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While he was still in Montreal Mungo wrote
I've read all the books I brought with me & half of my neighbors. When I come back to Colorado can I borrow some to take with me? (What I'm really asking is if you'll make me a pile that you think I might like)
I know it's a pain because you don't know what type of books I like & i apologize, I just don't really know what things I like in a book either as silly as it sounds

I do wonder where he is finding all this time to read, but let's not talk about that. In the twelve days he's been home he read We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, all of Digger, Dodger, and now he's reading Swimming To Antarctica, which was one of his dad's suggestions.

When he was a little boy, I was very good at picking out books for him; the geeky little boy in me had excellent taste. It's been a lot harder since he started high school.

My suggestions so far:

The Magicians, by Lev Grossman
Leviathan Wakes, by James S.A. Corey
Fool on the Hill, by Matt Ruff
Moo, by Jane Smiley
All Over Creation, by Ruth Ozeki
The Diamond Age, by Neal Stephenson
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
House of Leaves, by Mark Z. Danielewski
Good Omens, by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
Foreigner, by C. J. Cherryh
whatever I've got on the shelves by Kurt Vonnegut

I keep being tempted to put Oglaf on the stack, opening it, and realizing that no that would be weird.
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I want to post about my panels even though I don't remember enough to make writeups that are useful to anyone but me.

Teaching Consent had two panelists with parenting experience and two with experience in sex education, but one of the sex educators dropped out at the last minute.

Most of what I remember about this panel are the weird tangents that can be summarized as Don't Be Creepy. Don't Be Creepy is a very important part of talking to kids about sex, but it is not the only thing.

The most important thing is to teach children that they have the right to decide what happens to their own bodies by respecting their right to decide what happens to their own bodies. Really. Seriously. Even when they are very young. Even when they make bad decisions. Even when it is hard. Especially when it is hard. I think the most useful thing I did to protect my children from sexual predators was to let them see someone who loved them, and was in a position of power over them, and really really wanted them to eat their vegetables, and did the work to make the vegetables palatable, and explained how eating vegetables would make you feel better and be healthier, and still honored their decision not to eat the vegetables at this time. Because their body, their decision. Really.

I draw the line where my duty to protect overrides their autonomy between "Is their decision going to hurt them?" and "Is their decision going to harm them?" Because every time I violate their autonomy, I may keep them from getting hurt but I am also causing harm. So, I decide whether they get vaccinated (yes) but I don't decide what or how much they eat.

Teaching kids to respect other people's rights seems to me to flow naturally from respecting their rights. Do you get to cut your hair? That's your decision: it's your hair. Do you get to pull my hair? Not unless I say okay: it's my hair.

That leaves the third part of Ed Lane's anti-bullying injunction: "Don't be a perp, don't be a victim, and for God's sake, don't be a bystander." This is not as straightforward. It requires empathy. A useful tool is to talk about stories and imagine yourself into them from each person's point of view. So, I don't want you to be a victim, but I'd like you to imagine getting bullied in front of a bunch of kids who stand there staring: the bystander may be thinking "I cannot believe this is happening" or "I don't know how to stop this," but what the victim sees is a ring of people who are all letting this happen. Or, I don't want you to be a bully, but I'd like you to try to imagine what the bully is thinking. What makes you think this is okay? What could make you see that it is not okay?

As kids approach the age when they're going to put this knowledge to use, they stop wanting to talk to their parents about it. Don't try to override this. It is an important step on the road to independence. It's good to make good books available (on the shelf with all the other Books About Interesting Facts. Do not put the book on their bed. That is creepy.) It's good to tell them about and other people who want them to have good information, and want them to make good decisions, but will not freak out or take it personally if they disclose that they have made a not-so-good decision. It's good to talk to your kids about these issues as long as you don't personalize it: talk about stories you've heard from other people, news stories, movies, books. Tell them your whole truth, what you believe and why, and be willing to listen to what they think, but don't demand that they tell you: that is creepy.

Nixie attended this panel and my next one. I worried that she might be uncomfortable, but she was curious and said that she'd be fine as long as I didn't point to her to say, "Behold the proof of my excellent theories!"

