Thursday, May 27, 2010

Monopoly with a Three-year-old

This week my husband brought home Alaskan Monopoly (he inherited it from someone at the school I think). Anyway, Wolf was very excited to play it, so tonight after dinner we set it up.
Bear was on my team, since three is pretty young to try to play on his own. After about our fourth turn he got tired of waiting for turns and started playing on his own.

First he traded out everyone's playing pieces.
Where's my piece?
What were you?
I was the car.
Oh, well, I think you're the hat now.
I thought [someone else] was the hat.
No, he used to be the hat, but now he's the battleship, gee, weren't you paying attention??

Then he started playing with the houses and hotels.
Wait, you can't have a house on Juneau, you don't own all the reds.
I didn't put a house on Juneau!
Oh, it was Bear, Bear, you can't just build houses on the board, you have to do them on the table.
[Bear grins and puts a hotel on the board]

And then there was the money.
Here mommy, you can have a pretty pink money.
Oh, thanks honey, where did you get that?
From Daddy.
Oh, well then give this other pink money to daddy, ok?
--and--
Hey, I thought I was broke, I just mortgaged three properties to pay you, how did I get a $500 in my money?
You must not have noticed it
Um, I'm pretty sure I checked...
[Bear grins innocently]

Friday, May 21, 2010

Lost in translation...

My boys have this little plastic knight's helmet. They've had it since, well, Wolf had it before I met him, so for a very long time. It is much-loved and often-worn.

The other day I just happened to notice there was some raised writing inside of it:

"CAUTION
THE SIMULATED PROTECTIVE DEVICE WAS NOT SAFETY DEVICE AND OFFERED NO PROTECTION"

"MADE IN CHINA"
[of course]

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Telling vs Tattling

The thoughts in this post stem from the ideas in Barbara Coloroso's book "Kids are Worth it: Giving Your Child the Gift of Inner Discipline."

If your kids are old enough to talk, you have probably heard it: "Mooooooom, Johnny is ______"...and then you are supposed to figure out what to do next. Is Freddy's telling of the situation accurate? Should you intervene? Would your intervention be helpful? Is it too late? Did Freddy need to tell you or is he just mad at Johnny? Does Johnny need to be disciplined? Does Freddy need to be disciplined?! It can be complicated.

In the book, Barbara Coloroso suggests this litmus test for determining whether something is "telling" (good) or "tattling" (bad).

Tattling will get the other child into trouble
~
Telling will get the other child (or both children) out of trouble.

So if Johnny stuck his tongue out at Freddy, Freddy is tattling because he's trying to get Johnny into trouble.
If Johnny is stuck on the bathroom counter and can't figure out how to get down (don't laugh, it happens!) then Freddy is telling, and it's a good thing he is because otherwise Johnny might never make it down! ☺

Now I'm not saying that it's ok for Johnny to hit Freddy, and if Freddy was hurt then of course mom should step in and address some things with Johnny. But if there was no bodily harm, then consider letting it slide. No harm no foul...and maybe next time Freddy won't tattle about stuff that doesn't matter.
Ms Coloroso proposes the idea that parents only get involved in what they themselves actually see or hear happen. With the exception of blood or other serious damage, if you weren't there, then let it lie. If you're an attentive parent then you will see/hear a lot of things, and there will be opportunities to teach your children what they need to know. It's a much calmer (and more accomplishable) goal than intervening in every little thing.
I personally stand somewhere in the middle. I don't necessarily wait for serious damage, because I think that certain careless or aggressive behaviors, even if they didn't cause a big problem this time, they might do so next time. So if there was no serious damage but there was potential for it, then I try to intervene with teaching (though not generally with punishment).

I will say that in a household where tattling doesn't accomplish much, it doesn't happen very often. We get reports of legitimate problems, and a smattering of reports which I answer with "sounds like you guys need to work something out, do you want help?" Of course there is telling, but not very much tattling.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

WFMW: Sweet Treats

I suspect that most of us get sweets cravings from time to time. Maybe all the time. My regular readers know that I believe in healthy eating, but that I also believe in moderation, and that I have no objection to whipping up a batch of brownies for no particular reason...but I do object to doing it every day. Unfortunately, I get those sweets cravings almost every day, and when I try to just ignore them they get more intense (isn't that how it always goes when you're trying to quit something?!) So I've found a solution: satisfy the sweet tooth with something that's just a little sweet, but that's more or less good for me.
So, when I have a hankering for brownies, or ice cream, I am usually able to satisfy it with one of these things:
  • A bowl of box cereal (we don't have the super sweet ones, but something like "Honey Bunches of Oats" is sweet enough)
  • Applesauce
  • Yogurt (mine is usually homemade)
  • Yogurt with berries/fruit in it
  • Fruit--fresh or canned (hey, I live in Alaska, fresh fruit is in season for about 2 weeks up here!)
  • A smoothie
  • A homemade muffin (especially if it has berries in it)
  • A piece of toast with butter and/or jam
  • A cup of hot cocoa--especially with coconut oil or cream in it
  • Fruit juice (this usually doesn't work as well, because there's no chewing so it just isn't very satisfying...but in a pinch it's more satisfying than nothing)
  • any other suggestions? (comment please!)
Just as an observation--my mother and I have both observed that a lot of times when we think we're craving sweets, sugar alone does not actually satisfy the craving. Interestingly, what does satisfy the craving is fat--saturated fat (cream, butter, etc). We think it's because of two things 1--those fats usually come together with sugar (brownies, ice cream, cookies...) but sugar is the more recognizable 'taste' for our brains. 2--In our culture's fear of saturated fat, we end up consuming too much unsaturated fat and our bodies are imbalanced (you need a little of each kind of fat because your body uses different types for different things). Due to that imbalance, our bodies give us cravings to get us to consume things that we need.
SO, you'll notice that most of my sweet alternatives also have a little fat in them--and I think that's important. ☺


See more Works for Me Wednesdays here.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Kids are Worth It by Barbara Coloroso

(I actually read "Kids are Worth it: Giving Your Child the Gift of Inner Discipline" some time ago, and want to re-read it, but this is based off the notes I took at the time)

"It's not control or compliance that you are looking for;
it's calm and cooperation."

As I stated in my prior post about compliance vs cooperation, I feel that it is more important to teach our children how to think and problem solve by themselves than it is to just boss them around all the time. This is more or less the mindset behind this book.

The author, Barbara Coloroso, makes three basic points:
  1. Kids are worth it. It is worth the time and effort that it takes to raise our children. We are glad that we have them. We want them. We love them.
  2. "I will not treat a child in a way that I myself would not want to be treated." Because children are people too, and deserve to keep their dignity intact, including when they make mistakes or do something wrong.
  3. If it works, and leaves my dignity intact, and leaves the child's dignity intact, then it is a good solution.
Her guide for dealing with specific issues that arise is as follows:
Show kids what they have done ~ If the child doesn't realize what he did, then no consequence is going to be useful. Especially with younger children this step may involve helping them to understand why the behavior was a problem (eg, hitting is not ok because it hurts people)
Give them ownership of the problem ~ this is not my problem, it is the child's problem. It's not about me being embarrassed or frustrated, it is about something that the child did and about something that he needs to learn.
Give them options for solving the problem (as they get old enough to begin thinking--I think by age 3 or so--they should participate in the thinking of options. Remember that the goal is to teach them to do this themselves, not to just boss them around! "Plan B" is a great methodology for this) ~ Come up with several possible courses of action. If you are not willing to actually do it, then don't suggest it! Once the options are on the table, the child should choose which course to follow--remember, this is his problem, not yours.
Always leave their dignity intact ~ the goal of consequences should never be to embarrass or shame a child, but merely to teach them.

