Just don’t mention politics

Posting on Facebook has become difficult.

It’s symptomatic of the growing divisions in our country that I’m wary of posting anything I fear anyone might take issue with and defriend me over or decide they hate me. I already had that happen once over vaccines. What made it even more obnoxious is that I only started posting things about how dumb anti-vaxxers are after watching weeks of the anti-vaxxers on my feed post about how anyone vaccinating their kids is injecting them with horrible toxins and giving them autism. So they can dish it out, but they certainly can’t take it.

After that I decided I shouldn’t argue anymore on facebook and I should do my best to never, ever post anything political that wasn’t tongue in cheek, humorous, or thought provoking (in the sense of “this article was really interesting!”). Then again, the last category may be a mistake as well since most people don’t like to have their thoughts provoked so much as confirmed.

My position is a bit more awkward than most. I consider myself to be libertarian, but over the years my views have changed slowly. I’ve gone from right-leaning libertarian to left-leaning libertarian, to be exact. Or maybe I’m not even libertarian at all anymore. I don’t know. I may actually be more of a neo-liberal now. But since my wider social circle is heavily libertarian, I don’t really want to rock the boat too much.

Take climate change, for example. I used to not believe in it. Then I decided okay fine, the climate IS changing, but it’s not humans who are doing it. The Earth’s climate just changes over time. Then my husband told me one day that he now believe in anthropogenic climate change.

I stared at him. “This is like waking up one morning and discovering I’m married to a leftist.” Then I asked him to explain why and send me the information that changed his mind.

I read through it and it changed mine, too. And with how I am, if I discover I’m wrong about one thing, I have to examine the vast majority of my beliefs to see what I think about those. It’s annoying and time consuming.

Even more annoying was the number of people on my feed who didn’t (and still don’t) believe in climate change. So if we have a cold day in summer, it’s “global warming lol.” If Spring is particularly cold, it’s “I could sure use some of that global warming lol.” But when it’s mid-October and we’re still running around in shorts…crickets. When we have a week of 100F weather when we used to have none…crickets. When the DoT has crews going around the state enlarging culverts to handle the increased water flow, they don’t notice. When people talk about Boston disappearing under a higher sea level, nothing.

But  I know if I were to post about my new views on Facebook, I would be shat on.

The interesting thing is I do know some libertarians personally who do believe in climate change, so I know I’m not alone. But I get the feeling they, too, are closeted.

I eventually reconciled my belief in climate change and libertarianism by remembering that the environment as a whole is a good example  of market failure. No one owns the air or water, so no one has a direct incentive not to dirty it. No one owns the future of the Earth and our own shortsightedness makes us reluctant to do anything to protect it for those who will, especially if it might mean some inconveniences today. So I’m perfectly fine with the government intervening and creating a market for carbon, such as trading carbon credits and having a carbon tax. People need to be made responsible for their negative externalities as much as possible.

More radically, I also support charging 5 cents for shopping bags. Free shopping bags really piss me off. They’re such a waste. There’s no reason every item I buy in the grocery store needs its own bag. All those bags do is join the thousand others in my cabinet until I finally need a new one for my trashcan. Five cents is a small enough cost to just be annoying and motivate people to bring their own reusable bags.

But from how some libertarians I know react, you’d think it was the same as suggesting we should try wiping out the Armenians again. Apparently personal responsibility doesn’t extend to the trash you produce or the consequences of the things you consume? For many libertarians I know, they believe in personal responsibility only to the point where it’s inconvenient. Then it doesn’t matter, isn’t important or the problem doesn’t exist in the first place. This is the position they take on vaccinations if they’re anti-vax (“Herd immunity is a myth! Vaccines cause the diseases!”), climate change (“Government grab for power! The climate has always changed!”) and educational neglect (“Government grab for power! It’s unschooling! There’s nothing wrong with putting your kids to work!”).

You have to admit, denying a problem exists is a clever way to justify you not taking any responsibility for it. The problem is eventually that denial is going to catch up with you and kick you in the ass.

So, at any rate, I try not to discuss politics, which is difficult considering my social group. It’s probably time to work on finding a new one, or seeking out the ones in the group who find themselves in a similar predicament.


