Sunday, March 27, 2011

As Sisters in Zion

My LDS readers will be familiar with this hymn, because it's the official hymn of the Relief Society. Last March I wrote several posts about the RS because March is the RS birthday, this year I am touching on the topic again, hopefully several times, but at least today. 

This is the original version of the song, from 1874. In our current hymnbook, it has been shortened to just have verses 1, 8, and 9. They are excellent verses, to be sure, but I find the full lyrics very inspiring. I'm glad I stumbled across them recently. ☺

1. As sisters in Zion, we'll all pull together,
The blessings of God on our labors we'll seek:
We'll build up His kingdom with earnest endeavor;
We'll comfort the weary, and strengthen the weak.

2. We'll turn from our follies, our pride and our weakness,
The vain, foolish fashions of Babel despise;
We'll seek for the garments of truth and of meekness,
And learn to be useful and happy and wise.

3. We'll wear what is sensible, neat and becoming
The daughters of Zion—the angels of light;
We'll work with a will, while the angels are scanning
Our aims and our actions from morning till night.

4. We'll bring up our children to be self-sustaining;
To love and to do what is noble and right;
When we rest from our labors, these dear ones remaining,
Will bear off the kingdom and "fight the good fight."

5. Nor shall our attention be wholly restricted
To training our children or shaping our dress;
The aged, the feeble, the poor and afflicted,
Our labors shall comfort, our efforts shall bless.

6. "The Lord hath established the cities of Zion,
The poor of His people are trusting in Him,"
He makes us a source for His poor to rely on;
Oh! shall we not brighten the eyes that are dim.

7. Oh! shall we not hasten to soothe the condition
Of the humble, the needy, the honest and pure?
Oh! let us remember, whate'er our ambition—
'Tis our duty, our mission, to comfort the poor.

8. 'Tis the office of angels, conferred upon woman;
And this is a right that, as women, we claim;
To do whatsoever is gentle and human;
To cheer and to bless in humanity's name.

9. How vast are our labors; how broad is our mission,
If we only fulfill it in spirit and deed;
Oh! naught but the Spirit's divinest tuition—
Can give us the wisdom to truly succeed.

10. Then, as sisters in Zion, we'll all pull together;
The blessing of God on our labors we'll seek;
We'll build up the kingdom with earnest endeavor;
We'll comfort the weary and strenghten the weak.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

30 Days--Day 11

Day 11 - A picture of something you hate.

Well, this is a difficult thing to find/make a photo of...but I really really really hate hypocrisy.
I also really hate hypocrisy's little sister, lack-of-follow-through.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Separating Ostara and Easter

Most kids I know think of Easter as a day of chocolate bunnies and boiled eggs. Many of them get dragged along to church, and a number of them even know the story of Jesus being resurrected. But when push comes to shove, I'm pretty sure that if you ask a kid about Easter, they're gonna go back to eggs and bunnies.

My parents wanted to separate Jesus from the candy, so on Easter Sunday we went to church, told the resurrection story, and had no candy whatsoever. The next day, we would hunt for eggs and baskets for our Family Night. I remember at one point when I was 10 or 11 I complained that all our friends got candy a whole day before we did. My mother calmly pointed out that if she waited and bought the candy on monday, it was all half price, and she would be able to get us twice as much. I was sold! I actually went on to tell friends about it for several years--how no, we hadn't gotten our baskets that morning before church, we would have to wait for Monday, but it was ok because we would get extra candy that way. Clearly I thought along the same lines as most other kids in terms of where my focus was.

So I was already accustomed to separating celebrations of the Resurrection from celebrations of springtime, but it still felt a little sloppy... By which I mean that doing it on two adjacent days still felt like it was all one holiday, whereas I wanted a more defined separation.
And then I learned about Ostara.
Most of the things we think of as Easter symbols (eggs, flowers, bunnies, chicks) are actually from Ostara (even the name was snagged from "Oestre" which was a germanic goddess of springtime). Ostara is a celebration of rebirth and new life, so it does fit in spendedly with the themes of Resurrection, but they are not the same thing. One celebrates seasons and cycles, the other celebrates Christ's sacrifice for the eternal salvation of humankind. I don't want to mix them up.

So we separate the two separately.

On Ostara, we celebrate springtime and new life. We dye eggs, make egg/bird/bunny shaped sugar cookies, do spring cleaning, and have a big dinner with spring greens, eggs, poultry, or lamb. We may also get some seasonal candies to share with the family, but we don't have baskets or sneaky bunnies or any of that.

Then, on Easter, we celebrate Christ and the resurrection. No eggs or bunnies. We make a dinner of fish and honey because that's what Christ ate with the apostles, We also make resurrection rolls which are a family favorite.

