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22 August 2013

Responding to a Feminist's Question

I am a bit of a birth junkie. 

Folks who are close to me are not going to be surprised by this revelation. The oldest of 8 kids, I used to love reading my mom's pregnancy books whenever she would get pregnant. I was briefly apprenticed at a midwife in high school. Now that I am a mother myself, I've read enough that the usual "over the counter" pregnancy books no longer did the job and I started looking for something "prescription strength": so I read midwifery texts for fun. I have yet to get tired of talking about birth. I like birth, and I am amazed and awed by the incredible design of our bodies. They are marvelous creations! 

As a result of this fascination with birth and babies, I follow a number of birth-related Pages on Facebook. One of my favorites is Improving Birth. They talk a lot about research, and what it says about common US birth practices. I like research. Today they posted an interview with their VP. She said some nice things, but there was one thing she said that really stood out. 

"How can we bridge that disconnect, that feminism is not the antithesis of motherhood, but the embodiment and the redefinition of it?”


I don't know if she thought she'd get an answer, or if an answer to that question is even really welcome, but I posted my answer. I guess I'll find out how serious she is - and the other women that make up the community as well. As a strict constitutionalist, and a deeply religious Christian woman, I am part of a tiny minority in the birth junky/midwifery community. Or at least, that's been my perception of the situation for quite some time now. We'll see. This is what I posted:

She asks about the "disconnect", and wonders why people think that feminism is the antithesis of motherhood. For me, the answer to that question is this: the FEMINISTS said so.\

 A few years ago I sat in my Ob's office listening to the talk show in the lobby, and the feminist being interviewed said that women who think they want to be stay-at-home moms don't really know what they want. They just *think* they want to stay at home because they've been told they're supposed to want that. Being the mom has been my dream as long as I can remember. As a college student I joked that I majored in Japanese because "they don't offer degrees in Mothering." As a multi-year fertility patient, a woman who just couldn't seem to ovulate, and when I finally did, I finally got pregnant, only to loose that first baby to an early miscarriage, and there I was, pregnant again, and so close to my SAHM dream, only to hear some arrogant feminist claim that she knew better than I what I want. *That* is why I think feminism is antithetical to Mothering. 

But that's not the only reason I want nothing to do with the feminists. That first miracle baby was a son, and my second miracle, 4 years later, is also a son. I hate what feminism says about my sons. Feminism takes some admittedly ugly behaviors of some men and generalizes the blame to all men. My sons are not what feminism says men are. Neither is my husband. Or my father and brothers. In fact, I've met only a handful of men, ever, who behave the way feminists paint men. I have no use for a movement that cannot distinguish between actual jerks and the rest of the men in the world. I don't want anything to do with a group that teaches, even indirectly, that my boys are inevitably going to grow up into something horrible: men. They are already well on their way to becoming good and noble men. The kind of men that a Mother smiles about as she says, "That's my boy!"

I was blessed with a 3rd miracle last January, this time a daughter. I hope she never takes up the feminist cause because I don't like what feminism teaches about women. I don't like the shrill, leftist position of feminism. First of all, shrillness is unbecoming on anyone, at any time. Secondly, feminism is all about a victim mentality. My daughter is not a victim of men, or of anyone else. But should someone be cruel to her, I hope she will choose not to become a victim anyway. Victims live in the past, as does feminism. There's no need for that. Feminism teaches that it's all men's fault... as if the women were not in the least responsible for shaping society, or inactive in building our culture, which is a laughable assertion. I want none of either the passive bystander or the angry, shrill protester that are the two images of women I have observed feminism presenting. But more than that, feminism's leftist ways are abhorrent to me. Rather than advocating for freedom for all, feminism seeks to use the power of the government to coerce men into "better" behavior. At every turn they seek judicial and legislative solutions: they seek to address the "oppression" of women by using government, which is by definition, force. Yet the hand that rocks the cradle hold the future in her hands, including the future of the culture. Freedom would have solved every problem without stooping to the same tactic (force) they claim to abhor. Another reason to hope my daughter avoids this movement: even as they say that those women who want to be a SAHM don't actually know what they want, feminists howl with outrage at the suggestion that murdering our unborn is sick an wrong -- even as research shows that the unborn are learning, tasting, sleeping and wakeful, able to feel pain, in short real people. Yet feminists would teach my daughter that her unborn child is no more than an expendable mass of cells at best, and at worst, a parasite. Yes, I hope my daughter always rejects feminist thought. 

I appreciate the valuable educational efforts of Improving Birth. There is a great deal of educating that needs to be done. But I see this as an issue of freedom, and of education. Our culture teaches some horribly wrong things about birth, and like so much of culture, it's transmitted by women, from mother to daughter. Women will seek change as a natural result of education, and if the free market is allowed to operate, people will be falling all over themselves to offer the sort of research-supported practices this Page advocates. We don't need laws, except perhaps to repeal barriers to the proper function of the free market. And we can certainly make these things happen without feminism. 

