Sunday, 30 December 2012
Mine is very religious and very old fashioned, so you can imagine how well we get along.
She also espouses a very different style of parenting to what I believe in, and practice.
On Christmas day, after the dinner when the menfolk had gone into the sitting room and the womenfolk remained in the kitchen, E asked to get up on my lap and had a guzzle. I let her, of course.
MIL, while making herself a cup of tea into which she poured rice milk, as she doesn't take dairy:
"Do you not think she's getting a bit too old for that now?"
I shrugged my shoulders. "She'll know herself when she's ready to stop," I said.
MIL: "But would you not just give her a drink of milk?"
Me: "Why would I give her cow's milk?"
Cue....silence. No response, until hubby's aunt, her sister, started to ask some genuine questions about whether E is ok with not having guzzles when I am not there, which I was of course happy to answer (she's fine without when I'm not around, but when I am with her she tends to ask often enough). She couldn't argue with me - she doesn't take cow's milk herself. Hubby's nephew, her grandson, is very dairy intolerant, and has spent years with constipation or diarrheoa any time he takes anything with cows' milk in it.
I don't think she'll ever see, or admit to, the benefits of breastmilk and breastfeeding. She isn't the kind of person to change her opinion regardless of the facts. But at least I shut her up. Hah.
Friday, 28 December 2012
I was pregnant.
I thought about all the things I had in the attic that I could use again, the teeny tiny little vests and babygrows.
However, there were things that I planned to do differently, this time around. I didn't start using cloth nappies till E was about 10 months old, as I allowed myself to be talked out of it (funnily enough, by people who had decided themselves not to do it - everyone I spoke to who actually used cloth nappies for any length of time was very encouraging). So I had all bigger ones. No teeny tiny little cute cloth for a new baby bum. I was determined that this baby would have a cute cloth nappy on for her or his first. So I went shopping. I bought a few different types, some tots bots, some lollipop, some little lamb. But top of my list for the first nappy he or she would wear was a lollipop rainbow pocket.
Wednesday, 19 December 2012
I am hoping to share that love of reading with my daughter, to pass it on.
She is only 25 months, so it's quite early, but since she was born I have been reading to her.
Smidge eats sweets and changes colour accordingly, until he finally stuffs himself so much that...well, you'll have to read it to find out!
Beth Shoshan also wrote this one, which we lost down the back of the couch for months and missed, even though we have tons of other books:
If Big can...I can, about a pair of bears - well, technically a Koala isn't a bear - but a big friend and a little friend, and how friendship is the most important thing.
Then of course, there is the Julia Donaldson-Axel Scheffler combination of wonder and magic. The littel rhymes, the funny stories, the little lessons about life - these are modern classics. I have absolutely no doubt that the following books will stand the test of time:
The Gruffalo - the book that launched their careers and made the pair household names - well, in households that have children anyway!
A clever mouse avoids the pitfalls of the deep dark wood - while poetry is made fun from a young age!
This is the sequel, E prefers it to the original, perhaps because it's about a little girl Gruffalo who goes on an adventure.
Monkey Puzzle - about a little monkey who has lost his mum, and the well-meaning butterfly who helps him/her find her again - though all is not simple, as the butterfly makes a few assumptions as the monkey describes its mother. Lots of learning in here as well as more fun rhymes, and beautiful illustrations with plenty to look at and talk about on every page.
Tabby McTat, the busker's cat - this one is probably, technically, for a slightly older child. It's about a busker and his cat and what happens when they get separated. The illustrations are captivating as always, showing us modern Britain, with women in burkas and homeless men under bridges alongside more traditional imagry. As with the others, though, it is a heartwarming and magical story, and currently E's favourite book.
We also have and love Room on the Broom and A Squash and a Squeeze - also classics, with beautiful artwork and fun rhymes the whole way through.
Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler have both also worked with other artists/writers respectively, but these works just aren't as good - there is something special about their partnership. They seem to "get" each other.
We got more books for E's birthday (my friends know my love of reading, and my desire to pass it on!). Among them:
Hairy Maclary from Donaldson's Dairy - about a little dog who goes for a walk, and is joined by other dogs - none of whom are as brave as they should be! The version we were given has a CD as well, read by David Tennant, so E can listen to him read it instead of me, if she prefers - or if I have something else to do, like tidy up (yeah, we all know that's a joke! Hah!).
