Saturday, April 4, 2009

A Few Lessons From My Family

My life was extremely…different before I had my family. Or I should rather say that my perception was extremely different. I had experienced very little joy and much anguish…and it made me bitter, to say the least. But this post isn’t about how miserable I was. It’s about a few of lessons I have learned from my man and our child, from my family.

The first lesson is politeness. I never believed in polite conversation, meaning I didn’t believe in conversation for conversation’s sake. This will sounds silly but I learned how being polite can affect people from my man. When someone says “Hi. How are you” he always asks how they are doing in return. I never used to. I didn’t think anyone really cared when they asked that I didn’t want to be that fake person who asks but doesn’t expect a truthful answer. People would ask me how I was doing and I usually would tell them to ask me another question. Now I ask they are in return because I see that it makes them feel good, usually. I also say thank you all the time. For example I say thank you when I get off the shuttle that takes me from the mall parking lot to the college campus. I know that if one person is really nice to you it can make your entire day better. Before I knew Scott I wasn’t happy enough with life to behave this way. Now I know it is worth it.

Lesson two: children make all the difference. I’m the oldest of five children and helped my mother raise two before she remarried and had two more. I love children. I always have. The way they perceive the world, their mindset, their love, it’s all so amazing…but I never wanted to have kids. My picture of the world was too negative. I didn’t want to be responsible for bringing anyone else into it. My friends say they always knew I would have kids. I heard the words “Yes, mom” from them many times over the years. I guess I was always trying to take care of everyone. Even when I couldn’t be saved I still wanted to save others from the harshness of this world. And then I met Scott. It may be fair to say he saved me.

This is where the story gets cheesy and I tell you that falling in love has magical effects. At first I hadn’t changed my mind about having children, but before long I was actually considering it. Scott is very good with kids (he mentioned something once about being on their level). Although he hadn’t said it directly I could tell he wanted to have children, so one day I asked him why. After saying “Who said I did” and me explaining that I knew he did, he gave me the best answer anyone ever could. He said that he felt he could raise a child to be a good person thereby making the world a better place. About a year and nine months later I gave birth to our daughter.

Lesson three: not anticipating what happens next. This began learning this lesson from Scoot and then it was really driven home by our daughter. I went through this phase where I asked many people what their favorite thing in the world is. Scott’s answer was “not knowing what will happen next.” The idea is very attractive.

I was the type of person that was always anticipating what would happen next. I have an analytical nature, including much over-analyzing. This came in handy sometimes. I was always prepared during road trips. But I learned from my family that this behavior was taking my attention away from the moment I was living in. Instead of feeling the warmth of the moment I was too busy thinking about what would happen next. In the hospital, after our daughter was born, I should have been spent every second being engulfed in my new baby, even when we had visitors. But most of the time while we had visitors, I was nervously deliberating what should be happening over the next few days. I can see it in the pictures taken of us in the hospital. I was looking out beyond everyone. I should have been looking at my baby in every picture, and it pains me to know that I wasn’t. If we have another child I won’t make that mistake again.

The lesson didn’t fully set in on me until L was over a year old though. I did make sure to start cherishing every moment once we brought L home. In doing so the idea of her growing up too fast hasn’t been a problem. Unfortunately, I still felt the need to most days to have a plan, and if the plan didn’t get played out then the day was a bust. But very rarely do things go according to plan when you are a new mother, or even a mother of three I would imagine. I soon found out that the days when L and I had the most fun was when we had nothing planned. It was liberating to feel the freedom from worrying about anything. We would just have fun. Nothing more, nothing less, and I now find these periods to be the happiest, most comfortable and care-free times of our (my family’s) lives.

All I ever wanted was to be happy in life. For me happiness has to come from learning how to be happy. I am continuously learning and have been provided with the best reasons and tools to do so.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Dolls are for Girls



When I was young a played mostly alone. Now, the boys didn’t want to play with me because I am girl and I was too asthmatic for sports. Every year when I was in elementary school we had physical fitness tests. I supposed they were attempting to asses our physical abilities for the sake of statistics, but I can’t say for sure. For one of the tests we were timed on how quickly we could run a mile. After the first two years I learned that I wasn’t going to get a good time so I might as well walk the whole thing and take the maximum time, I think it was thirteen minutes.

I didn’t want to play with the girls because I wasn’t at all interested in what they were doing. Dolls, house, patty-cake-type hand games, being catty even at a very young age, pretending to be a princess, none of that appealed to me. I remember as young as three or four I was playing with He-Man toys (I even named my kitten Cringer) and Transformers. I wanted to be He-Man for Halloween one year but my mom wouldn’t let me because I was a girl. Of course, I forgot all about it when she made my She-Ra costume. It looked authentic and she even teased my hair up like hers.

