I can't stop shaaaaaaaaking, look what we're maaaaaaaaaking.... uh uh. (This one's real good.)

Shoo-wop and you don't stop. 


173. Back it Up by: Caro Emerald


She Section: Making Mom Friends

Oh, She Section, it's been a while. Mainly because I couldn't decide what to write about next, here, in this little space, and then I went back and saw that, more than any other topic, friendship was mentioned most, specifically, "making friends with other mothers" and/or "the relationship between mothers and their child-free friends."

In fact, the most "liked" comment in the bunch was this: write about how you feel about childless adults - your friends without children, etc. 

Which kind of blew my mind. And then I thought back to those early days with Archer and how I had convinced myself that I could only hang out with moms from now on...

Because for whatever reason, it is assumed that once we become mothers, we must segregate ourselves from the childless.

Because only a fellow mother could understand.
Because new moms join new mom groups.
Because it's just easier this way.
Because that's what I'm supposed to do... right?

None of my friends had kids when I became a mother, which sucked. Or at least, that's what I told myself. I felt very sorry for myself and my lack of mom friends. So sorry in fact that I closed my old blog (about being myself) and started a new one (about being a mom) because I didn't want anyone who knew me as a mother to know about me before I was a mother.

Because fellow mothers would surely judge me.
Because new moms only write about being new moms.
Because it was just easier that way.
Because that's what I was supposed to do... right?

I spent a lot of time those first months writing about "mom friends" as a sort of calling card. I hoped that "if you build it, they will come" style, people would find me on my lonesome woe-is-me island, a lighthouse of potential friendship and soul sisterness, pledging allegiance to our makeshift receiving blanket flag.

And to our new motherhood, for which it stands. 

Girl's Gone Child's 2005 "catchphrase" was literally, welcome to the new titty flashing all nighter... And "who says motherhood means tattoo removal and moving to the suburbs?" which was just me trying to define myself for potential suitors who were, like, "me too, girl. I have tattoos high five."

Such are the hazards of writing publicly. You have to live with yourself and your archives. You have to live with a book you wrote during a time in your life you were in no place to write a book. You want to talk about trolling? Nobody trolls a blog quite like its author(s). I am the meanest commenter of them all against myself.  I bring all this up because it's important to note that at the very least, we have growth to show for our time. Because there was a time I TRULY thought I needed to befriend different versions of myself AKA young (city) moms who had tattoos.

Which never happened.

I never befriended any "young tattooed city moms" because (duh) neither of those things really mattered.

All of this to say that the Internet was kind of a soul-saver for me because it was where I first discovered the power of an ageless, label-less(ish) community: women aged 14-94 all in one space relating to the same subjects, many of whom were in fact "new mothers," MOST of whom were very different than the person I perceived myself to be. This is when/why I realized that being a mother had nothing to do with being a mother. Which brings to me this sample taken from a wonderful post written by my friend, Felicia Sullivan -- something I hope you will read, too. Because not only is Felicia incredibly wise, she's also incredibly warm, helpful, generous and the very definition of "mother," even though she doesn't have kids.

In her words:

For most of my 16-plus-year career, I’ve made it a point to devote a great deal of my time to mentorship, assembling a motley lot of smart, ambitious women, who ferret me out for advice on everything from internal team conflicts to salary negotiations to feeling confident about their ability and their drive to succeed. Over the years I’ve heard myself labeled as a “den mother,” a lioness protective of her cubs, a strong, sometimes difficult leader, who will always follow a colleague into a conference room and hold them as they cry for twenty minutes straight. Even after I resigned from a social media marketing agency where I served as a managing partner, I still keep in touch with my kids, and I tell them that I can’t wait to witness their inevitable bloom. I tell them that I’m always there if they need me.
THAT'S motherhood, man.

This is, too.

But so is that.

Having children is not what binds us as friends or as women or as a community.

It took me joining a mom's group (and then very quickly dropping out of a mom's group) to realize that "having children" is not enough of a foundation for a friendship. The world is bloated with beautiful souls and interesting minds and mothers, some of whom are overlooked in this community because they are not mothers in the way many of us are. Which is a huge loss for all of us.

It was for me.

These days, some of my friends have children and some of them do not, and I have never been happier. Not that playgroups and making friends with fellow moms in one's community can't be awesome. It can be great of course, of course. But just like motherhood brings out the best in some people it also brings out the crazy in others and I have a zero tolerance policy when it comes to mama judgement in my personal life. And besides, I live with my family every day. I'd much rather talk about other things when I'm amongst friends. LET'S PLEASE TALK ABOUT OTHER THINGS!

