Hi! I'm JJ (aka Mama JJ). I'm a secular parent, an atheist and a feminist. I'm fiercely pro-choice and about as far left as you can get on the Liberal to Conservative scale. If you hang out with me you'll get thoughts on all of these subjects and occasionally excerpts from conversations with my 9-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter. I tag all of the conversations with "heard today" (links up above) and all the parenting stuff gets tagged with "Secular Parenting." My URL comes from the phrase "Teach children how to think, not what to think" which is my parenting philosophy in a nutshell. If you have a question, my inbox is always open and anon is usually on. Welcome!

An excerpt:

From a smartassed standpoint, it’s easy to note that many of the people who claim to have turned out fine look or sound pretty clearly the opposite of fine. That such people unintentionally embody the antithesis of “fine” – that they remain unaware of embodying the emotions therein – makes their not-fineness double the distance between them and whatever passes for fine. And while that’s often true, it’s also a kind of cheap joke.

The pernicious, toxic and inescapable lifelong effect of being disciplined physically – either to the point of abuse, or to the point that the distinction between acceptable and unacceptable blurs in your mind – is that you almost have to say you turned out fine, just to redeem the fact of being who you are. That you “turned out fine” is the only way to make sense of having once felt total terror or uncontrollable shaking rage at the sight of one (or both) of the two people expected to care most for you in the world. The thought that you might have ended up relatively OK or perhaps even better without all that fear is almost unbearable: the suffering only doubles if you admit that it truly had no purpose.



Breaking The Male Code: After Steubenville, A Call To Action

 (Left to Right): Peter Buffett, Jimmie Briggs, Joe Ehrmann, Tony Porter,
 Dave Zirin and Moderator Eve Ensler.


(via mrodigga)

My daughter and I just finished reading Rainbow Fish and the Sea Monsters’ Cave.  This book receives high marks from me; partly because of the excellent use of the possessive apostrophe in the title, and partly because I enjoy a good thriller.  It’s a story of sacrifice and of friendship and of facing your fears all set in “the most dangerous place in the entire ocean.”

(Okay, okay - it’s about two fish swimming through a scary cave to find some red algae for a sick friend.)

I expected my daughter to be thrilled by the bravery of the fish, amused by their little adventure, or even intrigued by the psychological affects of fear upon perception.  She was not.  She was annoyed by the false advertising.

"Where’s the sea monster?"

[SPOILER!]  ”There wasn’t a monster at all!  Isn’t that funny?  It was just rocks and seaweed.  They thought it was a monster because they were scared, but it was all their imagination.”

"But I wanted there to be a sea monster."


"Because the book says ‘The Sea Monsters’ Cave’ but there’s no sea monster.  There should be a sea monster.  A scary one.  This wasn’t scary at all."

"You want to read a scary book?"

"Yeah, like [Brother]’s.  The one with the white hand that chases the little girl and the other mother with sewed up eyes."

"You want me to read you Coraline?"

"No, ‘cause that’s not really scary.  Button eyes aren’t scary.  Walking hands aren’t scary.  I want to read a book about sea monsters."

So, dear tumblr…. do you know any scary books about sea monsters that would be appropriate for a 4-year old who thinks Coraline just isn’t all that frightening?

Smart impresses me, strength of character impresses me. But most of all, I am impressed by kindness. Kindness, I think, comes from learning hard lessons well, from falling and picking yourself up. It comes from surviving failure and loss. It implies an understanding of the human condition, forgives its many flaws and quirks. When I see that in someone, it fills me with admiration.
Lisa Unger (via whats-out-there)

(via cartwheelsinc)

Like it or not, we humans are bound up with our fellows, and with the other plants and animals all over the world. Our lives are intertwined.
Carl Sagan, Billions and Billions (via whats-out-there)

(via thedragoninmygarage)

I just tried typing out a conversation I had with my son yesterday, but it got way too long.  So instead, I’m going to summarize it:

Part 1: My son met another non-believer on the bus yesterday.  Much excitement ensues. 

