Thursday, January 31, 2013

Raising Sex Positive Kids In This World That We Live In

I've been thinking about this subject for awhile, and trying to ignore it, and thinking about it again.  The Stubenville rape case has been on my mind, and, sadly, it isn't the first or last of its kind.  This radio piece by 16-year-old Temitayo Fagbenle on social media and sexual shaming is a really thoughtful look and youth and sexual culture today.

Our current information overload has me often thinking about what we will teach LB about the pleasures and dangers of sex.  The violent rapist/predator is something many of us fear, for our own children, people we love, and all other people.  There are some bad people in the world, and all the good advice in the world can't protect from them, so I would say only "do everything you can to stay alive."

For the violence that occurs in the everyday world of house parties and dorms, there are the lessons my mom taught me: get your own drink, don't drink the punch.  There are the rules I tell my students: stick with your friends, watch out for each other, if you're in trouble ask a specific person to help you in a specific way.

All those lessons, and more, are necessary, but how do we offer our children whatever little protective rules we have, while rejecting the powerful cultural lessons that sex is shameful, degrading, embarrassing, gross, or sinful?

I was raised in a reasonably sex positive family.  While hardly libertines, my parents made it clear that they felt the strict rules of chastity with which they had been raised were silly, perhaps even harmful.  They sent me to sex ed classes at the Unitarian Church, which at that time used a very straightforward program called "About Your Sexuality" (they now have a curriculum called Our Whole Lives).  From what I remember, the classes focused on becoming comfortable discussing sex and asking questions.  They also spent a lot of time making sure that we knew what both official and slang sex terms meant.  If I didn't have much practical knowledge of sex, I had more theoretical knowledge than any of my peers.  This is a nice piece from the NYTimes on what sex-positive education looks like today, and it sounds pretty similar to the olden times of my youth.

The key points that I learned, and that I would want to pass on are the importance of consent, and the importance of (emotional and physical) pleasure.  For kids raised in a sex-positive environment, I think it's very important to teach not only that consent means not doing anything you don't want to do, but also that consent means not doing anything that your partner doesn't want to do.  Our kids should know that if a partner has feelings (even suddenly new feelings) of fear, or guilt, or shame, or just not being into it, they need to stop.  For youth, gauging whether a partner really wants to be sexual can require a lot of thoughtfulness, maturity, and self-control.  For those reasons, it can be easier on teens if they delay sex, not because teen sex is morally wrong, but because sexual relationships come with many physical and emotional responsibilities.  Similarly, I would say that if it doesn't feel good physically or emotionally, don't do it.

The internet and social media add another layer of issues.  Kids who don't have moral shame about sex, can still be shamed by their peers who circulate naked pictures of them or talk about them using derogatory sexual language.  Those realities create a lot of challenges for parents who want to raise sex-positive kids.  I don't live my life defined by haters, and I wouldn't want to teach my child to do so.  However, I also wouldn't want to teach her to be naive about the culture in which we live, one that often has harsh and violent responses to sexuality and to (particularly) women's bodies.

Perhaps being a sex-positive person in the US is just another form of sexual minority, and like being gay, I would say: some people hate us, but we don't define ourselves by their hate.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Downton Abbey: Spoiler Edition

Be advised: this post contains Downton Abbey spoilers.

The internets are abuzz about Sunday's episode of Downton Abbey.  Opinion seems divided between "spoilers suck," and "preeclampsia-what the hell is that? and who knew it could kill you!"  For me and B, the episode was an upsetting (I think traumatic would be to strong here) walk down memory lane.

On the first issue, I think a world without spoilers is a lost dream.  On the second, I'm really glad to see so many people talking about preeclampsia.

The Preeclampsia Foundation Facebook page has some good links and comments from women who have had preeclampsia.  Unfortunately a good number of women still find that their health care provider does not take their initial symptoms seriously.  The swelling, headaches, rib or shoulder pain, vomiting, visual disturbances, blurred vision, tiredness, and feeling off  associated with preeclampsia can also be normal pregnancy symptoms.  However, as I've said before on this blog "when in doubt, get checked out!"  If you are having any symptoms of preeclampsia, your provider should take your blood pressure and screen your urine.  A 24 hour urine collection and a preeclampsia blood panel are also important diagnostic tools.