Coloroso also offers a guide ("RSVP") for what constitutes a reasonable consequence:
Reasonable ~ it makes sense to both parent and child, and is appropriate (natural/logical)
Simple ~ (does this one need to be explained?!)
Valuable ~ the child will actually learn something from this course of action...oh yes, and they will learn what you were hoping to teach!! (in other words, they learn how to make a better choice next time, rather than "I'll be more careful to not get caught next time!")
Practical ~ this also seems obvious, but some people forget about it anyway...one time we were problem solving together and Wolf proposed a solution that might have worked except it involved my micromanaging his life over the coming two weeks. I have other children and *gasp* other responsibilities! I told him that I was happy to help him, but that that particular proposal would not work because I could not do that much. He understood that it was not practical, and we choose something else.

I think that my favorite part of the book was where she talked about finding alternatives to 'no.' Her point was that if you are yelling "No!" at your child every 5 minutes, he will begin to tune it out, and in the moment when it really matters (eg: as he's running into the street) he will neither hear nor respond to you. So, instead of always saying no, Coloroso proposes using alternatives like "yes, but later" or "give me a minute [to think about it]" or (my favorite--for older kids) "Why? Talk me into it!" (Children can come up with a variety of fascinating reasons why they should be allowed to do this or that, and frankly I think a lot of them are valid!)
I find the overuse of 'no' to be a very interesting topic, and I have discussed it in more depth in a separate post.

Here are a few bullet points from my notes:
  • A child is a person--an individual. Let them be independent when they need to be. Let them--or help them--discover who they are, and then let them be themselves (so long as it's not physically, mentally, or morally threatening).
  • When you give a child a choice, there should be no strings attached. Present choices that are all equal rather than some that are "better" or "worse" than the other. Do NOT get upset if the child's choice is not your own!!
  • Good parents neither smother their children's feelings nor steal them. They acknowledge their own feelings and take responsible and purposeful action about them. They allow and teach their children to do the same. They do not judge the feelings of another.
  • When encouraging children to find solutions, have them define what they WILL do rather than what they WON'T do. For example "I won't hit" vs "If I'm upset I will go out of the room." (It's much easier to do something than to not do something. Remember this post?!)
She also has some suggestions about problem solving and also addresses the issue of tattling. I'll cover those in separate posts in the coming week. ☺



My post was featured in the Gentle Discipline Fair!
Visit BabyDustDiaries.com to see the monthly fairs and other great Gentle Discipline resources.

Gentle Parent - art by Erika Hastings at  http://mudspice.wordpress.com/

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The problem with neutrality

"Take sides.
Neutrality helps the oppressor,

never the oppressed.
Silence encourages the tormentor,
never the tormented."

--Elie Weisel (holocaust survivor, author of "Night")


Precisely why I will not be neutral, and will not be quiet. ☺

Saturday, May 15, 2010

TV and our Children's Minds

This article is very long, and the writing is pretty dense. I found that I needed to read a bit, then go do something else, then read the next section. With that said, it is very interesting, and very thought-provoking. I have done some dividing/bolding of section headings to make it a little easier to break into chunks. Honestly, you can skip the introductory section and skip right down to the Q&A portion and you'll get the meat of the article.
~j



TV and Our Children’s Minds

by Susan R. Johnson, MD, FAAP
May 1, 1999, 2007 (revised)

TV rots the senses in the head!
It kills the imagination dead!
It clogs and clutters up the mind!
It makes a child so dull and blind.
He can no longer understand a fantasy,
A fairyland!
His brain becomes as soft as cheese!
His powers of thinking rust and freeze!

An excerpt from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl, 1964

As a mother and a pediatrician who completed both a three-year residency in Pediatrics and a three-year subspecialty fellowship in Behavioral and Developmental Pediatrics, I started to wonder: “What are we doing to our children’s growth and learning potential by allowing them to watch television and videos as well as spend endless hours playing computer games?” I practiced seven years as the Physician Consultant at the School Health Center in San Francisco, performing comprehensive assessments on children, ages 4–12, who were having learning and behavioral difficulties in school. I saw hundreds of children who were having difficulties paying attention, focusing on their work, and performing fine and gross motor tasks. Many of these children had a poor self-image and problems relating to adults and peers.

As a pediatrician, I had always discouraged television viewing, because of the often violent nature of its content (especially cartoons) and because of all the commercials aimed at children. However, it wasn’t until the birth of my own child, 6 years ago, that I came face to face with the real impact of television. It wasn’t just the content, for I had carefully screened the programs my child watched. It was the change in my child’s behavior (his mood, his motor movements, his play) before, during and after watching TV that truly frightened me. Before watching TV, he would be outside in nature, content to look at bugs, make things with sticks and rocks, and play in the water and sand. He seemed at peace with himself, his body, and his environment. When watching TV, he was so unresponsive to me and to what was happening around him, that he seemed glued to the television set. When I turned off the TV he became anxious, nervous, and irritable and usually cried (or screamed) for the TV to be turned back on. His play was erratic, his movements impulsive and uncoordinated. His play lacked his own imaginative input. Instead of creating his own play themes, he was simply reenacting what he had just seen on TV in a very repetitive, uncreative, and stilted way.

At age 3-1/2 years, our son went on a plane trip to visit his cousins near Boston, and on the plane was shown the movie Mission Impossible. The movie was right above our son’s head making it difficult to block out. Earphones had not been purchased, so the impact was only visual, but what an impact it had on our son. He had nightmares and fears about fires, explosions, and bloody hands for the next 6 months, and his play was profoundly changed. One of my colleagues told me I just had an overly sensitive child, and because I had not taken him to see a movie or let him watch much TV, he was not “used to it” and that was why he was so disturbed by the pictures he saw. All I could think was—thank heaven he was not “used to it.”

Later that year, I assessed six different children from ages 8–11 years at the School Health Center who all had similar difficulties with reading. They couldn’t make a mental picture of letters or words. If I showed them a series of letters and asked them to identify one particular letter, they could do it. If I gave them no visual input and just asked them to write a particular letter by memory, they couldn’t do it. All of these children watched a lot of television and videos and played computer games. I wondered what happens to a developing child placed in front of a TV set if they are presented with visual and auditory stimuli at the same time. What is left for the mind to do? At least with reading a story or having a story read to them, the mind can create its own imaginative pictures.

A question arose and I immediately called up my colleague and asked: “Could television itself be causing attention problems and learning difficulties in children?” My colleague laughed and said just about everyone watches TV—even my child does—and she doesn’t have Attention Deficit Disorder or a learning disability. I thought to myself: “Are we spending enough time with our children and looking deeply enough into their development and souls to notice the often subtle changes that occur from spending hours in front of the TV set?” Maybe some children are more vulnerable to the effects of television because of a genetic predisposition or poor nutrition or a more chaotic home environment. I wondered about the loss of potential in all our children, because they are exposed to so much television and so many videos and computers games. What are the capacities we are losing or not even developing because of this TV habit? I then started to read, attend lectures, and ask a lot more questions.

