December 20, 2010 § Leave a Comment
So picture me.
I am sitting in front of my birthday cake as if I was nine. There are candles all lit and instead of nine there are forty-one. I blow them all out in one satisfying whoosh. Then they start to light up again, yes, those self relighting candles….
No, this didn’t really happen, no one is that cruel to me. But that is how I am feeling at the moment. The second I put out one little fire another springs to life that I thought was out. Eventually they will all go out — really I hope so. But will the cake be worth eating covered in wax?
October 11, 2010 § Leave a Comment
This past weekend I finished up “Radical Homemakers: Reclaiming Domesticity from a Consumer Culture” by Shannon Hayes. Basically it is a manifesto for the crunchy side of the opt-out movement. It tries really hard to be a pro-feminist argument for domesticity, but I have a difficult time believing that this book will convince anyone. It is instead a reassurance for the true believer – maybe. It is certainly written for those who have been following the simplicity/lovavore/anti-consumerism movements. In fact, this really isn’t a standalone book. There is too much assumed for the typical America consumer to make heads or tails out of this, especially when they start reading about the book’s heroes (study subjects) who forgo health insurance, live off inheritance, found a rundown, old shack and fixed it up and/or have one solid income earning spouse working while the other plays homesteader.
What did I really enjoy about this book?
For once a book unafraid to use the word “homemaker”. Now of course Ms Hayes does take pains to point out that “housewife” doesn’t mean what you think it means. Supposedly it means something more akin to “freeman”. But still, it is something.
Stuff can’t make you happy. One of those principles that I think touches so much of what is wrong with our society. “Radical Homemakers” devotes a good amount of time to thinking through what the alternatives to “more stuff” are.
A lack of diversity: There is a vast diversity of thought and practice within the opt-out movement. We see only the slightest touch of this in “Radical Homemakers”. Ms Hayes describes that there are all sorts of Radical Homemakers, women, men, families, child-less, singles, single-parents – but all the interviewees have a certain homogeneous world view about them – I really couldn’t tell if this was because Shannon Hayes had selected a narrow band of people she considered “Radical”, if her own writing covered the voices of her subjects up too much or if she just happened to find 20 families opting out of the consumer-driven culture who had read all the same books and echoed each other.
Betty Friedan Fan. Betty is quoted in almost every single chapter. In fact this book is very quote heavy. Lots of quotes give the illusion of a well researched scholarly study, but the quotes are all sort of laboring under the same problem as the interviews. Lots of quote from a rather limited number of sources and all carefully selected to match the author’s world view such as Riane Eisler’s rather fanciful view of pre-historic cultures.
For the general reader, the person not sold on the anti-consumerism movement, I think this book would be horribly discouraging. In fact it was sort of discouraging to me. Ms Hayes doesn’t show you how step out of the rat-race. The stories she shares of those who have managed to step out aren’t really an option for most families, at least not whole clothed. There was no sense of a “first step” that a normal, in debt, working couple with small children, urban or sub-urban family could do. We see people who have been given inheritances, grew up on farms, have families that helped them out – what if you lack any of those resources? I guess you are out of luck and condemned to be another cog in the wheel. In reality of course you aren’t, but I don’t think Radical Homemakers shows that.
All in all
A good book for reaffirming the choices of those who have opted out and maybe a good read for those who are toying with the idea of less consumerism, but deep down inside don’t want to take it too far because that would be just way too much work. If you are looking for a deep exploration of those who have opted to return to homemaking in opposition to the general culture or a guide-book to the way out of consumerism this is not a book you will fall in love with. The view is too narrow and while the beauties and some of the struggles of the trail are described the location of the trail-head is left a mystery.
October 4, 2010 § Leave a Comment
Hard to believe a whole month has past by, but here we are.
September 8, 2010 § 2 Comments
No, I haven’t died or anything – just had a baby.
Beautiful little girl was born on September 2nd.
August 16, 2010 § Leave a Comment
After a couple months of steady looking the kid has a job. Her orientation is tomorrow and then she starts work.
July 20, 2010 § 3 Comments
One of the first things people say when the number of children I have is brought up is, “Wow, you must be busy, how do you do that? I have trouble with my two.” My usual response is “Oh they entertain each other it isn’t so bad.” This is usually met with a dubious look, the eyebrow cocking up a bit to express a bit of doubt.
But it is true. Though it is hard to explain in the short span of a quick conversation. There is something that I dubbed “The Sibling Effect” that comes into play when you have a larger family.
Basically, the sibling effect is a result of each child being somewhat less the “center of the universe” and slightly more part of “team Family” than the normal American child. Mom and Dad switch from being the people in charge of giving the child everything they want to “the bosses” and siblings are less competition for family resources and more fellow team members.
The Changes: My first two children are 18 months apart. When Rachel was born Ashley was excited to be the Big Sister – she would fetch diapers and hold things and watch the baby. This went on right up to the point that baby sister started getting into her stuff, then baby wasn’t as much fun, in fact she was down right annoying.
By the time Christopher came around Ashley had more or less gotten over the fact that little siblings will get into your stuff. This baby wasn’t quite as exciting as the first new sibling, but being helpful when you are 7 is still a thrill. Plus Ashley was now old enough to hold the baby, make the baby laugh and understand more of what was involved. There was also a fellow “victim” with the annoying aspects of older sibling life.
I suspect four children will definitely create the sibling effect and maybe three depending on the parenting style and how close in age the children are, but once the dynamic is created it changes the parent/child dynamic and creates a very different sense of family.
Among our community of larger, homeschooling, Catholic families one of the things I notice most is how open the older children in the group are to watching out for the younger ones – not just their siblings, but all the children in the group.
July 15, 2010 § Leave a Comment
I think I am out of touch
At least with most pregnant women. Or at least with the ones posting on pregnancy message boards. I am not sure if it is because I am older, more religious, more married or more inhibited, but I just don’t remember my thoughts being as out of sync. Back when I was expecting Christopher I don’t remember so many of the women posting racy “belly-shots”. I do remember all of us being very opinionated about what was the right way for everything from pain medication during birth to diapers to feeding to sleeping arrangements, opinions based totally for the most part on supposition and what was trendy, but I don’t remember the level of nastiness in the disagreements. I also don’t remember the moms being so down on their baby’s fathers and I don’t remember the other expectant mothers being so certain that they should be the center of the universe. It seems that a much greater percentage of the moms posting are unmarried and have no problem at all talking about the most intimate details of their lives to total strangers. Needless to say I haven’t joined in on a board this time round and really don’t feel worse for not.
This has been a very odd pregnancy healthwise
I actually haven’t gained any weight so far. I was overweight to start with and I have honestly been trying to be very good with my sugars especially, but it is still sort of alarming to me. The other odd thing is that I think we might have finally tracked down the source of my two year, off and on, mystery cough. I have a bacterial infection in my tonsils. One of those normal bacteria that everyone has that opportunistically sets up camp in a damaged place and starts causing trouble. So I am on antibiotics until baby is born then I need to get my tonsils taken out. Fortunately I have good friend promising me ice-cream for my recovery.
I am thinking this fall is going to be crazy
Usually I would lay out my homeschool plans and feel like I was starting with some modicum of control. This year I have no illusion of control. I know that I need very streamlined plans and very easy routines or I am going to drown in a sea of new baby – meets new school year – meets everything else that will likely hit me in September – like having my tonsils out.