Why do I bring this up? I started a controversy today with two of my coworkers, K and A. Now mind you, it was more like friendly banter but I am very convicted regarding what I stated. I don’t recall how the conversation started but I mentioned that I was going to buy presents for two little boys whose shared birthday party my daughter and I would be attending next weekend. I said L was old enough now that I would let her pick out the gifts (with slight guidance) for her friends. She said she wanted to get Kyle, who will be turning four, a remote control car, and his brother Sean, who will be turning two, something with unicorns. But, I continued to explain, Kyle and Sean’s parents were of the type that boy’s shouldn’t be allowed to play with “girl’s” toys. For example, the mother had once mentioned that Kyle had requested a Dora The Explorer bicycle but she and her husband couldn’t bring themselves to buy it for him. Both of the coworkers I was speaking to agreed that they should not comply with his request and gave Dora’s cousin Diego as the alternative. I was immediately annoyed and this perplexed me for two reasons: 1) I don’t agree because I would buy it for my son (if I had one), and 2) Dora doesn’t engage in “girly” behavior. She explores the forest, climbs mountains, counts things, and solves riddles. There’s no fairly princess glamour or tea parties with fancy dresses. Fuel for the fire.

Keeping my irritation subdued, I listened as K went on about how her godson’s mother let him play with girl’s toys and K stopped letting him bring them to her house because he started acting “fruity.” I looked her right in the eyes and said “K, toys don’t make people gay.” She replied that he was acting it and she wasn’t having that in her house. I wanted to scream at her “so what if he was” but she’s my partner and you can’t afford to burn bridges in the corporate world.

After K walked away from my desk I went to the cubicle next door. Apparently I wasn’t done with the conversation. I asked A whether or not she thought boys should be allowed to play with toys normally targeted towards girls. She said they should not. I asked why and all she said was “because they’re for girls.” Oh, it was on.

Trying to keep the conversation at an intelligent level instead of it being reduced to a “you’re wrong…no, you’re wrong” argument, I chose my words carefully. I asked for specifics. Exactly which toys should boys not be allowed to play with. The main answer was dolls. Why, I asked, and the answer was “because they’re for girls.” I asked why dolls are considered girls toys. Is it just because they have always been perceived that way? Why were they given to girls to play with in the beginning? I’m thinking it was because woman used to be the sole caregivers for the children while men were the providers. Little girls were given dolls to play with to emulate what they would be doing when they grew up or to emulate what they’re mothers and grandmothers did. I told A that I knew she agreed that men should take on an equal roll in the care giving to their children and housework and the like. She agreed they should. I said “Well, then why should we stop them from doing it as children?” It teaches the responsibility, as MW agrees in his/her article “The Value of Playing With Dolls for Boys and Girls.” Again, the only answer was that dolls are for girls.

Both K and A stated there were no boy’s toys that are unacceptable for a girl to play with. I was even told it was because there is such a thing as a female tom-boy but there was no male counterpart such as a sally-girl.

While pregnant with my daughter I knew that I would try very hard to make sure she was exposed to all kinds of toys and all kinds of play. Even her clothes as an infant were varied, not all pink and lilac. Until her third birthday her toy box was equal parts cars and dress up jewelry. Twice a child older than her asked their parent or me why she was wearing a Spider-Man shirt when Spider-Man is for boys. My reply was simply “because she likes Spider-man.” When a little boy asked his mother I waited patiently to see what would come out of her mouth. I don’t think she knew we were within earshot. I was pleasantly surprised to hear her tell her son that anyone can like Spider-Man and explain that she herself has a Spider-Man hat.

Around her third birthday though, she was much more into dolls, princesses, and ponies, and she made it very clear her favorite color is pink. She does occasionally play with her cars and trains. Of course, I accept her for the little princess she is (I call her Princess Lunatic). I will just mention that in addition to the Barbies (I’m trying to be ok with this one. I will only buy her the ones that do not look like hoochies. Thankfully she wants the veterinarian Barbie) and mermaid dolls, she also wants a tool set for her birthday.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Breastfeeding is Hard

On posters in the OBGYN office and in books and magazines about pregnancy and babies you read that taking care of your health and producing breast milk to feed your baby for the first year of his/her life is a prime perspective. The benefits are tremendous. A healthy mother produces the exact nourishment her child needs to be as healthy as possible, and promote the best brain development possible. My daughter did not get sick at all until she began attending day care at nine months of age, and even then she was only sick twice before she turned one (it may actually have been that she never fully recovered from the first cold and relapsed). She also developed at a very favorable speed.

While there is no greater gain than the sound health and growth of your child, breastfeeding also benefits the mother. After the baby is born the uterus slowly shrinks back to its normal size. Breastfeeding speeds up the process. And, what’s the best way to loose that weight you gained during pregnancy? You guessed it - breastfeeding. By the time my daughter was five months old I actually weighed a little less than I had when I found I was prego. In fact, I couldn’t keep any weight on. Although I ate normally, healthy stuff to pass on to my daughter, she sucked all the nourishment right out of me.

