A Great Stash for NO Cash!

Heads up! I finally figured out how to make the giveaway legit on Facebook. Be gentle with me, as it's my first go with this particular application, but I have used it as a participant in other giveaways and found it easy to navigate. Most of you should have no trouble at all. Click here to enter!

You can enter up to five, yes FIVE, times in a variety of fun ways. Get one entry simply for “liking” a palpable paradox on Facebook, another for tagging the page in a status on your personal page about what using cloth diapers means/would mean for your family, another for following @palpableparadox on twitter, yet another for tweeting about the giveaway on twitter, and lastly (my personal favorite) you can write a haiku poem about cloth diapering on the Facebook page after you've liked it!

Remember, you don’t have to be actively cloth diapering to enter or win. You can be simply interested in trying them; you can be pregnant; you can be daydreaming about having a baby; you can have a neighbor two doors down you think could use them; you can be a Papa who wants to cloth diaper on his weekends (and I kind of hope you are, actually); you can be a grandma, a sister, an uncle, a mentor or a teacher of someone who you think might appreciate them. I just want the collections to go to homes where they will be cherished and put to good use by families who want to try to do the best they can for the Earth.

Now, the official mumbo jumbo: This giveaway is sponsored by me and only me, not Facebook or Rafflecopter or Fuzzi Bunz or any of the others groups, companies, organizations or individuals who may be mentioned in the duration of this giveaway. One winner will be drawn on the morning of April 3, 2014. If the Facebook page receives 250 or more likes by April 2, there will be a second winner drawn; if the page receives 300 or more likes by then, a third winner will be added. Winners will be randomly selected, and packages will be delivered (if local) or shipped within one week of the drawing. By accepting the prize you agree to release me of any liability resulting in your acceptance and use of the diapers, liners, cloth wipes, and wet bags contained therein. Use common laundering sense. The diapers have been stripped, but I advise you to launder them in your own fashion and detergent before use—you know, for sanitation’s sake. Now, if you’ve made it this far, you can leave a comment here on the blog for a chance to win a bonus mini prize pack not announced anywhere else. Simply tell me your two favorite colors from the rainbow diaper stash photo and you will be entered into a secondary drawing to be held the same day!

Good luck!

No, not that. Anything but that!

True to the tag I should probably be telling my therapist this instead of you, and I would—believe me, I would—but I only have one hour every two weeks and this just won’t fit in with all the other stuff on my list. Sorry, and you’re welcome.

I got my first tattoo when I was 15. It was/is the most hideous of indistinguishable blobs conveniently located forfuckingever on the small of my back. This tattoo was done by a guy named… what was it? Crawl? D’Beers? Copper, Topaz, Weed, Sailor, Golden, Maggot? I can’t remember his name now but I have six of his “practice tattoos” remaining, and a seventh that was converted into something I’m not embarrassed by over a decade after he scratched the original into my back. And now, tonight, after years and years of general conversation and a solid year of intensive present-day let's-look-at-your-patterns-of-impulsivity-lately conversations with Koa, the kid gets off the phone with my ex-husband, sits down at the table with the family for meat and potatoes dinner, and announces that he has great news! (Fuck me. This scenario is never, ever good. Seriously, there are days I wish the man would just dissolve or something.) 

"Yeah, he said he and grandma will take me to get a tattoo when I visit this summer!" 

And the air was literally sucked out of the room, except for Koa who was smiling and nodding his head affirmatively. He resembled some sort of adorable bobble-head souvenir one would pick up at a gas station or visitor's center at the tail-end of a trip you can't wait to get home from. Meanwhile I was more like the haggard tourist in a foreign land, stunned and stammering, lost, confused, and stuck in my same old outfit and furry teeth because someone stole my luggage back at the station. I stuffed a piece of garlicky steak in my mouth and stared out the window towards Canada. Breathing deeply and slowly grinding through the meat, I took great care to bite the tiny minced garlic particles one-by-one every time I needed to bite my tongue. It helped me be less of an asshole. I'm not mad at my kid; he's just doing the kid thing, searching for the Always Yes--but it's kind of easy for me to flip the asshole switch when my ex enters the conversation.   

