Thursday, April 28, 2011

A follow-up already...Religion! Feminism!

It's been a whole hour-or-so since I published the post on feminist motherhood and I'm already writing a follow-up. 

The Beast and I were discussing this over dinner.  Rather than type it up and format it all nicey-nicey and make it flow, here it is quick and hopefully comprehensible.

Big news:  I'm agnostic.  I have never before allowed myself to be categorized religiously or anti-religiously or in any other way relating to G-d and gathering places (notice I typed "G-d," but sometimes I will go ahead and type "God."  I don't know, I went to Jewish Sunday school for all of, like, 10 minutes and somehow this habit stuck.  It's almost like dotting an "i" with a heart or something; there's not really a whole lot of meaning behind it for me.)

Ok, so I'm agnostic.  But it's not what you (might) think.  I have resisted this label because it often comes with misinterpretations and I want to be sure I know what I'm agreeing to.  For example, I went a-googlin' and discovered I would refuse to subscribe to many of the definitions I found.  For instance, I do not necessarily think the existence or non-existence of G-d is unknowable. 

I just don't know what I think.  Maybe there's a G-d.  Maybe there isn't.  Maybe there's Nature or Fate or the Laws of the Universe - are those "God?"  Or just some "larger force?"  I don't know.  I certainly believe there is some sort of larger/stronger force than little ol' me out there.  But, you know, my husband is both larger and stronger than me.  So whatever.  I'm officially agnostic but probably will not be claiming a community of agnostics as my own (is there such a thing?).

Coming to the conclusion that I am, in fact, agnostic involved The Beast defining Latin roots and using symbolic logic.  There was a white board involved.  He says I should just tell you I am "~B." (He is now saying "yesssss.  Symbolic logic is making it to your blog.  Now we can make some progress.")

Annnnnd feminism...

I said this:  "I do think there is iniquity between men and women.  I also think both women and men allow it to be perpetuated.  And they both suffer."

The Beast said this on the topic of defining feminism so that I might figure out if I belong:  "It's not necessarily correct, but this is a funny definition:  feminism means believing that women are people - that they have rights as people."

My response was this:  "And we're somewhat lucky in this country to have the same rights as men, but those rights are set up with men in mind - they are not of equal benefit to men and women."

The Beast agreed.  The end.

I feel like I should change the label of these posts to "feminism?!?"

Am I a feminist mother?

This is my thoughtful face.

I've recently started reading the blue milk blog, and it has been interesting to me.  I find that I do not wholly agree with some of the feminist economics I've read from the author, or from some of the commenters - specifically, I'm not sure that paying stay-at-home mothers (in actual money) is a sustainable, realistic prospect.  Do I think care-giving is undervalued?  Oh gosh yes.  A thousand times yes.

In any case, she has an ongoing project of sorts, in the form of ten questions for feminist mothers.  I thought I'd answer them.  For whatever it might be worth (which is probably very little).  It seems a good exercise in teasing out my own thoughts and values in this realm.  This should be considered a starting point of sorts for me.  Incidentally, feminism - is it "crunchy?"  Is it in keeping with my supposed blog premise at all?  See, I really should never try and make myself color within the lines...

I feel like I should make a disclaimer here, before I start answering these questions:  I don't officially know anything about feminism.  I have never taken a women's studies class.  I have never read a text on the subject of feminism, except in the area of feminist art (which I guess counts, to at least a small extent).

So without further ado....

1.  How would you describe your feminism in one sentence? When did you become a feminist? Was it before or after you became a mother?

(In one sentence?!?)  I'll go with I think I might be a feminist mother because I see so many ways in which women and especially mothers are getting screwed, and I'm a little (or maybe a lot) angry about it.  

I might not be a feminist mother because, honestly, I'm not sure I could actually say out loud, "I'm a feminist mother" with a straight face.  It seems....loaded.  Loaded with stuff I don't identify with.

I suppose I've always been a feminist in that it never occurred to me I couldn't do anything that males could do except, perhaps, lift the heaviest of weights and other physiologic differences.  I think my first real foray into feminist thinking was when, in college, I started reading up on women and heart disease as I (rather accidentally) started a non-profit in memory of my mother.  I discovered that more women than men die each year of heart disease, yet it is still often missed by doctors who believe men to be at greater risk.  There are many issues in the medical arena where I see inequalities of sorts.  Granted, some of it is because of legitimate ethical issues (for example, testing on women who might be or become pregnant). On male/female medical stuff, this also seems applicable.  Not to mention the whole medical vs. not-medical argument over birth, which makes my head spin.

