The kids went to get their eyes checked for the first time ever, last week.
Since I was taking a two-year old who's been finally cutting her molars and is Miss CrankyPants-I-Will-Hit-You-Just-Because-I'm-In-Pain-And-You-Are-The-Closest-Thing and a four-year old who likes to disassemble everything she lays eyes on, I thought it best to bring along Babysitter J for back up. There are eyeglass frames laying out all over the store, many in perfect toddler reach.
So there we sat in the office, Nat up in the examining chair, J and I in the back, with Selina crawling between us. The doctor said to Nat in a schmarmy condescending voice, "do you know your ABCs, honey?" Nat didn't even seem to really understand what he was asking so I said "she knows them!" and the doctor proceeded to flash up the first eye chart.
The chart read "H R N"
"Hern," said Nat.
I then hastily explained to Nat that these weren't words and she should just read out the letters for the doctor. I stood up and pointed to each one as she read. Her eyes turned out to be fine.
Next was Selina's turn. The doctor flashed up a chart with silhouettes of a fish, a car, a tree, an airplane. Selina looked at the slightly curvy fish. "S?" she asked.
I pointed to the tree. "No sweetie, they aren't letters. What's this?"
"T?" she wondered.
I figured she thought we wanted her to identify letters as she'd just watched her sister do. I asked the doctor to use letters instead of pictures. So he put up a chart that read "E S N Z"
Selina grinned, raised her right hand in the air and signed "E" then "S." But she didn't make a peep with her voice.
"That's right! I said, "good job, smart girl!"
The doctor looked befuddled. "She can see them just fine," I explained.
But before Selina had her turn, the doctor was looking into Nat's eye with the light and he told her "Look over my shoulder at your mom and dad." Again, Nat didn't seem to get it.
Now neither J nor I really care if people mistake us for a hetero-nuclear family. But my mind was racing ahead to the fact that Nat will be starting at her school next month. She is going to be hearing a lot about her theoretical "dad" from people all the time. So I decided to let it be a teachable moment.
"Nat, darling," I asked her, "is J your dad?"
"No!" said Nat, like anyone who might think that must be crazy, "he's J!"
"Do you have a dad?" I asked her further.
"No--I have two moms!" she clarified.
"Oh! that's nice" said the doctor.
So now she knows that A) it's not a secret that her family is a little atypical B) a possible script for clearing up any confusion in that department and C) people won't be mad or freaked out or anything over it. (I knew the eye doctor wouldn't be--he's probably gay himself and the clinic is in Lesbianville, Chicago.)
Nat's school is technically queer-family-friendly. There are a couple of other same-sex-headed families there. Two children of lesbians are in her age group (3-6 year-olds), but neither are in her actual class. I have a feeling the default theoretical family teachers and other kids will imagine and refer to will be a mommy-daddy-kids family. Nat has already internalized that norm from watching her various videos. PBS kids may have some high quality educational shows, but they are no better than anyone else when it comes to family diversity.
And I have been anxious as heck about all this for a few weeks now.
Originally, we planned to homeschool at least until the kids were around 8 or 9 or even older, in large part to keep them from facing too much marginalization due to all their difference from the other kids--like the whole, interracial-queer-adoptive family thing, ya know? I figured I'd teach them until they were ready to kick serious butt (intellectually that is) if needed, to stand up for themselves and feel expressive and confident.
Then we moved, and I found a school that seemed like maybe it will be a good fit and the kids won't be all that different and the school values difference anyway and yadda yadda now I'm panicking.
It's not that I don't know Nat will manage just fine. It's just that she's only four and a half. I want her to feel strong and confident when she's facing that kid who insists a girl can't marry a girl (however innocently). And there have already been a couple of foreshadowy incidents on the public playground here, in which a boy about 5ish years old was judging her for her less-than-stellar performance on the jungle gym (Nat's gross motor skills are still very late, though not enough to truly be considered "delayed") and then later tried to pull her hat off to see her hair because he thought in this way he could determine her true gender, though upon being asked, she had already told him she was a girl.
(I took note recently that almost all of the girls' play clothes are from the "boys'" departments of the stores and almost all their dress up clothes are dresses. I just tend to not like play clothes for girls and I tend to LOVE the dresses I find for them.)
Cole intervened in this stuff with this particular boy and Nat is just too naive to feel bad about it anyway. She's all like "yeah I'm a girl, yeah, I have pretty braids, yeah I'm new to the monkey bars, wanna be best friends forever?"
And thus I see her as a lamb among, well, if not wolves, sort of overly rambunctious puppies, perhaps, who might inadvertently nip her too hard when she's least expecting it.
One thing I've been doing is teaching her language that she might hear so she can make it her own and/or correct people who use the wrong language. I've been teaching her that "when two girls love each other and get married and are two moms with kids, that's called 'lesbians.'" I'm also teaching her that the same re: boys is called "gay" and the same re: a boy and a girl is called "straight."