With all the perks to my child in mind (I actually wasn’t aware of the extra rewards for the mother until I experienced them), breastfeeding was still tumultuous.

I have been through many extremely arduous experiences in my life; I was homeless at sixteen coming out of an apathetic and abusive home. However, continuing to provide my daughter with breast milk for the entire first year of her life was the hardest thing I have ever done.

My daughter fed exclusively off the boob for the first three months of her life. At that point I had to return to work. At first L would feed from the breast in the morning before I went to work, I would pump the milk out twice while at work and once when I got home, and then L would have one last latch before bed time. Eventually the actual latching on moved weekends only, and at around six months old L quit the nipple completely. She quit because I scared the crap out of her…twice. The first time she bit me it was a beautiful Saturday morning. The morning sun was shining in through the windows. I was sitting in the glider reveling in the feeling of not having to use the pumps. Then her sharp flat little teeth slid into my areola…and I screamed, and it made L cry. It was the only feasible reaction, but I hushed her and said I wouldn’t do it again. She latched back on and we were in business. The following week it happened again. Imagine a sharp slice like a dull razor on the most sensitive piece of your body. You’re going to scream. I didn’t jerk L off or jump up. I just let out a shrill that I suppose to L was the equivalent of me dreaming about clowns. She got scared and cried, and never latched on again. The pumps became the only outlet.

We were living in a not-so-nice neighborhood (no place to raise a child), which I had been trying to get us out of since before L was born. We did not have the money for the more expensive, better quality breast pumps. I purchased two of the cheapest handheld electric pumps available from Wal-Mart. Ever hear the phrase “you get what you pay for?” I now know these things were a joke. Near L’s first birthday, the day I would be pump free, one of other pumping mothers at work told me about how she had rented her pumps from the hospital and it took her only seven minutes a sitting to pump. But for me, five times a day, for thirty minutes a sitting, I (and my man if I was home) had to listen to the most obnoxious sound ever created. It was an errrRRR errrRRR sound like a dieing motor that made you want to jam sharp pencils in your ears. My man once told me that we should keep the pumps and if L ever tells me she hates me he will stick her in a room and make her listen to them for a few hours and tell her what I did for her. If I mention the satanic pumps to him now he gets bad chills.

Finding somewhere to pump twice a day in the corporate grey where I am employed was no pleasurable task. In a building that houses over a thousand employees there was one curtained area in a bathroom at the farthest corner of the building. There were at least three other mothers that needed the same space and always seemed to be there when I needed it. When I was able to use it, the bathroom always felt like a walk in cooler. Guidelines will tell you that in order for better let-down (when the milk starts to flow) you should not be in a cold area.

At this time I was on hourly wages (I’m salary now) and only had a specific amount of time I could spend on break. Instead of trekking to one end of the building only to find the pumping curtain occupied, and then trying to find another room, I began to sneak into these tint meeting rooms called huddle rooms. I would write my name on the reserving calendar just outside the room as though I was having a meeting in there. After a few weeks the first one I was using was assigned to a contractor who would be there for quite some time. The second one did not have a lock on the door and it wasn’t long until a woman whose desk was near by, peeked her head in to see what the noise was. She opened the door and just stared at me like her brain couldn’t process what was happening until I said “excuse me” in the most awful, powerful, hormonal voice I could muster. After that I talked the head of security into allowing pumping mothers to use the small room with a cot they call the infirmary.

Another bothersome aspect is what’s called a lull when the let-down happens. Your eyelids get heavy and you feel like all of your energy is being sucked out with the milk. Seeing your content baby during this time is like an immediate boost back to life. But when you look down and all you see is little machine that would look much better smashed into little pieces the lull carries through. Since I couldn’t get novels to stay open I brought comic books to work to read to get through this while pumping.

One final hardship I will share. My daughter started going to daycare half the week when she was 9 months old. The first daycare she attended was not so great and she would cry with relief when she saw me walk through the door. When we got home I would have to ump right away, but L did not want me to put her down. I would lay a blanket down right in front of me, put L there with some toys, sit in the glider and start pumping. L would cry and reach for me the whole time. I tried to cradle her with my legs so she would understand I wasn’t leaving her, but she would just sob. I recall one day had been particularly rough and being hormonal from milk production wasn’t helping. With L on the floor I began to pump…and L began to cry very loud. When the lull came I lost it. At first I thought I would cry to but I began to laugh hysterically. I laughed so hard my eyes dropped tears. There was nothing else I could do. I couldn’t take everything coming at me all at once and I didn’t want to upset L anymore than she was. Laughing was my only option.

I understand now why there are support groups for breastfeeding mothers. If I haven’t painted a clear enough picture of how hard it is to produce milk for your baby for an entire year let me know. I will come over with some vice grips, breast pumps, a frying pan (to help simulate the lull with a smack to the head),and the most annoying Yanni or happy-hardcore techno album, turn your thermostat down to forty degrees and get to work.

