Many moons ago, this blog was on Tumblr instead of WordPress, which allowed readers to submit anonymous questions whenever they liked. I received (and ignored) many strange ones, but also answered a lot. It was a really great way to see what I was omitting or not explaining well enough, what parts of my writing were being glossed over instead of put on the table and dissected.
SO! I hosted an impromptu Q&A on my Facebook page. You guys submitted questions via messages and comments, and now I’ll answer them! Buckle up kids, it’s about to git REAL (and long! Jesus christ this got long). We’ll start with the easy ones first and get to the hard ones (ahem, the dating ones) at the end.
How do you keep your sense of humour while dealing with a three-year-old?
Short answer: I don’t. Ha! Hahahahahaha *muffled sobs*
This question is a great example of the divide between represented reality and, well, reality. On one hand, I do feel like I have a fairly good sense of humour and some aspects of parenting a three-year-old are virtually impossible not to laugh at, like when your kid comes peddling out of their room naked on a tricycle at 11:30 at night acting like a member of hell’s angels (more on that later). But other aspects are just really infuriating. I do get frustrated a lot, and although I’m not a yeller (not through any magic of self-control, I just never have been) I do lose my patience and get mad and annoyed.
It’s really easy (and for me, cathartic) to take a painful or frustrating experience and rework it into a piece of writing which teaches or entertains others. It’s basically the sole reason this blog exists, to allow me to make sense of my life, especially the parts that don’t go as I want them to. So, often the situations you read about here are my most frustrating experiences and although I write about them honestly I’m also writing them days, or sometimes weeks, later, when the humour of the situation has sunk in. I guarantee you, in the moment I’m not zen and tossing my head back laughing at the humour of the situation. My teeth are gritted and I want to sink deep into a hole and die, just like you.
What is your favourite all natural, all purpose cleaner?
My favourite and the one I have used for years is the one I make myself. Don’t be scared! It’s really easy.
3 Tbsp white vinegar
2 Tbsp Dr Bronner’s liquid castile soap (often found at health food stores and some supermarkets)
1 Tbsp Borax
Fill your spray bottle about 3/4 full with hot water, and then add the rest of the ingredients. Gently shake/swirl until the borax is dissolved, and you’re good to go! You can add 10-15 drops of tea tree essential oil if you’d like to boost the antibacterial properties of the spray. Use it anywhere! I find it helpful to tape the recipe to the back of the bottle so it’s easy to mix up a new batch when you run out.
Do you raise Olive vegetarian? If so what do you teach her to say to other kids who offer meat at school or something? (I’m looking for ideas for my son who will start preschool next year)
I answered this question a few years ago, here’s the link if you’d like to read the full post. The gist of it is no, I don’t raise Olive on a vegetarian diet.
I cook free-range, hormone/antibiotic free meat for her maybe once a week, and the reason I do this is because although I obviously have my own opinion about eating meat, I feel that she deserves to be able to make up her own mind about this when she’s able. She is aware that I don’t eat meat, and I’ve explained why (You have to kill animals to make meat from them, and I don’t think that’s right) but I don’t go any further than that.
The other factor in my decision was that a vegetarian diet does require some supplements, there’s virtually no way around it. There are some things that are near-impossible to get from a meat-free lifestyle, I am happy to take supplements in place of taking a life, but to ask a toddler to do the same is trickier. I think it’s easier and safer for her to be eating whole foods to make sure she’s getting what she needs at this stage in her life.
I also worried about exactly the same situation you describe. Although dietary restrictions are far from uncommon these days, I want her to be able to go other kid’s houses and eat what they eat – whether it is meat, exotic foods, hot dogs and kraft dinner, whatever. If you are raising your child vegetarian and would like them to stick to this at friends houses, parties etc. I’d just make sure they have a good idea what meat is (literally go through foods and identify meat and non-meat, sometimes it isn’t intuitive) and then just teach him to tell people he doesn’t eat meat or ask if there is something vegetarians can eat. I hope this helps!
Do you have any fun hippie home health remedies?
DO I!? Haha, yes, tons! I don’t have them all handily compiled in one place, although my book does have a section on this topic and rummaging through the Natural Living category might yield a few as well.
A few off the top of my head:
Tea tree oil – the best for pimples, dab a little on a few times a day
Honey – Also awesome for pimples, or a face mask
ACV – mix 50/50 with water to create a toner, gargle to relieve a sore throat; pour a few cups into a bath to ease sunburns; add 1 tbsp to 1 cup of water for a conditioning hair rinse, etc etc.
