Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Things remind me of other things - On being pro-choice and having babies.

The recent announcement that Chelsea Clinton is up the spout, as they say, seems to have caused some confusion in the forced-birth camp.  There seems to be some kind of idea that being pro-choice amounts to being anti-baby and anti-pregnancy.  All abortion, all the time.

It's not so.  I am staunchly pro-choice.  I happen to like babies a lot.  They're cute.  Mine were adorable and are growing up to be awesome people.  I also happened to mostly enjoy my pregnancies, although I grew to miss my ankles after a time.

I also never, ever want to be pregnant, or have babies again.  Ever again.  I don't think anyone who doesn't want to carry a pregnancy should be forced to whether by legislation or by circumstance and lack of resource.
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The confusion of the anti-choicers seems to stem from the insistence of Ms. Clinton, along with grandparents-to-be Bill and Hil, in referring to her impending offspring as a baby.

Part of choice involves the decision to imbue meaning on a pregnancy.  I'm reminded of the passage from The Little Prince, where the fox explains if the prince were to tame him, to establish ties with him, that to him, the fox would "be unique in all the world" and vice versa.

In a sense, a person who is carrying a wanted pregnancy has established ties to the fetus, has began thinking of it as a baby.  The pregnant person has made a choice (whoa, there's that word again) to establish ties with what is growing inside.  In the story, the Prince does decide to tame the fox, although in the beginning, he has misgivings about having much to see and places to visit.   He makes the choice to tame the fox anyway, and the fox says to the prince that "You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed."

That's a big deal and a choice that should not be foisted on someone.  But more, it's a decision made by a pregnant person, followed by their partner and eventually their friends and family, to establish those ties.   So, it is not hypocritical for a pro-choice person to refer to a wanted pregnancy as a baby as opposed to a fetus, once they have made the choice to establish that tie, to give it such meaning.

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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

"Tut tut, looks like rain."

Oh, these glorious spring days, when I can sit on my porch and watch the world go by.  I feel utter contentment settle around me as my cheeks warm from the kiss of the sun.  Where I can lazily strum my guitar, pausing to sip a cold drink.

People pass by: on bikes, with their dogs.  A mere few weeks ago, snow banks still stood multiple feet high next to driveways, now melted ice flows down the gutters and pools in the corners of my yard.

My neighbour waves a friendly hand, just before he proceeds to turn around and pee on a nearby bush.

*sigh*  

Maybe spring is over-rated, I think to myself, shuddering as I head back inside.

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This post is part of the Studio30plus weekly challenge.  This week's prompt is "Kiss of the Sun".  Visit them at www.studio30plus.com

Sunday, April 20, 2014

First outing(s) of the year.

Goddamn this late winter.

That being said, this has been a pretty darn decent Easter weekend.  I had the day off on Friday, so I got to chill out around the house with the children and the Well-Travelled One.  Since he and my youngest were busy tearing down and rebuilding a computer (He guided her through the rebuild after which she was apparently able to install Linux on her own. I'm not particularly techie, but that sounds pretty impressive to me), I spent some extra quality time with the eldest.  

I engaged her in a vaguely uncomfortable talk about various "grown-up" topics (read: sex, birth control, consent), which although she was hesitant to open up, I hope she thanks me for later.  This basically came about because I finished reading Jessica Valenti's "The Purity Myth" and some of the chapters on abstinence-only sex Ed made me curious about what the schools are teaching the kids.

Not much, apparently.  It could also be my daughter's selective memory combined with a strong desire not to have this conversation with her mother, but it sounds like they pretty much touch on the basic logistics and cover a little bit about birth control, but not much else.  I guess it's not as bad as the "Just Don't Ever Unless You Are Ensconced In A Fully Procreative Heteronormative Marriage" approach that the abstinence-only programs in the U.S. seem to use, but it leaves a lot of gaps to fill for us parents who wish their kids to be fully informed on such subjects, including but not limited to sexual identity, pregnancy and STIs and consent.

But anyway, that's a post for another day.  Back to my weekend, after making my daughter cringe at least 27 times in the span of an hour, I let her off the hook, and suggested we take a walk around the block and discuss lighter topics (such as the Comicon that she was going to the following day). Usually the eldest is loathe to do much that involved physical activity so I was quite surprised and pleased when she joined me with little to no heavy sighing or eye-rolling, and we had a lovely walk around our neighborhood.

