Friday 27 September 2013

Extreme Baby Naming: Because Unique Names Are For Pussies

Unique baby names are all the rage lately.  They are everywhere!  There are so many "unique" names out there that having a unique name isn't unique anymore.  And if doing all that work to dream up a special name that is tailor made for your baby and your baby alone wasn't hard enough, you also have to be on the lookout for nefarious name-stealers!

You really think that no one would be shitty enough to steal a name from an innocent baby?  Think again!  Just ask Brinkley's parents who had not one but three former clients steal their daughter's name for their own babies.  And then poor Serenity Grace whose "unique name that NOBODY out here has" was stolen by haters, copiers and "little groupies"!  It's such a phenomenon that Beyonce and Jay-Z tried (unsuccessfully) to have their baby's name trademarked.

What's the average (but distinctively avant-garde) person to do if even the Carters can't get a trademark on their baby name?

You want your baby to really be an original?

You want your baby's name to accurately reflect the awesomeness of his or her unique but yet to be determined personality?

Then it's time to nut up or shut up!  Anyone can give their baby a unique name.  It takes a real, no-compromises, balls-to-the-wall kind of parent to give their baby an Extreme Name!  

Here's how:

1.  Convert Regular Everyday Words Into Names.  Lots of forward thinking parents have opted to toss away the baby name-dictionary and just get a dictionary-dictionary from which to choose their baby's name.  We've seen "Blanket", "Apple", "Pilot", "Scout".  Boring!  And those names are all so easy to steal!

If you want an extreme baby name why limit yourself to random words from the English language?  There is a whole globe full of interesting languages from which to choose your random words! You could really give a dead or dying language a much needed shot in the arm by picking from one of them.  Double points of you can't actually speak that language.  Triple points if the meaning of the word is something embarrassing.

eg.)  Tisch - German for "table"
        Koilara - Basque for "spoon"
        Cico - Esperanto for "nipple"

2.  Portmanteau Names.  This is that thing where you take two different names and fuse them together into a brand new name.  Think "Renesmee" from Twilight.  Only don't think Renesmee from Twilight because why mash up only two names when you could mash up like four or five?  If you have a short list of names you love why go through the agony of having to choose only one or two?  You can have them aaallll!!!

eg.)  Sophemmabellinanie, Benjacophersontiansen

3. Use Unusual Letters.  There has been an upsurge of unique baby names using cool letters like "x", "z" and "q" (eg. Zack, Xack, Zaq, Xaq).  These letters are all the rage in baby names lately but like, anybody can count the points on Scrabble tiles to find the rarest letters.  Instead why not throw a few Greek letters in there to show how much you enjoy the classics?  Embrace your Jewish roots with some Hebrew characters.  I've always thought Cyrilic has some pretty cool looking letters:

"Mommy Rotten" in Russian
It may be impossible to type but it is guaranteed to deter potential name-stealers!

4. Unique Punctuation.  Another popular method of making a name extra special is to play with punctuation.  Adding an umlaut or accent over the vowels gives a nice European feel (eg. Mömmÿ Röttèn) where a few artfully placed apostrophes can sound royal or exotic (M'ommy Rot'ten).  But this is such a popular way to make a name more unique that it's not unique anymore.

Try exploring some of the less tried punctuation marks.  Go for a semi-colon for an intellectual looking name (eg. Mommy; Rotten).   Exclamation points can give real sense of power and ruggedness (eg. Mom!my!  Rotten!).  Or you could try my personal favourite: the inverted question mark.  I think it adds a hint of mystery and excitement:

                                                    ¿Mommy Rotten¿

5.  "Diffrint" Spellings.  Personally, I don't think it takes a hell of a lot of creativity to take "Jackson" and turn it into "Jaxon".  Too easily done.  No, if you are serious about playing with the spelling to make it unlike any other baby name you are going to have to try a little harder (but not too hard, am I right?).  Have you ever tried to read Gaelic?  Now there's some interesting spelling for you!  Whole blocks of consonants are simply not pronounced.  It is amazing what kinds of spellings you can dream up if you borrow language rules from wherever!

eg.)  "Timothy" becomes "Dtimno'thidhe"

6. Use Place Names.  Place names are like, so on trend right now: Brooklynn, Paris, London, Siena, Rio.  Babies are being named after places from all over the world!  So in order to make sure your baby's place-inspired name stands out you've got to get creative.