Part 2:  I remind my son of the events of last year and to be cautious when having discussions about god in public bc people in this area take their beliefs very seriously.

Part 3:  We discuss people changing their opinions of you if you believe differently from them and how it’s good to try to avoid that as long as possible.  We also discuss good people doing not so good things because of their beliefs.

Part 4:  My daughter chimes in with “But they THINK they’re doing good things.  That’s the problem.”

Part 5:  My son and I look at each other in astonishment and my son says “I can’t believe my four year old sister just said that.  I can’t believe she’s that smart.”

Part 6:  My daughter grins at him with every tooth showing and says “Of course I’m smart!  I’m a sister!”

Part 7:  Laughter and hugs all around.

So good news from the bus friend and good conversation with the kids, but I’m still feeling ultra-wary about my son having any religion discussions around school friends and teachers this early in the year.  And I hate that I feel that way.  And I hate that I feel I must teach my kids to feel that way.

Has anyone else out there dealt with something similar?

Did y’all know that at the end of the oh-so-popular Daniel and the Lions’ Den story,  King Darius orders the wives and children of the men that “tricked” him into the lions’ pit, too?  The children are mauled and killed and their bones are crushed “before they reached the floor of the den.”

I wonder why they leave that part out when they teach the story to kids as a great example of trusting in god?  Maybe because the god of the Bible is the stuff of nightmares, not love?  

This is the Word of the Lord.

Thanks be to God.  ~JJ

Many years ago I had a terrible nightmare about a tornado.  It was the most realistic dream I had ever experienced and as I was about to be killed by this monstrosity swirling toward me I had the thought, “It’s too late.”  Too late to do what I wanted to do.  Too late for… honestly, I didn’t even know at the time.  I was still in high school, but I deeply understood I was dying and it was too late to do anything important with my life.

I woke up panicked and crying, but also clear that some things needed to change.  That personal fear of death motivated me to do things differently.  Treat life itself differently.  The dream was in the back of my mind the remainder of high school, all through college, and even into graduate school.  Then, I forgot all about it.

Until this morning.  Because I had another one.

I’m not going to describe the dream (that’s a little too dramatic for a 7am post), but I will say it was even more terrifying than the first one.  My thoughts this time, however, were focused entirely on my kids and doing everything in my power to warn them.  Protect them.  Stay alive for them.  Horrifying, yes, but this time around I had no feelings of regret.

I woke up gasping for air, adrenaline rushing.  There was no chance of getting back to sleep so I checked on my kids (sound asleep, snug in blankets) and went for a run to watch the sun rise.

I’m not really sure what the lesson is here…but I’m writing this down so I don’t forget it.  There’s relief that I’m now living a life that left me with no regrets as I was about to die.  There’s also fear that so much of my identity and purpose in life is tied up in my kids’ survival…but I’ve known that from the moment each was born.  I don’t need a freaking tornado dream as a reminder (thanks anyway, Brain).

So I send this out to all of you: We’re all dying.  We are all dying.  Be kind to one another.  Be kind to yourself.  More love, less anger.  Figure out what’s important to you.  Do something.  Learn something.  Create something.

And watch out for storms.  ~JJ

“For small creatures such as we the vastness is bearable only through love.” ~Carl Sagan, Contact


Knowledge is knowing that Frankenstein is not the monster.

Wisdom is knowing that Frankenstein is the monster.

(via thisisglitzoween)

My husband:  Good morning, kiddies.

My 4-year-old daughter:  We’re not kitties!  We’re humans!

My husband:  You are right, I’m sorry.  Good morning, humans!

My 9-year-old son: You could call us apes, too!  We’re apes.

My daughter:  We’re apes, but not gorillas.  We’re all…what’s that word again?  Primeets?

My husband:  Primates.  

My son:  Yeah!  You could say, “Good morning, primates!”

My daughter:  But not kitties.  We are definitely not kitties.