A note about Ostara and Easter.  Easter's date is actually based on Ostara, because Easter (which is dated off Passover), always falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon after Equinox. This year, the full moon fell one day before Equinox, so the two holidays ended up being a full month apart. Last year they were only a day apart.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Happy Ostara

Background: As Spring reaches its midpoint, night and day stand in perfect balance, with light on the increase. The young Sun God now celebrates a hierogamy (sacred marriage) with the young Maiden Goddess, who conceives. In nine months, she will again become the Great Mother. It is a time of great fertility, new growth, and newborn animals.
The next full moon (a time of increased births) is called the Ostara and is sacred to Eostre the Saxon Lunar Goddess of fertility (from whence we get the word estrogen, whose two symbols were the egg and the rabbit.
The Christian religion adopted these emblems for Easter which is celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon following the vernal equinox. The theme of the conception of the Goddess was adapted as the Feast of the Annunciation, occurring on the alternative fixed calendar date of March 25 Old Lady Day, the earlier date of the equinox. Lady Day may also refer to other goddesses (such as Venus and Aphrodite), many of whom have festivals celebrated at this time (link).

There are deities from many cultures associated with celebrations at this time of year (you can read more about them here and here), but what they all have in common are the themes of fertility, rebirth, growth, love, and balance. Matronalia (a celebration of women and mothers) was celebrated at this time, and appears in our modern holidays as Mother's Day.
"Ostara" by Helena Nelson-Reed

Sumbolism: fertility, rebirth, balance (the balance of light and dark on equinox)

Symbols: eggs, flowers and plants, strawberries, lambs, honey, circles, triangles and tripods, birds, and fish (see here for more details).
Here is a fun little story about the origins of the egg-bringing bunny:
The modern belief that eggs are delivered by a rabbit, comes from the legend of the Goddess Eostre. Eostre was walking one fine Spring day and came upon a beautiful little bird. The poor bird's wing was badly injured and Eostre, feeling great compassion for the little creature, wanted to heal it. But the little bird' wing was so badly damaged that Eostre knew it would never be able to fly again even after She healed it. So, Eostre decided to help the bird by healing it in a way that would give it mobility and a little something more… She turned it into a rabbit!
During the transformation, the rabbit retained the ability to lay eggs. The rabbit was so grateful to Eostre for saving its life that it laid a sacred egg in Her honor, joyously decorated it and then humbly presented it to the Goddess. She was so pleased and so touched by the rabbit's thoughtful gift that She wished all humankind to share in her joy. In honoring her wishes, the rabbit went all over the world distributing these beautifully decorated little gifts of life and continues to do so even today.

  • Egg drop bread
  • Eggnog
  • Eggs (such as deviled eggs)
  • Honey
  • Spring greens (perhaps with honey-mustard dressing!)
  • Sprouts
  • Poultry
  • Rabbit
  • Lamb
  • Mint (mint jelly is popular with lamb)

  • Plant seeds and/or work in the garden
  • Take a long walk in nature to observe the growing things and the magic all around
  • Bring flowers into the house
  • Make potpourri
  • Dye eggs
  • Play egg games (egg rolls, egg hunts, etc)
  • Make cookies in the shapes of eggs, bunnies, lambs, birds, etc
  • Create with herbs (make foods or medicines)
  • For the married, have a fertility celebration ☺
  • Spring cleaning (open up windows and air out the house, beat rugs, wash bedding, do deep cleaning, etc)
  • Repair or get rid of broken items. Make fresh starts in your home.
  • Make a growth or rebirth charm out of a hard boiled egg (decorate it with symbols or words representing the desired growth or change, then eat it)


Friday, March 18, 2011

30 Days--Day 10

Day 10 - A picture of the person you do the most messed up things with.
I spent a lot of time trying to think of 'messed up things' I have done. (Never mind that proper grammar would be "a picture of the person with whom I have done the most messed up things...)
I honestly am struggling to think of qualifying things.
SO, instead I opted to go with "A picture of the person/people with whom I let loose and get the craziest"
And, for that question, there is really REALLY no contest:

My siblings
(this is from my brother's wedding last winter that I didn't make it to...but everybody else was there!)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Dance of the Dissident Daughter by Sue Monk Kidd

There is a great review of this book at With Your Mutual Approbation, so I won't repeat what she said, (you should just go read that review too!) but I will add some thoughts of my own as well as a few quotes.

