Monday, July 23, 2012

Many Victims

Aurora haunts the news, as it should. Such an event should drive us to question how we can do better as people, as a society. And so I'm thinking about the shooter.

Let's be clear. I have tremendous compassion and grieve for the people who find themselves in the maze of horror and sorrow. I'm including all of them in my prayers daily, and more often than that. I can't imagine...

But I'm also feeling a lot of grief and compassion for the sad and sick young man who grabbed the gun. Once upon a time, I think as I watch my son in the summer, he was a little guy like mine. Our society failed him. Our culture if manhood left him with no options and no support. We, the greater people following the tragedy, loathe him. The tragedy compounds and contorts.

I'm not excusing or defending him. But I feel very deeply for this young man. I have a brother just his age. I feel for his family, for anyone out there who loves him and now finds themselves aligned with terror... And I hope they still love him.

Should he be restrained, controlled, given treatment for mental ailments, and otherwise punished for his actions? Of course. All actions have consequences and the consequences here are dire. But we can hold him, the person and not his actions, in our hearts and pray that forgiveness find him, that mental well-being can someday be his. We can hold his family in our hearts and pray that they can find peace.

I found an article today in which the author eloquently reminds the reader that each person is more than their actions. (Note: It was on The Good Men Project and I'm still trying to track it down. It seems to have vansished...) We can hate and loathe and despair of the crime, of the brutality. But if we hate and loathe the person - the poor, broken soul, lost in a wilderness of hurt...then, I think, we lose.

There are many victims here. 

We show our young men, through our actions and words, media portrayals, heroes we tell them to emulate, and many other ways, that their feelings are not supported. We tell them not to cry, to be a man, to suck it up, to grab a gun and beat the bad guy. But what if the bad guy is themselves? What if they are attacked by internal demons, or protecting themselves from external demons, and there is no one there to help them navigate? When we are so busy making these "men", we neglect to see a hurting boy. We leave them, lost in a maze of damaging information, and we are shocked when they express themselves like a macho gun-wielding fiend. We've shown them that a real man stiffens his upper lip and guns down the bad guy. We've ignored our sons' pleas for compassion and listening. We are guilty.

This young man has lost his life - maybe not in the permanent way that he took the lives of his victims. But he will not get to experience the beach at sunset, a lover's kiss after a mended fight, the immensity of an old growth forest, or the feel and taste of produce picked fresh from a garden. He will spend his remaining days locked away in institutions that hurt more than they heal. He will fade away until the only association with his name is horror.

At one time, someone - a parent, a nurse in a hospital, a teacher, a pastor - saw the divine light in this being and loved this person. Someone saw he was special. I'm holding onto that for him. I'm holding him in my heart and I'm greiving that we failed this man in such a drastic way.

That's what I would need, if this was my brother... Or my son. Just a little compassion. Just a little Love.

I'm sending all of that to the many victims. And I'm sending it to the broken young man as well.

On top of that, I'm praying that we learn more and more everyday to give our boys and men love, emotional vocabulary and abilities, and unfailing support. Because that's the best way I can think of to prevent similar incidences in the future.


If you also think that we need to do a better job with our young men, there are lots of thoughts about this over at The Good Men Project. If you aren't a regular reader, may I recommend you check it out? Thought provoking stuff. Let's challange the assumptions. 

I know many don't agree with me, that these situations cause a lot of anger and heartbreak. If you comment, please be respectful. Anything mean will be deleted.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Teaching Spelling

Sure, we could learn all kinds of spelling words and follow some age-appropriate program, but it's more fun than that. To learn spelling in this house, we pull out the Scrabble board. Both sides of the family are Scrabble maniacs. At family gatherings with my side, the Scrabble board sits and waits for anyone to make a move. Quick game to 50 points while the kale steams? Totally. Brutal 500 point scoring competition? Yes please! This is something that the Little-Bugs have watched parents and extended family enjoy since they could form memory and they are thrilled when they get to join in.

So it's almost a ritual initiation, as well as a spelling lesson...

But let's go back and cover some of the "Hows" of this spelling method.

Get a spare set of Scrabble or Bananagrams tiles - make sure it is actually spare so that tiles can get lost without impacting the family game set. Set your child up with the tiles, face up, on a tray and see what they can spell without your assistance. Brother-Bug made me laugh out loud when he deftly pulled "CRUD" out of his pile. Talk about the different words you can see. If they start to get frusterated, put together a good two-letter "starter" (like RA) and ask them what letters they can add to make a word.

Brother-Bug contemplates his Banangram options.