Oliver's Winter Adventure, in which a little bear defies his kind's need to hibernate the whole Winter, in order to have some adventures in the snow. He climbs trees, skates, makes a snow-bear and slides down a hill. All things E is looking forward to doing if we get snow - last year we barely had any, the year she was a newborn at this time of year there was so much we were pretty much snowed in. A little bit would be nice this year, enough to make a snowman/snow bear at least.
So, these are a few of the books we love. Any recommendations for others?
Saturday, 15 December 2012
It seems my timing was impeccable, as a few days ago the International Humanist and Ethical Union published a report on discrimination against the non religious. The discrimination I mentioned last week is referred to, and severalk other European countries including the UK have a similar situation regarding secularity and religion and the protection of law.
However, as much as I love to complain, we don't have it so badly here. Not really.
There are countries where you can be sentenced to death for not subscribing to the state religion; for having a different belief or for being an atheist or agnostic. Those countries are: Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Sudan, the Maldives & Mauritania.
If you have time, go read the report, or bits of it anyway. It's good to be informed, and to understand what a truly toxic relationship the marriage of state and religion can be.
A secular society is not an atheist one. It is not fundamentalism in any sense whatsoever. People in a fully secular society would be fully free to believe whatever they wish, and participate in rituals of whatever religion they choose (as long as their rituals don't infringe on the rights of others!). However, the laws would not favour one religion or type of belief over another. The law would ensure that schools and health services are not tarnished by religious morality. The law would ensure that taxpayers' money would not fund religious activities. The law would create a fair system - a truly democratic one. One in which innocent children are not subjected to declarations about sin, one in which women are not treated as second-class citizens purely because milennia of religious belief has engraved that notion in people's psyches, one in which the state does not murder its citizens for non-conformity to a belief system.
A final point - as shocking as it can be to learn about things like this, another shocking thing is the fact that I haven't seen this reported ANYWHERE in the mainstream media. Atheist Northern Ireland facebook page alerted me to it.
Friday, 14 December 2012
Including the funny, odd little intro - David Bowie and Bing Crosby, Little Drummer Boy
Little Donkey - this reminds me of the time when I, in 2nd or 3rd class (I was 8 or 9) played Mary in the nativity play in school. I know, right?! Me! Mary. I can still remember, I played Mary so I had lines, and then I had to take a step back and join the singers and sing the song with them. It's a beautiful song.
Let it Snow, by Dean Martin. This is the song that plays at the end of Die Hard, and Die Hard 2 - some of my favourite Xmas films!Yippie Kay-yay, motherfucker!
East 17 - Stay another day. Oh my. This takes me back to the Milford Inn in the 1990s. Slow sets, and no one asking big, awkward, gangly-legged me out to dance probably because I was taller than them, and weird. Worried I would never, ever have my first kiss when everyone else was out there on the dancefloor eating the faces off one another. Wishing I could kiss one of the members of East 17 - can't remember his name now, had a massive crush on him. The one on the right in the video.
This is so cheesy, so kitsch, and yer man is such a poser. But hey, this is the time of the year for cheese (both the song type, and that served with a good glass of wine...) The Darkness - Don't Let the Bells End
Thursday, 13 December 2012
Among the favourites were:
Which continues to be a favourite today,
in which we (and by we, I mostly mean my sister and I) forget completely that we are empathic creatures who subscribe to a somewhat socialist, humanist philosphy, and become Dickensian-style capitalists, ready to turf each other out on the streets if we can't afford a room in one of those hotels.
In my younger days, I used to play with younger bro and sis, and unbeknownst to them, I used to steal from the bank to ensure I won (this was in my teenage years). Looks like I had the measure of capitalism, eh?!
and some others like
Mandarin, which was sort of a cross between Monopoly, Ludo and some sort of bingo;
Yahtzee, which was something to do with numbers and dice? I don't remember it very well...
And Upwords, which was like Scrabble in 3D.
Plus of course, Ludo, though we called it something else I think (the Dutch name maybe?) which escapes me right now.
Tag line: "Of things you know and love".
Teaching children brand loyalty.
