Filling the Cup

Posted on September 25, 2017

Finley loves milk. She makes sure that milk stays on the shopping list, cream cheese too. Finley enjoys milk the way some people enjoy chocolate, there is ceremony to the way that she pours it in a certain glass and tries always to have a straw involved. Her sisters aren’t fans, preferring their dairy in the form of cheese, sour cream, or yogurt. Fin is undeterred, “Is it ok if I pour myself a glass of milk, mama?”

We’ve been packing school lunches for 9 years, and two years of snacks for preschool before that. I have not, in all that time, ever packed milk. My memories of a plastic thermos and a couple of hot afternoons with the thermos forgotten in the back of our orange Volkswagen Rabbit have made it impossible for me to participate in sending in milk from home.

Milk cartons in the cafeteria? You bet!

“There are milk cartons on the table in the cafeteria that kids can take, even if they aren’t buyers,” Fin said matter of factly one day. “I think it’s good that they make it so anyone can drink milk.”

We’re trying to make connections, donating to food banks to appreciate the abundance we enjoy and visiting farms to see the animals and the people who do so much to make what we eat possible, so that as a family we can contribute to change.

As the girls are beginning to pack their own lunches and balancing the snack to vegetable ratio, they’re also considering what life is like for other people.

Finley understands that milk needs to be refrigerated, but that not everyone has refrigerators. “What if someone doesn’t have a house? How can they drink milk?” and “Did you know that some kids don’t have food on the weekend? They do a snack pack club and have food go home with them on the weekend. ”

I can’t always manage the guilt and figuring out how to even begin to help. A few years ago my sister introduced me to Heifer International and since then I have been more and more amazed by what they do.

They have been operating a program in Tanzania since 2008 (the year Finley was born) to help farmers increase milk production, an offshoot of this has been to work with the government, schools, and farmers to create new markets. School kids are a part of their work now, helping to complete the ‘cow to classroom circle.’

 

Image Credit: Heifer International

School kids get nutrition during the day and the future of farming gets a boost as a new generation learns to incorporate milk into their diet. For every 26.5 gallons of milk produced, four jobs are created.

Photo Credit: Heifer International

When the Heifer School Milk Feeding Program launched in July of this year, 1,742 students in the Njombe region received fresh 200ml packets of pasteurized milk. They will continue to receive the milk Monday-Friday throughout the school year. They aim to reach every pupil under 9 years of age in the Njombe, Iringa, MBeya, and Songwe regions, which would total 9,000 kids.

Kids need to focus on learning, not fighting pangs of hunger. They also really ought to learn about how easy it can be to fill someone else’s cup.

Photo Credit: Heifer International

This program is $75 per child per year. That means for 40 cents a day we can help students get at least a quarter of their daily calcium requirements while at school. We can help farmers succeed and support communities.

I’m working wth Heifer International to get the word out about the Heifer School Milk Feeding Program. Reading this post helps. Sharing it to let people know that $75 supports a student for the whole year could make a huge difference. Also, if you share this post on FB or RT on twitter, Women Online will donate $1 for each share up to $2000. Please don’t be shy with your shares, we need more positive stories and less hungry kids and struggling farmers!

Outgrowing the Chorus Room

Posted on September 17, 2017

Did you read Amber Tamblyn’s tweets a few days ago or follow any other coverage about her interaction with James Woods? Did you read her op-ed, “I’m Done with Not Being Believed” in the New York Times?

I don’t think it’s necessary that you do in order to follow what I’m saying , but I thought I’d offer it up as the reason for finally coming back to this space. I believe that when and how we can, we ought to acknowledge the people who make us think, feel, and act. The other day a woman I met at Mom2 posted something on Facebook that stayed with me. I reached out to her because her words and her fight moved me.

Her name is Natasha and she blogs here—visit, read, consider.

A man on twitter posted about a woman’s story related to applying to Harvard, I reached out to him because his framing of the situation helped me reevaluate some of the ways I judge people every day.

Yesterday and today it has been Amber Tamblyn, my daughters, and myself that have been on my mind.

