Friday, August 31, 2012

When the Organization Speaks

Cross-posted, with some alterations, at The Exponent.

I am part of an organization that has recently made decisions that are discriminatory towards LGBTQ people, decisions I would not personally make, but are being made by people higher up than me. Also, in the past, this organization has taken stances alienating mothers who work outside the home, and even continues to perpetuate such stances, even if it's not as often or as blatant as before. These things taint the label of the organization, and affect how I define myself, and what assumptions people make about me when they discover my affiliations.

Strike that. I am a part of 2 organizations that do this. I am both a Mormon and an LLL leader.

LLL is short for "La Leche League," and is a non-religious breastfeeding support organization that was created in 1956. It is now an international organization and is well-known in the breastfeeding community for the research it has supported and literature it has produced that has helped breastfeeding rates world-wide. While big and far-reaching, its main purpose is mother-to-mother support and all LLL leaders are volunteers. Some leaders lead support meetings, others take phone calls or emails to answer questions and give support, still others will take time from their dayand go do home visits, helping latch a baby or otherwise support breastfeeding moms.

And as with many large organizations, both LLL and the LDS has a history of discrimination.

In the 1970s and 80s, while LDS Church Presidents Kimball and Benson were asking mothers to come home, LLL would disallow a woman to become a leader if she had a job, even if she was home with a Tupperware business. While we Mormons haven't heard a "Mother Come Home" talk in a couple of decades, the effects are still around in places like the YW manuals. And while LLL does now allow working mothers to become leaders, some women are still denied leadership if their childcare arrangements don't allow enough access between mother and baby.

And just as LGBTQ issues have become a hot topic in the LDS Church, LLL is facing similar criticism. Last week, Trevor, a transgendered man who has birthed and nursed his son, asked LLL Canada if he could undergo the application process to become a La Leche League leader.

LLL Canada responded that they would not allow Trevor to pursue leadership. As of writing this blog post, LLL International, headquartered in Schaumberg, Illinois, has not made a statement, though they have stated that there will be one forthcoming.

I spent some time last week reading the reactions of bloggers and breastfeeders I respect and the subsequent comments. I understood, but was still dismayed at the comments of people saying they wouldn't refer parents to LLL in the future. I tried very hard not to take it personally on behalf of myself and my co-leaders who volunteer their time and energy to reach people who don't have money for lactation consultant or who can't wait 9 days for an appointment with an IBCLC. I look at the people on the ground level and think, "These people want to help everyone despite the politics of the larger organization, please be understanding of that!"

And it was then that I realized I was having a very Mormon experience. I was asking myself the same questions many of my fellow Mormons ask every day: What do you do when you are part of an organization but don't agree with all the politics that comes out? Is it worth it to stay and change from within? Would it be better for your integrity and mental sanity to leave? What if your friends and family are there?

I love the Church and have a testimony of the gospel and feel like it's where I belong. I insist on belonging despite being told by others I don't.

I also really love LLL. It's one of the few ways I can volunteer while I have small children at home. I particularly love home visits because I get to really be with the families and help in a physical and emotional way. I give support over the phone and email, but it's not the same as helping a baby latch on for the first time in days or weeks. I fill in the gap where families can't afford lactation consultants.

It is not only the LDS Church that comes with mixed PR. I think a lot of us are affiliated with organizations that are struggling to deal with new ideas and ethical issues: from businesses to PTA and scouts, sports teams and the stores and brands we shop. How are you balancing these sorts of issues? I know I often boycott and letter-write. But also, I sometimes stick around and hope for change.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Life's been pretty good lately. The big thing online last night was Rock Center's Mormon in America on NBC. My friend, Emma, let me know she saw me on it, so I went and looked for myself. I'm at 6:53 in this video in Mitch Mayne's portion of the segment. I'm famous! Well, you knew it had to happen: the shawl I was wearing was award-winning (county fair honorable mention) and handknit by me the year before. You don't go out in public with a shawl like that and not get on national TV. Haha!