As I've moved into marriage and motherhood I see more and more where women (and specifically mothers) are the scapegoats of society.  There are a lot of ways in which our society (and government) say we're important, and then turn around and are not supportive of that important work, but sabotage it.  And we're often not trusted with our own bodies and our own children (which leads to more sabotage).

2.  What has surprised you most about motherhood?

Everything about motherhood is surprising! How difficult breastfeeding is.  Currently I'm pretty shocked over the difficulty of mothering my 3-year-old.  I'm surprised every day that my 7-month-old impresses me, even though he's meeting the same old milestones his brother met (but with his own timeline and flare).  I'm surprised at what I care about - my concerns have widened in that I to keep up with global happenings much more (is this motherhood, the internet, or the changing world?), but they've also become more focused and thoughtful on things like food and clothes and language.  I'm surprised by people's attitudes toward children, babies, and mothers in some public places.  I'm surprised by how often I feel I have to choose my words carefully - both with my older child and with other mothers.

3.  How has your feminism changed over time? What is the impact of motherhood on your feminism?

Becoming the mother of two boys, I have given (am still giving) a lot of thought to my role (and, of course, their father's) in their worldview and particularly in how they will view and treat women.  They are future fathers, future partners, future bosses and voters;  I contemplate their future their perception of the differences and similarities between men and women, and the disparities in our treatment economically, socially, culturally, etc (and this includes the fact that fathers' roles in their children's lives are often not valued as highly as mothers' - women are not the only ones who suffer).  I suppose the greatest impact of motherhood on my feminism is that I see my mothering acts as an opportunity to change our culture (but boy does that sound like I view my children as some sort of political tool - definitely not the case!  In actuality, this sense of a larger responsibility than simply keeping them alive and teaching them basic things is another thing to add to my list of ingredients in Motherhood Surprise).

4.  What makes your mothering feminist? How does your approach differ from a non-feminist mother’s? How does feminism impact upon your parenting?

I think I touched on this in my answer to question 3, but I guess the main difference is simply that I consider this stuff; I think about it a lot.  When I think of long-term choices/goals/impacts as their mother,  I currently have a sense that the way my sons treat girls and women is going to be a large part of my feelings of success or failure.  The fact that I am able to consider this stuff at all, though, makes me take a step back and appreciate where I - as a middle class, educated, white, American woman - am also quite lucky and privileged.  Again with that widened global perspective - I did not die in childbirth and I am not really too worried that my children are going to die of disease or starvation.  I don't, personally, have to confront a whole lot of issues that are detrimental to mothers (domestically or elsewhere).

5.  Do you ever feel compromised as a feminist mother? Do you ever feel you’ve failed as a feminist mother?

The only example I can think of is one I've related to a few other mothers recently.  I took Bean shopping for sandals, and found myself very resistant to allowing "girl" sandals as an option.  I didn't really care if he wore pink sparkly sandals.  I just didn't want to have to explain them to anyone, or deal with any potential teasing of my child.  It seemed like it would have been a statement from me if my son wore such sandals, even though I wouldn't have pushed them on him. 

I guess I feel I compromise between not wanting my children to be ridiculed (I can take it now, but I was severely teased as a child and I hope my children will avoid that.  This is also why I will probably no longer talk on my blog about Bean's breastfeeding.) and fully expressing my opinions, values, and feelings on various topics.

6.  Has identifying as a feminist mother ever been difficult? Why?

Generally speaking, I don't actually identify as a feminist mother.  I also don't identify with a political party or religion, or even with attachment parenting for the same sorts of reasons.  

I don't really want to declare myself a feminist or feminist mother because I am not comfortable committing myself to a set of beliefs or values as a whole.  I will take up, hold dearly, and defend values individually....and I think I am at least "mostly" a feminist.  (Again, I haven't done a ton of academic reading on feminism, and I'm aware there are different varieties/waves/values...but I don't want to commit to something so amorphous).

7.  Motherhood involves sacrifice, how do you reconcile that with being a feminist?

Well there's a good question.  I haven't reconciled the sacrifice with much of anything except not losing my marbles.  And the way I accomplish that is being married to a guy who is an amazing father and partner, and who has been known to tell me to just go away and enjoy myself.  (Ok, a few of my marbles are missing.  Several of them are scattered throughout the house and begging to be tripped on.)

8.  If you have a partner, how does your partner feel about your feminist motherhood? What is the impact of your feminism on your partner?

I think it just gives my husband more stuff to think about and discuss.  He is an academic to his core.  He loves to discuss.  And he is a pro at dissecting arguments and figuring out if they actually make sense or have value.

