Friday, December 6, 2013

That Toddler is NOT My Daughter's Boyfriend.

One of the unexpected consequences of the structure of society is that males and females are incredibly divided over matters of behavior and relating. When my daughter was born, I counted myself lucky that I had 13 years to figure out how to address the entire males vs. females divide. I was very, very, wrong.

Each and every time there is a family party, or a social gathering of any nature, where there are male children near my child's age  - someone inevitably says "Oh, Dahlia! How's your boyfriend? He's so cute, you might just have to marry him!" To be sure, at this point I am internally trying to stifle upchucking my Thanksgiving Tofurky. There are so many problems with this, that sometimes I can't even wrap my mind around someone's mental process that brings them to the point of awkwardly disregarding her childhood (this is especially pertinent when people tell her she looks "sexy" when she wears dresses. UGH!).

First of all, I don't want her to think of male creatures around her age as her only possibilities for pair bonding. It would be incredibly screwed-up and hypocritical of me to try to train her to be heterosexual, and since kids do not have expressed sexuality, any indoctrination about her "future husband" or "babies" would be exactly that. She may grow up to be a childless lesbian, and I don't want her to feel like she's betraying my stupid expectations of her, simply by living her life honestly. I don't name brand the type of car I expect her to own, and I haven't arranged a marriage/career/living situation on her behalf... so why should I do that about her relationships or procreation? Answer: I shouldn't. I expect her to do the best she can in matters of learning and education, promptly address her own problems in a dignified manner, and to be polite/mannerly unless someone gives her a reason to do otherwise. I don't have a husband picked out for her. I haven't frozen her eggs at birth to engineer the most attractive and fertile children. I may be a little wacky by today's standards, but not like that.

Secondly, I don't want her to feel obligated to view boys as these creatures she has to be shy around, to alter her appearance for, or to feel generally disconnected from - instead of just as "other people." I want her to be friends with boys, to laugh and learn with them, to find out their inner workings, to relate to them. Basically I want her to view them the same way as she does girls. Because until she hits puberty and starts to have sexual feelings... she should! Potential friends, confidantes, partners in crime. Not just walking potential husbands. Ever since my husband convinced me that marriage partners should be friends as well as spouses, I've seen the value in that. I always sort of vaguely looked at people I was in a relationship with as begrudging add-ons, rather than my friend. It was too risky, in my estimation, to be friends with a lover. Too much to lose, I needed lots of separation. If you never have one male friend, can you start with your husband? Same with a wife!

And last. I don't want her to fall prey to the idea that men and women are totally different creatures with different "hardwired" brains who have acceptable bad behaviors because they're not able to do otherwise. It's not THEIR fault, it's not MY fault, our brains are wired differently! My husband HAS to cheat on me, and I *have* to nurture our children while he's gallivanting, because he's incapable. I cannot stop myself from taking comfort in romance novels and ignoring the sex drive of my spouse because I'm a GIRL, duh! Decisions? What are those, I can't hear you over the sound of my own vagina! In fact, I can't do anything except babysit and crochet because, you guessed it, I get my period every month. Poor husband will never stop being able to carry every heavy object in sight for me, because I need help. I'm his dainty little flower! NO ESCAPE. It's brain science. Womp womp.

So, the moral of the story is: if you see a girl and boy playing together, encourage them to find all the things they have in common. Don't pretend-marry them, don't make them feel awkward, and they're not K-I-S-S-I-N-G off in the hilly brush somewhere. They're two tiny incomplete humans who want to build a friendship, let them. Let them explore their differences instead of pushing it on them.

Boys will NOT be boys, and that's the shitty punchline for every sad joke ever told in a creepy misogynist narrative, and it needs to stop. "Oh, she's just a girl" needs to stop too. Don't alter your expectations for your children based on their genitals. That includes expecting them to date/marry/procreate with someone of the opposite sex, either. Let them live up to their own potential, not the potential you decide for them.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

International Clown Week at Showmen's Rest!

My family has a deep, abiding love for carnivals and circuses. Every summer, bare minimum, as a child I would get swept away in the happy temporary euphoria of the carnival. I adore clowns. I'm the opposite of Coulrophobic. If I had it my way, I'd be surrounded with the circus all the time (albeit a non-animal one) - and probably drag queens/glitter/freaks. My family and friends are all down with me experimenting (costumes/makeup/hair color) with/on them, often with hilarious results:

These photos construct a small sample of goofy pictures I've taken over the years. Seriously small. But now I have some more to add from International Clown Week (this year and last!).

So, last year, Dahlia made her clown debut as "Patches" :) Which Susan (who organizes the festivities) helped along by announcing her presence! She also thanked me for my support, which was great!

I was so happy to see Patches (Dahlia) get some recognition. She's always expressed a desire to dress up as a clown and have her makeup done. At this point she's still very shy, but she is trying really hard to become comfortable talking to people. She's becoming quite a performer. She practices her clowning acts effortlessly at home, but sort of gets a touch of stage fright when she's in front of strangers. This year was better than last year, though!:

I'm sure there will be more to come. For now, I figure this is a good representation of the actual day. It's an incredible event, a beautiful (tear-jerking) ceremony, and it does a great job of honoring the people who lost their lives, and the continued place of a clown in the vision of a better world! 


Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Child/Whore Complex.

So, I put an appeal out to Facebook friends for a subject to cover for RMRK. I got back this from my mother: "The parents that allow their teenage daughters to dress like a whore - then wonder why their children end up in bad situations."

My response was:

That's a double-edged sword. On the one hand, I applaud the parents who "let" their children express themselves and "allow" them to see the problematic culture at large who doesn't respond appropriately to an underdressed woman (the appropriate response is "leave them the fuck alone" - not, "oh let's rape that!") - but on the other hand I could see why utilizing sexuality as a child could be seen as a symptom of terrible self-esteem or the need for attention, because at a young enough age, sexual activity isn't a good idea. But either way, exploring your sexual power isn't inherently a problem, except that we don't live in a society that makes it a safe option. Dressing provocatively is just as problematic as dressing in traditional "punk" clothing. It isn't.

My mother then put forth: It is not appropriate for a child - if you are an adult it is your decision to take a risk. Seems to me there are more people with sexual disorders now than ever before - if they "can't help it" is it worth letting your child express themselves. There are other ways they can be themselves.

To which I replied: Well, the point at which I noted it was experimentation was the negation of your assertion that they're "being themselves" - they are not being themselves, they're experimenting: seeing how their behaviors and outward appearance can change the reactions they get from people. If you are an adult, you are less likely to experiment with your appearance and therefore probably more settled in your ways: if you still dress provocatively, then you obviously enjoy whatever attention you get from dressing that way, but your experimentation stage is over.

We have an erroneous idea that men have no control of their sex drives and need voraciously to rape: I think that's a lack of sexual education in the masses. If murderers can refrain from murdering, rapists can refrain from raping. Not every person who has the desire to rape, does.

Even if you had a rape compulsion, a percentage of those compulsory rapists could act out their inappropriate urges with a practitioner of BDSM who fetishized nonconsensual sex. Yes, there are rape fetishists; people who agree to a sexual situation beforehand wherein they are basically abducted and raped (often with a weapon, as authenticity is necessary for them to derive enjoyment from it). There are also "gang bangs" where people will allow a large number of people to "violate" them, and they are very happy about it. There are quite a few places that a rapist could theoretically sate their rape-need with someone who wouldn't be damaged for life as a result. If more rapists knew that, there would probably be fewer rape victims. And more happy fetishists. YKINMKBYKIOK. [your kink is not my kink but your kink is o-k]. Education, end stigmatization, fix. Kids should be able to experiment with things safely, and it's our job as parents to facilitate that, if the child so desires.