My go-to get-well potion: Fill a saucepan with about four cups water, add the juice of one lemon, a pinch of cayenne, some grated ginger, a few crushed garlic cloves, and about a tbsp of honey. If these quantities seem vague, they’re meant to be – fiddle around with the quantities until it tastes good to you! This blasts a cold and soothes sore throats.
Coconut oil – great after shower moisturiser, shaving cream, and my go-to eye makeup remover
What are Olive’s favourite snacks?
Olive’s snacks are pretty simple. She loves basically all fruit especially watermelon and cantaloupe (seriously she will eat an entire one in a single sitting if I let her), frozen peas, cashews, kale (not joking one bit), pickles, some cheeses, popcorn with butter, etc.
Her preschool snacks are usually things like a cup of vegetables like cut carrots or snap peas, maybe some diced chicken or steak if I’ve cooked meat the night before, sometimes cheese and crackers, apple slices with cinnamon. I really never buy things like fruit cups or granola bars because of the packaging and the sugar, so she typically just eats a lot of whole fruits and veggies.
Do you have advice on how to meet crunchy mom friends when moving to a new town?
Ahhh, finding your people. I have had a lot of experience with this having moved four times since Olive was born, to a different city each time. I’ve found meeting mom friends quite easy with a baby, even for an introvert like me. Join a few library classes or play groups, you have a built-in conversation topic! There will be many moms you don’t click with, but every so often you’ll find one you do!
For crunchy moms specifically, look for things that would attract hippie types, I’m talking baby sign language classes, mom and baby yoga classes, attachment parenting classes, babywearing communities, etc.
Most of all, remember that other moms get it. We know how isolating and crazy-making it can be to be a mom, especially without a support system. Approaching other mothers, striking up a conversation and then saying something like, “Do you want to get together for coffee sometime? I just moved here and I haven’t found any mom friends yet” will be almost unanimously well-received.
When I moved to a small town with 4-month old Olive I was shameless about finding mom friends – I joined the local kids buy and sell Facebook group and literally posted something like “I’m moving here in two weeks, does anyone want to hang out?” I met three really great women this way, and they’re my friends to this day! (Looking at you, Kayla, Vanessa, and Jenn!)
Do you know (or any of your followers) of a second-hand online shop that only sells clothing laundered in fragrance-free detergents? No amount of vinegar/baking soda/hydrogen peroxide seems to get the perfumes out, especially the items laundered with dryer sheets. GAK!
No! I don’t, but I totally know what you mean. Virtually all of Olive’s clothing is purchased secondhand (I like Once Upon a Child stores) and sometimes the smell of detergents and fabric softeners will linger weeks or months after we’ve brought it home. This totally freaks me out, but I’ve accepted it as the price of secondhand shopping. It does eventually disappear, so I just deal with it in the meantime.
If you’re really sensitive to fragrances, my only suggestion would be to buy from buy and sell groups, where you’d be able to ask the seller if they use fragrance-free detergents. Keep in mind too, that although new clothing doesn’t smell, it does have a ton of added chemical components like sizing and optical brighteners, that largely disappear by the time you buy clothing secondhand. Six of one, half a dozen of the other?
If anyone does know of a store like this, can you help Jessica out and answer in the comments?
How’s your health?
My general health is great, but I think this question likely refers to my kidney condition, and although it’s manageable, I do feel like it’s getting progressively worse as I get older. Sometimes this really terrifies me and I cry a lot about it and I feel helpless and overwhelmed and frustrated that I don’t have more energy to do the things I’d like to do. Other times I tell myself to stop being such a little bitch and get on with it, already.
Mostly I just feel tired a lot. I deal with this by trying to get good sleeps, drinking coffee, and by letting Olive watch an hour or so of movies a day so I can take a break. I hate that I have this condition and I hate taking the pills and getting the blood tests and regularly being sidelined by migraines and muscle pain but I can’t change it and other people are dealing with far, far worse.
How’s the book going (All You Need is Less), and are you writing another one?
First of all, this is such a sweet question, thank you for caring even just a little bit.
