Damn Sexy Ducks

Our ducks are lesbians.

We only have female ducks, but numerous times I’ve looked out the window and seen them all humping one another in one big, quacking duck orgy. Just more evidence, I think, to prove my point that everyone just likes having sex and if no other options present themselves, we’re more than happy to have sex with whomever, whenever, regardless of their gender because sex is awesome.

Our ducks have also been laying eggs, so yay there! We’ve been getting one egg in the mornings and are up to about 6, I think, with the duck that’s laying skipping a day here and there. I have yet to try any of our duck eggs, but DH and Alpha have and it had a superb yolk, I heard.

Our chicken pullets have also started laying and we’re getting more and more eggs. Today the count was 16! I’m sure it will be more as the time goes by since we have 25 bullets and 15 hens. That should produce more than enough eggs for us to use and for us to sell. Strangely, even though we don’t have a rooster, I don’t see the chickens mating with each other. Instead, they get down into mating position whenever I, DH, or Alpha approach them. This makes them extraordinarily easy to catch, though it is slightly disturbing and reminds me of the South Park Chicken Fucker episode. The pullets are particularly into it, thumping their feet like rabbits as they hunch down. I’m almost looking forward to having a new rooster to keep the flock in line and *ahem* entertain the ladies.

I’ve heard of situations where less dominate roosters have decided to keep ducks company as well. I can’t help but wonder if that will happen in our case. If not, maybe my ducks can participate in a gay pride festival. We could tie rainbow streamers to them and everything and they could waddle down the street! It would be awesome!


Some friends Aren’t

Before I had my second child, a friend promised me she’d bring me a meal after the baby was born.

Except she didn’t.

I would have thought she’d forgotten, if she hadn’t constantly reminded me that she hadn’t yet brought me a meal. At 3 weeks postpartum, she still hadn’t been by yet and she messaged me, saying “I feel so guilty I haven’t brought you a meal yet. Do you still need one?” I responded that yes, I could really use the help since Beta was colicky and I was having a really hard time adjusting to two kids and felt exhausted. A meal, a nice chat with a comforting friend would have done me a world of good.

Except she didn’t come over or bring me a meal.

At four weeks postpartum, her husband went on a work trip and so I decided to invite her over, figuring she would have a hard time managing all of her kids with her husband gone for so long and getting out of the house is a great way to manage it. “We’re so lucky,” she enthused when she arrived, “we have so many friends wanting us over and ready to help us out!” I smiled tightly, mentally comparing that to the…no one we had had over to help us out after our baby was born. Things went downhill from there. She hadn’t brought a meal, no one even brought it up. Presumably, it hadn’t crossed her mind. Her kids then proceeded to wreck every single room in my house, which I knew I would have to clean up. My friend might apologize, but she would never dream of cleaning it herself or having her kids do it because it’s just so hard having 3 kids, 4 and under.

She eagerly asked to hold the baby and I hadn’t her over and she oooohed and awwwed over how cute she was and enthused, “How could you not want another one of these?” It was a rhetorical question she was asking herself, not me. Her husband was pressuring her to have a fourth child and I got the feeling she was none-to-enthusiastic about it. I myself didn’t feel remotely like having any more at that time since I was so stressed out due to the colick, lack of help, and lack of a break.

The kids played; we chatted.

She told me how well her oldest two were doing. “He’s reading and doing math at a 2nd grade level, he’s reading and doing math at a 1st grade level!” The children in question were 4 and 3, respectively. Little did I know, her 18 month old was going to start reading just a month shy of his second birthday. Later when we were upstairs, her two oldest were looking at one of the fake window panes laying on the floor. “How many squares are in it?” My friend asked her second oldest. Moving like a trained monkey, he counted: “1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.” “And how many in each coumn?” He counted, “1,2,3.” “So 2 x 3 is …..?” He wandered away bored. So she tried with her oldest, who had been vaguely paying attention. “2 x 3 is…?” He looked from the window pane, to her, then back at the window pane. She held up the correct answer, 6, on her fingers. He looked at her fingers intently and answered, “8!”

I decided the polite response would be to pretend I hadn’t noticed.