Happy Thanksgiving

I’m done homeschooling for this week. Over the summer I decided to switch to a more year round homeschooling schedule because 1) I realized with a 2-3 year old in preschool and a baby, we were going to have a lot of illnesses and doctor appointments and 2) I was going to need regular breaks to decompress.

So far, I’ve been pretty much right on both of those accounts. We’ve had about 20 colds since Gamma started preschool in September, which really sucks. We’ve had well-baby and well-child check ups, too, which usually kill an entire morning.

But holy crap my need for a break…that is the overwhelming benefit to year round scheduling. So far it seems as though we need to take one week off a month. We took off a week in August when my dad came to visit, a week in September when my in-laws came to visit, a week in October when my husband went out of town, and now we’re taking off a week in November because of Thanksgiving and the fact Gamma’s preschool is closed for the rest of this week.
One thing I’ve learned is that while homeschooling with a baby is doable, homeschooling with a toddler is damn near impossible. Granted, my baby isn’t colicky and sleeps well at night, so that makes it easier. She hung out in the sling asleep when she was a newborn, on my lap as she grew older or in a bouncer. Now I give her a few toys to keep her occupied and she’s good.

Gamma on the other hand…We have one full day of homeschooling a week where he’s home and it sucks. He wants to be involved. I try to set him up with an activity to keep him busy, but he gravitates back to the dining room table and tries to steal everyone’s work, sit on it, knock things over and just generally make things impossible. Sometimes he and Beta will play nicely together so I can work with Alpha, but he and Alpha do not play well together. They may start out well, but it rapidly descends into fighting and then I have to pull them both apart.
The worst is when I get out Beta’s Touchphonics set. It comes with a bunch of rubber phonemes kids can manipulate to form words.
Gamma loves letters and numbers (collectively known by him as “numbers.”), so he proceeds to dump them all out and take them all while going through them and announcing what letter he currently has. He won’t give them back when we actually need them to make words. Instead he grabs his front end loader and proceeds to load the phonemes into his dump truck with accompanying noises.
Beta has tried to negotiate with him, but you can’t negotiate with terrorists or two-year olds. I usually end up trying to sneak them away so he doesn’t get mad and start screaming. I don’t often succeed.
Hence the time off. I need this time to relax, do things around the house that I otherwise wouldn’t have the time to do, and do things with the kids I otherwise wouldn’t have time to do. In October, Gamma went to preschool and the kids and I stayed home and played Settlers of Catan and Monopoly. Alpha ended up storming off because he kept needing to take mortgages out on his property, but it was a good experience.

This break I’m going to continue with getting shit done around the house, introduce Gamma to Candyland and possibly shoots and ladders. I’d also like to get my husband to play Settlers of Catan with us, but it’s a hard game to play with a toddler running around what with the movable board and everything.

In the end, on Thanksgiving morning, Beta asked me how much work we had to do today. “None,” I told her.
“But I have to do my phonics, right?”
“No. No work. It’s Thanksgiving.”
“Not even phonics?”
She couldn’t believe it and ran over to Alpha. “Alpha! Guess what! We don’t have to do ANY work today!”

Man, maybe I am kind of a hardass when it comes to homeschooling.

Botany of the Home

I’ve started clearing the back part of our property. We’ve neglected it since we bought the place, aside from trimming down a few trees and my husband’s foray back there to dig out some of our wild roses.

As a result, it’s absolutely awful. The poison ivy has spread, but it’s only one of approximately 7 vines that threaten to take over our yard. The others are Virginia Creeper, Bittersweet, Wild Clematis, swamp dewberry, wild grapes, and ground ivy. Did you know Virginia creeper causes a rash in your skin if you’re one of those “sensitive people?” Neither did until I looked it up after getting a huge rash when I decided to pull some up Willy nilly. Wild clematis I originally mistook for poison ivy since poison ivy can also climb, also occasionally looks like a mitten and alternates on the vine. Except poison ivy doesn’t flower and I saw the wild clematis when it was flowering. Since the clematis had grown to cover several sapling, bushes and felled tree trunks, this was a huge relief. Less of a relief is the fact that the variety we have growing here just happens to be the kind that also causes a rash, though more temporary than the other two. Bittersweet, though invasive, wild grape, and swamp dewberry are probably the least distressing of all the vines. No rashes, they have yet to cover everything. They’re fine. I still want to get rid of them, however.

