Stormy Weather

Standard

What is it about overcast skies that makes me so hopeful, in such a particular way?

Pushing baby on the swing in the park today, watching the trees glow in reflected light, I felt invigorated as I considered the direction my life might go. The direction is inwards, homewards, family-wards. I thought about home schooling and smiled. I reflected on our fall schedule and felt the energy surge through me. I tapped on some work activities I’ve been dreading and acknowledged with gratitude the ability to not do them. Reading, food preparation, crafts, community, learning, writing … all centered on home, and all rendered particularly magnetic and real as the clouds close in.

In the end, it barely drizzled, and the sun did break through, but the morning’s resonance leaves me excited about this new direction, glad to recognize how true it is for me if not for the world around.

Buying stolen goods

Standard

Have you ever bought a stolen cell phone? Donated money to a genocidal group? Moved into someone’s home and taken over?

Husband and I are debating how to invest our money for our family’s future. We are struggling to figure out options that will provide us with needed income as we age, as well as conform with our personal and family values. I would love your ideas.

Mutual funds: Since we don’t have choice over the companies involved, it’s a definite that our money will go to support activities we don’t: fossil fuel extraction that destroys the land and marginalizes (or kills) existing inhabitants of the land, for one example.

Ethical or socially responsible mutual funds sound like the solution – except you’re still left with pharmaceutical companies, the energy sector … and frankly, lots of other big companies that I don’t necessarily support in my individual life, so why would I support them in my financial life?

Individual investments: not a realistic option given time and interest (my interest) constraints.

Then there’s real estate. Solution! Except that we live on unceded land, so any time you buy a home you are buying something that was stolen, never paid for. And anyway, really, can anyone own the land? Should we move somewhere with land treaties so that we can feel better about our purchases?

Of course, I read the stats on elderly poverty, and especially elderly female poverty, and I am determined to do my best to care for myself and my family throughout our lives. At the same time, we don’t want to be hypocrites, though I may embrace some degree of hypocrisy in this process as I am not into hunger or homelessness.

I wonder: Where are the really good, ethical options? Where’s a model that supports local economics and food production? Alternative health approaches? Even regional banking ? (OK, credit unions – but I have an objection to paying $100 plus to any institution that is using my money, be it local or not).

What options have you explored? Does this matter to you? Is this a really annoying or privileged question to raise? What have I missed?

Why the sarcasm?

Standard

Wandering around town today with family, we ended up at Chapters. And daughter and I ended up in the teacup, reading books. One might think that reading new, popular children’s books would be an illuminating, inspiring, high-quality experience. But no.

I find myself saddened by the negativity, self-consciousness and sarcasm found in many (not all!) contemporary children’s books.
Negativity: many scenes of children being excluded, made fun of, ridiculed, often by their peers, for being different. That the plot twists to turn differences into a strength isn’t enough for me to embrace this repetition of bullying, exclusionary social norms.
Self-consciousness: high levels of awareness of physical appearance and how one is perceived by others, rather than simply allowing characters to exist and enjoy life. And, my brain isn’t with me tonight, but what do you call that thing where the characters know they’re in a book? Yeah, that, done way too many times.
Sarcasm: adult levels of humour, irony, personal put-downs, grown-up word play, all of which (in my opinion) tarnishes the sweet innocent presence and authenticity of childhood.

Oh yes. And technology. Lots and lots of technological references.

I acknowledge problems with past children’s literature. That’s another post (lack of diversity, racism, etc.). However, when I read past books (and some present books) with my daughter, there’s a sense of being transported to a beautiful, magical world. Of creativity, manageable problems, healthy learning opportunities.

Are today’s children different? Are they not really children? Has innocence been lost? Or do we want it to disappear, and instead embrace young knowingness, early adult-hood, extreme self-awareness?

Or, do these books exist for the adults, for whom childhood is now a hip, cool thing to celebrate, and these books enable them to bring their hipsterdom into their parenting roles?

Don’t know. Don’t like it. Want to create something different. Know it’s out there, too – I’ve read it and loved it. Looking for more!

Allergic to Activities

Standard

Let’s say you told me, I’d like you to commit to being at this particular place at this particular time once each week. Get your daughter there, on time, dressed in appropriate clothing, with a bag packed with a healthy snack, drink, change of clothes. The activities will be good for her, I promise, even though she might not like them at first and the socializing will be kind of wild. We’ll do an art project: Sit her, do this, then do this, and voila! It looks just like the model! We’ll make sure she transitions through at least 6 different activities in two hours and learns at least one useful thing. Sure, it cuts into your day, exposes her to play-fighting and video game/ popular toy and marketing talk, and feels like an attempt to train her to fit into school routines with minimal disruption, but that’s just life!

