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Summer cold

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I’ll admit it, I really thought we were going to escape the curse of the summer cold this year. We are just so goddamn health-conscious all the time, how could we possibly get sick?

Sadly, being obsessively natural and eating farm-fresh vegetables by the truck load did not render us totally immune from viruses. As a fringe benefit to this newest round of the sneezies, however, I have discovered a new reason to love being product free people.

As I’ve mentioned before, we wash our hair and bodies with baking soda, vinegar and the occasional splash of Castile soap, and I make my own deodorant out of baking soda, corn starch and coconut oil. I do not use any fragrances anywhere in my home and try to make sure that the things I smear, spray or dab on my body are edible and wonderful for my health.

How does this relate to our current bout of illness? Well, weirdly enough, I’ve discovered a new superpower that I did not know I had before. You know how your body goes through a shedding phase a few days before you begin showing symptoms of a virus, making that the most likely time to infect the people around you? Well, since giving up on oil-stripping soaps and shampoos and fragrance-loaded grooming products, I’ve discovered that I can actually detect a distinct change in my children’s normal body smells during this phase. A solid 48 hours before they begin showing any sort of lethargy or stuffiness, I’m able to identify the impending illness by smell and start canceling play dates and pushing the fluids, garlic and sunshine. Nifty, right?!

I tried to read more about this slightly icky phenomenon online, but was able to find very little on the subject. I did find a handful of references to doctors smelling their patients as a common part of their exams back in the house call days, and also a few people claiming to be able to recognize the smell of developing cancer in its early stages. That one really caught my interest, because wow, would that not be useful? To be able to detect cancerous growths before they began to cause troubling symptoms? I have no personal experience with sniffing for cancer, but it does make sense to me. If I can easily smell an impending head cold, I would suspect that the aroma change caused by a potentially life threatening illness would really grab my attention.

Written by GRSeim

May 19, 2012 at 2:14 am

Posted in Hippy Dippy

Waste Not

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We were walking out of a restaurant downtown one day when a middle aged woman stepped into our path and boldly demanded, “Are you going to eat those leftovers?”

Jon and I shifted uncomfortably, glanced at one another -because, yeah, we were going to eat them. We were still teenagers, I was pregnant, we had no car, and we were only eating out because I was too sick from hunger to walk the remaining mile and a half to the nearest grocery store. We were in a pretty bad spot ourselves at that point. But we’d also had our eyes opened to the complex reality of poverty, how easy it is to fall into destitution and how hard it is to claw your way back out.

So we handed our takeout boxes over and a tradition was born in our family.

Waste not.

A few years later I found out through my reading that this is a pretty common practice in other countries, sharing leftovers to prevent good food from going to waste. It’s a good habit, one that is surprisingly easy to embrace.

Here’s how it works at our house:

We do not leave food to rot in the refrigerator; if things are sitting around, likely to go to waste, we make a post on freecycle or Craigslist, or spend the afternoon hunting for Jimmy and Elizabeth. They always appreciate our cooking.

When we leave a restaurant with a take-out box, we do what we can to pass that box off to someone before we leave the parking lot. If that fails, my schizophrenic friend, Curtis, is easy enough to locate at his usual haunt at the corner of the highway, and he is always thrilled to get a box full of warm, good-quality food.

Now, I have to admit I do not feed people indiscriminately. The scary-looking guy who hangs out by the university and screams for help all day long? I double check that the doors are locked before I drive by. The war vet who throws things at cars and roars about the injustice of his situation as the traffic zips by? Yeah, I feel bad, but I avoid the intersection where he hangs out altogether.

You can’t just prance up to any person, homeless or not, and assume that they’re going to turn out to be nice people. You have to trust your instincts. However, it’s also important to recognize that there is no correlation between having money and being a trustworthy, decent individual.

Conversely, we’ve got to cut the “noble savage” crap that gets thrown around so much when the topic of homelessness comes up. Homelessness is rarely a lifestyle choice, and most people are not too proud to accept help, even of the half-eaten variety. I’ve only had a person refuse food I offered them once, and that’s because the guy was seriously allergic to the food I was offering him.

It boils down to having a can-do attitude. I can’t end homelessness in my community, but I can end hunger, easily and at no extra cost to anyone.

I can’t solve all of the world’s problems, but that doesn’t mean I’m helpless. Not by a long shot.

Written by GRSeim

May 4, 2012 at 6:42 pm

Restore your faith in humanity for a second

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It may (or may not) rock anyone’s world when a tree falls in a forest where there is no one around to hear it, but when a tree falls down in Seattle we definitely take notice.