The book has four sections, chronicling Kidd's journey "from christian tradition to the sacred feminine." The sections are Awakening, Initiation, Grounding, and Empowerment. The book is a little like a diary, or a documentary of her personal journey of discovery. She has excerpts from her journal, she talks about art she created, dreams she had, rituals she did, and her conversations and research during the time (it covers several years). She draws from MANY sources, some of which clicked for me more than others. Art, history, theologians, psychology, mythology, and feminism combine in her own personal melting pot of putting in all the pieces and creating a new self and a new view of the world.

I think the greatest point of this book is that it approaches the idea of the Divine Feminine from a Christian perspective. In other words, it does not discount Christianity, it merely broadens the view. 

I feel like I have been or am doing some similar things (pulling from many sources to make a new paradigm), however my own feelings and conclusions aren't all the same as hers. I think she makes some good points though. In the first half or so of "Awakening" I thought wow, this could be me writing this; but then in the later part of that section, plus most of "Initiation," I felt like I really didn't relate. In those parts she was pushing back against the repression she felt in the patriarchal society, particularly the patriarchal church. The LDS church is pretty patriarchal in practice, but it is NOT so much in doctrine (ie, we already have a belief in  Heavenly Mother), so I don't feel nearly so repressed or disenfranchised as Kidd did. As the book got into the "Grounding" part I started relating again though, and really liked many of her conclusions.

Kidd's experiences combined feminism with spirituality, and while there is a lot of room for overlap, I feel that there is also lots of room for separation. So I took the intellectual stimulation and lapped it up as food for thought...but without feeling any obligation to agree with any particular part. I was intrigued by her interpretations and insights in some areas, and more or less apathetic about others. In the long run though, I found it difficult to put the book down, and would heartily recommend it to anyone (especially any woman, but really any one) who is open to thinking about things from a broader perspective.

Here are a few quotes or ideas from the book that I particularly liked:

"I often went to Catholic mass or Eucharist at the Episcopal church, nourished by the symbol and power of this profound feeding ritual. It never occurred to me how odd it was that women, who have presided over the domain of food and feeding for thousands of years, were historically and routinely barred from presiding over it in a spiritual context. And when the priest held out the host and said, "This is my body, given for you," not once did I recognize that it is women in the act of breastfeeding who most truly embody those words and who are also the most excluded from ritually saying them" (15).
An LDS acquaintance recently made the point that women literally shed their blood for others in menstruation, the marriage bed, and childbirth. (Those, along with lactation and menopause, are the five pagan "women's blood mysteries" and are considered sacred, which I think is appropriate. How wonderful would it be to raise daughters to think of their bleeding as sacred rather than as a curse?!)
In a later part of the book, Kidd mentions that the phrase "El Shaddai" (used in the Old Testament as a name for God) has usually been translated as "the almighty," but in fact 'shad' is also a Hebrew word for breast, and the 'ai' ending is feminine. So another reasonable interpretation is "the breasted one," or nurturing mother. And how many times in scripture does God speak of gathering us "as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wing"? Indeed, I must agree with Ms Kidd that the Old Testament is actually FULL of positive female references.

"The question then occurred to me: Well, [if] the Divine is ultimately formless and genderless, what's the big deal? Why all this bother?
"The bother is because we have no other way of speaking about the Absolute. We need forms and images. Without them we have no way of relating to the Divine. Symbol and image create a universal spiritual language. It's the language the soul understands. 
"And yet--and here's the crux--the images that have pervaded our speech, thought, and feeling about the Divine have told us the Divine is exclusively male. They have told us there is only one form and that form is masculine. Indeed, the image, language, and metaphor of God as male has been used so exclusively, for so long, that most people seem to believe that God is male. 
"How many times had I heard someone say "God is not male, He is spirit"?" (137-140).
The author is writing from a mainstream Christian perspective, and of course LDS theology does not quite align with this--we believe that God the Father IS male--but we also believe in the existence of God's wife, a Mother and Goddess, His partner and equal. And so, while I would word the issue differently, I still have to ask--if this is a true thing, why won't we talk about it?

I particularly liked a part where the author wrote about Matroyshka dolls (russian nesting dolls). She had a dream where a wisewoman archetype (who appeared in a lot of her dreams) gave her a doll, and showed her essentially the wisewoman (goddess) within herself. Later she learned that 'matroyshka' means 'mother' and she was struck by the idea of a mother within a mother within a mother. I was thinking about that, and how a woman's eggs are inside her when she is born. In other words, when a woman is pregnant with a daughter, it is not only her daughter but also her granddaughters who are within her. Just like the mother doll. And if you go back through enough mothers, we come all the way to Eve, and to Heavenly Mother. She talked about sitting in the "Great Lap" of Heavenly Mother, just as a child would sit in the lap of an earthly mother or grandmother.

