What are some things I can buy that will give me the illusion of preparedness and control this fall?

buy a thing.

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  1. A desk for your child. They will love doing homework at their desk! And they will keep all their desky things there which will leave the rest of your house tidy.

  2. All kinds of art and craft supplies. They will be a fun and fulfilling way to quietly take up a cozy morning.

  3. A whiteboard. Once everyone can see the plan it will be much easier to stick to.

  4. A big supply of child-sized paper masks. If they go back to school the kids will be more likely to keep them on all day and do much more learning that way.

  5. All glass food containers and non-plastic kids’ food servingware. If anything kills you it will NOT be BPAs and phthalates.

  6. A big ball for your kid to sit on while doing schoolwork. They will get out all their energy and focus this way.

  7. An indoor trampoline. Ten minutes on that baby is like an hour on the playground.

  8. A breadmaker! You will save so much time and money and it will be fun figuring out how it works and then finally you can put a bread picture on social media too.

  9. A freelance tutor. You will be able to get so much more done and your kid will be happy, busy and up to speed.

  10. A gun. Periodically checking that you still have it will give you something to do on unquiet nights.

  11. A new car. Maybe your spouse is right. Why not. Sure, what the hell.

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Thanks for reading Evil Witches, a newsletter for people who happen to be mothers. If you're interested in possibly submitting or have any general questions, shoot us an email. If you know someone who'd like this sort of thing in their inbox about once or twice a week, please spread the word on your social media or even just click the heart button below. If you found want to support the work and get some extra content please become a paid subscriber which is less than 60 cents a week!

Speaking of $, we launched a Giving Circle with Future Now fund last week and in just a few days it’s already nearly 25% of the way there—amazing.

Witches will post lightly the next two weeks d/t vacation, a kid birthday and school starting. In the meantime you can follow us on Instagram and on Twitter where we talk about the things we really like to buy:

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One witchy thing

Spells for this country: your action requested

Something more productive than doomscrolling on the toilet, again

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You know how sometimes you encounter an enraging mess in your house and it had nothing to do with you but you still have to clean it if up you want it taken care of satisfactorily? I will get back to more typical witchy content next week, but November is around the corner and it’s time for us all to find the rubber gloves and get out the bucket.

I have started an Evil Witches Giving Circle with the Future Now Fund to help flip a state Democratic this fall, and I invite you to join it.

Future Now Fund had success across 7 states in the 2017, 2018, and 2019 elections, which is why I have thrown in with them. Moreover, the woman who introduced me to the fund (interview below) is a witchy mom of two kids, so I appreciate that it’s run by people who understand the power of doing a lot with a limited amount of time or resources.

I hope, if you consider yourself a friend of this newsletter community and not a fan of the way our country is currently being managed and represented, you consider supporting the circle in one of two simple ways right now:

  • Make a donation of any size. I figured that if half of the people who read this donate $10 apiece we could get close to five figures easily. When we get to 75% of our goal, we will designate a state from FNF’s target list. I am personally pulling for Michigan.

  • If you cannot donate, please consider either posting the link to your social media and/or forwarding this post to three friends.

After that you can either be done forever—I’ll include updates on the Circle in the newsletters’ fine print but I won’t do a big newsletter ask like this agin. Or, I hope you consider hanging in with me as we flex our network, learn more about the policies and candidates our money and time will support, and grow our influence and knowledge together.

Want to learn more? I chatted with my buddy, author Melissa Walker, who directs giving circles at Future Now Fund, about how state elections are a good investment and a great way to understand your power at a time when you may feel disenfranchised. Don’t want to read more but still want to donate? Here’s the link again.

So tell me how my friends and I can help flip a state in 2020.

There's so much power that can be had from changing the majorities in state chambers and there's still so little focus on state legislatures. Everyone is so fixated on the presidential and on federal races that it becomes this left behind area for Democrats specifically, because Republicans have been investing in it for a very long time and it actually is the power center in which all the kitchen table issues that we care about get decided. It’s also the power center which decides who goes to Washington D.C. for us through gerrymandering and voter suppression, or expansion of voting rights. The good news is that it's actually way cheaper than focusing on trying to flip a senate seat or a congressional seat. So the amount of money that can be raised by people who organize their networks can change the balance of power in state chambers.

