Saturday, January 28, 2017

Women's March

I haven't written here about the Election of 2016, even though I've been deeply impacted by it emotionally and in my professional life.  I spent most of November and December in the first of the seven stages of grief, refusing to accept that the results of the election were real or that the people of this country would really allow a xenophobic, misogynistic, racist, and admitted sexual predator to take office.  I held out hope that those in the Electoral College would rise to the challenge and do their duty to prevent someone like Trump from rising to the Presidency.  But, of course, he was elected and the electors in the electoral college did vote him into office and, last week, millions around the world sat in horror watching his inauguration and fearing at what was to come next.

About a week after the Election, despite the fact that I was still desperately living in my more comfortable state of denial, I bought tickets for all of us (except Alden) to go to the Women's March in Washington D.C.  The march was proposed almost immediately after the election and quickly started to gain traction. It felt like we had to be there, standing in solidarity with people from around the globe to demonstrate to the incoming administration that we would fight.  We would resist.  We would not accept policy aimed at discriminating, denying women's rights, or rolling back the progress we'd made towards civil rights, environmental protections, expansion of health care options, or any number of other progressive reforms.  Amy, Eric's sister, also bought a ticket.  A few weeks later, we realized Eric had a conflict that weekend (training this year's group of river advocates -- which is its own form of progressive protest), so Kai and I decided it would be a girls' weekend, and were set to meet up with Amy, Kate, Becca. 

The trip out to D.C. was its own form of inspiration.  We flew out early in the morning the day before the march (also known as Inauguration Day... or has Trump has now dubbed it, national patriotic observance day... which just makes me want to puke all over my keyboard).  Anyway, we shielded ourselves from having to watch much of what was transpiring below by spending the day in the air; although, we had two layovers, so we did get a fair bit of time in airports.  I travel a LOT.  I'm in airports multiple weeks out of every month and have been for the last 7 years.  Traveling that Friday was like no other.  The airports were packed with women. And I knew, looking around me, that all of these people were headed the same place we were.  On our first flight, there were more than a dozen people taking the same route we were, through Denver and Columbus to D.C.  That never happens -- that a dozen people are taking the same crazy, two layover route across the country.  On our last flight, from Columbus, OH to D.C., the whole plane was filled with women going to the march.  I was wearing my "Nasty Woman" t-shirt, and as I boarded the plane the ticket agent looked at my shirt and then shouted to the line of women behind me, "how many people boarding this flight are nasty women?" and the terminal erupted in cheers.  Solidarity.  Resistance.  We were going to fight.  we were going to prove that we would not be held back.

Kai was pretty quiet most of the trip across the country.  She was taking it all in.  That night, we met up with Amy and bought supplies to make posters for the march the next day. Kai's signs said, "Women Matter" and "Keep Up the Fight".  Mine said, "Safety Nets Not Walls" and "Not My President."  Amy's said, "No One is Illegal" and "Stronger Together".  We cried a bit while making the signs and expressed fear at the administration to come.  Kai took it all in quietly.  We talked about some of the things Trump had proposed and some of the comments he had made about women.  But, it was hard to really explain the gravity of the situation to her. 

The next morning, we headed to the march fairly early.  It took us a long time to get on the metro -- the line to get tickets was out of the station.  And then, once we got off the metro at Union Station, it took about 30 minutes to exit because the line of people trying to get out of the station was so long.  Eventually, they just opened the gates and let everyone flood out without paying.  We met up with Kate, Becca and their friends in Union Station for breakfast.  We tried to find a bathroom to use before heading to the rally site, but the lines at Union Station were around the building.  We decided we could go without a bathroom for the day, and headed out to go to the rally point.