All You Need Is Less (or AYNIL, never forget) is doing well! Sales have been pretty consistent since it came out, and almost every week I get an email from someone who has bought my book, taken it out from the library, or received it as a gift, and is writing to tell me that they’re making their own cleaners or that they’ve stopped using plastic bags or started washing their hair with baking soda and vinegar. It’s absolutely incredible, and I never cease to be amazed by the fact that people in Australia and India and Ireland have read my book and are changing their lives as a result.
I am currently in very, very preliminary talks to write one or two more books. Possibly another Eco-friendly one (this one is less of a certainty on my end) and a collected book of non-fiction essays/stories, similar to the content of the posts you read here (this one I am really excited about).
I know many long-time readers feel that I’ve been less open here than I used to be, and I’ve felt it, too. Since my separation, I’ve really struggled with how much to share here, given who is reading it. Recently I had past blog posts dragged out and referenced in court documents by my ex, which felt like a huge breach of trust. This sort of thing has made it really hard to write with the degree of transparency I am used to.
I continue to struggle with this and feel shitty about it, and I’m not sure how to resolve it, but compiling these stories in book form has been one way for me to continue the writing/reflecting process without it being public yet. I’ll keep you posted. Promise.
How’s your love life?
Hahahahahahahahaha! Oh god. Keeping the previous answer in mind, I’ll be brief: It’s good. I have zero complaints 🙂
What are you doing this weekend?
Olive was away, which meant that the daytime hours were mostly filled with work. I finished up a few posts for Earth911, continued plugging away on a submission for The Guardian, did some editing work, answered many long-overdue emails, cleaned up this site a bit, and then mashed my head against my keyboard a lot when trying to write pitches. I am terrible at writing pitches.
What do you think I should wear when I’m in Sydney with just the hubby in a couple of weeks?
Is it summer there? Spring, I think. Okay, so I am not particularly gifted, sartorially speaking, but I’d say maxi dresses? Maxi dresses are so fantastic and travel-friendly. Jorts, definitely. Ridiculously large sunglasses. High-waisted bathing suits, if you can pull them off (I can’t, I look like I’m wearing adult diapers). Sundresses. Jeans and crop tops and chucks. Also, I hate you for going to Sydney, everyone I know is in Australia or Costa Rica or Panama. I hate you all.
Dating while single parenting
I love that this isn’t even a question, it’s just a statement, like, “God, dating while single parenting. What even is this??”
OK, so here is my experience so far.
Be up-front. If you’re going the online dating route, I believe you need to be completely up-front about the fact that you have a child/children. People deserve to be able to make the decision about whether or not to date someone with a child before getting involved with you. Your parent status is not something to bust out on a third date or two months down the line.
That said, I have been completely surprised by how many men are completely un-phased by this. I haven’t had trouble meeting people, and I’ve noticed that having a child does a great job of weeding out men who might be less mature, responsible or settled.
Your child comes first. Olive is my priority, always. This means I don’t sacrifice a lot of my time with her to go on dates, nor does she meet the people I’m dating unless I’ve been with them six months or more. This prevents a string of people coming in and out of her life, and it also allows a relationship to develop in its own time rather than a potential partner being inundated with pressure to befriend and/or pseudo-parent a toddler while still getting to know me, too. Being a parent also means that my standards are far, far higher.
Olive has a dad, and no one who comes into my life will ever replace him for her, but they will nonetheless become a huge part of her daily life. This means that finding someone who is honest, kind, compassionate, patient etc. is really important. I want the best for her, and that makes it easy to want the best for me, too.
And finally, although it’s challenging sometimes to fit in a dating life around a parenting life and a working life, it’s also been really really fun. When you become a mother it’s so easy to lose yourself as a woman. It’s easy to lose your sexuality, your verve, your adult self who is capable of holding conversations beyond sleep schedules and eating habits. I’m in no rush to settle down again, but dating has meant that I regularly get to look good, go out for dinner and drinks and adult conversation, and meet new people who have no idea what Paw Patrol is. I’ve learned that intelligence is incredibly attractive to me and it’s been unbelievably great to go out with men who read, who are curious about the world, who prioritise learning and growth. I’m really enjoying it.
I don’t know if this answered your question – feel free to follow up in the comments if I haven’t.
Oh my gawddd, this turned into a novel. I’m sorry/you’re welcome.
Most of all, thank you for being there for me through everything. This blog is how I got my book, the book is how I got my work at E911 and my Guardian column, and you being willing to read this rambling nonsense is the reason behind all of it – you’re a bunch of goddamn lovely enablers, is what I’m saying.
xoxo times a million,