Ground ivy on the other hand…

If anyone knows of a more useless vine, let me know. Nothing eats ground ivy. In fact, it’s toxic to some animals. It grows like 60 cm a year, releases about a billion seeds from its tiny purple flowers, and will utterly and completely take over your yard. Kind of like it’s attempting to do to mine.

Like its name suggests, it covers the ground. Aggressively, choking out anything else that might want to grow there. You could use an herbicide to get rid of it, but me being a hippy, I don’t want to. But there doesn’t seem to be an easy way to get rid of it, other than spraying it or covering it with black plastic (which I’ve done with the poison ivy). The internet suggests that a solution of borax will kill it. However, it also says that if the solution isn’t exactly the correct percentage, it will kill everything and not just the ground ivy. I don’t really want to kill everything. Just the ground ivy. Then again, it’s not like i couldn’t just plant more grass.

In areas thick with it, you can just roll it up like a carpet, which I have done. You find where the vines end and just pull them up and roll, revealing the dirt and bugs underneath. This is weirdly enjoyable, especially for the chickens if they happen to be around. Of course, any plants that happen to be nearby will also be pulled up, but if the area is just ground ivy, not a problem.

It is, however, time consuming. I hate ground ivy.

At least it doesn’t cause any rashes and has no thorns. Unlike the wild blackberries and wild roses that have sprouted up everywhere. The wild roses are particularly bad. You have to dig them out with the roots or else they’re just come back and their thorns are much, much bigger than bramble thorns.

My husband doubts they’re actually wild roses and thinks they’re more of a thistle. I’ve searched the internet and they don’t look much like thistle at all. But unlike the wild roses I see when googling, these never blossom. These wild roses are all thorn and no flower. Could there be a more disheartening plant?

Sometimes I think previous owners must have had a garden back there because along with the wild blackberries, there are quite a few black raspberry plants growing. These too have spread, their long canes bending over and sticking into the ground to start next year’s crop. They’re easy to differentiate from the blackberries with their frosty blue color. The berries also lack the inner seed, which I prefer over black berries. Due to their wild and uncontrollable nature, I’m pulling them, too, although it may be stupid: I’ve ordered more raspberries to plant in the same area in the spring: red, yellow, and black. Why not just keep the free ones? I don’t know. it I’ve heard you’re supposed to rip out the old ones after a few years and plant new ones. I don’t know why, it’s just what I’ve been told. So I’m pulling these up by the roots as well.

All these things I clear, I toss over the steep embankment in the back of the upper part of our property. It falls off quite suddenly into the woods, where I don’t really want to go. My goal is to build up all the cut brush and let it rot, eventually building up the dirt so that we maybe have a nice gentle slope into the woods instead of a sudden drop off. Aside from that, I’ve also decided it’s my low-tech carbon sink. Where previously we would have burned all these things I’ve cut down, I’m now just throwing it there to let it slowly rot. No more carbon suddenly released into the atmosphere! Go me!

Instead, it will slowly be released there except for whatever stays in the soil. I don’t know. But it feels productive and I like seeing any sort of improvement.

The Tooth Fairy Sucks

We tell our kids about the tooth fairy. It’s just one of those fun things we do, although we don’t take it very seriously. Since he stays up later than I do, my husband plays the tooth fairy. I’m usually asleep in bed before Beta actually manages to fall asleep and since she’s the one who’s losing all the teeth right now, it makes life easier.

Except the Tooth Fairy keeps forgetting to show up. The first time this happened and Beta came downstairs disappointed in the morning, we said, “Oh no! Were you awake really late? Because the Tooth Fairy won’t come unless you fall asleep early.”

She admitted she had been up late. “I was just so excited about the Tooth Fairy coming and giving me a coin, I couldn’t fall asleep.” She tried her best to fall asleep the next night and my husband made a note to remember to go up there and take the tooth. It all worked out and Beta found a coin under her pillow the next morning. That was a close one, we told each other.