And above all, there shouldn't be a rapist apologist attitude toward culture. It's time to change how we look at sex, not how we can possibly avoid being thrust into a victim-sphere every time we walk out the door.

So let's bring this back to personal level: if Dahlia wanted to walk out the door half-dressed when she turned 13 (or younger, theoretically) - I would do two things; first, I would have a lengthy discussion with her about why she is dressing in such a way that is considered inappropriate. Is there an underlying problem? Does she feel powerless otherwise, and needs an easy way to get attention? Is she just seeing how people will treat her? Does she not think she's dressed inappropriately? Secondly, I would go with her, so I could help her process the reactions she's getting from the general public. In light of those two things, we would also have a discussion about whether or not she's prepared to act on the expectations that come with dressing in a very sexualized manner. If so, it's birth control time - if not, she'd better reconsider the rough time she'll incur through gaining a reputation for "being" a certain way.

It was at that point I realized I should have just written this in blog form. Childhood sexualization is something that always left me feeling very "icky" (I even wrote a piece when I was 16 called "Potty Dancing for Skank Pants" about, how, if your child does the impatient crotch-grabbing "potty dance" because they're begging for skintight snake-skin pants, they're too young for such things!) - on one hand, we should NOT find it acceptable to sexualize children - but on the other side, there is apparently a niche filled by sexualized children, and so easily. There is an underlying problem in our culture, and thrusting children into a sexual spotlight before puberty is so crazy. However, children should feel safe dressing in ways that mimic their parents and/or peers without fear of being violated as a result. Perhaps some dirty looks or name-calling could be reasonably expected... but rape is a punishment fit for NO crime. 

From near-birth children are inundated with sexualized messages; they idolize sexually-charged icons, get impossibly proportioned Barbie dolls, people call children of the opposite sex their "boy/girl friend," there's a very obvious and unnecessary sex divide wherein members of the opposite sex are mystified into complete obscurity toward each other, and the messages of a majority of tv shows, songs, and other bits of art and popular culture are about sex and/or relationships. Sex sells, and it sells because the culture buys.

For my last point, if there really were a victim component to using sexuality vis-a-vis attire to gain power, looking down on girls who dress provocatively should be a no-no. That's like blaming someone with a binge-eating disorder for their diabetes: you can't simultaneously call someone a "victim" and also blame them for their plight. Pick a side, and help make the world safer for kids, rather than just buying the old "well they can't help themselves!" excuse.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The times, they are a-busying!


I haven’t mentioned this before, but I am starting up a soap business with my husband. An unshakable creative beast, I am constantly trying to force Rick to try new things. New foods, new music, new art projects, new shows, new books, new facial hair, new everything. I take his staunch perpetually-the-same mountain and chip away at it until he agrees to try whatever I think he should experience. Sometimes this is a beautiful bonding experience, and sometimes it gives him a nightmare or two. On rare occasion, he’s been greatly upset and taken the indignant “how could you do that to me?!” stance.

You see, he has difficulty with the “looking stupid” aspect of newly honing a skill. Whereas I don’t generally care how moronic I sound for asking 7,367,231,846 questions, or doing rather goofy shit while I’m getting my feet wet… my husband? Not so much. Rick wants to know, he wants to know NOW, and he wants to have been expert level approximately fifteen years ago. I dance around and occasionally sing in public. Rick would rather die. He’s getting better, though. Nowhere to go from rock bottom… except up!

So there was a moment when we were in Michael’s and I suggested that I’d teach Rick how to make soaps. I started checking out the inventory of melt-and-pour kits, Dahlia quietly (but passionately) singing to herself, and offered my knowledge of the aesthetic approach, rather than the technical aspect. I wasn’t so much interested in making SOAPS, so much as I wanted to convince my unwashed husband to make something pretty that would also be handy when scrubbing a layer of crud and cheese off of his underberries and other assorted limb-y, appendage-y things. Something he could be proud of, that would also make him potentially smell dandy.

I was shocked at his response: “this is ridiculous. A waste of money. I bet we could make soap for much cheaper than this melt-and-pour shit. This is CHEATING!” I cocked my head, volunteered that I had no knowledge of how to make soap from scratch, and I even sort of vaguely-yet-noncommittally noted that because I had no idea, it was probably the sort of thing better left to factories. Factories that produced melt-and-pour soap, duh. No human has ever made soap with their HANDS. What is this? The paleolithic era? Do we have to start washing our loincloths by the Euphrates? Husband, are you drunk?

But then he used the Almighty Google Machine (even with a bad signal, because Michaels is a signal-sucking vortex for some reason, get WIFI already!) and found a recipe. He announced that it only took a few ingredients, and that we could do it. Fine. Go ahead. Try to get all socialist-uprising and try to take back the production/manufacturing world better left to machines! GO AHEAD, DURRUTI. Rebuild your pile of ashes, with the help of pure, unadulterated spite. So I conceded (simply because he challenged me, and you should know I turn into a monster when challenged) we began to buy all the things, and embarked on the beginning of quite a journey.

And I’m serious when I call it a journey. At this point, we’re only a month and a half into making soap, and we’re already laying the groundwork for a great business. We’ve found out all kinds of neat/horrifying/crazy/anomalous information about cosmetics and detergents, from carcinogens in hand soap to shea butter’s weird anti-aging properties. Did you know coconut oil gets rid of lice? I mean, really, doesn’t it have better things to do with its time? We’ve discovered that everyone we know (only 15% exaggeration) has skin ailments, afflictions, and conditions. Today we met an herbalist named “Shoebocks” (pronounced “shoebox”). My husband’s pored over legal codes and policies for retailers and I’ve decided to re-teach myself ACCOUNTING. Now, I’m by no means an idiot, but I can’t keep the numbers 4 and 7 straight, so I would like to say, again – into the microphone – this is quite an interesting journey.

And it keeps getting cooler, and more (eu)stressful, and it’s really fun to watch it develop.

If you want to buy some, check out our blog, follow us on Twitter, or like us on Facebook, here’s the information!

Three points of congratulation if you can possibly guess what our business is called…
(I know it will be very difficult to do so.)
Open-mouthed smile

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Maybe My Grandkids Will Appreciate Me!

WARNING: This may sound judgmental, but that's because I'm a bit miffed about it.

If you've ever felt like an outcast in a mommy circle, welcome to my life. Here's where I am situated in an outdoor picnic gathering: I make the rounds, saying hello and introducing myself, noticing that half of the moms are either staring at my nose ring, or trying to fathom my eclectically bohemian-inspired fashion choices. The ones who aren't, are being helpful and offering my daughter a burger, to which she loudly inquires "IS THAT REAL MEAT? I'M A VEGETARIAN!" and proceeds to stare down all the omnivores with the fervent judging eyes of a PETA volunteer (which I maintain isn't my fault, since I don't do that!). Between glares, my darling progeny is forcibly introducing herself to the inevitably shy children with whom she shares toys. It's mandatory that they report their names or Officer Dahlia will find ways of making them talk. I encourage her to give them personal space.

It is at this point a few women start to complain about their husbands. My husband isn't someone I complain about. He's pretty rad, and there isn't an obvious gender divide between us. I spent most of my adult life identifying as a lesbian, so if I can keep the company of a man (let alone marry him, though he did partially take my last name) without smashing him like he's the embodiment of the patriarchy, he has to be pretty awesome. We have similar political ideologies, we're both fringe weirdos, we both like each other. No problem, in that regard. Then conversation will shift to the relief the mothers feel that they can get things done while the kids are in school. Where does Dahlia go to school? I manage to finish the word "homeschool" and there are either audible gasps or tentative "ohs." The quantification questions flood in a cacophonous din for ten minutes. Does my daughter know the alphabet? Actually, she can read. Does my daughter interact with other kids? She's taken all kinds of classes, from Ballet to Mandarin, and those classes happen to be populated with other miniature humans. Does it drive me crazy that she doesn't "go away" for a while? No, I like the fact that she's around me a lot, however, I don't require that she be by my side, always. By the time these evaluation questions die down, I've already felt a palpable tension about my lifestyle choices.