As far as other news, the kids are really loving their homeschool group. I grabbed a picture of some of them playing Duck Duck Goose. I loved looking at that circle of kids and seeing so many ages from Isaac (2) to older kids I'm guess are around 8 or 9. The circle was pretty full, probably 15 kids altogether. It was a good moment for me because I've been having homeschooling doubts lately, mostly revolving around whether or not it's ok to remove them from the cultural experience of school. Will they feel left out when they watch TV shows or movies of kids in school? Will they not be able to relate to others because of their lack of shared experience? Moments like this Duck Duck Goose game assures me that yes, they are having a full and happy childhood despite our attempts to turn them into homebound geeks.

Oh and by the way, I'm pregnant. If it wasn't obvious here: (last week- also check out my pregnancy acne!)

It's obvious here. Went to Planned Parenthood today for the proof of pregnancy. Good experience overall. I hid my LMP and due date in this photo because I don't want you all to start worrying when I go "overdue" yet again. :)
I went to a different office than the one I went for Isaac's Proof of Pregnancy. This one was much nicer, the wait was much shorter, and the buses went straight to it. The kids were watched by a friend so it was just me. The waiting room's TV was playing Persepolis, so I even got a little culture. 

When I went to Planned Parenthood for my last pregnancy, we had just moved and didn't have health insurance in California, so I believe they assumed I was there for insurance reasons. This time I went in with great insurance (that still didn't cover a pregnancy test, but I don't mind supporting Planned Parenthood with my few dollars) and they were a little curious as to why I was coming in. I simply explained that in the event of an unattended birth you need proof of pregnancy to file a birth certificate and I was covering my bases. The Planned Parenthood personel were very respectful, which is why I chose them. I could have gone to a regular doctor for proof of pregnancy, but I didn't want to be lectured about prenatal care. Planned Parenthood? No lecturing.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Not-back-to-School Planning

My friend, Alisa, posted recently about how learning happens in her family. So far, ours is very similar and organic.

However that annoying voice in the back of my mind telling me that I need to be more organized is getting to me.

In response, I bought a regular day planner and wrote in the homeschool park days and other activities. And then I assigned topics for most of the weeks between now and April. Some weeks have no topics (usually around holidays like Halloween and Christmas- fall and winter break!). And during the winter the topics are especially vague and simple so that if a baby shows up early/late/extra-late, I'll have a plan that is doable with low-energy levels.

To be honest, though, the topics for the rest of the year are pretty vague as well. The first couple of weeks of September are labelled "apples." And later in September the label is "fall." October gets a "pumpkin" week and also a "dinosaur" week. My plan is to reserve theme-related books a couple of weeks ahead of time at the library so they are available on the needed week. And then come up with activities. For example, I'm pretty sure we'll make an apple pie during one of the "apple" weeks.

Pretty complicated, huh? I'll probably give up on the plan about 2 weeks in, but oh well. It was kind of fun planning out a school year(ish). Gave me something to do on a Sunday afternoon.

We did sign Margaret up for a music class in September. She's been asking to play violin for over a year now and so we signed her up for a class that introduces Suzuki method as well as piano, violin, cello, flute, and harp. If she still likes violin by the end of it, we'll go with that, but if she finds she prefers another instrument, then we won't have wasted money on lessons she didn't want. In addition to that, next week we are going to a music-tasting activity where kids can pick up and try different instruments.

So starting in September, I'll start up my "this week in homeschooling" posts again. Expect pictures of pies. Lots of them. I'm pretty sure that's all my kids ever need to learn about.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Ward Talent Show

One of my homeschooling goals is to take advantage of opportunities for the kids to perform. We had a ward talent show and I thought the kids could sing a song. It's just one verse of Old MacDonald, but I think it's a good thing to get them used to public speaking/performing before stage fright sets in.