I tried to talk to her about how worn out I was feeling and how hard I was finding having 2 kids, but she didn’t seem to register my feelings. “Having a newborn is easy,” she enthused. “It’s so much harder when they’re older.” I disagreed silently. Now I realize that she wasn’t even trying to say what I needed to hear, namely that having newborns is hard, even if they’re not colicky, because they require so much from the parent and it’s a time of transistion, during which every member of the family is trying to refind their place in it. Instead, she told me what she needed to hear since she was considering having another baby; namely, that having a newborn is easy and doesn’t require any effort at all. I wonder if she would still agree with her assessment of the newborn situation after having her fourth, but then again, it’s always so much harder for her than it is for me since she has four kids and they’re so close together. But I wonder how close she figured her kids were going to be, since they decided to have 4 kids, started at 30 and had to be done by 35. That doesn’t leave much room between each child.

Then my husband called and informed me that he had just found out he had type 2 diabetes. I handled it with my usual aplumb, but inwardly it felt like my whole world was collapsing around me. I didn’t want to be alone and didn’t want my friend to leave, but they soon went home.

The weeks passed. She reminded me a few more times that she still hadn’t brought me a meal and she felt so bad about it! The last time she reminded me, at 8 weeks post partum, was after having a really rough day with the baby screaming, Alpha misbehaving, and DH being in a rotten mood from carb withdrawal. I had decided to screw making dinner and had settled down with a bowl of ice cream. She messaged me, “I fee so guilty I haven’t brought you a meal yet.” I had learned a while ago that she whenever she says she’s feeling guilty about something, what she really means is that she doesn’t want to do it, but doesn’t want you to get mad at her for not doing it. Hence the guilt. She doesn’t feel bad for not helping, she’s just worried you’l get mad at her for not helping. I was mad. I needed the help and she wasn’t doing jack shit. “Forget about it,” I replied. “I’ve just decided that whenever I have a bad day, I’m just going to have ice cream for dinner. Like tonight.” “But if you’re having ice cream for dinner, you obviously still need the help,” she responded. “Obviously,” I typed, “and obviously it isn’t going to happen so stop bringing it up.”

She never brought me a meal and I tried to be okay with it. I reminded myself that she had 3 kids, really close together and that was so much harder than what I was going through, thus minimizing my own struggles. But I was not okay with it. I was extremely deeply hurt. Matters only got worse when I remembered that she had brought a meal for another woman we knew after she had a baby, even though my friend had had 3 kids then as well. I realized my friend never planned on helping me because as far as she was concerned, my situation wasn’t as bad as hers, so I didn’t need any help. Offering the meal was a mere formality, designed to make her feel good for offering and me saying, “oh no! I couldn’t possibly! And thank her profusely for offering to help me in spite of her own difficulties because that is usually the way it played out. Except this time I did need the help, more than she or I could have imagined at that time.

I began to question our friendship. I had helped her so many times and after the birth of my second child, she couldn’t even offer me emotional support or validate any of the feelings I was having. It seemed like all that mattered to her was the way she felt: she felt too busy, she felt her life was too hard, she felt my life wasn’t as hard, she felt I didn’t need the help.

Really, with a friend like that, who needs enemies?


I hate getting together with my mommy friends. Mainly because I know conversation is going to either be about what our kids are doing or various details about our lives–in other words, small talk. A lot of the times while participating in these conversations, I feel like I’m treading water. I’m just trying to keep my head afloat until something interesting comes up or it’s time to go home. I’m not saying I don’t want to know what’s going on in the lives of my friends, just that I’d like there to be a little bit of meat to it.

For example, one of my friends was involved in an extended job search and her family was dangerously close to being both unemployed and homeless for a year. I was worried and concerned for her and I have no doubt she was worried and concerned. But on the surface, everything was presented very positively and very upbeat –the American way if you will. Something will turn up, we all said supportingly. Something always does! And end the end, something did! Hooray! But before then, there wasn’t any real talk of the emotions of the ordeal. She didn’t say she was worried. She said maybe she ought to be more worried, but she wasn’t. It was just emphasizing the positive while denying the fact that things could have ended very badly.