There will be a new issue for the moms to focus on; why Shrek is inappropriate for children under 13, how their children need a good "swat on the behind" once in a while, the latest boycott on, and a slew of other things I inherently disagree with. Dahlia's seen Shrek. Hell, she's seen the original Batman in all its Michael Keaton glory. She liked that film, and has watched it many times since. My parents took me to the midnight showing of Bram Stoker's Dracula when I was 6 years old, and I don't have prolonged nightmares about it. As for spanking kids, I volunteer with a well known coalition dedicated to freedom of sexual expression, so where I come from, corporal punishment is only okay to use on consenting adults. I view those one million moms as one million nosy crazies who have nothing better to do than make the world unlivable, unbearable, and frankly, awful. Children will survive beyond the harrowing psychological torture imparted upon them by video games, television, and banned books. As a bonus, if you keep a sense of humor about life, your child will grow up without a damaging sensitivity bubble that keeps them from taking risks, exploring the world, and talking to strangers.

If you, dear reader, are cringing from my words, chances are you're one of the moms who will never ask to connect with me on Facebook, deliberately taking other people out of the mommy circle to get their contact information, while looking over your shoulder to check that I'm not eating your heirs. I'm the stuff your nightmares are made of, THAT MOM who only exists to serve as a warning to others (Did you hear Dahlia coslept until she was FIVE?!), but my kid is so amazingly awesome it hurts, and I'm okay with infiltrating your REM cycles.

If you're laughing, we'll be friends forever.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

My Dissident Take on 4th of July: I like it!

Whereas most people I know who espouse similar beliefs to mine hate Independence Day, I think bloody revolutions of yore are exciting celebration fodder. For the same reason I love Bastille Day, I love the 4th of July! Dahlia and I adore fireworks and basically any explosion fathomable. We sit in awe, slackjawed, squealing YAY! and other ridiculousness. But we love that crazy stuff. Jack Kerouac's oft-overquoted sentiment sums it up:

So, it's obvious we love fireworks. And revolutions. But people who disagree offer the following: "well it established the State," "but this fucking country is so Imperialist," and "All this flag-waving patriotism bullshit sucks!"

True, it established the modern incarnation of the State (ish), but not /technically/ until the Articles of Confederation were ratified, in 1781, so there was a window there where there was no formal established federal government (and we didn't explode, anarchy *is* possible) - which is amazing.

Yeah the country's Imperialist, that's a result of having a State. It didn't HAVE to happen, but it did. <sarcasm> There wasn't Twitter back then, guys! </sarcasm> Wait, that’s only half-sarcastic. If we would have had technological infrastructure, we probably could have built a free society. The fact that a community of people who owned private property could still relay information about safety, dangers in products or neighborhoods, education, and other things would have been all the trappings of a capitalist-friendly society, or maybe even a communal one, and the Constitution wouldn’t have been written to “protect” us from the State. My relationship with the Constitution is a strange one, on the one hand I’m glad there’s a vague manual for What the Government Can’t Do (Other Than When We Shit on That) – and on the other hand it gives this illusion of freedom, under which pretense Americans don’t question the nature of the Authority they’re subject to.

Which brings me to my next point, the flag-waving patriotism and nationalism of "God Bless Our Divinely Mandated Country" is ridiculous. Throw away your flags, burn them, do whatever you need to do. In fact, my sentiment is summed up beautifully by none other than Howard Zinn: But there's no accounting for taste, it’s not the bloody revolution’s fault that the majority of mouthy Murican patriots are flag-waving idiots who couldn’t identify political theory if it bit them in their (m)asses. Who support mass murder, imperialism, oppression, violence, and all kinds of nonsense. Patriotism?

The actual act of revolution, how beautiful a concept, to overthrow an established order. ♥
And it’s always fun to blow shit up. Practice your Molotov cocktails. Prepare for another revolution!
You never know when you’ll be faced with freedom. 

Monday, June 17, 2013

My Daughter is Scary.

Last week, I received this message from my friend Patrick, on Facebook:

I've never met your daughter but she terrifies me, she's more motivated and ambitious than I ever was. Hell, she's probably smarter than me too

So, naturally, I laughed and made a witty retort about how sometimes she scares me a little, too:

[She] just corrected me, when I posited "when you think of the solar system, you tend to 
envision the planets in a line all the time, and then they just knocked off Pluto, what the 
hell," and she said "yeah, but the planets couldn't all be in a line, because then the Earth 
wouldn't get sun and we would all die."

If it helps, she scares me sometimes, too. Hahahaha.

Dahlia is terrifying sometimes.

I was kidding, but only marginally. I'm not afraid of her ability to absorb a ridiculous amount of information, on some irrational basis, like, she'll morph into some evil genius bent on creating a fascist dictatorship. But I am sometimes afraid that she's going to be so steadfast in her decisions that she will stop questioning the validity of her own opinions. How often will she ask "could I be wrong about this?" Will she grow up to be one of those know-it-all people who are sad recipients of a large dose of the Dunning-Kruger Effect? Will her illusory "rightness," when called into question be met with copious rage and a how-DARE-you volatility? Is it possible that her refusal to be proven wrong culminate in grievous bodily harm, or worse?! I hope not!

My wish for her is that she'll be able to logically and soundly meet opposition with maturity, stand on her own two feet, not be nerve-wracked and insecure, but also able to admit when she's just plain wrong. She's only six now, and being headstrong is a quintessentially six-year-old trait, however, I can't help but wonder how much smartassery she'll take with her into adulthood. Hopefully not as much as her Mother. ;) 

I've been known to be a smartass even with a powdered donut.

My husband fell in love with this smartass, years ago.

I should look on the bright side: she's teaching herself Spanish with Rosetta Stone, tearing through books, schooling drunk teenagers on the origins of the Earth, trying like hell to assert her independence through learning how to cook and perform other menial tasks of living, and she's basically hilarious. So everything should fall into place. I hope!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Birthing a Radical: Anarchy and Parenting.

Occasionally, I feel the word "different" was invented to describe me. Even within typical outsider circles, I don't feel like I belong. Despite the fact that I've never really fit in neatly anywhere, I never bothered to be bothered by this fact.

Until my daughter was born. Then all the weirdness and unorthodoxy and eccentricity seemed to pile up and crush me under their combined weight.

I've been a vegetarian since I was a teenager. This never caused me any grief, but when it came time to start raising my daughter, I was bombarded with alarmist reactivity regarding the idea that I would DEPRIVE my DARLING DAUGHTER of the infinite meat-eating possibilities of life. Because of me, she would only grow to half-size, her IQ would be so low you couldn't register it on a chart, and she'd immediately vomit upon her first taste of rebelliously-procured meat products (in puberty). And how dare I do that to her? Easily. I sleep well at night knowing I'm such an awful person that I'd opt out of the factory farmed, antibiotic-laden, hormone-infested, carcinogenic junk-trap that is omnivorous food consumption. Not to mention the many animals whose demand for death was not made by my family. I'm pretty cool with that.