They practiced it for FHE on Monday and we talked about how close/far the microphone is supposed to be from your mouth. Isaac's "E I E I O" isn't very noticeable, but it's there and that was his contribution.

I'm on our ward's activities committee now and so to show support I volunteered to do a little color guard routine. It took me a while to settle on a song because I didn't want it too long and have to choreograph a ton. I settled on the Dr. Who Theme song just this past Monday. I didn't get a lot of practice time so I did actually forget 4 counts (I just repeated the previous 4 counts again, so you can't notice, much). I'm sad about forgetting those counts though because the choreography went very well with the music. Perfectly! And then I forgot it.

There wasn't a lot of space for moving around (didn't want to hit people!) so I'm pretty stationary, though I was prepared if there was more space. Also, the volume on the CD player was too low at the beginning so I missed the first 8 counts... sadness. And because I hadn't practiced much, my performance smile and other things (free hand!) aren't at my best. But for not having done a color guard performance in over 6 years, and for being pregnant. It's ok.

So... that was our homeschooling for the weekend.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Inquisition Monday: Boycotts

Betttina asked me about boycotts a couple of weeks ago and I wasn't sure if I wanted to make it a post or not. Firstly, I know I don't boycott as much as a should and don't want to look like a "bad" environmentalist/feminist/consumer. But on the other hand, I boycott so many thing that I'm pretty sure I'll skip a few. But here's an attempt at a list:

Nestle. I've blogged about it many times. With the outright malicious advertising and WHO code violations along with environmental and ecological issues, this is a big one on my list. I'm also very well-versed in what is Nestle from DiGiorno to Dreyer's Ice Cream to Gerber. Luckily, Nestle is so adamant about advertising themselves, you can almost always find "Nestle" marked on their products in the fine print somewhere.

I also try to boycott companies with ties to Nestle such as Hulu. And Wendy's. What is Wendy's tie to Nestle? If you buy a kid's meal and request milk, it's Nestle milk. And my kids absolutely love getting milk with kid's meals when we do fast food and it's better than carbonated cornsyrup, so having a non-Nestle milk option is important to me. So no Wendy's.

I am also sad to say that the Girl Scouts have recently teamed up with Nestle and now Nestle makes Girl Scout candy bars. I love the Girl Scouts and want to support them, so I'm going to sit down and write them a sad letter about why I can't anymore.

Along with Wendy's, I try as much as possible to avoid all fast food because of how mass-grown cows are fed and other corn subsidy issues. Sometimes it's not possible like on long trips and not being able to take long stops, so I have a little ranking of "bad" fast food. I will absolutely avoid companies with bad marketing histories (marketing to children, objectifying women and minorities, etc) like McDonald's, Carl's Jr., and Burger King.

If we go back to the baby-feeding realm, I also avoid Destination Motherhood and its related stores like Motherhood Maternity. Not only have I had issues with sales associates at Motherhood Maternity, I also am against using people's names and information to connect with other companies that send things like free formula to door steps.

I also avoid Walmart for the ways it treats employees and the loss of mom and pop stores due to the Walmart invasion. And Target is not immune from these critiques either. In fact, Target's return policy makes me so upset that it gets a double whammy from me.

I am also taking up the Hyatt boycott. I am not completely educated in the ways other hotel chains treat their workers, but I will read up. I also will avoid specific hotels if I think they are particularly wasteful. For example, on our last trip to Anaheim, the hotel we stayed at provided only styrofoam plates for the continental breakfast. I made sure that I noted on the "How did you like your stay?" card that I'd prefer if they used a compostable option like paper. Also, a hotel offering only Nestle products in their vending machines or food places will get a note from me as well.

So that's a quick run-down. I'm sure I forgot something and I know I didn't link everything. A google search for most of these will get you the information and I trust my readers know how to get to

How do I avoid these companies? Buying local. Buying second-hand. Sometimes I can't avoid companies I don't like, so I try to choose the lesser of two evils. But if we're going to pretend we have a free market, my dollars are going to be carefully allocated so that they promote what I want them to.