In other words, things were deliberately kept light and happy while avoiding anything that might possibly be distressing. But isn’t that what friends are for? Discussing those unpleasant topics, confiding your fears and concerns and being honest and open with each other? It’s all well and fine to talk about the things that are going on in our lives but what about our inner lives? I feel like I’m so eager to just meet someone what wants to discuss things bluntly and honestly that I would probably overwhelm her with all of my deep thoughts if given the chance. Then she would move and change her name, thus ruining any chance of me ever seeing her ever again because it would be that scary. So I don’t do that. I’m trying my best to write it out instead. The thread of conversation doesn’t get changed so frequently when it’s on paper and there’s only one person writing.

But there’s no connection with other people then, either. No one reading it to say, yes they know what you mean; they’ve been there themselves. There’s no affirmation that you are normal, no one to guide you further down your train of thought with thoughts they’ve had. No spark of inspiring ideas. No stimulation to that inner life.

Instead we discuss how so-and-so’s kid is doing this, how Jack won’t sleep, Johnny throws fits, there’s too much laundry, it’s so hard to eat healthy all the time, and so on and so forth. Safe topics both guaranteed to offend and inspire exactly no one.

I once burned a copy of a documentary I enjoy watching, called “The Perfect Home.” It’s based on the book by Alain de Botton and discusses the aesthetics and philosophy behind the kind of houses we built. I had hoped that the friend who was thinking about buying a house would watch it and be inspired but she wasn’t interested. But another friend was so I gave it to her, but she didn’t watch it saying she was too busy and would watch it later. Now, several months later, I wonder if she had. It would give us something interesting to talk about as it’s full of interesting ideas that I keep turning over in my mind about happiness, about the buildings we inhabit, about how we see our modern world compared to our past. But I don’t think she has watched it. In a lot of ways, I think she never actually intended to and only expressed interest out of politeness and was a bit taken back when I actually presented her with a copy.

It’s annoying when people you’re supposed to be close to are polite instead of honest. How am I supposed to understand someone as a person–what their interests are, what they like, what they think–if they’re only being polite? I’d rather be a bit sad and disappointed no one was interested then to think I’m barking up the right tree when it is in fact the wrong one.

Somewhere, there have to be parents that discuss interesting things or at the very least, parents who take the mundane details of everyday parenting life and frame them in an interesting manner. I just have to find them—preferably in real life.

Not the Mother Tongue

I’ve often wondered why I decided to raise my children in German instead of English. Why am I abandoning my mother tongue in favor of a second language? Sure, I’ve loved German and Germany had been a passion for me all my life. But this article solidified a few suspicions I’d been having:

When a childhood in one language lacked affection or was marked by distressing events, then bilinguals may prefer to express emotion in their second language. For example, an adult English-French bilingual who moved to France in early adulthood once wrote to me that she found it easier to speak of anything connected with emotions in French, her second language, whereas in English she was rather tongue-tied.

I had noticed while my sister and her family were visiting that the way my sister and I communicate in English is very…demeaning in a way. We tease and insult each other a lot, not in a serious way, but in a joking way  that in other families would be rather abnormal. But that’s pretty much how my family communicated, with insults and put-downs that you weren’t supposed to take seriously. That way any insult someone (my mother, for example) really did mean seriously could simply be brushed off as just a joke. Can’t you take a joke?

My mother was always emotionally distant, to put it lightly. To put it seriously, she was emotionally abusive. I honestly can’t remember a time in my life where she actually comforted me when I was having a rough time. During one of the roughest years of my life (otherwise known as 7th grade), I had absolutely no one to turn to.

But in my year in Germany, things were different. When I had a rough day or felt depressed due to culture shock, my host mom actually tried to comfort me! At first I felt completely awkward and bad and horrible–it was my fault she noticed I’d cried and I shouldn’t be burdening her with my problems as it was my problem that I was having a hard time. But now I realize she was doing what comes naturally to most mothers: comforting her daughter.

In that way, German is my mother language. It’s my adoptive mother language because English has never been the language of emotions for me. It’s been the language of yelling and put-downs.

In a way, speaking German to my kids puts a nice break in my family habits. I don’t speak to my kids in a demeaning way, mainly because I don’t have the vocabulary to do so. In German, it just doesn’t come naturally to me. In other words, it’s not my way of rejecting my country or my culture, but my mother and what she stood for.