I've been an anarchist for most of my life. Now, possible misconceptions of anarchism aside, I've been through a very real schism from the rest of this community. Most anarchists identify as libertarian socialists or anarcho-communists. Ideologically, these kinds of anarchists intentionally separate themselves from anarcho-capitalists, whom they say are not "really" anarchists because they support the power structure dynamics of a hierarchical system. How dare they! Well, guess who thinks currency and jobs and companies and the free market and civil liberties and autonomy are awesome? Me. That makes me an anarcho-capitalist. Even in the subset to which I belong, I still disagree with many of the proponents. For example, I would probably enjoy bitchslapping Ron Paul. I think "can't stand" and Ayn Rand rhyme for valid reasons. Beyond this disagreement, many anarchists hate the fact that I've procreated. As if perpetuating the species with a child that has a higher-than-average chance of being an anarchist, I've somehow betrayed the most integral tenet of anarchism. I believe that parenting my daughter in such a way that teaches her the responsibility of autonomy and self-efficacy will be the thing that defines her life as she makes her way toward adulthood. She's only six now, but it's never too early to start.

Which brings me to my next problem. Er, point. Yeah, my next point. So, I teach my daughter autonomy and making responsible decisions. This means that I enable her to do things that would give most parents of similar-aged kids a heart attack. She uses the stove, cuts with santoku knives, plays barefoot outside if she wants, snacks if she's hungry, and she is a huge player in her own educational decisions. How do I manage these? Easily. I taught her how to use the stove responsibly, and I supervise when she uses it (for now). I taught her how to use a santoku knife (and scissors and lighters) so that she doesn't have to wonder about it, and I don't stress about her being barefoot or eating between meals. She's average height, on the thin side, and is so energetic I constantly joke with strangers that she's "powered by vegetables." I homeschool her, and she weighs in on how her lesson plans go.

Oh, I homeschool her! I must be religious, right?! Nope. All atheist, all the time. Which brings me to another issue: even within the minority homeschool community, I am still a black sheep. Foregoing the Bible in favor of Cosmos is seen as a Hellfire and brimstone transgression to many of the homeschoolers in my country. But, here's the thing... I don't homeschool my daughter to shelter her, I homeschool her to help her learn to think for herself. I don't want her to go through school with a blindly-patriotic, pro-'MURICAN slant. I want her to learn "just the facts, ma'am" and she can come to her own conclusions about them. P.S. If you think this isn't a problem, think of the way you learned about Thanksgiving in elementary school. Was there a table of brotherhood? A nicey-nice sit down meal where they all thanked the same Christian god? Cough. Many of the things we learn as children, we have to re-learn REALISTICALLY when we hit college (or HS if we're lucky).

So, that's a portion of me in a nutshell. And what I've told you isn't even the "worst" of it. But instead of these things making me feel angry or divided from humanity, I use it as an object lesson to teach my daughter all about the beauty, diversity, and infinite wonder of the world. I am allowed to have these differences and they won't be the death of me, as they may be in some other places. I can speak out against perceived injustice and I won't be immediately executed. She can live comfortably as a vegetarian without starving to death. My husband can pursue his medical school studies without being denied entrance due to caste issues. Because of our differences, she can experience an amazing variety of things, in life. The majority of her dinners are borrowed from another culture. I have major wanderlust so we travel across the country fairly regularly. She gets to see how all kinds of people live, and she is always a part of their festivals and events. We watch strange independent films about clowns and fairies, funky documentaries about spirituality, listen to oud and gamelan music, read stories from greco-roman mythology and amazing old classics, she has frequent exposure to all kinds of international art history. She's diversity-sensitive because she grew up with a throng of drag queens, queer artists, transsexual activists, performers, and strange birds. She's always curious, and I'm always willing to teach her more or help her find information. I named her after Salvador Dali and Roald Dahl. Her name is Dahlia. She's going to end up a name in your household someday. She is love.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Am I Ruining My Child? Education on Its Ass.

On a typical field trip in an average grade school, a student will encounter a "guide" or expert with specialized knowledge, who may train for years in a certain field. These people are either very enthusiastic volunteers, or they are paid to give 10-30 (ish) students access to the intimate knowledge they have on a particular subject. If they are avid information-sharers off the clock, they may join a like-minded group in their spare time. As a fervent volunteer, I have seen firsthand the large numbers of people who put in a great amount of effort to make the world around them a better place. We all have a special hobby, interest, or expertise that we take great pains to hone. An interest begins as a large but empty tank, and we fill it as a labor of love, an homage (or "a homage" depending on your pronunciation) to our reverence for a subject. We seek information to parse as true or false and cherry-pick the most consistent and logically sound pieces, filling our tank with the best parts. That said, if we walk around, full, without sharing or using the knowledge, that tank gets buried with our bodies (or scattered atop a mountain, or "promessed" if we're acutely aware of the unsustainable system of cemeteries). That information is gone, forever. Part of our drive toward the perpetuation of our species includes the urge to make a lasting contribution that will outlive our moment of death.

We've all heard (or rolled our eyes at) the phrase "it takes a village to raise a child." Even a conventional upbringing involves an endless supply of teachers, mentors, relatives, babysitters, coaches, and guardians - all working together (hopefully) to foster an atmosphere of learning, safety, and growth. In choosing to give my daughter an unconventional upbringing, I have found myself almost entirely responsible for locating each of these individuals. Two considerations are driving my search: 1. Out of all my friends and family, I know and love all kinds of people with great specialized knowledge - people who harbor interesting and wonderful worldviews, people who know a great deal about something that can consequently be whittled down to a small Wikipedia article (though it would be a great injustice to the subject to do so). 2. I want these folks to impart their enthusiasm on my progeny. I want them to feed her eager mind, simultaneously, with an almost irrational exuberance AND an abiding respect for the deeper concepts of the universe. I want her to be imprinted with the understanding that people are living, breathing relics of history. Above all, I want her to know that being passionate about her eventual way of life is necessary to happiness and ACTUAL success (not as measured by net worth/income).

You may think I'm insane. "Kristi, you're nuts" is a phrase that follows me everywhere. You may say any number of things about this decision, most designed to point out the absolute worst-case scenarios. "But there are crazy people! Cult leaders! Pedophiles! (oh my!)" - and there will certainly be no end to the age old mantra "if you're too open-minded, your brain may fall out." Well, let me be the first to tell you that I don't homeschool my daughter to shelter her. I homeschool her so that she can learn to think for herself. Does that sound contradictory? Can you TEACH someone to think for themselves? I assert that you can. My method thus far has involved teaching her a myriad of things, being honest when there are "science doesn't know why" answers, and I CAN and WILL say "gee, darling, I don't know - let's look it up together!" I believe there is no shame in asking questions. There isn't very much we are unable to learn, just things we haven't invested in learning, YET. I extend this practice into Open Source Learning: of course I wouldn't let a throng of bepitchforked strangers drag her off into the woods for a "swimming" lesson, but even if someone teaches her something outright WRONG, she'll have the same "relearning" experience most of us have during the transition between K12 and college. The difference between ours and hers will be that she will know this will happen, so she will prioritize the investigation of truth in her education. She will KNOW she is responsible for figuring out the credibility of the information she's receiving, rather than being surprised by having been taught incorrect information in the first place. Rather than blindly accepting all of the teachings of authority figures she hears, she will realize the importance of questioning information. 

I call this Open Source Learning because I am essentially positing that this method encompasses elements of peer production, opening the formerly proprietary nature of information as contained in textbooks (which has widely already been done by the Internet and universities across the country), as well as enabling Dahlia (and any child who wishes to be taught this way) to be self-enhancing through the variety of communication/models/information at her (or their) disposal. Technology has exploded, and it's time education took full advantage of this.

Without further ado, here are a few guidelines if you'd like to participate in the enrichment of Dahlia Violet:

1. For now, please keep each session to one hour or less. More than one session to teach a complicated subject is perfectly fine, but I think the longest she's able to give 100% of her focus to something is about an hour. She's six, and her attention span is pretty good, but all the same, she's six.