Check out this very awesome shirt I will be purchasing during my next pregnancy (it appeals to my inner superhero…maybe I read to many comic books). Yes, I would do this all over again for another healthy baby. I have to give the same advantages to any other children I have…but next time I am renting the hospital grade pumps.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Big Brothers Big Sisters Bowl for Kids' Sake 2009 - Team Nine Tailed Fox





I posted the information below a few weeks ago. Our team is trying to raise $1000 in order to support a child/mentor match up for an entire year. Unfortunately, we are only at $50 as of today. If you are intersted in helping the children in need of guidence and support please take a look at our team page.


I have signed up to participate as a team captain for Bowl For Kids' Sake 2009. This event is being held to raise money for Big Brothers Big Sisters. Our team goal is to raise $1,000.00 before the middle of March. $1,000.00 will support the mentoring of a child for an entire year. Please follow this link to check out our team page. Any support, any support at all, that you can offer will be appreciated, not only by my team, but also by the child you are giving time to, time that will be used to show them that they are worth our time, that their lives and well being is important to us, time that will be spent showing the child the love that is available in this world.

http://bowlforkidssake.kintera.org/2009/ninetailedfox

http://www.bbbsfl.org/

Friday, March 6, 2009

Noggin

Now, any parent who has read any parenting magazines or any of the literature lying around the OBGYN office has heard that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no television be watched by children under two. I have always been apprehensive about allowing my daughter to watch television. How much could I allow her to watch with out depreciating the time she spends doing something more constructive like using her imagination with toys or exploring the backyard? What kind of programming would have the most positive influence on her? I didn’t have a fair amount of faith in anything I had seen, not even when Noggin was first introduce to us when L was two years old.
I am sure most of us know of the children’s television station Nickelodeon. I believe the station began when I was a child. Think “You Can’t Do That on Television.” They expanded their programming with time slots they called Nick Jr. The Nick Jr. block aired programs geared towards pre-school and early elementary school aged children. While the Nickelodeon channel stills gives the Nick Jr. block to its viewers, the series shown progressed into being part of a separate channel called Noggin. Noggin is literally “Preschool On TV” (their slogan).

The first clip I saw on Noggin was from Yo Gabba Gabba. A green monster named Brobee was inviting carrots and green beans to a party in his tummy. The monster was an obvious person in a costume and the effects and background scenery was simplistic. But the “Party in my Tummy” song was so jammin’ it didn’t matter. That’s also where L got hooked to the station and Yo Gabba Gabba became on her favorite (and one of her father’s favorite) shows, along with Diego and Dora the Explorer (also aired on Noggin). The show has a very indie music/film feel to it.


Yo Gabba Gabba! (There's a Party in my Tummy !)
Uploaded by Materialiste


L turned three and began watching more and more television. It didn’t completely ease my concern, but at least all of the TV she was watching was on Noggin. I had come to know that ALL of the shows on Noggin were extremely educational and interactive. In fact, just in case you didn’t see the educational value while watching the shows, before each one a woman’s voice reiterates the list significance shown on the screen. For example, just before Little Bill, a Bill Cosby creation, comes on you are told that the show “enhances preschoolers’ social and interpersonal skills, helps build ethical values, and encourages an appreciation and understanding of community.” When I first saw these introductions I remember thinking that they were just ridiculous propaganda given to beef up the minimal lessons in the shows. Well, I knew I was wrong when L asked me to help her clean her room after watching the Wonder Pets. She said “It will be like teamwork,” teamwork being one of the main focuses of the show. Or how about when she told our puppy to jump in Spanish? I know enough Spanish to get by, but I didn’t know “salta.”

Currently L’s favorite show on Noggin is Lazy Town. Lazy Town is all about practicing healthy habits and improving yourself. Of the shows characters about half are puppets. The other half the main female protagonist eight-year-old Stephanie, bad guy Robbie Rotten, and Sportacus the superhero, are real people. Sportacus’ name says it all. He is extremely fit, exercises often, and always eats healthy (he calls fruits and vegetables sports candy). He and Stephanie show off their gymnastics moves while dancing to electronic music and singing about the day’s lesson. My daughter loves to get up and move with them.

Yet another great show on Noggin is Jack’s Big Music Show. Mary, Jack, his dog Mel, and other characters on the show are puppets that are in love with music. They hang out in Jack’s playhouse playing instruments, creating and exploring all kinds of different music. The show features music videos especially filmed for the episodes from children’s artists like The Laurie Berkner Band, Milkshake, and Music for Aardvarks. Sometimes the musicians even come into the playhouse with Jack and pals. Normally the featured bands are musicians whose careers are focused on making music for children, but every once in a while a broader spectrum is creating when they present artists like Nuttin’ But Stringz. Here is a video that my whole family absolutely loves. L even said she likes the way the violin sounds. The video is not great quality, but that can’t take anything away from the awesomeness of the music.


