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Archive for September 2011


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Surprising realizations:

1. I do not change my kids’ clothes anymore unless they are visibly soiled…because I am not a masochist.

2. I don’t force my kids to sleep alone…because I am not a masochist.

3. I only pick the house up once or twice a week now, and I pay someone else to catch the nitty-gritty stuff for us once a month…because I am not a masochist.

I really don’t have an issue with being mainstream; in fact, integration is a pretty major life goal for me. My divergence from the mainstream is almost always caused by a desire to avoid pain…which leaves me scratching my head, because we are pretty far off the beaten path in a lot of ways. From where I’m standing, it feels like a lot of our societal ideals about parenting in the U.S. are unrealistic, if not outright counterproductive.

I feel so grateful to have stumbled on a simpler way of living.



Written by GRSeim

September 29, 2011 at 10:18 pm

Handprint Trees

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For this week’s preschool project, Darren and I gathered leaves from around our neighborhood, traced them, and made a plethora of more-or-less accurate construction paper autumn leaves. Darren has an insatiable appetite for trivia, so we labeled our leaves as well and memorized identifying characteristics of each leaf.

In class, I traced each child’s hand and helped them cut the shape out and glue it onto a piece of cardstock. We sprinkled the leaves across the table and let the kids “rake” the leaves into personal piles and glue them onto their tree branches.

Some of the kids were very interested in reading the printed names and learning to identify trees by their leaves. Others were more into the artistic qualities of the project and wanted to talk about their favorite fall traditions. One kid felt that the leaves should be used for their TRUE purpose…jumping on! šŸ™‚


Written by GRSeim

September 28, 2011 at 2:39 am

Autumn is here!

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Written by GRSeim

September 26, 2011 at 6:48 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

And can it be

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Dear God,

I made coffee this morning. It was lovely, and in the old days I would have thanked you for it. But then my son almost scalded himself with the hot coffee while playing wall ball with his big beach ball in the kitchen, when I’ve told him a million times to keep his toys out of there. His skin is only intact right now because I intervened. This got me thinking: I am all for allowing kids to experience natural consequences, but I do run a rapid cost-benefit analysis in my head before I decide to let Darren take a fall. And if the cost is too high, I step in, without fail, sometimes only in the nick of time. I will do anything for that kid, and you’d better believe that if he needs me I am there for him, because I love him. This goes without saying, for all parents.

But you…I was told that you loved me, all through my childhood andĀ adolescence. Ā I accepted that and believed it wholeheartedly, and wanted nothing more than to be with you and to be like you. I don’t want those things right now. To be honest, there are a lot of things about you that really bother me. Like the idea that you would rather let me and my children burn in hell than intervene to give me concrete proof that you are who you say you are, that you exist and you’re trustworthy and that I am not just a pawn in the hand of a cosmic megalomaniac. Because you know what, God? I don’t care if you’re omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent. If I am a better parent than you are, I’m not going worship you, I’m going to feel sorry for you. Maybe give you the number of a fantastic therapist I know. But there is nothing awe-inspiring to me about the image of an authoritative, disciplinarian father, sitting alone in a fabulous nursing home in the sky while his kids throw themselves into the pits of hell to get away from his constant criticism, judgment and outbursts of anger.

I’ve been reading a book called “The Trouble With Islam” by Irshad Manji for the last few days. Irshad is writing about politics, not religion, but it’s caused me thinking about you more. She theorizes that you are working your way into human history in a cyclical sort of way. You reveal yourself to a people group, and they follow a predictable pattern of adoration which fades into complacency which leads to idolatry which rapidly devolves into violence, jealousy, self-righteousness and the like. As Irshad sees things, though, you don’t stop there: when your people hit that lowest of low points, they begin to open their eyes to new ideas, like the value of human lives and the wonder of nature, and they gradually become open, accepting, loving and genuine. Irshad is describing on a major scale what pastors call the process of sanctification on a personal level, and Irshad believes that the Jews, Christians and Muslims are all at different points in this process, which will ultimately lead to the same central, loving, wise God -you. And she loves you for it.