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The flyer stapled to the tree trunk explains that the health of this particular tree began to deteriorate nearly a decade ago. Those of us who lived in the surrounding neighborhood loved it so much that the city actually tried to nurse it back to health for eight years. Sadly, the tree finally split in half during a storm last week and, as it used to stand over the walking trail at Green Lake and posed a significant safety hazard in its dilapidated condition, it had to be removed.

An anonymous local artist has been gathering flowers to decorate the remaining stump in these really fantastically detailed hearts. I’ve been by twice in the last week and saw different arrangements laid out each time. I don’t know how long our friend will continue creating these tributes to our favorite tree (a tree which, incidentally, my husband and I spent a lot of time under back when we were dating; it was a very nice, shady spot to spend an afternoon), but I know we all appreciate the gesture.

Written by GRSeim

April 15, 2012 at 4:40 am

Posted in Hippy Dippy

Seattle tackles discrimination against publicly breastfeeding mothers

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My kids and I were able to participate in a hearing today at the Seattle City Hall. Read about it here.

We were there to discuss public breastfeeding, and the work the city is doing to deal with cases of discrimination against nursing mothers.

It was a really fun, engaging experience and I feel like I was able to present a unique perspective on the issue as a breastfeeding mother who is also an active Metro rider. It was really affirming for me to be able to participate in something adult and political and personally significant like this with my kids at my side. Maybe my mind won’t be complete mush by the end of this little motherhood experiment after all! 😉

In the interest of fairness, one of the councilmen (who appears to be a willing advocate for breastfeeding mothers himself) took the time to share the concerns of those who oppose the new anti-discrimination legislation being presented. Here are the (paraphrased) concerns he voiced, along with my personal responses.

1. Opposition: It’s disrespectful to the people around you to breastfeed in public. If you know it makes others uncomfortable, you have the responsibility to do something about that, like nursing in your car or bringing pumped milk along on outings.

Rebuttal: This argument makes the elitist assumption that all nursing mothers have access to cars and breast pumps. Until a year ago, I did not have the option of returning to the relative privacy of my car to feed my child. I had to deal with his hunger when and where it struck. I did have a breast pump, but I couldn’t afford milk collection bags, and my son refused to drink from a bottle anyway so it wasn’t an option for me to cart a cooler full of pumped milk along in addition to all of my other baby care supplies every time I left the house.

Continuing on the topic of pumping, non-lactating individuals may not realize that each of those pumped bottles takes a solid thirty minutes for me to prepare, not including the time it takes to sterilize the bottles and pump. That is a lot of time to ask a woman to devote to an unnecessary task when she is struggling to find time to feed and bathe herself as she balances her own needs against the needs and demands of an infant. You are also asking her to accept a certain degree of physical discomfort as the breastfeeding rhythm is interrupted for an outing. Breasts work on a supply-and-demand basis, with milk production identically matched to the needs of the individual child being nursed. If the demand is suddenly altered, the milk production will continue at its normal rate until the woman is made uncomfortable by the excess milk backing up. If the interruption is prolonged, her body will drop its production rate, which obviously puts the mother and child at risk for premature weaning. It’s a slippery slope that many women are find out about about the time they hit the gravel pit at the bottom, because stress, anxiety and frustration can inhibit your milk let-down, preventing your hungry baby to access the milk that is making you so stressed and uncomfortable. When we know how important breastfeeding is to our personal health and financial security as a country, why would we push women into such a destructive spiral?

At the root of this issue, however, is that the concerns and values of theoretical people who may theoretically experience discomfort if they realize that they are sitting near a breastfeeding woman are trumping the real, observable needs of women and their babies. This leads me to wonder who these theoretical hypersensitive souls may be. I’m guessing we aren’t concerning ourselves with the possible discomfort of middle-aged women, right? I believe that if we are honest with ourselves, we will realize that we are working here from the assumption that the public sphere is a male realm, and that is what we are worried about- that these uppity breastfeeding mothers are using their breasts in a non-titillating fashion, and then have the nerve to add insult to injury by doing that right out there in the open where any man can see that they are there, breasts and all, literally not giving a fuck. It sounds weird, yeah, but sex is weird, and how else do you explain the intensity of the outrage we face as mothers engaging in the totally radical act of feeding our children?

2. Opposition: If you give women free license to breastfeed in public without establishing strict guidelines to control their behavior, it will quickly devolve into a public nudity debacle.

Rebuttal: First of all, you do realize that we’re talking about women here, right? Not feral barn cats in heat?

Secondly…no, wait, go back to that first point. WE ARE TALKING ABOUT WOMEN HERE. We are sexually harassed, stalked and raped. You think we’re taking this public exposure stuff lightly? Think again. We have a lot at stake here. We also represent the majority of individuals struggling with eating disorders, anxiety and depression. The weight loss industry in the U.S. is currently worth $60.9 billion, and yeah, not all dieters are women, but you don’t meet too many men who make a lifestyle out of dieting the way so many of us do. Too many of us internalize body hatred and run with it.

