So, you all know that we moved out to the cornfield so that I could quit my full-time job and do things like take care of my kids and afford a house that has a craft room.
Lo and behold! I have a house that has a craft room! And I actually did a craft in it! Like all the way, from start to finish!
One day, I know I will finish writing my novel. That does not blow my mind nearly as much as the knowledge that I have finished a craft, in my craft room. True, this was not a very ambitious craft, but it is a very ambitious craft room. It has all sorts of possibilities tucked away on shelves strategically built, and drawers strategically filled. I even have a futon in my craft room, as you all know how fatiguing doing a craft can be.
The craft I completed has an environmentally-friendly aspect to it as well, as it began as a hand-me-down from my husband's sister. I crafted and upcycled! That futon better be a fainting futon, because I swear, I'm going down. Being a Renaissance woman such as myself is all. too. much.
Back to the craft. The craft that I finished. Here it is!
It once was a lonely, discarded old bulletin board, but I finished the crap out of the thing, and look at it now:
Purty, ain't she? She's up on the wall in the playroom, now festooned with all manner of participatory ribbon and badge of merit. You know, the stuff that will hopefully ensure that I have confident children who know their parents are proud of them, but not children who think the world revolves around them and that every breath they take must be praised. It's a fine line, made all the finer when they have such a handsome place to display their accomplishments.
So, here's how I did it:
First, I painted a ratty old bulletin board that my sister-in-law didn't want, with some leftover white house paint. Cork absorbs like a mo-fo, so I probably did five coats before it was generally opaque.
Next, I laid my word stencils out along the top, squirted some pretty Martha Stewart acrylic paint into my kid's little snack bowl thing, and taught myself how to apply the paint with those little squishy-dabby sponge applicators (also Martha brand). Since I had never done this before, I began with the wrong size squishy-dabby thing, and got paint all over the edge of the frame. Be sure to keep some towels or a cat handy to wipe the mess off.
(Yes, that's a sewing machine on the table. Think I've ever used it? As if. But doesn't it make me look ambitious?)
Next, I used the squishy-dabby to stencil on a decorative outline.
I would like to say that my five-year old helped me do it, explaining away the very uneven-ness and general effed-upedness of my decorative outline, but my five-year old was sitting at her own little table in the craft room, making a birthday card for her cousin, and doing a much better job at her craft than I was doing at mine.
Once I had finished three sides of the border, then realized that I should have started with the border and not the words, as I had left no room for the border at the top, I called my five-year-old over for her professional help and advice. I abandoned the role of creative director, and let my kid call the rest of the shots.
Here is her final design:
Placement of most images correspond with the exact spots under which my five-year old left her tiny blue fingerprints. Related: there is no point in telling a five-year old not to touch something because the paint is still wet. That, foolish reader, is simply an invitation to get little blue fingerprints all over your craft.
So there you have it — a finished craft, finished by me, and art directed by Cassidy as I am not to be trusted with such things.
Ah, how quickly childhood ends. Gone are the evenings spent wasting time in the backyard, throwing a ball around, or riding bikes. The weather may finally be warming up, but it's into the house the children go. They are seven years old now, practically grown. There is homework to be done.
But what if the mother says, "Forget you homework—we are staying outside,"? And what if the teacher says, "Forget you mother—the child must be at her desk during recess, regardless of the sunshine, and the friends and fun, and make up for your irresponsible folly,"?
Well, then the mother writes a letter, of course. Well no, first the mother consults all the parents she can muster and seeks counsel. Homework is good for them, some mothers say. Homework is evil, some other mothers say. Homework helps form good habits, some teacher-mothers say. Homework is useless, some other teacher-mothers say—now go and read a book.
So the mother rages and rants and then calms down. And does what any writerly-hippie-political-mother would do: She creates a manifesto.
To the teachers that either of my daughters might have today, this year or for the next twelve years:
The Homework Manifesto
Does homework have a place in a young student’s life? Maybe. I can’t make the argument that it does. But I can tell you that success in school is not based on whether or not my seven-year-old spends ten or twenty or 5 minutes each night on repetitive, basic activities that she does mainly out of fear that not completing them will result in punitive action from her teacher.