Re-think what society thinks of as "places".  Anyone can name their kid after a famous city but who would think to name their baby something like "Downtown", "Union Station" or "Provincial Park"?

7.  Create An Opportunity To Show Off Your Love Of Literature.  Lots of people like the idea of naming their baby after a fictional character they love.  But they forget that sometimes authors pick rather boring names.  David Copperfield?  Jane Eyre?  Don Quixote?  I mean, how will people know you are like, totally into books if you give your baby those names?  People would just assume you're boring without ever thinking to ask how you came up with it.

Rather than pick a name from a book , try picking a random word from a book.  I knew someone who once named their cat like this and it worked out great for them!  Cat got an original name and the dude got to never STFU about it every time someone asked him "Hey, Why the hell is your cat's name 'Somewhat'?"

Just take a book from your shelf, close your eyes, open a page, point and you have yourself a name!  Then every time you introduce your kid to someone you will have this very annoying story to tell.  Extra points if the book is particularly pretentious (anything by Ayn Rand, Herman Hesse or Gwyneth Paltrow should fit that bill nicely.)

Deciding to go with an extreme name is not for everyone.  It is for those bold enough to challenge what is conventional.  It is for those brave enough to go beyond what is merely "unique".  It is for those daring enough, who will stop at nothing, to pick a name for their baby that other parents (ie. haters and copiers) wouldn't have the guts to steal!

Monday 23 September 2013

I Was Lunch Shamed By My Son's Teacher

So I have officially started working and boy are my hours shitty!  I'm on a waiting list to get better, normal people hours but for now it is what it is.  Last night I got home after midnight and didn't fall asleep until 2 am.  This was irresponsible of me knowing I had to be up at 7 am to get the kids ready for school.  I was having fun playing book quote games with Yvonne at Attracted to Shiny Things.  Yes, we're nerdy like that.  Shut up.

Anyway that was maybe a mistake because I was a mess this morning.  I fell asleep with Frack trying to wake him up.  Frick woke us both up and then I went and fell asleep on the couch where Frick had to wake me up again.  I'm actually kind of proud of him right now.  He was the only one in this house who had his shit together this morning.

I barely managed to scrape their lunches together.  It's Monday and I get paid tomorrow so there weren't a hell of a lot of options in the fridge.  Let's see, I had some lettuce and cheese but no bread.  We used up all the baby carrots and cucumbers over the weekend.  There was half an onion, some yogurt, and a box of crackers.  I also had a small stockpile of applesauce and granola bars.  I could work with this.

Frick got cheese and crackers, a granola bar and some applesauce.  He disdains any yogurt that isn't in tube form.  He only drinks water at school, even though I practically begged him to take a drinking box.  I guess drinking boxes are passe for middle-schoolers.  But of course he forgot his water bottle today.

I agree with all of you who are no doubt thinking, "That's not enough food for a growing 12 year old boy!"  Try telling that to Frick.  He comes home every day with most of his lunch intact.  What can I say?  He has ADHD, he's on medication that affects his appetite.  The school gives him only 20 minutes to eat his lunch and they put him in a room full of his friends and almost no adult supervision to do it.

Frack's lunch was another story.  I put a granola bar in the front pocket of his lunch bag and showed that to him, telling him it 's for "snack time" so he understands.  This is a ritual we go through every day because I have yet to buy the required, special, separate lunch bag clearly labelled "Frack's Snacks" so the school can help him ration out his food for the day.