Kidd concludes with some thoughts about why we benefit from having female authority as well as male, and it is because the two sexes simply do things differently. Men are naturally inclined to create hierarchical pyramids, whereas women are more likely to create weblike networks. Men compete, women build teams. It is not that one way is superior or inferior, it is that they both have their place, and neither should be pushed out by the other. As women, living in a predominately male-organized culture, we benefit from finding or creating female authority patterns in our lives, because we understand and relate to them better. Just as I felt a greater understanding of the atonement when I thought of being a mother sending my son to die (rather than the oft-repeated "God sent his Son"), so too we can grow closer to God the Father (as well as God the Mother) by acknowledging the presence--and differences--of each.

"I think women understand that 
we create change 
as we live out the experiences of our souls 
in the common acts of life" 

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Yes We Cry

I have always told my children that it's ok to cry. (Have I ever mentioned that I have all boys? And that the societal standard is "be a big boy now, don't cry!" Well I refuse to buy it.) Everybody gets hurt sometimes, and everybody has a right to cry if they need to. Or to cry if they want to. And who am I to dictate whether or not an injury (physical, emotional, or otherwise) is big enough for crying?
So I don't.
My boys all know that it's ok to cry if we need to. They also all know that sometimes we need to go to a different space (for example, to our bedroom) if our crying is loud and disturbing other people. But it is always ok to cry.

Right now my 4-year-old is in an emotionally volatile stage, and has meltdowns over being given the wrong color of cup for his milk, or if the milk was not filled to a precise height within the cup, or if someone looked at him funny, (or breathed in his general direction...). I recognize all these things as being petty little things, but if he feels that they warrant crying then I'm not going to squelch his emotions. I'd rather he let it out than learn to be emotionally constipated. However, he also knows that his outbursts are not something that the rest of us want to listen to. At present he usually decides to cry, and then hops up and runs to his room before he bursts out with the wailing. Even when I know the crying is not genuine, I am not willing to tell him that he's not allowed to feel. He'll outgrow the meltdowns, but he should never have to outgrow being able to express his feelings.
So in this house, yes, we cry.

Monday, March 14, 2011

30 Days--Day 9

Day 09 - A picture of the person who has gotten you through the most.

My mother

(I realized that she and I have the same problem--as the mommies we are usually behind the camera, so there are not a lot of photos of either of us, let alone photos of both of us! Thanks be for wedding photos!)

Saturday, March 12, 2011

On the receiving end...

This week I lost my wedding ring. On Thursday at 11am I know it was on my finger--I happened to be talking with a friend about gem size (how random!) and I looked at my ring for reference.

A few hours later, at 3pm, I sat at the computer to do something and as I looked down at my hand I noticed that the band was there but the diamond ring was not.

In the interim I had done laundry, washed dishes, and run several errands...including spending an hour at the beach with my kids. I began searching the house and car, but my gut told me from the beginning that my ring was probably at the beach.

My ring has never fit very snugly, but it has never fallen off either. But cold fingers shrink a bit and I had forgotten my gloves so my hands had been nearly numb at the beach.  Plus there had been a lot of picking up/putting down with the baby and that could have snagged it and pulled it off. That was the only explanation I could think of for how it could have gotten off my finger without my noticing.

Ironic, I think, to lose my wedding ring mere days after posting here that it was my most treasured item. At the time I wrote that post I had no idea how much it would upset me to lose it. I am not one to get very upset over things--things are just things, not as important as people...but I definitely was upset. I even cried, which isn't terribly common for me (and surprised me a little, because I can't recall ever having cried over a thing before).

In any case, as I searched around the house, I also left a message on a facebook group that I'm part of. It's a local 'buy/sell/trade' group, and I had not even known of its existence until literally a week ago when a friend recommended it as a good place to sell our box spring.  So I posted that I had lost a white gold diamond solitaire with engraving inside and that I was pretty sure it was at Bishop's Beach, and that I knew it was a long shot but if anyone happened to find it please let me know.
In the first 24 hours several people commented and one offered to let me borrow a metal detector after the weekend, but I admit I was still not very hopeful. One little ring on a whole rocky beach. Even knowing roughly where I had been on that beach, one shifted rock could mean the difference between ever finding it or not. Not to mention the tide...
This is the beach where I lost it...lots of rocks...not a smooth surface anywhere
Then last night someone asked (on the facebook thread) if I had reported it on Bushlines. Apparently the local radio station does a lost & found, ridesharing, lost pets, and a job line all rolled into one "bushline" which is broadcast three times a day. So I called in and reported my ring missing and left my number. About the same time I called, someone (a complete stranger to me) replied on the FB thread saying that her husband said that he thought he'd heard a wedding ring reported found at Bishop's Beach the night before on bushlines... Well, nothing to do but wait at that point.