It isn’t just the shows that are interactive. Noggin is a mostly commercial free station. The only commercials you will see during the twenty-four hour a day, seven days a week preschool programming are for other shows on Noggin, Nick Jr. or Nickelodeon. These are commercials are placed between songs about seasons or animals, new word introductions, and something wonderful called Puzzle Time, all hosted by the same cartoon moose, named Moose A. Moose, and his bird friend Zee.

Puzzle Time is just what it sounds like. The moose introduces puzzles and asks the viewers to participate in solving them. He will ask about opposites and rhymes. He will ask you to choose which of the three figures is different or unique. He will ask how his friend Zee can get to a particular destination or ask for help following certain directions. He also asks for assistance in finding shapes, and I’m talking not just squares and circles. My daughter can tell you how many sides and octagon and a hexagon have from watching these puzzles. That is something I never would have thought to teach her on my own. Noggin gives me ideas on different concepts I can teach L.

L is almost four now. After expressing my many thoughts on how much television she was watching and how it takes away from time she could be spending exploring and/or using her imagination her father has cut back on the amount she watches. But when the TV is turned on she instantly asks if she can grab the remote control and turn the channel to “one two five,” Noggin. If she is going to watch TV I am content with her watching this channel. I just have to make sure addiction doesn’t set in (I have seen it creeping up). I strongly doubt that the children used in the study mentioned in an article titled “Watching TV no help to babies: study” were watching Noggin.
video

Saturday, February 28, 2009

To Preschool or Not to Preschool

They absorb what goes on around them, things they hear, things they see. They learn to speak by listening to us. They learn how things work by watching us like little spies. We want to foster this potential our children have to be taught. We want to be sure we have them as prepared as possible for their life-long learning tour.

We know this tour begins at home. As parents, we usually, instinctually, start teaching our children. The question is, at what point do we say they need a professionals touch. Kindergarten begins their elementary school career, but do they need preschool before that? Is it better to put them in preschool than to teach them at home?

My man and I both have to work full time, but we were lucky enough not to have to put our daughter into day-care until she was nine months old. We do not have family close by, so day-care was/is a must. After calling every preschool in the phone book I had found that they were full, the child had to be two years old, or had to be potty trained to attend. After interviewing some horrendous possible caregivers we started L in an in-home day-care. We had to find another within only a few months, which was fine by me. Something was just not right about the first place. The children didn’t seem at all enthused.

By chance we were told of a lady who runs an in-home day-care and came highly recommended. We interviewed R and were happy (really we didn’t have much of a choice if we wanted to keep our jobs). R was a middle school English teacher but had quit almost twenty years prior to stay at home with her own daughter. L has now been contentedly attending R’s day-care for about three years. L is happy at R’s house. She benefits from the nurturing environment R provides.

With things playing out this way do I need to put L in preschool before kindergarten? We started asking this when L was two. At that time we decided we would think about it over the coming year and decide before she was four…and the time has come. L will be four in May.

What do children learn in preschool? Three things: social skills, academics, and how to behave in a school-like environment. Between me, L’s father, and R’s in-home day-care, can we provide everything L needs? I believe so. Well, mostly.

Karen Deerwester of South Florida Parenting states that preschools are “…places where children learn to consider the needs of others and think of others as friends and partners.” While this is true, Deanna Mascle, author of the article “Does Your Child Need to go to Preschool,” and I agree that in a day-care setting children will learn how to play with others, how to share, and how to follow instructions. L does receive the types of social interaction that preschool would provide. The other four children are her friends. She even has play dates from time to time with one little boy who is only a month older than her. She gets socialization outside of this group as well. R takes the children and meets up with another in-home day-care crew everyday (weather permitting) at a park or the library. We also take her to the park and to visit family during the weekends. Do I really want to take her out of there just to turn around and take her out of another familiar environment in a year (she’s almost four now) to put her in kindergarten? She has done very well with change so far.

What’s my other option? Is there anything that she would be taught in preschool that I couldn’t teach her at home and have R back up? R doesn’t just sit around while the kids run all over the place. She is incredibly involved with them. She teaches them as they play, but she also uses school workbooks. One of the best things about her is that I can tell her what I am teaching L at home and she will reiterate it while L is with her. I go beyond the natural development that happens at home, although doing so seems natural to me.

Currently, L is considered very smart. She is very inquisitive and we are constantly feeding into that. But what if, by not putting her in preschool, we aren’t allowing her to develop to her full potential?

I was reading a parenting magazine some months ago and came across an article on the choice of whether or not to place a child in preschool. The only thing that struck me as particularly interesting or swaying about the article was the picture at the beginning. It showed a game of sorts. There were columns that had letters at the head of each. Under each letter were two inch think, five inch long strips of paper with words written on them that began with the letter at the head of the column. I thought, is this really what they are teaching them in preschool. I wondered if I was leaning the wrong way by thinking she should stay at R’s house. I realized I could play this game myself with L, but what else were they teaching that I wouldn’t know about?