In usual circumstances, it would have been about a 15 minute walk at most.  It took us about an hour to get to the staging area, and we ended up behind the stage in a mass of people.  The march organizers were trying to route people to the blocks around the stage, but there were so many people that we were all just stuck.  An immobile wall of resistance. Everyone was so friendly.  Cupcakes were passed around.  No one was pushing.  We were there for each other.  People spoke of where they came from and what motivated them to come.  The crowd moved slowly together and, eventually, we made it to the corner of the block where we could turn and start walking parallel to the mall.  We had to go about 13 blocks from the stage before we could even hope to get onto the mall and ended up in a crowd packed behind one of the screens.  We couldn't see the screen.  We couldn't hear the speakers.  We couldn't move.  Kailey was amazed at the number of people on all sides.  She sat atop Kate's shoulders taking it all in.  At one point, someone started shouting, "little blonde girl! little blonde girl!"  we realized they were talking to Kai -- she wanted to know if the crowd was moving at all.  It wasn't.  We were a unified block.  There was some anxiousness to march and to move.  The same anxiousness that was consuming all of us to do SOMETHING.  To make this whole thing better.  But, it wasn't your typical crowd.  There was no irritation or annoyance at the crowd itself.  We were all taking solace in the crowd even as we willed the crowd to move a bit (just so we could stretch a leg or have a bit more air).  We were stuck for about two hours in that mass of people before the last speaker finally announced we would be marching.  The entire march route was filled in, but eventually those that were at the end moved into other areas so that the rest of the crowd behind them could fill in.  Eventually we began to move.  And chant. 

"We need a leader not a creepy tweeter"
"This is what democracy looks like"
"When women's rights are under attack, what do you do? Stand up, Fight Back!"
"Trump thinks he runs this town, pussy's going to shut him down"

The signs were so creative:

"Super callow fragile ego Trump you are atrocious"
"We fucked up bigly"
"A woman's place is in the resistance"
"WTF adults!"

It was great marching with Kai.  She isn't a chanter, but she also never complained.  She didn't whine.  She didn't ask to go home.  She was there.  She was present.  She took it in.  I think she lacked context to understand WHY so many people were so upset, but she got that this was a very big deal.  And that we were together in this -- we were with lots (and LOTS and LOTS) of other people who cared as much as we did.

The next day, I woke up at 6:30 AM to get us tickets to the National Museum of African American History.  It just opened in September and while free to get into, was so popular that they had instituted a system of releasing tickets for the day online.  They were gone in 4 minutes -- but I got 4 for our group.  Kate got some, too (with a bit of extra drama thrown in -- 4 minutes!)  So, that afternoon, we got to go to the museum that gave Kai the context of what all of this meant and why so many people were so angry and so resistant -- some context about what, exactly, we were resisting. 

The museum is intense.  Kai said, "my head is exploding."  She couldn't comprehend that people had treated other PEOPLE so cruelly.  She asked if children and babies had also been tortured.  She asked how deeply the cuts went when people were whipped.  She said, "I'm mad at myself for being white."  She said, "I want to beat myself up."  She asked how the black people around us must feel.  She asked if they were scared . She asked if they trusted us.  She was inspired by Harriet Tubman and wanted to know more about her.  She wanted to know if people were still slaves today.  She steeled herself to stand up and fight for others -- completing questions in an interactive exhibit to hypothesize about what she would have done confronted with some of the injustices of the times. 

It was an amazing weekend.  Followed by a terrible week, with Trump signing numerous executive orders that threaten the very rights we had stood up for over the weekend.  I've been talking to Kai every day about what Trump is doing and what others are doing to try to stop him.  We've been discussing the fight ahead.

When she got back to school on Tuesday, she spent both of her recesses and her study hall writing an essay that she titled, "All About Racism".  It says:

"In the 1600s white people came and took black people away from their homes and made them slaves.  The white people made them work with chains on.  Lots of people jumped off the boat into shark infested waters.  They thought that if they died, they would go back to where they came from.  They also thought dying was better than being slaves.

"When the slaves got there, they stood on a giant rick and people would say how much money they would pay for the slave.  Then the white people tied their hands together and gave them a very bad burn.  So that people know that the slave is theirs.  They also tied them by the hands dangling from a tree branch and started whipping them.  The whips cut deep.  Also if they tried to escape and they got caught they would be killed.

"But there was one amazing person who was named Harriet Tubman. She escaped without being caught to the North where she was free. But, she came back and sacrificed herself for her family.  Then she came back lots more times and rescued hundreds of people from slavery.  The way she didn't get caught was the underground railroad.  It wasn't underground or a railroad.  It is just a path with caves, holes, and sometimes people would carry them by wagon.  The people trying to find them had to not be fooled.  When the black people were escaping, they rested during the day and ran at night.