(Nixie and Mungo are my proof though.)

one thing

Nov. 7th, 2013 07:43 pm
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One thing that fills me up to overflowing with love and pride for this child of mine is that she can acknowledge when she has done something racist. It hurts her self-esteem but she doesn't let that hurt stop her from perceiving the truth. In email earlier today, she wrote:
Umm I was waiting for the bus and there was this man in a giant trench coat and what google tells me is called an 'outback' hat smoking a pipe, with a blonde, blue eyed, clean looking toddler in a stroller. And I was trying to imagine him smoking in the house with that kid, and had difficulty.

I replied:
I find it hilarious/disturbing that the toddler's blondness and blue eyes get classified with "clean looking" as reasons why its innocent pure lungs should not get dirtied up with second hand smoke.

And she replied:
WOW I am so racist that's so annoying. [...] At first I was like 'no, it wasn't the kid being caucasian that made me think this...I was just including those details to give you a picture of the scene' but there are plenty of other equally extraneous details I did not mention.


Nov. 2nd, 2013 07:37 pm
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Walking along Boulevard René-Lévesque from the train station to our hotel, I lagged behind Mungo. (short legs, old feet.) So I had a clear view of the guy in business casual, carrying a laptop, standing on the corner. Mungo stopped, put his foot up on a low wall, and bent over to retie his shoelace. Laptop Guy approached Mungo, looking him over. Then he noticed me giving him the Maternal Eyebrow of How Dare You. He sprang back just as Mungo stood up. Mungo noticed the guy jump back, and thought he might have been trying to pick his pocket. I suppose business casual would be good camouflage for picking pockets. Or maybe Laptop Guy was a reporter, waiting to meet some teenage street artist for an interview? But my first impression was cruising.

Laptop Guy, it's half your age plus seven, or you're a creep. And I don't mean the age you fondly imagine when you gaze into the mirror.
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There are some black and red currant bushes along the bike path near my house. The fruit is almost over. They are so tedious to top and tail, but so good! Flavors intense and varied. The first time I walked past with my husband I picked one and ate it then picked one and tried to give it to him.
He winced. "Pesticides!"
"They don't even water these poor bushes, why would they be out here spraying pesticides on the fruit?"
He hesitated, maybe thinking of the other things that could be on roadside bushes, then ate it and pronounced it delicious. He is willing to eat purslane from my garden, but probably not from the side of a bike path. We will not mention the fact that feral cats hang out in my garden.
There are some other bushes near the bike path, less than waist-high, with fruit that looks and tastes like a marble-sized plum. Any guesses?

I approve of edible landscaping. Very much. But there are places it is not appropriate. To make a large parking lot less hellish, what you want is shade. In the Foothills Mall parking lot, someone once planted dwarf apple trees. No shade to speak of, but the spaces around them are filled with apple smush in autumn.

I never eat the pickled ginger that comes with takeout sushi. I like pickled ginger, I just can't understand wanting to remove the taste of sushi. If Neal is around I give it to him; otherwise, I've been putting it in the freezer. For Neal's birthday, I decided to try candying it. One cup frozen pickled ginger, one cup sugar, one cup water, simmer until the water is mostly gone. It's good. I made him some more to take on his hiking trip with Mungo, but he wanted to leave it at home. He didn't want it to spoil in his backpack. "How do we preserve food without refrigeration?" I said. "We dry it, smoke it, salt it, pickle it, candy it. Candied pickled ginger is not going to go bad in ten days!" It didn't last ten days because he and Mungo ate it all in three.

I am really really pleased that my picky eater turned into an adventurous eater even though I never coerced him to eat anything he didn't want.

Oddly, Aiko is Sir Not-appearing-in-this-post.


May. 13th, 2012 10:40 pm
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Last night I dreamed I had acquired a small, snot-nosed, not very bright child, as I do every year or so. In the dream I resign myself to my responsibility. "Raising a small child is hard work, especially at my age," I think. "It wouldn't seem like such hard work if you were... more rewarding. More like the two I gave birth to. But I will raise you, and I will love you, because you are mine now."