As for my kids, they went and made their own friends just like I made mine. They made friends at school and camp and in groups they created themselves. Because similarly aged kids don't guarantee a friendship. Because eventually I realized that it wasn't my job to "socialize" my kids. (In the same way it wasn't my kid's job to "socialize" me.)
And, yes, it would totally rule to live next door to friends whose children have formed bonds with mine and sometimes the perfect storm occurs and it's like, WHOA YOU TWO ARE SOUL BROTHERS, AWESOME! But in my experience, that has been the exception, not the rule. And that is perfectly fine.

Meanwhile, our house is usually full of adults, my friends who are kind enough to come to me knowing that I have a hard time, uh, leaving the house. And these friends have become my kids' friends as well - mentors and confidantes in ways I will never be because, well, I'm their mother, and aunties, are frankly way cooler. 
(Uncles, too.)


This puts me to thinking that there are so many ways one can mother. Much like how I’ve woven together the most unconventional of families, where bloodlines are defined as the enormity of beating hearts rather than lineage, I’m designing a life for myself where the women whom I’ve been privileged to mentor are, in some ways, my children. 

The women I am fortunate enough to call friends are women I have bonded with on a personal/emotional/soulsisterfisttothechestthankyouforgettingme level. They are all mothers in ways that they have defined for themselves. As friends and colleagues, sisters and confidantes.
They are old and they are young and some will have children someday and some will not. They are married and they are single and all of them are on different life paths because of course they are. Because happiness and contentment and friendship and family mean different things to every one of us.

Because definition is arbitrary.
Because motherhood is relative.
Because classification is a waste of time.
Because mom groups aren't for everyone. (It's taken me 32 years to recognize that groups are not my thing. And that's totally okay.)
Because what "we're supposed to do" only counts if its right for us.
Because we're allll different.
Because thank god for that.


What about you? What has your friend experience been like? Do you feel pressure to make "mom" friends once you become one? How has motherhood changed your friendships? How have your friends who have become mothers changed? What have your experiences been like with mom groups? How do you sustain adult friendships? Looking forward to your comments, all. xo


Okay then.

Once in a while something happens - something so incredibly simple. So mundane and perfect and completely revolutionary. Something like a child kicking a ball. And all of a sudden it's like, Oh snap. This, right here, is everything. This moment sums up my entire existence as a human. This is what life looks like. This is why we wake up every morning. To kick things. To kick habits. To kick back. To kick up our heels. To say to each other, "I'm alive and kicking."  Keep right on kicking...

There seems to be a lot of (ahem) "pollen" in the air and we're all sweating balls (balls!) trying to make it all work. And, well, sometimes it doesn't, you know? Sometimes nothing works correctly and life is constipating and we're all super bloated and, you know, gassy, and I don't really know what I'm getting at here except that I want to have more balls. Because moments pass like balls across the lawn and this is what life looks like. This right here, is everything.

A ball and little feet going for it. Connecting with the sole purpose of moving it forward. That's what I want. I want to be less concerned with where the ball goes and more concerned with the fact that it's going... somewhere.

Yes please to all of that. Let's do this, week. 


all I need is this scene to watch repeatedly.

I was recently reminded of the following scene and how on certain (loooooooong) days, watching it on repeat is kind of all I need. Besides a chair. And this link that I'm thrilled to say has been passed around a hundred thousand times.

Happy weekend, all. 


Honestly Though: Good Night, and Good Luck

The following post is part of a series I'll be writing over the next few months, sponsored by The Honest Company. First up? Sleep. As in... lack of. Because, yeah.
When I was first chatting with my friend, Sarah, about what I wanted to write about for this little collaboration of ours and I mentioned sleep, it was more about "how we managed with no sleep at the beginning, because, you know, we're mostly sleeping through the night these days and it's awesome but there was once a time when I was sleeping three hours a night on a good night and it sucked and I'm sure there are many folks out there dealing with the same sleeplessness and we should form a support group where we offer each other honest feedback, support and, just... camaraderie."

And Sarah was like, "YES!" Because Sarah gets it as a soon-to-be mama of two. (Babies, woohoo!)

And then (of course) a week later, our sleep-through-the-night house erupted in spontaneous sleeplessness. Fable with night terrors... (She often wakes up and is actually not awake at all and yells for me even though I'm right here, Fable. I'm here. I'm right next to you you are looking at me right now.) And Bo and Revi with the sudden need to party... separately though. They NEVER wake each other up. Instead they go back and forth, scheduling turns for wake-up nights.