I have a problem with this idea, though, God, and it has to do with that lowest of low points. To be honest, when I think about the destruction of Ā the entireĀ PhilistineĀ culture, the Crusades, the witch hunts, Taliban domination, homophobia, well…these things seem like a pretty crappy plan A to me. I’ve really tried to find a way to give you some room on this point. For example, I tried denying the existence of hell; that leaves me with a benevolent creator God who is tenderly guiding an unruly race to sanctification and harmony. I like that. However, I can’t just deny the existence of the Holy Wars, so what do I do with that? If I chalk it up to free will, I am left with a nice deity who wants us to live in harmony, but may or may not ever be able to make that happen. I’d like to be friends with this version of you, but I can’t worship a god who so closely resembles John Lennon. And if I acknowledge the possibility that you sanctioned or predestined the horrors wrought in your name, I get nostalgic for idea of hell and having an option outside of spending eternity with you.

Frankly, at this point it is much easier for me to ignore the possibility that you may exist, and I don’t think it’s hard to understand why. You can throw a “my ways are higher than your ways” at me if you want to, but we both know that’s not going to cut it. My religious friends fear for my soul, and I hate to worry them, but I think their fears are unfounded. A good and loving god wouldn’t punish me for following the biblical injunction to test everything and cling to what is good. And do you know what I’ve found out in that process? All the good things in life can be enjoyed in a single afternoon on the beach with your kids, and according to the Bible we won’t have kids or even an ocean in heaven. That really bothers me. But there’s something else that bothers me even more, that emboldens me to reclaim control over my life and remove myself from your circle of influence.

There are 823,156 words in the King James Version of the Bible, and they are all supposed to be perfectly inerrant. I know for a fact that they aren’t, though, because if the Bible were perfect it would contain 823,159 words instead. Do you know what the three missing words are?

“I love you.”

You never said it directly, not in so many words. You want me to accept that that goes without saying?

I could take anything else on faith, but not that.

Written by GRSeim

September 24, 2011 at 1:59 am

The eye of the beholder

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What would the world be like if, whenever we called a person “pretty,” we ran an instant replay in our heads…but this time around, instead of saying pretty, we said, Ā “I find you visually appealing.”

I just started doing this myself a few days ago, and it has changed how I interact with my daughter. Obviously, I should compliment and affirm my daughter’s physical traits, but I should also be aware that when I do that I am subtly shifting the conversation away from Melia and on to myself, my likes and dislikes and opinions. These kinds of labels say a lot more about the tagger than the tagged.

I haven’t had time to check, but I’m sure dozens of truly brilliant feminist thinkers have already written on this topic, as seems to be the case any time I think I’ve stumbled on an important thought. Novel or not, though, it IS important. A child who is routinely objectified from infancy on must eventually struggle to develop a sense of their own individual identity. How can this child respect their own self-worth if, from as far back as they can remember, the important people in their lives have unconsciously trained them to consider their value only in light of their relationships?

And then, of course, if my Self is inextricably wound up in you, what will become of me when you reject me, belittle me, put me down, discourage me from pursuing my own ambitions or make demands of me? How can I fight back against my own definition?

We all need to have that one person in our lives who accepts us just the way we are; I wonder how many of us are also willing to fill that role in the lives of others.

Written by GRSeim

September 23, 2011 at 7:20 am

Snack Snakes

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This is Darren’s first year in preschool, and the first time he has ever been away from me…in three. whole. years. I was worried about how he would adjust to everything, so I was really happy when we got a spot in a neighborhood cooperative preschool near our house. Not only do I get to actively participate in my son’s early education, I get a significant discount for doing it!

Today was my first day working in Darren’s classroom. In addition to general supervision, I am supposed to plan one 10-minute small group activity each week. I’m really looking forward to the opportunity to interact with Darren in a more structured environment like this!

For today’s activity, my group made cheerio snakes. I taped the end of a piece of yarn for each child to make it easier to thread the cheerios, and taped the other end of the yarn to the table. We discussed different types of snakes while we threaded our cheerios, and then practiced making our snakes dance to our snake charmer singing. Once the snakes reached a satisfactory length, we tied the ends off and let the snakes slither around together on the table for awhile.