Play games of Banangrams - play next to each other so they can spell, you can help, and they can watch the process that an adult goes through to make the word grid. They will also grain new vocabulary this way - double score! Play a combined game with one word grid, working together to find the silliest (grossest, biggest...) words and make them fit.

Let them figure out correct spellings and make mistakes. Help them find the correct answer, but don't provide it right away. In a recent game we went through several permutations to get to the correct spelling of "OUT". English is so hard for spelling - with silent letters, dipthongs, and other abnormalities galore. I truly believe that just playing the games makes in-roads into this complex language of ours in ways that standard spelling programs miss. And it's super fun, which makes the "lesson" more effective.

Get out The Scrabble Board. When you start out with a new speller, have them team up with a grown-up until they want their own set of tiles.

My dad teaching Brother-Bug the ropes...just like he taught me. And I am an awesome speller...

 Play open tiles - everyone helps everyone else spell, no secrets. The new speller gets to see each person's way of finding words in the mish-mash of letters. To that end, verbalize your process; talk about what words you can spell, what you can almost spell, etc.

Go for a combined score instead of individual scores so that everyone is contributing instead of competing. For an added learning bonus, adding up the word scores is a great math lesson. Adding, doubling, trippling...

Have the adults play on high-speed so the kids don't get bored. Grown-up Scrabble players can get really bogged down in the rearranging of their letters and the many possible words - which one is the best? where can it fit? An adult Scrabble turn can take... ... ... forever. Adults should spell words fairly quickly and move on.

With any of these games, stop when the enjoyment and attention of the new speller wanes. Keep it fun and fresh and special. There is no reason that you have to play to the last tile.


Brother-Bug loves that he has been initiated into our world of Scrabble and Bananagrams. Playing with the grown-ups until late at night (9:45!) really made his day. Sister-Bug enjoyed drawing tiles for me and working on counting up to 3. Papa-Bug and I enjoyed having the Scrabble board out for a while. Everyone wins. Everyone learns.

Happy Spelling!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Recipe: Spaghetti Carbonarra with Lamb Bacon

It amazes me that two years ago, I didn't even know that Lamb Bacon existed. It has won its way into my heart as a favortie meat product. I don't know where to buy it, aside from the Deck Family Farm, but if you are a bacon lover and in the Willamette Valley or Portland area... WOW. Try it out! It is intesnely flavorful and wonderfully fatty. It makes a killer BLT (especailly now that the tomatoes are getting ripe).

I wish I could upload the flavor for you. So very decadent

But our favorite thing to do with it? Carbonarra.

Frequently, Carbonarra is made with pancetta or proscuitto. Often people use pork bacon as the meat, but a good pack of Lamb Bacon really makes this dish something special. As a bonus, it's almost laughably simple to create.

Spaghetti Carbonarra with Lamb Bacon

Amazing ingredients for amazing dinner.
1 lb. Lamb Bacon
1 lb. fesh pasta (preferably a larger noodle like linguini. I used egg linguini from Pasta Plus.)

4 egg yolks
3/4 cup heavy cream (like the amazing raw cream from the Deck's Creamy Cow Share. Yum.)
3/4 cup parmesan, plus extra to sprinkle
Salt and Pepper to taste

Chop the bacon into small pieces and fry. Pull out of the grease and set aside. Save the grease - you'll need it later and want the leftovers for something else good.

Cook the pasta to al dente.

While the pasta is cooking, whisk the egg yolks, cream, and parmesan together. Drain the pasta and mix with the dairy sauce over low heat till the sauce thickens and clings to the noodles, about 3-5 minutes. Add the bacon and 2-4 tablespoons of reserved grease, mixing throughly. Season to taste with the salt and pepper.

Serve with a light salad or other veggie. Clearly this meal is the best kind of calorie fest, so keep your sides very light and simple. The Lamb Bacon has such a rich flavor you don't want to try and compete with it.

Also, if you do this and splurge on the Lamb Bacon... Go All The Way. Get really good pasta, cream, and eggs. Get local and raw if you can. I swear you will not be disappointed. It's worth it.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Gratitude* Sunday

A habit over at Wooly Moss Roots, and one I love, is to post a list of Gratitudes from the week. What a nice thing. I thought I would try it out today. I'll miss next week, but only because I'll be out at Country Fair enjoying myself to the max. Not much time for blogging with all the adventures to be had...

This week I am grateful for:

*Fixing my favorite sunglasses. Modled here by Sister-Bug. I'm going to look so good next week!

Last summer I thought they might not be reparable. I'm so glad that I could save them.