"Here, you take Tuesdays this week and I'll do Wednesdays, cool?" 

Bo actually slept in our bed for the first time since she was a baby because after two hours of on and off crying/me trying to sing to her while rocking her/laying on my back with her on my chest on the carpet in her and Revi's bedroom, I gave up and brought her into bed with Hal and me where she spent the rest of the night putting her fingers in our eyes and saying, "eyes. EYES. Eyes eyes eyes. Bo ha eyes. Mama ha eyes. Daddy ha eyes. EYES EYES EYES."
And then it was light outside and NO NO NO WHAT THE... NOOOOOOO!

I've decided that they are doing this because about a month ago, I went crazy and said the words "maybe we'll have another one someday" which SHUT UP, I KNOW. WE'RE NOT BUT... Bo and Revi are about to be two and when Archer was two the same thing happened. And when Fable was two, too.

My friend Polly tells me it's normal. Something to do with the body being, like, "I'm healed and sleeping through the night and everyone is acclimated to life and YEEHAW, LET'S JUST KEEP POPPIN' EM OUT!

Maybe this sleepless situation is my answer to "please, voice, LEAVE ME ALONE! GO AWAY AND STOP KEEPING ME UP AT NIGHT WITH YOUR CRAZINESS!"

And it has.

So, word. 


Sleep is one of those answerless questions that has nothing to do with the parent and everything to do with the child. And, yes, maybe there are specialists out there who would disagree with me (I'm sure there are) but the fact of the matter is, we're all different. Some of us sleep on our sides with pillows propped everywhere and some of us sleep on our backs and some of us need to listen to sound machines and some of us need the window open and etc., etc., a million variables. Well, the same goes for babies because they're people and just because they're small, doesn't mean they don't have preferences. The problem is that they don't reaaaalllly know what those preferences are. And neither do we. 

For example, Archer could only sleep alone. He is what I call an "independent sleeper" who is happy to have his space. (Only in his old age has he become increasingly fall-asleep-next-to-parents-y in the wee hours of the morning when he's up and Hal and I are like, NOT YET PLEASE NOT YET!)

Fable was quite the opposite. She slept with us in our room for thirteen months and that was the only way she would fall asleep. And then, she spent her entire second year (not even kidding) sleeping in her stroller. As a bed. Which is weird but it's what worked for her and us so there you have it. 

Bo and Revi shared a crib for three months before clawing each other's eyes accidentally, forcing us to separate them. 

I spent their first two months of life on the night shift and when my mom left, slept an average of two-four hours a night for almost an entire year.  Which was not fun, and if you were reading my blog then, you may recall a few thousand posts about said subject. I could not stop writing about it and spontaneously crying. 

I honestly don't even remember most of those nights because my brain has mashed them into a sort of Blur Jam but I do have posts about sleeplessness and how much it sucked. And more than likely, you experienced the same hell. Which is what bonds us all together, right?

Anyway. I wanted this post to be a sort of invitation to those of you who want to share your sleep stories. For example, every night for the past eight plus years I've sung Moon River to allllll the kids, which is probably more for me than it is for them, come to think of it. I feel like lullabies (and prayers, too, if that's important to you) create rituals. We bathe the kids (two at a time), brush teeth, read stories (two at a time), close our eyes and sing a song together. It's our "let's take it down a notch" time. (Lights out for Bo and Revi is typically 7:30-8. Fable and Archer usually go to bed between 8:30 and 9.) 

Archer and Fable still fall asleep listening to light music of some kind. Hal and I cuddle with the big kids every night before bed, do back scratches and then swap so that we each get one-on-one time with each kid. 

As for Bo and Revi, we have our nightly "everyone kiss each other and say goodnight to all the items" moment before we sing our song and I turn on the sound machine. Sometimes Bo and Revi go down with a board book and (of course) their blankies. (They usually chat with each other for half an hour or so before finally falling asleep. This morning I woke up to them singing ring-around-the-rosy in their English/Baby fusion language - the greatest wake-up call of all time.)

Which I guess brings me to the accidental point of my post. The experience of "beddy-bye time" (as we call it) is different for all of us but also exactly the same. We sleep, we don't sleep, we don't sleep, we sleep, we wake up to faces that we really like A LOT.
What about you guys? Are your kids great sleepers? Not so much? What's your nightly routine? What sleep arrangements work for you? What songs do you guys sing? Is there a special book you read? Dance you do? Tell me your bedtime stories, friends.


I'll choose one commenter at random next Thursday, August 1st to win Honest's Pampering Collection ($45.95) which includes the conditioning mist, which I spray in my hair every day and it's my favorite. 