Deerwater asks “But do you wake up in the middle of the night and write yourself a note to remember to find a new book to read about dinosaurs? Or create a hospital in the living room because you want your daughter to practice what it feels like when Mommy leaves to have a baby? Or build a three-dimensional cow complete with latex-glove udders for the children to "milk"? Good teachers are always thinking of ways to meaningfully engage children's minds and bodies.”

The only time I wake up in the middle of the night after an exhausting day of work, school, and raising a child, is when that child wakes up (often) or if the dogs bark (rare). But, every time I see the types of ideas mentioned in Deerwater’s quote I make a point of trying them with L. And with a decision to not put L in preschool I will go hunting for them. According to Mascle “A motivated parent can certainly create a quality preschool program for their child…” And motivated to do what’s best for my child I am.

Another mother, a doctor I am seeing, who has a child only slightly older than L suggested I take advantage of the VPK programs being offered. Because of her father’ schedule L is home with him 5 week days out of every two weeks. I am going to look into it to see if she can attend the VPK program, which runs from 9 am to 12 pm, during those weekdays. Being in this program would broaden L’s views. She can get used to being around a larger group of children. She can learn how to sit with them and pay attention to a teacher, which is something I cannot provide at home. While she loves the lessons I give her at home I can just picture her getting up during a lesson in kindergarten and trying to get another kid to play with her.

I realize now that her full potential isn’t going to be reached while she is four or five, and won’t be for quite some time. There will always be room for her to grow. I have confidence that, with the support from R and possibly the VPK program (hopefully they will let L go part time), I can teach her more than she needs to have a proper foundation for when she starts public school. She will be taught beyond just the bare necessities, of course. That’s what a dedicated parent does. Preschool is probably best for some children, but for mine we are on the right path.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Bowl For Kids' Sake 2009

I have signed up to participate as a team captain for Bowl For Kids' Sake 2009. This event is being held to raise money for Big Brothers Big Sisters. Our team goal is to raise $1,000.00 before the middle of March. $1,000.00 will support the mentoring of a child for an entire year. Please follow this link to check out our team page. Any support, any support at all, that you can offer will be appreciated, not only by my team, but also by the child you are giving time to, time that will be used to show them that they are worth our time, that their lives and well being is important to us, time that will be spent showing the child the love that is available in this world.

http://bowlforkidssake.kintera.org/2009/ninetailedfox

www.bbbsfl.org

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Obama Gives My Mom Headaches

Those who voted for Barack Obama to become president of the U.S. expect a savior; those who did not, view him as the national antagonist. My mother says he is a control freak that will lead this country into socialism. She complains this foresight is causing her to have headaches. Why can’t she see his good intentions?

Americans voted President Obama into office. The majority must agree with his intentions. We must agree with the means he is willing to use to make this a better country. We must agree that we have done a good job fucking things up and need someone in control who has the sight for recovery.

My mother mentions the GM bailout as an example. Obama allocated funds that would go to the company to save it from failing after having been in business all these years; however, the company would have to abide by certain stipulations. My mother says this is too much control for the government to have, that this kind of deliverance will smash capitalism. I disagree. Would it have been better to let the company fail causing millions of people to loose their job during a recession that is devastating our country?

Would it have been better for my friend to let my family go through hardship when he could have helped us through it? The bailout can be compared to some help we received recently. One of the cars in my household dyed. Without a second car we were unable to work as many hours, spent more money on gas because of trips back and forth to work and daycare, and had less time to spend with our child. My friend was kind enough to loan us just enough money to buy a good used car. We of course have to pay him back but we are able to make smaller payments than we would if we had borrowed from a financial institution.

In both situations money was given and had to be spent a certain way. In both situations much needed assistance was offered. The assistance made our lives less stressful and more fulfilling. The bailout meant millions of people still had jobs to make their lives less stressful.
Kevin, a writer of Leanleft.com, has the following to offer on the employment effects of the bailout:

Not only would that kill those companies, it would kill all of the suppliers who
depend on their business. And that would kill all of the companies that depend
on those suppliers, and so on and so on down the line. Anywhere from one to
three million people could lose their jobs from those effects. And that doesn’t
even include the effects from the loss of millions of pensions or the fact that
this would be the first major economic downturn with the new, draconian personal
bankruptcy laws in place. It would now be harder for unemployed people to get
back on their feet, increasing the economic damage.


So the government has the choice of pushing us further into recession or helping sustain employment for millions. They would sustain employment while making an effort to better other aspects of the business, such as energy usage.