We aren’t identical, our stories aren’t carbon copies, but we are all living in a world where the President of the United State of America lifts up, amplifies, and celebrates a doctored video that portrays him assaulting a woman. The woman is Hillary Clinton, a mother, grandmother, wife, Former Secretary of State, Presidential candidate, humanitarian, and human being. She could just as easily have a list of negative adjectives used to describe her by another author, but no string of words could make it acceptable for anyone to idolize the visual of her being hit from behind.

We are living in a time when the Secretary of Education for the United States calls accused rapists on college campuses, “Victims of a lack of due process.” It is in this same time that we are told that a man referring to “grabbing women by the pussy” is locker room talk and that Hillary Clinton’s book tour is a whine-fest and that she should “be quiet.”

Valued more for our pussies, resented for our ideas, discredited based on our looks and our gender, questioned about our motives, policed about what to wear, blamed for looking older than our years, justice made to wait because of how things could inconvenience a man.

None of this even begins to cover what it can be like to be a black woman or trans. I think the part of the story that hit me so hard was the line,

Then he said, “Well, there are two sides to every story.”

That argument is so often trotted out when it’s inconvenient or unpleasant to believe the first one you hear.

A famous actor who we thought was a saint accused of inappropriate contact with a young girl.

Kinda easier to believe she was a slut.

A football coach accused of inappropriate conduct of a homosexual nature with minors.

Def easier to believe they were poor kids out for money.

College students behind dumpsters.

She was drunk.

 

The doubt, my god the doubt toward our stories. The excusing and shushing. The American way has become one of creating villains to excuse behavior. We do it to refugees, we do it to black people, we do it to women, we do it to poor people, shining the light of “yeah but” on everyone but ourselves. My fingers tire from trying to lay it all out here as my mind imagines the torrent of criticism from people who dismiss me as one more pissed off feminist.

I am both pissed off and a feminist. I also think that people like Ellen Pao and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand are doing things at personal and professional risk to add to the chorus Amber Tamblyn spoke of, “We are learning that the more we open our mouths, the more we become a choir. And the more we are a choir, the more the tune is forced to change.”

I watch my daughters, 13, 11, and 9 playing in the water. They are having fun. I imagine what might be said:

“The one in red, the straps were so thin on her outfit and she had that eye make-up. She was basically asking for it.”

“And that short one, she had her dress hiked up over her tight shorts. Tiptoeing in the water like she was looking for attention.”
“Did you see the one in the ripped jeans? She was bent over.”

“They were alone.”

“It was getting dark.”

“They smiled at me.”

I look at the American flag just behind them and I know deep down that this country doesn’t care about keeping my girls safe. It doesn’t care about anything but keeping the path tidy and pleasant for those believed to deserve more—more trust, more opportunity, more spotlight, more lenience.

I’m not buying it anymore. I’m not stepping to the side to let others pass who don’t bother to say excuse me.

It is time to sing, letting all the truths roll off our lips and upon the ears of anyone around. Because while you may not want to hear it, our side of the story is very real and we will not let you shush us anymore.

 

From Scratch Taste from a Box—Krusteaz Protein Pancakes

Posted on September 3, 2017

This sounds like an ad. Let me get the particulars out of the way. I got an email from someone asking if I’d like to try Krusteaz’ new pancake mix. I got ready to hit delete, but saw it was GMO free and realized that as much as I have enjoyed making the girls pancakes from scratch, maybe a box or two in the pantry wouldn’t be a bad idea. The fine print, as in this was a fine deal, they sent me several boxes to try to to share with you.

Here’s my take on the ‘cakes. if you’d like a box (and whatever else I think to tuck in the package) share your most magnificent kitchen fail in the comments. Doesn’t have to be breakfast food or pandering to Krusteaz, this is purely for my enjoyment 😉

The mix promises to produce fluffy pancakes with 13grams of protein, all I had to do was add the appropriate amount of cold water. Literally the hardest part was that I had a 1 cup liquid measuring cup which meant I had to make two trips from the sink to the bowl.

I survived.

I plucked a light aqua colored bowl from a top shelf and smiled at the matchy-matchiness of the bowl, the mix, and the tea kettle on the stove. As I added the mix I was relieved to not be doing the usual search for baking soda, baking powder, and either seltzer, or forcibly soured milk to make fluffy pancakes.