This last tooth, however, we failed miserably. My husband forgot the first night and without prompting, Beta blamed herself. “I was awake too late! I’m going to have to go to bed really early tonight so the Tooth Fairy will come.” My husband felt horribly guilty.

Next morning, Beta slept in. I quietly asked my husband in the kitchen if he had remembered the Tooth Fairy. He cringed. “No! I forgot! What are we going to do?” I thought a second, then went to his office and grabbed the coin and headed up to her bedroom, hoping she was still asleep. She woke up when I entered and I approached the pillow and, while slipping the coin underneath it, told her “Good morning! Did you sleep well?”
“Yeah,” she answered sleepily. I cast around for a way to distract her so I could slide the envelope containing her tooth out from underneath her pillow.
“Well, why don’t you go get dressed?”
“Okay. But you have to turn around so you don’t see me get out of bed. I don’t want you to see my underpants!”
I gave her a confused look. “What? Aren’t you wearing Pjs?”
“I am, but you might see them and it would be embarrassing.”
I thought for a moment. “Alright. If you turn around and face that wall, I’ll turn around and face this wall while you get out of bed.” She did and I quickly snatched the envelope and crammed it under my shirt. She then got out of bed and I opened her blinds.

“Oh!” I said suddenly, as if a thought were just occurring to me. “Did the Tooth Fairy come last night?”
“No,” she answered sadly. “I didn’t see a coin.”
“Oh. Well, did you look carefully?”
“I did but I didn’t see one.”
“Why don’t you look again?”
She moved her entire pillow and there was the coin. She smiled happily and took it into her hand. “I must have looked before she had time to come. Or I didn’t look in the right spot because here it is!”
I smiled at her and agreed that must have been what happened. Then I headed to my room to stuff the tooth into my underwear drawer until I could sneak it downstairs to where we keep all the kids’ teeth. They’re one of the millions of things we’re planning on keeping to hand out to the kids when they pack up to move out.
When I went back downstairs to the kitchen, my husband whispered, “Did you get it?” I nodded and told him what happened. He looked relieved. Crisis averted. Disappointment averted.

We’re beginning to wonder how long it will be until my kids figure out that we’re the ones who are forgetting and not some mystical being who is simply waiting for you to fall asleep before taking your tooh.

I’m Happy


I’m not upset. I might feel upset, but I assure you I’m not.

Yes, sure it sucks that the friends I’ve celebrated Thanksgiving with four years running have decided to spend this Thanksgiving with other friends. I knew this day was coming, so it wasn’t really surprising, just sad that I hadn’t adequately prepared for it. It’s also sad that I had to casually ask them if we were going to get together for Thanksgiving this year again and they had to let me down gently, assuring me that they had just received another invite “a few days ago” and accepted. I get the feeling that had I not asked they wouldn’t have told. Would that have been better? I probably would have figured it out eventually as the days ticked by.

I’m trying my best not to feel too hurt. We contacted other friends to see what they were doing for Thanksgiving. Those with family in the area are obviously going to spend it with them. Other friends who joined our little group last year for Thanksgiving told me they’re planning on a “low-key Thanksgiving” this year. I did not reply that that sounded perfect and how would they like to have a low-key Thanksgiving together? Because I know that they always say that whenever I’ve invited them to celebrate Thanksgiving together; they only go when my other friend invites them. The end result from all this, aside from looking a bit desperate, is that we are now chicken-sitting for some friends who are travelling to visit family for Thanksgiving.

So it’s a low key Thanksgiving for us this year. I’m not sure I see the point. My husband doesn’t really “get” Thanksgiving, not having celebrated it at all until he immigrated here. He points out that most Finns he knows in the US don’t celebrate it at all and it’s not that big of a deal. He doesn’t like turkey and, due to his low-carb diabetes management, doesn’t eat most of the food traditionally served at Thanksgiving.

In all honesty, the kids aren’t fans of it either. They like the turkey okay, they refuse to try the cranberry sauce, stuffing, mashed potatoes and any of the pie. Beta has since declared that she will try pumpkin pie this year because she saw someone on a youtube video and they really liked it because they put frosting and sprinkles on it.