Then someone called from church saying that he'd found a ring. I surmised that his wife had seen my facebook status that my ring was missing. I couldn't imagine how he might have found my ring but he asked me to describe it and I started with "white gold" and "a square diamond" and he interjected "with three small diamonds on each side!" Um, no, no diamonds on the side. Apparently he had found someone elses ring.  (It had been in their truck and they found it when they were cleaning out--his wife had given me a ride a week or so ago so he guessed it was mine. But it wasn't. (Apparently wedding rings go missing a lot, or, at least, a lot have gone missing this addition to mine and the one that turned up in my friend's truck, two of my other friends said they have also lost their rings recently, and my new sister in law lost hers this week as well...they've been praying for me to find mine, I continue to pray for them to find theirs.)

This morning I turned on the radio at 9:30 to make sure I didn't miss Bushlines at 10. At 9:50 or so, my phone rang. It was a woman saying that the radio station had just called her, and she thought she had my ring but could I describe it. Oh boy could I describe it! White gold, square diamond, band soldered to the side "and it's engraved" she said, "what does the engraving say?"
home again
And of course, since it was my ring, I knew what the engraving says.
ever will I love you
She said she had been playing with her dog on the beach and saw a ring laying there and figured somebody would like it back. So she brought it home and she called Bushlines. She also reported it to the police (it'll probably still appear in next week's blotter).
I made my famous brownies and took her a plate of warm soft chocolate goodness when I went to pick up the ring. I thanked her profusely and told her she made a miracle for me this week.Her husband (who was the one who was home when I went to get it) said that as soon as I told her what the engraving said she knew I was the rightful owner. I guess that goes to show that it's good to get engraving on your rings, AND to have it say something unique!

This week I was on the receiving end of a miracle.
One stranger found my ring and reported it to bushlines.
A local radio station (run by strangers) offered a program where such a thing could be reported.
A friend had recommended joining the swap page at just the right time.
Many friends prayed for me to find it.
A stranger heard the bushlines announcement,
and his wife (another stranger) saw my post on the swap page and replied to me.
And now I have my treasure back on my hand again.
And I am very grateful. I love this community.

(and if you wouldn't mind, send up a prayer for my sister in law and my two friends who haven't found their rings yet...I am)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

30 Days--Day 8

Day 08 - A picture that makes you laugh.
"Hey mom, we're planets!"
taken in 2004, so Wolf (left) was 4, and on the right is my youngest brother (who was 3). 

(there are others...perhaps I should start a regular feature "pictures that make me laugh" hmm, I would have so many things to post for that... my kids make me laugh almost every day, and my husband or dog get the days in between!)

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Further Thoughts on Feminism

I've written before of why I do not consider myself a feminist, although I am staunchly pro-woman. I have never felt comfortable with the title of "feminist" because I disagree with many of the most-loudly broadcast feminist issues, particularly those that involve devaluing motherhood. As I said last May, I feel that the most loudly heard feminist issues seem to be those that urge women to be like men, and in the long run I think that brings down both men and women.

However, a few months ago I had a conversation with my friend Jenne who expressed the thought that she also didn't agree with all of "feminism," however she found that she did agree with many things, and felt like it made more sense to stand with it than against it, in spite of her differences.
Well that's logical.
She is certainly not my only feminist friend, but I guess of all the ones who use that title for themselves, she was the one I related to in the right ways in the right moment. And so I've been thinking... because I have a habit of adjusting my opinions when I learn new information, and that applies to parenting, politics, spirituality, and apparently to feminism. Perhaps I have more in common with them than I realized. I do not personally feel repressed, but I can see societal trends that are certainly disgusting and unhealthy (The "Killing Us Softly" series about images of women in advertising series comes to mind). I also see a lot of women who have been taught to distrust themselves, their intuition, and their bodies. I have written many posts here about trusting our bodies in birthing, listening to our gut in parenting, and I think that this trust of the female self IS lacking in our society. So while I'm not out burning bras or demanding a job as a CEO, I realize that I am something of a feminist activist when I write about my experiences or beliefs about birthing or miscarriage or being a faithful keeper of my home and family.

I still do not exactly consider myself a "Feminist" per se--I greatly prefer the term "Egalitarian," because rather than focusing on equality for one gender over another, it simply promotes fairness for everybody, regardless of gender, race, creed, or practice.
Merriam Webster defines egalitarianism as
1: a belief in human equality especially with respect to social, political, and economic affairs
2: a social philosophy advocating the removal of inequalities among people

However, if you want to call me a feminist, well, I suppose the boot fits. ☺
My feet. In boots. Sexy woman boots. With heels.