Success in school is based on a love of learning. It is based on the desire to know, to discover, to search and to try. And each of these desires, these successes, are only possible if a child has the encouragement and the support and the trust to explore learning.
I don’t want to spend the time together at home with my daughters writing six words in alphabetical order three times. I want to spend our time together on the couch reading the book about Mummies that they chose from the library. Or stacking rocks in the garden. Or baking cookies.
The habits that my daughters will eventually bring with them to university will be habits they learned in school, I’m sure, but the more important habits will have been learned at home, and they will have nothing to do with opening a textbook each night.
My daughters will bring with them the model of a home filled with books and readers and the understanding that books and readers are important. They will bring with them confidence that we have instilled in them by allowing them to live in a democracy and express their rights and opinions. They will bring with them an expectation to think critically and creatively about the people and ideas they encounter.
I will always be my child’s most fervent advocate, even as my time as her primary influence wanes. The role I play in my child’s life will change, but it will not change my desire to see that she is treated in a fair and just way and that her time is not wasted on the institutionalization of her soul.
There is a reason I have an existential crisis each September, just as there is a reason I have quit my job to be with my children, joined the Parent Council, and am indulging in the very selfish act of Doing What I Want. My job is to raise a strong, courageous, kind, questioning person—not a good corporate soldier.
Homework be damned; we're going outside.
The harbinger of all things health admits to Harper’s Bazaar that she is still, “finding the balance between cigarettes and tofu.”
When Gwyneth Paltrow, the glossy, golden good girl that everybody loves to hate, suggests that “any pair of” $255 leggings or $895 Valentino flats will do for your spring wardrobe, I chuckle at the joke it is and wonder if she realizes even for one second per year, how very privileged she is.
But I get why she opts for these extravagances—she can. She can afford it, she has places to wear such things as paneled leather jeggings and metallic silk mini-skirts, and it’s completely on point with who she is and the world she inhabits. She is a glamorous fashionista movie star. I get it.
The other (public) side of Gwyneth is the fresh-faced, tousled, natural mom who is so concerned about her family’s health that she released a cookbook recently called, It’s All Good (perhaps you’ve heard of it), featuring recipes that follow the strict elimination diet that her doctor prescribed. This means that Gwyneth was so concerned with her skyrocketing stress-levels, plummeting Vitamin D levels, and worsening anaemia, that she was willing to adopt a lifestyle that, according to the publisher’s book description, “meant no coffee, no alcohol, no dairy, no eggs, no sugar, no shellfish, no deep-water fish, no wheat, no meat, no soy, nothing processed at all!”
I have no doubt that Gwynnie and her fam can live, at least for a time, on a diet as restricted as this. She has help. She has money. She has people to do things for her like, you know, shop and cook.
And I am not somebody that is screaming that forcing this diet on her offspring is akin to child abuse. Guys? It’s not child abuse. It might be projecting some of her own neuroses and perhaps disordered eating issues on her kids, but they will soon be off to McDonald's with every other teenager, laughing about what a loon their mother can be.
But here’s where all pretense of understanding for Gwyneth that I may have ever had goes out the window:
She’ll give up sugar, soy, dairy, meat, shrimp and coffee, but not cigarettes.
She’ll give up eggs because her stress levels are high, but she won’t give up cigarettes even though her dad died of cancer.
Granted, she claims to only smoke one cigarette per Saturday night, but that’s still smoking. And for somebody who spends her time telling other people how to live their best, healthiest life, I call bullsh*t.
If Paltrow didn’t constantly position herself as super-human, I might not be so harsh about this. I might give her a pass. We all have our weaknesses, I might say. But G doesn’t like people to see her weaknesses. She tells you about her problems, but only after she has overcome them. She doesn’t want you to relate to her as somebody with vulnerabilities, she wants you to relate to her as somebody with answers. With a plan. With a motto, with the knowledge that, It’s All Good.
Only this time? Sorry Gwyneth. It’s just not.