Now it's been an hour and so far I've had a little cry and gotten frustration-fueled heartburn from the situation. Balls. Here's the thing: I am covered in tattoos. I have them on my feet, calves, ribs, arms, fingers, ears, neck, back, chest, shins, and the inside of my lip. I have never once doubted Koa would eventually follow suit to some degree, be it one or 100%, ever since he proudly declared he wanted a mermaid with the body of a shark tattooed on his belly when he was just six-years-old. This is just not how I imagined it would go down.
I think all parents have hope that their children will be better off than they are in a number of ways and I am no different. While I fully support my son dropping into life and out of high school, while I have long encouraged him to follow his own path whatever it looks like, I just simply cannot get behind his very first tattoo memory being one tainted by the impulsive nature of his life right now. My own experience not withstanding, I desperately wish he would wait until he is an adult so that he can make decisions based on how his path unfolds as he ventures into a life outside of my nest. It's not a good time for him to walk into a sleazy shop about which he knows nothing, select some shitty flash drawing off the wall at the encouragement of my ex, and allow some degenerate stranger to scrawl into is virgin skin with his tattoo "gun." That, and of course the thought of my ex getting the honor of accompanying him for the occasion makes me throw up a little in my mouth. It's true that I have had every Christmas, every birthday, every Easter, every New Year (save for this very last one), and every Father's Day with Koa throughout his entire life... but that's because I'm actually a reliable parent to him, have always been present in his life, and actually have some idea of where my son is at right now both mentally and emotionally. It's just not a good place to be making decisions that literally mark for life unless he wants to start saving for cover-ups now... but that would be our money because he doesn't have a job, and I don't really have that in the budget.

If nothing else I guess I just assumed this particular rite of passage would be one I was an immediate and positive part of. For now, however, it looks as though I may have to begrudgingly accept his choice to have someone else there instead. And not just someone else, but my exfuckinghusband, some dude I married as a wayward child-bride and divorced before I was 21. I hope my pride and excitement for Koa to transform himself in this way in his lifetime isn't overshadowed or reversed by that particular detail, but more than that I hope he doesn't get a staph infection from unsanitary conditions or poor aftercare in the time he's out of state.  

Nice to meet you, Cloth Diapers!

When I had my first son a couple months after turning seventeen I wasn't really running on well-researched paths. I pretty much raised him in a manner heavily influenced by three things: mainstream child rearing culture, the ever-present advice of my ex-husband's parents, and the way that I was raised myself. Suffice it to say that a lot of my parenting beliefs and approaches have changed over the last several years, and all I believe to be positive steps toward the outcome of better relationships with healthier more confident children.

Some of the differences between what I affectionately refer to as my my First and Second Waves (of motherhood) include issues of circumcision, breastfeeding, babywearing, elimination communication, diapering, sign language, sensory learning, screen and media exposure, and issues surrounding 'discipline' when the children 'act out' (aka now I'm not always a huge jerk when my kids are slamming down on my buttons in a developmentally appropriate way).
One of these subjects tends to lend itself to less inflammatory discourse than some of the others, so I'd like to start by sharing a little bit about my venture into cloth diapering.
Though I had seen my step-mom cloth diaper my little brother when I was around ten years old, I remember it being a cumbersome task involving pins and covers and hand wringing shitty diapers in the toilet. Par for the course in many cases, sure, but to me as a child--totally disgusting. Koa and Cedar were raised in disposable diapers due to a number of circumstances ranging from resources to knowledge, but mostly due to lacking exposure to the practice. Jump forward almost a decade to find me living in Tiny Town, a great place to be born. Here I learned about Doulas and Midwifery and natural birth and birth centers... And about cloth diapers.
Elvis is everywhere, even on a tiny Birch.
Once I found them I was hooked. There are so many amazing companies and hard-working Mamas with home businesses to choose from; children look adorable in them; they come in almost any print or color you can imagine; after the initial sticker shock wears off they pay for themselves quickly and retain a strong resale value; and using them creates a lower impact on the Earth than using disposables. With all that on the table it was hard not to get hooked. Those of you who've been following along well know that once I get excited about something I don't really look back until the guilt or regret not only nips at my heels, but actually tears a chunk out of the back of my thigh. Such is the life of a borderline hoarder. That is how I wound up with a stash of diapers that numbered 120+ at one time for just my two youngest boys. I know, I know, it sounds crazy, but like I said Tiny Town is really into these sorts of things so finding used cloth diapers in excellent condition to bulk up on was an easy task. Besides, mathematically speaking, this obscene amount of diapers really only amounts to purchasing one every three days or so... Which kind of doesn't make me sound any less impulsive, I realize, but it's a noble cause to get behind. 