Feminist and motherhood issues are a new common ground for us and something we discuss with some frequency.  He may have given up on giving me a full explanation of his current philosophical research, but issues of politics, feminism, motherhood, fatherhood, marriage, and general parenting are something he will happily engage in discussion over.

9.  If you’re an attachment parenting mother, what challenges if any does this pose for your feminism and how have you resolved them?

I think this is another conflict/challenge I avoid by not feeling like I have to check the "attachment parent" box.  I do end up fitting pretty much any definition of an attachment parent.  It's not because I follow a set of instructions, though.  It's just the way I end up parenting.  So I guess there is no conflict or challenge for me, except that one of not losing my marbles.

10.  Do you feel feminism has failed mothers and if so how? Personally, what do you think feminism has given mothers?

If ever I find the time to answer this completely, it's going to have to be in several blog entries.  I mean, this question could be the basis of an entire blog!

(Oh but hey!  Here's an update an hour later!)

    Sunday, April 24, 2011


    Will update with picture(s) at some point...

    I figured right now, while I'm about to make granola so I've got the recipe out anyway, I would go ahead and post it!  I usually make a double batch, depending on how much we have in the house in the way of oats.  I buy oats in bulk for about $.89/lb at the co-op (usually not organic, though sometimes the organic are on sale for less than the others!).

    This is a good one for making with Bean, and he has helped me with it in some capacity for a very long time.  Since it is mostly dry ingredients (only recently has he had any involvement with the honey, and he's not allowed to do anything beyond unwrapping the butter and plunking it in the dish because it is so hot coming out of the oven), it does not result in a huge mess.  Well, the mess we get is from Bean trying to stir/toss the stuff in the bowl, but it's still fairly minimal!

    1/4c. butter
    5c. oats
    1/2 tsp cinnamon
    1TBSP flax seeds
    1/4c. sliced almonds (slivered would work, too)
    3/4 c. honey (I prefer wildflower honey to clover honey)
    1.5tsp vanilla

    Optional (add after you've toasted the granola):
    1/2c. raisins
    1/2c. dried cranberries
    whatever else sounds good to you...

    1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.

    2. Put the butter in an oven-safe dish and put it in the oven to melt while the oven heats up.

    3. Put everything else in a large mixing bowl (Bean loves doing this), and then add the melted butter (I usually need to give it another minute or so to melt).  Use a spoon to stir/toss until the oats are well-coated with honey and butter.

    4. Spread on a cookie sheet (I use one standard cookie sheet for a single batch).  You can line the cookie sheet with parchment paper if it is not non-stick (I couldn't find anything but non-stick!).

    5. Put in the oven for 15 minutes, then stir and switch racks if you're doing more than one batch.  Return to the oven for 10 minutes, stir.  Then return to the oven for 5 minutes at a time until the oats look a nice toasted golden brown.

    6.  Allow to cool on the cookie sheets before storing.  You can eat it warm, but don't be alarmed if it isn't as crunchy as you'd like - it gets crunchier as it cools.

    Thursday, April 21, 2011

    Diaper laundry and trouble-shooting

    Photo Credit:  snarky_momma on Flickr

    Alrighty, a fairly quick post on diaper laundry and trouble-shooting - finally!  This is part of my incredibly drawn out series on reusable cloth stuff.  My thoughts and experiences with cloth diapering options are here.

    First, pick a detergent:
    This may be the most difficult decision I have made in my cloth diapering journey!  Here is an excellent source of information (the second chart in that link is sort of interactive, which creeped me out the first time I saw it, but now I think it's pretty nifty though not entirely accurate for our town).

    I have used several detergents, and I currently use RockinGreen because it causes the least severe and least frequent diaper rash on my particular baby.  It is also the most expensive detergent I have tried.  I use Charlie's Soap on all our other laundry - I tried it on diapers because it is less expensive, but Squeak's rash got eeeeeevil.  You really will have to make your own decision based on availability, cost, your water (hard/soft), personal preference, whether your baby has sensitive skin (mine sure does, and I have not found the perfect solution for him at all), etc.