Do you boycott? What's on your black list?

ETA: I also avoid bottled water as much as possible. And our car-free experiment has allowed us to avoid oil companies better.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Car Free, Week 3

We are now solidly into our third week of going car-free.

We took the BART to our date a couple of weekends ago, which was fine. On the way back, a crowd of intoxicated twenty-somethings joined our car, and that was a bit annoying. We also got off a stop early and had to do some extra walking to the bus stop. But even if we weren't car-free, the BART would have been on our list of options. I have a friend who works in the city and she said that going in town on a Saturday evening can be difficult with traffic and parking and she said she'd recommend the BART even if we had a car.

The kids still love the buses. I have run into the small problem of time: I have a rule that I don't go anywhere unless we'll be at the destination longer than the time the round-trip commute takes. I think it's a reasonable rule. Unfortunately, the church playgroup last week was at a destination that would have been 2 hours of travel (hour there, hour back) for only an hour and a half of play. So we didn't go. If it were any of my other playgroups, we would have gone, because normally people stay 3-4 hours. It's actually a bit of a culture shock to go to a playgroup where people start leaving only an hour and a half into it! That's when the conversation is just getting started! Oh well. Mormons are strange like that.

And I'd like to give a few paragraphs to the awesomeness of biking in Berkeley. I've been regularly biking to Berkeley since January. It was my goal that I would either bike the kids some place for more than 30 minutes or run for 30 minutes a day. Most of the parks we go to in Berkeley are about 3 miles away, so that's 20-30 minutes of biking depending on lights, wind, and my energy, giving a round trip of 40-60 minutes of cardio. I'm no longer jogging because it was too hard to get back into it after the break I took during my morning sickness time, but I am keeping up the biking.

Berkeley has bike trails and streets labelled "Bicycle Boulevard" that are set up to accomodate cyclists. For example, California Street is a "Bicycle Boulevard," and at fairly regular intervals, there are roundabouts. I assume the purpose of the roundabouts is to discourage cars from driving on that street and to use the parallel Sacramento Street instead. This means that while you do run into cars on California Street, it's mostly empty and available for cyclists. There are also streets, like West Street, which are solely pedestrian and bicycle traffic. When you use Google Maps to plan a bicycle route, it takes into account the "Bicycle Boulevards" and trails and will suggest routes away from main roads like University. I find it very handy.

Drivers are mostly courteous to cyclists. I have had some run-ins with drivers, though. One felt like he had to pull over and give me a lecture on keeping my kids safe in a trailer (they had helmets, I stay as far to the right as possible, and were buckled well, not sure what his issue was). Also, interestingly on that same street, I had a vehicle full of people honk and yell at me yesterday. I was on the left of the lane at a red light, waiting for it to change so I could turn left. I waved the car by me, smiling since they were turning right, but all the while they were telling me to "Get on the sidewalk!" and "Since when is that a car?" Um... my bike is treated like a vehicle on the streets just like your car. See, I'm stopped at the light and everything! I just kept smiling and waved them on, secretly hoping that when thy got to their destination and complained about that annoying cyclist in the street, someone would correct them, "Cyclists are supposed to be in the streets and follow the same rules as cars." One can only hope.

I'll admit I don't always make full stops at stop signs though. I used to be really annoyed over cyclists who didn't do that but now I understand. If I had to make a full stop for every stop sign and regain my momentum with 65 pounds of children on a single-speed bike at every stop sign? I'd die of exhaustion and my legs would give out. I do slow down a lot and am ready to stop if needed- I have kids with me, after all. And I never run red lights. Ever. It's just when I'm on a quieter street and can see no one is coming for over half a mile away, I'll just slow down a bit and keep going.