2. If you're teaching something extremely complicated, please reduce it to basics. This includes a vocab lesson if there's jargon, some deductive techniques, and probably talking to her like she's new. She just came out of me six years ago... she literally IS pretty new. Ask questions to determine whether or not she's understanding the material. She'll probably do the same.

3. Be okay with my presence. I may seem crazy, but I'm not crazy enough to hand off my kid to anyone without figuring out who they are on a deep personal level. Sorry. Many of these things can take place on Skype, at your house, in a classroom, in the woods, in a library meeting room, on a train, in the rain, on a boat, in a moat. We like it all, Sam I Am.

4. I am okay with all kinds of subject matter, but please check the logic involved when approaching her. Faith-based stuff, pseudoscience, supernatural fluff, metaphysics, and the like... not so great. If you're adamant, go ahead, but just know that you're filling the head of a very rational, intellectually honest kid. She'll tell you you're bullshitting her, if you are.

5. Think of the easiest way for a very visual learner to acquire information. That will be the greatest way she will learn. She's also very good with deductive reasoning. She reads a lot, but her ability to visualize complex systems (that aren't out of HER imagination) is questionable. Have some pictures handy, if you can.

So, that's about that. I believe in this project wholeheartedly, and I think if it works it could potentially revolutionize a lot of the way education is executed. Thanks in advance to the participants. Your contribution is priceless to making Dahlia the greatest person she can become. :)

Friday, June 7, 2013

Ezekiel Gilbert murdered a woman because he assumed she was a prostitute. He got away with it.

So, I read this article, and I was both baffled and outraged. Unless all of the news outlets are portraying the case as anything other than true, here is the breakdown of the situation:

1. An escort service posted an ad on Craigslist. It implied, either directly or indirectly, that a woman was offering her TIME in exchange for $150. This was corroborated by the "pimp" (the manager of the escort service). Nowhere in the advertisement was a direct mention of sex or sexual services, which is a standard practice in the sex work industry (as most sexual services are illegal, mentioning them implicitly is viewed as problematic to sex workers). I reiterate: nowhere did she have "sex" in the ad, in fact it was testified in court that the particular escort service in question had specific policies against sex on the job.

2. Ezekiel Gilbert hired this woman for exactly what the ad said. An "escort" service. Her "time" and at most, her service as a surrogate partner. For those of you who don't know this, the term ESCORT does NOT have an inherent sexual meaning. It means you will be escorting a client for a period of time, and then whatever happens during that time is to be discussed within the time frame. Escorts are, without presupposed connotation, escorting a client [to a wedding/ reunion, to a baseball game, for conversation, so they may be looked upon] - whatever the purpose, sex doesn't "go without saying." It has to be discussed, agreed upon, and acted out only after the first two conditions are met. If you have sex with an escort against her will, that is rape (not "shoplifting" as the ignorant joke goes). The idea that a prostitute can't be raped is a myth perpetrated by privileged scum with entitlement issues so deep they end up sociopathic in nature.

3. So, the "pimp" (who is the manager of this service) who was in the car with the victim, corroborated the evidence above. He also stated that in the past he had been part of a scam operation where women would get money and leave (which was technically irrelevant because he testified that this was NOT the case in this particular event). Even if this woman literally received the money and ran, she was in the physical presence of the man who willingly handed her money BEFORE anything other than being in her presence, and thus she gained the money legitimately. Her "escort service" may have been decided as "one second of my time, then I leave" which is another problem in criminalizing sex work - there is no standard, other than what you "can't" do, as a client of a sex worker/company. You cannot make a contract, for example, that states exactly how long a sex worker must be in the presence of a client (or what they need to physically DO) before they are paid, or imposing a penalty for not fulfilling those work obligations before being paid. A "stiffed" prostitute also does not have a legal recourse for being screwed out of money, either. Both parties can lose on this deal, but a prostitute cannot perform a sex act, then KILL their john if they aren't paid. So the verdict reflects a grave miscarriage of justice in many ways.

4. Even if Ezekiel Gilbert had the money stolen from him (which he didn't, he had buyer's remorse and was mad he wasn't automatically entitled to sex, which he only ASSUMED was part of the deal - he didn't get confirmation about it), he would not have any legal action available to him wherein he runs after the victim and then fires a gun IN PUBLIC at a MOVING VEHICLE that had ANOTHER PASSENGER in it. That is reckless endangerment of the general public and he should have an EXTRA charge slapped on for that, plus attempted murder of the driver... in addition to a guilty verdict on the charge of voluntary manslaughter.

5. The judge, Mary Roman, has been implicated in judicial misconduct on more than one occasion. She was found to be abusing her station as a judge to attempt to alter her adult daughter's probation, to obtain special treatment for her. She was also accused of informally discussing cases in her docket to extract implicating/evidentiary information on defendants, PRE-TRIAL, ex parte (without notice) and independently of the defendant, which is also judiciary misconduct. She should have been dismissed from her job during the case, a mistrial declared, and a retrial to follow.

6. The idea of a "nighttime" crime, which is a theft committed during non-daylight hours, is completely insane. That said, the law reads as follows:

§ 9.42. DEADLY FORCE TO PROTECT PROPERTY. A person is justified in using deadly force against another to protect land or tangible, movable property:
(1) if he would be justified in using force against the other under Section 9.41; and
(2) when and to the degree he reasonably believes the deadly force is immediately necessary:
  • (A) to prevent the other's imminent commission of arson, burglary, robbery, aggravated robbery, theft during the nighttime, or criminal mischief during the nighttime; or
  •  (B) to prevent the other who is fleeing immediately after committing burglary, robbery, aggravated robbery, or theft during the nighttime from escaping with the property; and

(3) he reasonably believes that: 
  • (A) the land or property cannot be protected or recovered by any other means; or 
  • (B) the use of force other than deadly force to protect or recover the land or property would expose the actor or another to a substantial risk of death or serious bodily injury.
Because the laws were written to protect against theft, not what you SUPPOSED you would get once you ALREADY handed someone money... these conditions do NOT apply to this case. I don't know what manner of TERRIBLE lawyers were dealt from the state or what kind of great white shark lawyer rocked the defendant side, but something is afoul here. The fact that you can legally shoot someone who steals from you violates the "take care" clause 5 of article 2 of the constitution. The only time you should be able to kill someone is if they are threatening your life, not running away from you to escape in a vehicle. Vigilante justice isn't constitutional, self-defense of life is. 

7. Even if you decided that this man had $150 stolen from him, had a right to sex without the woman's consent because he forked over cold, hard cash for her to give up her humanity and ability to decide her actions, there is still the question of ex turpi causa (non oritur actio), which means "from a dishonorable cause, action does not arise." Even in believing Gilbert was the victim of theft, the fact that he was soliciting an ILLEGAL good or service renders him unable to use the defense that he shot her with good cause. You can't shoot a drug dealer that sells you bunk weed. You can't strangle a massage therapist for refusing a "happy ending."

It was said by the defendant, "I sincerely regret the loss of the life of Ms. Frago. I've been in a mental prison the past four years of my life. I have nightmares. If I see guns on TV where people are getting killed, I change the channel." Boo hoo, remind me to send a care package. I'll stuff $150 into it, and sign it "Sincerely, Lenora Frago."

Monday, June 3, 2013

Seven Even BETTER Ways to Beat Summer Blahs!

So, I read the above article, expecting to encounter some wonderful ideas for filling up summer time (for families kids who don't homeschool year-round, as I do). Instead, I was met with three ideas that don't really contribute anything fun to family life. Don't get me wrong, I completely understand that the woman has five children to my ONE, but still... life with a small army can be even more exciting than a solitary kidventure.