So, what then? The government should mind their own business? In this case the bailouts are their own business. Kevin from Leanleft.com offers this example of how:


In addition to the savings in government outlays and increased tax revenues, a
properly constructed bailout could and even should be a long term benefit to the
country. First, any bailout would be an opportunity to force the Big Three to
finally address the reality of energy independence and global climate change.
That, and the breathing room to finish the management changes they have already
undertaken that promise to turn them into better competitors, should make the
Big Three much better job producers and tax sources in the years ahead. The last
auto bailout actually made the government money, and there is no reason to
believe that, eventually, this bailout could not do the same.

And so we see how this will benefit the government as well as the people of this country.

The bailout isn’t meant to last forever. Therefore, the government’s control over how GM operates will not last forever. Once the money is paid back the stipulations surrounding it are over and GM’s executives can go back to making the massively ridiculous salaries they are used to receiving.

Let us also not forget that GM does not have to take the government’s offer. They had a choice.

Let us also not forget that Obama cannot do this on his own. He takes more than one man to pass these notions.

Obama is performing what he thinks is the best kind of help he could offer people in trouble, and throwing in what he thinks is good for U.S., or even the world, as a whole.

It seems just the thing that someone with his track record for helping people would do. According to this article translated from Norwegian by the author of Raising Max & Evie, Obama, while still a Harvard student, had paid a luggage passage fee of $103 for a complete stranger. The stranger had been unaware of the fee and was quite upset. Her two suitcases had contained all of her belongings. This is not the act of a man whose intention or insight would lead the country he is responsible for to a system one notch below communism.

I am not saying that Obama is or will be the perfect president. I am saying I would like us to be able to see the mess we have made of this world and how, charged with the wellbeing of this country, Obama wants only the best for us.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Mommy, Where Does God Live?

I spent some time in my life thinking that I didn’t believe in God. Actually, I think it was more that in the back of my mind I knew there was a God but that it didn’t really matter because it was too difficult for me to being living the life I was living and think of myself as a follower of God.

After that I adopted this sort-of agnostic philosophy: If there is a God, he (he/she/it…for intents and purposes here I will continue using he) knows I am a good person, and as long as he knows that, I am not worried about the little rules and regulations of religion.

I still feel that organized religion can suck the goodness out of God’s lessons, but within the first year after I had my daughter I had an epiphany. I was sitting on the love seat, the only sitting furniture in our tiny apartment besides a rocking chair, with my man one night. We were talking about religion and how the formalities and regulations of it ruin Christian spirituality. I stated the philosophy in the above paragraph.
We began speaking about miracles and decided that our daughter was a miracle. All babies are miracles.

That’s when it hit me like a blinding, yet gentle light. I know there is a god. I have always known; I just didn’t want to believe it. This realization suddenly made certain things much easier. I could explain death to my daughter. I could pray and give thanks for receiving her.

The idea of church still does not appeal to me. I ask too many questions. I find too many inconsistencies. I have too much to say about how the bible has been rewritten so many times.

Our relationship with God is personal. There is nothing wrong with worshipping together. In fact, I understand the need that others have for the church type of community as described by Jeff Lindsay is his blog-post entitled “Jesus Alone – No Need for Church.” I understand the need for support from those who have the same beliefs. But I feel that my spirituality is my own and I choose to share it with my family: my man and my daughter. I try to be supportive of others, spiritually or otherwise, everyday. And I feel I receive more from encountering a vast array of people since my sensibilities seem to be somewhat…strange. (I should also probably throw in here that in a way I am glad for churches. I love the aesthetics of ancient churches and want to tour those in Europe.)

Some months ago I found myself making comments to my daughter referencing God. She asked me why our noses are the way they are and I answered “Because that is how God made us.” The first time she asked me who God was I was speechless. Her three year-old attention span kicked in and she was distracted from her question by something outside of the car window. When we got home I told her father that I wasn’t sure what to say and I basically got scolded for not answering her. I went to her and told her that God is everywhere and he made everything. She accepted that answer and moved right along.

Not long after we began having discussions about the idea that God made everything. We turned it into a favorite type of game. When she has learned a new concept she will ask me to say something and she will tell me yes or no. For example, to teach the difference between lying and telling the truth and lying and pretend I would say something to her and ask her which it was. “Angelina hit me. Is this a lie or the truth? Mommy turned into a monster with blue teeth. Is this pretend or a lie?” For the God made everything scenario I let her ask me the questions. She asked me if God made puppies. I said yes. She asked me if God made houses. I told her “No. People make houses, but God made the stuff that the people use to make the houses.”

Last month my daughter and I were roaming the isles at a craft store. Near the front was a large picture of President Obama. I asked L if she knew who was in the picture. She got a very bright look on her face and in a hopeful tone she said “God!” (Please don’t tell my mother this. I fear she may be close to saying the president I voted for is the anti-Christ). I corrected her with a giggle and when I asked her the same question last night during Obama’s press conference made sure to tell her it wasn’t God first.