Waking from that dream I finally realized who that unappealing child is: it's the one Joanna Russ called "The Little Dirty Girl" in the story of that name, which you can read in The Hidden Side of the Moon.

Waking a little further I realized how lucky I am never to have felt that way in waking life. Sure, I've been angry, irritated, frustrated with my kids, but they've never been a disappointment to me.
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I have been listening to a lot of emotionally manipulative language lately, ranging from "you're going to hate me saying this, but," through "if *my* beautiful teenage daughter were suddenly having convulsions, I would want to *do something* about it," all the way up to "so, just, no driving for three months, you're okay with that? And after three months, if she has a seizure behind the wheel, and kills herself and maybe someone else, you're okay with that?"

I realize that decades away from that kind of language doesn't give me any protection from hearing it again. But hearing it again gives me all kinds of appreciation for the decades away from it.

I realize that when my husband asks, "Why did you tell them?" he doesn't mean, "You shouldn't have told them." He doesn't mean, "You should have known better than to tell them." He doesn't mean what it would have meant in my family of origin, "Since I can see a way you could have avoided this, any suffering you experience is entirely your own fault." He just means, "Why?"

Said beautiful teenage daughter is WWOOFing in Belize.
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Mungo won the Patrick Gilmore award, which his high school gives to its outstanding freshman music student. It's kind of a big deal.

I can't decide whether to tell my mother. Naches are a gift, you know? And people who look gifts in the mouth shouldn't necessarily be expecting to receive more. And in my last phone call I mentioned that Nixie has planned out her entire three remaining years at Reed, because she wants to take all fifteen Psych classes Reed offers and enough other things to fill an extra major or two, so she had to get permission from a prof to take a senior-level class next semester, but that was easy because it was the same prof who wants her to TA for the class she just finished.

And my mother said in this oh-dear voice, "Do you think she'll go on to grad school?"

And I said that although I thought it was silly to expect a college freshman to have chosen a career, Nixie was planning to be a neurobiologist, as she has since tenth grade, so there were necessarily going to be lots more years of school after Reed.

And I tried to keep my irritation out of my voice, but I must have failed, because my mother said, "Well, I'm just concerned for her. I don't know what she can do with a bachelor's degree in psychology."[*]

And this is a common occurrence in my conversations with my mother. About this time last year, I remember, my mother asked how Nixie's graduation went. I said it was fine. She said, "Didn't she graduate?" as if that were a natural followup to what I said. Yes, she graduated, with honors, from her honors IB program, with a National Honor Society tassel on her graduation cap, which she wore to her graduation. Which you would know if the cognitive dissonance you experience at anything good being produced by me had not erased that information from your brain.

It turned out that what she wanted to talk about was my awesome nephew's graduation, which she got to attend because my sister invited her. Still. "Didn't she graduate?"

[*]Recognizing this as concern-trolling makes me grateful to you, and you, and everyone who has made up my online social life. Vocal conversations are too quick and too ephemeral for me to understand much about what just happened there. I've learned so much about human interaction from written conversation, which sticks around to be studied, and especially from other people's comments on written conversation, which names concepts like "concern-trolling" and pins them up for study.
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I've been intensely fannish about The Good Wife lately, wolfing down the backlog, waiting for the next episode like a dog waits for dinner, and reading all the commentary I can find. I've been running into the notion that Alicia couldn't tolerate being deceived over the Peter/Kalinda affair because Alicia doesn't lie.

Alicia does lie. She lies less than any other main character, maybe less than any recurring character except Pastor Isaiah, but she does routinely lie: to her children. She lies to them in that very episode. Zach asks why his parents are separating, and Alicia says, "Because we decided it was time." No, actually, Alicia decided. Unilaterally. Peter did not even get the chance to discuss the decision after the fact.