Sean has said in the past, “You guys didn’t save me any pancakes?” I thought it would be nice to make him some with the blueberries my mom had dropped off. It didn’t hurt that they came in an aqua colored box. (It takes so little to delight me).

Sean strolled in, “Who’s Pat?” I looked at him, bracing for a bad joke that I would somehow be the butt of.

“Pat?”

“Yeah, tell me about Pat,” he turned the blueberry container my way and there in all CAPS was PAT.”

He smirked, I snorted.

 

 

Alas, no aqua whisk, but this does give me the opportunity to share with you just how messy I am when it comes to—

really when it comes to anything, but for today let’s play make-believe that it’s only with pancakes. This is in no way the fault of Krusteaz.

Seriously, I am basically a kitchen tornado. Even Beso knows, unfortunately for him it was all flour, not even a blueberry, which truth be told he wouldn’t have touched. I would have stepped on it and hysterics would have ensued as I imagined it having been something else.

Here is the magic moment, cooking the first batch.

“The first round is always bad,” Sean said gently, a testament to how things happen in a marriage that you learn from; my lesson was to not lost my mind over bad pancakes, Sean’s was to be patient as I find my way out of a tantrum (bonus points for not laughing at me.)

The batter easily dropped from the spoon on to the pan, almost immediately puffing up. Even the first batch! Flipping them with the gargantuan-size spatula when I couldn’t find a regular one was a beast. (Note the cake serving utensil, which I also tried for flipping to no avail. Must buy a spatula!)

 

This is my attempt to show just how fluffy they were. Dense too, in the good way. The girls each had 3. I made the whole box from past experience with their appetites, I was wrong. A few of these go a long way.

The girls were curious, “So was it seltzer of that bad milk thing* you do that made them fluffy?”

“Neither. I used a mix.”

“A mix? Huh, they taste like your usual ones, but a little better, no offense.”

 

 

These were seriously tasty pancakes. Thanks Krusteaz!

*The bad milk thing is adding white vinegar to milk to make it sour like buttermilk.

 

 

Welcome. Thank you for being here!

Posted on August 17, 2017

Hi! I am at the Double H Ranch today. Some of you are reading this from the orange chairs around me. Others are at home. I wanted to introduce you all.

 

Double H Camp graduates, I am Amanda.

 

Readers of AmandaMagee.com this is Double H.

 

It is more magical and life changing than I could ever hope to articulate. I am here today to teach a couple of workshops on blogging and social media. I thought it would be incredible if some of you could leave a comment directed toward 17-21-year-olds who are exploring social media. Specifically talking about how it can be a place to build community, to learn, or just to explore who you are.

 

I know this is sort of unorthodox, but it’s also a thread of beauty and hope, something I feel we could all sure use. So tell us about who you are, something that has been positive for you, or a tip you would give about how to make the most of their time online.

 

Thank you, from the bottom of my heart. And, to the campers here with me today, I am so very honored. Let’s have some fun!

 

Here, I’ll start. One of my favorite things about social media and blogging is that I can find ways to say things that in person might make my voice shake. Practicing that has actually made me do better at talking to people in real life.

Awkward Isn’t an Excuse for Giving Up

Posted on July 31, 2017

I’ve spent most of my life muttering under my breath, “I’m so awkward.” I used to think I’d get to a point of feeling totally together. The other day as I was sitting on crinkly, white paper in an exam room, for a long overdue annual exam, the doctor said, “Are you having hot flashes or night sweats?”

“Umm, I mean, I get hot sometimes and I do sometimes wake up to damp sheets but, I’m not sure it’s hot flashes or—” I trailed off as the doctor cocked her head to one side and smiled gently at me. “I, ah, ok, so hot flashes and night sweats. I think that I do, or, I have. Yup.” She typed on her laptop and I thought to myself, “Yup? Yup? Why do you talk like that?”

I look at this enduring awkwardness as an asset. The girls need a mom and a role model, but it doesn’t hurt to also be able to say, “You know what? We all doubt ourselves and feel intimidated sometimes.” I wear it openly, as openly as I’ve tried to wear my emotions and endeavored to create a sense of the girls being able to talk to me.

