Posted by: Hannah | 05/22/2015

it all falls down

Trigger warning: I’m talking about the effing Duggars today, folks, so if you don’t want to read my thoughts on this just back away now. I won’t mind.

So. After years of rumours and speculation, it has now been proven that Josh Duggar, oldest of the 19 Kids and Counting, molested five young girls between 2002 & 2006. Four were his sisters, one was a babysitter.

Josh Duggar was 14 at the time that his parents spoke to the police about what had happened. Charges were never brought. According to various reports now surfacing, the investigating officer “gave Josh a stern talking-to” and then handed him over to his parents. Josh was sent to a “treatment centre” for counselling. They have said that the girls went to therapy, but no specifics on what that entailed.

The statute of limitations on the assaults has now expired, so Josh gets away with a saccharine “apology”, and because the Duggars’ God forgives (more on that later) it’s all good! TLC, the network that has carried their show for well over a decade, has yet to make a statement about the situation or what this means for the future of the show on their network.

That’s the bare bones of what’s going on. Still with me? OK. My thoughts:

  • I watched their show for years. Way back when TLC aired the first one-hour special – I think it was 16 Kids and Counting back then? Or maybe 15? I don’t remember – I watched it one rainy Saturday afternoon. I was fascinated in the same way that I am when I watch documentaries on National Geographic. Their lives were so different than mine! So many kids! Homeschooling! Working together! Eating Tater-Tot casseroles! ALL THOSE WASHING MACHINES! It wasn’t until they had firmly established a solid, rabid fan base that they started using their fame as a platform to not only proselytize, but openly work toward pushing an American theocracy.
  • There have been rumours about Josh for years. I’ve known for a long time that in his mid-teens he was sent away to a “treatment centre” for some sexual issue, but it was always assumed that it was for something like getting caught with skin mags.
  • That cop who gave Josh a talking-to and decided not to press charges? He’s currently serving a 50+ year sentence for possession of child pornography.
  • The “treatment centre” they sent Josh to? Actually a job site belonging to a friend of JimBob’s where Josh spent a couple of months helping to build a house.
  • The “counselor” overseeing Josh’s “treatment”? JimBob’s friend. Not a counselor, not trained in any way, not qualified to assess the situation. A Bible-thumper who probably thought “whee, free child labour for the summer!” Even Michelle Duggar admitted that he wasn’t a therapist. She used the word “mentor”. With that in mind, I really question the validity of the therapy the girls got.
  • Josh is now a married father of three, with a fourth child on the way. He has a daughter and two sons. His wife Anna has been at his side through all of this, and made a statement of her own. She says that Josh told her and her parents about his “bad mistake” (her words, not mine!) two years before they were married, but that since God forgives, her family did too.
  • Further to that last point, a “mistake” is when you break a dish, or drop your wedding ring down the sink drain, or send your kid to school with the wrong lunch. Child molestation isn’t even in the same country as “mistake”.
  • At no point during any of this has anyone said anything about his victims. I’m not talking about naming them. If any of them ever want to break free of the cult they’re currently in and tell their stories, I will listen, but it’s not the media’s job to do that. What I’m talking about is that everything has been about Josh. Josh’s mistake. Josh’s prayers about it. Josh Josh JOSH GAAAA WHO THE FUCK CARES, he fondled the breasts and genitals of his younger sisters while they were both asleep and awake, and frankly I couldn’t give a shit how he feels about his journey. I want to know that those girls were cared for. That they received counseling from people trained to give it. That they weren’t blamed for somehow enticing him, or “defrauding” him as they call it when a woman wears pants and has breasts.
  • The Duggar Army is out in full force on this, and man oh man. I took a peek at the Duggars’ Facebook page this morning and after ten minutes I wanted a shotgun and a bath. I’m still trying to decide which is worse: the people who are saying “he was a teenager and teenage boys are full of hormones, stuff just happens, didn’t you ever make a mistake?” or the people who are saying “this wasn’t really rape, you guys”. Um. I got as far as the woman who posted “the girls got touched while they were asleep, this didn’t hurt anybody” which is about the most disgusting thing I’ve seen on the internet outside of 4Chan, and then I gave up. Bonus points for insanity to the person who posted a response completely composed of emojis.
  • The schadenfreude is wretched. One too many things I’ve seen are in the guess they aren’t so perfect after all  and knew there was something weird about that family vein, and that’s sick. Don’t be happy that you were “proved” right. For you to be right, little girls had to be sexually assaulted. Congratulations.
  • I have many Christian friends. I have many homeschooling friends. I even have Christian homeschooling homesteading friends with big ol’ families. AND GUESS WHAT. They are horrified at this, too. They are horrified at the cover-up perpetrated in the name of their faith. They are saddened by the damage the Duggars are doing to the image of Christianity, grace, faith, and forgiveness.

Finally, a word on forgiveness.

Forgiveness is about the wronged person, not the perpetrator. If a wronged person decides to forgive, it just means that they are seeking a place in their lives (with the help of their faith or not) where they can find peace. A perpetrator can ask for forgiveness, but their victim has no obligation to offer that forgiveness because GUESS WHAT. It’s not about the perpetrator’s comfort or ease.