In the meantime, you can go here to sign up for a free "bundle" trial of your choice. ED: The diapers + wipes bundle is our go-to. We've been subscribers since Bo and Revi were teensy and are still going strong. And... for first-time customers looking to do a little shopping, receive $10 off a minimum $40 order by using code GGCSleepEasy. (One coupon per customer!)

Thanks, Honest, and good luck with that sleeping business, all. 


Eat Well: Tomayto, Tomahto

The following post was written by my mom, WWW. Thanks, mom!
I’ve been trying to figure out what to do with all of my tomatoes and have been combing through past Eat Well posts to find all of my favorite recipes.  As I said a couple of weeks ago, these grafted varieties give a crazy number of huge tomatoes, which is awesome but also comes with some responsibility.  I have been giving them away left and right but daily I pick 10-12 new ones and I don’t want them to go to waste. For any of you with a similar joy, or for those of you taking advantage of cheap tomatoes at the farmer’s market, I thought it would be a good idea to list my favorite tomato recipes here so that you have all them in one place.  And…I made a new tomato soup recipe today, which was yummy, easy, and used up 10 of my tomatoes, so I am including it.  What I love about this recipe is that it is creamy without the cream (the rice makes it thick and creamy).   And if you have a high-speed blender (Vitamix), there is no need to strain out the seeds and skins.

Tomato Soup 
(From Alice Waters The Art of Simple Food)

2 T olive oil
2 T butter
1 medium onion, sliced
1 small leek, white and light green parts, sliced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
2 lbs ripe tomatoes (about 10 medium tomatoes), washed, cored, and sliced
1 T white rice
½ bay leaf
1 small sprig of savory, thyme, or basil
1 cup water

Heat pan over medium heat.  Add oil and 1 tablespoon of the butter. Add onions and leeks, cover and cook until soft but not brown. (Add water to keep from browning if necessary.) Add garlic and cook another 2 minutes.  Add tomatoes, rice, a pinch of salt, bay leaf, and sprig of herbs. 
Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes fall apart.  Add water and rest of butter and continue cooking until the rice is tender (10-20 minutes).  Remove the herb sprig.  Carefully ladle the soup into a blender and blend until smooth. If you have a traditional blender, you can pass the soup through a medium strainer to remove skins and seeds if you want to, but I used my Vitamix and it was perfect…no straining needed.  You can add more water if it is too thick for you.
Garnish with crème fraiche and mint, or buttered croutons…or torn fresh basil.  Also good with Parmesan cheese grated on top.


And here are some of my favorite summer recipes using tomatoes:


How are you using your tomatoes this summer?  I’d love to hear from you!





I know this song was being passed around last week but I couldn't NOT post it this week because I have been sitting here listening to it on a loop, like I used to with Fade Into You and the entire room now smells like incense and I'm dancing on the ceiling in my "fancy" yellow dress that Fable picked out for me at the flea market last month so that I could be a more twirlier person and I had been sitting on it ever since because it seemed silly to wear such a dress without an occasion and then I thought about Fable and all of the exclamation point women in the world and thought, screw the LBD when there are TYDs, you know?
photo(Thanks to Emily for snapping these photos a few weeks back.) photo-4
Anyway, back to Mazzy Star. Mazzy Star SO THAT TONIGHT THAT I MIGHT SEE! Here are the lyrics I've been humming in my head even though I may have just paraphrased the song terribly and it's just. too. good. and heartbreaking. and also begging to be mashed-up with Phantom Planet which I will now attempt to do. 

WE'VE BEEN ON THE RUN DRIVING IN THE SUN, LOOKING OUT FOR #1, I think I'm going back to California... HERE WE COME RIGHT BACK WHERE WE STARTED FROM... Summer distant and it's so far away... it's so far far awaaaay. 

I think I'll tread across the ocean now, clouds look so clear in your eyes, Let me dream, Let me bring all my friends. CALIFORNIA, CALIFORNIA, HERE WE COOOOOOOOHHHHAAAAAAAAAAA.

ON THE STEREO LISTEN AS WE GO NOTHING'S GONNA STOP ME NOW, I think I'll fly across the ocean. I can watch the sky turning grey. I think I'm going back.... I think I'm going back. I think I hear the whisper of my old best friend/ I think I hear the bells ringing in the square... CALIFORNIA HERE WE COME RIGHT BACK WHERE WE STARTED FROM. 

