The Education of a Witch

Which could also be titled, “The Education of a Large Segment of the Population Deemed to be ‘Bad'”. Anyway, you should really go and read this short story by Ellen Klages, who had been added to my ‘authors to investigate’ list because this story is just… intelligentheartbreakingrealhonesttrue.

Here’s the comment I posted to Ada Hoffmann’s blog, who initally linked to the story.

Yes, [Lizzy is treated almost entirely as a problem and not a person, and there seems to be no one willing to acknowledge that she’s feeling scared and abandoned,] although there’s almost a touch of understanding when Mrs Dickens goes ‘ah, new baby, of course’. I confess, I hoped at that point that Mrs Dickens would know what was going on and had isolated Lizzy in order to come talk to her about witches being real but that she had to be responsible with her talents etc etc… Mm, been reading too much Pratchett lately, I think. (Not that it is ‘too much’, just that my expectations were clearly set too high).

I feel ridiculously sorry for Lizzy; I love that she’s challenging the dominant narrative; I am annoyed at the parents for their blatant disrespect for that, and depressed because so many adults do exactly that.

I didn’t read the ending as intented murder, though. The narrative says she was angry at Mum and the baby and wotsie, the boy, so she made the boy’s nose bleed. She’s drawing up the fire at the end not to kill anyone (though granted that may be an unintended consequence) but to express her anger, something that no one has been allowing her to do before now.

Kids are not born knowing how to express their emotions. It’s something adults are supposed to teach them as they grow up. Poor Lizzy has no one even ACKNOWLEDGING her emotions, let alone showing her how to appropriately express them – of course she’s going to let them out any way she can.

But for me, this was not the least bit creepy, and was terribly, terribly sad. Horrific, yes, but not in the scary-creepy-horror story sense. Rather in the ‘that is so tragic it is horrifying’ sense.

Heartbreaking. Absolutely heartbreaking. A very intelligent and commanding story.

 

Basically, it boils down to something it’s trendy to call ‘ageism’, which frankly as a term I do not like, simply because a lot of people (willfully) misunderstand it to mean that children should be given free rein. However, this is a misunderstanding caused by a conflation of the two concepts ‘rights’ and ‘freedom’, and a whole lot of nineteenth century notions about the supremacy of the individual versus society, etc and so on. Having equal rights does not entail being allowed to do whatever the hell you like.

Ageism, therefore, is not about treating kids the same as adults, i.e. never telling them what to do, not forcing them to do anything they don’t want to, etc (why? because frankly that’s stupid and unhealthy :P), but rather about giving children equal RESPECT to adults – which, ultimately, is what we actually mean when we talk about ‘equal rights’ anyway. Equal doesn’t mean identical, and there is no way that everyone on the planet ever CAN have identical lives – also, HOW BLAND. Rather, we want everyone to be equally respected, and have access to things based on that respect. Though, dude, clean water and food would be a nice way to begin with the ‘equal means identical’ thing.

Ahem. Sidetracking. My specialty. Ageism, therefore, is a concept that refers to the way that children are discriminated against not in the behavioural sense per se, but in terms of respect for their emotions. People who say ‘Oh, I wish /I/ was a baby again!’ (and with a currently-10-month-old, yes, I’ve heard that several times in the last year) MAKE ME MAD. OH, SO YOU’D LOVE TO BE UNABLE TO MOVE YOURSELF AROUND, TEND TO YOUR OWN BASIC NEEDS, COMMUNICATE ANYTHING BUT THE MOST BASIC OF CONCEPTS (smiling or crying), EXPERIENCE HORRIBLE PAIN THAT IS ALSO TERRIFYING BECAUSE HEY, WHAT THE HELL IS THIS FEELING THAT I HAVE NEVER EVER FELT BEFORE AND WHY DOES IT HURT AND WILL IT EVER STOP AND HOW DO I KNOW I’M NOT DYING? (Also known as stomach upsets and teething). Oh YES, being a baby sounds FREAKING AWESOME. NOT.

And yet, there are people out there to whom I have said almost exactly that (though I promise, with less capitalisation), who still go – eh, they get to sleep all day and don’t have to do anything.

Way to completely dismiss someone else’s humanity, moron. A cow gets to sleep all day and do nothing too. Maybe you’d be better off bovine.

So. If you haven’t yet, go read the story. It’s a beautiful (if fantastic ;)) example of what happens when children’s emotions are dismissed as not real, or not real enough, or simply just not as real as adult feelings. Guys, I REMEMBER being a child. Compared to life now, sure, I had it good; most kids do. But at this time, being a kid is all you know, and pain still hurts. Give the little people* some respect.

