages about identity and performance/presentation, or family and belonging. I was excited to maybe see it for myself later in the year depending on what our drive-in theater chooses to show. But apparently the movie has been manipulated into essentially one long reinforcement of harmful cultural narratives about gender nonconformity/trans*ism.
So…we won’t be seeing that movie.
The Problematic list is a long one. I’m not overly choosy, but I have this thing about media sources teaching my children that excitement, adventure, and fun are the handmaidens of hate. We are the parents who LOUDLY criticized the preview of Earth to Echo for the joke about femininity degrading a masculine character. We are the people won’t stop talking about the sexual hyper-dimorphism in Brave and Frozen. We are the family who refused to see Planes: Search and Rescue because the preview was sexually objectifying, racist, and hyper-masculine.
Now, my standards are far from exacting– our beloved local film The Goonies doesn’t pass the Bechdel test, and neither does the oh-so-fun Monsters, Inc. We adore Brave and Frozen. The Emperor’s New Groove doesn’t make the Problematic list for a few unnecessary jokes about sexual objectification. There are some questionable colonial elements and some consent problems in Lilo and Stitch, but it’s still allowed. We loved Maleficient, despite the innocuous portrayal of a sex crime.
The question is, are there are few iffy spots that I can make sure to talk to my kids about, or would I need to debrief the entire message of the movie or the way a whole character is portrayed?
One of the reasons we go to the drive-in rather than a conventional theater is so that I have my own mostly-soundproof viewing box in which I can debrief and discuss with (and for the benefit of) my children. Frequently, the preview seems okay, but the actual film has big issues, so I feel that it’s essential for me and Robert to have the freedom to call things bad, unfunny, hurtful, damaging, dangerous, stupid, bigoted, and unacceptable when they are so. This way, while our children are exposed to the film, they are simultaneously exposed to our criticisms of it and are less likely to model their behavior after the bad examples on the screen.
I wish there were content ratings that actually addressed this stuff. I don’t care if there are nipples visible, if the story deals with death, or if someone says “fuck”, but I care deeply about whether people are casually or “hilariously” exploited, othered, and shamed based on their identities. I am glad to have had a heads-up about The Boxtrolls, because evidently it is very transmisogynist. I have the opportunity to choose not to see it based on its message being damaging.
When entire characters have no relevance to the plot besides a joke about othering them, when characters are functionally more like props due to an inappropriate lack of agency, when hate is consistently portrayed as funny or meritorious or (perhaps worst of all) unremarkable, those works go on the Too Problematic for Small Children list.