Do you really, honestly believe that these are people who are likely to strip down in public, using their status as breastfeeding mothers as an excuse to engage in lewd behavior? We are talking real life women who have given birth within the last year or two. Most of us weren’t wild about our pre-baby bodies, much less the mess left behind after pregnancy. We are flabby. We have new folds and stretch marks and scars that are just blowing our minds. We’re learning about the joys of nursing bras and cleaning spit up out of our hair and giving up on jewelry because our babies like to eat sparkly things. There are very, very few women at this life stage who feel sexy. We are not generally out looking for attention. Most of the nursing moms I know feel pretty shy about nursing in public. For most of us, it’s only something we do when we have to choose between giving the kid a quick nurse or letting them scream endlessly in hunger and fear. Our children are our main concern, and our only concern when it comes to breastfeeding. We are trying to care for our babies, and our dignity and modesty feature on the list of things that we sacrifice for our children. Most of us aren’t totally thrilled about this arrangement, either. We do it because our kids are relying on us to provide them with nourishment. No one else figures into this equation at all.

If you do see a mother of a small child who is breastfeeding and still managing to be sexy and succeeding at both…you know what? Slow. Clap. I can’t believe I have to say this, but aren’t we all pretty interested in making sure that women feel comfortable enough in society to be comfortable in their own skins, to be bold and authentically, erotically connected and empowered? These are the amazing women that we are all so fascinated by, the ones many of us are holding out for, the ones who are out of our leagues. Encourage the awesome! Maybe we’ll see more of it.

Will there be people who abuse their freedom? Yes. There will always be that handful of people who are gross and abusive and no matter how much room you give them, they’ll make a point of taking it a step further just out of grossness. The thing to remember is that those people are assholes, not bitches. Asshattery is not related to gender, age, race or religion. It is great and non-discriminatory that way. It is okay to recognize when an individual is being gross, and it’s natural to be offended by flagrantly crude behavior. We just have to remember that, just as we can’t deny people their right to free speech just because Rush Limbaugh opened his mouth once, we can’t deny the vast majority of responsible nursing mothers the opportunity to effectively nurture their children just because someone, somewhere may get it into their head to use their tit as a squirt gun in a restaurant. Deal with the tit-squirt-gun gal based on her own situation and merit, and deal with me (the most clothed person ever) based on mine. And for the love of god, don’t try to lump me in the with tit-squirt-gun chick because I’m just as icked out as anyone else over this kind of grossness, even though I totally just made the whole scenario up. I feel a bit like making my mind eat soap for that one.

3. Opposition: We’re mammals, breastfeeding is kind of what we do. Women who claim they’ve been discriminated against for breastfeeding are probably blowing their experiences out of proportion. There is no need for the government involved.

Rebuttal: Clearly, you are not paying attention. See here and here and here and here.

Written by GRSeim

April 5, 2012 at 6:15 am

Glamping

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We spent the weekend with the wonderful guys up at Paca Pride. If you’re ever in the neighborhood, be sure to stop by. You’ll never meet nicer folks (or alpacas).

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Written by GRSeim

March 26, 2012 at 4:09 am

Editor in chief

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I put a lot of time and energy into seeking out truly great books for my kids.

Obviously, though, nothing’s perfect. Sometimes, you have to compromise and accept a few flaws in a book for the sake of the good overall message.

Or you can go crazy with the white-out, like me. Because I’m kind of a Republican when it comes to compromising. Just ask my husband.

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White-out, a sharpie pen and ten minutes later and “The Little Engine That Could” is magically transformed into a tale that defies gender stereotypes and includes an awesome gay character. Not easy to find in the kids section…but almost depressingly easy to add on your own.

Written by GRSeim

March 18, 2012 at 1:19 am

Sticks and Stones and Broken Bones Never Sounded Better

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There is no doubt that Western children inhabit a frighteningly gender stereotyped, sexually-charged world. The world my children are growing up in feels foreign to me, unlike anything I’ve even read about, perhaps aside from Atwood’s all-too-believable version of our society’s possible dystopian future.

Concerned parents are anxiously trying to protect their children from what has been aptly termed a “sexualized wallpaper” of media and marketing directed at our kids. How do we combat something so pervasive?

Could it really be as simple as just #notbuyingit?

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Only time will tell, but I can tell you this: you will not find Barbie pink or anything adorned with skulls and flames anywhere in nature. Our prescriptive gendered color palettes were invented at a marketing meeting, not discovered by children engaged in healthy, active outdoor play.

Reconnecting with the earth may turn out to be the only way to protect our kids from the media’s narrow understanding of what it means to be human.