That said, here are MY (seven) ways to beat summer blahs:

1. Stalk EVERY museum. Look into a few things to keep costs down: reciprocal memberships ( &, local library museum passes, free days and chunks of time (Thursdays, 6pm - 8pm). Find a very large library in your nearest huge metro area and GO there!

2. Go to festivals! - this is particularly helpful if you have a certain ideology or lifestyle - for example, the Gay Pride parade, here in Chicago we have the Veggie Pride parade in May (we're vegetarians), and Veggie Fest in August. Taste of Chicago, Jazz Fest, Peace Fest (if you're cool with the pot smell), and all kinds of fun events are around the area. Pack food, pack light, don't forget sunscreen and a change of clothes!

3. Do some unschooling. Now, if you think unschooling is something that has to be decided in advance, structured into a day, and then the results have to be carefully measured for empirical proof of effectiveness, you're barking up the wrong tree. Take a nature walk, go on a hike, try to identify flowers/herbs/plants, learn a few processes (photosynthesis, color-changing in leaves, life cycles of plants and bugs vis-a-vis soil, etc) - go to a large body of water, find a scavenger hunt for the forest, and if you live in a metropolitan area - go to a "nature preserve." If your kid is allergic to the outdoors, hang out at the library. Infinite resources and goodness! LEARN SOME STUFF. Learning is almost never a waste of time.

4. Buy a cheapie science instrument and use it. Look at the stars in a telescope or use your smartphone to show your kids Google Sky. Get a microscope and collect bugs from windowsills to check out. The usual cheap microscopes have premade slides of bug abdomens, snake scales, and a few other interesting items, so just look for other things to populate empty slides with, like pieces of your sweater fibers, eyelashes, dandruff, dust, salt, sugar, and flower petals.

5. Have a bonfire and tell scary stories. If you don't have a fire pit, there are lots of ways to make one on the cheap: - building a fire pit is a great family project. Go on craiglist/freecycle for bricks/stones, that's the cheapest (and maybe even free) route. If you live in an apartment, you can build this one that can be used safely indoors:

6. Have a theme day: board game day, makeup and theatrical costuming day, Netflix documentary marathon day, printed coloring pages from the internet day, cleaning and dance party day, reading aloud from weird poetry books day, going park-hopping day. Do something, any one thing, all day. It'll be varying shades of weird, fun, boring, silly, and enlightening.

7. Browse instructables and make something! I do this quite a bit. Enough to buy the book (which I did). In fact, in browsing instructables for this post, 27 minutes have inexplicably disappeared from my life. Craaaazy. Currently, we're trying our hand at making soaps. Rick learned to make jewelry, I already had been making jewelry, and Dahlia is starting to make little necklaces with beads and string. It's all good! And if you're not too into making things, per se: - 474 things to do when you're bored!

I hope in reading this you've come up with some great ideas. Don't make excuses, see things through, and teach your children well. Remember you're the model for their behavior (even more than Miley Cyrus or the Backyardigans). But most importantly, live your life while you still can. One day you won't have more days ahead.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Thought Catalog is pretty Separatist.

1. I don't watch sports, I play them. My husband doesn't watch OR play them. Averse.
2. My husband hates war even more than I do.
3. My husband is more understanding to the plights of women than I am. He once described menstruation as "a beautiful process" that he's "fully comfortable with." Sometimes I'm like "uhghhhghghgh, I'm bleeding out of my baby hooooole, waaaah." Did I mention he washes my moon cup for me? That's love, if nothing else.
4. I don't drool over dudes, by and large. If I ever have (see: EDDIE VEDDER) he laughs about it.
5. My husband is an anarchist, as I am, and we both dislike Obama equally. You'd have to believe in the presidency as a valid thing to be concerned about whether or not someone was born in American territory.

1. My husband's opinion on abortion is that if someone doesn't have a uterus, they also don't have an opinion on abortion, since they can't get one. Same with gay marriage, human rights, etc.
2. My husband's opinion on who women sleep with, even my past sexual history, is none of his business. But I tell him anyway, just so there isn't a gap between what's happened and what he knows.
3. My husband's opinion is that I am always beautiful, with or without makeup, but he sees less of my face when I'm wearing makeup, so he prefers au naturelle.
4. See above: #3 Girls Section
5. My husband isn't really interested in spreading bullshit about how women are all beautiful just the way they are, etc. He's a bit more honest than that.

Can we talk about how there isn't a male/female brain divide, in real life? TED talk about how male/female brain division is stupid.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Definitive Guide to Turning Your Wii Into a DVD/MP3 player (with photo storage capabilities).

So, you bitch aloud because you can't stick a Redbox DVD into your Wii. Why the hell did Nintendo make something that can read thin, plastic/metal, circular discs... but ONLY in the form of games? Those games are written on DVDs... what gives, dudes?! Why the hell can't I play CDs and DVDs on my Wii?!

The answer is: you CAN, it's just that Nintendo doesn't want you to. Seriously. They *could* include an update, or a channel, that would give your Wii DVD/CD player capabilities, without taking away any game-play functionality... buuuut they don't. They'd have to fork over $20 per Wii to The DVD Consortium (proprietary usage of "DVD" technology, and all). So I'm going to teach you how to do this for yourself. It's *not* hard.

And now, the steps! - DO NOT BE AFRAID OF THE WORDINESS OF THE STEPS, I just tried to make everything as ironclad and as clear as possible, without delving into any of the technicalities or using any shortcut lingo:

This is an SD card. There are many like it, but this one is mine.

0. Get an SD card, and a computer that you can stick the SD card into. Full size (like the one pictured above), or if you need to use a Micro-SD card, have an adapter [if you try using an SD card that doesn't work, it's probably the rare unicorn SD card that isn't FAT32 formatted, so you'll need to fix that, either by formatting, if you know how, or using a different card - but the chances of that happening are near-null]. Make sure your SD card's little switch is NOT set to LOCK for this entire process. Make sure your Wii is fully updated (to 4.3U). Do these things BEFORE you start the process.

The screen where you can find your MAC address.

1. Get your Wii's MAC address. Turn on your Wii. From the channel screen, press the button on the bottom left. It's marked "Wii." Then there will be two buttons, and the one on the right, "Wii Settings" is what you're looking for. From that screen, page over to the right with the arrow, which will bring you to the option "Internet" which is the third down from the top. From there, you'll select "console settings" and that will show you your MAC address. If you don't understand written instructions well, here's a video for reference, that makes it easy for you visual learners:

2. Put the SD card into your computer's card reader. Go to Select 4.3U, enter your MAC address, keep Bundle the HackMii installer option checked, and try... with all your might... to enter the CAPTCHA correctly (which is my personal Achilles heel). The red wire/blue wire thing is just flair, you can choose either option. I pick RED, myself. It's a cuter color. That letterbomb will give you a .zip file, which you should open. Once inside, put the PRIVATE folder and boot.elf onto your SD card (drag and drop). Take the SD card over to your turned-off Wii and put it in. Turn on your Wii. If you need a better set of steps, here's a Youtube video:

You've got mail! And it's much better than AOL spam.
3. Go to your Wii messages. Scroll back and forth if you don't see anything, it may take a second to load. As soon as you click on the letterbomb, your Wii screen will turn black and show a bunch of text. This is good!

This will happen after you select the LetterBomb in your Wii's messages.
4. Even though you can't see the Wii hand, your Wiimote still works. Use it! Click on Continue - which is already selected. The next screen, scroll up to The Homebrew Channel, click on it. That will install the Homebrew Channel. MOST INTEGRAL PART OF ALL YOUR JOY THAT FOLLOWS. It will dump you back at the same screen. Click "exit." Homebrew will load immediately. You'll see bubbles and cute shit, but nothing else... yet. TURN OFF YOUR WII, take the SD card out, and put it back into your computer.