30 Days--Day 7

Day 07 - A picture of your most treasured item.

This is an awkward question, because it implies that a material item could rate highly enough to be a 'treasure' and honestly, I'm struggling to think of a THING that matters that much to me. The first 'thing' I thought of was my family, and try as I might I can't think of anything else that even comes close. SO, rather than pretend that something else is my treasure, I'll just share the material item(s) that I wear every day that represent my family: my mother's ring (with a little rock for each child) and my wedding ring (with a big rock for Hubby).

My mother's ring
Bear (garnet), diamond, Eagle (citrine), diamond, Wolf (alexandrite)

My wedding ring (and Hubby's matching one)

Monday, March 7, 2011

Gentle Parenting Question

I got this comment on one of my parenting posts last week, and while I don't know if I can give a really good answer, I will try. I would love it if any of my readers have ideas for this mama and would like to leave comments for her as well.

My son (3 next month) was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes last year and has to have his blood tested and get insulin injections before and after he eats. That's the reality--he HAS to have it done. Understandably, he hates it. And it's just getting harder and harder to get him to willingly comply. Being almost 3 isn't helping our situation, either!
I've started giving him a fuzzy in a jar every time he cooperates, but I hate bribing him. And, I know that it's bribing him and not really teaching him, but I don't know what else to do! We let him choose what finger to test, where to give his insulin shots, we sing songs to him while we give him his shots and let him choose those, we try to explain to him why he has to have it done (my husband also has type 1 diabetes so he's got someone else around to relate to), and we try to explain (as much as you can to a 3 year old!) that he can't eat until he has his blood checked, and that he'll feel yucky if he doesn't have a shot of insulin after he eats. I honestly don't know what else I can do to make it easier on all of us. Help!
I know that it could potentially get easier as he gets older and starts to understand a little more, but until then, I need suggestions on what I can do as a parent to avoid bribing him to do something he has to do. Thanks so much, and sorry this came out so long! 

Firstly, this is a hard one. I've never had to face something quite like this. I think the most similar thing I can think of is vaccinations and my son (of similar age) hates them, but that's one poke and then several months before another one...he hates them and cries but it's over fast and then we don't have to do it again for a while. Having to do it multiple times a day, every day, is a whole different ballgame.
I guess what I'm saying is I don't have any real experience to draw from, so I'm just theorizing here about what I would try in that kind of situation.

Firstly, I'm so glad that you care about how you do this. That right there is an indication that you're respecting your son and his perspective, and that is important. Obviously the pokes and shots are a medical need for him, but you're trying to do it as gently as possible (both emotionally and physically). I don't know your son or his personality, but here is a list of things I might try:
  • Since daddy has to test too, can they test together? Make it a team thing! Maybe daddy can do his own poke at the exact moment that mommy does son's poke. This was the very first idea I thought of. A lot of kids are more willing to do something if they don't feel like they're doing it alone.
  • All the choices seem like a good thing--picking which finger and which songs and so on. At his age that much choice might be a little overwhelming though (adding stress to the situation). Again, depending on the might be better to have always the same song but let him pick which finger for example. I might just pick a default backup song, so offer him the choice but if he doesn't want to choose then you have one of your own ready to go.
  • Kids thrive on routine, so definitely have a routine about it. It sounds like you have some good things in place. I find that the location--sitting on the same chair--can also be helpful (my baby goes to sleep most easily if I sit on the chair in my room rather than anywhere's just his routine and in his head that chair means sleeping time)
  • Explaining why is important. Keep doing that. He has a right to know why, even if he doesn't understand yet. Is he friendly with strangers? Perhaps the doctor would be willing to explain it at the next appointment (validate what mom and dad have been saying). Sometimes it helps to hear it from multiple sources.
  • Try distraction--this often helps for painful things. Can you get talking about a topic he really likes, or give him a favorite toy to play with while you do the shots? If his mind is elsewhere, then he'll feel the pain of the poke but won't have the mental stress of the anticipation. (Part of me feels like this would be trickery, to surprise them like that...but where he knows it has to be done, and you're just distracting him from the moment, it seems like a compassionate option.)
  • He might be a little young for this, but try making a chart. Not a rewards chart, just a checklist chart. Make a place to mark (or put a sticker) before/after each meal, to mark that you did the test/insulin. Every time he puts up the sticker, he knows that it will be a few hours before he has to do it again. It is similar to the warm fuzzies jar idea, but neither needs to be considered a 'bribe' per se I think unless the jarful of fuzzies can be exchanged for a toy or trip to the park or something...if the jar is just a jar then maybe it's just part of the routine.
  • How much damage would it do for him to skip the insulin shot once? To experience the yukky feeling? One of my children is a 'school of hard knocks' kid and seems to need to experience things before they set in to his brain. If you did that once, then afterward you could remind him how yukky it feels to skip the shot, so that the shot is the better option even though it hurts too.
  • Is he bothered by the blood of the finger poke? Or is he one of those boys who thinks blood is cool? Maybe there's a way to let him 'play' with that blood drop. Can he be more active in putting it in the monitor (does it have a 'start' button that he could press for example?)
  • I suspect that you usually utilize pressure to stop the bleeding on his finger, rather than the expense of bandaids every day... However at that age kids don't leave on bandaids very long, and they also seem to really like the pictures. After Bear's last shot he adored the "batman sticker" that the nurse had put on the spot, and kept dropping his pants to show anyone and everyone the batman on his leg. I don't know what your budget is like, but perhaps investing in some cool bandaids that he can put on his fingers (at least for the times when it's a bad poke or extra hurty) might help. He could help you pick out which bandaids to buy. That too could be construed as bribing I guess, but in my opinion at least having some bandaids on hand for wounds is just compassionate care, something applied in the moment if needed, rather than something used ahead of time to entice him to compliance.