Shell oil, a company whose actions in Ireland and elsewhere are deplorable, Burger King, destroying the forests for cattle grazing (and yet still making tasteless, almost meatless burgers) at a rate surpassed only by McD's, Pampers nappies, adding up so much waste per baby that it is drowning the world in landfill. Yeah, let's let kids have some fun with that, shall we?
I know I said we got our capitalist thrills playing monopoly, so maybe this sounds like hypocrisy, but in the purest sense of it, that is only a game. This isn't. This is advertising disguised as play. Every time you are exposed to an image like a logo it becomes more recognisable, and you are more likely to choose it then because it seems familiar, and we generally choose the comfort of familiarity.
This is not a game. This is a marketing ploy. And it makes me want to puke all over it.
Wednesday, 12 December 2012
As in, I am a cisgendered female. Which means I identify as a female, and am biologically a female. So what, you might think - so did I for half a second when I initially read the word.
Then I realised. It is the opposite of transgendered, to be biologically one but identify as the other.
If there is no word for "the opposite of transgendered" the default word might be "Normal". So you have "trans" people, and "normal" people. That's not so nice territory, as when you switch it around, the opposite of "normal" is "abnormal".
So I am quite happy to say that I am a cisgendered female, and I am delighted that a word exists to describe it, even if I am slightly surprised that I hadn't heard/read it before in all my time studying sociology.
Tuesday, 11 December 2012
She has citizenship. She is entitled to childrens' allowance.
However, she is not being brought up as a member of any religion. And therefore, she misses out on some other fundamental rights.
For one thing, she can never become President. Article 12.8 of Bunreacht na hEireann (the Irish Constitution) states that upon taking office, the President shall swear the following oath (it also refers to the President under the default pronoun "he" but we'll leave that for another day as the sexism in the constitution deserves its own post):
"In the presence of Almighty God I ,do solemnly and sincerely promise and declare that I will maintain the Constitution of Ireland and uphold its laws, that I will fulfil my duties faithfully and conscientiously in accordance with the Constitution and the law, and that I will dedicate my abilities to the service and welfare of the people of Ireland. May God direct and sustain me."
Atheists do not believe in god, any god. While the lines in the oath have a very Christian slant, a Muslim could nevertheless take office as he or she calls god "allah"; or a Buddhist who calls their god "Buddha" but nevertheless believes in a "god" to whom the above could refer to. An atheist however, could not in good faith take that oath, because it means nothing to them, and no one watching an atheist take such an oath could believe that it meant anything to them for belief in god is a fundamental part of it.
The same is true for a presence on the Council of State (article 31) and perhaps more importantly, the judiciary (article 34.5.1). A judge in Ireland must swear an oath to god. This oath:
"In the presence of Almighty God I, , do solemnly and sincerely promise and declare that I will duly and faithfully and to the best of my knowledge and power execute the office of Chief Justice (or as the case may be) without fear or favour, affection or ill-will towards any man, and that I will uphold the Constitution and the laws. May God direct and sustain me."
"May God direct and sustain me" - in my role as a judge, as I try to uphold the laws of the land. That is an ill-fit with notions of secularity, as well as meaning that once again, my daughter and others like her could never realistically be considered for the role.How does it even fit with the line that precedes it - "without fear or favour, affection or ill-will towards any man" (man, not person, again!) - what if God directs the judge, by way of religious teachings, to have favour toward one person or ill-will toward another - religion has after all, been used to justify slavery, which certainly counts as using the law to favour one person over another.
And now we come to Article 44 - Religion. It even gets its own article!
Here is the text in full of Article 44:
1. The State acknowledges that the homage of public worship is due to Almighty God. It shall hold His Name in reverence, and shall respect and honour religion.
1° Freedom of conscience and the free profession and practice of religion are, subject to public order and morality, guaranteed to every citizen.
2° The State guarantees not to endow any religion.
3° The State shall not impose any disabilities or make any discrimination on the ground of religious profession, belief or status.
4° Legislation providing State aid for schools shall not discriminate between schools under the management of different religious denominations, nor be such as to affect prejudicially the right of any child to attend a school receiving public money without attending religious instruction at that school.
5° Every religious denomination shall have the right to manage its own affairs, own, acquire and administer property, movable and immovable, and maintain institutions for religious or charitable purposes.