Then I packed crackers with no cheese because he hates cheese unless it is in the powdered, neon-orange form typical of Kraft Dinner and Cheetos.  Then I packed a juice box and some yogurt because it's his favourite.  I didn't want to give him applesauce with the yogurt because he's in Kindergarten, not a home for the elderly.  It looked like a pretty bland lunch so I tried to make up for it in quantity.  I must have put half the tub of yogurt in his container.  I had to break some of the crackers just to close the lid on the other container.  And I was happy to see that at least his lunch bag felt nice and heavy.

Now at this moment I would just like to walk down memory lane, for perspective's sake...

When I was a kid, a packed lunch consisted of a sandwich, a piece of fruit and some juice/milk.  Every once in a while there would be some kind of dessert like cookies or pudding, but not every day.  This was considered perfectly adequate.  From what I remember this was true for all of my peers as well.  This is now the standard by which I judge my sons' lunches.

But it's not the only one because holy shitballs!  There is just so much more anxiety over school lunches anymore!  Seriously.  Between over-achieving Moms competing to win the Most Adorable Bento-Boxed Lunch Award, peanut butter bans, healthy snacks programs and the many, many households that suffer from this nicey-nice sounding thing called "food insecurity" there has never been so much pressure to packing lunches in the history of lunch-packing.  For me, packing a school lunch is just another daily opportunity to feel like I'm being judged as a parent.

(Just a little note about "food insecurity".  Insecurity?  "Insecurity" is what I felt about facing high school with a big zit on my chin.  When I have nothing to feed my children I'm going to be feeling some feelings that are a great deal more severe and complicated than "insecurity".  Fuck you, people who make up words!  Children are going without food, stop trying to white-wash it.)

After I packed up this admittedly less than ideal lunch, I took Frack to school and went home to take a nap.  About an hour later the phone rang jolting me out of my sleep.  I didn't get to the phone on time but I could see it was Frack's school.  I'm not the over-protective, hover-mom type but I always get a little freaked out when the school calls.  You would be too if most of the calls you got from your kid's school were to inform you that he had been in a fight and needed to be taken home.

I called the school back wondering what was wrong.  Is he sick?  Did he get hurt?  Maybe he wet his pants and for some reason his spare clothes aren't in his backpack.  Sometimes the demands on his language skills cause him to just shut down and cry.  I had to take him home last year for that reason a couple of times.  The answer, of course, was none of the above.

His teacher wasn't sure if Frack was staying for lunch today because, get this, "there isn't enough food for him in his lunch bag."  She said both she and Frack didn't know how they were going to portion out his food for the day.

So in that moment I am feeling embarrassed and ashamed.  But then I noticed something.  She never mentioned the granola bar.

"Did you find the granola bar in the front pocket?"  I asked her.

"Oh no, is it in there?  I'll have to check."

Okay, so nevermind that I pack a granola bar in that pocket for Frack every day.  Nevermind that I made sure that Frack knew where his snack was supposed to be today, like I do every day.  Nevermind that all she had to do was look in a pocket on his lunch bag before deciding to call me at home.

 Did she notice that I packed 3 pounds of yogurt in there?  Did she notice that I generally pack good lunches with a variety of choices each day and that today's lunch was an anomaly?  Did it occur to her that maybe we are "food insecure" in our house and that by calling home this way she was potentially rubbing my poverty in my face and calling attention to a fact I would already be anxious about and powerless to remedy?

I have to say I'm kind of surprised here.  I really like Frack's teacher and his school but right now I'm pretty annoyed, mostly because it's the only emotion capable of distracting me from a deep anxiety about Frack and whether or not he is going hungry at school because of the shitty lunch I packed him.  Which was in no way alleviated by the fact that the rest of our conversation seemed to emphasize that, granola bar or no granola bar, this still was not a satisfactory amount of food to pack.

My rational brain says, "There is totally an adequate amount of calories to meet your sons nutritional needs over a 6 hour period.  Get a grip."  But the asshole region of my brain is saying, "There is probably a small group of educators standing around your son's lunch right now shaking their heads.  Maybe they are asking around to see if anyone has a spare apple or something for the poor kid.  You are a terrible mother."

Fortunately for me this shitty lunch situation is a temporary one.  I am very lucky in that I know this anxiety will be gone tomorrow because, come hell or high water that kid is getting enough food in his lunch to see him through the apocalypse.