172. California by: Mazzy Star

California by: Phantom Planet

(Hal makes fun of me for loving this song but I refuse to apologize. It's such a solid road trip ditty/reminds me of Archer's bittersweet first days of life when Hal and I stayed up all night gazing into our newborn's eyes/rolling our eyes at each other/watching Adam Brody try to get with Rachel Bilson at 4am while I tried to nurse with that effing nipple shield that kept popping off and getting lost in the couch cushions CALIFORRRRRNIAAAAA, here we cooooooome!)


Boy Culture: On Masks and Eye Patches

I know we're all kind of burnt out on Kickstarter but this one is something I'm incredibly passionate about. Whether you want to support the project or not, I ask that you watch, listen, acknowledge that there is indeed a need for a stronger support system for ALL of our boys.

In the filmmakers' words:

Feminism is as much about advocating for our sons as it is our daughters. A more secure, more emotionally able, less repressed generation of boys means a more emotionally stable generation of everyone. But it's up to us, as parents, teachers, caregivers, uncles, aunts, friends, artists, writers, filmmakers, journalists, human beings to redefine or at the very least, reevaluate masculinity and how our often archaic perception of masculinity is affecting our sons and in turn, their relationships with themselves and others...

And yes. I just quoted myself which is totally lame but I will broken record that action until the end of time because I am very much at my breaking point when it comes to "let's empower and support our daughters" talk and absolute SILENCE when it comes to our sons.

You want to talk about protecting our girls from sexual assault? Then we must also talk about what we're doing to raise our boys so that they don't grow up to be the assailants. 

The truth is, the vast majority of violent crimes are carried out by men. The vast majority of violent crimes WILL be carried out by men. Men who are now boys. Men who are now boys that we are raising. And by "we" I mean ALL OF US. 

You want to talk about pinkwashing and how hard it sucks?  Great! I'm in. But can we agree to also discuss the ramifications of warwashing? I don't understand how we can discourage our daughters from princess culture and then completely disregard "pirate" culture which we glorify to and for our sons. (We used to dress Archer up as a pirate all the time when he was little. We had a pirate themed  birthday party for him when he was four. Hell, even A's nickname as a toddler was "pirate of the snails." PIRATE. As in piracy. As in raping, pillaging, murdering, robbing, burning cities to the ground, you know, just your garden variety WORST SHIT EVER!)

Why don't we see any of that when we look at this? Why don't we see it even slightly? I certainly didn't.

And yet, with princesses, oooh boy. With Barbies and Bratz dolls and anything the color pink, our feminist radars go BAM WTF NOOOOOOO. 

I had an epiphany recently when I took Archer and Fable on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland and realized that  the scene with the pirate selling women into sex slavery marriage was still on display. In 2013. Oh, you know, because NBD, it's just a ride. Never mind that the ride (and franchise) glorifies getting drunk, looting, shooting, torturing and burning cities to the ground (because yo ho, yo ho that's what pirates do, yo) but TODAY, I can take my kids on a ride FOR families and watch women being sold into slavery like its NBD and then go shopping for Pirate stuff at the gift shop at the end of the ride, order a soft drink and get back in line to do it again. 

And btw, I LOVED the Pirates of the Caribbean ride growing up. I loved it so much I didn't care who was torturing who and trying to rape what. 

Because it was a ride. And yet, I remember ALL of it. It was engrained in my childhood pysche and it's still there. For better, for worse. And perhaps that doesn't matter in the scheme of life but maybe it does. What if it does?

From Ms. Magazine, who wrote about the ride in 2010:  What makes this all the more alarming is that the Disney folks altered the ride to be less sexist during a major renovation in 2007. It originally included a scene with male pirates chasing unwilling (but giggling) townswomen and another in which an overweight male pirate, exhausted from his pursuit of a teenage girl, holds a piece of her dress and says, “It’s sore I be to hoist me colors upon the likes of that shy little wench” and, “Keep a weather eye open, Mateys. I be willing to share, I be” 

Cough, rape culture, ahem?

So, yes, a less "sexist" Pirates of the Caribbean ride. With women for sale. And men selling them.

I have seen so many petitions, read so many essays (hell, I've even written them) about princess culture and pinkwashing and how to help our daughters navigate princessland and body image and all of these things that we allllll seem to be on the same page with.

And yet. In all my google frenzy I found ONE post that questioned pirate culture and it's effect on our sons. (When I found this post  I wondered if I should even bother posting about this. Clearly I'm in the minority in thinking this is even an issue because, yes! kids dressed up like pirates are totally adorable. Even my DAD celebrates Talk Like a Pirate Day! My favorite song is Tiny Dancer and prettyyy eyyyyesss pirrraattteee smileeee you married a music maaaahhaaaaan.)

