Friday, August 29, 2008
I simply can't wait to see the wonders she will uncover for us!
Thursday, August 28, 2008
If you push your children,
This morning while peeking around online (my little individual decided we should wake up at 5:30), I found this article by Paula Spencer from Parenting.com (via CNN). And while the title's a little bit harsh, the point of the piece is well made. The "gifted" label is one that gets tossed around a lot by parents these days. Because our small children show aptitudes in a particular area, we are tempted to label them as "special" or "gifted."
But these labels serve only the ego of the parent, not the learning experience of the child. Spencer highlights the importance of play at preschool age, rather than "academic" learning, a good reminder, especially for those of us beginning to search out preschools for our little "gifted" ones.
"Most educators believe that kids don't benefit from academically oriented preschools," Spencer points out. "Far more important is having opportunities to explore without constraint -- and teachers and parents who know how to keep learning fun."
In fact, parents who force the "gifted" label--and all of the pressure that goes along with it--onto their kids, might actually be doing their kids a disservice. Alison Steier, Ph.D., director of clinical training at the Arizona Institute for Early Childhood Development suggests, "Rather than ask 'Is this kid counting better than the others?' ask, 'Am I supporting what's interesting and exciting to my child?'"
This is an important message to parents, that our job is not to sculpt a kid-shaped masterpiece from an untouched slab of marble, but rather to help our children become who they are, to cultivate their minds and souls with exploration and love. We must give guidance and boundaries certainly, but we must also celebrate these fantastic individuals we call our children for who they are, rather than who we would have them be.
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
How about this one for grilled skirt steak with blue cheese potatoes?
Or spice it up with this authentic recipe for jerk chicken!
What's better than fresh summer veggies on the grill? Maybe this idea for grilled vegetable tostadas.
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
So, Meaghan needs:
A savage beating (What on earth could I have done to deserve this?!)
A summer intern (I'll take that; fall and winter positions are also available. Must do windows and diaper duty.)
Nick Jonas (He's a little young for me, but my beautiful 14 year-old cousin is undoubtedly his biggest fan.)
To buy (someone) a drink (Sure, this one's on me, Mamas!)
To eat more (Definitely not.)
Some gun advice (I'm not really into firearms; I'm certain I'd shoot off a toe or two.)
A home (I already have one of those, but if you're offering one I don't have to clean, cook in, or otherwise maintain, we should definitely talk.)
A job (I already have all the responsibility I need, thanks.)
A dress rehearsal (I could, for sure, use a few run throughs most days, before anything goes on the record.)
A pep talk (Yes, some positive feedback would do me wonders.)
Her own dating show (I've always said I should be on TV!)
Her Starbucks (This is, without a doubt, a completely true statement.)
Well, that was fun. What do you need?
Monday, August 25, 2008
I remember listening to it as a child, and I remember being a little frightened by it, just like she is. Perhaps it was the combination of music and storytelling, perhaps it was the majesty (to my very young ears it was majestic) of Prokofiev's melodies. Whatever it was, it had me pretty well hooked, despite the fact that I found it a little scary.
Or perhaps that's exactly what draws children--and adults--to it, and other enchanting tales, in the first place. I know that many parents find traditional fairy tales (I'm not talking about the dumbed down Disney versions) to be too dark or disturbing for their kids. And perhaps for some, Peter and the Wolf would qualify as too scary for their 2 year-olds.
Much has been written on this topic, from Bruno Bettelheim's The Uses of Enchantment, an argument for the psychological and emotional instruction fairy tales provide to children, to Maria Tatar's Off With Their Heads! which does its best to tear apart Bettelheim's theories; there is no shortage of critical work in this area. A few years ago, Tatar wrote a kind of review for Slate of a Terry Gilliam film, "Brothers Grimm," and included much of her theory and opinion on the subject. It's a quick and interesting read, and she seems to have mellowed her anti-Bettelheim sentiments. She reconsiders our 21st Century quest and "endless efforts to invent child-friendly fairy tales."
I fall more into the Bettelheim camp, and am a believer that fairy tales provide a "safe" way for kids to work through darker, more difficult experiences and emotions that are part of the human condition. Moreso now than ever before, after watching Olivia play out the anticipation/fear/resolution scenario every time she sits down with the book. It really is quite fascinating.
So, we'll continue to forgo Elmo and keep Peter around instead. And we'll make sure to crack open the fairy tale anthologies fairly often, allowing enchantment and wonder to rule at least once a day, as long as she continues to enjoy it.