 

* And yes, all of this is a large part of the reason why the 10-mth-old has been called Small Person and Small Boy his entire life. I feel awkward calling him a baby, because it’s too close to synonymous with ‘squidgy thoughtless blob’, and he is anything but. He IS a person – just a very small, very inexperienced one.

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Randomly, Wet Wipes

Another baby-paraphernalia post, but in case anyone is a) interested and b) in Australia, Woolworths Select brand wet wipes are the free-est from chemical nasties. I wouldn’t advise munching on them (much to Small Boy’s intense displeasure – he loves the things and will hunt down the packets with ridiculous focus), and there are a bunch of ingredients listed as skin irritants, but nothing actually toxic in and of itself, and nothing carcinogenic, and nothing listed as an environmental toxin.

 

Double check for yourself at www.ewg.org/skindeep, of course, but I’m happy enough with this as an alternative to flannels and spray (which I do still use, but let’s face it, there are some nappy changes where you really want to be able to just toss everything away >.<).

The Making Of…

We’re nearly out of baby wipes. I went to the supermarket about a week ago, intending to buy some (along with groceries for the week), and came out with none. Every single brand except one was choc full of parabens (emerging research – example – shows that high concentrations of parabens are found in breast cancers, and that they encourage tumour growth; the exact link is as yet unknown, and of course, for every study linking the two, there is a study claiming no link – and bearing in mind the fact that a lot of scientific reserach is funded by companies who have a significantly vested interest in parabens NOT being linked to breast cancers… Well, let’s just say I’d much rather be safe than sorry.), and the one that had no parabens was – yay – the organic brand, but – boo – more expensive than I was willing to pay.

Given I’d read like a year or more ago, when still pregnant, that making your own was dead easy, I figured it was time to give it a try. It’s taken a week and of course I decided to do it on the day when I’m sick and feel like my face is going to explode. Maybe trying to distract myself from how ick I feel? But anyway. I’m quite pleased with the result.

I decided to go with the spray-on method. I’d bought a box of wipes (rather than a packet) relatively recently, half-thinking that I’d use the box to make my own wipes when it was empty, but reading around and thinking about it, there doesn’t seem to be a way to avoid making new batches of wipes pretty frequently with this method – too much liquid in the box, it’ll spill everywhere, and the bottoms ones will be soaked and useless, not enough liquid and the paper towel that is the base of the wipes will dry out, and as a friend pointed out, there is always the potential for mould o.O

So. Another blog I found talked about using cloth wipes, and to do that, you just dampen the cloth before using. Tried that at one point, and it was massively inconvenient, because I’d sit down to nappy-change and realise I haven’t wet the cloth, and kid was now half naked, and it was all just too late.

Enter the spray bottle. Which, once I thought of it, I saw in a bazillion places around the web, so you know. A friend linked me to this page, with some ‘recipes’ on it, and being the person I am I mixed and matched. This is what I ended up doing:

 

  • Boil some water, and make a large mug of chamomile tea. The brand I have also includes citrus peel, rosehip, and liquorice root. Double checked, and all are not only safe but good for the skin, so win there.
  • Add the mucousy pulpy insides of an aloe vera leaf. I think it was probably a little less than a tablespoon of the gunk in the end.
  • 4 drops of lavendar essential oil (remember to go easy on the essential oils as they can irritate the skin otherwise).
  • 2 ish tablespoons of grape seed oil (or any good-for-the-skin oil).
  • Put it all into a spray bottle, top it up with cold water if there’s room, wait for it to cool, and use! Spray it onto cloth wipes or paper towels or whatever else you’d like to use, and change those nappies! :o)

 

Also under the category of ‘making of’, I’m in the middle of making a batch of the world’s most heavenly body butter today – it’s in the fridge cooling. It smells like chocolate, you can spread it on toast, it hydrates without stripping your natural oils, and it really is just amazing. Recipe is from my friend Steph here, but instead of coconut and macadamia oils I used grape seed and apricot kernel (and lessened the amount slightly to compensate for the fact that neither are solid like coconut oil). Can’t wait to see how it turns out!

 

In Which Blogs And Babies Are My Church

You can tell I’ve been reading Sarah Bessey when I want to start all the post titles with ‘In which’… 😉

So, did not end up travelling out to camp after all. In the middle of the night I woke feeling like it probably wasn’t a good idea, and then in the morning I got a message from dad, who had been going to drive me out there (me being carless and all), and when I rang and spoke to him we decided that yes, it would probably be more sensible if I stayed at home.

When I stay home all day, it’s very, very, oh-far-too-easy for one day to become exactly like the others. It’s hard to maintain a sense of separation, and it’s especially hard when I’m home alone, or alone with the small boy, to make my Saturday a Sabbath. Much as I love listening to music, our collection is a mess (has been for years, that’s why I stopped listening to music all the way back at the end of highschool), we have no particularly convenient way to listen to it, and I usually have the TV off when I’m home by myself anyway. So how is the day any different?