And a minute after telling her kids this lie, which will not fool them for long even if Peter backs her up on it, Alicia tells them, "We don't lie here. We don't lie to each other." This is exactly the double bind that creates liars like Peter. On the verbal level you learn that you must not lie to the people you love. On a deeper level, you learn that you must lie to the people you love, and you must do anything (including lying) to prevent them from finding out that you lied. And both those messages come from your parent, your moral teacher, the person without whose care you would have died.

I'm sure that Alicia can rationalize why she had to say that then, to protect Zach and Grace, because she loves them, because the truth would only hurt them and what difference could it possibly make? And I am sure that Peter's rationalizations for his lies to Alicia sound remarkably similar. And I am intensely interested in whether the show is going to bring that similarity to light.


Aug. 23rd, 2010 07:54 am
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I'm waiting for my baby to come kiss me goodbye before she goes to college. She and her dad are driving to Portland today and tomorrow. For a going-away present I covered a cigar box with candy wrappers and filled it with stationery, envelopes, an address book, stamps, and a pen. I also got her a copy of Pamela Dean's Tam Lin. I'm not sure about what message that sends, although I suppose "Have a magical time, and don't get pregnant if you can possibly help it" isn't really a bad one.

And this is my other baby's second week of high school. They grow up so fast!
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Child comes home in despair, says zie is failing at everything important, everyone hates zir, zie wants to die.

You say: you see this really hurts.

You say: the suffering zie experiences is not a good-enough reason to attack zir family members.

You say: if there's anything you can do, you will.

Child is in misery. You can't help. You do not understand.

You say: suppose the worst that can happen happens. If child fails at this, child can do that. No matter what, child will survive. Child will be happy again.

Child says you don't know what you're talking about. Child hates being zirself.

You are at a loss. Child has been triply blessed by being born a first world citizen, in the upper class, to parents who care more about zir happiness than what zie can do for them. Child has been doubly-triply blessed with zir gifts of health, intelligence, and the personality that makes teacher after teacher dote on zir particularly out of a class of similarly bright charming UMC children. Child is so lucky to be zirself.

Coincidentally, an lj-friend wrote about her blessed child suffering from a disappointment. I responded:
I'm kind of emotionally retarded, so I don't have any advice, but I can offer sympathy: when you raise kids who aren't afraid to feel what they feel, they feel some really uncomfortable stuff! I find it useful to acknowledge to myself, that I can't fix this, and to the kid, that this really hurts.

I usually say something like, this is the sucky part of being a human being, and not a superhero: sometimes you lose. But the important part is: I get that this really hurts. If I could make it better for you, I would.

My kids are 13 and 17, they're still way more emotionally volatile and expressive than I am, I still find this difficult and uncomfortable. But I haven't frightened them into stifling themselves, so... I think I did as well as I could.


Oct. 31st, 2009 07:30 pm
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We've lived here for 21 Halloweens without one trick-or-treater, even when there were two little girls next door. That's how it goes when when your driveway is a quarter-mile right-of-way cut out of someone else's pasture. My kids used to go trick-or-treating with friends who lived in town. This is the first year Mungo (almost 14) hasn't gone; he would have gone if his friends did, but they didn't. He did go to a Haunted Corn Maze with them.

I meant to hand out candy at my house, but when I got there I realized that my lack of gutters + the recent blizzard + the current balmy temperatures = melting snow dripping on the heads of those who mount my front steps. So the better part of neighborliness was to leave my lights off.

I did clear away several big branches the blizzard had broken off the catalpa, which were obstructing the sidewalk, and swept up all the wet slippery leaves. Which means my brush pile, which I had been stomping down and hemming in with cinder blocks, has grown out-of-bounds again. Neighborliness is hard.

Nixie is having a movie night/sleepover at a friend's house. Hugh, Mungo, and I are watching the first season of Battlestar Galactica.

I called my mom back yesterday. She told me she had had surgery for breast cancer the day before yesterday. They caught it early and got it all, so no chemo, no radiation.

It's amazing that I've figured out how to have communication and relationships even as well as I have. Amazing, I tell you. I am grateful for all the help I've had from Hugh, Nixie, and Mungo.

I'm going to do NaNoWriMo this year.


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