Birch wore cloth a solid 93% of his diaper days and Aspen started in them, but we finally caught on to elimination communication with him and drastically decreased the need for a lot of diapers in the process. I was rotating through an immense diaper stash and washing a less-than-full load every two or three days, had finally perfected my dry pail and wash systems, and I felt great for acing something plenty of other people are intimidated by. That is until the day a tiny baby Aspen got the diaper rash that changed everything.

Looking for some pep.
Maybe I'll tell the tale another time because it's a doozy and deserves a full post with lots of informational links and statistics, but basically when Aspen's diaper rash refused to respond to the usual course of treatment at home, I took him in to see another doctor in his pediatrician's office who had room on his schedule on a Sunday. It is enough for now to say that the doctor did not respect me or my son, resulting in formal complaints and investigations with the State that nearly took us to court for a malpractice suit. Then, because of a need to apply heavy creams to his rash that would compromise the absorbency permanently in the cloth diapers, I started using disposables. Simultaneously I battled a depressive bout of my own while also processing a lot of other internal family stressors, and I couldn't find the energy to think about returning to the cloth diaper ritual after a month, then two. Now it's nearly seven months later and I can say that my fetish for the fluff has quelled considerably. My expectations for myself at this juncture are much lower when it comes to my ability to manage regular weekly laundry, even with the help of Brian and the older boys, much less the added two or three loads of diapers. Part of me feels lame for throwing in the towel, but more of me recognizes the breakup with cloth as a simple way to practice self-care. When everything feels like it's caving in on me, or like it's incredibly heavy or busy, or we have a week heavy on the nighttime accidents or daytime art projects (which seems to be, well, pretty much every week), removing a few loads of laundry a week actually feels like removing a few tons of brick off my back even if I do understand the social, environmental, and financial implications of the decision. We all have to arrange our priorities based on our circumstances, and I feel no shame in reevaluating them according to my latest self-revelation. In fact friends, reevaluation driven by self-reflection and revelation is a really refreshing practice. It helps me remember that the whole world is fluid, even me, and that it is okay to be so.

I do, however, still love cloth diapers--especially my Fuzzi Bunz stash. I sold off my tiny ones as soon as Aspen was out of them since he is the final baby in our home, but I still have a huge stash of medium and large sizes in all the colors of the rainbow. While I could likely sell them for $5-$8/ea in Tiny Town and recoup some of my investment, I've decided I would rather share the benefits of cloth diapering with other families who have or are expecting a little one and who may or may not otherwise consider using them due to cost or other factors. And plus, remember the Great Purge of 2014? I have to hold up my end of the deal. The diapers are beautiful, insanely useful, and totally storied--they were part of every day of my children's lives for 2+ years--but they are not doing any good just sitting in IKEA storage bins.
The most glorious remnants of our cloth diaper days.
Stay tuned for the full details on how you can win a dozen of my Fuzzi Bunz diapers and inserts, along with both a pail-sized and a travel wet bag. Sure they're used but they were well taken care of and recently stripped, they are free, and they will be catching shit so I don't think it really matters that much. Plus, you are under zero obligation to enter to win something you wouldn't actually cherish and use. For the rest of you, save about $125 and change the way you handle bio-waste forever. It's actually a really sweet deal, and one which I will have delivered to your door if you win and live in the US.    

Details coming Wednesday (or maybe sooner if I get ambitious and am not just being pushed around by caffeine and sleep-deprived delirium) so stay tuned, spread the word, and be sure to LIKE ME for the most up-to-date announcements as I hammer out a plan...         