Upon our return, The Well-Travelled One and my youngest were off on their own walk to get a coffee and a treat for successful completion of the computer project, so T and I went to her room to move the wardrobe that had until now been used for storage in the basement into her bedroom, as the girl is getting older and her clothes take up more space and my poor house sorely lacks closet space.

The girls were to go to their dad's house this weekend, so after dropping them off, we decided to head up north for a bit of a drive and to scout out some locations for hiking and checking out waterfalls this spring and summer.  The idea is to try and hit some of these places while they are still at their spring high-water mark, as by part-way through the summer, they often dry up somewhat losing some of their majesty. We walked down to the canoe launch at McRae lake, which was challenging as there was still a lot of snow and walking in half-melted snow can be a lot like walking in sand, only more slippery.  My calves and ankles, even with decent footwear, were not liking me much.

With the cancer and the surgery this year, I have backslid quite a bit from the fitness level I was at two years ago, or even last year (even though last year my energy levels were already deteriorating).  For a while I was able to walk or hike fair distances but now, depending on how I've been eating and drinking, a walk from work to the bank can be exhausting.

Taking baby steps, we're trying to revisit some of the less challenging trails and taking shorter walks so I can build back up to the fitness level I was at.  It's going to take some work.

At any rate, we made it over to White's Falls where even dammed, the water was in full force, and then over to Big Chute, where I got to revisit the fun that is peeing outdoors since a great need for hydration also means I have to pee a lot more, in places where bathrooms are not readily available.

White's Falls
Me, back-lit. Later in the summer I can sit on the rocks about 3 feet to my right here.
Saturday was more of the same, after the laundry was done.  We drove as far north as Huntsville, before taking some fun sketchy roads back towards home.  We made a couple of stops, once again at McRae Lake and another stop on the Sequin Trail, which lies atop an old rail bed.  Because, I am told, trains do not like going up and down hills, these rail-bed trails are handy for me because I too, do not like going up and down hills.

View of the rail-bridge from the bank of the Seguin River
Sequin Trail.  Newish foot bridge.  The giant concrete pillar signifies where the rail bridge would have existed.
Seguin River
Stand clear.
I am sore today.  Mind you, after we got home I forced myself, against social anxiety and general exhaustion, to go out to my friend Lori's 40th birthday.  My attempts at dancing after tromping around bush and rocks two days straight were probably not the greatest idea, but I had a good time and was glad I made myself go.  But I am paying for it today.  I know this is part of getting myself back to the shape I was in, so it's worth it, but ow.


Monday, April 14, 2014

Tech, nostalgia and the coming generation.

Once a week the household gets together with my friend Tess and her family for a 'dinner-and-a-movie' night.  We often revisit old family classics or newer family-friendly fare. On occasion the kids all decide to screw off to my eldest daughter's room to do kid stuff, so at those times we get to enjoy more grown-up fare.

A video came across my Facebook feed called "Kids React to Walkmans" where a group of children are given an early 90's style portable cassette player and asked to figure out what this contraption is and what it does.  As a whole, they're pretty much flummoxed and by the end of the video they have proclaimed modern MP3 technology to be far superior.

Well, duh.  Anyone who has ever had to repair an unspooled cassette with a pen could tell you THAT.
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My kids are fairly savvy with some of the more time-withstanding technologies of the past.  Our cabinet hi-fi sits in the front hall and occasionally gets some play when I get the urge to pull out my limited collection of LPs.  The thing has GREAT sound.  Thank you, Lori.

Watching these kids in the video struggle with what seemed like the relatively simple concept of popping a cassette into a walkman so music comes out the earphones made me think of some of the other near- or completely- obsolete tech that my generation takes for granted.

A few weeks ago for family movie night, we watched The Secret Life of Walter Mitty which, by the way, is now one of my favourite movies ever.  Surprisingly kid-friendly, too.  As we watched, the thought came to me that it was entirely possible that none of the children present even had any concept of film-based photography.  To the best of my knowledge my kids have only ever used digital cameras or at best disposable cameras.  They've not been exposed (ha!) to the fumbling involved in loading film in to a 35mm camera.