If someone says "your moms are lesbians!" I want her to know that everybody has a label of this type and if need be, she can say "your parents are straight!"
So bent am I on instilling this in her that we are going to make three collages and hang them on the bedroom wall. One will be called "Lesbians" and will feature pictures of female couples looking goo-goo at each other. The other two will be similar, and titled, "Gay" and "Straight."
If all of this sounds silly, well, guess what? One of the issues that I have often read about in books on the topic suggests that even kids whose parents are 100% out and have been since the kid was born may leap to the defensive and insist "no way!" if/when some other kid says "your dad is gay!" for example. It could be that there's never been a reason to introduce the term at home, since it is just the normative family style, just like most kids with a mom and a dad wouldn't "know" their parents are "straight."
Also, when the term "gay" inevitably gets thrown around as an insult, Nat can play Raffi to whatever Billy is up in her face.
I put some thoughts about Henry Louis Gates, President Obama, and raising Black children up over at Strollerderby. I am bracing myself for nastiness. I can't believe that Obama had to apologize and the white police officer refuses to do the same, insisting HE's the victim here.
Cry me a flippin' river.
P.S. to the news media:
Dr. Henry Louis Gates is not "Skip" to you anymore than Dr. Codoleeza Rice is "Condi" to you. Knock off the disrespect.
Here's the squash I grew from seed. The little squash are finally starting to look like they might be edible someday. the biggest one is about the size of my little finger:
Tomatoes I bought as plants. So far, they are exceptionally fecund. I've lost count of how many tomatoes are there. My chiropractor told me the squirrels won't be interested until they start to turn red, so I have my eye out for that. If they get any, I'll harvest them half-ripe and let them sit in the kitchen window for a couple of days. That's my father-in-law's strategy with his beefsteaks. These are Romas and they are getting bigger than I expected them to. Thumbs up for the self-watering 24" pots:
I bought four sweet pepper plants when they were pretty little, after all the ones I started from seed up and died inexplicably. These are three-color peppers. I wasn't sure how big they would get and if the pot would work out okay (12"). They are doing really well. I only have one pepper so far, but loads of blossoms. And this one grew really fast! In like a week or something, it went from a speck to a recognizable pepper:
I will never have a bumper crop of lima beans I'm afraid. But they have rallied after being bitten down to stubs by squirrels. I have two pots of them and will be lucky if I harvest enough for a single serving. Probably won't bother next year. (Those are chives in the edge of the pot--they are a bumper crop!):
Carrots! Whoo-hoo! I cannot wait to pull these up. I pulled one up the other day and it was about a quarter inch long, so I'm sitting on my hands now. I have this pot of quite mature ones, and a few smaller ones in two window boxes. Oddly, the squirrels have left them alone and tried to dig up the basil planted in a pot next to this instead. Basil???
This is one of my own tomatoes grown from seed. It was about an inch tall 6 weeks ago, which is why I broke down and bought some plants. I couldn't let my seedlings go, however, so I planted the two strongest looking ones. It's looking pretty good now. I doubt it will make it to fruiting stage, but I am using it as a sort of experiment. Next year, I do think I'll do seeds again, but start super early, like in late January or early February. I didn't really start these until about mid-April this year. That's parsley planted around the tomato:
Finally, my prairie! Here are some wildflowers I don't know at all. But they are pretty. You can't see the milk bottle when you look up at the urn they are planted in, but I couldn't take a picture of the sky without losing the detail in the flowers. So pay no attention to the milk bottle:
I was gonna call it, "How To Get Your Kids To Eat Kale" but thought better of it. Because kids--they're a mixed bunch. You just never know. Still, if you want your kids to eat kale and they don't eat it, you're welcome to try my technique.
Time was when Nat had leafy greens daily. Remember Green Supper? Ah the golden days of baby and toddlerhood! These days, I sneak frozen spinach into mac and cheese, spaghetti sauce, under the cheese on the pizza--otherwise they'd never get greens at all. (Selina might, but she suffers from second child syndrome and typically gets whatever Nat's getting, thus fewer greens than Nat got at her age.)
Anyway, I have some kale in one of my back porch window box planters. It's a variety called "perpetual spinach" because it's mild and can be used as a substitute for spinach,but is easier to grow and just keeps going all season.
I have cut it, cooked it, served it raw--none of these things got a thumbs up from the kids (they did from Cole and me, though). Instead, they'd chew it, spit it out, play with it, toss it on the floor and otherwise waste this awesome fresh green that should be in their little bodies fighting oxidants and making them super girls.
Until they were playing outside while I picked it. "I want a leaf!" declared Nat.
"What? This kale?" I asked.
"Yeah, the kale!" she said. I gave her a baby leaf. She gobbled it down. "I want anther one!" she begged.
By now, Selina was at my ankles, whining "Me too! Me too!" (her perpetual battle cry). I stood there pulling them off one leaf at a time until my kale was cut back to the roots. They ate it with gusto. About every three days, I get enough mature leaves to repeat this and so far, they haven't caught on to the fact that this is the same thing they have rejected on a plate time and again.