But since I'm feeling my asshole-brain feelings right now I would like to know, just what the hell do you do if you suspect that a child in your class is going hungry?  Surely that's the real reason she called.   Because what I choose to pack in my son's lunch is none of her business provided he has enough to eat.  It's got to be super tough to find a tactful way to broach the subject, but there has to be a better way than calling up Mom and telling her something she must already be keenly aware of.  And certainly you don't jump to these conclusions because on one day you notice that the child's lunch is a little sub par.

Unless....maybe she thinks all the lunches I've been packing are shitty?  Maybe today's lunch was the final straw after a couple of weeks of watching my child slowly waste away.  Maybe she is just one shitty lunch away from calling Children's Aid.  Maybe they are planning an intervention as we speak....(curls up into the fetal position, rocking back and forth).

Food insecurity is a very real problem y'all, both in Canada and in the United States.  Click the links to find out what you can do to help.

Wednesday 18 September 2013

Back to Work Bitch!

Have you heard Britney's new song yet?  I actually like it.  I think I'm losing my edge.  Britney Spears used to be the face I put on everything that is wrong with the music industry.  I mean come on, at one point Bitch was making songs that were literally identical to each other:

(Uhhhh...the video I orginally posted was not what I thought it was.  Please go here.  Because Youtube hates me today).

You see?  Everything that is wrong with the music industry.  Not that I really put the blame on her.  I seriously doubt she had anything to do with the writing of her own music at the time.  But since I never get to see the suits responsible for the ruination of modern music, and since Britney's been the biggest name at the top of the Pop music charts for so long, Britney had to take the heat.

So it came as a real surprise when I didn't totally hate her new song "Work Bitch":

Yeah there are things in there that bother me.  I always think it's cheesy when American artists use a faux-British accent in their music.  If I cringed when Madonna did it there's no way Britney's getting a pass.

Also, I always hate it when the song breaks down into the slow part.  What the hell are you supposed to do with yourself on the dance floor when they grind the song to a halt for this nonsense?  Nothing, that's what.  You just stand there looking like an idiot waiting for the beat to drop again.  But then that's the former Rave Kid in me.  Fuck that annoying trance shit.  Never stop the beat!  I want techno and I want it hard, harder or hardest for like, six hours straight.  Whoo!!!  Party People!  PLUR!!!!  Dance like no one's watching!!!

But overall the song has a great beat and I can dance to it.  And somehow, I can also relate to it.  The words to this song feel like they came from Britney, non?  I can't even hope for Maseratis, mansions and parties in France but I relate to it because it feels like a window into Britney's life.  Like she is sharing something kind of personal here.  I mean the song could have been written by someone else, but in my fantasy I imagine Britney finally being grown up enough to have something to say and wanting to express that.

It's like she took all the words that her producers, managers and various handlers constantly hounded her with so they could keep squeezing cash out of her and made it into a hit.  In this song I hear a thoroughly exhausted Britney finding her second wind and throwing herself back into her work with a beat as hard and relentless as the people pushing her.  It's driven, it's energetic and for these reasons it's going to be the best workout song of the year.

Anyway, I never thought I would have this much to say about Britney.  But I do like her song and I plan to add it to my workout playlist.  Also, the name of the song provides a great segue into some personal news:

This Bitch is going back to work!

That's right, I am going to be a working Mom!  Now that my kids are in full time school I would really like to have a little more money.  How is this going to change my blog?  Not a hell of a lot.  I had to sign an agreement that I would not talk about the company I work for online.  But I imagine that the realities of being a working Mom are going to have an affect on my personal experience of parenting from which I am able to derive so much comedy for your amusement.

It's not like I'm going to start launching into the whole SAHM vs. WM debate because, fuck that noise!  As far as I'm concerned there is no "vs." and there is no debate.  In the real world where people are struggling to put food on the table this isn't a decision you make based on parenting philosophies.  It's a decision made based on resources.