Cavorting with serpents

When we learned that Koa had severe allergies to pretty much everything under the sun--including all but one of the trees native to a 5 mile radius around our home, his childhood pet cats, his grandparents' dogs, mold, grass, pollen of all varieties, dust, and pretty much every other environmental contaminant imaginable--we began a cleansing process that involved air treatments, immunotherapeutic allergy shots twice weekly, a host of medication, alleviation of yard work and dusting duties for a certain bubble boy, and refusing against all my will to replace our beloved cats once they were no more. Hence the crazy cat lady giveaway...

But the importance and therapeutic powers of the presence of animals is not so easily erased and so we went in search of a calming animal that could help with the general anxiety issues Koa and I share, and that would also provide us with something to care for, to see thrive, and to hold my sons' interest.

Enter the White's Tree Frog. 

We began pursuing these little guys at the recommendation of a longtime friend and herpetology aficionado, and are so excited for them to arrive tomorrow. They are pretty much always smiling, which seems very calming in and of itself, and the home we have built to accommodate them is a stunning focal point of our space.

While Aspen and Birch helped me prepare the coconut substrate for the terrarium, Koa and I worked to place the tropical plants.



 My friend put us in contact with one of her friends (the same man who hooked us up with a donation site for the animal remains from the best birthday party ever) who was able to order five of the little guys for us from a quality source in Florida. You can count on at least one entry on them once they have arrived and settled in!

In the meantime, please enjoy these photos of Koa, Cedar and Birch getting acquainted with Raymond. He came to visit us when the source for our frogs came to check out the terrarium setup last night. You know, no big deal. Just my children cavorting with a massive serpent winding itself around the bodies of my offspring in the comfort of our own home... The usual.



Wishes really do come true!

sack of tools, that is.
I have wonderful friends. Wonderful, brave, daring, talented, hilarious, engaging, and genuine friends. They are always backing me up, even when my ideas are totally batshit crazy. For example I once ran an impromptu coat drive and they stopped by with hot coffee for me and warm coats for the homeless. This time I sent out the invite to my taxidermy themed 34th birthday party and not only did they show up ready to learn, but came armed with accessories like sun hats and itty bitty cigarettes to create incredible taxidermy pieces while here.

This is the best birthday party I have ever had. I once had a roller skating birthday party that was pretty awesome. We had cake and skated. This, however, trumps any birthday party I or pretty much anyone else has ever had. Why?
Three words: Heirloom party favors.


Oh, and we still had cake. Red velvet cupcakes with rabbit ears on them. Thematically apropos.

Not only did these troopers put aside nerves and queasiness, but they brought booze and food and sweet gifts like Magic 8 Balls and bedazzled satin mesh-back Virgin Mary trucker hats (for real, which likely warrants its own photo post later this week). They also wrote genuine messages of love and endearment in my cards, and let me know how special and precious I am to them. They spent hours reminding me why I have chosen them to be my nearest and dearest. Additionally, they are an aesthetically pleasing bunch to spend four hours crammed in a cold garage with, so there's that.

Speaking of troopers, my boys Cedar and Koa deserve a HUGE hollar of gratitude. They entertained, wrangled, bathed five times, read books to, fed, comforted, watched movies and cuddled with Birch and Aspen through the entire duration of the party, the cleanup, and the time it took Brian and I to have a beer, take a load off, and reflect on how much fun everyone had. It really was a once in a lifetime type of thing, and I am so grateful to know the kinds of people who will step outside their comfort zones--or into them, as the case may be--and do something new for the sake of checking things off of Bucket Lists. Monotony is miserable, and everyone deserves to have an heirloom taxidermy piece to leave behind. Thanks to the assistance of Cedar and Koa, I now have two of them. I'll make sure to bequeath one to each of them.
One very important aside: The guinea pigs and rabbits we used were purchased from a reputable provider of feeder animals for zoos, animal rehabilitation centers, and other agencies across the country. They are bred to be feeder animals, and are treated with the highest standards of care during their lives and processing. Humanely euthanized using carbon dioxide, the animals are immediately frozen and sent out. You may notice the mounts we created use only the pelt of the top half of the animals. Because I love me some philanthropy, the parts you can't see (because my Grandpa reads my blog and I don't want to post a picture of a bloody, earless, footless rabbit here to shock him) are heading to Predators of the Heart, an organization serving wild animals in a variety of ways, and will become food for wolves and cougars. I am thrilled to see the animals go full circle to their destiny as feeders while also being memorialized as a tangible remembrance of one of the best times I've had in a long, long time.