6° The property of any religious denomination or any educational institution shall not be diverted save for necessary works of public utility and on payment of compensation.
Let's start at the start. The state acknowledges the homage of public worship is due to almightly god. Yeah, that's the big one. It presumes the existence of, and belief in, god. Specifically, a (male) god who needs and deserves worship.
The articles which follow are also actually offensive to secularists, not so much as the first, but insomuch as they mention religion constantly, but there is no mention of "No religion". Therefore, the state can't discriminate against religions or people from different religions, but they can discriminate against people who don't belong to any religion, meaning atheists and agnostics too. We are not afforded the same rights. This translates into law too - the nine grounds (equality and anti-discrimination legislation) include religion, but not "No religion" or "religion or lack thereof", therefore in legal analysis, those of us who have no religion are not included and may be discriminated against. The article on schools is vague and legislation around it has interpreted that the churches have a right to discriminate and choose members of their religion over non-members if the school is over-subscribed, as the religion has the "right" not to compromise its principles - the same legislation makes it perfectly legal for schools to discriminate when hiring teachers, and since most of the schools are Catholic, you can guess which sorts of discrimination take place.
Yes, I have chosen this for my daughter, as I chose not to have her christened (my other half was raised Catholic and it would have been very easy to have her baptised, his family would have been all for it!). I chose to make her life more difficult, perhaps? I chose to deprive her of rights which could otherwise have been hers? Those things may be true. I choose another perspective. I choose to bring her up in a way which is right. To not abandon my principles for what would be easier. To fight against discrimination instead of hiding away and pretending to be one of the people against whom no discrimination takes place.
I hope that by the time she is of an age where she could be president or a member of the judiciary, if she should so choose, these articles will have been amended. Because to be able to partake in politics and the justice system of your country are fundamental elements of citizenship, and as a non-religious person, she does not have those rights.
The Christians stole it from the pagans, so why can't the secularists steal it from the Christians? A festival in winter is such a good idea, especially when you live in a plac where there is such a difference between summer and winter in terms of temperature and natural light. We need to meet up with friends and family, we need to eat good (and bad) food, drink wine and talk nonsense and laugh at the tv and each other and ourselves.
So with that in mind, here are some of my favourite Christmas songs:
Twisted Sister's version of Come All Ye Faithful (animated video version - this is awesome)
Transsiberian Orchestra - Carol of the Bells (but pretty much all of Transsiberian Orchestra's songs are awesome. Christmassy and headbang-y. What more could you ask for?!)
Actually, TSO are so good, here is another of their tracks:
Jona Lewie - Stop the Cavalry. Anti war and Christmassy. Again, what more could you ask for?
And then of course, The Pogues and the late, great Kirsty McCall - Fairytale of NewYork. This makes me laugh and cry and turn the radio up full blast and dance around the kitchen like a crazy person when it comes on. Bad language and grumbles and drinking, now that's an Irish Christmas!
I have more favourites, I'll post them another day probably, this will have to do for now!
Monday, 10 December 2012
I love, love, love old castles.
This is Roscommon Castle in Roscommon town, it's over 700 years old!
Does my arse look big in this?! Oh yes it most certainly does, that's what I get for trying to take arty-shadow-shots!
Near the castle, a park and duck pond.
Sunday, 9 December 2012
(To the tune of, The Wheels on the Bus)"The wheels on the bus go beep", "The babies on the bus go beep" etc....everything on that bus beeps and it doens't go anywhere, in her version!
(To the tune of Old McDonald) "Old McDonald had some carrot sticks, with a yum-yum here and a yum-yum there..."
(To the tune of Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed) "Two little Winnie the Poohs jumping on the bed, one fell off and bumped his head, Christopher Robin called the doctor and the doctor said, no more Winnie-the-Poohs jumping on the bed" "Two little birdies jumping on the bed, birdies can fly so they flew away and didn't fall off the bed"
She has me in fits of giggles.
Saturday, 8 December 2012
I told her I just had to go to the toilet first, and then we'd go.
So I went to the toilet, and was sitting there, though I could hear her grumbling a bit.
All of a sudden, the door burst open - she's a mightily strong two-year old - and she huffed at me and said:
It is funny, the little ways she has of putting things - she didn't know how else to say it, but she sure got her message across!