I love it when kids start saying really funny things that show how their minds work. One day in the kitchen I was getting lunch ready and the two kids were at the table, being particularly whiny and fussy so I said to them, “Hört auch zu meckern, wir brauchen keine Ziegen am Tisch!” [stop complaining/bleating, we don’t need any goats at the table!”] and Alpha immediately piped up, “Nein, wir brauchen keine Ziegen, Ziegen würden den Tisch kaputt machen!” [no, we don’t need any goats. Goats would break the table!]. I told DH about this and he looked thoughtful for a moment. “Well, a small goat might not break the table.” I suddenly found myself worried we were going to end up with goats on the table.

Another day, Alpha was eating macaroni and cheese and chatting to himself. I tuned in to hear, “Die Nudeln gehen in den Dickdarm und was kommt raus? Ein Berg!” [“The noodles go into the large intestine and what comes out? Poop!”] His speech still isn’t terribly clear, but it’s definitely improving. The main problem I’m having understanding a lot of what he’s saying is simply being on the same wavelength as he is, especially since things tend to come out rather garbled and he’s 3.
Reading a book today he pointed at the picture and since he was pointing at the dog, I was expecting something about a dog. Instead he said, “Sie haben keine Garage!” and took me a moment to switch from wanting to hear all about a dog to hearing about how the people in the book don’t have a garage.

I’m thinking this is a big problem for other people as well. since Alpha mainly speaks German, when they hear him speak they’re primed to hear German, not English. Then when he does speak English, they don’t listen for it because they’re listening for German and they can’t speak German, so Alpha speaking English gets no reaction. Once we were at a park taking part in a preschool co-op thing and we were blowing bubbles and Alpha said in English “more bubbles!” and nobody reaction. There was absolutely no reaction, so finally I responded, in German, “yes we can blow more bubbles.” But it felt awkward. I’m still not sure if I should have said that in English to emphasis the fact that he was speaking English, or what. Most kids aren’t completely ignored when they speak English but since everyone perceives my child as speaking German he is.

To make matters worse, he’s shy and doesn’t have a whole lot of confidence in his English. He is getting a bit bolder with speaking it, but it takes time. I had to explain to him at the park the other day that yelling at kids in German really wasn’t going to help things since they don’t speak German, they only speak English. He got very upset at a younger kid who got on the merry-go-round he was riding on and wanted to be pushed fast on. But with the little kid on there, I couldn’t push him very fast. But the little kid had no idea what was going on or why Haakon started screaming at him and then started freaking out since Haakon was yelling at him in German. Eventually I got it across to him and managed to get him to say “No, I’m playing with this” so that hopefully next time this happens he can say that and help himself. I feel in a lot of ways me stepping in and solving all his linguistic problems for him has really created a major handicap. It’s caused him to be less confident and willing to speak English than he otherwise would. After all, why speak English when mommy will act as a helpful interpreter for you?

In other news, he spontaneously told DH “syödään jäätelöä,” meaning he wanted to eat ice cream. So they got ice cream! Eventually he will figure out that anything he asks for in Finnish, he gets as a way to encourage his Finnish. This could be really bad in the long run, but as a short-term solution, it works.

Interestingly enough, Alpha is apparently very accustomed to getting praise when he says new words. We took his bed apart the other day to move it into his new room and I cussed when I dropped something and Alpha chimes in with, “fucking shit!” I turned to look at him and he had a big, pleased grin on his face. “Wie bitte?” “Fucking shit!” he repeated. “Haakon, komm hierher.”  I then had to explain to him the appropriateness and inappropriateness of that sort of language and that it was perfectly fine for him to use it by himself, but if he uses it around other people they will thing he’s a bad person because it’s bad language. So he really can’t say it around other people.” It was the complete opposite reaction than what he expected and he started to cry and refused to meet my gaze. How disappointing to be so proud you can say something only to learn you shouldn’t say it! I also made sure he knew that we (mom and dad) shouldn’t say it either, but obviously he was still sad. Hugs and comfort and we moved on. When I informed DH, he smiled happily and just wanted to know how Alpha’s pronunciation was. Sigh. Finns.

Multilingualism Links

Here are some interesting links on bilingualism/multilingualism I’ve come across recently:

We’ll start off with a report on the benefits of multilingualism. Namely, bilingual children have been shown to have greater mental agility than monolingual children. Additionally, another study involving the invented language “Colbertian” has been used to show that multilinguals have an easier time inferring the meaning of words in new languages. Hooray! I laud them for forming a language based on Stephen Colbert. Heh. Being a researcher must get really boring at times and I’m glad they’re able to liven things up.
Does bilingualism cause stuttering? My husband was raised bilingually and stuttered. He grew out of it, but he asserts it did have an effect and he does still stutter on occasion when he speaks English. What do you think?