Okay, maybe other people found that sort of thing easy, but I have ruined many a roll in my time.

My kids would not be able to point out or name any of the equipment that used to sit in my dad's home-made darkroom when I was a teenager.  Negatives, slides, spools, washes, fixatives.  All completely foreign.

I wondered how much of this particular film went over their head, not being familiar with the process of photo development.

It's not only technology.  We also take the cultural references for granted.

A week later, we gathered and watched Saving Mr. Banks.  About two thirds of the way through I came to the realization that my kids had never actually seen Mary Poppins (Tess's kids had).  We've got an extensive collection of movies, some dating back to the early 20's, but somehow this one had gotten by us.

There's always this misconception that children and especially teens don't have appreciation for things that pre-date, well, them.  However, it's an appreciation that can be built up, with exposure.

One day in car I popped in a Mountain Goats CD and my eldest rolled her eyes and went "Ugh.. old people music.."  (Seriously?  The Sunset Tree came out in 2005!  Old people music.  Psh.)  My response was to put on The Complete Robert Johnson Collection.

You want to call something "old people music?"  There's your old people music.  Sorry, Grandma.

I dunno.  I guess I grew up with an appreciation of my parent's generation of music and film, because I was regularly exposed to it.  When other kids were listening to New Kids on the Block, I was into The Guess Who, Harry Belafonte and Stompin' Tom.

But there are some things that I guess we can't quite recreate, like the excitement of getting a custom-made mixed tape, or seeing animated penguins dance on screen with Dick Van Dyke and Julie Andrews for the first time.

Myself, I haven't seen Mary Poppins in years.

I think I may have the soundtrack on vinyl, though.

Post-Script:  Holy crap! Typewriters! I didn't even mention typewriters.  What kind of crazy old-timey shit is that, amirite?

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Sunday, April 13, 2014

I think we've been scapegoating the wrong animal.

I don't want to jinx it, but I honestly and truly think spring might actually be here.  I also thing we may owe The Groundhog, (or groundhogs, as it were) for I'm starting to think there is another fuzzy woodland creature to blame for this never ending winter.

Easter is awfully late this year, isn't it? Late Easter, late spring.  It's the damn Easter Bunny's fault! He's been using the Groundhog as a convenient scapegoat.  Bastard.

Ah, well. Such is life. I'm starting to feel the spring time in my bones, in between listening for the almost constant running of the sump pump.  There's so much snow to melt!  My driveway and yard is a maze of channels and slopes created by my lovely Well-Travelled One in a never ending attempt to divert water away from the house's foundation.

This is probably the closest I will ever get to owning an island property.  Let's hear it for low-lying areas.

I'm slowly but surely working on some spring cleaning.  I'm thankful to have been able to be productive at all, however.  Friday morning, as I was preparing for work, I was struck with a case of dizziness, or vertigo or whathaveyou that confined me to the couch for the majority of the day.  I called into work, since I was not in any shape to sit up, let alone attempt to operate a motor vehicle.  The feeling staying with me into the early evening, so I spent the day sleeping and watching Game of Thrones.  I've Harry Pottered this particular series, which basically means I ignored it for a while, wondered what all the hype was about before finally getting curious enough to check it out and now I'm marathoning the hell out of the first three seasons, in an attempt to catch up.

When I woke up Saturday, I felt fine, if leery of the vertigo suddenly deciding to come back.  I took the girls to Open Mic at the cultural centre, and today I swapped out the old and broken handles on my dresser for some new ones.  I was left with just enough of the old ones to replace the broken handles on T's dresser, which came from the same bedroom set as my dresser and bed.  I also managed to clear out a wooden wardrobe that was being used for general storage, but will be moved into T's room , as the kid has entirely too many clothes.

So far the dizziness has not returned.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it won't. 

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The lesson here is to check your non-perishables.

It was almost imperceptible, at first.  A niggling sound at the back of my head, so faint that I didn't really pick up on it right away.  There I'd be, late at night, reading a book or watching television and I would hear it: a chuckle.  