Television has been in existence for the past 80 years, though the broadcasting of entertainment shows didn’t begin until the 1940s. In 1950, 10 percent of American households owned a TV set. By 1954, this percentage had increased to 50 percent, and by 1960, 80 percent of American households owned a television. Since 1970, more than 98 percent of American households own a TV and currently 66 percent of households own three or more TVs. Television is on almost 7 hours per day in an average American home. Children of all ages, from preschool through adolescence, watch an average of 4 hours of TV per day (excluding time spent watching videos or playing computer games). A child spends more time watching TV than any other activity except sleeping, and by age 18 a child has spent more time in front of a TV than at school.

There have been numerous articles looking at the content of television and how commercials influence children’s (and adults’) desires for certain foods or material goods (e.g., toys), and how violence seen on television (even in cartoons) leads to more aggressive behavior in children (Fischer et al. 1991, Singer 1989, Zuckerman 1985). Concerns have been raised about who is teaching our children and the developmental appropriateness of what is presented on TV to toddlers, children, and even adolescents.

Miles Everett, Ph.D., in his book, How Television Poisons Children’s Minds, points out that we don’t allow our child to talk to strangers, yet through television we allow strangers into the minds and souls of our children everyday. These “strangers” (advertising agencies), whose motivations are often monetary, are creating the standards for what is “good” or developmentally appropriate for the developing brains of our children. More importantly, several investigators (Healy 1990, Pearce 1992, Buzzell 1998, Winn 1985) have drawn attention to the actual act of viewing television as even more insidious and potentially damaging to the brain of the developing child than the actual content of what’s on TV. So what are we doing to our children’s potential by allowing them to watch television?


Question: How does a child’s brain develop and how does a child learn?

Joseph Chilton Pearce in his book, Evolution’s End, sees a child’s potential as a seed that needs to be nurtured and nourished in order to grow properly. If the environment doesn’t provide the necessary nurturing (and protections from over-stimulation), then certain potentials and abilities cannot be realized. The infant is born with 10 billion nerve cells or neurons and spends the first three years of life adding billions of glial cells to support and nourish these neurons (Everett 1992). These neurons are then capable of forming thousands of interconnections with each other via spider-like projections called dendrites and longer projections called axons that extend to other regions of the brain. It is important to realize that a six-year-old’s brain is 2/3 the size of an adult’s though it has 5–7 times more connections between neurons than does the brain of an 18-month-old or an adult (Pearce 1992). The brain of a 6–7 year old child appears to have a tremendous capacity for making thousands and thousands of dendrite connections among neurons.

This potential for development ends around age 10–11 when the child loses 80 percent of this dendritic mass (Pearce 1992, Buzzell 1998). It appears that what we don’t develop or use, we lose as a capacity. An enzyme is released within the brain and literally dissolves all poorly myelinated pathways (Pearce 1992, Buzzell 1998). In the developing child, there is a progression of brain development from the most primitive core (action) brain, to the limbic (feeling) brain, and finally to the most advanced neocortex, or thought brain. There are critical periods for brain development when the stimulus must be present for the capacity to evolve (for example, language). There is also plasticity in brain development so that even adults can make new dendritic connections, but they have to work harder to establish pathways which were more easily made in childhood.

The core (action) brain is dedicated to our physical survival and manages reflexes, controls our motor movements, monitors body functions, and processes information from our senses. Along with the limbic (feeling) brain, it is involved in the “flight or fight” response that our body has to a dangerous or threatening situation. Humans react physically and emotionally before the thought brain has had time to process the information (Buzzell 1998). Our limbic (feeling) brain wraps around our core (action) brain and processes emotional information (e.g., our likes/dislikes, love/hate polarities). Our feeling brain gives meaning and value to our memories and what we learn. It influences behavior based on emotional feelings and has an intimate relationship to our immune system and capacity to heal. It is involved in the forming of our intimate relationships and emotional bonds (e.g., between mother and child) and is connected with our dreaming, subtle intuitive experiences and the daydreams and fantasies that originate from the thought brain (Healy 1990). This feeling brain connects the more highly evolved thought brain to the more primitive action brain. Our lower action brain can be made to follow the will of our thought brain or our higher thought brain can be “locked into” the service of the lower action-feeling brain during an emergency that is real or imagined (Pearce 1992). The action and feeling brains can’t distinguish real from imaginary sensory input. It is a survival advantage to react first and think later.

Finally our thought brain, the neocortex, represents our highest and newest form of intellect. It receives extensive input from the core (action) brain and limbic (feeling) brain and has the potential of separating itself and being the most objective part of the brain. It connects us to our higher self. However, the neocortex needs more time to process the images from the action and feeling brains. It is also the part of the brain that has the most potential for the future, and it is the place where our perceptions (experiences), recollections, feelings, and thinking skills all combine to shape our ideas and actions (Everett 1997). The thinking brain is “5 times larger than the other brains combined and provides intellect, creative thinking, computing and, if developed, sympathy, empathy, compassion and love” (Pearce 1992).

There is a sequential development (a progressive myelination of nerve pathways) of the child’s brain from the most primitive (action) brain to the limbic (feeling) brain and finally to the most highly evolved thought brain, or neocortex. Myelination involves covering the nerve axons and dendrites with a protective fatty-protein sheath. The more a pathway is used, the more myelin is added. The thicker the myelin sheath, the faster the nerve impulse or signal travels along the pathway. For these reasons, it is imperative that the growing child receives developmentally appropriate input from his/her environment in order to nourish each part of the brain’s development and promote the myelination of new nerve pathways. For example, young children who are in the process of forming their motor-sensory pathways and sense organs (the action brain) need repetitive and rhythmical experiences in movement. Children also need experiences that stimulate and integrate their senses of sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch. Their senses need to be protected from over-stimulation, since young children are literally sponges. Children absorb all they see, hear, smell, taste and touch from their environment since they haven’t developed the brain capacity to discriminate or filter out unpleasant or noxious sense experiences.

The sense of touch is especially crucial since our culture and its hospital birth practices (including the high rate of C-sections) and, until recently, its discouragement of breastfeeding, deprive infants of critical multi-sensory experiences. The stimulation and development of our sense organs is the precursor to the development of part of our lower brain, called the Reticular Activating System (RAS). The RAS is the gateway through which our sense impressions coordinate with each other and then travel to the higher thought brain. The RAS is the area of the brain that allows us to attend and focus our attention. Impairments in motor-sensory pathways lead to impairments in children’s attention span and ability to concentrate (Buzzell 1998). Over-stimulation and under-stimulation of our senses and poorly developed fine and gross motor movements may lead to impairments in attention. By age 4, both the core (action) and limbic (feeling) brains are 80 percent myelinated. After age 6–7, the brain’s attention is shifted to the neocortex (thought brain) with myelination beginning first on the right side or hemisphere and later joined by the left hemisphere.