    My general washing routine:
    1) cold rinse - this is to get the poop off.
    2) hot wash with detergent (if it's a cloth diaper detergent, follow their instructions.  If you're using a "regular" commercial detergent, use half the usual amount.).  The detergent and the hot water will remove grime/poop/oils, and also sanitize the diapers.
    3) cold rinse (this is just the default rinse after the wash.  Some recommend a warm rinse for this, but that would mean returning to my washer to set it, and I have never had a problem with doing cold rinses.)
    4) extra rinse - if you are constantly getting build up, you might consider a frequent extra rinse.  This does not seem to be necessary for me with my current water/diaper/detergent combo.
    4)  Dry on low, but every now and then dry on hot to re-seal PUL covers.  You can also, of course, line dry.  Drying in the sunshine helps kill bacteria (and most sources say yeast as well, but apparently UV rays are not dependable on that score) and it will also bleach out most stains.  One caveat:  drying in the sun can make prefolds realllllly stiff.  They still work just fine, and they don't seem necessarily scratchy for the baby - just difficult to fold and put away!  You can avoid the stiffness by drying them slighly in the dryer before hanging them on the line, or drying them in the wind (as if you can just conjure up a windy day any time you want to dry your diapers).  Right now I don't even have time to get diapers out on the line, let alone dry them for 20 minutes and then move them to the line.  I thought I was becoming more and more crunchy, but apparently not!

    Wool should be washed separately.  It needs to be washed by hand or on a delicate cycle, and it should be air dried.

    A bit more about poop:

    • When you've got that transitional, super sticky, part-solids/part-breastmilk poop (I've heard it referred to, aptly, as "peanut butter poop"), I have no help for you.  I would plunk what I could off the diaper into the toilet, but it was mostly stuck on there.  A sprayer was somewhat helpful, but that stuff is so sticky!  So I ended up with some stuff going through the washer.  Raisins/grapes and beans were the worst offenders (because of their skin, which very apparently was not well-digested...), and I'd have to remove them from the washer and dryer - they would stick to the sides of the washer (they were too big to spin/drain out), and they would get caught in the dryer's lint trap.  Kind of gross, I'll readily admit.
    • The more solid poops will fairly easily plunk off into the toilet, and you can rinse with a sprayer or just let the washer do the work.  
    • If you decide to get a diaper sprayer, I recommend practicing with the sprayer on a non-poopy diaper until you get the hang of your particular sprayer, where you're aiming, and how much pressure it takes to start the spray.  Just trust me on this one....

    Variations (AKA Troubleshooting):

    • I recommend this article.  I don't think I have much to add to it for troubleshooting anything (hard water, detergent, dryer sheets, diaper creams).  
      • The essentials for me are RLR (if I can't get the diapers to stop sudsing in rinses during stripping or mineral removal, I use that), distilled white vinegar (for getting us out of yeast hell, mainly, but also for a mineral-removing wash of the washer - without diapers - about once a month.), and classic Dawn dish soap (the blue variety).  And I now have some grapefruit seed extract (again for the yeast), and I've used bleach once (the yeast was really stubborn!).
    • Got yeast?  I wrote a guest post on the topic over at The Green Nursery's Dear Abby blog.  (And I'll take this opportunity to give The Green Nursery a shout out - they are a local store, who also do business on the web.  Owners Scott and Abby are wonderful people, parents, and community members.  They are a great source of information and experience on all things natural parenting - so feel free to pick their brains on a broader array of cloth diapers and cloth diapering experiences than I can offer!  And also, of course, to patronize their store!).  There is also this article on yeast and cloth diapers.
    That seems like an awful lot of information, but I'm sure it doesn't answer all questions!  Feel free to tell me what I left out or ask questions, either in the comments or via email!

    Wednesday, April 20, 2011

    Baby sleep

    I hardly can get my hands free enough to share this video, hence the lack of posting. Squeak has been staying up until 11:30, not letting me put him down for naps, and today he is a major fusspot if I'm not holding him (we all got tetanus shots yesterday and I think he's finally cutting his first tooth, so I can't say that I blame him but I'd still like a break from it!). At this very moment he is banging on my arms with his hands while he sits in my lap. Forgive typos, he will soon be typing with me, I'm sure.

    Someday I will be back to write. Maybe.

    For now, this video was shared on blue milk, and is quite appropriate with both my kids.

    Did I really get through that with no typos?

    Friday, April 15, 2011

    Boldly doing stupid stuff (so you don't have to)

    I think I'm going to have to back up a few months to tell you about my latest failed experiment.  Well, it wasn't so much an experiment as a bad impulse buy.

    But anyway...

    First, a short book review:
    A few months ago I read the book Organic Body Care Recipes by Stephanie Tourles and really enjoyed it.  I particularly loved the opening sections.  First, Tourles tells you how your skin, hair, sweat glands, etc. function.  And then she gives a fairly in-depth description of all the ingredients.  She tells you what they are, how they are produced, how they're useful, how to determine whether you're getting a quality product, who should not use it (pregnancy and some illnesses), etc. 

    So much wonderful information!  I was in heaven!