My Grandma, not a midwife, but a wise woman if ever there was one, lived to personally witness the triumphs of feminism. Near the end of her life she told me, "Feminists should have stopped with the vote." More and more all the time, I am appreciating the wisdom of her words.

P.S. Wanna read more about the adventures at our house? "Like" my blog on Fscebook to get my posts (and the articles n things I wish I had time to blog about) in your feed. Wanna see all the projects and ideas that I may or may not get around to? Follow me on Pinterest. Thanks for stopping by!

16 August 2013

Chatting in Japanese

I majored in Japanese in college, but I didn't do very well, owing to the fact that I hadn't the foggiest idea how to study. I never needed to do it before then, not even in the Spanish or German classes that I fooled around with prior to going to college. It wasn't until I encountered the concept of a commonplace book that I learned how to study, and that idea I ran into just about 6 years ago when we were deciding to homeschool and researching how to go about doing it. If you glance through my comments on President Benson's Proper Role of Government essay, you can see the changes as I learned to study and practiced this new skill learning about the Founding. My study of the Constitution was the first place I ever successfully studied anything on a long-term basis. I've been fooling around with Japanese longer, but it never amounted to anything.

About a year ago, that started to change, and there's a couple reasons for that.

A while back I was on the Well-Trained Mind message boards (I think that's where it was, anyway. I like it there. Go by "Ritsumei". Wave if you see me!) and someone gave me permission to mix languages. See, I had this idea that I couldn't speak Japanese until I could really speak it, all the way. In college they had this great Japanese conversation group. The TAs, the students, the folks who had been over to Japan teaching English, anybody who had two words of the language to show off, they were all invited to invade this great little coffee shop, and they'd just take over the loft and chatter away in Japanese. The TAs that did all the teaching basically demanded that we show up the first few times, and I felt like such an imposter. I couldn't follow the conversations,  I couldn't say anything that was in my head, and the "dialogs" we memorized weren't very useful. (Are those socks nylon? No? Oh, they're cotton. I'll take it. Put it in a bag, please.) So I never said anything. And I only went occasionally, and I missed out on a fantastic opportunity to use the language in an incredibly supportive environment.

But it's OK to mix languages. You say what you can in the language you're learning, and you say the rest in the one you know, and no kittens will die. Particularly not when you're sitting in your living room - or a cozy coffee shop - in America's Midwest. Not only will nothing bad happen, but something good will happen: practice with the words you do know. This is so simple, but it was such a revelation to me! I don't have to be able to discuss politics and philosophy to be able to start speaking!

So I'm teaching my kids Japanese now, and I talk to them in a strange pidgin nearly every day. And it's working. They are understanding more, and they're starting to throw in a word here and there, or a phrase. Our Japanese is a mess. It's full of Dragon's toddler lisps, Hero's uncertainty (he's like me, and inclined to wait till it's just right before allowing it to pass his lips), and my wobbly and incomplete grammar. Our levels of formality are all over the place. But it's happening. I get thanked in Japanese as much as in English. I tell Dragon, 「来てください。」 and he runs over as readily as if I'd said, "Come here, please." It's small stuff still, but it's a start. And since I'm studying, the quality of Japanese I can give them is improving.

Another thing I've learned is that little bits add up. I try to spend a little bit of time practicing, reading about grammar, studying my vocabulary, something, every day. I don't reach that goal, but since I keep trying, I generally get a little something in most days. Often it's no more than 5 or 10 minutes, though I like it when I can spend 30 or even more while I'm nursing, or after the kids go to sleep a couple times a week. It's soothing. Since I've given myself permission to be where I am, and stopped beating myself for not being perfect Right Now, it's fun. If I spend some time studying grammar, then practice making up phrases or sentences using the new construction, odds are good that when I go read the Book of Mormon I'll find something using that, and my understanding will broaden.

Which brings me to the other thing that has made a huge difference: my iPhone. I'm not an Apple person most of the time, and there's things about my phone that make me roll my eyes pretty regularly, but I love my Japanese apps. I've tried more than a few in the past few years, and have settled into a system with some favorites. Being able to cut-n-paste an unknown word from the scriptures into a dictionary and my flash card app has made a huge difference. I love that I can carry a basic grammar reference, a couple sets of flash cards, several dictionaries, and The Book of Mormon and Bible -- in my pocket! Kids playing nicely in the backyard, and nobody needs attention? Awesome. I can flip up to ~60 flashcards in 5 or 10 minutes. Or try to read a verse while I'm waiting for Andy to run into the post office, including copy-n-pasting unknown words into a dictionary. This morning we practiced body parts. At least, that's what I told myself we were doing. I tickled the boys, and names the part I was attacking. And when I didn't know the word for "back," I looked it up without breaking the game! My phone will has a recording of a native speaker reading all the scriptures, so any chapter I want, I can have it read to me. I have an app that puts the English and Japanese (and 3587565436 other languages, if I want 'em) side-by-side, with the verses lined up, so I can easily reference them. We have some kid songs on my phone that I can bluetooth onto the speakers in the car, and off we go, singing the same stuff (kinda) in both languages. Technology is amazing stuff, and it's making a huge difference.