*Stimualting converastion with my wonderful husband. I love the way he challanges my thoughts as a person and a writer.

*Time managing to stretch itself around me and the many things I need to get done, and still allowing for time to get my needed pregnancy rest.

*Watching Brother-Bug overcome his fear of fireworks and hold his first sparkler. It took him a while, but he was so happy when he did it.

Sparkling!! Flaming!! Bravery!!

*A really excellent prenatal. Strong heartbeat, felt both head and butt of baby (but still can't tell which is which), and everything was in perfect condition.

*It almost being FAIR!!!

*Having a former, and excellent, elementary educator as my Dad's wife. She's wonderful at helping me asses Brother-Bug's educational needs and also at pushing me to be improve as a teacher.

*It FINALLY being summer. It's hot. I can put on shorts in the morning. We have the windows wide open. I'm luxuriating in heat.

*The first fresh blueberries at Farmer's Market yesterday...and I didn't share them with anyone. I just enjoyed them all to myself while I worked. Ha!

What are you grateful for?

Thursday, July 5, 2012

What About The Prince?

I love synchronicity. Here I am, in my corner of the blogosphere thinking about the ways in which Princesses impact my children. Over at The Good Men Project there is a wonderful essay about The Prince and what noxious stereotypes he teaches.

So now I'm thinking about Princes and how to re-frame what we tell our young men about manliness. I don't have any concrete thoughts about this yet (I just read the essay 20 minutes ago), but I wanted to share the link for those who were interested in the Princess post.
The Good Men Project: How To Be A Prince

Interesting sidenote: as I looked around for prince images, I was intrigued by the very small number of single prince images. Almost all of the pictures involve the Princess. He's not really a stand-alone character, apparently. Lot's to think about!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Princess Power

Princesses are a reality in the world of parenting - especially if you have a daughter. They are on stickers and band-aids and everything else. Even if you try to keep them out of your house, they are at friends' houses. What do we do about our Princesses?

Let's think about this though... Are Princesses really as bad as many people would have us believe? I'm not so sure. I think we leap too quickly to obfuscate Princesses because of the potential that our daughters and sons learn a negative message. In reality, I think it's all in the interpretation and the message you choose to share.

Papa-Bug and I were talking about this. After all, consumerism and marketing aside, we have heartily endorsed Brother-Bug's vehicle & 'Cars' obsessions. What if all Sister-Bug cares about is Sleeping Beauty & Snow White? How can we buy licensed characters for one kid and deny the other kid?

In the course of this conversation, we segued into the broad topic of helping our daughter learn to use her power. Papa-Bug said (to paraphrase) "I find the Princess Power to be a little scary - it's so subtle." That idea raised a red flag in my women's studies brain.

Scary? To you, a privileged white male? Interesting.

Before I delve further, let me state that I deplore the physical representations of the Princesses. They are painfully thin, some of them laughably so. But I'm not her to talk about what they look like. That is a related, yet different topic of discourse.

Let's get back to those scary princesses. Why are they so scary? Because they are powerful. Because its a subtle power, often difficult for someone raised to believe in the "powerful might" to put their finger on. Because the princess manipulates and uses her power through biology and desires that subdue the powerful might. Because it's a power that a man can not posess nor fully understand.

This power - the power of looks and biology (read: sex) - is a power that women have used for millenia. When women were chattel, posession of father then husband, it was all the power they had. The Goal was marriage - until very recently it was the only truly viable goal and option for the majority of women on the planet. It is only within the last half-century that Barbie could become an astronaut.

So women developed this power. Good, bad or beautiful, they worked with what they had - their bodies - and evolved complex habits and rituals to keep that power intact. I'm going out on a historical limb here, but assuming that most children's stories were likely concocted by a mother trying to get a child to hear a lesson and/or settle down...Mothers told stories to their daughters that featured young women (princesses) who presevered in the face of hardship to attain The Goal (the prince and marriage).

Princesses are powerful and they always achieve The Goal.

We want our daughters to be powerful right? So did whoever came up with these age-old tales to help their daughters learn to use the power that they had. And what a power it is! History is full of tales of beautiful women who use their skills to subdue the mightiest men. No wonder it's scary.

Fast-forward through bloomers at the end of the 19th century, sufferage, women in factories in both World Wars, and a Feminist Movement that brought us ever closer to equality. We have lots of possible goals now - wife or astronaut, teacher or congress-woman. I'm not here to say that marriage and baby making is The Goal anymore. But even though women's options have increased and our horizons have broadened, Princesses are still powerful.