P.S. This is what happens when I google pirate culture and boys. This is what happens when I google princess culture and girlsHell, HuffPo has a whole section devoted to princess culture!

The double standard is real. Or rather, the LACK of standards when it comes to our boys is real.

Do we not see our sons as impressionable as we do our daughters? Why not? Is it not feminist to look into what is ailing our boys in the same way we look into what is ailing our girls? And therein lies the issue, perhaps. Boys struggling with their masculinity isn't as personal to us as mothers. We cannot begin to understand it without projecting our own experience. So we do. We ALL do. I recognized this when the most favored comment in my Brony post was relating male sexism back to women. (No disrespect to Tara who commented. I just found that particularly telling.)

The double standard is real. Or rather, the LACK of standards when it comes to our boys is real. It's real and it's scary and we need talk about it.

Because while we're reposting how AWESOME the "real barbie" is for our daughters, our sons are trying to decide between Batman (vigilante!) and Pirate (criminal!) pajamas and it's like, eh, no big. Boys will be boys. It's all just make believe for fun. 

And for some, absolutely. For some it's just boys being boys. But for those of us with highly sensitive children, highly impressionable selves, we have to recognize that maybe, just maybe these messages we don't think we're sending have actual influence.

And, yes, I'm totally on board with the real-looking barbie. High five to her creator. But where's the KIND doll for boys? Who's going to turn GI Joe into a caring dad who no longer blows shit up? 

And sure, all of this may mean nothing in the scheme of things. Pirate birthday parties and sex slavery LOL on Disneyland rides may affect our boys zero. In the same way princess culture doesn't necessarily affect our daughters. In the same way pinkwashing and happily ever after and "I'm a princess" t-shirts and barbies and Bratz and Merida getting a makeover isn't affecting our girls.

But maybe it will. Maybe it already has. Personally, I have a hard time seeing how it couldn't. 

Which is why I'm grateful for Jennifer Siebel Newsom and anyone who chooses to dig deeper into this issue on behalf of our sons, their peace and ours.  


How to Attract Butterflies

The following post was written by my mom, WWW. Thanks, mom!
Last night, my writing group came to dinner, an amazing group of women who I have been writing with for years. We were enjoying our mock tuna stuffed tomatoes outside on the patio, loving the plethora of butterflies floating around us, when suddenly someone noticed a lot of flapping on a beanstalk.  “Looks like the butterflies are having some fun in your vegetable patch,” one friend exclaimed.  And sure enough…right in front of us were two monarchs mating. None of us had ever seen butterfly sex before, and let me tell you, it was quite something.

I have always had lots of butterflies in my garden, but this year, they are everywhere—mourning cloaksswallow tails, sulfurs, and lots and lots of monarchs. One reason is that I planted two butterfly bushes (Buddleias) last year and they are living up to their reputation as butterfly magnets. But when Larry found a monarch caterpillar on our pool fence on Saturday, I was perplexed. Monarch butterflies obviously are happily drinking nectar from my Buddleias, but the larvae only eat milkweed, and I have never planted any in my garden. Archer and Fable fell in love immediately with the beautiful striped caterpillar and set out to find food for him.  Like good scientists, we brought in all sorts of leaves from plants near the fence, but the caterpillar turned his nose up on all samples…we even tried kale, spinach, and arugula from the refrigerator, but to no avail.

“He must be eating something. He’s nice and fat,” I insisted and I returned to the garden, determined to find the source of his meals. And that’s when I found a bunch of naked stems sticking up from the ground, denuded of their leaves, and two more monarch larvae munching on the rapidly shrinking sticks.  I remembered noticing this volunteer plant a couple of weeks back, wondering if it was a weed.  At that time it had lots of leaves and also pretty orange blossoms and I had decided not to pull it out.

Now it was completely stripped of anything green or orange.

“AHH!! It must be milkweed!” I exclaimed

“But Gooey,” Archer implored, “There’s nothing left for them to eat!!  What will they DO?”

I immediately called Armstrong’s Gardens to see if they had any milkweed plants and luckily they had two, although they were in pretty poor shape. We bought them anyway so our four caterpillars would have enough food to hopefully pupate. Unfortunately, I checked on them today and couldn’t find a caterpillar.