So, more and more all the time, we are chatting it up in Japanese. It's pretty amazing.

P.S. Wanna read more about the adventures at our house? "Like" my blog on Fscebook to get my posts (and the articles n things I wish I had time to blog about) in your feed. Wanna see all the projects and ideas that I may or may not get around to? Follow me on Pinterest. Thanks for stopping by!

14 August 2013


Dragon: Nay! I say NAY!

Hero: Yea. 

Dragon: Nay!!

Hero: I say unto thee, Yea!

Dragon: Nay! English Nay means NO!!

Mom: [must not giggle. must. not. giggle. Do not encourage fighting, not even when it's riotously funny. No giggling!]

12 August 2013

Artist Study: Michaelangelo (Week 1)

We'll do his "Moses" sculpture first, from the tomb of Pope Julius II. It's part of a whole scene that took quite some time to finish.

Photo credit: Wikipedia

This article has a whole bunch of pictures from different angles and several detail shots, as well as an explanation as to why the prophet is depicted with horns. Apparently there was a problem with the translation of the Vulgate, and it lead to Moses having horns on a number of works from that time.

For our second picture, we'll look at this one, Madonna of the Steps. Apparently this is an early work and the only low relief that he did. I like it, even though this article points out some flaws in the perspective.

Photo credit: Wikipedia
There's also a lovely detail of this piece here that I enjoyed.

Balancing Screen Time

Screens are a challenge. Trying to extract the most good from them, while avoiding the pitfalls is a constant. I have seen a few kids, primarily young men, reach adulthood and their life comes screeching to a halt because they cannot self-regulate their screen time and disappear into video games, barely coming up for air. The world is not, I don't think, going to become less video-intense anytime terribly soon, so I need to teach my children to control the screen, rather than be controlled by it.

All this pondering came about when I read an article called, "Video Games: A Blessing or a Curse?" with a very different take on screens from what our family's approach has been thus far. 

We’ve all heard the declarations on both sides of the coin, especially in the unschooling world. One side of the pendulum swing states, “Video games are fabulous; parents shouldn’t put any limits on access to them." The other side of the pendulum swing states, “Too much video game playing is at the crux of many childhood issues, such as obesity, social isolation, and aggression.”

My husband and I fall on the "less is more" side of the pendulum when it comes to most television. And while we do enjoy a few PC games, we have no plans to purchase any of the various console systems. I've considered, seriously, Minecraft, but have not yet taken the plunge. The bulk of the apps on my phone are educational or at least edu-tainment. And even those we limit. There's just so many things to do, to learn, to experience and accomplish, and screens are a huge time-suck that often leave very little space for anything else. The article's author, on the other hand, is much more comfortable with kids spending time in front of screens. (Her youngest, it sounds like, is just older than my oldest. That may be a factor.) Reading about not only her decisions, but the reasoning behind them, has given me some new stuff to mull over, and put words to a few things that have been sort of stewing in the back of my mind. 
For one thing, it's hard to explain to Hero why I'm limiting his screen time, when I use screens, specifically my phone, quite a lot. The author has four sons, each of whom use screens differently, and constructively. And it's that word -constructively - that I've not been paying enough attention to, I think. Bloon Tower Defense and Facebook fall on the "junk screens" side of things, while Mango Japanese, The Federalist Papers online, and math facts games are much more "veggies screens." And that makes a difference. Since some of his school, especially Japanese, has a screen component to it, it's muddying the water and our rules aren't working very well.

So, what do you think? How do you deal with the question of how much is good and when does it become too much?

08 August 2013

A Wocket in Her Pocket

Starting to Read!

Dragon has been soooo close to making those first blends for quite some time now. So close to breaking the code and grasping the concept that takes a pile of letters and magically transforms them into a word.

He did it. Yesterday. 

We've spent some time trying to sound out the CVC words. Cat. Hat. Gun. (He likes that one lots. This kid not only turns pop tarts into guns. Also jelly sandwiches, graham crackers, you name it. If it can become a weapon it will. And, in spite of our best efforts, it generally "shoots" at whoever is closest. Good thing we homeschool.) 

Let's read the word. What does g say? /g/


Can you tell me the word? 

It wasn't really clicking. Too passive. I'm doing too much; he needs to do it. This boy is active. Yesterday we tried something different. We went over only a few words, then I laid them on the table. 

Find my word. I want "mom." 


Can you find mom?

How cool is that?!


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