How do you tell if a bilingual child has a language impairment or speech delay versus mixing up the rules for each language? This paper is slightly longer, but well worth the read.

And, lastly, the language wars in Canada continue as the language police are going to mystery shop the languages services offered at Canada’s airports to see if it’s possible to get equal service in both French and English. Thanks, Canada, you’ve managed to convince me that official bilingualism is a waste of time and resources.

The Truth Behind IB

I’ve had the misfortune of recently hearing some pretty negative things about the International Baccalaureate Programme.
Here are some of the arguments I’ve heard against it:

1) It undermines local control of schools by instituting a curriculum designed and controlled in Geneva, Switzerland

2) It undermines parental control for the same reason

3) Students in IB don’t learn local history or American history

4) It’s elitist.

5) It’s expensive

5) Grading is subjective

6) It’s controlled by the UN and is designed to brainwash American students into supporting a one world government and thereby undermining the US government.

First, a bit of background behind IB:

According to the IBO, IB was originally “consisted of a common pre-university curriculum and a common set of external examinations for students in schools throughout the world, seeking to provide students with a truly international education. Although the first IB schools were predominantly private international schools, they included a very small number of private national institutions and schools belonging to state education departments.”

I remember hearing in school that IB was designed to provide children of diplomats with an education that would meet the diploma requirements of many different countries since they were unlikely to complete their education in any single one. After designing the program, they realized that it was a very rigorous academic program and expanded it to students whose parents weren’t diplomats.

I attended the Middle Years Programme and the IB Diploma programme, both of which were offered at public schools as an alternate program. Admission to the program was voluntary, but required taking a test, teacher recommendations, interviews and essays.  In some schools, the entire school follows the IB curriculum, but not all students are necessarily ‘diploma’ candidates–that is, students aiming to get the IB Diploma. Theoretically, the IB diploma enables the recipient to attend university in any country in the world.

Now, onto the arguments against IB:

1) It undermines local control of schools by instituting a curriculum designed and controlled in Geneva, Switzerland

The IB Program is administrated in Geneva, Switzerland. However, local school boards control the implementation of it in their districts. If they don’t want to  have the IB Programme, they don’t have to have it. In other words, it’s a choice. If local control of schools is your concern, then you should look at the increased federalization of schools due to laws such as No Child Left Behind. Local school boards can’t opt out of federal mandates.

2) It undermines parental control for the same reason. 

First of all, in many districts that implement IB, IB is optional. Parents and their children choose to be in IB, otherwise they can participate in the normal program. In other districts, such as districts with only one elementary school and the school board opts for the IB curriculum, then parents have their right to opt out taken away. However, it’s worth noting that in most school boards these days parents have very little control over the curriculum. Aside from a few lightening issues such as evolution and sexual education, parents have very little control over what is taught in schools over all. IB isn’t any different. If you want to control what your child learns, homeschool them or send them to a private school.

3) Students in IB don’t learn local history or American history

To the contrary, students in IB still have to meet all the same course requirements as every other student in their district. This means in middle school, we had to take a year of local history, just like every other student. In high school, we still had to take American History, which in our district usually requires two years. However, due to the requirements of the Diploma program, we only had one year’s time. So we all took Advanced Placement US History as sophomores, condensed into a year. This doesn’t mean we covered less than students who took two years of history, rather that we learned it twice as fast, covering from the Native American settlers of the US all the way to the Vietnam War.

4) It’s elitist

Only in the same way Advanced Placement and Honors classes are elitist. Heck, once upon a time high school was elitist because high school in the US was considered to be preparation for college. In other words, this isn’t really an argument against IB, unless you’re a person who think everyone is or ought to be exactly the same.

5) It’s expensive.

School districts pay a fee to implement the IB curriculum and to train the teachers. Then there are the exam fees in the Junior and Senior years, which parents pay for. In instances of financial hardship, the program covers the fees for you. However, parents do not pay any extra to enroll their children in the program, as this is covered by the property taxes that fund schools in the first place. I don’t see any evidence that IB alone has caused per pupil expenditures to rise in school districts that implement IB. It would be hard to separate that out from the massive increase in school spending the US has experienced. For the education I received, I think I definitely got my money’s worth.