I would probably say no thank you if I were smart.
If I were persuaded that I really should try harder to get my child engaged with society, I would say yes.
Then I would withdraw after a single class, and spend a blissful afternoon at home.
Cooking a wide variety of dishes to feed my family.
Watching my daughter dance wildly to a Putomayo Quebec CD
Helping my daughter do her art project: kind of painting, then digging in the paints and pouring water on the table, destroying one and then two large sheets of good-quality paper to produce a ripped, plastered, delicately coloured collage of a man with … what did she say … was that blood in his bum? Something like that.
Talking with her about why she wants us to go away and leave her home alone: so she can learn how to do things for herself. Helping her start to do a few things by herself.
Nursing her into a nap, then finding time to blog before I start experimenting with another gluten-free pie crust recipe.
Waiting for her to wake and work with her to envision and then create a beautiful table setting for my parents when they come for dinner.
Taking our time to do what we’re moved to do, for as long as we’re so moved, building a bond of trust, creating a home environment that is a place she wants to be, a place of love and creativity.

Sometimes I’m reminded where my gut sits and what home and family really mean to me. It’s not always perfect, but sometimes it’s just right, just slow enough, really connected, authentically authentic, and nurturing in a way I dream about. Sometimes, being a social misfit is the best way for me to be – and, witnessing my daughter this afternoon, for her too.

Smartie-cakes Cutie

Standard

Daughter’s favourite – FAVOURITE – activity is wrapping presents. “Presents” = anything, particularly random pieces of paper, loose office supplies, balloons or small toys.

Tonight she said (for the 4th or 5th time today), “I want to wrap some presents!”
Attempting to postpone the inevitable, I asked her what kind of present she wanted to wrap.

“A gift that happerates.”
pause …
“What kind of gift?”
“It happerates.”
“A gift that happerates …”
“Yeah, a gift that happerates. That means it makes happy all the kids that come here.”

Now, these gifts needed cards.
“What kind of card should we make?”
“One that happerates them.”

There you have it. I hope I have happerated you with this post.

Living with less

Standard

As we go through a family conversation about what we’re doing and how we want to live our lives, my spouse and I are also taking time for our favourite activity: decluttering.

Unfortunately, we’re stalled part-way through the process with piles of cardboard boxes, stacks of stuff, and half-filled give-away boxes all over. We’ve been busy, and I need a push to get to the next stage or I will have a personal melt-down over the mess.

We’ve already made some great progress. Over the past number of months we’ve got rid of bags, piles of clothes, a couple stacks of books (wow … imagine that!), a stack of towels, a box of large-size reusable diapers, and extra/ icky/ cracked dishes. We now have a bunch of things for sale on Castanet or about to be, and the progress is exciting.

Now for the next push. Inspired by this article on what to declutter, here’s what I think I will try to get rid of now:

  • Books I’m not going to read or re-read. I love having some books to pass on or “just in case” I want to look into them, but that’s not good enough anymore.
  • Office supplies we won’t use. For example, I can’t stand mechanical pencils, and we have a stack of them on our counter. Good-bye!
  • Toys. Especially because getting these put away can be hard. Probably less-popular stuffies, and ones that just don’t get pulled out. I did promise our daughter I would involve her in the process … so I’ll try and do that.
  • Things we’ve made. Yes, this is an awful statement on the value of creativity and self-sufficiency, but the mobile our daughter cut out and painted for the solstice will not be around for next year’s events. Or some of my clothing refashions that failed. Or anything else for that matter.
  • Freezer food. And all other food that has been sitting there uneaten. Some of it is edible and will be consumed, the rest is out of there. I’m looking for a clean sweep of our food supplies.
  • Paper. I need to go through our filing cabinet again and chuck or digitize whatever I can.
  • Craft & sewing supplies. If I’m not going to refashion it or use it in the next year, I don’t need to keep it around.
  • Clothes, round 157. I still have clothes in my closet that I don’t wear, and often feel like I don’t have enough clothes. Only ones I wear and love can stay. Repeat after me.

Here’s hoping for a clean, spacious space as spring arrives! Few things energize me more than a lovely space.

Bye bye, Ballet

Standard

Like all good mothers, I enrolled our daughter in ballet recently. She was so excited! Dance slippers, tutus, a dance class (no, wait: “ballet class, not dance class!”) with a teacher.

So what went wrong?

  • The teacher didn’t do enough to bring our quiet child into the classroom. She was always at back of the line or the outside the circle
  • In the first class, someone knocked her over
  • In the second class, someone knocked her over and fell on her.
  • She listened so carefully to the teacher, but the teacher didn’t give clear transitions – so our girl was left standing with her arms in the air, wondering what was happening
  • There was a lot more “princess” “tiara” and “holding up your pretty skirt and walking carefully” stuff than I was lead to expect. Very gendered and felt overly restrictive for a 3 year old
  • She only looked happy in the class when she was running around in circles, which the teacher discouraged
  • We could see her joy of life and her confidence diminishing with every moment in the class

I took her to an open gym class on Friday, and she had a great time running around. Then yesterday, I had the conversation with her that I’d been dreading:
“So you had ballet class and that was fun.”
“Yeah.”
“And we went to gymnastics, and you liked that too.”
“Yeah.”
“So dada & I were thinking of taking you out of ballet and finding a way for you to have more gymnastics classes. What do you think?”
“Yay!”

Phew!