Monday, November 12, 2018

Do Kids Have Empathy?

I almost titled this In Defense of Childhood Empathy.
Parenting is so hard.
So I understand the urge to sweep away the rude things kids do by lamenting that they won't get empathy until they're older.
photo of Tzivia and I, taken by my mom
But, here, I posit that empathy is a language they will learn to speak, if only we speak it to them from the get-go as if they already understand it, just as we do with our mother tongues. Yes, we can start simple, with empathy baby talk, but our kids are wonderful, loving people, who just need some guidance and practice to understand.
Here it is: Do Kids Have Empathy? published in P.S. I Love You on Medium

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Saturday, November 3, 2018

To All the Exes I Might've Married (But Didn't):

Here's my newest piece, To All the Exes I Might've Married, published in P.S. I Love You on Medium.

"And I’m sorry I yelled at you.
You were good to me.
You were okay to me.
You were really affectionate when you were intoxicated."

Friday, October 19, 2018

Helping Your Kid Create Diverse Art

My third piece published in Art & Parenting is called Helping Your Kid Create Diverse Art.
I write about representation in children's books as well as drawing time with my kiddo.
"I picture children of color (and, in this case, every kid who isn’t a white girl with longish straight hair) seeing this picture and fearing that the magic isn’t for them. The unicorn is dreaming of little white girls. The unicorn isn’t dreaming of them."
Amazing marker drawing Tzivia drew of me, her mama!

Read it here!

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

My First Published Piece in The Writing Cooperative

The Writing Cooperative just published this quick piece about the anxiety of waiting on a publisher when the story you're trying to share is your #metoo story.

A snippet:
The hope was that publishing my story would help others with their own #MeToo stories, untold or otherwise. I wanted to empower others. I wanted to feel more empowered myself.

Maybe I didn’t think this through, though, submitting to a publication: I literally gave a man the power to accept or reject my #MeToo story.

You can read the whole thing in The Writing Cooperative publication on Medium.
art by my kiddo

Monday, October 15, 2018

Online Yoga Saved My Marriage

I wrote this one a few months ago and submitted it to Modern Love. Actually took the time to do some editing, using the very helpful Modern Love submission tips.
So here's Online Yoga Saved My Marriage, my Modern Love Reject, which thankfully P.S. I Love You snatched up and published immediately! I get personal about our marriage, and I share with you the amazing yoga videos that have made such a difference in our lives.

Monday, October 8, 2018

My Rapist Wrote Me an Apology.

This is a really hard one to share, mostly because I would rather my mom never, ever had to read any of this.

But I believe that by sharing our stories, we are stronger, we can heal. We are always getting stronger. We are always healing.

Writing this was one piece of that healing for me.

I have been going through the stages of grief this past week and a half since the Kavanaugh hearing. Bargaining, Anger, Denial, Depression -- everything but Acceptance.

The day he was sworn in, it was all about Denial. Previously glued to the news, I knew the vote was coming, so I shut myself off from internet news and NPR. If I didn't hear it, then it wasn't true. I made it to night before I mentioned to my husband that the vote was supposed to be that morning but I didn't know what happened. He told me they confirmed him. Still, I told myself we were probably confused, and it was just some committee vote or something.


When it comes to my personal story in this piece, I'm mostly at Acceptance. It still disrupts my life, perhaps conjuring disproportionate responses to small breaches of consent that I could otherwise overlook. Fight or flight.

It weaves together with other things that have happened to me, like the man who full-on choked me without warning during a first-date kiss, and when I struggled to escape, let go and said, "Fine, we'll work up to that."

If it was just one story, or if my friends didn't all have stories, or if society didn't keep showing me that powerful men can do anything to anyone and half the country will just hand them more power over us, then I could Accept.

But right, now, I Dissent.

Here's my story: My Rapist Wrote Me an Apology.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Losing--and Finding--Your Artistic Innocence

This is my first piece written for a specific publication on Medium! The publication is called Art & Parenting and is about "How to balance your creative work and your children. How to make both thrive." That's the central question of my life right now, so I'm so excited to contribute to this publication!

My focus here is how we're born with a natural love to create, but at a very young age, judgment and commodification sneak in to rob us of our artistic innocence. I explore this with Tzivia and with myself.

So here it is: Losing--and Finding--Your Artistic Innocence

Monday, September 3, 2018

Are These the Good Old Days?

Tzivia, when she was a baby, hugging the beach, in Port Townsend
I’m driving with my kid to a 3rd birthday party yesterday, when Macklemore and Kesha’s song Good Old Days comes on the radio. I start crying — bawling — as I sing along to the chorus, lost in thoughts about my life before becoming a parent.