This article provides an interesting (but brief) overview of the history of preeclampsia treatment.

Some of my other posts about pre-e are linked below

My attempts to answer search engine questions about pre-e that brought people to this site are here.

My personal experience of having a baby on magnesium sulfate is here.

A basic overview of preeclampsia is here.

And my defense of scary birth stories is here.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

B.O.B. Revolution Review: Extreme Weather Commuting Edition

When LB was little, I never used the BOB.  Even six months postpartum, it seemed overwhelming to drag it up the stairs from the basement and then down the stairs to the street.  And once it was on the street, I had to quickly grab LB, so no one had a chance to steal the very valuable BOB.  I was kind of worried that we had wasted our money on a stroller that would sit in our basement for years until we gave it away (like the drum set).

Then we moved to Providence and started commuting a little over a mile each way to daycare.  Now we use the BOB at least five days a week and around 15 miles a week.  We've done this through a New England fall and winter, which has included driving rain, snow, and what the meteorologists have been calling a "frigid Arctic blast."

In order to commute through all of these conditions, we have purchased a BOB weather shield and a "personal safety light" for strolling at dusk (I clip the light onto the nose of the weather shield).  I've thought about getting or making some wheat bags to put in the stroller for extra warmth, and I see that BOB has it's own brand of fleecy seat cover, but for now we just wrap LB in a blanket, which works fine.

The weather shield works amazingly well in the rain.  We've come home during some crazy rainstorm and LB was always dry at the end of the ride.  B and I, however, always get soaked.  Theoretically it's possible to drive the BOB and hold an umbrella, but in practice it's difficult.  I usually just accept that I'm going to get wet and try to walk as fast as possible.  B and I should probably invest in full length slickers.

The BOB has really good traction on ice, and I usually feel safer walking with the BOB on ice than I do without it.

The BOB does fine on packed snow and cleared walks, but it loses traction if I try and push it through even a few inches of unpacked snow.  At corners where snow has been piled up by plows, I often had to pick the stroller up and carry it over the snowbank.  That part sucks, but a few people have been nice enough to help a sweaty, middle-aged woman hump a stroller over a snowbank.

LB seems to stay nice and cozy inside her bubble even in high winds, and the BOB is heavy enough that it stays stable in wind.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Snapshots from the New Middle Class

I wheeled LB over to daycare in 9 degree weather.  She stays pretty warm wearing snowpants, coat, hat (no gloves, of course), and a blanket in her plastic bubble.  By the time we get home, my hands are so cold that I have trouble with the buckles on the stroller.  These are the days when it would be nice to have a car, but at least we have a fancy stroller.

I called in LB's expensive prescription, even though my insurance status is uncertain, held my breathe until $10.00 popped up on the cash register screen, and hustled out the store before they could change their minds.  We're very lucky that LB's $300/month (generic) lung meds wouldn't break us, but that's a lot of money that wouldn't be putting towards food or heat or daycare or student loans.

We keep the cozy house at about 60 degrees.  Gas heat last month at that temp cost us a little less than $200.  We've plastic-ed all of the upstairs windows and many of the downstairs ones.  Yesterday I baked cookies to get a little warmer, but today I've turned on a space heater, just until my feet get warm.    B got me a nice warm pair of slipper for Christmas, and we got LB a fleece sleepsack (with feet).  LB sleeps in a onesie, socks, fleece sleeper, fleece sleep sack, two fleecy blankets, and a flannel quilt.

B and I both really enjoy food.  We try to be reasonably frugal, but we would have to be in desperate straits to do a steady "food is fuel" lentils and rice diet.  So far this week we have had the following (homemade unless otherwise noted)

Saturday: Tortilla soup with chicken (I had a random craving for this soup and it was really good)
Sunday: Burgers on the grill and chips (we had friends over for football)
Monday: Red lentil soup (with sauteed onions, garlic, ginger, and hot pepper stirred in a the end)
Tuesday: Mashed potatoes, kale, and bacon (we got 10lbs of potatoes on sale)
Wednesday: Cheesy rice and pepper casserole served with kale
                    (the only unhealthy recipe in the World Vegetarian cookbook)
Today: Chicken soup of some kind

Treats: chocolate birthday cake, oatmeal cookies
Lunches: leftovers, oranges and grapefruit, yogurt, cheese, pretzels

Clearly we aren't suffering, but oh the things I would buy if money was no object-fancy cheese! veggie sausage! meat sausage and sauerkraut! ice cream! bakery bread! Aside from LB's medicine, which she really does need to keep her lungs strong, I guess all of the frugalities above are either saving the environment or our bodies, but I'm still waiting for the day when I can go to the fancy cheese store and buy one of everything.