Underneath that is the idea that we should all be organizers and we should all know how to do that. When you learn how to move money and attention towards something that you care about, you walk through the world with a lot more power. The impact of watching what happened after Future Now Fund worked in Virginia and then what happened after we worked in North Carolina to break a super majority was incredible. It felt like, "Okay, I've just had a completely transparent political donating experience, and I see the tangible outcomes," which is hard to come by.

Why should someone care about what the laws are in some state that you don't live in?

First of all, states are laboratories for democracy and they're meant to be great places where we can experiment with things that improve lives and then move to other states and then perhaps the federal level. Marriage equality is an example of that. Healthcare is an example of that. It was Hawaii's healthcare, then Massachusetts healthcare, then the ACA. There are also places where things like bans on choice can spread, voter suppression bills can spread, stand-your-ground gun laws can spread, gutting of environmental protections that lead to situations like Flint, Michigan can spread, and we need to make sure that the policies are spreading reflect our country's values, not special interests' values. The reason those special interests have been able to get so deep in the state capitals is because they operate in darkness, no one has eyes on them, people don't know who their state representatives are.

The roots of Trumpism were seeded in state legislatures. When Republicans took over and people's lives got bad they didn't say, "Oh, that's because of my state rep," because no one really even knows that they have state reps. They blamed Obama and what was happening at the federal level even though these problems had nothing to do with Washington D.C. and everything to do with their state capitals.

I think my work really is to say to people, "Money is a political tool that the right has been wielding very effectively for a very long time and we need to wield it too." They have more money and more billionaires, but we have more people.

Why is Evil Witches a good place to base a Giving Circle?

Our most successful giving circles are groups of people who are already affiliated with each other in some way. So sometimes that's groups of friends, or like people who do yoga together, or PTA people who are all working together on something, or we have one that's music industry professionals. If there's a bunch of people who check in with each other on a regular basis, that's a perfect giving circle, because it's like, "We're already talking."

What would you tell someone who is concerned that donating at the state level right now means that’s diverting money that Biden might need?

The general is going to cost a billion dollars, and I do not feel like my money is impactful when given there. The state legislative level is so neglected and you can do so much with so little. That affects everything. We're all trying to fix a crumbling house by shining the chimney while the foundations — state legislatures — are crumbling because we have ignored them by staring at the chimney. If you care about the presidency, you should care about state legislatures, because they decide who can vote and how and when and whether a polling place closes, and whether the secretary of state can oversee his own election, like in Georgia in 2018.

Can you talk about how doing this fundraising and organizing work is more doable than a lot of anxious, busy parents might think?

I write young adult and middle grade novels. That's still what I think of as my career. But what I've learned about state legislatures was connecting a bunch of dots that were already in my brain, and I think that are already in a lot of people's brains. Once you see state capitals for the power centers they are, you can’t turn back, and you’ll want to make change there too.

If you’d like to learn more about how the Future Now Fund operates, the history of Giving Circles, and how Melissa pivoted unexpectedly to fundraising you can learn more from this helpful, not-terribly-long podcast that you can listen to while you fold laundry or do dishes. If you want to donate but are too tired to scroll back up, that donation page can be found again here.

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Thanks for reading issue of Evil Witches, which is typically a newsletter for people who happen to be mothers. You can talk to us on Twitter , by responding to this email, or in the comments below. If you are interested in becoming more involved in the E.W. Giving Circle you can let me know via the same channels. You can also follow us on Instagram. If you read all this I hope you are going to have two desserts tonight.

One witchy thing

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A chat with a 1st grade teacher who is not teaching this year

Do you hate these or are they a little helpful?

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As I wrote a few weeks ago, I’ve been doing some independent interviews with teachers for a separate project I’m scoping out; last week I spoke with a first grade teacher from a private school who will be on maternity leave soon, so she’s sitting the year out. I hope this might be helpful, especially with regards to how parents and teachers can give each other grace. Let me know if this is too crushing to continue to cover and I am more than happy to pursue other topics like the perfect way to make S’mores in the microwave.