Afterwards I turn off the radio and ask my 4-year-old:

“Did you like that song?”

“Yeah!” she says, “What’s it about?”

I cry harder as I explain, that we’re always changing, and people — especially grown-ups — have a hard time living in the present, being happy about where we are. So much looking forward, looking back. Saying some other time was the best, when we were younger. That it’s hard to see the good that’s right in front of us.

As I talk, I’m wondering to myself if this is a Good Old Day right now. We’re headed to a party. To see our friends in the sunshine, to eat pizza and cupcakes. A total Good Old Day, right?

So why am I crying?

Friday, August 31, 2018

Selling Pieces of Her Childhood

I shelter her from screens, but the whole world can watch our home movies.

I have friends who’ve hidden all photos of their children from social media. Meanwhile, my kid’s eaten dog food in an online Orajel ad*, and she has her own Public Figure Facebook page. Not that she’s ever seen it.

Read the rest on Medium


Monday, August 27, 2018

Veganism Makes Parenting Easier Part 2 - On Medium

I just got home from 3 days in Larrabee State Park near Bellingham, WA. My kid and I made the drive for the Seattle Vegan Families Group’s annual camping trip. The hazardous smoke cleared just in time, and we donned our rain gear and celebrated at a group campsite with 10 or so other vegan families.

It was a seriously awesome time: epic views, vegan s’mores, kids and dogs (and grownups) running wild in a car-less wonderland.

What surprised me though, was that my kid, being her usual awesome self, seemed to be the worst at sharing and the quickest to fuss. It’s not that she was on hard mode, but that we were surrounded by the sweetest, most generous group of kids we’ve ever had to pleasure to be around.

Read the rest on Medium! Remember, you can applaud up to 50 times!

Tzivia asleep in tent
Tzivia, sleeping through train noise, in our tent at the Vegan Families Camping Trip

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

A Goodbye to Babywearing? - On Medium

One of the things I love about Medium is that you can post things there that you've already posted elsewhere (as long as you own the copyright). So I just posted a reworked version of an old post from this Vegans in Love blog, a photo-heavy one about our family and babywearing.

Here it is on Medium (and please remember that you can clap for it FIFTY TIMES, so please gimme a round of applause, dear friends).

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

A mother is a mother is a mother

I fully admit that more poignant essays have been written about Tahlequah, the grieving orca mother who carried her dead newborn for 17 days and 1000 miles.
But I felt like this perspective needed to be heard, so I wrote it for Raise Vegan.

Living Vicariously Through Your Children

New piece on Medium
"How much of our parenting impulses are just a response to our own childhoods, to finally fulfilling our unrequited wishes?"
pink hair Tzivia

Monday, August 6, 2018

35 is the New 15.

Getting older isn’t what I expected. I’m still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up.

Happy Birthday to me. I’m Turning 35 this week.

hella vegan ice cream from Fiddlehead Creamery
I’m married, to someone in his 40s. We’ve got a kid. And a dog. We own a home. That all checks out. That’s exactly what the fortune teller at my elementary school’s Halloween Carnival told me my life would be like when I grew up.

But then there are other things:
I still eat food off the floor. I still like playing on the playground. I still take baths.

And most unexpected:
I’m still figuring out what I want to be when I grow up.

When I grow up, maybe I'll be the queen of the ocean.

Some of the current frontrunners are writer, children’s librarian, children’s book author, homemaker, vegan pastry chef , and restaurateur, although those are definitely not the only jobs I’m considering.

My husband, meanwhile, is considering (depending on which day you ask) fantasy artist, professional Dungeon Master, science fiction novelist, vegan “meat” magnate, restaurateur, homemaker… and then there are the really random schemes: Should he be a scuba-diving boat cleaner?
No one told us life would be like this. Maybe because no one knew.
My dad worked at the same company since before I was born til when I was in college.

Sometimes it’s hard to know how much of this gig economy is something I chose (I certainly didn’t want me or my husband to have to work outside the home full-time when we had a little baby to care for) and how much is something thrust upon us by late-stage capitalism.

The work I’ve done since my 4-year-old was born feels more like it’s maybe, hopefully leading somewhere, rather than it being anything I’ve worked towards.

I’m doing a lot of unpaid writing, hoping it will lead to more paid writing.

I’m working a couple hours a week, leading a children’s program at the library, hoping….?

I’m running a small Etsy shop.