5. Open the following link, after your SD card is in the computer: - Unzip that file! Then, make a folder on your SD card called "Apps" - put the contents of the zip file into your Apps folder on the SD card. Take the SD card out of your computer, put it back into the Wii, and turn the Wii on.

The loading screen of Homebrew.
6. Go to the Homebrew channel (which should have installed into your first empty channel slot), and click on it. You'll have the option of using the Homebrew browser, which you didn't last time. Use it! Click Load, and you'll get the above screen. Let it do its stuff for a while and eventually it should show you this:

This is basically an app store, but everything's free!
7. Navigate over to the Media tab, and somewhere near the top of the list should be WiiMC. This is the Wii Media Center, which is currently the best (but definitely not the only) Wii app that will play all your media, including DVDs! After you install it, you can exit the Homebrew Browser and access it from the Homebrew Channel. Note: this channel will not be available on your main Wii channel screen, only through the Homebrew Channel! Now you can play DVDs, CDs, Youtube Videos (even better than the native Wii Youtube App!)... and life is beautiful. ;)

I listed a few links below so you can see the ridiculously plentiful opportunities to make your Wii into an entire media center, with all kinds of awesome. If you know about Emulators, this will run Roms for basically every obsolete console. SOOO MANY POSSIBILITIES.

Best Homebrew Applications. WATCH IT.
GREAT list of Homebrew Apps you may like!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Spanked kids are RESPECTFUL, OBEDIENT kids - Or, A Ridiculous Romanticization of the "Old School" Version of Parenting.

The caveat of physically disciplining children: if this style of discipline worked, the children would only misbehave ONCE, get spanked, and never do it again (same goes for the prison experience). If your argument is that there are many TYPES of misbehavior that need to be corrected, you're advocating hitting a child for something THEY didn't know was wrong, otherwise, if they did, the fact that they were ever hit would serve as incentive that they should never misbehave again. Nothing makes a child perfect, and using force is just fun for a sadistic parent, a shortcut to thinking, or an automated response that perpetuates the cycle of abuse the hitter was in as a child. Respect does NOT mean FEAR, otherwise we'd respect bullies, serial killers, and terrorists. Respect does not mean automatically submitting to authority, otherwise we'd respect every politician, lawmaker, and cop. We would never break a law.

Respect "is a positive feeling of esteem or deference for a person or other entity (such as a nation or a religion), and also specific actions and conduct representative of that esteem. Respect can be a specific feeling of regard for the actual qualities of the one respected (e.g., 'I have great respect for her judgment'). It can also be conduct in accord with a specific ethic of respect." So, respect is reverence, consideration, and trust. Children should not respect, revere, or trust a parent who intentionally injures them - or they're being set up to expect that in adulthood. Which, if you think about it, is pretty fucked up.

I am not advocating letting a kid do whatever they want. Dahlia doesn't get to do whatever she wants, and she's also not abused. It's possible, so don't tell me it isn't.

So fuck this "pro-old-school-parenting" nonsense that's going around on Facebook. Unless you're going to laud chopping off limbs to fight crime, don't look back nostalgically as a slave fondly recalling their chains. Break free and end the cycle of abuse. And use your BRAIN when you say ugly shit like "there's a difference between hitting and abuse" because, uhp, hitting IS abuse. If you walked up to a stranger and smacked their ass, you'd get arrested. Treat kids better than strangers, not WORSE, and we'll have a better, more peaceful, more confident, more secure world.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Discipline isn't always a pain in the ass.

Yesterday, a lady told me I should come to her work and teach some classes, because she overheard me lecturing Dahlia on the importance of intention vs. action. This happened because three weeks ago we vowed to stop yelling at Dahlia completely, and start talking to her (at length if necessary) until she understood the importance of being well-behaved (on a case-by-case basis). This is pretty win/win, because we have to first examine whether or not we're potentially sanctioning an ACTUALLY bad behavior, or if we're just punishing her because she's doing something "inconvenient" but not actually bad (e.g. taking too long to put on her socks, to arrest our attention) - AND she has time to consider the consequences of her actions.

It's weird to actually say to your kid "do you need some attention right now?" ...but it's eye-opening. Sometimes she'll say "yes, you haven't been talking to me very much today, other than during school" and I'll realize she's right, I've been dicking around for half an hour arguing with some dbag in a Facebook group/cleaning/reading/ignoring all humankind. A portion of the time, however, I will be knee-deep in something of actual importance, and then she gets a lesson in patience and not being the only person on Earth. I love this kid more than the universe is ever-expanding, but if I drop every single thing I'm doing to indulge her every six year old whim, she may grow up to be an entitled dbag - and I, as a result, will become a hollow shell of a woman.

Soooo... no hitting/spanking, no yelling, lots of communication, sometimes restrictions (if she thinks it's more important to scream about something than to be free to roam, she has to sit in her room until she can calm down - those are the consequences - a bad mood is not excuse to ruin everyone else's experience). It's been extremely interesting - and not being able to lean on "because I said so" is a trip! Her tantrum/screaming/fit level is at 2% rather than an average of 10%, which I consider a great success. Also, she's started taking her OWN deep breaths to calm down, rather than waiting to be prompted to do so. WOOOOOO!

Monday, March 11, 2013


When Rick and I decided to enter into the Formal State of Being Married last year, we had a few conversations.

The first, admittedly, was "should we do this?" Now, to most people, if you love each other and want to spend the proverbial "forevs" together, it stands to reason that this question would be a no-brainer. Rick has always said "from day one, the first time we dated, ten years ago if you wanted to get married, I would have married you," and I always said "I will get married when I'm stupid AND on my deathbed." I've turned down every marriage proposal I've ever gotten (either at first or later on - I've never been legally married), and I always wanted to live in a perpetual state of relational freedom. Not because I'm promiscuous (I'm very not.) or because I'm too "feminist" to "buy into the patriarchal construct of buying a woman" (because whatever, marriage is what I make of it - no patriarchal construct could topple me, ever) - but because I can't even plan ahead solidly one week into the future, so the idea that an entire DIVORCE would have to stand between me and my ability to rapidly leave any situation of my choosing... was never very appealing. To say the least.

Now, there were some political apprehensions: 1. marriage is basically "hey we're in love, let's make sure the State is okay with this!" - We're anarchists. Both of us. Not just one of us, not anarchist-leaning leftists... we're anarchists. Soooo, the idea that we have to subject ourselves to filling out paperwork to inform a government we don't believe should exist that we love each other, and hope that we're not too interracial, homosexual, diseased, pre-married, unfaithful, etc (all the things that have historically meant two people couldn't get married) - so they'll say "okay, you're legit." Because we don't need a government stamp of approval to say we love each other. We both went back and forth on the idea that we should or should not get LEGALLY wed, and in the end we decided that marriage would just make the rest of our lives a bit easier (paperwork), cheaper (taxes), and more rightfully ours, together (end-of-life rights, etc - not that either of our in-laws would do something so terrible, but still).

Then, we were both talking about name changes. I am a Keorkunian, through and through. I love my roots, my family, and my name (big ups, Armenia!). I did not really WANT to give up my last name, and I think Rick understood this - even without me saying "look, pre-husband, I don't wanna change my last name, I like it. Even YOU don't like your last name, though I think it's pretty cute!" There was a point at which Rick was saying he would change HIS last name to MINE, so he'd be Richard Keorkunian - but then we both grimaced because that's my father's name. Uhm, awkward, plus he brought up how mixed up their mail could get. I don't know that the world could handle TWO Richard Keorkunians. Then, Rick volunteered to do the best thing ever: "we can both hyphenate our last names." So, on September 21, 2012 at 9am (9.21.12 at 9 - notice the palindrome, we're both kind of horribly nerdy like that) we became Kristi Keorkunian-Rivers and Richard Keorkunian-Rivers. So that was cool.