I hope some of those are helpful. And as I said before, if any of my other readers have ideas, please comment! I'm sure this sweet mama will appreciate them!

Friday, March 4, 2011

30 Days--Day 6

Day 06 - A picture of a person you'd love to trade places with for a day.

I had a really hard time thinking of someone I would like to trade places with. My life may not be perfect, but no one has a perfect life, and I like what I have well enough to not be wishing to try out anybody else's complexities, you know?
But I did finally realize that there is one person with whom I'd be willing to trade places for a day. Or, rather, not to do each other's jobs, but to be each other for a day: my husband. I think it would be a great way to understand each other better.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

"Punished by Rewards" by Alfie Kohn

...the trouble with gold stars, incentive plans, A's, praise, and other bribes.

"Like most things that we and the people around us do constantly, the use of rewards has come to seem so natural and inevitable that merely to post the question why are we doing this? can strike us as perplexing--and also, perhaps, a little unsettling" (13-14).

Punishing kids is bad, spanking and time-outs and yelling damage their self-esteem and make them resentful, right? So how do we get them to do what we want them to do? Rewards! It's the magic answer for a parent who wants to be positive! Sticker charts, bonuses to the allowance, penny jars, praise... focus on the positive and they will do those things more, right? After all, the rats in the studies did!

But humans are not rats.

"...our everyday practices rest on an implicit theory of human nature that fails to do us justice. When we repeatedly promise rewards...we are assuming that [the person] could not or would not choose to act this way on their own. If the capacity for responsible action, the natural love of learning, and the desire to do good work are already part of who we are, then the tacit assumption to the contrary can fairly be described as dehumanizing" (26).

This is the second Alfie Kohn book I have read. The other, Unconditional Parenting, I loved and hated at the same time. It challenged much of what I thought about parenting--much of what I thought about human nature--and yet it felt very right. (His books are quite dense and take some time to get through, which I think makes them a little tiring...but it was worth the three library renewals to get through this one!)

I took notes as I read this book,  so rather than try to re-write everything from the book, I'm mostly going to just give you a copy of my notes. ☺

A Few Facts about Rewards (based on scientific studies--which he quotes extensively) 
  • Rewards are effective for getting a dependent being to do something (anyone who is not truly, fully dependent on you will stop responding to the reward)
  • Rewards are effective only for as long as the reward lasts
  • Rewards are effective at inducing compliance in the present (but not at instilling morals or ethics)
  • Rewards damage relationships. Peers compete, lack teamwork, and blame each other for failures. In the relationship between rewarder and rewardee the unequal status is solidified.
  • "Rewards are not actually solutions at all; they are gimmicks, shortcuts, quick fixes that mask problems and ignore reasons. They never look below the surface [to ascertain the cause or source of the behavior, nor solve it]" (60).
  • "When we are working for a reward, we do exactly what is necessary to get it and no more" (63).
  • Rewards diminish motivation, therefore "extrinsic motivators are most dangerous when offered for something we want children to WANT to do" (87).

The most notable aspect of a positive judgment is not that it is positive, but that it is a judgment" (102).I talked about this idea (of judging) in this post. I gave some examples of using neutral responses rather than verbal praise, for example "that's an interesting picture, tell me about it!" instead of "what a beautiful picture!" (Really, no matter how cute he is, my toddler isn't Michelangelo and we all know it.)