The right hemisphere is the more intuitive side of the brain, and it particularly responds to visual images. It grasps wholes, shapes and patterns and focuses on the big picture rather than the details. It directs drawing and painting and monitors melodies and harmonies of music. It is especially responsive to novelty and color and is the dominant hemisphere when watching TV (Healy, 1990, Everett 1997). The left hemisphere dominates when a child reads, writes and speaks. It specializes in analytical and sequential thinking and step-by-step logical reasoning. It analyzes the sound and meaning of language (e.g., phonic skills of matching sound to letters of the alphabet). It manages fine muscle skills and is concerned with order, routine and details. The ability to comprehend science, religion, math (especially geometry) and philosophy relies on abstract thinking characteristic of the left hemisphere.

Even though we emphasize which functions of learning are performed by which hemisphere, there is a crucial connection between the two hemispheres called the corpus callosum. It consists of a large bundle of nerve pathways that form a bridge between the left and right hemispheres. It is one of the brain’s latest-maturing parts. The left and right sides of the body learn to coordinate with each other by this pathway. Gross motor activities like jumping rope, climbing, running, and circle games and fine motor activities like form drawing, knitting, pottery, origami, woodworking, embroidery, and bread-making are crucial to myelinating this pathway and lead to more flexible manipulation of ideas and a creative imagination. This pathway provides the interplay between analytic and intuitive thinking, and several neuropsychologists believe that poor development of this pathway affects the right and left hemispheres’ effective communication with each other and may be a cause of attention and learning difficulties (Healy 1990).

We myelinate our pathways by using them. Movements of our bodies combine with experiences of our senses to build strong neural pathways and connections. For example, when a toddler listens to the sound of a ball bouncing on the floor, tastes and smells the ball or pushes, rolls and throws the ball, neurons are making dendritic connections with each other. When a toddler examines balls of varying sizes, shapes, weights and textures, a field of thousands (and possibly millions) of interconnecting neurons can be created around the “word” ball (Pearce 1992). Repetition, movement, and multisensory stimulation are the foundations of the language development and higher level thinking. The toddler’s repetitive experiences with an object like a ball, create images or pictures in his/her brain. “The images of the core limbic brain form much of the elemental “food” for the remarkable and progressive abstracting abilities of the associative high cortex [neocortex]” (Buzzell 1998).

Question: What is so harmful to the mind about watching television?

Watching television has been characterized as multileveled sensory deprivation that may be stunting the growth of our children’s brains. Brain size has been shown to decrease 20–30 percent if a child is not touched, played with or talked to (Healy 1990). In addition, when young animals were placed in an enclosed area where they could only watch other animals play, their brain growth decreased in proportion to the time spent inactively watching (Healy 1990). Television really only presents information to two senses: hearing and sight. In addition, the poor quality of reproduced sound presented to our hearing and the flashing, colored, fluorescent over-stimulating images presented to our eyes cause problems in the development and proper function of these two critical sense organs (Poplawski 1998). To begin with, a child’s visual acuity and full binocular (three-dimensional) vision are not fully developed until 4 years of age, and the picture produced on the television screen is an unfocused (made up of dots of light), two-dimensional image that restricts our field of vision to the TV screen itself. Images on TV are produced by a cathode ray gun that shoots electrons at phosphors (fluorescent substances) on the TV screen. The phosphors glow and this artificially produced pulsed light projects directly into our eyes and beyond affecting the secretions of our neuroendocrine system (Mander 1978). The actual image produced by dots of light is fuzzy and unfocused, so that our eyes, and the eyes of our children, have to strain to make the image clear.

Television, like any electrical appliance and like power lines, produces invisible waves of electromagnetism. Last June, a panel convened by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences decided there was enough evidence to consider these invisible waves (called electromagnetic fields or EMFs) as possible human carcinogens. In the article it was recommended that children sit at least 4 feet from TV and 18 inches from the computer screen (Gross 1999). Our visual system, “the ability to search out, scan, focus, and identify whatever comes in the visual field” (Buzzell 1998), is impaired by watching TV. These visual skills are also the ones that need to be developed for effective reading. Children watching TV do not dilate their pupils, show little to no movement of their eyes (i.e., stare at the screen), and lack the normal saccadic movements of the eyes (a jumping from one line of print to the next) that is critical for reading. The lack of eye movement when watching television is a problem because reading requires the eyes to continually move from left to right across the page. The weakening of eye muscles from lack of use can’t help but negatively impact the ability and effort required to read. In addition, our ability to focus and pay attention relies on this visual system.

Pupil dilation, tracking and following are all part of the reticular activating system. The RAS is the gateway to the right and left hemispheres. It determines what we pay attention to and is related to the child’s ability to concentrate and focus. The RAS is not operating well when a child watches television. A poorly integrated lower brain can’t properly access the higher brain. In addition, the rapid-fire change of television images, which occurs every 5 to 6 seconds in many programs and 2 to 3 seconds in commercials (even less on MTV), does not give the higher thought brain a chance to even process the image. It reportedly takes the neocortex anywhere from 5 to 10 seconds to engage after a stimulus (Scheidler 1994). The neocortex is our higher brain, but also needs a greater processing time to become involved. All the color combinations produced on the television screen result from the activation of only three types of phosphors: red, blue and green. The wavelengths of visible light produced by the activation of these phosphors represents an extremely limited spectrum compared to the wavelengths of light we receive when viewing objects outdoors in the full spectrum of reflected rays from the sun. Another problem with color television is that the color from it is almost exclusively processed by the right hemisphere so that left hemisphere functioning is diminished and the corpus callosum (the pathway of communication between the brain’s hemispheres) is poorly utilized (i.e., poorly myelinated).

Reading a book, walking in nature, or having a conversation with another human being, where one takes the time to ponder and think, are far more educational than watching TV. The television—and computer games—are replacing these invaluable experiences of human conversations, storytelling, reading books, playing “pretend” (using internal images created by the child rather than the fixed external images copied from television), and exploring nature. Viewing television represents an endless, purposeless, physically unfulfilling activity for a child. Unlike eating until one is full or sleeping until one is no longer tired, watching television has no built-in endpoint. It makes a child want more and more without ever being satisfied (Buzzell 1998).


Question: Well, what about watching Sesame Street? Isn’t it educational for our children? Doesn’t it teach them how to read?

Jane Healy, Ph.D., in her book, Endangered Minds wrote an entire chapter entitled “Sesame Street and the Death of Reading.” In addition to the concerns already mentioned about watching television, Sesame Street and the majority of children’s programming seem to put the left hemisphere and parts of the right hemisphere into slow waves of inactivity (alpha waves). Television anesthetizes our higher brain functions and disrupts the balance and interaction between the left and right hemispheres.