Threading cheerios is a pretty basic activity, but we had a lot of fun with it anyway. And it turned out that the best part of our activity came later, once we got our snakes home. What could be more fun than snacking on a snake?! šŸ™‚


Written by GRSeim

September 20, 2011 at 8:42 pm

Add a little Rosa Parks to your commute!

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A friend of mine pointed out recently that I actually know a lot of helpful things about getting around via public transit with small children in tow. These are things I learned the hard way, things that I would have paid to hear back when we decided to go car-free in 2008.*

And so, in the interest of sparing other parents from some of the more harrowing experiences we’ve endured at the hands of King County Metro, I give you my Bus List.

1. Thou Shalt Not Ever Attempt To Go Anywhere By Bus Without a Smartphone.

This may sound silly, but I’ve tried it both ways and I know what I’m talking about. If your bus has been delayed and you are going to be stuck waiting for it to show up for an hour or more, that is information you need to have at your fingertips. For an adultĀ busingĀ independently, this may fall under the “extreme convenience” category, but if you are trying to transport small children and all of their belongings you need all the help you can get. Think of it this way: you have to buy additional gear for your car to make it child-compatible. Busing requires some specialized gear, too.

2. Clunky Strollers Are The Devil.

I remember the first time I took Darren out on the bus by myself. I brought a full-sized diaper bag AND a purse, my baby, and a jogging stroller the size of a Chevrolet. A fellow passenger had to help me navigate my belongings on and off the bus, and he wasn’t too happy about it. I spent weeks researching strollers after that, and have finally settled on what I (and, last I checked,Ā Bus Chick!) consider to be the most metro-friendly stroller: the Maclaren Volo. It is lightweight, can be folded down with one hand and can be worn back-pack style when you aren’t using it. Pricey, yes, but you’d pay more than this for most car seats. Now that I have two kids to transport, I stick one in a carrier and push the other in the stroller. Looks ridiculous, yes, but it works.

3. Keep It Simple

There is one phrase you will hear over and over while busing with kids: “Looks like you’ve got your hands full.” Grating, but true. You’ll be tired when you get home; you may even be a little sore the next day. Even if you are the type who normally packs everything but the kitchen sink before heading out the door, you’re going to want to travel light when you have to carry it (and, chances are, a kid or two as well!) all by yourself. This took me almost three years to perfect, but I have it down to a science now, thanks to these.

I use a double-sided travel cube and devote one side to each child. Melia’s side contains 6 diapers, wipes, a full change of clothes, a first aid kit, a binky and hand sanitizer. Darren’s side contains a change of clothes, 4 pull-ups, wipes, a first aid kit, bags for bagging up smelly diapers a snack and an stainless steel water bottle. All of those things fit into one travel cube that is about the size of a notebook, and they stay perfectly organized and accessible throughout the trip. I carry the travel cube inside a reusable grocery bag, which offers the added bonus of giving me that cool hipster edge. Or, you know, maybe more hipster meets the old woman who lived in a shoe.

4. To Thine Own Self Be True

There is only one other general thing you really need to know in order to have a a successful bus trip, and that is how to dress. This will vary depending on your climate (and Seattle is not known for its fashion sensibilities, so bear with me), but here are the basics. You need solid, comfortable, close-toed walking shoes (I have been vomited on before on the bus; this is no place to show off your cute pedicure), pants that hide dirt, and light layers. Any rain gear needs to be lightweight and compact, and if it is winter time and you care about your hair at all you’ll want a beanie. I mean it. Busing is windy business, it’s much easier to revive hat hair than it is to salvage the ruins of a hairstyle in a public restroom.

Many commuters carry dressier shoes with them in bags like this one, and swap them out once they arrive at their destination. And while I’m talking about footware, it is a good idea to pack an extra pair of socks in a ziplock bag for emergencies. If your original socks get soaked, you can swap them out for the dry pair and seal the wet ones up in the bag so that you don’t have to smell them all the way home.

Beyond this basic information, particulars like how to look up the bus schedule and how and when to pay fares vary significantly from city to city. You just have the take the leap, and hopefully enjoy the ride. Remember to consult the driver, even if you’re 90% sure you know what you’re doing, and you should be fine. šŸ™‚

Written by GRSeim

September 20, 2011 at 7:31 am

Posted in Hippy Dippy