Friday, August 22, 2008
Of course, health officials and doctors are concerned about the increase. A decade ago, they declared the disease "eradicated," and now, the numbers are rising. And officials point to parents who choose not to vaccinate their kids--many because they fear autism as a side effect--as the cause. But as NPR reports, "Dr. William Schaffner, who chairs the department of preventive medicine at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, says there's absolutely no scientific evidence to back that [fear] up." Schaffner also points out the serious nature of the Measles disease, cautioning parents not to be "cavalier," pointing to complications like pneumonia and encephalitis that can occur with a Measles infection. He reminds us that, prior to "the Measles vaccine in this country, there were 400 deaths of U.S. children each year caused by Measles."
The CNN article also mentions an outbreak of whooping cough--"which can be fatal to children"--in San Francisco private school among unvaccinated kids.
So, potentially deadly--but totally preventable--communicable diseases are on the rise in this country. And the rise in infection rates is, by many health officials and medical professionals, laid squarely at the doorstep of parents who refuse to vaccinate.
But those parents who believe unequivocally that vaccinations pose a real danger, are, as the New York Times reports, "unapologetic about the return of Measles." J.B. Handley, co-founder of Generation Rescue says "Most parents I know will take Measles over autism." Generation Rescue cites published medical studies on their web site, linking autism to the Measles vaccine (MMR).
Yet the return of Measles does pose a threat, especially for infants who are too young to be vaccinated. The more unvaccinated children there are, the more cases of Measles there will be, leaving infants more vulnerable to this serious illness than they were a decade ago.
I don't intend to stir major debate with this post, though I do think discussion is essential. This issue affects us all. I personally believe wholeheartedly in vaccination, and find the evidence linking autism to vaccines less than convincing, especially when examined next to the indisputable effects of infectious diseases. I have however, heard--and even blogged about--some frightening anecdotal evidence linking vaccination to autism, and even death.
And so, we are left to make these decisions for our families, using the available information to inform our choices.
Anyone out there feel differently about this issue? Let me know what you think.
Thursday, August 21, 2008
This double breasted coat by Hucklebones is perfect for my little Mustardseed. Beautiful Polaroids by the truly fantastic Jen Gotch.
Whimsical and delicate, these illustrations by Jayme McGowan have something of Chagall about them.
These are part of a beautiful--and slightly haunting--series of photos by Grant Cornett, which includes some lovely pieces by Neige.
Grab a cup, sit down and enjoy your browse!
Making informed choices for our families are what being a Mama is all about, right? I'm a food label reader, I'm the sunscreen police, I'm a car safety rating examiner, and now, I'm a hospital comparer.
A smart Mama is an informed Mama.
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
If you don't send me your mailing address in fifteen minutes, I'm keeping the giveaway...
Okay, I'll give you a half hour.
Thank you to everyone for sharing your advice, experiences and nuggets of wisdom. Reading your thoughts and comments is one of the best parts about giveaways, and blogging in general. I enjoy our ongoing conversation.
And thank you again to the fabulously generous people at philosophy for sponsoring this spectacular giveaway! One more reason to "believe in miracles."
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
A Mommy Blogger herself, Kirby ends up--as we all do, I suppose--finding sweet and lovely justifications for what she--we--do. And most of us, as she points out, can't imagine a day when our confessions, our outpourings of love or our particular brand of online humor would be detrimental to the very people we love enough to tell it to the universe. We cannot fathom that our earnest expressions will become embarrassments. And this is likely the crux of it. As Mamas, who are we really blogging about? Our kids? Please. It's our own thoughts and feelings we're expressing. True, our children are often the topics of our musings, but at the hearts of our online diaries are ourselves.
But this isn't necessarily a bad thing. As Kirby points out, many of us Mamas work alone. And so we have sought out and created a virtual village, a place to share, to vent, to laugh, to cry, and to seek acceptance. I think that, for many of us, blogging allows us opportunities for self-expression we would not otherwise have. This venting we do, these different ways we express ourselves, and the advice we give and receive, all of it may end up helping us be better moms in the end.
"'Yes,' I said. 'Isn't it pretty to think so?'"--Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises
Monday, August 18, 2008
Thanks to Taryn, Kim and all of Cristina's spectacular philosophic team! You rock!
Now, onto the good stuff. Please post a few words on your own particular philosophy, on motherhood, life, family, anything along those lines. It doesn't need to be long, just share a few words on what you think about it all, what keeps you going or what inspires you. I love to read your thoughts, so get to it!
I'll choose a winner at random at 10:00 PM Eastern Time, Tuesday August 19.
Good luck, Mamas!