What did you learn from the switch to e-learning in the spring?

Especially with the little kids, teachers can put out the content and record the videos and get on Zoom, but it’s as effective as the time the parents have at home. The kids can’t sit on Zoom a whole lot and stay in engaged. I stuck mainly to pre-recorded videos in the spring; I thought that would be better for the parents’ flexibility.

The parents were inclined to watch the videos with the kid, which helped them use the verbiage I used during any given lesson: they could apply that themselves. Common Core is not what we learned when we were growing up and if you’re not hearing how the teacher is wording it — how the teacher’s been trained to word it — it can be complicated and difficult.

What did your school have going for it and what did you wish had gone differently in the spring?

Our principal told us in January to prepare for a closedown. At that point she was saying, “It’s very unlikely, and we really hope we don't close, but given that other countries are dealing with this, I just want this on your radar.” I think our biggest downfall was that we should have gotten on the same page at the same point. Instead of “Prepare for this on your own,” maybe it should have been “Prepare for this — and I’ve signed you up for Google Classrooms training.”

How do you feel about re-opening?

There are pros and cons. In first grade, one thing I thought of right away is if the teachers are wearing masks and the children are wearing masks (which they should be), so much of what they're learning when they’re in the early years is facial expressions and reading people’s faces in terms of reading, pronunciation, articulation. They need to be able to see your mouth and see how you sound a word out and how you read. Then, you’ve got the social aspect: they’re trying to read your facial expression with just your eyes. In that respect, maybe virtual is better, because the kids can see the teacher fully. Although I guess the teacher can use a face shield… But on top of that, we give high fives. The kids are little, they cry. They get upset about peer conflict and teachers will have to adjust how they handle that. It will be an altered personal relationship no matter what. If I had the option, I would keep my kids home this fall and evaluate as the school year went on. But it’s easy for me to say when I don’t have children yet.

I also keep thinking how long it will take to get the kids re-oriented to a classroom again. My kids have forgotten how to have a conversation. 

I’ve heard from other parents that their kids are interrupting again, and losing basic conversation skills. The kids have been through a lot and they’re processing it in their own way. I kept trying to tell my kids in the spring that this is a very unusual situation that I hope doesn’t happen again in your lifetime. 

I do think kids are really resilient. I firmly believe that regardless if parents choose to go virtual or choose to send their kids in, everybody's going to be OK at the end of this.

Even if a parent was able to truly homeschool, I'm sure their kids regressed in other ways socially. The teachers are going to have to adjust their expectations and figure out how to get them caught up, but that’s something they naturally do anyways. 

How can parents support their kids’ teachers this year?

I would reach out to your teacher and ask what resources would help them in the classroom. It’s going to be a really different year in terms of classroom setup: they need different things that they haven’t before. A lot of teachers — public and private — that comes out of their own money. It can be hard as a teacher to decide, “How much money am I going to put into my job this year?”  

Even if parents send their child back, the children are all going to be entering at different levels depending on what the parents could put in. I don’t mean that sound bad. In the spring, some parents were able to put more time into it than others. Teachers understand that.

But if your teacher comes to you and says, “I’d really like you to read with your child for 20 minute every night,” or, “Can you please go over this with them,” being open to those extra assignments as the year goes on will probably help get the children back on a level playing field. Or a parent can reach out and ask, “How is my child progressing in terms of everybody else? Are you noticing a difference in the cohort? What can I do to bridge the gap?” But we know that there are also plenty of kids  whose parents don’t have those resources or any kind of time or the desire to do that. 

We don’t know what we’re doing either. It may be hard when a parent is quick to rebuttal and it’s out of your hands. The start of school, give it a couple weeks before sending complaints, and let the teacher navigate. And keep in mind that the teachers often the messenger from the administration. Your kid’s teacher may not agree with everything the school is dishing out.