The Duggars, it would appear, are missing this point. They seem to believe that because Josh prayed and asked for forgiveness, that everything is OK.

I strongly disagree. The facts in the case appear to be that they knew a crime was committed; that they used their connections and influence within the church and the state government to cover it up (let’s not forget that JimBob was an Arkansas state senator from 1999 – 2002); that they misrepresented themselves in order to get a TV show and profit from it; and that now they are saying that “God forgives” and so everyone should just move along.

“Forgiveness” isn’t a broom that sweeps everything under a magical rug, but that’s how the Duggars are treating it, and as soon as anyone questions this at all the broom comes out again. It’s revolting.

I am bothered, myself, because I did watch the show for so long. I told myself that tuning in didn’t mean I was supporting their patriarchal lifestyle, their fundamentalist religious beliefs, their subjugation of women… but of course I was. I pretended that the kids wearing “I survived Roe vs. Wade” t-shirts didn’t involve me. That their active campaigning against gay rights was going to happen whether I tuned in to watch the train wreck or not. I was wrong.

I could go on and on, but I think I’m all done. I hope that now TLC does the right thing and cancels the show (what’s good enough for Honey Boo-Boo ought to be good enough for these knuckleheads). I hope that the proper authorities monitor Josh’s home situation, and assess risk to his own children. I hope that his victims are given the opportunity to have trained counseling now that this story has broken – I’m sure they are suffering all over again now that the story is public.

Please feel free to discuss this in the comments, but keep your points respectful. My comments are moderated and any obvious trolling will go straight to the dump pile.

Posted by: Hannah | 05/17/2015

happy birthday, Queen Vicki

Long weekends when you have three kids under ten are… different.

The day began with the sun shining in my window at Stupid O’Clock, because daylight saving time is balls. At 5:56AM, George came in and physically pried my eyelids open with his fingers, yelling something about “McDonald’s Pokemon stuffies”, which are not a thing. He claimed he had a bunch in his bed, but he couldn’t find them, and he wanted me to find them so he could play with them. I walked him back to bed, tucked him in, and moved all of his stuffies into a pile. He promptly snuggled up to the pile and fell asleep.

Okaaaaay.

Eventually we went for groceries, and somehow on the drive there I developed an intense migraine – the kind that makes you nauseated and woeful. Then the store was full of aggressive and bitter old people. I don’t know what they were so mad about, but man, were they pissed. I dry-swallowed three Advil in the pharmacy aisle and managed to get through the store.

Then at the checkout, we got in line behind two older women. One was chatting cheerfully with the cashier as he rang up her purchases. The one directly in front of us was wearing spike heels, bright red lipstick, and a sour expression. Her groceries were all unloaded onto the belt. Suddenly she Freaked The Fuck Out. She started flinging everything back into the cart while ranting I don’t have time for THIS and I’ve had JUST ABOUT ENOUGH, and then she backed up without looking, nearly flattening George. Like, I had to pull him out of the way.

So I snapped at her, because honestly? Our grocery store has a lot of elderly people in it, and I am always hyper-aware of where my kids are, and am constantly impressing upon them the importance of spatial awareness and being polite. This time it was totally not his fault, so I laid right into her. Not my finest moment, I’ll admit.

Old bat.

After lunch we went to get George some new sneakers, because last summer’s were quite literally falling apart. I insisted that he takes a size 9, because the falling-apart ones are a size 8 so sure, one size up, totally fine, makes sense. I wedged two pairs of 9s on his feet before I capitulated and got his size checked, and of course he’s a 10.

My kid was walking around in shoes two sizes two small for the last month because I AM A GOOD MOMMY. Now his feet look fucking enormous to me. It’s like he’s wearing clown shoes. And every time he says I love my new big boy shoes I feel just a little bit worse.

Then we went to Old Navy, because not only was George wearing shoes that were way too small, Harry grew approximately one million inches over the winter and all of last year’s shorts are so snug as to be probably dangerous. The heat in Old Navy was a good 5 degrees too warm, and everyone was sweaty. They were having a 50% off sale, and as I said to Michael, I’m sure all the employees were so happy to learn that they’d spend the long weekend sweating it out with crowds of people trashing all the displays.

I tried to buy a pair of workout pants, and there was something desperately wrong with them. The waist & thighs were huge. HUGE. I could have fit one of my kids in there with me. But the lower legs and ankles were so small I couldn’t barely get them on. If I were going to rob a jewelry store I would totally wear those pants, because I could just drop things down inside and they would never, ever fall out the bottom.

Finally we headed to the garden centre, because every year we buy vegetable seedlings for our garden. Some year, when the dayhome closes and we have the space, we’ll start our own seeds indoors, maybe. Or maybe not! Kent’s garden centre had healthy-looking veggie seedlings at the insane price of $1.64 for a six-pack.