Monday, January 21, 2013

"They have carved a tunnel of hope through the deep mountain of disappointment."

I gave up trying to find something deep to say in honor of MLK.  I hope it's enough to say that I never to forget the incredible sacrifices made by people famous and those unknown in the name of the freedom movement.

If you aren't ready to wade through the Taylor Branch books (Parting the Waters: America in the King Years, 1954-1963 (1988), etc.) on MLK, or are anti-hagiography, a good book is Nick Kotz's Judgement Days: Lyndon Baines Johnson, Martin Luther King Jr., and the Laws that Changed America (2005).  The Kotz book comes in at a slim 580 pages, but many of those are notes.  Normally I'm not so into "big man" history, but I think this book does a great job exploring the complexities of the Civil Rights Movement, and of both men.  A briefer, but satisfying, approach might be to read some writing of the man himself.  His "Letter from a Birmingham Jail"is here, and you can watch the "Mountaintop" speech here.  King is such an amazing orator, the "Mountaintop" makes me cry every time I hear it.

Eyes on the Prize is once again available, likely through your public library, and though it may give short shrift to certain Movement themes, it's still a good introduction.  Many of the episodes are available on youtube.  The episode that covers the period leading up to King's death, "The Road to Memphis" is here.

If you're looking for something a little outside classic Movement narratives, an interesting book is Peniel Joseph, Waiting 'Til the Midnight Hour, A Narrative History of Black Power in America (2007). In the earliest recounting of the Civil Rights Movement, women tended to get short shrift, but Barbara Ransby's biography of Ella Baker and Chana Kai Lee's biography of Fannie Lou Hamer are both excellent.  I also really enjoyed Annelise Orleck's Storming Caesar's Palace: How Black Mothers Fought Their Own War on Poverty.

For autobiography/manifestos, I like Robert F. Williams, Negroes with Guns (1962, 1998 reprint) and Angela Davis self-titled autobiography (this book completely blew my mind when I was a teenager).

Children's literature about the Civil Rights Movement seems to have become a huge field while I wasn't paying attention, and it is pretty overwhelming.  For older kids, Eyes on the Prize could be a good resource, and there are plenty of interesting clips online.  Interesting books include, Paul Walker's Remember Little Walk: The Time, the People, the Stories, and Phillip Hoose's, Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice.  There are a bunch of MLK picture books, but none really stand out to me.  I may be missing some good options, but the MLK books I have looked at seem stodgy-better to just let a young person watch some of King's speeches.  I do like Fath Ringgold's If a Bus Could Talk: The Story of Rosa Parks, which has vibrant illustrations, and Jacqueline Woodson's The Other Side is a lyrical and attractive picture book about the everyday life of segregation.

I'm planning to put our Roku to good us and finally watch the documentary Brother Outsider, which is about (gay) civil rights activist Bayard Rustin.  Another good option available on streaming Netflix is the documentary The Pruitt-Igoe Myth.  The documentary isn't specifically about civil rights, instead it focuses on the rise and fall of St. Louis's big housing project Pruitt-Igoe.  The film places public housing in a broader historical context, and it is visually interesting and avoids the Ken Burns-isms that have become all too common.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

"Cry, Cry, Baby" (RIP Janis)

In honor of Janis's (70th!) birthday, we listened to music more and danced more.  LB loves to play with B's stacks of beer coasters, which are great for sorting, matching, and throwing.  All physical therapists avert your eyes-LB has clearly mastered the W-sit, which is the classic pose of low-tone kids.  LB's PT told us that as long as she shifts quickly to another position and seems comfortable in other positions, we are not to worry.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013


After a dinnertime conversation about the whole Jodie Foster thing (In 1979, I thought Candleshoe was the greatest movie ever made, but I'm sure that wasn't a clue to my future sexuality), and we asked LB if she could say the word "gay." She didn't, because babydoll doesn't follow commands, but she did walk over to a bookshelf and grab a copy of Allison Bechdel's Are You My Mother?  That child is a foxing genius (after some dangerous moments in language acquisition, I have decreed that all other permutations of "F words" will be replaced with FOX, as in, "That foxing fox better stop foxing with me or I will fox him up)."  Problem solved.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

"Good Morning America How Are You?"