Kale. The new Ice Cream Truck.
Give it try with yours and let me know how it goes!
A couple of days ago, Selina mistook someone on the street for Babysitter J (her favorite person on the planet Earth). She called his name happily, but we told her it was someone else. The man turned around and looked at her with distinct annoyance on his face. "Say hi!" we cajoled Selina, because we felt awkward. But after a couple of times being told this, Selina looked the obviously disgruntled man in the eye and said, calmly, "I don't want to say hi."
Well good for her. She shouldn't have to make us feel less awkward about a perfectly harmless baby mistake or feel the need to be polite and conciliatory to strangers who aren't polite and conciliatory themselves. Anyway, that's my humble opinion. I think it's a very good thing to be polite and gracious, and we are certainly teaching our kids that. But you know, girls are asked far too much by our culture to smile and act nice for the benefit of others. And they shouldn't have to if they don't want to. I was proud of Selina for discerning that this strange, annoyed man was not someone she really wanted to engage. She wanted to engage her beloved J.
Nat is a champ in her Spanish class. She really loves the teacher and I think the teacher is rather fond of her too. But they do this weird thing at the school. They use a plant mister--a little spray-bottle full of water, and they squirt the kids with it as a reward when they respond in an exercise or game. I can't even imagine how anyone came up with that idea. I see a water mister and think "cat punishment" right? But the other kids (not Nat) just laugh and giggle and seem to love it when the teacher squirts them with this water bottle.
So it was Nat's turn, and she dutifully did whatever the teacher was aiming for her to do and the teacher squirted her. I was peeking through the classroom window and I saw Nat flinch. I happen to know she hates to be sprayed with anything, because she complains whenever I spray water or conditioner on her hair when I'm braiding it. So the teacher made it around the circle and got back to Nat again. She asked Nat for a response again, and Nat hesitated, looked the teacher in the eye, and said calmly but clearly, "I don't want you to spray me with that water." The teacher told her that was fine and she promised not to spray Nat any more. Then Nat gave her the answer she wanted, and the teacher cheered her sin water sprayer.
I was just really impressed that Nat didn't cry or throw a tantrum or try to leave the circle, (or come looking for me) but neither did she submit to something she didn't like. She named her boundary politely and made sure it was going to be respected before she went on with the exercise.
Really, I think I was as proud of that as I was of her quick and ready responses to the instruction. Prouder even, maybe.
I wouldn't have done that at four. No way, no how. I would have rolled over with whatever awful thing the adult was doing or telling me to do. I was a meek little kid. Nat is not meek, but she is not rude, either. Go Nat!
These are my squash. It's difficult to see them, and yes, they are teensy, but there are four little squash on the vine so far. This was taken two days ago and the "big" one here in the middle is already twice this size and the next biggest one is this big.
My other squash died after being decimated by a sudden thunderstorm. Its main stem broke and that was all she wrote.
But I am somewhat surprised and definitely pleased by how well the remaining one is doing. Next year, I'll probably plant four of these.
This is the same plant, but I wanted you to see my nifty self-watering bottle. It's a terra cotta stake that goes into the container and then you fill a bottle of water and stick it down in there. These are mineral water bottles I painted to keep the light out so they wouldn't grow too much algae.
Here's one of my tomatoes. Except not really. Fine, I broke down and bought two plants. Both are doing well. They had blossoms when I bought them, which I pruned off. Soon they had more blossoms and now they have green tomatoes. I have about four on each plant now. My actual tomato seedlings are still only about an inch tall. What's up with that? I started them in early April! They are healthy, but only have four leaves each!
Remember the silly milk bottle in the middle of this planter? It's finally doing what I had planned and hiding under the wild flowers. Some are getting buds, including the teddy bear sunflowers I put all around the outer rim.
The lettuce produced beautifully for a month and we had many delicious salads. It's pretty much done now, so I planted carrots in that planter. I also put carrots in the pots where the cucumbers bit it and in the space which held the short-lived and under-producing broccoli raab.
This has nothing to do with gardening. It's Nat's picture of a guitar on her magnadoodle. She was very proud and keen that I take a picture and preserve it forever. I have to say, I am impressed. It's pretty good for a magnadoodle, don't you think? She drew it from life, copying her ukulele:
I know it's Father's Day today and many of you are celebrating that. We have many wonderful fathers (and faery godfathers!) in our lives and we wish them all the best. But for our two-mom family, today is special for another reason:
Selina at 24 months old is something along the lines of 31.5 or 32 inches tall (and wiggly). That would make her 5'4" ish when she grows up, which is taller than I expected. Her mom is only about 4'11"--maaaayyybe 5 feet--tall.
I forgot to measure Nat at 24 months, but her mom is about 5'4". So we'll see, but I am guessing the girls will be similarly medium-short when they are grown.