That greenhouse was lord of the flies. It was the village of the damned. It was like a sample sale, if TV and rom-coms haven’t lied to me about what those look like. Shopping carts were weapons. An older lady was losing her shit in the aisle of tomato seedlings. We grabbed what we could and our garden will be a rather strange assortment this year.

But then.

The kids industriously dug up the big garden, clearing away last year’s dead plants and turning the soil. Even George took a turn with the garden claw, not deterred by the fact that it’s bigger than he is. A friend stopped by unexpectedly and stayed for supper, and even though I hadn’t cleaned the house or even planned for an extra guest it turned out just fine. (Lesson there, self. Calm the hell down.) Then my brother invited us over; I ended the day under the darkening sky, toasting marshmallows while my two older boys ran around with their cousin and I cuddled my two year old niece in my lap.

So it turned out well, after all. And I still have two days of weekend left!

WIN.

Posted by: Hannah | 05/13/2015

in which i bake a cake

When I was growing up, our mom always baked our birthday cakes from scratch. I always said that when I had kids I would do the same. For the most part, I have. There were a couple of years in there with Harry when I got the grocery store to bail me out – he always had Very Firm Opinions about how he wanted his cakes decorated, and throwing $25 to the bakery so someone else could do it seemed like money well-spent – but as my family grew while my paycheck stayed the same size it seemed prudent to learn how to do it myself.

I’ve since gotten pretty comfortable with producing birthday cakes. I’m not Cake Boss, and because I hate the taste of fondant with a burning passion there is a limit to what I can accomplish, but the kids are happy.

Today is Michael’s birthday, and so I decided to make him the “You’re Gonna Die Anyway” chocolate cake from Eat, Shrink, and Be Merry. (You can find the recipe here.) I’ve made it once before, so I know exactly how sinfully rich and delicious this triple-layer cake is. It’s a lot of work, but the end result is dramatic (even though he doesn’t like it with the suggested fruit garnish), and it always leaves lots for sharing because even my sweet-toothed family can’t eat very much of it.

So. I got my ingredients together and dove in.

The batter was a snap, and I was just starting to think this isn’t so bad, I remember this being much more complicated, when I realized I had to grease the three circular cake pans. No problem! Got my parchment paper and my shortening all ready to go! LET’S DO THIS!!

There were only two circular cake pans in the drawer.

It was one of those moments where you start to think you’ve lost your mind. I had George and Daisy standing, one at each elbow, “helping”. I had every pan in the drawer hauled on and scattered around the kitchen floor. No matter how many times I picked each one up and frowned at it, there will still only two circular cake pans. TWO. ALWAYS TWO. Please don’t ask me where the third one is. I know I had one, because I’ve made this cake before, and yet the third pan has vanished, disappeared somehow, perhaps an offering to Discworld’s Anoia, goddess of Things That Get Stuck In Drawers.

Eventually I did a desperate, crazy thing. I prepped two circular pans and one square pan. I don’t know why I did that. I don’t know what I was thinking. I just did it, and in retrospect that was a weird decision but it made sense at the time? I guess?

I baked all three pans and learned, to my dismay, that my oven really doesn’t heat evenly anymore. One cake was perfect. One had a tiny little fall in the middle, easily hidden with frosting. One – the square one! – had a giant scoop taken out of the middle as if a gorilla had wandered by and grabbed a handful just for kicks.

Cool the cakes in the pans on a wire rack for ten minutes, said the recipe. Only… I don’t have wire racks. WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON HERE. At this point I was honestly flummoxed as to how I made this cake the first time, since clearly I’m woefully unprepared for it.

In the end I fashioned a wire-rack-like construction out of butterknives, laid in a row. It worked! I am a genius of jury-rigging things when I don’t have the proper tools. I’m like Ma Ingalls making a lamp out of axle grease and a button.

The effort of figuring all that shit out wearied me, so I decided to leave the frosting for today. This meant of course that I spent the evening and early morning patiently moving three cake layers from place to place in my kitchen, muttering under my breath that we have no counter space and this kitchen is just too small and why did I start this insanity.

This morning I tackled the frosting. In case you didn’t look at the recipe, it’s a long process. Boil cocoa, sugar, and whipping cream. Melt a whole bunch of chocolate. Whip cream cheese and butter. I finally got all the components together and put it in the fridge to set while I finally confronted my folly… two circles and a square.

I used the best layer for the bottom. Do I have a proper cake stand? Of course I don’t! I ended up turning a glass pie dish upside down because all of my plates are slightly concave, and this cake needs a solid base to hold up the weight. I used the second circular cake for the middle layer and I could have stopped there! I could have said “a two-layer cake is plenty!” I could have taken the poor sad square cake with the collapsed middle and disposed of it. I DID NOT HAVE TO DO THIS.

But I did. I laid it on and cut off the corners to match the round layers underneath. I filled in the hole with extra frosting and then covered up my multitude of sins with more frosting. #hailfrosting

The end result is a cake that looks kinda sad, but tastes delicious (I know, because those cake scraps and leftover frosting weren’t going to eat themselves.) Also I now have a list of things I need if I’m going to be making four birthday cakes a year from now until eternity.

Man, I wish I didn’t hate fondant.

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