Brain waves can be measured by an EEG, and variations in recorded brain waves correspond to different states of activity in the brain. In general, reading produces active, fast beta waves while television watching leads to an increase in slow alpha waves in the left hemisphere and at times even in the right hemisphere (Buzzell 1998). Once again, the left hemisphere is the critical center for reading, writing and speaking. It is the place where abstract symbols (e.g., the letters of the alphabet) are connected to sounds (phonic skills). The pulsating fluorescent light source of television may have something to do with promoting slow wave activity. Our brain “wakes up” to novelty and falls asleep or habituates to repetitive, “boring” stimuli. Advertising agencies and many children’s shows (including Sesame Street) have had to counter children’s tendency to habituate to television by increasing the frequency of new images, using flashing colors, closeups, and startling, often loud, sounds. These distracters get our attention momentarily but keep us operating in our lower core and limbic brains. The lower brain can’t discern between images that are real or created on TV, because discernment is the function of the neocortex. Therefore, when the TV presents sudden close-ups, flashing lights, etc., as stimuli, the core-limbic brain immediately goes into a “fight or flight” response with the release of hormones and chemicals throughout the body. Heart rate and blood pressure are increased and blood flow to limb muscles is increased to prepare for this apparent emergency. Because this all happens in our body without the corresponding movement of our limbs, certain TV programs actually put us in a state of chronic stress or anxiety. Studies have shown atrophy of the left hemisphere in adults who are chronically stressed and only functioning from their core-limbic brain. Even as adults, what we don’t use, we lose.

Finally, when our brain is simultaneously presented with visual (images on the screen) and auditory (sound) stimuli, we preferentially attend to the visual. A dramatic example of this phenomenon was illustrated when a group of young children (6–7 years old) were shown a video show where the sound track did not match the visual action, and the children, when questioned, did not appear to notice the discrepancy. Therefore, even in Sesame Street, studies have shown that children are not absorbing the content of the show (Healy 1990). Maybe the most critical argument against watching television is that it affects the three characteristics that distinguish us as human beings. In the first 3 years of life, a child learns to walk, to talk and to think. Television keeps us sitting, leaves little room for meaningful conversations, and seriously impairs our ability to think.


Question: What’s wrong with using television as just entertainment?

I enjoyed watching Disney films like Snow White. Television seems to have a profound effect on our feeling life and therefore, one could argue, on our soul. As human beings, we become detached from the real world by watching television. We sit in a comfortable chair, in a warm room, with plenty to eat and watch a show about people who are homeless, cold and hungry. Our hearts go out to them, but we do nothing. One could argue that reading a book could promote the same sense of unreality without action. The phrases “turn off the TV” or “get your nose out of your book” and “go do something” have meaning.

Nevertheless, while reading a book (that doesn’t have a lot of pictures) the child’s mind creates its own pictures and has time to think about them. These thoughts could actually lead to ideas that inspire a child or adult to action. TV does not give time for this higher level of thinking that inspires deeds. Television projects images that go directly into our emotional brain. It is said that the words we hear go into knowledge while the images we see go into our soul. Pictures that elicit emotion are processed by the limbic system and the right hemisphere of the neocortex. If no time is given to think about these emotional pictures, then the left hemisphere is not involved. Once again, watching television often eliminates the part of our brain that can make sense of, analyze and rationalize what we are seeing. We don’t forget what we see. The limbic brain is connected to our memory, and the pictures we see on TV are remembered—either consciously, unconsciously or subconsciously.

For example, it is almost impossible to create your own pictures of Snow White from reading a story if you have seen the movie. It is also true that often one is disappointed when one sees a movie after reading the book. Our imagination is so much richer than what can be shown on a screen. The problem with television is that children get used to not using their imaginative thinking at all, and they don’t exercise that part of the brain (the neocortex) that creates the pictures. Children are not reading enough, and we aren’t reading or telling them enough stories to help their minds create pictures. Creating pictures is not just entertaining, but the foundation of our dreams and higher thoughts (intuitions, inspirations and imaginations). We dream, think and imagine possibilities of the future in pictures.

Finally, the heart is now seen as an organ of perception that can respond to a stimulus and release a hormone-like substance that influences brain activity. This phenomenon is referred to as our heart intelligence (Pearce 1992). Interacting with human beings is essential for the development of this intelligence. When we stand face to face and look into another person’s eyes, we meet soul to soul and we get a sense of who they really are (Soesman). We get a sense of whether they mean what they say—in other words, whether they are enthusiastic and passionate about their subject. We experience their non-verbal language such as how they move, the tone of their voice, and whether their gaze shifts around when they talk. This is how we learn to discern consistency between verbal and non-verbal cues and, therefore, truth.

Television can’t give us this intelligence of the heart. It can shock our emotions, and we can cry, laugh or get angry, but these emotions are just reactions. When human beings speak on TV, children are often doing homework, playing games, and talking to friends while watching TV. These activities help save their visual system from the effects of TV, but the underlying message is that you don’t need to listen when another person speaks or comfort anyone if you hear crying. If the heart, like the brain and probably the rest of our body, gives off electromagnetic waves (Pearce 1992, Tiller 1999), then there is a form of subtle energy that only can be experienced between human beings by relating to each other in the same physical space. This subtle energy can’t be experienced by watching human beings on television. Just as we must use all our senses to construct higher level thoughts or pictures of an object, empathy and love for others does not develop from seeing human beings as objects on TV, but by actively relating, face to face, with each other.


Question: What can we do to help our children’s brains develop?


1. Keep the television turned off as much as possible. One author recommended avoiding television as much as possible for the first 12 years of your child’s life and then encouraging your child to always read the book first before seeing the movie. It helps to cover the TV with a cloth or store it away in a closed cabinet or closet. Out of sight really helps the child keep the TV out of mind (Large 1997). Remember that what we do serves as a role model for our children. We can’t really ask our children to stop watching TV if we keep doing it—that will eventually lead to power struggles. When the television is on, then try to neutralize its damage. Select the programs carefully and watch TV with your child so you can talk about what you see. Keep a light on when the TV is going since that will minimize the effects of the reduced field of vision and provide a different light source for the eyes. Try to sit at least 4 feet from the television and 18 inches from the computer screen. Plan to go outside (to the park, woods, or beach) after viewing television.

2. Read a lot of books to your children (especially ones without lots of pictures) and tell your children lots of stories. Children love to hear stories about our lives when we were little or you can make them up. Bedtime and riding in the car provide good opportunities for telling stories. Telling our children stories helps to stimulate their internal picture making capabilities.

3. Nature! Nature! Nature! Nature is the greatest teacher of patience, delayed gratification, reverence, awe and observation. The colors are spectacular and all the senses are stimulated. Many children today think being out in nature is boring, because they are so used to the fast-paced, action-packed images from TV (Poplawski 1998). We only truly learn when all our senses are involved, and when the information is presented to us in such a way that our higher brain can absorb it. Nature is reality while television is a pseudo-reality.

4. Pay close attention to your senses and those of your child. Our environment is noisy and overstimulating to the sense organs. What a child sees, hears, smells, tastes, and touches is extremely important to his or her development. We need to surround our children with what is beautiful, what is good, and what is true. How a child experiences the world has a tremendous influence on how the child perceives the world as a teenager and adult.

5. Have children use their hands, feet and whole body performing purposeful activities. All the outdoor activities of running, jumping, climbing, and playing jump rope help develop our children’s gross motor skills and myelinate pathways in the higher brain. Performing household chores, cooking, baking bread, knitting, woodworking, origami, string games, finger games, circle games, painting, drawing, and coloring help develop fine motor skills and also myelinate pathways in the higher brain.

Finally, the future of our children and our society is in the protection and development of our children’s minds, hearts and limbs. What we are aiming for in the thoughts of our children is best summarized in this fine verse from William Blake’s “Auguries of Innocence”:
To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.


------

Acknowledgments

—To Cindy Blain for her dedicated and inspirational work in preparing this paper and creating the title.