The first couple of times I heard it, I assumed it was part of the program i was watching, kind of like when the phone rings and you jump to grab it, only to find yourself calling "hello? Hello?" into the receiver.  Meanwhile, the phone on the television just keeps on ringing, and now you feel like an idiot.

Other times I would hear it while I showered.  Sometimes it was a chuckle, others a giggle.  Once I swear I heard it, whatever it was, snort.

After some time, the sound of giggling became louder.  It was still muffled, but I became more cognizant of it.  No longer did I write it off as a simple trick of the mind.  The nights I heard the sounds, I would shut off the tv, unplug anything that made even the faintest hum and I would stalk the chuckling sound, trying to walk as quietly as possible in order to track where in the house it came from.

I pulled out my children's long-outgrown toys, removed all the old, dead batteries.  I scoured every corner, cleared every closet but the source of amusement continued to elude me.  

Eventually, I gave up the search.  Maybe my home was haunted, or perhaps I was losing my mind.  I tried throwing myself into new pursuits.  One such pursuit was a complete overhaul of my home.  I mean, why not? I had already torn the place to bits trying to locate the source of the mysterious giggler.

I started in the kitchen.  It had high ceilings and rows of cupboards, painted a bright yellow with tarnished brass doorknobs.  An old linoleum floor stretched out and I got on my hands and knees with a giant scrub brush and scrubbed and waxed until the floor shined, trying to ignore the tittering that seemed to come from nowhere.

Only as I scrubbed, as I wiped down every surface and polished every piece of silverware, the subdued chuckle became louder and more frequent, escalating into hysterics.  It was apparent that the sound was coming from within the kitchen, but where?  Frantically, I circled the kitchen, trying to locate the peals that were becoming more and more high-pitched.  I climbed up onto the countertop and began yanking boxes and cans from the shelves. Tossing them half-hazardly into the middle of the freshly scrubbed floor, I pulled every last item out of the cupboards until, in the furthest reaches of the smallest, highest cupboard, covered in dust and cobwebs, I found it.  The source of my troubles.

I blinked in amazement.


"I don't believe it."

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This post was written as part of Studio 30 Plus's weekly challenge.  This week's prompt was really "Canned Laughter" but because my reading comprehension sucks sometimes, I did the wrong prompt.  Visit them at www.studio30plus.com

Monday, April 7, 2014

Forty Dollars

"Momma? I potty..." The little girl's golden blonde curls bounced frantically as she tugged her mothers sleeve.

"Mmhmm?" came the absent reply.  Heavily pregnant and in her early 20s, the child's mother scanned the shelves in the dingy bargain store, searching for the half-price soup that had been promised in that weeks flyer, but there was none to be found.  Sold out already.  What a wasted trip, she thought to herself.  I'll have to get a rain check.

"Momma! I potty! Go potty!!" She yanked her mothers arm again, more vigorously this time, and began jumping up and down in frustration.

"Wha..?" the mother said, snapping out of her reverie. "You.. Oh, jeez.  Okay, sweetie, let's find a bathroom."  Taking her daughters hand, she led the two-and-half year old towards the back of the store where the bathrooms were located.  She silently prayed that there wouldn't be an accident.  They had been in a rush that morning and she had neglected to pack extra pants and pull-ups for the child who was only somewhat potty-trained.  She also hoped that this wasn't a false alarm, borne out of boredom and her child's need for a change of scenery.  Exhausted from the strain of carrying not only her late-second-trimester pregnancy but also a diaper bag (minus the aforementioned diapers) and a heavy winter coat as they had trudged through the snow to the local strip mall, she did not relish the idea of hanging out in a public washroom while her daughter dawdled.

The woman awkwardly pushed her way through the heavy door to the washroom, holding it open as the little girl skipped through the doorway and headed into a stall.  She caught the eye of one of two teenaged girls who stood in front of the mirrors.  It was a weekday, and these two looked, in spite of their psuedo-sophisticated air and heavy eye makeup, like they should probably be in a classroom somewhere, instead of sneaking cigarettes in such a depressing place as a mall bathroom.

Truth be told, the woman was a bit envious.  She craved a cigarette like crazy and had indulged a few times over the last six months, feeling both guilty and relieved every time. It had been a rough winter, after the father walked out, and it seemed to her that the risk imposed to her fetus by the occasional cigarette was mitigated by the need to not break down crying twenty four hours a day.