"The police sent dogs to go and catch the black people and sometimes they would bite.  If the black people got caught, they would be executed.  After the white people executed them, they would hang the bodies in a tree so that when the black people saw them they would remember that if you ran away and got caught, this will happen to you.

"Also babies were ripped out of mom's arms.  They were being ripped out of mom's arms because they were being made slaves too.  And still people have slaves today but it is not as bad.  the people back then were living in shacks and the slaves today are still living in shacks.  I feel that we should help. 

I want to help by speaking up.  I would say "just because their black doesn't mean that they are not people.  They are still people.  You don't own them.  Black people have the right to do what white people can do.  They can sit in the front of buses.  They can have the same drinking fountain.  They can do what they want to do." 

We've been reading books about Harriet Tubman and other civil rights leaders since coming home.  It's going to be a long 2 years until midterm elections -- but, instead of getting depressed and feeling helpless, I am resolved to help to stave off the worst of what's coming through my own work and by building awareness among the next generation of leaders.. namely, Kai. 

Resist!  Solidarity!  Justice!

Alden Video Update

Alden is hard to get on video doing the gazillion of cute things he does every day.  At this age, Kai would let me interview her while filming her.  She would also sing songs while I filmed her.  Which is strange, because Kai is much more adverse to performing than Alden.  He is a natural born ham, but, he finds the phone distracting.  He just wants to look at it.  He doesn't want to perform or answer questions while the phone is out.  But, lately, I've caught a few things on video that capture some of his Alden-ness. 

The first one is Alden singing his ABCs.  He doesn't really have the song down.  It's more like A-B-C-D-N-O-P-Q-R-S-T-U-V-W-X-Y-Z... but, his singing voice is so cute.  And, he actually knows his ABCs.  Meaning, he recognizes all of the letters and can tell you which is which when you point to one.  He just hasn't quite memorized the song.  He also understands that letters make words and he is constantly pointing to words and asking, "what does that say?"  Today, I took the kids to a burger place after Kai's soccer game and told them they could have a milkshake.  I pointed to the list of flavors and asked what they wanted saying, "they have vanilla or chocolate or..." and I trailed off.  Alden said, "I want pineapple" looking at the flavor list which said, "pineapple" a few flavors below chocolate.  Pineapple is not a typical milkshake flavor.  It is also not a flavor we typically have or something he has eaten very often.  I looked at him and said, "what did you say?" and he repeated, "I want pineapple."  I have no idea if he recognized the word on the sign or somehow read it... but, it was weird (and, I didn't get him pineapple... I was splitting the shake between the two of them and Kai didn't want pineapple... but, now I'm feeling guilty about that and like I should have gotten him the pineapple one). Anyway, here is he singing:

And this video is of Alden picking out a video (so meta, I know).  Alden frequently says that he "loves" something or that he "doesn't like" something.  He is emphatic in his likes and dislikes.  And, when you ask him why he says, "because."  I think it's hilarious.  He also loves garbage trucks and says, "they pick the cans up off the ground."  He recognizes and can name all the various construction vehicles -- excavators, back loaders, front loaders, cement trucks, cranes -- if you name one incorrectly, he is quick to tell you the correct name of the vehicle.  I swear we didn't push tutus on Kailey at this age and we aren't trying to get Alden to obsess over construction vehicles and garbage trucks... but, these two have definitely made me think that gender is as much nature as nurture. 

And, while I said at the beginning of this post that Alden won't perform for the camera (when I ask him to) -- this video shows that it's not because he is not a performer.  He LOVES to perform.  Here, he's introducing a puppet show that he and Kai were trying to put on.  Well, Kai was trying to put on a puppet show.  Alden was having such fun being the announcer that we couldn't get to the puppet part of the show!

Alden knows that he is funny and frequently will be goofing off or doing something at an inappropriate time and then turn to me, when I'm not laughing (or even smiling) and say, "it's a little bit funny?"  The other day when I said, "NO, Alden.  NOT a little bit funny", he cocked his head to one side and asked, "it's a LOT funny?" And, of course, I laughed.  Since then, he'll clarify, "it's ZERO funny or a LOT funny?"  When I say it's zero funny, he replies, "no... it's a little funny." The fact that we always seem to laugh at these pronouncements basically proves his point.  This little boy is such a charmer.  Smiles around him are definitely hard to resist!