Today, two things. Rather than going indiscriminately through my feed reader and reading All Teh Blogz, I decided I would concentrate on the blogs that to me, are church: Sarah Bessey and Elizabeth Esther in particular today. The main posts I read and loved today are listed below.

The other thing – the verse I read last night before bed – I’m reading the Bible again, on my phone, a short devotion with a verse or two, I’ve read the whole thing cover to cover and I don’t know how to read it any more, I’m relying on my phone devotionals, but the last set I chose fizzled, it’s been a while since I’ve been reading regularly – was about love and self sacrifice, the verse about no man having any greater love than to lay down his life for a friend, and every time I beg God for direction of late, crying out for something to do, a difference to make, the answer is always, every time: Small Person.

And so I thought that maybe today would be about laying aside myself for the Small Boy, and so I tried, and we looked at the dogs until he’d had enough for once (which took over half an hour), and I sat him in the big kitchen sink with a towel and filled up the small sink with warm water and cups and spoons and drink bottles, and we played and poured and splashed, and we read stories and watched the dogs some more, and played a little on the ipad, and ate oranges and watermelon and grapes and pretended it was summer. For one day, I put aside the computer except when he was sleeping, I didn’t try to do anything but Be, and I Was, and it was hard, and required so much less multi-tasking than I am used to, and so much more patience – but you know what?

It was church.

 

7 Worst International Aid Ideas

Why Disappearing Into Motherhood Is Not A Betrayal of Feminism

In Which I Admit To Being Afraid Of Poverty

Can You Be Christian And Drive A BMW?

I Asked God To Break My Heart

Running is My Religion

True Tolerance

Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby!

The Pornification of Marriage

Saving Me

I read a beautiful post on Sarah Bessey’s blog about what was saving her. She invited everyone to participate, and I am late to the party, because I always am what with one thing or another, but here I am at last, and I bear cake.

What is saving me is this: wonderful blogs, and finally having a space of my own on the internet where I can say what I’m thinking and think what I’m saying and somehow align the two. Wise words, beauty in life, small moments captured in the hecticness of life. A husband who can cook and clean, who rides out my exhausted tantrums, who is God’s love incarnate in oh-so-many ways. Books are always saving me, and at the moment it’s Dresden Files and Kate Daniels, new short sotry authors, and thinking of new texts for school. It’s the people who surround me in my day-to-day moments, the ones I’m blessed to share my minutes with, the ones I love, who let me be me, who take my quirkiness in their stride – it’s you, because you’re one of these people, sharing my life with me, laughing with me as I sometimes stumble.

But mostly – oddly – it’s dog poo, and putting the small person to bed. Because he’s been crying and fussing and not wanting to leave my side, and so to clean up the yard I strapped him on and wore him until my back muscles cried, and we worked in the warmth of a pre-spring afternoon, sunshine gilding his hair, like yellow labrador hair, and the smiling eyes of our dogs. I moved, and used my body in the way it was designed to be used, and carrying a child so close felt like the small heaven of quiet-soul moments, felt like the sunbright warmth of connected people, felt like happy dog fur, which is both happy-dog fur, and happy dog-fur, tumbling freewheeling spiralling in the breeze as I scoop and shovel, scoop and shovel.

No one knew that dog poo could be spiritual. (Well probably they did, but my soul had never heard it.)

It’s putting him to bed, forced into slower rhythm of twilit rooms, of soft white humming of the washing machine and droning from a far-distant tv. It’s knowing I can’t leave because he wants me close, it’s realising that I need him close, and learning to enjoy, to stop, to not be forced, because when I have nothing better to do I love these nighttime rhythms, and I have nothing better to do, because he is a priority. So I sing into his forehead as I lower him to the mattress, pat his stomach, smooth his hair, give him Eeyore and drap myself along his cot like a swooning maiden made kneeless by sighs of love, and my heart swells, and I remember dog poo, and how soul-quiet comes when we let it, not when we demand it.

I lie on the floor, still singing, still humming, and for the first time all day I let myself relax, and putting him to sleep is no longer hard, draining work, but my solace in a frantic day, and I thank God for a small child who needs me, even though I am tired of need, because I need need, and he needs me, and it because of this that I am lying on the floor soothing myself as much as him.

One day, I will remember lessons learned in soul-quiet moments, and the moments will come thicker – like honey, maybe, the sweet glaze over a life well lived, slow and luscious and dreamy.

I wrap my smile around the thoughts of honey, and take my saving thoughts to bed.