Happy Birthday to Me! 34 isn't looking so bad so far... 
   

Taxidermy! (Who doesn't love a birthday party with a theme?)

It's an heirloom.
*Here's your warning shot: There is a graphic image at the bottom of this page. No more so than a biology class, but still, heads up El Sensitivos!*

I once paid an exorbitant amount of money to make my own stuffed rabbit mount. True story. I attended the out-of-town workshop with a cherished friend, so the experience ended up being worth the cost despite the instructor being a crappy facilitator. While she has definitely nailed a niche market--and I appreciate her entrepreneurial spirit, I really do--I was grossly overcharged. Maybe she was having a bad day or maybe being snappy and awkward just comes with the territory in an industry I have little experience in. Either way, I have since wished for that same exact activity with a room full of different people...

I have long believed taxidermy, though quickly gaining clout in the world of trendsetters and hipsters, to be an incredible way to treat the remains of an animal. I also appreciate the kitschy appeal a crappy taxidermized animal can bring to just about any space. Now I am not advocating for killing for fun or, say, I don't know, running down your neighbor's scrawny ragamuffin dog that runs rampant all day long just barking and shitting on everyone's lawn but its own. I don't believe in such cruelties (as evidenced by the continued life of dear little Shaggy as he runs amok atop of the hill). However, if you can find humanely sourced animals or want to go rogue and hit the county roads with a shovel, well, you won't hear an argument from the likes of me is all I'm saying.

And my birthday is Wednesday, so now I'm officially wishing for a taxidermy themed birthday soiree. And, true to my form, if I officially wish for something to happen there really isn't any stopping it. Ask anyone who knows me. And so the small mammals and scalpels were ordered and the invitations sent:

I LOVE YOU TO DEATH: A TAXIDERMY THEMED BIRTHDAY PARTY!   
I have spent the last several days running around like a mad woman trying to pull together the details, and now there are two dozen animals thawing out in my garage for the occasion. I can't wait to tell you more about it, but for now I just wanted to give you a preview of what is coming... and to make sure you know whose blog you are reading.


"Hands up! Nobody move!"

As if my day wasn't colorful enough already, busy and generally overflowing with life. Today started with the motivational warmth of early springtime sunshine, and found us completing lots of errands soaking up of the first glints of seasonal change as the day marched on. Aspen, Birch and I started the day reading stacks of stories wrapped in the scent of the fresh air and cinnamon rolls, and then had a rendezvous at the children's museum with some sweet friends. I was buzzing with good coffee most of the day and checking things off of the to-do list like:

  • REGISTER KOA FOR DRIVER'S ED
  • ROB A BANK TO PAY FOR DRIVER'S ED! *
  • TXFR $$$ FROM SAVINGS->CHECKING TO COVER DRIVER'S ED
  • SEND INSURANCE FORMS!!! 
  • BUY MORE BOOZE FOR BOOZY COFFEE 
  • FIND EYES FOR TAXIDERMY BIRTHDAY BASH!
  • BOOTS BOOTS BOOTS

The day would have been complete had it just ended there, but Birch wanted to do something crafty and the new paints we purchased on sale last night (while searching for the eyes for the aforementioned taxidermy birthday bash) seemed like just the draw for him. We didn't find what we were looking for last night but my kid sure did hot-wire one of the Rascal scooters while I patiently waited for the slowest checker on the planet to scan my five items. In the time it took her to complete my transaction Birch managed to knock a chunk of plaster off a wall and bowl over a candy display fixture, one fellow customer, and an entire 6' long magazine rack full of quilting, cupcake and crochet periodicals.
"Mama, did you see me drive?" enthusiastic pride pouring from his dimples.
Yes, Birch, I saw you drive. (trying to conceal my laughter and simultaneous social mortification)
"I drove that motorcycle right past the obst-ta-tles so fast, and it was awesome!"
Yep, that's right... Awesome. It was awesome. That, son, is what we call a euphemism.
"Driving my motorcycle awesome is one moose it isn't?"
Yep, that too. 
Twenty-four hours later I am giggling thinking about the incident and decide to put away the items I couldn't bring myself to look at upon returning home last night. And then there was paint. Lots and lots of paint.
stencils