I was never a SAHM because it was "best for my children" but because I make shit money and would be handing over literally all of my pay to daycare.  In some ways it was an advantage because it made me more available to my special needs kids.  But it also meant we had less money for things that might have been helpful to my special needs kids like having Frick tested for dyslexia or getting Frack into private speech therapy now that he no longer qualifies for government funding.  Staying at home wasn't better or worse than being a working Mom.  It was just the best we could do at the time with what we had.

But right now if I want a nice Christmas,
a longer grocery list,
to get my oven fixed,
I gotta Work Bitch!

Friday 13 September 2013

Take Back the Night....I Think I Get It Now

Last night I met up with my friend Jen to go to Take Back The Night.  I had never been before.

Why?  Apathy mostly.  I never really paid attention to when it was happening.  I had never been in a protest until a little over a year ago when I went out to support the Quebec Student Protest.  I was too busy.  I had no one to go with.  Because when I was younger a lot of the men in my life thought it was "stupid".  Excuses?  I have them aplenty.

I probably would not have gone this year either if my friend Jen hadn't told me she was going.  But I am very glad she did.

I first heard about Take Back the Night from my Family Studies teacher in 12th grade.  It was that bullshit class where they hand you an egg and tell you to pretend it's a baby for a week.  We spent the rest of the time cooking and balancing a household budget and somehow managed to squeeze in about 5 minutes of Women's Studies in there.  Because Women's Studies isn't a real subject, am I right?  I guess this was the proverbial bone thrown to feminist parents by our Board of Education.  (Either that or Ms. W went rogue on the system and forced it in there.  She was feisty like that.)

Anyway, during our Feminist Five she mentioned the Take Back the Night Rally and encouraged us to go, but only addressed the girls in the class.  I felt that this wasn't right.

I grew up surrounded by men and they loved to put down feminism ("bra-burning man-haters") and women in general ("silly", "soft", "weak").  I grew up listening to blonde jokes and dumb-woman jokes. I grew up being told about how terrible we are at driving and less deserving of equal pay because we "can't work as hard as a man".  When my step-dad was particularly pissed off at me or my mother the worst insult he had for us was "Lady".  Like calling us exactly what we were was insult enough.  I grew up with this and there was nothing I could do about it because in my house, men were running the show.

I understood on a deep level that the only way for any of this feminist stuff to work was to convince men that we don't hate them and to welcome and educate them.  So when my teacher let us know this was basically a "no boys allowed" event I was angry.  I felt like it was just perpetuating the idea that feminists hate men.  I argued passionately that this was just wrong.  My teacher's responses, though well meaning, were very unsatisfying.  She explained to me that many women at the event may be victims of some kind of traumatic assault or abuse from men and that they would find the presence of men too intimidating.

I had no response to this because I wouldn't want to make victims of abuse feel unsafe at a feminist rally but....still it didn't sit well with me.  The debate ended there since I had no counter argument, but I wondered if maybe the men in my life were right and this Take Back the Night thing is just stupid.

It took me 20 years to get over it.  I discovered that while Ms. W wasn't wrong, she didn't present the full picture of why it is so important for Take Back the Night to belong to women.  I don't blame her because it's a difficult thing to articulate, but I'll try.

We march!
I was 15 minutes late meeting Jen.  I had to mill around the crowd of women in front of City Hall to try and find her.  There were lots of women there and the crowd seemed to be getting bigger by the minute.  This was definitely the largest scale protest I had ever personally seen in Anytown.  It looked like people were being bussed in from out of town.  The Student Protest was pretty good with roughly 70 people there.  Tonight it looked like attendance was going to number in the hundreds.  I was soon engulfed by a crowd of women.

Stopped in front of Date Rape Central The Village
There was an amazing, happy and vibrant energy all around us.  No Doubt was blasting on the speakers.  Lesbians had a drum circle going.  Some women were in various costumes.  I saw one chick wearing a big purple tutu. There were women on roller skates handing out programs and those glow in the dark necklaces you buy at festivals and raves.  There were tables with placards and pamphlets full of statistics.  I told Jen it looked like a Feminist Science Fair.