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Thanks for reading Evil Witches, a newsletter for people who happen to be mothers. If you're interested in possibly submitting or have any general questions or an idea for a topic to cover, just shoot us an email. If you know someone who'd like this sort of thing in their inbox about once or twice a week, please spread the word. You can follow us via Instagram or Twitter, where we are figuring out how to handle this fall and what to do with these kids who are de-evolving in front of our eyes.

If you want to support this work and get some extra content, please become a paid subscriber, which is $30 a year:

If you don’t mind, if you found today’s information helpful enough to spare a moment of your time, please shout it out on your social media or click the heart below. Thanks!

One witchy thing

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You're going to learn today


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Here’s a fun idea for a way to pass the time these days: force your kid to listen to you talk about sex. A witch wrote in:

When did you talk to your kids about sex? How did you approach it? Our 7 year old girls have been bringing questions up over the last few months, like "but specifically HOW does the man help make the baby" and I'm full-on dodging. And feel very silly / retrograde for dodging.

How do other witches get into it with younger kids on some of the more basic stuff in a way that feels kind of successful?

“I am EXACTLY the same way. Always thought I'd be so matter of fact, and then she asks and I turn into a Victorian prude. After a random question the other night I did get so far as to say the penis is where the part from the man comes from, but couldn't bring myself to say ‘and he sticks it in the vagina’ because at that point my 4 y.o. just started screaming HOT DOG BUTT!! over and over.”

“My friend told her oldest daughter— and then her daughter looked at her totally disgusted and said, ‘You did that in the house?!’”

“My daughter is 9 and I did the full on sex talk. I wasn’t planning on it but she asked and I had to wing it. I said that a man and a woman’s body get very very close, so close in fact the man's penis goes into the vagina and sperm is ejected from the penis into the woman’s uterus etc. I told her there are a lot more parts to this that we will keep talking about as she gets older and she can ask me anything. When she was younger I started the conversations mostly about how a girls body grows into a woman’s body and we talked about puberty — breasts body hair acne and periods — that was kind of my gateway discussion to get into the whole sex topic.”

“My plan was always to answer the question asked, but then my oldest didn't ask questions. I bought her a bunch of books.”

“We started early only because the older one (who is nine) was full on exposed to stuff while we lived in San Francisco. We started with ‘man puts seed in woman’ and then at some point told her about the body parts because a homeless lady came up to her camp group when she was six or seven and yelled ‘THE BOYS ARE GOING TO PUT THEIR PENISES IN YOU.’ She left more questions than answered so I had dispelled the notion that boys pee in girls private parts to make a baby. I don’t know that she fully gets it but since then we have been reading puberty books together. As for the five year old she knows nothing but sure is comfortable with her body!”

“I was totally nervous about talking to my older son about it, but honestly, it wasn't bad. I explained the penis in vagina part and asked if he had any questions. He had a few, most of which were technical ones (how does it fit?) I kept it simple and straightforward, and he lost interest after a few minutes. I asked him not to talk about it at school because some families may not have shared that information with their kids yet.”

“We talked about this when my son was 4 or 5 initially, because that's when sex ed starts at church. A few subsequent conversations which I expected to be much more embarrassing than they were. We are now watching The Crown, largely because Dr Who, and have got to the episode where the Duke of Windsor turns to Mrs Simpson and says ‘Wanna fuck?’ which he was a bit shocked by. I said ‘No marriage will survive 17 years of exile without some good loving.’”

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Thanks for reading Evil Witches, a newsletter for people who happen to be mothers of all kinds of people. (I wrote about the sex talk in more detail years ago for U.S. Catholic of all publications, which featured an interview with Amy Laing of Birds + Bees + Kids which is great.) I realize this largely references old fashioned heteronormative p-in-v sex so if you have experience/advice tackling more sophisticated/complex sex subjects with your older kids let me know. If you're interested in possibly submitting or have any general questions just shoot us an email. If you know someone who'd like this sort of thing in their inbox about once or twice a week, please spread the word in some way. You can follow us via Instagram or Twitter, where we trade tips on keeping our home clean and organized:

If you haven’t yet, I hope you consider spending $30 to support this work and gain subscriber-only content!

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