I’ve done Mechanical Turk, and for 6 months, I worked from home as a rater, which, I’d love to say more, but I had to sign an NDA.

There are more things. More gigs. Lots of them.

This is 35?

Every week or so, I have the same conversation in my head:
When it comes to work, what is freedom?
Is freedom owning your own business? Or does the business then own part of you?

Is freedom getting a “regular job,” so you can go home when your shift’s over and leave it all behind?
Is this freedom? What I’m doing now? Piecing it all together?

And what is my kiddo learning from all this? By the time she grows up, will these questions seem outdated?

What’s your life like now? And what did you think it would be like when you were a kid?

Read this whole thing on Medium and give me a round of applause here!

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Sixty-Seven Hours of Homebirth

I've been writing and rewriting this birth story for years.

After an inspiring talk with my mama/writer friend Kai I started writing again this year, and the first thing I worked on was editing my birth story down to submit to the Pacific Northwest Writers' Association contest. I didn't win (or even expect to), but it got me back into writing, and now I've got 20-something new published pieces to show for it, and more slated to come out in print in Raise Vegan!

PNWA submissions receive two professional critiques, and I got my critiques in the mail this week.

There were some useful criticisms, which informed my editing today, some great compliments, and some criticisms I'm just going to have to disagree with:

"Additionally, some details are simply too personal for strangers to absorb, and do not need to be shared outside of one's loving family."

homebirth birth story Darcy Reeder

Both critiques mentioned that my pacing was spot-on, following the rhythm of my contractions. That was something that came naturally when I was writing it, and I loved that they both noticed it!

One thing I've struggled with was where to publish this, who exactly is my audience. When writing it, I didn't want to hold back on the "TMI" details (that's the problem with most depictions of birth--not enough reality), but who exactly is going to publish this sort of thing? I decided on Medium. Now it's out there, and it probably won't make any money, but hopefully pregnant people will read it (I was so hungry for birth stories when I was pregnant!), and if it gets some claps, even better!

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Vegan Baby Clothes: Etsy Helped Me Find "Me" Again

For my lastest piece for Raise Vegan, Vegan Baby Clothes: Etsy Helped Me Find "Me" Again, I wrote about my experience starting my Etsy shop, ItsyPunx

I know, I know, self promotion--*cringe*--but my editor actually encouraged me to promote my stuff. Making the clothes and starting the shop actually was a turning point in my post-partum recovery, so it was cool to be able to write honestly about that. I didn't used to think of myself as being ambitious. Before having a kid, I looked forward to motherhood as the most important thing. Well, I was right in a way--it is the most important thing to me, but I also found how important it is to me to keep the parts of myself that I like that aren't about mothering. It's all compatible with my being a mama, but it's separate. Anyway, it's a constant conversation with myself and with my other parent friends, how to balance these parts. I'm definitely still figuring it out, and it was a trial even to get the time to write this this week.
 This is a photo of me selling my upcycled baby clothes at one of Seattle's Punk Rock Flea Markets. It was the first time I did an overnight by myself (no kiddo or husband) since Tzivia was born, which for the childless might seem like a "So what?" but it was a huge deal for me. My independence was especially tested when (oops) I ran out of gas on my way home, in the middle of I-5. But I survived!
Oh, how she's grown. Tzivia in her ItsyPunx studded vests, at 1yo and 3yo.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

I'm Trying to Dismantle Gender Roles, but Society Keeps Getting in the Way

“Lupin’s a boy dog, right?” my 3-year-old Tzivia asks me, about our fluffy rescue mutt. “Are there girl dogs?”

I stifle a laugh and give her the sex vs. gender talk again...

Read the rest at Medium!

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

The Eggs Have Hatched!

Well, our favorite robins are at it again. They must have been okay with us tramping all around on the deck,
The first hatchling snuggling their egg siblings
because they laid another clutch of eggs in the same nest, directly under the boards of our deck,
And the eggs just hatched!
Two out of three eggs hatched yesterday, so I knew the third one was close. I actually managed to get the 3rd egg hatching on film!!!! So here it is:

And now I'm gonna quit videoing, as I have daily videos of the last babies, so I'm just gonna chill out about documenting and enjoy peeking at these ones.  

The Vegan Police and Not Being "Vegan Enough"

My newest piece for Raise Vegan is called "The Vegan Police and Not Being "Vegan Enough."

I share a personal story in this one. Now that I've been vegan most of my life, I don't worry about this sort of stuff as much, but it really got to me at the time.