—To Jacques Lusseyran whose book, And There Was Light, literally opened my eyes to the more subtle senses of human beings.

Bibliography

Buzzell, Keith. The Children of Cyclops: The Influence of Television Viewing on the Developing Human Brain. 1998 California: AWSNA.

Everett, Miles. How Television Poisons Children’s Minds. 1997 California: Miles Publishing.

Fischer, Paul. “Brand Logo Recognition by Children Aged 3 to 6 Years: Mickey Mouse and Old Joe the Camel.” JAMA Vol. 266, No. 22, December 11, 1991.

Gross, Liza. “Current Risks: Experts finally link Electromagnetic Fields and Cancer.” SIERRA, May/June 1999, p. 30.

Healy, Jane. Endangered Minds: Why Children Don’t Think and What We Can Do About It. 1990 New York: Simon and Schuster.

Large, Martin. Who’s Bringing Them Up? How to Break the TV Habit. 1997, 3rd ed. England: Hawthorn Press.

Mander, Jerry. Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television. 1978 New York: William Morrow and Co.

Pearce, Joseph Chilton. Evolution’s End: Claiming the Potential of Our Intelligence. 1992 California: Harper San Francisco.

Poplawski, Thomas. “Losing Our Senses.” Renewal: A Journal for Waldorf Education, Vol. 7, No. 2, Fall 1998.

Scheidler, Thomas. “Television, Video Games and the LD Child.” 1995 Pamphlet: Greenwood Institute.

Singer, Dorothy. “Caution: Television May Be Hazardous to a Child’s Mental Health.” Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, Vol. 10, No. 5, October 1989.

Soesman, Albert. The Twelve Senses: Wellsprings of the Soul. 1998 England: Hawthorn Press.

Tiller, William. “Robust Manifestations of Subtle Energies in Physical Reality and Its Implications for Future Medicine.” Lecture, Stanford University, April 28, 1999.

Winn, Marie. The Plug-in Drug. 1985 New York: Penguin Books.

Zuckerman, Diana M. and Barry S. Zuckerman. “Television’s Impact on Children.” Pediatrics, Vol. 75, No. 2, February 1985.

This paper was first presented at the Waldorf School of San Francisco on May 1, 1999 as part of a senior project.

Reprints available from the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America (AWSNA) – http://www.awsna.orgpublications@awsna.org

Thursday, May 13, 2010

What Constitutes "Intervention" in Birth?

I had a really interesting conversation with a friend recently. She and I each had babies at home this last year. I was attended by a midwife, she gave birth unassisted (without a midwife). We were talking about why I chose to have a midwife, and discussing some of the things that happened during Eagle's birth. I mentioned when he became stuck, and my midwife reached out to work him loose. I (and my midwife I think) thought it was shoulder distocia, and thus felt that it was necessary for her to do something. As it turns out it was not shoulder distocia, but just a very short cord, which soon broke on its own and he came on out without assistance.
My friend said something about my midwife's putting her hands on him having been an unnecessary intervention. This raised a very interesting question for me--is having someone else catch the baby an 'intervention'? Sure, the baby doesn't have to be caught--he could slip out into the water or onto the bed (or onto the floor...it happens!) but isn't it gentler to be received into warm hands as he emerges? I suppose it is technically 'intervening' to cut the umbilical cord too, but even wild animals bite the cord to break it after the baby is born, don't they? How about using props for labor? A pool, a birth ball, a birthing stool--are those interventions? I think one could make the argument that something like a birthing stool 'intervenes' because it helps the mother maintain a position that she could probably not hold for long on her own...on the other hand, I don't think anyone would argue that it's a bad intervention. After all, being able to maintain an upright position can speed the progress of labor, and squatting shortens the birth canal which facilitates birth.

The Mother-Friendly Childbirth Initiative defines intervention as any "practices and procedures that are unsupported by scientific evidence." I don't exactly agree with that definition, as I'm more inclined to to agree with the dictionary and define intervention as "interfering with the outcome or course especially of a condition or process (as to prevent harm or improve functioning)." Intervention means interfering with the outcome or process, which obviously can be a bad thing; but sometimes something goes wrong and intervening is necessary, and not all such interventions are "unsupported by scientific evidence," but they are still interventions by definition because they change the condition or process.

So where does one draw the line? What constitutes 'help' (a good intervention) and what constitutes 'interference' (bad intervention)? I had never thought about this from this angle before, but it's a meaty topic. After all, I might see something as interference, but someone else (be it a mother or a provider) might see it as helpful. Take induction for example--I would avoid labor induction in all but the most extreme situations (and being 42weeks pregnant does not constitute an extreme situation in my book), but I know women who feel that they need medical assistance to go into labor. Obviously what I view as interference is an appreciated help in their eyes. On the other side, some women believe that having any birth professional present will interfere with their ability to birth ideally, and others practice lotus birth, and would view my cord cutting as interference. So I don't think it's easy--maybe not even possible--to draw a definitive line.

I believe that interventions--even big interventions such as epidurals or cesarean sections--definitely have a place. I had AROM (artificial rupture of membranes, aka my "water broken") when Bear was born. We discussed it and felt that it was a good idea considering the circumstances at the time. My water broke on its own minutes before Eagle's birth, which was nice, but I certainly don't think it was bad that we chose that intervention for Bear. During my first miscarriage I requested an IV painkiller and subsequently also got pitocin to move things along. I've had D&Cs for miscarriages too. One of my friends has her cervix sewn shut during pregnancy to prevent premature dilation--this is unquestionably an intervention, but it has prevented two of her children from being born dangerously early. Depending on the circumstances, I could imagine choosing any number of interventions for future situations.

In my mind, what separates 'interference' (bad intervention) from 'help' (a good intervention) or even just from the 'normal process' are two things:
First, the risks. Bad interventions have
high potential for negative side effects, often outweighing any potential benefit. For example, pulling on the umbilical cord can help get the placenta out faster (though what is the need?), but it can also cause the cord to detach from the placenta, or cause the placenta to break, resulting in retained placenta, which then involves synthetic oxytocin (like pitocin) and/or the provider going in and literally scraping out the uterus. If the risks are substantial, then I view the intervention as an interference.
Second, evaluate what would happen without the intervention. Is this intervention unquestionably helping (improving the health or safety of mother or child?) or is it based on convenience, preferred timing, or lack of patience? Frequently, labor augmentation or cesarean sections are used because of "failure to progress" in labor, but since normal labors can last hours or even days, many natural birthers have begun to refer to this practice as "failure to wait" and consider those interventions unnecessary. Given some time, the vast majority of those "failure to progress" labors would result a vaginal birth (without drugs, and without surgery). On a related topic, many mothers choose induction of labor because they have reached or passed 40 weeks gestation. However I am not aware of any cases of a woman staying pregnant forever, so sooner or later labor will start! Some pregnancies just last 42 or even 43 weeks. 40 weeks is an average--an estimated delivery time--not an expiration date, (and while I appreciate that it is hard to wait, induction of labor is not warranted just because of a calendar date).