Also?  I had never been around so many women in my life.  SO.  MANY.  WOMEN.  Tall women, short women, fat women, skinny women, young women, old women, gay women, trans women, native women, black women, french women, black french women, mothers, grandmothers, daughters, sisters, leaders, women in t-shirts, women in costumes, women carrying signs, women in wheelchairs, women pushing strollers and wearing babies, women on skateboards, women painting faces, women handing out pamphlets, women giving speeches, women leading group yoga, women, women, women, women, women.

Yes!  That IS Putin on a stick!
This was the biggest event I had ever been to, belonging solely to women, that was NOT about birthing, babies and breastfeeding.  I had never experienced what it was like to be so completely immersed in Sisterhood.

I had never known what it was like to be part of something that didn't involve any men.  I mean, there were a couple of guys milling around in front of City Hall checking out the information booths and they seemed welcome enough, but when it came to marching it was just us gals.  (And Putin!)

How much of our lives can we say we have control over without male interference?  The majority of leadership positions are held by men. The majority of working women have male bosses.  In some places our reproductive rights are being decided by men without any input from women and in some places women don't even have the simple freedom of being able to drive somewhere by themselves.  Our daily lives are bombarded with comments, insults, come-ons, general harassment (and occasionally violence) perpetrated by men.

And then I thought about the way I grew up.  The many moments of  belittlement from my step-father.  Being told by him how to sit, how to dress, and above all to never forget to act like a lady so that when I angered him he could throw that fact in my face to insult me.  Being told that if I got fat when I grew up I would deserve to have my husband leave me (a fate worse than death).

Dealing with the aftermath of that one awful night when he beat the shit out of my mother and made me clean up her blood and hair from the dash board of his car, because cleaning is for women.....

And then I thought about the first and only time I told a boy I didn't want him to touch me and he slammed me against a wall and called me a "little bitch".  I thought about all the times I had to tolerate a man's leering and suggestive comments with a smile and a giggle so I could please not make him too mad at me and maybe he will just leave me alone and not hurt me.  How many times I was called a slut for no other reason than my choice of clothes.

I thought about all the times when I was single and had to enlist my biggest, scariest looking guy friend to pretend to be my boyfriend so I could feel safe dancing at the club.  I thought about how when I was 15 I wasn't allowed to leave the house without my little brothers as "protection" because there was a serial killer on the loose who targeted teenaged girls that looked like me.  And I remember how when he was caught I wondered how many killers were still out there that we didn't know about yet.  Knowing that they would want to target me because I'm a girl.  I remembered how understanding that fact changed the way I left my house and walked out into the world forever.

And I realized that there was very little (if any) of my life that wasn't policed and controlled by men in one way or another.  I knew all of these things before I went to Take Back the Night.  But I did not understand the raw power of female solidarity when we face up to these facts and say "No!  We won't take it anymore!"

So yes, I absolutely believe that as feminists we need to reach out to our brothers and make them welcome and enlist them in our fight.  But now that I've actually been to and experienced Take Back the Night I think I finally get it.

Where else in our lives are we allowed to take sole ownership of our selves on such a scale?  Lately it feels like we barely have a say in what happens to our own bodies.  We are frankly tired of constantly depending on the goodwill of men for our basic safety.  We are tired of being afraid.  Being allowed to express this without the help of men is crucial to our sense of empowerment.

So men, we love you very much but you dominate just about everything else in the world and in our lives.  We want you to be a part of our movement but please, could you let this one thing be just for us?  We need it so very much.

This post was a little more serious than I like.  I really had a lot of fun at the rally and so I would like to leave things on a light note by sharing this incredibly creepy sign from the "Corned Beef Hut" we walked past during the march.

I would also like to thank my friend Jen for making me go to the rally and for generously allowing me to post some of the pictures she took from last night including, and especially, this one:

He's going to haunt my nightmares!  Whee!
And finally a little shout out to Queen Liz, who I ran into while we were there.  It was awesome seeing you, hon!  Kiss your grandbabies for me!