My favorite Princess. Grace Kelly.
And if we deny our daughters knowledge of and access to that Princess Power, are we not cutting them off from some amazing aspects of Womens' History? If we take away that power, what do we replace it with? We can talk and write and discourse for hours about the power of the empowered woman, and advocate for the ERA, non-gendered toys, and positive role models for young women... But those are lacking in the magic and mystique that appeals to little children. Why don't we accept that Princesses are here, historically important, and that they aren't going anywhere? How can we find ways to show our daughters how very strong and cool a princess can be?

I am choosing, as a parent, to embrace Princesses for all their might. I'm going to celebrate their strength. When my kids are older (because you know that Brother-Bug is as much or more into Princesses than his sister is) I will show them historical Princesses and we will talk about thier role in the world. We will enjoy Princess movies and Princess tales.

I will not villify something that has so much potential for teaching strength and courage. I will not tell my daughter that ANY woman is bad/evil/wrong, even if she is pencil thin with gigantic eyes.

I will point out how cartoon women's bodies are...not accurate.

I WILL play dress up with my Princess-loving children.

Because Princess costumes are FUN! Much more fun than an empowered feminist dress-up set - what would that even look like?


I have more thoughts on Princesses, so keep your eyes tuned. Princess Ariel (from Disney's Little Mermaid) is one of my new favorite feminist figures. Wonder why? Stay tuned!

Also, I realize this is potentially inflammatory for lots of people. I welcome your comments as long as you keep said comments in the spirit of inquiry, conversation, and polite disagreement. I will delete any comments that are mean or disrespectful. 

Monday, July 2, 2012

Recipe: Simplest Strawberry Pie

I promised some strawberry recipes - results of our wonderful strawberry picking expedition at Riverbend Farm. Their u-pick strawberries are done, but I've heard tell of all kinds of other berries coming ripe. This pie would work with any kind of berry, as long as you get a good corresponding jam.

Really, this is so easy it shouldn't count as a recipe. But here you go anyway.

One baked pie shell - I wrote out my thoughts on pie crust here, or you can check out this tasty almond (and therefor gluten free, paleo-friendly) crust here.

Approximately 4-6 cups of washed and cut strawberries.
1 cup strawberry jam (fresh made? use up last years?)
Zest and juice of one lemon

8 oz. whipping cream or 4 oz. whipping cream & 4 oz. marscapone cheese
Pinch of sugar (optional)
1 tsp. vanilla

Put the jam, lemon juice, and zest in a small sauce pan. Heat to thin the jam and mingle the flavors. Mix with the strawberries. Taste - add sugar or honey if you feel it needs it. I never think it does.

Fill the crust with the berries. Whip the cream till it forms soft peaks. Use 4 oz. if you are adding the marscapone, 8 if not. I add vanilla to whipped cream, but not sugar. Do what moves you. To make the topping truly decadent, use 4 oz. whipping cream, once it is whipped add in 4 oz. marscpone and whip again to combine. Spread on the top of the pie. Decorate with a few extra strawberries if you wish.

That's so easy. And tasty, as you will note by the lack of pictures.

Recipe: Lamb & Cabbage with Fennel

Thus far, Summer is a tease. We will have a day - maybe two! - of warmth and sun, only to be plunged back into dreary, muggy, rainy days. I'm craving the flavors of summer - corn, tomatoes, cherries - but the weather calls for different foods. Grrrrr.

The following recipe is a result of wanting a rich and warm dinner, but also lighter summer fare. The results were very pleasant and just fit the bill. The fennel is flavorful and summery, but the warm lamb and cabbage helped combat the cold and dreary day.

When I posted about Lamb Burgers, I mentioned what a difference there is between pastured lamb and cheap lamb. Don't compromise on this. Like most of the meat we eat, our lamb is raised on organic pastures at Deck Family Farm.

This was a slow cooker meal, but with a little time to simmer it would also work well on the stove.

Lamb & Cabbage with Fennel

1 lb Lamb stew chunks
1 tbl. oil or lard
3-4 cups chopped green cabbage
1 fennel bulb
6-8 new potatoes
2-3 cups water
1 tsp caraway seeds
1 tbl dried oregano
Salt and pepper

Heat a frying pan and warm the oil. Brown the lamb chunks.

While they are browning, cube the potatoes, and coarsely chop the fennel and cabbage. Layer potatoes, greens, and browned lamb in the slow cooker. Sprinkle the caraway and oregano over the top. Add the water - less for a thicker stew broth, more for a thinner soup broth.

Cover and cook on high for 4 hours or low for 8 hours. Stir once or twice in the last hour or two. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with crusty bread and a salad.