I guess people are always going to be protective of the things that are important to them. And for some vegans, especially new vegans, that means being protective of veganism as they understand it, without room for nuance.

Anyway, here's a picture I took in 2007, when I was brand new in Seattle:

And here are some strawberries we picked from our yard this week!

Sunday, July 8, 2018

#mykidtoo - Stop Sexualizing My 3-Year-Old

He leaned down to her, looked her in the eye and, just above a whisper, said, “Don’t tell my wife; she wouldn’t like that. I’m a one-woman man.” Read the rest on Medium!

Monday, June 25, 2018

Sidecar Your Crib: A Co-Sleeping Solution

My newest piece for Raise Vegan is one for all the pregnant people and exhausted new parents out there.

For me, the hardest part about co-sleeping with Tzivia right in the bed was that I like to pull my blankets up all the way over my mouth. Obviously, this wasn't going to work with a newborn in the bed, so I abruptly had to change my habits. I started wearing a fleece blanket as a hat (see below) and sleeping in a cardigan (to keep me warm but be unbuttonable for nursing in bed) so I could leave my blanket safely at my waist, but I just was not getting any sleep that way.

When we put Tzivia in the sidecarred crib, it was a total gamechanger.

Trying to keep comfy/warm without smothering her (pre-sidecarred crib)

Friday, June 22, 2018

Death, Contests, Drag Queens

Remember that time Tzivia saw Charlotte's Web and asked me if the kid who played Charlotte died at the end too?

Well, we went to Pride last weekend, and Tzivia was really taken with the drag queen who was MCing the Pride performances. So we watched a bunch of YouTube videos featuring drag queens, starting with Kids Meet a Drag Queen:

She was really enjoying herself, as she's very into performing right now, and it was cool for her to see a kind of performance art she'd never seen before.

We were watching a faceoff between two drag queens, a clip from RuPaul's Drag Race,  and I was trying to explain to her about contest TV shows, about contests in general. We really haven't stressed the ideas of "winning" or "losing." (When we play Candyland, whoever makes it to the Candy Castle first is like, "C'mon, everybody, come party with me at the Candy Castle!") Her main contexts for contests are the watermelon-eating contest from last year's 4th of July, and the little green peas on bikes in a "race" in the book LMNO Peas.

Anyway, I thought I'd explained contests well, but her response was,

"So if the judges don't like the performance as much, then that's the person who dies?"

I love my kid.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Should You Rethink the Gender Reveal Party?

"Should You Rethink the Gender Reveal Party?" is my newest piece for Raise Vegan, but it's not about veganism. Raise Vegan has an awesome private Facebook group (Vegan Pregnancy & Parenting) with over 40,000 members, and people are constantly posting about "gender reveal parties" and "gender reveal cakes." I've been one of the voices commenting to suggest, at the least, rephrasing, and I thought it was about time time that I wrote it out in a shareable article that really explains the issue.

Tzivia before she had gender

Saturday, June 9, 2018

"Clive is a Nurse" and other books by Jessica Spanyol

These Clive books by Jessica Spanyol are amazing!!!!! I received some free copies to give out at my Kaleidoscope Play & Learn group, and I'm obsessed! Charles and I are so used to changing pronouns in books in order to give Tzivia representations of adventurous girls and caring boys. These simple books manage that, but more than anything, they just show kids being KIDS without any of the weight of adult's gendered expectations. Just a diverse set of playful kids playing pretend with each other. If I wrote a children's book, it'd be a lot like these. Maybe someday.

Thank you, Jessica Spanyol! We also (super-randomly) have her book Carlo Likes Colors out from the library right now, which we've enjoyed as well. But our library doesn't carry the Clive books (yet?)

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Tzivia's Art!

I am so freaking amazed by this. Librarian Martha asked the kids to draw a picture (and narrate the words to their parents) about what they wanted to do this summer, and Tzivia stayed late working intently on this triptych.

Part of what whoas me about it is how much she responded to a topic rather than just randomly drawing. 
The Ferris wheel is something she's saved up for in her piggy bank to do in Seattle, and she said she drew Dada being on it because she wants to make sure he's there too (instead of just me and her going to Seattle while Dada works at his new job). 
Tree-climbing is a new passion of hers, especially since her new 5-year-old friend tried to teach her a few weeks back. She's not very good at it yet, but she's very enthusiastic about it. I love the way she drew the tree. First, she just drew a tall, straight line and said it was done, but then she said, "Wait, one more thing," and drew all the branches.

The last picture is her learning to put on her shoes all by herself, which is something I'd just suggested we should work on, as I was putting her shoes on her at home, before rushing off to Library Time.