One of my New Year resolutions was to play more music at home, so today I played LB a mix* of songs from my own childhood.  Last week I was talking to B about the fact that we listen to a lot of music we grew up with, but I don't remember my own parents ever playing the Andrews Sisters or Glenn Miller or whatever music they grew up with.  While my parents are conventional people in many ways, the embraced the zeitgeist of the 1960s and 1970s, left their families, grew their hair, bought a farm, and raised goats and geese and a child.  I was a child of the hippie years.  I drank raw goat's milk from our goat, wore hand-embroidered linen clothes made by my mom, and played with wooden toys carved by my dad.

Those years shaped the way I think about myself, and as a result, I think of myself as a much more natural and crunchy person than I actually am.  B and I run a materially conventional household. We shop at the regular grocery store, buy pallets of stuff at Target, and our house could be a low-end IKEA showroom.  I've been taught to weave, quilt, knit, sew, grow food, can food, dry food, make cheese, forage, and dumpster dive.  Currently I use none of those skills.  Clearly I've made a choice, but I'm not quite sure when or why I did so, or rather, I'm not sure why things that matter somewhat to me in theory, don't matter very much at all in my practice.

Gay, of course, is the one area where B and I are in the vanguard (which is not to say there weren't people doing it decades-centuries?-ago, but to say that today it's a thing with new political and cultural possibilities). We are part of the gayby revolution, which doesn't feel particularly transgressive in our day to day.   Nevertheless, when LB looks back on her childhood, I think being the kid of gay moms in the aughts will be a significant part of her identity.  It will be up to her to decide how that experience will shape her life.

For now, LB is too busy to worry about all that.  She has babies to wash, and nebulizers treatments to complete.

*LB's Playlist

"Big Yellow Taxi"
"A Change is Gonna Come"
"City of New Orleans"
"Everyday People"
"Fortunate Son"
"Here Comes the Sun"
"I Heard It through the Grapevine"
"I Shall Be Released"
"If I Were a Carpenter"
"Into the Mystic"
"No Woman No Cry"
"Oh Happy Day"
"Our House"
"Take Me Home Country Road"
"Teach Your Children"
"This Land is Your Land"
"Union Maid"
"Wild World"

Friday, January 11, 2013

LB Update

The good news is that LB knows a new word: puke.  The bad news-she learned this new word after puking copiously in her crib.  She then seemed worried that the mamas were planning to put her back to bed in the puke crib, and closely examined the entire (clean) crib while saying "puke, puke, puke" until she was convinced that it was puke-free.  We are hoping that this is just her usual winter ick of mild respiratory symptoms and postnasal drip that lead to coughing and puking.  I don't like all the reports I've been reading of flu and RSV.  We're lucky that I'm currently in a month of semi-employment, so I can take care of LB without our usual stressed negotiations about who will stay home or made scramble to find care for a sick baby.

Despite being sick, LB has been hard at work today diapering dolls and stuffed animals, making them go night-night, and now giving them all nebulizer treatments.

Yesterday we had our first daycare conference about LB.  The scored her at only 15m for language development.  Eeeep!  According to her teacher, LB doesn't use two-word phrases at school, and wouldn't name object on command for the test.  That information made us less worried. LB does seem less developed in her language than any other toddler I read about on the internets, but she definitely uses a lot of two and even three or four word phrases at home, and she uses a lot of different words.  From our perspective her big issue is articulation, but I do wish she was talking more at school just for practice.  It might be time for another speech eval just to see where we're at.