Birds hate to eat monarchs (they make them sick), so hopefully our friends have gone somewhere to quietly form their chrysalises.  Meanwhile, I’m going to plant my two milkweed plants and by next spring, they will hopefully be big enough to sustain lots of monarch caterpillars for our grandchildren’s delight. 
milkweed plant

Creating a backyard habitat for butterflies and birds is fun for the whole family.  Buddleias and milkweed are easy to grow and will bring hours of delight for kids. We don’t use any pesticides whatsoever in our yard, so birds love hanging out there - oodles of caterpillars for them to eat.  I provide my birds, bees, and butterflies with water in the form of a birdbath, and I have some birdhouses in the trees. Birds especially love fountains so putting one in the garden will delight your feathered friends. Bird feeders will attract seed eating birds, but I don’t have any bird feeders and I still have tons of birds. This year, I haven’t found one tomato hornworm on my tomatoes but often see a mockingbird or oriole with one hanging from their beak. One of the great rewards of gardening naturally is that you establish a habitat where birds and butterflies have plenty to eat. I love watching the balance of nature at work in my own backyard.
photo Buddleias (top and below) photo-1
Besides Buddleias, there are many other plants that attract butterflies.  If you want to make a butterfly garden, here are a few easy steps:

1.     DON’T use any chemical sprays in your garden.
2.     Plant some host plants such as milkweed for monarchs and parsley and dill for swallowtails. (This is not necessary to have butterflies in your garden, but it’s fun for the kids to watch the full cycle).
3.     Plant flowers that contain nectar such as buddleia, asters, zinnias, alum, lilacs, salvia, verbena, and lantana. (Go here for a more complete list.)
4.     Sit in your garden and enjoy watching the beautiful butterflies.


P.S. This is a note from NanaIt's of interest also to note, that the Spotted Cabbage White butterfly that begins to proliferate in fall with cooler weather, does a great deal of damage to winter crops, especially members of the cabbage family. The most beautiful butterflies—Monarch, Gulf Fritilary, Swallowtail, Morning Cloak and others do very little damage. Alternatively, stick to one or two plants that gardeners are content to sacrifice in return for the loveliness of the butterflies. I think of them as the floating flowers of the garden and called them that in my Southwest book. Morning Cloak is one of my favorites since they are friendly and will come and sit on my outstretched palm.

Buddleias are invasive in many parts of the country. Before planting a buddleia, check with your local cooperative extension or farm advisor to see if you can grow it where you live or make sure you buy sterile hybrids... they do not make seeds. 

We Need to Talk About Race: Epiblogue

I wasn't clear in yesterday's post and felt the need to clarify, especially after a sort of onslaught of comments that I felt misunderstood my post, so let me try this again. Frankly, I feel sick that anyone would think Archer is ashamed of who he is. That was not the point of my post at all.

His comments weren't in response to the Trayvon Martin case (which we did not share with him, full disclosure) but in response to learning about Civil Rights and MLK in school. We had never had a conversation about race before because we wanted to keep him in the "love and acceptance" bubble that many of you mentioned in yesterday's comments.

As most of you know, we live in Los Angeles. Our friends are a melting pot of different cultures and religions and races and sexual orientations. Archer's included. He had no idea that segregation occurred, that there was a time (in very recent history!) when he would have attended a different school than his best friends because of his/their difference in skin color. That blew his mind and broke his heart because of course it did. Of course!

I shared Archer's commentary in yesterday's post because like many of our conversations these last few days, his words were coming from a place of concern, empathy, frustration and disenchantment. Feelings I can certainly relate to at the moment and I thought, perhaps you guys could, too.

As I said in the comments of yesterday's post, children say aloud the things we often feel but refuse to say. And what he said (as it so often is) was a wake-up call to me that we needed to have a conversation, not only about racial injustice but about how far we've come as a society and how far we still must go. 

Sometimes it IS an embarrassment of riches to be on the privileged side of society. We are taught that everyone is equal but is everyone TRULY treated equally? (This is a great post by my friend Kristen if you haven't already read it.)

Just because race is a non-issue in your household, doesn't mean it isn't an issue. Just because racism isn't your problem, doesn't mean it isn't OUR problem.

Anyway, I wanted to include some of your comments, which I thought might be helpful for those of you trying to navigate this topic with your kids. Because we HAVE NO CHOICE but to navigate this topic with our kids. Racial injustice is a large part of our history (and present, unfortunately). It's taught in school (as well it should be) and we must know how to to respectfully broach these issues/topics/truths with our children.