Is Veganism Too Good to be True?

My newest piece on the Raise Vegan site is called Could it be Possible? Is Veganism Too Good to be True?

It was equally inspired by all the awesome factual research that keeps showing veganism is healthier and better for the Earth, but also by the fake news I keep seeing on my FB feed. Much of this fake news is anti-vegan (or has nothing to do with veganism), but I've been dismayed to see vegan-promoting pseudoscience/lies as well.

Me with my too little ones, in the rain at the Farmers' Market

Facts don't try to take sides, but the facts keep being on the side of veganism.

So let's tell the truth: Veganism rocks!

Thursday, May 31, 2018

How Should We Talk About Fake Meat?

Check out my new piece for Raise Vegan. It's called, "How Should We Talk About Fake Meat?"

We started talking about this when Tzivia was still eating nothing but breastmilk. I initially wanted to mostly go the brand name route, but Charles brought up advertising concerns, and I agreed. He wanted to just call them straight-up "sausage" and "chicken strips" with no add-ons, but when I brought up how confusing that would be, he agreed. So then I wanted to go the ingredient route, but that took a lot of intention, which I had the patience for, but he didn't, so he went the "fake" route. And then eventually, to make sense of his "fake," I started the "vegan"/"made from plants" tactic.

2-year-old Tzivia goes face-first for her veggie burger in Seaside, OR.
Tzivia was 3 before she picked up pretend food from her play kitchen, pointed at the "fake meat," and laughed hysterically, saying, "We eat pretend food!!"

She's old enough for nuanced conversations about it now (and already asks others if the food they offer her is vegan), so we're doing alright, but I'm still not sure if there's a "best" way to navigate this.

So I'm happy with this pros and cons list.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Vegan Most of My Life

It's not a birthday. Not an anniversary. But Saturday was a special day for me. It marked the point when I had been vegan more than half my life. I've now been "vegan most of my life." So I want to reflect on the journey.

Cake I made, 2008
Yesterday, I celebrated with a savory crepe and a roasted banana macadamia ice cream cone at the PT Farmers' Market. When I was a teenage vegan in Florida, I never could've imagined I could get vegan food like that (without making it myself).

Me in 2004 - homemade cheeseless pizza and pudding parfaits

It's why I got so into cooking and baking--there were no restaurant/grocery options for me at the time. I wanted to be vegan, but I never wanted to feel like I was depriving myself.

Me in 2007 at Maggie Mudd's in San Francisco

 I went vegan when I was 17 years + 143 days old (or 2,703 days old). I had been transitioning for years already, since my nausea over a 9th grade fetal pig dissection made me consider for the first time what I was really doing when I ate meat.

It was a slow transition, because I had never met a vegan or even a vegetarian. The one 9th grade friend who called herself vegetarian had actually just quit eating cows/pigs, and so I started that way too.

Eventually, I stopped eating all animals, but I still hadn't met a vegan in real life (though by high school we had the internet, and I had a big internet crush on a vegan who lived far, far away) when, with my dial-up internet, I saw PETA's "Meet Your Meat." I only had to watch it once, and I realized I needed to go vegan.

My Famous Cowboy Cookies
I set NYE 2000 as my moment and went to work learning to bake (my first chocolate chip cookie experiment--just using water instead of eggs--was a big failure) and learning what I could get at various fast food restaurants (because that was still my family's norm). I learned how to read grocery packages, memorizing which long words were vegan and which weren't (I was still eating so much junk with such long ingredient lists). This was before packages put allergen warnings in bold, before stores specifically catered to vegans.

Charles at The Cookie Counter
Me and Baby Tzivia at our old pizzeria

Because I have this experience, of having to do it all myself, and of initially putting off veganism (and even vegetarianism) because I really just didn't know anything about it, didn't know anyone to guide me or model it for me, I want everyone to know that my family is always here to guide you, to talk about it, to explain or to listen, if you're thinking about veganism, or even just eating more plants and less animal products.

Harvest Feast (Thanksgiving) in Florida, 2016

I've read that every 7-10 years, the cells of our body have been completely replaced, even our bones, that we become brand new.

For 2,703 days, I ate animal products, probably every single day (even on Yom Kippur, as the fasting goes from sundown to sundown). I built my body out of other bodies, out of cows' breastmilk, out of chickens' periods. Out of carcasses.

For 2,704 days, I've been vegan.

reading my article in the new issue of Raise Vegan

My body is made out of plants, and it's a strong, healthy body.

It's never too late to go vegan!