“I am not putting frosting and sprinkles on pumpkin pie,” I declared stoutly. What kind of heathen is she??

“Well, can I have it with whipped cream?”
“Yes, it’s fine to have it with whipped cream. I always do.”
“Okay, I’ll try that!” I’m not convinced she actually will, but we’ll try.

In order to have a proper Thanksgiving, I like to have three pies: an apple, a pecan and a pumpkin. Missing one of these would just be wrong. But I can’t eat all three by myself. Forgetting the whole holiday sounds more and more appealing.

But I would feel bad about that. I would feel like the kids wouldn’t make the same happy memories around Thanksgiving that I did. My family didn’t fight on Thanksgiving. My dad made the turkey and we pitched in with the pies. We played Risk the whole day, moving it to the card table when dinner was ready. We got out the good China, the family silver and a table cloth. Everything was beautiful, and special.

But I can’t force my memories onto my family. I can’t make Thanksgiving mean something to them just because it means something to me. And the whole appeal of spending time with them falls flat: we spend every single day together as it is since we work from home and they’re schooled at home. What we really need is time celebrating with other people.

Barring that, I guess we can always celebrate it the Finnish way. That is, not at all, but with copious amounts of liquor.

If you give me another bag, I will stab you

This is such an American problem to have.

You go to the store and buy a few items, say a pound of ground beef, a pint of ice cream and a bunch of bananas because your 3 year old has decided that’s all he’s eating this week. You head on up to the register and have forgotten your reusable bags. Not to worry! Plastic bags are still free here, they’re not banned and you don’t have to pay a single cent for them.

And the bagger very happily puts your meat in one bag (it’s important to keep the plastic-wrapped raw meat from touching anything else), the ice cream in another (cold items should be separate least their icey coldness freeze everything else you buy), and the bananas in a third bag (fresh produce could be contaminated by all of the above, especially if not plastic wrapped).

Three fucking bags.

I used to not care about this, but in the past years I’ve become a bit more environmentally conscious. These bags are going to haunt me and the rest of humanity forever. The times I forget my reusable bags are like agony. I usually end up repeating “Oh, no thanks. I don’t need any bags” with a big smile, lest they think I’m being rude. “Oh, are you sure?” “Yes, I’m sure. I have a ton of them at home I’m trying to work through.”

This is fine at most stores, but one in particular *coughmarketbasketcough* is a tougher nut to crack. My husband always forgets the reusable bags and he always goes to this store to shop. He’s tried telling them he doesn’t want any bags. “Well, if you don’t get any bags, we’ll have to put stickers on every single item you buy.” Their way of preventing shrink is sticking an orange sticker on everything you buy that doesn’t go into a bag. So your watermelon (“Do you want your watermelon in a bag?” “What? No, I don’t particularly feel like re-enacting childbirth with a watermelon when I get home. Just put it in the damn cart already!”), your milk, your soda bottles, your 12 pack of soda cans…all get orange stickers on them.

So he usually comes home sheepishly clutching 10-15 flimsy bags that go into the drawer with the hundred other flimsy bags awaiting their turn to go into the bathroom trashcan.
A few times, however, he’s responded with “Fine. Put a sticker on every item!” And they have. And he’s stood there and watched while they pains-takingly sticker the parsley.

I consider myself to be a libertarian and as such, I agree that people should be able to have bags if they want. But I also know that TANSTASAFL. Someone, somewhere is paying for that bag. It’s not free. It’s also a huge tragedy of the commons since no one is bearing any of the costs of that damn bag. I also know that when countries have introduced a small fee for these bags, bag usage plummets. England now charges 5 pence for carrier bags and reportedly the denser among them mistook it for a second Battle of Hastings — but bag usage has dropped. And I bet no one tries to put three items in three separate bags, either.

So why can’t we? Why would it be so unlibertarian of me to suggest we should all pay 10cents for these shitty bags so that hopefully my grandkids aren’t still using my plastic bags to fill their wastebaskets?

And why for the love of god can’t we actually fit everything into one bag?