Friday, January 13, 2017

Sutter's Fort

Kailey is loving 3rd grade.  I think she might be enjoying 3rd grade even more than 2nd grade.  She's had such great teachers the last two years, and it makes such a big difference.  Also, she has really settled into being a student.  She takes her studies more seriously.  She cares about the quality of her work.  And she's a voracious reader.  She is one of the most advanced readers in her class -- reading books many levels above her grade.  She is frequently reading multiple books at once.  She recently finished re-reading the Harry Potter series, and now she and I are reading the series that starts with A Wrinkle in Time.  She is also reading another book called Mandy.  And, she has a couple of books she got for Christmas that she reads every few days (they are graphic novels -- and so really quick reads).  She wakes up in the morning and turns on her light and reads by herself.  No more coming in our room for morning snuggles, which is really bittersweet. 

And, of course, the level of work in school is advancing right along with Kai.  This year, they had an extensive project over the first half of the year.  They were each assigned a historical figure who lived in the 1840s and traveled from the east to California, spending time at Sutter's Fort (a historic fort located here in Sacramento).  They had to research their figure using historical texts, which we got in the California Room at the Sacramento library, and write a fairly extensive essay about their figure's life.  They also had to create a visual aid and prepare a 5 - 10 minute oral presentation, to deliver in front of the class in a period costume.  Finally, it culminated with an overnight trip to Sutter's Fort.  They rode a covered wagon from Old Town Sacramento to the Fort, arriving at 9:30 AM.  Then, they spent the day in their period costumes going to the different stations at the Fort to learn candle making, how to do laundry in the 1840s, bread and cookie making, blacksmith skills, corn husk doll creation, etc.  Parents were working the stations and Eric and I, along with Leanna's father, ran the bakery.  We spent the day cooking 12 loaves of bread, dozens of cookies and cinnamon rolls.  Everything was baked in an outdoor, adobe oven.  We had to build the fire in the oven and get it up to the right heat before clearing out all the ashes and sealing it off so we could do the baking. We had another fire going with a cauldron over it to help our bread rise (it was a cold Sacramento day -- with a high of about 40). 

Kai LOVED the Sutter's Fort project.  She learned so much about her character, Elizabeth Bayes Wimmer, who was instrumental in starting the California gold rush.  She got a near perfect score on her essay and presentation, only being marked down for not asking enough questions during her classmate's presentations and not listening respectfully (very fair deductions, as I was there in class observing, and her nervous energy after doing her presentation proved a MAJOR issue in paying attention to others while they were presenting).  For her visual aid, she worked with Nonnie to sew a apron and baked cookies for the class, since Elizabeth served as the camp cook after she arrived at Sutter's Fort. 

Kai also had a blast at the Fort.  The kids learned songs and dances and had a bit of a hoe down after the dinner.

It was freezing, but they all had a blast.  We made sure Kai had several layers to sleep in plus a hat, gloves, scarf, extra blanket and sleeping bag.  But, still, she said she was FROZEN during the night and barely slept a wink. 

She has asked repeatedly whey she can't do the Sutter's Fort assignment AGAIN and is already counting down the years until Alden is in 3rd grade so that she can return as a volunteer.  I certainly never did a school project as extensive as this one when I was in 3rd grade -- and at the start of the year when they were describing the project, it seemed crazy to me to expect these kids to be able to do that amount of work.  But, it was a good reminder for me that Kai is a big kid, now.  She's a full-fledged student, capable of this level of work.  And, she thrived with the project. 

It was a LOT of work for us getting ready for it -- both preparing to work at the bakery, buying all the supplies, helping with cookie baking the night before, writing her a letter to be delivered at the fort on parchment paper and folded like they would have been at the time (no envelopes)! and preparing an appropriate lunch -- no plastic baggies -- everything had to be wrapped in wax paper!  But, all that work made for a rich learning experience and one that Kai is not likely to forget. 

In May, her class heads to the Marin Headlands for a 2 night trip.  And, next year, she'll camp at Yosemite for an entire week with her class!  It's interactive learning at it's best.