"Momma.. Help," the little girl called forlornly from the stall as she struggled with her pants.  Crouching down, the woman tugged the tiny denim pants and underpants down and lifted the little girl onto the toilet.  The girls by the mirror snickered and whispered to each other.  She tried to pay them no mind.  Grunting, she struggled back into a standing position.

"Hi! Hi girls! I potty!" the little girl shouted proudly.  The girls giggled.  

After a few minutes, a faint tinkling noise could be heard, indicating that the bathroom trip had not been for naught.  The little girl carefully lowered herself to the ground and shuffled her way across the bathroom, pants tangled up around the tiny snow boots on her feet.

"Oh.. Oh, honey.  Come here. Let me pull your pants up.  We're going to have to wipe your bum first." Setting the diaper bag that doubled as a purse on the counter, the woman began pulling items out of the bag until she came across an oblong plastic container, filled with hopefully at least one or two wet wipes.  The toilet paper provided looked little better than number 2 sandpaper.

Cleaned and re-pantsed, the mother lifted the little girl up to the counter so she could wash her hands, then set her down and started tossing things back into the bag, before exiting the washroom.  She thought about letting someone know that the mall's "No Smoking" policy was being violated, but it was getting close to lunch time, and then nap time and if these errands took much longer she knew she'd have a very cranky toddler on her hands.  And cranky toddlers make for cranky mommies.

They made their way back to the grocery section of the store, where the mother grabbed a few staples.. Milk, bread, some arrowroot cookies, a couple of boxes of KD.  Money was tight that month, and there was still a few days until payday, she thought, as the cashier rang up her purchases.  In order to stay within budget, she'd have to stick to whatever could be covered by the forty dollars in her wallet.

My wallet.  

Rummaging through the diaper bag, she reached down into the very depths of the bag, feeling around for her small leather wallet.  

"Uhm.. Can you hold this stuff?  I.. Um... Can't seem to find my wallet."  A vision of the bathroom counter flashed through her mind.  "I think I may have left it in the bathroom."  An older, somewhat chubby woman with a slight suggestion of grey in her hair nodded.  The woman grabbed the little girl by the hand and pulled her in the direction of the washroom.  The child whined and resisted, too close to nap time, so the woman picked her up and kept going.  When she burst through the door, there was no one to be found.  Nor was any wallet.  Dejected, she trudged back toward the cash registers.

As she approached, the cashier greeted her with a smile.  She held up a small, black object.  "Is this your wallet? Another customer just brought this to the customer service desk.  She said she found it in the washroom."

Putting her daughter down, the woman sighed with relief.  "Yes, yes.  Thank you.  That is mine."  The cashier handed her the wallet and she opened up to pull out the two twenties and pay for the groceries.  

It was empty.  Tears sprang to the young mother's eyes.  

"Mommy.."  The little girl whined and fidgeted.  

"Is everything okay, ma'am?" 

The woman swallowed hard, trying like hell not to cry in front of the cashier. "Yes.. Erm.. No.  I mean, no.  There was forty dollars in here."

"I'm sorry, ma'am.  There was no money when it was turned in."  The cashier looked at her with sympathy in her eyes. Feeling the sob building in her throat, she mumbled an apology and took the little girl by the hand.  They walked out of the story, leaving the few merger groceries behind.  Outside, the woman sunk down onto a nearby bench and proceeded to let the tears of frustration flow.  

"Mommy?"

"Yes, honey," the woman sniffled.

"Mommy, you sad?"

"Yes, honey.  Mommy sad."

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This was written as part of the Studio 30 Plus weekly writing challenge.  This week's prompt is "Stolen".  Visit them at www.studio30plus.com

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

A Case of Mistaken Identity or When Life Gives You Lemons...

I was reminded today of an odd phone call I received about three weeks after the birth of my youngest daughter, as surrounded by half-unpacked boxes and children's toys, I attempted to nurse said newborn child.

Picking up the phone and awkwardly squeezing it between my ear and shoulder, I heard a male voice on the other end ask for me by my full name.