Virtually overnight, a whole new crop of bisphenol-free baby and kid products came on the scene and Mamas everywhere switched to the newer, "safer" products.
This article from CNN outlines the newest FDA findings. Apparently, further testing has deemed bisphenol to be "safe," despite the fact that "93 percent of Americans have traces of bisphenol in their urine." There is, as you might imagine, some uproar over this latest pronouncement by the FDA. One of the more worrisome things about it is, as Pete Myers, chief scientist for Environmental Health Sciences states, the FDA chose to ignore "dozens" of studies by the National Institute of Health, relying instead on industry-funded studies.
Hmm. That doesn't sound too good.
Whatever the case, I don't think this is the last we've heard on this issue. And we won't be switching our sippy cups back to the bisphenol kind any time soon. At least not in our house.
Friday, August 15, 2008
Thursday, August 14, 2008
And yet on Time Magazine's recent list of 9 Kids Foods to Avoid, I found two of their worst offenders in my own kitchen! Most of the foods on this list, in my opinion, are not big surprises. (Fruit by the Foot doesn't sound healthy, it sounds toxic.) But two of these foods to avoid--Goldfish and Earth's Best Organic Mini Waffles--are regular eats around here. Both commit the same infraction; they're way over recommended levels in their sodium content.
I won't be buying more of either, and I'm also going to have to spend a little more time reading labels again. I guess I got a little out of practice. But it is worth the time because training a palate when kids are young, sets them up for a lifetime of eating a variety of healthy things. We give them the tools now for the choices they will make later.
Any healthy snacks that are favorites around your house? Share them, please!
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Lately, however, I've been sticking my pinky toe back into the professional world. Again I am able to count myself lucky, because the freelance writing work started to flow as soon as I decided I was ready to take it on.
But man, being a working Mama is tough! My focus is split. I am more tired than I can ever remember being. And sometimes, it seems as if I'm not giving either--my family or my writing--a fair shake. It takes discipline, focus and a lot of brute strength to be a working mother. At times, it can feel overwhelming.
So I thought I'd just take a moment to acknowledge all that we Mamas do in the home and outside the home to make our families run. I truly believe that the core of the family rests with the Mother. This isn't a slight to the Papas out there. Far from it. They make sacrifices of their own. And if they're good Papas, the sacrifices are all for the right reasons.
But it's up to us Mamas, at the end of the day. A Mama is the center of her family's wheel. Without her, most things grind to a halt.
So here's to all us Mamas. Whether we get paid for it or not, we're all working.
Monday, August 11, 2008
It is the gift of a goat--a goat they call Mugisa (Luck)--from people in a far away place, that changes everything for Beatrice. It is a truly moving tale about how "one child, given the right tools, is able to lift her family out of poverty."
Beatrice Biira, a 2008 graduate of Connecticut College, is the poor Ugandan girl in this book. Growing up impoverished in Uganda, Beatrice didn't have many options. But through the goodwill of some children in Niantic, Connecticut, and the aid group Heifer International, Beatrice was able to achieve a life and education she never dared to dream possible.
Read more about it in an Op-Ed piece by Nicholas D. Kristof.
Friday, August 8, 2008
The new parents are learning by trial and error--as all new parents do. But I found something on the adorably funny pottymouthmama that just might help. It's a book called baby-gami, baby wrapping for beginners. As you'd expect, it's a well-illustrated 'how to' for new parents, grandparents and anyone else for whom swaddling is a new--and essential--skill that needs mastering. This book will take the intimidation factor out of swaddling and allow every parent--and new baby--the peace and quiet that results from a well-swaddled babe.
Thursday, August 7, 2008
Witness: U.S. Olympian and gold medal winner, speed skater Joey Cheek. Cheek is an athlete and an activist. After winning his gold in 2006, he announced that he was donating his Olympic winning stipend to refugees of the Darfur conflict. He is so committed to this cause that he is a co-founder of Team Darfur, an "international coalition of athletes committed to raising awareness about and bringing an end to the crisis in Darfur, Sudan."
Cheek had planned to attend the upcoming Games as an Olympic Alumnus and speaker. He received his visa from the Chinese government on July 1 of this year.
Beijing revoked the visa 24 hours before Cheek was supposed to leave, without explanation. Beijing asserted that they did not need a reason to revoke the visa. To the free world, the reason is clear: Cheek is a dissident. A free thinker. A problem.
This is the reality of the current host country of these International Games, Games which exist to celebrate human achievement and ambition, qualities in direct opposition to oppression and violence.