Using those two criteria, let me go back and evaluate the initial situation that started this whole thought process: my midwife's putting her hands on Eagle when he stalled in the birth canal.
Were there risks associated with her manipulating him? Possibly, though I believe they were minimal, as she was gentle and her intention was to 'unstick' him rather than to pull him out. What would have happened if she had done nothing? In this case, he still would have come on out. He likely would have broken his cord and been born into daddy's hands--which is what happened anyway. There is a small chance that he might not have broken his cord, and instead might have been born more slowly and brought the placenta with him. It would have meant he would have been underwater (and half-in/half-out) for longer, but so long as the cord is attached there is no danger in remaining underwater. Aside from the potential discomfort to me or stress to him of being wedged in the birth canal for an extended time, I think that nothing of significance would have been different.
Consider, however, if his stalling had been caused by what we thought it was caused by: shoulder distocia. In cases of shoulder distocia the baby is caught on the mother's pelvis, and will not come on out without assistance. If we had left him alone he would have remained stuck, and both he and I might have become quite distressed. At some point (later if not sooner) it would have been necessary for the midwife to reach in and work him loose.
So was she interfering or helping? Technically, her action was not necessary, or at least was not necessary in the timetable in which she acted (she could have waited and watched a bit before deciding to touch the baby). However, it was not harmful or risky. It did not really affect the overall process or outcome of the birthing. Finally, consider that she did not push Hubby aside when she reached over--he moved aside to invite her into the space. We chose and trusted her as our birth assistant, and in that moment he wanted her assistance. So
I feel comfortable in designating her action as help rather than interference.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Violent Play--yay or nay?

After my recent post about how boys make everything into a weapon, I had some very good comments, and I wanted to follow up on the subject of aggressive/violent play.
Here are portions of several comments:
I was reading about how boys do seem to play with "weapons" even if they're not allowed to play with toy guns and the like. What I was reading suggested that parents allow their sons to do so without trying to make them feel shame for what seems to be a natural outlet for boys. Also: denying the play altogether has that "don't you wish you could" siren song that might just aggravate the situation, while left alone most boys grow out of the need to swashbuckle.
~
My mom learned from play therapy with [little ones adopted out of assorted troubled situations] that it's actually important to allow children that "violent" outlet. It's a safe and effective way children act out their aggression and face their fears, and parents need to just act along...
The kids have fun and are able to act out any bad feelings they have, with [mom or dad] being the bad guy and them being victorious heroes in the end. There's something about it that is quite empowering to them. Play therapy is very interesting stuff...
~
I've always found that no matter how much you try to "shelter" kids from violence, they still like to act it out and make believe such things. Of course, how you talk about violence and portray it in your own life will be shadowed by your children. It's your example that makes the difference.
These comments address three different aspects of violent play: it's just play, acting out feelings, and imitating example. So here are my thoughts on it all.

I certainly get that a certain amount of aggressive (even violent) play is normal and natural and even a healthy release...but even in play, I hope to guide my children in healthy directions, so that as they get older those healthy contexts are implanted in their brains. ☺

The first thing that matters is safety. One commenter mentioned taking a foam swim noodle and cutting it in half to make soft 'swords' for her kids to use. We have done something similar. We also have a good supply of soft beanbags (I fill mine with rice or wheat or lentils so they are softer than beans, I know moms who fill them with fabric scraps or batting!) We try to have safe spaces (no breakable stuff) for rough-and-tumble play. Of course we intervene if anyone is actually getting hurt or scared by the play.
We also teach gun safety. We do keep a hunting rifle in the house (it is kept unloaded, out of reach, has a trigger lock, and the ammo is kept elsewhere...but it's a gun). Even if you don't keep any guns in your home, you should teach your children these simple rules because you never know when they might encounter one.
The second thing that matters is diversity in play. Yes, I'll accept that it's natural to enact violent or aggressive things, however it's also good to play at peaceful things. So we have baby dolls (yep, even for boys--they'll be daddies one day!). We have play food. We have legos and lincoln logs and building blocks and a wooden train set. I teach them knitting and sewing and cooking as they get old enough to do those things too. So sure, they play at being warriors or hunters, but they also play at being parents, builders, and creators.
We also encourage athletic and outdoor activities so that they have plenty of non-violent outlets for their energy. I personally feel that martial arts classes are great (better than wrestling or boxing) because they focus on self control, safety, and a defensive mindset, while still being very cool "fighting" classes.

The final--and in my opinion biggest--thing that matters is the thoughts behind the behavior. Contrary to the old saying, I believe that good intentions DO matter when dealing with children.
We've adopted a household policy of following the "law of the jungle" (which is that it is ok to kill to eat, or in self-defense). We try to follow this both in real life and in play. We also talk about scripture warriors like Gideon, David, and Moroni. We discuss how they followed God's word about defending their family/home/freedom, but how if they took the offensive then they lost His help. Sometimes we talk about samauri or knights and the codes of honor that traditionally went along with being a warrior.
So, according to the law of the jungle, hunting is ok--so long as you intend to respect the animal by killing cleanly and using all the parts. Fishing is the same (though that doesn't surface as often in their play!). When we hunt/fish or otherwise slaughter our own meat we involve our children in this process. (I admit that I am thoroughly squeamish about doing my own butchering, but I believe I would be hypocritical to eat meat if I were not willing to be part of the whole process, and since we have chosen to be omnivores, this is what we do.)
War games are ok in play (such as legos, army men, fencing, wrestling, beanbag wars, balloon fights, foam swords, etc). When they are playing that way, we revisit the scripture warriors. We don't allow video/computer games that involve hurting or shooting people (animal shooting would be ok as per the hunting thing, and target practice is fine). We don't allow any games with blood (realistic or fake-looking) or that otherwise glorify death. We do not watch or allow violent movies for young children (as they get into their teens we intend to allow a few specific films with realistic historical depictions for the educational value).

So there you have it.
What are your thoughts?

Monday, May 10, 2010

Five Things They Left Out of Health Class

There are a few things that seem to get left out of anatomy, health, or sex ed classes. Things that I learned much later, and wished I had known much earlier. So I'm just going to put them out there...

1) The Fertility Awareness Method (FAM) is not just for avoiding/achieving pregnancy. If you have irregular periods (or even regular ones) it can help you track exactly what is going on with your body from one day to the next, and help you predict--usually with very high accuracy--what day your next menstruation will begin. You don't have to be caught off guard. Ever.

2) A woman is only fertile a few days per cycle. It's also possible to track which days those are by using FAM. With that said, your body wants to get pregnant, even if you don't. It's wired for procreation. During the few days that you are fertile your body does multiple things to encourage pregnancy, including creating natural lubricants, opening the cervix, and having higher libido. So let me repeat, you are only fertile a few days per cycle, but typically your body is trying to beat the odds anyway.

3) Breastmilk doesn't come out of just one little hole--there are several tiny holes (5-10 in fact) on each breast. So if you go to shoot milk across the room (which often happens accidentally!) it may well look something like this ------>

4) Most girls are not symmetrical in their girlie parts. Since most of us don't look at anybody elses parts we don't know this, but yes it's normal. Most girls' breasts are not a 'matched pair' either.

5) At least one in four pregnancies ends in miscarriage. It is almost certain that you or someone you love will miscarry. Be educated. Be sympathetic. Don't pretend it isn't there.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Things My Mother Taught Me

My mother taught me a multitude of skills: sewing, needlepoint, cooking, childcare, housekeeping, gardening, food preservation, the list goes on and on. But this post is not about skills, it's about the things my mother taught me about life and how to live it. So, in no particular order, things my mother taught me:

(me, age 2, with my mommy)

Ask questions. Never assume that the status quo is the only way to do something.