It’s funny, growing up in Eugene, Oregon in the 70s it might seem likely that I’d be naturally comfortable talking about body or sex, but the truth is growing up words like breast, penis, fart, horny, they made my skin crawl and my face burn. When I experienced my first kiss at 14 or 15, I remember being completely shocked. The next morning I said to my two best friends, “And then, his tongue was in my mouth. His tongue!” We gasped and giggled over it.

I don’t want to rush away anyone’s innocence, but I am determined, for their benefit and my own, to deactivate my flinching at words or concepts. I’ve seen the way they alter their behavior based on my non-verbal cues.

Mom is stressed, they scurry.
Mom is angry, they try to fix.
Mom is distracted, they mumble.

Heaving myself out of my stress ruts are good for all of us. There are conversations to have, things to figure out together, and growth on both ends of this mother daughter relationship. I’ve been surprised at the reward of sitting through my discomfort and getting to the other side and also listening.

A while back Ave was telling me about the sex ed session they had in her 5th-grade class. I immediately remembered seeing Alice Dreger’s tweets in real-time about sitting in on a sex ed class. I flopped back on one of the cushions in her room and said, “Was it weird?” I aimed for nonchalant, but inside I had a nonstop stream of thoughts, “Am I doing this right? Is this weird? Am I ready?”

I talk to other moms about what they are going through. One mom said to me, “Yeah, I don’t know why he chose me, but my son said to me, ‘sometimes my penis gets hard. What’s that about?” I died. I’m not sorry that I get to be on the vagina side, but I do love hearing how other parents are handling it and, more importantly, what other kids are like.

Like just about everything else in parenting, I’ve realized kids come equipped with everything we need. They aren’t all the same, but the premise of being open, available, and willing to listen, works for all 3 of my daughters. They blow me away. Watch Ave cut through it:

 

 

 

I think allowing each of us a turn at the wheel, so to speak, has been central to establishing a comfort with talking. There have been times when the news has pushed conversations faster than I might have expected. We went from talking about politics and social justice to what, “Grabbing them by the pussy” meant.

I’ll admit that I stumbled my way through a rant on agency over our bodies, beauty versus competence, and ultimately consent. This is an area where my history, frustration, and passion run the risk of overpowering the conversation. I love visual tools and Youtube and Instagram really are the preferred resource for my older girls. Amaze.org was recently put on my radar and I have to say, from their playful, “more info, less weird” tagline, to their hiring practices of using young illustrators and animators of all genders, races, and personalities, I’m a fan.

I haven’t cracked the code for crushes, but I think that the ongoing discussions we have about school dynamics, particularly the topics of mean girls and the boys who are dismissive of girls work toward that. My mom told me when I was in high school, “I don’t care who your friends are, I care who they bring out in you,” that has stuck with me.

How do people make me feel?

 

I think we’re all still working on it, all of it, which if there is a secret to parenting is it—we never totally know.

“Sexuality is a natural, healthy part of being human.” Say it, you can start quietly, but get to a point where you can say it out loud. 

I know it seems unbelievable to think about talking about sex, masturbation, consent, fear, and excitement to kids as young as ten, but if not us then who? Learn from tv? Movies? Our president? The kids popping off in the back of the school bus?

We wouldn’t send kids into a snow storm without a coat or to a job interview without tips and a resume, we ought to do the same thing for adolescence. Organizations like Amaze can help carry a bit of the weight by being a part of the information relay. None of us have to go faster than kids are ready, but I really think that creating time and space to figure stuff out without judgment is as central to parenting as healthy food and consistent shelter.

It can also be fun. Check out more videos from Amaze, they cost nothing and I bet they’ll prove priceless. Take a look at their facebook page if you are FB fan.

Disclosure: I am happy to have written this post as part of a campaign. I was compensated for my time, as ever, my opinions are my own. I’d do it all over again for nothing, because we all need every bit of help we can get.

Here are more voices added to the chorus of parents who have written about talking to kids about sex, consent, and healthy relationships, visit these posts:

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