I urge every one of you, as mothers, as citizens of the world, to stop and acknowledge the oppressive, destructive, virulent reality of Beijing. They are powerful, they are wealthy, and they have no regard for the individual. This is the Communist legacy, in all its terrible reality. And as the world turns to Beijing waving flags and cheering, this truth should not be forgotten.
A small, but meaningful, silver-lining is that Lopez Lamong, a Sudanese conflict survivor and member of the U.S. Olympic team has been chosen by U.S. team captains to carry the American flag in tomorrow's ceremonies. Let him be a walking reminder to the world of what Beijing stands for.
Want to know more about it? Check out NPR's report. Or Free Tibet.
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
Interested in delving into this further? Check out the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood.
Tuesday, August 5, 2008
So East Coast Mamas, this post is for you! Roy is conducting a MOMfulness Retreat Weekend and the details, as she forwarded them to me, are as follows:
Momfulness Retreat at The Omega Institute
in the Hudson Valley, New YorkAugust 15-17, 2008
Celebrate the end of summer by taking yourself on retreat! Join me at the beautiful Omega Institute:
RETREAT: Momfulness: Mothering With Mindfulness,Compassion & Grace
Momfulness is the spiritual practice of cultivating a mindful,compassionate, mothering presence for ourselves, our families, and our world.
This practice is not about motherhood as bliss or adding another thing to your to-do list. It can be used right now in the midst of dirty diapers, acting-out teenagers, and balancing work and home when it feels like you have time for neither.
Through restful and renewing silence, as well as lecture, storytelling, playful exercises, guided meditations, and group sharing, we let go of being overwhelmed and relax into mothering. We also learn six spiritual lessons for cultivating momfulness in our daily life: developing true presence, practicing embodiment, paying attention, cultivating deep compassion, recognizing the sacred in all things, and understanding the value of community. Caring for others does not have to be a distraction from sacred practice; instead, it can be the very essence of it. Mothers, grandmothers,aunts, and those who nurture others in so many ways benefit from this enjoyable and insightful weekend.
Tuition: $275 (does not include accommodations or commuter fee) Course: SM08-3702-124 Continuing education credits available.Register online at http://eomega.org
Maybe I'll see you there!
As I say, this really isn't news to me--or you either, probably--but to see it written out in all its caloric horror kind of borders on the obscene. Apparently, the National Institute of Medicine recommends that children between ages 4 and 8 consume no more than 1290 calories in a day. The majority of chain restaurants sampled for this study offered kids meals well in excess of 430 calories, or one third of the recommended daily caloric intake for kids. One kids meal offered by Chili's clocks in at 1020 calories. For one meal.
I'm not going to hop on my organic soap box here. And I'm not going to rail against the fast food industry, because I don't think that it's completely the industry's fault. They're just trying to make a buck like everybody else. And if that stuff didn't sell, they'd stop offering it.
What I will say is that I think we have lost the ability to savor good food, to appreciate the time it takes to prepare something truly nourishing. And I don't think this behavior is confined to our eating habits. I think we live in an unprecedented era of instant gratification. From text messaging to email to blogging, we exist in a world of immediate reaction, immediate communication, immediate results.
We have forgotten how to wait, and that there are things worth waiting for.
After all, time is all we have, and in limited quantities. So we should try to take it while we have it. Savor every second, before it's gone.
Monday, August 4, 2008
Let's face it, new parents need a lot of things: advice, sleep, someone to do the laundry, sleep, someone to do the grocery shopping, sleep and maybe even a good laugh, because things just aren't so funny at 2:00 AM when you've been awake for the last week and a half. This book won't fluff and fold, but it will crack you up, just when you thought you'd lost your sense of humor in the Diaper Genie. Offering activities from mazes to crosswords to "diaper Rorschach tests," this book's goal is to get you laughing through your tears. It makes not knowing hilarious. Which is great, because the only thing most new mommies and daddies know is that they don't know much.
Well, and that a nap sounds like a great idea.
Over at Cookie, I found this great little Q & A with Alan Kazdin, Ph.D. and President of the Yale Parenting Center and Child Conduct Clinic. His angle is to praise and reinforce good behavior, rather than focusing on--and punishing--bad behavior. He addresses tantrums and time outs and outlines practical ways for fostering a more respectful family environment. His tips are simple and make sense. The key, it seems, is consistency, which is the difference between "the lab" and the real world.
Any other advice from Mamas who've been here before?
Friday, August 1, 2008
This weekend, I think we'll try this delicious recipe for grilled sirloin, grilled corn and heirloom-tomato salad. (via domino)
And while we're savoring, we'll try to forget how quickly it's all zooming by.