Learn things for yourself. Make your own decisions.

Choose your own life. Be your own person. Don't feel obligated to go to a certain college or study a certain subject or give birth in a certain way just because somebody else did.

Whatever you choose to do (from a chore to a career), do it right and do it well.

Never stop learning. There is always something new to learn.

Trust your feelings. If someone tells you something that feels wrong, you don't have to believe them.

"A change is as good as a rest." If you can't stop, at least do something different for a while, and the change is as rejuvenating as a break.

It is worth whatever it takes to marry in the temple.

Each season in our lives has a different purpose and focus. In our youth we have a season to focus on ourselves, and we should live it up because as we grow older we will need to be focused on others.

With that said, take care of yourself. If you don't take care of yourself, you won't have anything left to be able to give.

What you think of yourself matters more than what anyone else thinks of you.

You can't kiss a baby just once.

Fast games are good--you can play several of them in an afternoon and still be able to change the baby and do dishes and make brownies in between.

If you can't find what you want, make it.

Breastfeeding is a good time to read books.

If it doesn't matter in the eternal picture, then it doesn't matter much at all. Don't bother getting into a huff over something that doesn't really matter.

People are more important than things, and family are the most important people of all.

There is no such thing as too many cuddles, too many children, too much laughter, or too many books.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

April FOs

Finished Objects for April:

For self/family
  • altered a pair of pants I've been meaning to alter since I bought them *ahem* 9 years ago
  • finally frogged out the too-tightly stranded part of Wolf's sweater and have started re-doing it
  • knit a 'ski mask' type hat for Wolf (I need to rework it, as I started the decreases too early)

For sale (photos linked)
  • Sea Turtle Diaper
  • Strawberry Fields Forever diaper
  • 2 custom solarveil hats (yay for custom orders!)
  • 1 more solarveil hat for the shop (I've also set up several custom listings for these, since customs seem to sell faster than the ready-made ones!)

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

I miss my brain

I would like to call them blond moments...but I'm not blond. It might be easier if I could blame this month on my hair color... Or call them "senior moments" and blame them on my age. But at 28 I don't think I can get away with that. Post-baby mommy brain-melt? I don't know what to call it. But suffice it to say that this last month I have had more than the expected number of extraordinarily brainless moments.

It started with the pan. You remember the pan? Nice, steel pan and I melted the thing.

Then I had run out of shampoo, so I bought more. Actually I needed conditioner too. So I went to the appropriate part of the store and was opening and sniffing bottle after bottle (3/4 of synthetic scents give me headaches, so I have to be very picky with my shampoo). I found two citrus somethings and brought them home. It was not until the 3rd or 4th time that I used my new products that I noticed something...
They were both shampoo. Well, one was clear and one was opaque, it looked like a shampoo and a conditioner! But it wasn't. No wonder my hair had been so unhappy. I had blamed it on the post-baby fall-out, but obviously that was only a part of the problem, and most of the blame belonged to my lack of brain.

So then Wolf had a big overnight field trip across the bay with his 4th grade class. They went to a marine biology field center to study tide pools and other groovy ocean stuff. When he got home he--and all his stuff--smelled like old seaweed. Of course I had expected that, and put everything straight into the washing machine. What I hadn't noticed was the red hat... so for the first time in my life, I turned white socks pink in the wash. I never did it in college, never when I was new to laundry...but now I did. They were new socks too, and of course they belong to my son rather than to me. I could wear pink socks, but a 9 year old boy will get teased unmercifully if he shows up to school in pink socks. And they are very pink. (Fingers crossed that oxy-clean will save them!!)


I know everybody has moments, but three in three weeks, well, it leaves me feeling a bit dense.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Femininity vs. Feminism

Once upon a time women in this country were repressed. They were not just "the gentle sex" or "the fair sex" but also "the lesser sex." They were beaten and abused and in most cultures had few if any rights. Once upon a time suffragettes marched for the right to vote. Had I been alive, I would have been there right beside Cady Stanton, Susan B Anthony, and Amelia Bloomer, demanding that women be allowed to dress as they pleased and vote in elections.Once those rights were secured, women began pushing into other things that had previously been male-only domain. They demanded easier access to education, and the right to work. They instigated legislation to punish perpetrators of domestic violence, abuse, and sexual harassment. Were these fights still being fought I would be standing there beside the fighters.

With equal rights established however, the movement called 'feminism' began to push for other things. It began to focus on cultural acceptance and approval for crudeness in language and behavior. It fought for--and won--the right to abort babies without medical reason (where are the rights of the unborn women?!) It fought to teach women that they cannot be complete or fulfilled unless they have a career outside the home, and to preach the notion that keeping a home and raising children is inferior to having a career. In other words, the feminist movement began to undermine all the things that made women unique. In the quest for 'equality' feminism has pushed so far and so fast that it has gone far beyond the mark, so that now women are fighting, not for the right to be women, but for the right to be men; or, more accurately, to be more than men. By demanding sameness across the genders, women are forfeiting the things that make us special and unique. In order for masculinity to be valuable, it must be balanced by femininity! As the movement of feminism gains strength in the world, femininity is losing the ability to be a moderating force in the world, or to create balance between masculine and feminine. This is not empowering anyone; it is stifling everyone.

I am staunchly feminine, staunchly pro-woman. Therefore, I can only conclude that in this country, and at this stage in history, I must be anti-feminism.

There are fights worth fighting, even still. Women are being held down in places like Afghanistan and what support we can give is worth the fight. Women are victims of domestic abuse in our own country, and what we can do to support and help them here is of course worth our while. However the larger 'feminism' movement in this country has lost the nobility of purpose that once guided them. They have turned toward anger and vulgarity to accomplish their goals, and their goals are no longer positive or even things worth fighting for.
If you dare, you might check out the post "I HATED The Vagina Monologues and So Should You" (disclaimer: the play--and therefore the post--have sexual content including pedophilia, rape, lesbianism and prostitution).

I conclude with a link to two inspirational blog posts:

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Beltane Bonfire

A local group put on a bonfire at the beach last night. Their intent was to raise awareness because April was "domestic violence and sexual assault awareness month." They spent a little while on that, but then much of the evening turned to drumming and roasting marshmallows and playing on the beach. I certainly support the group's cause (you can see in the photos some people with candles), but we also thought it was nice to spend a seasonally significant evening in nature with a bonfire. (The flames were not big for long, but it was putting out a lot of heat!)
Bear tossed a football with daddy,

and Hubby (and Wolf) got in touch with their Scottish heritage by throwing around some logs.

Medieval Meal

We've talked about doing this since before we were married, but somehow never actually did it until this year...

No electric lights, no forks, no spoons. Just a 'dagger' (steak knife) per person, some meat and veggies boiled in a pot, and a big blob of bread.

Corned beef, potatoes, carrots, all baked in a cast iron dutch oven (which I confess I put in the oven because I didn't feel like building a fire)

Honey Oatmeal bread, also baked in cast iron. We ripped off hunks rather than cutting it, and used it to sop up the juice from our meat. Mmmm, so yummy!

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