I do find it annoying when I stop at a sign because another vehicle is at the intersection and then they wave me by first. I made a full stop for you! Take your turn! I know they are just trying to be nice, but it makes me a little self conscious: now I have to bring my bike back up to speed from a stopped position while they wait for me to take a turn that's not mine. I feel very watched.

But I do love riding my bike. I love the cool breezes and using my own legs to get myself somewhere. I'm probably the slowest rider in Berkeley; all the other cyclists pass me. It's fun: I kind of feel like I'm in an anime film or show and I ought to dye my hair bright red. Not sure why. I just associate people who bike with anime. I need to ride with some Japanese rock playing or something. I'm not the only person who has noticed a lot of anime has bike riders, am I?

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

World Breastfeeding Week 2012

So... I didn't blog much this time. It's a little unusual for me, but I think my previous blog-inhibiting prenatal depression didn't totally go away.

There's been a lot about breastfeeding lately and I wanted to highlight a couple of stories.

First is the hullabaloo about New York's new "Latch On NYC" initiative. Jay Gordon wrote an article clarifying the initiative's efforts- read it.

I also wanted to mention that comic artist, Heather Cushman-Dowdee, who had been posting her favorite breastfeeding comics on her Facebook page was banned for 24 hours due to an illustrated nipple. An illustrated nipple. Let me explain: that is a drawn circle inside another drawn circle. I considered changing my profile pic to a circle within a circle for solidarity, but I'm kind of loving my current picture. Jodine Chase puts the offending comic next to a new "more offensive" comic Cushman-Dowdee created as a response. I love it.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Stereotype Threat and Parenting

A couple of weeks ago, I ran into the NPR article, How Stereotypes Can Drive Women to Quit Science, which discusses stereotype threat. Stereotype threat is the phenomenon that even if you consciously say that you don't believe in stereotypes, subconsciously, you still act in accordance to those.

It's an interesting article, go read it.

As I read it I thought about my time studying math in college and other choices I've made in my life. I also thought about my kids and how I really want to raise them without gendered expectations and yet I find myself doing just that.

Last week when I wrote about potty learning and said I had not wanted to push Isaac too much because  I'd heard "boys potty train later than girls?" Yes, I was letting a stereotype affect how I approached pottying for Isaac. And despite that, he's about at the same level Margaret was at the age of two. I'm sure some boys potty learn later, just as some girls do, and it might be that more boys potty learn later than most girls, but that doesn't mean all boys and all girls. Each person is an individual.

In the same vein, I've let the "boys like math and girls like reading" stereotype seep in, even though my own degree is in math. When Margaret was counting to herself in the back of the bike trailer, prompting me to make up a hundreds chart so she could learn to count to 100, I was a surprised that she liked numbers. She now likes to count up to 1000 (though her name for 1000 is 10-hundred). I think there were a couple of things playing into my surprise at her love of numbers: I wanted to be careful that my interest in math wasn't pushed on her. I didn't want to push math on her simply because I had a degree in it- maybe she wouldn't like it and resent it if I pushed her towards that. Queue the, "I don't have to be like you!" teenage angst. So yes, I was surprised she liked numbers. She's only 4 so who knows what she'll like 10, 20 years from now, but I was already letting stereotypes affect how I introduced her to concepts.

Similarly, I get a little too excited when Isaac brings me a book to read. I grew up in a family where the boys and my father didn't read a lot. I rarely saw guys who liked reading and that stereotype of boys not doing well in reading comprehension and the similar reading issues. So when Isaac brings me a book, I think, "Woohoo! He likes reading!" I find that I don't have the same reaction when Margaret brings me books. I think I overreact so that I can assure myself that he won't have troubles reading later. Because you know, he's a boy.

Stereotyping: guilty as charged.

Also, check out Isaac ironing. (It was not plugged in).

Do you find yourself stereotyping the people around you? Your kids? Your coworkers? Yourself? What do you do to be more aware of this?