"Rewards and punishments are not opposites at all; they are two sides of the same coin. And it is a coin that does not buy very much" (50).

So, what is a better option than rewarding (or punishing)? Kohn shares a gameplan:
1--Begin by evaluating why the child is misbehaving. Did they know/understand what was expected? Were they physically and mentally able to comply? Did they try?
2--Assume that the child had the best motives (that are consistent with the facts). Usually they did.
3--Use the least intrusive method of correction or instruction that is possible.

Use the 3 C's
Content--are you asking for reasonable behaviors? consider the capacity of the child and the relative importance of the issue.
Collaboration--work together with the child(ren) to make household rules, create family expectations, etc.
Choice--(a continuation of 'collaboration), involve the kids. Bobby may have chosen to hit his brother, but he did not choose to be spanked--the parent chose  to attach that specific consequence; so even if Bobby knew about it, he did not choose it. Instead, involve kids in decision about how to resolve things. Teach them autonomy.

  • Be a person. A real person. A nice person. Use 'I' rather than the third person to refer to yourself. (like this!)
  • Model the good behavior. Remember that our actions speak so loudly they cannot hear what we say!
  • Explain why. Every person, no matter their age, has a right to know why they are being asked to do a thing.
  • Assume the best motives.
  • Emphasize perspective taking. Try to understand their side, try to help them learn to understand yours.
  • Do not rig choices when you offer them. (this post details this idea a bit)

In the end, kids need to feel love and positivity withOUT strings attached. They need our love without it being dependent on behavior. In short, they need unconditional love, and we need to be unconditional parents.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Parenting WithOUT Punishments

"When we use punishment, our children are robbed of the opportunity to develop their own inner discipline-the ability to act with integrity, wisdom, compassion, and mercy when there is no external force holding them accountable for what they do."
~Barbara Coloroso

We're all familiar with the typical punitive parenting methods: Johnny does something bad, Parent doles out a lashing or a tongue lashing or a time-out or a grounding or some other consequence.
And the lesson Johnny learns? As most of us who used to be children can attest, he does NOT learn to avoid the bad behavior; rather, he learns to avoid being caught.
In other words, the punishment was totally ineffective in the ultimate goal of teaching Johnny to do better things. It was primarily effective in teaching him to be sneaky.
(And, for the kids who DO internalize the lesson to 'be good,' it is usually based on fear...I say this from experience, because I am someone who even in toddlerhood had an intense desire to do the right thing, but I can state without reservation that a fair portion of my 'good behavior' in childhood was still based on fear of punishment. A I did my share of sneaky things too. I remember one particular time I got what I felt was an undeserved spanking, and for the next several years I justified at least a dozen acts based on the conclusion that I had already had the punishment for them. My parents read this blog, but I betcha they had no idea about that, did you mom and dad?)

We have a dog. We also have a rule that she does not climb on furniture or go into bedrooms. She is allowed to roam freely through most of the house, but I don't want the dog hair in my bed or bedroom and so bedrooms are off limits. She usually sleeps curled up right in front of our bedroom doorway--even when our door is open, she knows not to come in. (Of course we trip on her if we get up in the night, but that's forgivable.) Sometimes, however, when we're not paying attention to her, she slides a paw over the threshold. Then another paw. Then a nose... A few times she has come right into our bedroom. The moment one of us makes eye contact with her she bows her head and backs out again...but so long as nobody is looking, she tests the limits of the rules.

I'd like to think that my kids are smarter than my dog. If she knows how to be sly, then so do they. Do I think they can get away with stuff without my knowing? I am certain that sometimes they do. Do I want them to think that 'anything goes so long as you don't get caught'? No Way!! I want them to think about the things they chose, and make good choices of their own volition, not just because of fear of punishment. 

Do I inflict punitive punishments sometimes?
Yes. It's culturally normal and it's habit besides.
But I have been trying to use them less.
My oldest son (age 10) knows what when I catch him at something we'll be sitting down and talking about it (admittedly some of those talks are more calm than others), but it's pretty rare that I lay out a punishment as such. Mostly I ask him to articulate why he did what he did, and we talk about the reasons for the rules (including my entertaining petitions to change them if he makes a good argument for such), and we come up with better solutions for the next time he faces a similar situation.This method takes a lot more time and energy (and self-control) than just smacking his naughty little behind (most gentle discipline does). In my heart though, I believe that it's more effective. And my kids are worth it.

Of course, rewards aren't any better than punishments. More about that tomorrow!!

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