Friday, 7 December 2012
I see great horrors that have been, and continue to be, committed in the name of religion. Female genital mutilation, jihad, the crusades, the pogroms against Jews all over Europe, witch burnings. The list could go on and on and on, describing death - murder - and abuses of many kinds.
However, I do see beauty in the legacy of religion as well.
Take these songs:
Away in a Manger
Just two examples. Yes, they are religious. Full on, virgin-birth, angels and Jesus as god religious. However, they are also beautiful. The music more so than the lyrics perhaps, but I do find great beauty in the whole package.
Are there beautiful secular songs? Well perhaps any song that speaks of love of a person, or of the world, without a religious undertone (or overtone), or actually anything at all other than religion, is a secular song. So that is most of the music ever composed, including many modern Christmas songs. Nevertheless, can we ever have too much beautiful music? Should we stop playing religious music just because it's religious? I don't think so.
The Christians stole Christmas from the pagans. I am sure that most modern religious festivals have a pagan heritage, as every society in the world was once pagan of some sort. So why can't the secularists "steal" some of it from the Christians, Muslims, Buddhists etc?
And then we have art.
Some of the most beautiful paintings have a religious motif.
E.g. The Last Supper by Leonardo daVinci
Botticelli's The Birth of Venus,
which depicts a nude, gorgeous goddess emerging from a seashell.
or of course, the roof of the Sistine Chapel
These are amazing works of art. Should we disregard them because they depict religious scenes? of course not. They were painted by some of the most skilled artists of their time.
Especially with respect to the Christian scenes, the church at the time of the Rennaissance was a very welathy and powerful patron (at least in part due to the corruption that led to the Reformation, but that's a story for another day!). This was a time before government grants to artists, before such a thing as the Office of Public Works existed, before social welfare for people who weren't working. Earn money to feed yourself, or starve, were the options of the day. So if a wealthy patron offered you the chance to express yourself and your hard-practised talents (Michaelangelo was a grave-robber by night, using cadavers to learn about the human body in order to paint and scult it more accurately), with the caveat that the paintings must contain religious imagry, most would take up the offer, especially at that time.
Religions have been creating things of great beauty for much longer than that though, of course. There is Newgrange, in Co. Meath, Ireland - built approximately 5000 years ago, at the same time as the pyramids. There are the great pyramids of Egypt themselves. There are petroglyphs carved by Native American tribes. There is the cave art of early European societies, most famously Lascaux. These are all expressions of creativity. They refer to sacred spaces, things and thoughts. They are symbols created or built in the name of understanding the world around us. These were all created at a time when religion and science were not at odds. In Newgrange, on the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year, the light comes in through to the deepest chamber. That's astronomy as well as religion.The cave art may be an attempt to understand the "spirit world", the supernatural, but it is also the earliest form of the idea of symbolism created by humans, the ability to use a mark to symbolise a real thing, which lead to all other forms of art and writing and is one of the beautiful, abstract things which marks us out as different to other animals (due to our brain evolving differently).
Religion may have started off as a way to understand the world around us. It went hand in hand with science. It was about discovery and exploration, not dogma. It was about trying new things - to appease the gods, people did a rain dance, or made a sacrifice. When something appeared to work they did it again, when it didn't, they stopped. All right, it was chance and not a metaphysical being that caused the apparent effect or lack thereof, but still, that is in principle closer to modern science than it is religion.
At some point, religion decided it had all the answers. No more exploration was needed, no more attempts to discover.
So while objects of great beauty continued to be created, the aim of religion changed. Instead of seeking to discover, it sought to explain and dictate. To control. The opposite of the essence of where it started.
Nevertheless, the desire to explain things that we can't yet understand is a facet of humanity, and religion was once a way to do so. Now, science is a better way. We can enjoy the art, and the music, and continue to explore the universe and always ask why.
At one point in one of the games, I commented that I was having a great game, things were going really well, I was getting good letters at the right time and the opportunity to use them well.
A few years ago, I would have had to follow that with a "touch wood" exclamation, followed by actual touching of wood, just in case I was tempting fate and my luck would change simply by virtue of my having commented on it.
Now, as an atheist, skeptic, rationalist, I don't feel the need to do that. I know that it is pure random chance that draws the letters from the bag, and me saying I got good ones does not invite some malicious demon imp upon me to mess with my future chances.