Something I think might be a wonderful resource to you is the material that's out there on how to be an ally (googling that phrase and the word racism for gobs of resources). I think that, especially with children, we have to talk not only about what's hard in the world, but about the ways that we can help work to make it better. And white children need to learn how to be allies to people of color (POC) in the struggle against structural, institutionalized racism, because oppressed people should not carry that burden alone. Learning to be an ally is a process of learning when to speak out, learning not to expect POC to educate you on issues of racism, and learning how to not make something about you. - Amelia

I grew up going to probably about 90% African American public schools in Detroit as a middle class, shy white girl, and I often felt excluded, sometimes based on race (not maliciously usually so much as kids tendency to stick to the familiar) - sometimes not based on race, of course. Nevertheless, I never once was made to feel that I was in any way inferior or that there was a single reason that I wouldn't be able to do anything in the world I set my mind to, which is partially about great parenting, but I really believe is in large part ingrained in all Americans from early childhood, that white people have all the doors open to them, where other groups need to try busting the door down. Reading the part of Malcolm Gladwell's Blink about racial priming and how African American students would perform significantly more poorly on tests when simply asked what their race is was a real eye opener. It's not that I feel like white people should go around feeling guilty all the time, but making a real effort to stare privilege in the face, acknowledging that it exists, and keeping it in the front of one's mind when making all the little decisions and having the individual conversations that make up one's interactions with society seems to me a civic duty.  - Emily 

This is super dorky, but I have a Harry Potter quote that (for me) speaks to this. Because I'm a white girl too...and it's hard to explain these nuances. In one of the books Harry is struggling with some things he's learned about his past and his potential legacy to an evil group. While he's turned down a chance to work with them, he's stressed by the fact that he's technically associated with them. He shares this with Dumbledore (the head master) and Dumbledores response is "It is our CHOICES that make us who we are." To me this is very profound. And perhaps the beginning of how you explain the past we are linked to as white people (or any other race really...we all have our crap to deal with I suppose). We've done some lame things as a race. But we as individuals aren't defined by that. - AE

...We talk about the differences in the way people are treated. I tell them that some people are more likely to be targeted by police or arrested because of their colour. I tell them they won't likely have those problems because they are white, and that THIS IS NOT OKAY. Sometimes when we watch TV or films, we talk about how many non-white or non-female characters there were, and what they think about that. - Marjane
I took my daughters- Lola and Ever- to the Balboa Park vigil for Trayvon Martin. And one of the speakers at one point talked about 'white suppression' with such rage that on the way home, my daughter asked me about it, with the same kind of sadness and shame. Is this 'white guilt'? I don't know. I do know that my response to her was that, basically, we cannot understand what it feels like to have a lifetime of being afraid or feeling less than for the color of our skin, and that those kinds of feelings make people very angry. I told her that she has done nothing wrong and that racism is something passed on by family or picked up by the choice of someone who feels small and unimportant and full of self-hate, as a way to feel bigger, better. And then .... the conversation went on for a half hour. In the end I was so glad we had it. And we will keep talking. -Maggie May
...I have always tried to be open and allow the conversations to flow. I think when a parent bristles at a certain topic, a child can sense the uneasiness and is left more confused. - ndrcortez
I can't tell you how much i have appreciated loveisntenough.com ("raising a family in a colorstruck world") when it comes to thinking/talking about these issues. The website is primarily aimed at adoptive white parents raising children of color, but the focus on children (of all ages) and the lessons we teach them both verbally and by example are totally invaluable. - Andrea 
Ask Moxie has put together two incredibly thoughtful posts this week that say it way better than I can...super practical tips on talking to your kids about race, and good conversations in the comments as well. - Megan
Try the PBS doc "Race: The Power of an Illusion" to get started, and then maybe read Tim Wise's blog (he tackles white privilege head-on.) - lizzilu
I think we as parents have an incredibly difficult time confronting the topic of racism with our children because it makes us uncomfortable. Not a novel thought, but important to note. We fear we might shatter the perfect world image our children hold, perhaps we might destroy their innocence, or confuse them. We tip-toe around the subject instead of producing empirical evidence and frank conversation, and in the process, we create the problem all over again. When we refuse to be up-front and factual with our children about why racism exists, we create ignorant individuals who move forward without change in thought. Children are insatiably curious, so when we don’t provide real answers and instead say such vague statements like "Everyone is different, and that's ok! Love everyone!", we leave them unsatisfied. Realizing there's more to the story (kid's aren't fooled by this talk), our children turn to other sources, such as music, the media, and their friends. I don’t think anyone needs reminded that the reason racism exists is because it's been embedded in every facet of our society, so why do we leave our children's opinions (which will feel like facts to them) up to a racist society?...  -sparrowsky

Thanks to everyone for participating in this conversation.

With respect,