    Then, of course, what I had expected to be the meat of the book (but I should know better because I'm such a nerd) was the recipes and they were mostly for the sorts of things I could see myself using.  There was a section on things like douches I skimmed, but most of it was shampoos, cleansers, moisturizers and the like for various skin-types, hair-types, and lifestyles.

    I was on the hunt for a specific recipe - something for very dry hands/knuckles, because mine were cracking and using lanolin, while effective (and also sort of resourceful since I had it around and have never found it useful in breastfeeding), is also kind of messy and annoying. 

    By the time I had finished the book it was due back at the library, so I quickly jotted down the page number of the recipe I intended to make and re-requested the book from the library.  I waited and waited for the library to email me and tell me the book was waiting for me at the drive-up window (oh yes, our local library is awesome).

    Well, according to the library's digital catalog, the book is now lost.  Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!

    Okay, you're all caught up now.  But please allow me to digress momentarily with a motherhood story (you can, of course, skip to The Stupid if you'd like).

    Boldly going to the mall with a three-year-old.  (And enjoying it!)
    Yesterday I was out with the kids for our Thursday "adventures."  This week's adventures included a trip to the mall and a trip to the co-op (where it was the weekly discount day for members).  I know what you're thinking.  You're right, I am a little too crazy with the adventures.

    Actually, it was quite a fun afternoon.  Bean had no clue what "the mall" meant, but he was sure we had to go there and "not. Target." (Target is at our mall, but he didn't understand.)  So we go in an entrance he's never been in (I thought going in through Target might actually bring on a meltdown...) and he's like, "There are wots and wots of stores.  So. many. stores."

    Bean was stoked because we got him a pair of sunglasses and a case for said sunglasses (this was the goal of the adventure, in fact).  We walked out of the mall and he gets this Secret Agent tone and says, "stop, Mom.  We need to take out our sunglasses!"  We got to the car and he instructed me on putting my sunglasses away safely in their case so they don't "get 'stroyed."  And last night he told The Beast all about how we had root beer.  "There was a lady.  I think she worked at the mall.  And she had root beer!"

    What I would have recounted was the tale of the very elderly woman who came over while we drank our root beer and gave Bean a book from her Chick-Fil-A kid's meal.  In response to his question of "what's that" she informed him it was a toothpick and he should avoid it because kids get them stuck in their jugulars and die.  There were gestures.  Then she looked at Squeak (asleep in the stroller) and told me she is from a family of twelve, but she had an 8-and-a-half pound baby 50 years ago and then she was "all done with that" (said with more gestures and some pointing to, uh, where babies come from). 

    So anyway, root beer and sunglasses.

    The stupid
    We went to the co-op for various items, including moisturizer to get me through until I figure out a recipe to try or get ahold of the book.  Bean was chattering and, as usual, I couldn't complete a thought.  I had no clear plan for which moisturizer I would purchase.  I was ready to skedaddle, as I had just scoured for various vitamins and supplements because cold season had officially wiped us out of everything.

    And then I spied this cocoa butter and jojoba (actually, it appears to be re-packaged or possibly re-formulated, as I can't find the actual packaging online of what I just bought yesterday and, ironically, it now says "soft cocoa butter" on everything I'm seeing online.  What.ever.).  I remembered both those items vaguely from the book, thought "oh whatever. I'll figure it out later," and essentially made an impulse buy.

    It's completely solid at our current in-home temperature.  Solid like candle wax.  Rubbing it vigorously between my hands, as instructed on the tub, has not resulted in it being the consistency I desire nor a consistency I can really use.  It has mostly resulted in me launching solid globs of it all over the bathroom.

    So now I need to figure out what to combine it with to make it as messy and inconvenient as the Lansinoh lanolin.

    The one thing I like about it, though, is that it smells like chocolate.  Look on the bright side, right?

    In any case, if anyone has any suggestions or thoughts, I'm open!  I have a lot of this stuff to figure out how to use...

    Monday, April 4, 2011

    I haven't forgotten about you, Blog.

    Serious Baby says "tell me more!!!!"

    And I intend to get back to writing soon!  And I am planning to finally write about things like reusable cloth menstrual pads.  (Aren't you excited now?)

    In the last week Bean turned 3, Squeak turned 6 months, The Beast went out of town for a few days (and it was really not that big a deal at my end.  The house is still standing, and everyone is wearing clean clothes!), Squeak appears to have become somewhat nocturnal, Bean put himself to sleep and slept all night long while The Beast was gone (but informed me that was not going to continue once Dad returned...), Squeak is pushing up alllllmost onto his knees (and is accidentally traveling backwards in the process), and we've got the double jogger out and about (and veering left).

    Busy busy!  I'll be back at it soon, Blog!
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