The resulting shockwaves were hilariously unexpected. My grandfather-in-law kept calling me Mrs. Rivers (now, that's my last-last name so I guess it's perfectly suitable), until he was abruptly informed by my new husband that we both hyphenated our married names. The ladies at the DMV were a bit miffed by our decision (they said in 25 years of working there, they'd seen this ONE other time) - so we doubled their workload, to their chagrin. All the paperwork we normally have to fill out (my Independent Contractor W-9s and his financial aid stuff for college) became rather intense, but it was an experience we could share together, instead of Just Me incurring this massive pain in the ass. We decided that we wanted to have a Family Family, rather than a Dad's-Head-of-Household/Mom-Just-Hangs-Out-And-Nods Family (true story, Rick once referred to me as The Alpha Spouse, if that gives you any indication as to my role in this-here-marriage). Most of my relatives figured that I would do this, so that wasn't very funny. However, my mother was shocked beyond belief that I decided to get married, at all. We've both awkwardly used the term "maiden" name with Rick's last name, even though it's SO NOT A MAIDEN NAME. If anything, it's a bachelor name, but I don't even know if that term exists. In twenty years, it'll be trendy as hell to do this - we're just ahead of the curve. Forms EVERYWHERE are too small to hold the beautiful weight of our combined married name. A quarter of the time we just say "look, just put ______" (where blank is Rivers or Keorkunian, only). We usually laugh about it.

Dahlia's still deciding on whether or not she wants another last name, which is fine by us. For now, she loves being a Keorkunian.

At any rate, I was pleased with my decision, even if Bloggers and Bureaucrats and Bitches say it's silly, rude, or annoying. People always complain about hyphenated names because the women are deciding to keep their own name tacked on rather than being swallowed by their husbands' names. It's "Too Feminist" and "uppity" and "yuppie scum" or whatever. Our marriage name situation is even WORSE by those standards, so I prefer to call it "kiss my ass if you don't like it."

But, hey, I'm the alpha spouse. It's expected of me. ;)

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Mommy Boredom!

It has come to my attention that there is a pervasive issue in the Mommy community. Yesterday, I saw a post on "Code Name: Mama" that read like this:
A reader asks: HELP! I am just bored being with my kids sometimes. OK, at the moment, most of the time. What is wrong with me? Keep berating myself; I "should" be happy, loving doing unschooling stuff or God knows what. But actually I secretly want to scream. All. The. Time. And yet, when I am not with them, I miss the crap out of them. I feel stuck, and like an addict without the alcohol (because I feel like I crave distraction).

What do you do, readers, to get out of a rut?

(And as always, please be gentle - it's hard to be vulnerable and put yourself out there.)
I then used The Almighty Google Machine to check out whether or not this was a common sentiment among mothers. As it turns out, it's so ultra-common that the feelings of guilt and shame echo across hundreds of blog posts. As a mother, I have never felt this situation, but that isn't because I am a Better Mother Than Thou, but because I just have never felt bored, even for a minute, in my life. Maybe it's a neurological mishap, maybe I'm too much of a daydreamer, maybe I'm a psychotic thinker, whatever the case may be, I don't get bored. Sorry, boredom, hit the next guy. But, since I am no stranger to feeling unfulfilled and physically restless, I can give some suggestions for solving this issue. (Also, if you recall, I'm a homeschooler who has never had a babysitter other than immediate family members and my daughter's never even seen a daycare from the outside. - again I'm not saying you're wrong if you do these things, I don't judge and I don't feel superior to people who make different decisions from my own - my point is... my daughter and I are together 24/7).

Attempt #1: Browse the internet for a couple of hours when your kid's asleep (or your kids, plural, are asleep). Yes, that may mean giving your giant load of dishes the finger (or your laundry/meals/etc). Do this as a preliminary step, and the reason for this... figure out something you like. If you browse Volunteer Match, sometimes even seeing the subject matter can make you a passionate believer in the cause. Rape Crisis Center Advocate? Host an International Student? Save Journalism? - Or, if you can't leave your house for lack of babysitter: Volunteer Online! If you are too physically busy at home, read this! I'm guessing, however, that if you are too busy, boredom isn't your problem - but I digress. Give Facebook a rest for a while, and do something to help yourself (and maybe even Project Gutenburg, while you're at it).

Attempt #2: If you don't want to take your eyes off your kid for that long, talk with them about the kinds of crafts they may be interested in (if they're talking-age) - then while they're sleeping write up a proposal for a workshop/class/clinic and eventually present it to a community space owner (or someone who owns an art store/runs a YMCA/etc). Then, you can put your child in the class while you're teaching it! Or take them to the library and let them play, while you do it (or put on a movie for them and let them rot away for a little bit!). If you're not craftsy, put them in a baby swing at the park while you brainstorm ideas. If you can't do this, put the kid in a class and go hang out by yourself for a small increment of time. Like, just enough time to miss them, and have a little kid-free fun.

Attempt #3 [if you have Facebook]: Start a fan page for something you care about. I'm currently the creator of Young Thai Coconut, Even Hate Speech is Free Speech, Unconditional Parenting: Support Network, and a few others (including my jewelry Etsy page, Steel Crucible). If you're more into being a Vegan or a Crunchy Mama - join a forum! If you're a dissident (as I am), join a leafletting or protest group (either on FB or in real life) - and strap the kiddos into a stroller/leash thing if you're handing things out by a busy street.

Attempt #3 [if you DON'T have Facebook]: Make a blog. The theme of the blog could be "activities I do with my kids" and then do a bunch of quirky, creative, mind-bending activities. Others may feel bored and Google "activities for kids" or "vegetarian activities for kids" or "activities for kids with _________" see your blog and you could change their life. It's possible. You never know. If you don't have the internet at your house, take a bunch of pictures and make scrapbooks that your children can cherish later. And GET the internet! If you're resourceful enough to Homeschool or Unschool, you're resourceful enough to do something REALLY COOL that will gain recognition and be cherished by other likeminded people! ;)

Attempt #4: Start a Meetup group! If you don't have the $72 to start one on, use Craigslist! If you're a Wiccan, start a coven - If you're a Christian, start a Bible Study - If you're an atheist, start a Humanist group (or Marxist or Objectivist). - If you're anything, start anything. If you're nothing, become something! Your kids will thank you, in the long run.

Attempt #5: Find all the age-appropriate activities in the area - and DO them. Go to lectures, Q&A sessions, workshops, clinics, book signings, any event you can get your hands on. I live in a smallish town in Tennessee, and I can still fill my time with events. I grew up in Chicago so I have a good handle on how to find them, though it's not all that much of a head start if you're determined.

Attempt #6: If all of this fails, there are still hundreds of other activities you could incorporate into child-rearing. You only need a better attitude, some need for personal fulfillment (which you already have, since you're complaining of boredom), and the ability to drive a car, maybe.

Attempt #7: Read books. Lots of them. My daughter and I haunt the stacks almost every single day. We know most of the librarians, have a great rapport with several libraries, and also... we know a lot of shit. :) We both take learning and reading very seriously, and it gives me great personal fulfillment to be able to read right along with her, on subjects that are very near and dear to me.

Here are some other inspiring places you can go to get ideas:
Do one of a hundred activities!

I hope you can report that your life has become fuller as a result of this post!