"This is she," I replied, adjusting kiddo in one and dragging a nearby chair over to the telephone table.

"Oh, hi!" the voice on the phone said affably. "My name is Dave*.  I know your friend Mike*."

I plunked myself down and took a moment to switch my fussing child from one boob to the other.

"My friend... Mike?" I replied, grunting as she latched.   I knew a few Mikes.  Puzzled, I asked, "Which Mike?"

"Your friend Mike that works for the OPP.  Yeah, he said you were single and that I should call and introduce myself... See if you want to get a coffee sometime."

By now it was obvious this guy had the wrong number, as I was 99% sure none of the Mikes I knew worked for the OPP.  Apologetically, I told the guy, "That's very nice but I'm afraid I don't know Mike that works for the OPP."  

"Are you sure?" The stranger that is called Dave asked, sounding perplexed. "Your name is {redacted}, right?"

I chuckled and replied "It is, but I assure you, I don't know any Mike that works for the OPP."

There was a lengthy pause as he mulled this over.

"Are you black?"

The conversation had officially hit a new level of weird.  Glancing down at my arms, I said "I'm definitely sure I'm not black."  (In fairness, I don't exactly have my genealogy entirely mapped out, so theoretically I could have been wrong).

"Oh.  Mike told me you were black.  I must have the wrong number."

"Yup, I you do," I replied.

The stranger on the phone that was called Dave paused again.

"Do you want to go out sometime?"

Flabbergasted, I searched for words. "Um.. Yeah.  Actually, I just gave birth less than a month ago.  I'm not exactly in a dating place right now.  But thanks? I guess?"

"Oh well, figured I'd try!" He said, then hung up.

I guess some people just gotta take a chance when it presents itself.

*names have been changed, because quite frankly, I don't remember them.

Monday, March 17, 2014

I won't be getting my own X-Title any time soon.

Back when I had my colectomy and all that fun asshole cancer stuff, I also agreed to take part in some genetic research in regards to a condition known as Lynch Syndrome, which I assume has nothing to do with Stephen Lynch.  Initial tests showed a deficiency of a protein called MLH-1.  This deficiency can be an indication that I carry the Lynch Syndrome gene, but it can also be caused by irritable bowel disease, including Crohns and colitis.

I agreed to the testing because for one, INTERESTING; two, I kinda think it'd be cool to be in a medical journal; and three, since Lynch Syndrome can also predispose one to not just gastrointestinal cancers, but uterine and ovarian cancer as well, I thought it'd be handy information to have, being the bearer of a uterus and ovaries and the like.  If found positive, I may find it prudent to no longer be the bearer of a uterus and ovaries and the like.  Meaning I'd have to give some consideration to a hysterectomy, because its damn hard to get cancer in your baby-maker if you ain't got a baby maker.

Besides, I am DONE with the making of babies.  Periods are kind of bullshit, too.  However, early-onset menopause doesn't exactly sound like an island cruise.  Also, I have an irrational fear of developing facial hair.  All is vanity.

So since December I've been waiting on the initial test results from my genetic screening.  The blood test to determine what was causing the MLH-1 deficiency showed that the gene contained a variant, which lies somewhere on the spectrum between a polymorphism, which is your basic, no-big-deal change in the gene, and a mutation, which is pretty much what it sounds like.

So, long story short, results were inconclusive.  I may have Lynch Syndrome, I may not.

Next step is additional testing, which pretty much just involves signing a paper saying they can send a chunk of my tumour sample to Utah, to frolick among the Mormons.  Uhm, I mean, to get tested.  The other option (although its not an either/or) is to test other members of the family who have had colon cancer.  Easier said than done, since the only other family member has been passed on some 23ish years now.  So that will involve some discussion.

So, I'm not a mutant, I don't get my own comic book series and for now I guess the plumbing is going to stick around for a bit until we have some clearer answers.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Conversations with my kid: Life Skills

In the car:

R: my bra is itching me.
Me: take it off then.  You'll want to learn how to take your bra off without taking your shirt off, anyway.  It's something every woman should know.
R: I already know how to do that.
Me: well good.  It's an important life skill to have.
R: yeah in case someone puts a tracking device on it.

In other news, I'm starting to wonder if my kid is working for the CIA.