6) It’s controlled by the UN and is designed to brainwash American students into supporting a one world government and thereby undermining the US government.

Oh jeez. This is the big one. According to IB conspiracy theorists, IB is run by the UN and  they even share offices with the Geneva. So let’s deconstruct this one.

First off, can anyone guess which single country provides the most funding to the UN. Oh–it’s the US. Awkward. And where does the General Assembly meet? New York City. Which country was a major instrument in founding the UN? The US. So, why would the US found an organization, give it a place to meet inside its own borders, and provide more funding for it than any other country i its mission was to undermine that country?

I would argue that instead of being an instrument to undermine the US, the UN is rather an instrument of US hegemony–an important tool by which the US maintains its worldwide empire, without actually appearing to have an empire. Any time it can, the US tries to get the UN to sanction its actions. Whenever the UN doesn’t sanction its actions, the US just ignores it and does whatever it wants to anyway. So if the UN is meant to actually be a check on American power, it’s not doing a very good job of it.

Now let’s address the brainwashing issue. I’ve been told by people who know me that every IB student they’ve met has “had a similar worldview” and that they can “see the influence of IB on my worldview.” The problem with this issue is that most people who tell me that have only known me a few years–they have no idea what beliefs I was in the IB Programme, during, or after. When I think back to the beliefs I had when I graduated high school, it’s almost bizarre to see how much I’ve changed. I was very much pro-US when I graduated and supported the idea that the best thing for the world was for the US to be the only superpower in the world. I was internationally oriented, but that has been a constant throughout my life. When I was in elementary school, I must have read nearly every book in the series “A Family Lives in ____,” which told about a day in the life of various families around the world. I loved dressing up and pretending to be a Russian peasant.

I didn’t decide that the US shouldn’t be the only world power in the world until I met my husband. I didn’t become a pacifist until after that either. I didn’t start actively disliking a lot of the things the US does until after that, either. I guess if you want to blame my worldview on anyone, blame my husband! Damn foreigners!

So how exactly did IB impact my worldview? I have no idea. Mainly because I’m not entirely sure what my worldview is nor what worldview I’m supposed to have gotten from IB. I don’t support one world government, so that can’t be it. I don’t support the UN, but I don’t support the US either. I consider myself to be a market minarchist—I would prefer having numerous small governments around the world. The smaller, the better, in fact. I can’t remember discussing concepts like minarchy and anarchy in IB.

The fact of the matter is that every IB program is different and a lot of the ideas they teach vary simply based on location. IB programs in more liberal areas will have a more liberal slant. IB programs in more conservative area will be more conservative. All will attract people with an international bent.

If someone is very concerned about hidden messages in the school system, they really shouldn’t worry about IB so much as worry about the messages in our own school system. What kind of philosophy and ideas were the founders of the modern American school system such as Dewey and Mann trying to spread?

On the whole, I firmly believe that most people who have a problem with the IB Program have a problem with it simply because it serves as an indictment of the American education system. The success and popularity of the IB Program is an embarrassment to people who want to believe that America is number one because a foreign entity is coming in and educating its young people better than the normal system.

It’s also worth noting that the IB Program is far more popular in the US than elsewhere in the world. This is due to the fact that most other countries in the world have their own native IB equivalent. In Germany, you would go to a Gymnasium and get your Abitur in order to go to college. An IB school would just be a different option for you. The same is true in Finland. In France you get Le Bac–short for bacclaeureate. The US doesn’t have a specialized degree for students who want to go to university, so IB offers something special. Because of this, it has gained a reputation for rigorous academic training that regular high school–even honors classes and AP–lack. Combine this with the fact that American parents spend much more time looking for ways to give their offspring that competitive edge that will make their college resumés stand out and help them get a leg up in life and you have a situation where IB is uniquely poised to be successful.

It’s not an international conspiracy involving the UN. Rather, it’s something that barely exists in education: a free market force. I believe IB went on to create the elementary school and middle years programs largely due to demand in the American market, not out of some desire to subjugate the youth of America. If they wanted to do that, television would be a much more effective means.