Otherwise she is doing well at daycare.  She's happy and smiley and gets along with the other "friends."  I had noticed that one little boy at daycare always seems to want to be near her, and her teacher said that the other kids generally like LB and want to be near her.  Definitely good to hear, since at our interim daycare I would always peek in and see LB sitting alone at a little table.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Commuting by Stroller

We have now been car free for almost two years, which sounds more intentional than "we could get a car, but it probably wouldn't be a smart financial decision right now, and we really don't want to find that out the hard way."  Almost everything we need can be found within walking distance, and most other things are available through Amazon.  Daycare is 1.24 miles from home and that is our biggest daily commute.  When I take LB, I then walk back home.  B's work is also in the direction of home and then a little further.  So our combined daycare commute is five miles a day.  This travel is made possible  with a BOB stroller and a stroller weather shield.  LB hangs out with a blanket and snacks in her plastic bubble, and she has stayed warm and dry even in pouring rain and heavy wind.  It is usually dark by the time we finish our afternoon commute, so I've added a red light (bought at the running store) to the nose of the stroller so that we are more noticeable to drivers.

Overall, we have a good system.  LB gets some fresh air, B and I get some exercise, and our costs are minimal.  Under the best circumstances, the stroller commute let me gaze a vibrant sunsets, while exchanging meows with a happy child.  At its worst, I find myself saying "please, please, please stop screaming!" Other frustrations include distracted or rude drivers.  I was trained to be an aggressive (obnoxious) pedestrian as a young lady on the mean streets of Boston, however, you just can't be aggressive as a pedestrian with a child in the a stroller.  This fact leaves me with few weapons to address rude or unsafe drivers, beyond the occasional word or gesture.  Those everyday frustrations have been compounded by recent snow and epic failures of sidewalk snow removal.  The worst offender is a local independent pharmacy that decided to pile all the snow from their sidewalk into an ice barrier at the end of their property.  Thanks.

If we got a really large amount snow, I think we might have to switch to the backpack, but the idea of waddling like a penguin while i carry an increasingly heavy LB across slippery sidewalks doesn't really sound good to me.  And that's without lost mittens, extreme wind chill, or epic tantrums.  Hopefully it will be a mild winter.

[Here I talk more about how the BOB performs in various weather conditions.]

Sunday, January 6, 2013

B is for Badger and Brilliant

LB got a couple boxes of magnetic letters and numbers for Christmas, but we couldn't figure out what to do with them since we can't use them on our fridge.  B realized that we could use our heater as a magnetic board (safety features: doesn't get hot and isn't covered in lead paint).  This setup has given LB some minutes of entertainment.

In other inconsequential family news, we made our first trip to the local public library.  It was pretty great until LB started stalking a younger toddler carrying a Cookie Monster doll while yelling "My Elmo!" over and over.  Today she was wearing a novelty bracelet that said "tease," which is either a feminist parenting fail or a provocative commentary on the continuing power of patriarchy in contemporary American society.  B is appalled that the Lumineers sold one of their songs for use in a Blue Moon, aka Coors, aka shitbeer, commercial.  I have still not baked a cake.  Despite having a ridiculously well-stocked kitchen, I seem to be lacking key items for this particular cookbook.  I have no jelly roll pan and no bundt pan.  As Frances the badger would say, "Things aren't very good around here anymore."

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Bring It On...


It seems fitting that this is my 100th published post.

B, LB, and I have had a very nice holiday season in the cozy house.  My personal fiscal cliff negotiations have not been resolved, but now seem like they will be resolved in my favor (fist shake at University HR).

Now for some resolutions in no particular order:

1) find new job
2) do not undervalue myself during the job hunt
3) network re: new job
4) limit unproductive internet surfing (I actually did a one-week internet fast during lent, and it was amazing how much extra time I had)
5) bake cakes from my new Vintage Cakes book
6) use the free Y family membership we get through B's work (and make sure B has time to use it)
7) more music, more dancing
8) keep blogging
9) write some fiction
10) take swimming lessons with LB (once it gets warmer)
11) have people over regularly
12) spend quality time with B at least a couple times a week
13) enjoy our yard, particularly when it gets warmer
14) let it go (this one is for B and it will be the hardest one)
15) have LB participate in clean up time
16) take a knitting class
17) stay in touch with friends

Today is 1/3 and I've taken a baby step on 1, done well with 9, done okay with 8, not bothered with 15 (although we did well yesterday), and failed miserably at 14 (gave a lady the finger after she went left on green and cut me and LB off in as we crossed at the crosswalk).  Tomorrow is another day.