I can say what I like without fear of impunity. It's the fear that's the problem. The worry that my words, thoughts or simple actions can affect the outcome of something which really, of course I have no control over. The time I was brushing my teeth and the Ireland team scored a goal - perhaps I should brush my teeth for the ninety minutes of every Ireland game in future, to help the Boys in Green on their way? As if little old me could really make such a difference...but...what if? Should I do it, just in case? If they lose, is it my fault?
Not to mention throwing salt over your shoulder if you spill some - was it the left shoulder, or the right? Should I google it, just to be sure? If I throw it over the wrong one, is it double bad luck?
And that mirror I broke as a child, seven years of bad luck! No wonder I had such a crappy childhood. It was all down to the cracks in the mirror. Then there is the four-leaf clover, to ward off evil and bad luck, a good luck charm. An abberation in nature, a slight malfunction in the genetic code - why are four leaf clovers so sought after, when six-toed children are not?
The fear that some little thing I even think could impact upon the outcome of huge events is awful, and awfully silly. I am so glad I gave that up.
My thoughts are my own now. Superstition of that degree is the Thought Police on the most effective scale ever. We police our own thoughts, try to purge the unwelcome ones from the record - though the unwelcome ones in that scenario are the pleasant ones, where we are grateful and happy - in case the thought alone makes all the good things go away.
I am free from superstition, and free from that fear.
Friday, 30 November 2012
She's clever though. She understands the context of it.
As in, one day I caught myself in time, and said "Flip!" instead.
She laughed and said "Fuck!". She knew that flip was a substitute word. She knew that it meant the other F word.
I laughed too (hence the terrible mother bit).
Every now and then now, she will say it and laugh. I explain that it is a word we're only supposed to use when we're angry or upset.
She goes "waiah waih" (purely a pretend cry) and then says fuck again, and laughs.
She also heard me yell "Bollocks" once at Sherlock, the newf we had for a while. After that, any time I yelled at him, even though I controlled my language, she would yell "Bollocks" at him.
So she may know swear words, but at least she understands the context, I suppose.
Oh how busy this child is going to keep me!
Thursday, 29 November 2012
My house smells so good this evening, I think I could sell it.
Of course, my landlord might object to that...
4 cups plain flour
1 sachet of yeast
1 red onion
A bit of cheddar cheese
A dash of oil - olive or rapeseed
Selection of herbs, I used oregano and basil
Mix the yeast with one cup of flour and leave in a covered bowl for two hours
Add the rest of the flour and mix well, then knead the dough for a few mins
Leave the dough to rise - hot press is the perfect place for this
Every couple of hours knead it a bit and put it back
Fry the onion and grate the cheese, add these to the dough along with the oil.
Shape into a loaf or two loaves and allow to rise once more for an hour or so before baking at 190c for approx 40 mins
Eat as soon as it's cool enough to slice!
Yeah, I know, obesity crisis, etc etc. Though to be fair, this is the two year old who turned down cake a couple of weeks ago, preferring more lentil curry .
There are times - very rarely, but they do occur - when I actually need to do housework. Today was one of those days, but E was having a clingy day. So I distracted her with butter and allowed her to discover her inner Homer J. Simpson.
Me: That's my hat.
E: It's actually E's (she still refers to herself in the third person a lot, or mixes up me/you)
Me: Really? I think it's actually mine.
E: No. Actually E's.
Great, so she's either donating my clothes to the charity shop, or wearing them and claiming them as her own. I thought I had a few more years till that would start!
Wednesday, 28 November 2012
The cannons in the car park
I managed the climb, but Molly the Collie must have made it three or four times as she kept coming down to me again, as I climbed a lot slower than she did! Didn't count the steps, but there are a lot of them, and they're steep!
Well worth it though, the view from the top:
The view out to sea, with the old barracks buildings below.
Out toward the Atlantic
This was me messing around with the camera on my phone, learning to use the panorama image function. It gives a sense of the view out across Lough Swilly.
Any time I come here I feel like it would be such a great place to shoot a zombie film. There is something in the atmosphere that lends itself to that kind of entertainment.
Fort Dunree, a great day out for the family, including the dog.