Aspen hadn't painted like this before in his life, on a canvas all official-like, and Birch was thrilled at the chance to paint me up like a "green kissing paint magic monster" and to have my full and undivided attention directed at meeting his requests for certain colors, tools, or positioning of the canvas. It was messy, it triggered my anxiety about "destroying" our home, it quickly became something I had zero control over, and it was so incredible to see my boys so content. Aspen began painting his body long before he came to understand the purpose of the canvas and Birch seemed content to just mix and mix and mix the paint, happy with the sensory experience of the substance alone.
 

Eventually, though, my anxiety quelled to the sound of pure and unbridled joy as my boys made these incredible pieces. I am really excited to have them, and to hang them in our common space. Not to mention the large sheet of adorable gift wrap courtesy of little hands and feet anxious to dance and covered in paint...

It was simple! I used Frog Tape to secure stencils of the boys' initials in place on the canvas, let them choose their colors and their methods, and stepped back to watch the artistic process unfold before me. Followed up by some mandatory water time--"Hands up! Nobody move! And straight to the bathroom you go!"--this activity quickly whittled away almost an hour and a half. Go on, get messy!
a green kissing paint magic monster
*NOTE: "ROB A BANK TO PAY FOR DRIVER'S ED" never actually made it to my to-do list because, well, obviously I was too busy cleaning paint out of strange places to do anything else today. That's why it's crossed out, just in case you found yourself wondering (or you work for the NSA and are still reading my blog because of the toilet bomb incident).

When a friend is challenged...

We go way, way back.
My friends are crazy. Some certifiably and others just by virtue, but they are all really good at doing things that make me question whether or not I should be calling... someone? to help them, or evaluate them, or be at the finish line with warm blankets and a cup of gatorade for them. At any rate, earlier this week one of my girlfriends jumped into a lake in the middle of the night after being challenged to do so by her brother. She, in turn, challenged a number of people, one being a longtime mutual friend of ours. This friend was loathe to do it, but we've all been supporting each other's crazy endeavors since we skated as teammates in roller derby together several years ago, so I reminded her about her brazen burlesque performances from back in the day. Every single time she would perform she felt like throwing up, then she'd get on stage and bring down the house, and then she'd feel like throwing up all over again--but this time with a sense of accomplishment.

I told her, stupidly, that I would jump in the icy lake with her if it would help empower her to do it.

And then, I did.
video
I recommend this if, and only if, you are comfortable with the idea of having your body scraped by the shards of an unending pile of shattered glass... because that's pretty much what it felt like.

Ah, well, here's to keeping things interesting and to feeling like throwing up, but with a sense of accomplishment on the side!

No, we are calling it "Dropping Into Life!"

I don't want to give too much away because while I want you to understand where I am coming from and the context in which I am living, I want much more to show respect for my son and where he is. Koa is curious and contemplative, and like most sixteen-year-olds he is deciphering which paths he'd like to explore. He has read Emerson and Thoreau, questioned God and Man and his faith in either, created worlds where he is King and walked in worlds where he was nothing more than stardust. The kid is deep, and external and internal pressures have pushed him to the depths for a long time now.

I want you to really understand what it feels like to send your child into the world looking heavy, like the weight of ten men sits on his shoulders as he slugs into the rainy dark morning before most of your neighbors have even turned on their lights. I remember the way hopelessness set in when I was a teenager and I remember the way my parents chose to respond. I remember the adventures I imagined, daydreaming about places I had only seen on television and the new identity I would assume once I arrived. And then, like some sort of sick joke, the next day would come and try to suck the life out of me. Sometimes I would end it crying myself to sleep or in an argument with my Pops about some menial task I managed to fuck up, or maybe glaring at myself in the mirror and biting down hard as I scraped layers of my skin away with the sharpened tine of a fork and bled a better place to be. Sometimes I crouched in the dark of my closet with a flashlight writing shitty poetry that bordered on plagiarism, eventually falling asleep on a heap of laundry or, not. Koa's nights are long like that sometimes; though filled with other sorts of agonizing, he's trying to reconcile all the information and emotions and thoughts and reflections of his days.
The difference in what I experienced and what I do for my own kid exists in the way he is treated for his state. Instead of bearing down on the fissures hoping to squeeze them shut we have decided to fill in the gaps with unconditional love, guidance, support and grace. All that stretching and reaching he's doing is an opportunity for immense growth, and not just for him.
Turns out Tuesday was the last day we let our son go to high school. Turns out none of us knew that it was what we needed to do for him all along. Turns out we probably just saved his life.


While I know my partner and I will face judgment for our decision to create a "drop out" of our son, I would submit that it likely comes from people who live in insulated places far away from the fierce biting and gnashing of anxiety and panic attacks, perhaps even safe in places where they can ignore the symptoms of it in themselves or loved ones. I might even ask someone judging me right now to consider whether or not they believe children are, in fact, people who deserve to self-actualize. I do. I think that everybody deserves to be the best versions of themselves they can be, living the most fulfilling life they can, and doing the most good in the process. Children are not excluded on my list of people who deserve to live that way because, well, they are people. On his first day as a dropout my son researched the local volunteer center process, scoured local agencies in need of help, and reached out to a senior center to fill a position leading art activities with people who have likely not seen their own grandchildren in ages. He left voicemail for the teachers who have impacted him, who respected him and earned his respect and who inspire him, to let them know that he was leaving and to appraise them of his registration for the upcoming GED orientation at the college in three weeks. He wanted to thank them for showing him ways of looking at the world differently, for supporting him, and to give them closure he thought they deserved as people who care about him. He talked with me openly about his life and friends, assisted me in delivering donations to the local men's shelter, laughed with me for the first time in days, bonded with each of his little brothers, went on a run up the mountain, helped clean our home, uncovered infinite opportunities that are now within his grasp since his schedule has opened up considerably, and looked like a kid again instead of a man in the middle of an existential crisis. What did you do Wednesday to help the world, strangers, your family, your community, and yourself?

If your kid told you that he or she didn't believe there was anything more before or after this life, that he was plagued by apathy and feelings of inadequacy, that he swam in anxiety and couldn't stop thinking of dying... wouldn't you choose to hold your child close too? To show them the beauty of the world and help them access it in a way that kept them both alive and stitched to you in a positive way? My parents were either unable or unwilling to do that and I ended up out on the streets making every statistically predictable misjudgment possible. Eventually I found myself pregnant with Koa at 16, his age now, and threatened with depressing patterns of poverty and estrangement. Fast-forward to now to find me deep in the throes of therapy figuring all this shit out--living the paradoxical dream, as it were--and vicariously healing my childhood wounds through gentle parenting and unconditional love for my child as he suffers. I know it's not a competition, and this particular scenario wouldn't lend itself to much of a winning feeling if it were, but I am so grateful to know my kid will have to sink significantly less time and money into therapy due to parental misgivings than I have had to. Earning my degrees was cool and all, as was pulling out of destitute poverty, birthing two sons naturally, and moving to a house with skylights, but knowing I'm doing right by Koa right now is the biggest success I've had to date. That's right folks, suggesting my kid drop out of high school is the biggest success I've had to date.

"You don't have to go back. There are as many different ways to do it as there are people that want to."

"Really? Yeah, sure. Anything sounds better than what I'm doing. I'm in."

"Good. I believe in you and can't wait to see what amazing things you do without all the extra bullshit!" 


This is love in a way that only a teen Mama could love her now-teen-baby. I am so proud of the way he is dropping in to life--he's choosing a path he can see himself on AND that does not include teenage parenthood, juvenile detention centers, hitch-hiking to Rainbow Gatherings, or cocktail waitressing like my path did. If I did all that and still ended up here, trust me kid, you're going to be just fine. I'll see to it myself.