Last week my sister called me as we were leaving to take L to day care to tell me that her friend did indeed deliver her baby, but that he was born with a fever, had stopped breathing for a minute, and was sick. Before ending the call I told her I would pray for her friend and her son. I hung up and thought this would be a good time to explain to L what praying is. I asked if she knew what it was and she responded she did not. I told her that praying is when you talk to God. I asked her if she remembered my sister’s friend and she said she did. I told her that she had a baby, that the baby was sick, and that I was going to pray to ask God if it was ok with him, that he makes sure the baby got better. And with the utmost conviction L asks me “Well, what did he say?” It doesn’t get much better than a three year-old asking questions like this. I told her that God doesn’t usually answer with words, that we would just have to wait and see if the baby got better.

The other night in the car she said she wanted God for her birthday that’s coming up in a few months. We got to tell her that you have God everyday, not just on your birthday.

Last night L asked me where God lives. I told her everywhere, but then told her that God lives in Heaven. She said, “No. What road does he live on?” (She just learned our address). I told her I wasn’t sure if there are roads in heaven. She told there are and that they are dirt roads. Giggle, giggle.

It amazes me how easily children of this age grasp the concept of God. Maybe we adults over complicate it. Oh, the lessons I learn from my child.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Morality: Black and White?

Morality is the motivation that drives reasoning of right and wrong.

How many of us believe that to every problem the moral choice is black or white? How many of us believe there are gray areas?

On the phone last night my mother was telling me in an exasperated voice that when she was employed at a military university cafeteria she overheard one student tell another that she should be fine because nothing is ever black and white, it’s always gray. My mother vehemently disagrees. My response to that was to ask her if she thought there could be, not that there is but that there could be, one set of rules that could possibly govern and provide the correct moral answer for every situation. The question came from an essay I had read the night before by Gareth McCaughan on utilitarianism. He states:


Firstly, about rules. There are a lot of rules in the Bible, and many Christian
communities have come up with others (either deduced from the ones in the Bible,
or not). I distrust rules, even when they come from the very most reliable
sources. It seems improbable to me that any finite collection of rules can
really give a perfectly accurate account of what one should and should not
do.

McCaughan is stating this as an introduction to the question of what a satisfactory set of ethics would be. He attempts to pit Christianity against utilitarianism and then, in the same essay, attempts to take Christian ethics and use them as a basis for utilitarianistic thinking.

Now, up until last night I would be perfectly content with my answer to the question posed to my mother (and implied by the last sentence in the quote) as being “no.” It’s very easy to say that many situations are to complicated, complex, and convoluted for any one basic set of rules to be able to truly guide you.

Take, for example, a situation (which I think I recall from my college ethics class) where a man’s wife is dyng. He does not have the money to purchase the medicine that would save her life. The pharmacy refuses to give the man the medicine or allow him to pay for it in installments. The man is contemplating stealing the medicine he needs to save his wife.

Most of us are going to say that this situation is not, cannot be, black and white. On the one hand we know stealing is wrong. And on the other, is it right for the man to allow his wife to die when he can prevent it?

So, after dropping the question on my mother she gives the answer that I knew she would (but I was using the question as a segue to the example above). She said “There is one [set of finite rules].” She, of course, was referring to the Ten Commandments. In response to which I asked her, really more just contemplating that asking, if there is a commandment appropriate to govern every situation in which a person has to make a moral decision. And being an unwavering Christian, she said there is.

Here I began my normal critical analysis out load. I gave my mother the situation I mentioned above and asked her to use the moral code from the bible to deduce the correct resolution. She said stealing is wrong no matter how it is justified. It doesn’t mean that anyone would let their wife die because of it; it just means that stealing is wrong.

However, the commandments also teach us that life is sacred. The man would be choosing one sin over another. There is nothing in the bible, that I am aware of, that gives one sin precedence over another, no instructions on how to reason morally. McCaughan says as much in the same article I mentioned above.



It is tempting to infer from the absence of an ethical system in the Bible that
there is none (beyond the requirement to do the perhaps-opaque will of God); but
there is no justification for this, even if one takes a very high view of the
authority of Scripture. If you are going to rescue someone from drowning, you
just throw them a rope and tell them to grab it; you don't try to give them
swimming lessons.

Here McCaughan is saying that while the commandments are laid out, there is no further instruction for following them, no structured guidance for the situations we will face as humans.

It is true that an easy look at the commandments can leave a person feeling like there is something missing. You begin to ask “well, if this certain situation came up would I really have a choice and would my action really be a sin.”

I often find my self asking other questions like “What about the killing during war? How can Christians volunteer for the military? If you killed someone in self-defense, is it a sin? Is it considered suicide if...” and other such questions. Usually the response is "I don't know. I'm not God."

So, as I have said, before last night my answer was that most situations leave you in shades of gray. But the reality of it is quite simple according to the commandments, and I see it this way now. The actions you take, if they are a sin and no matter the reasons, are black and white. The reasons for choosing to sin are shades of gray…and purple…and red…and aquamarine, etc. Stealing will always be a sin, as will killing, and so on.
However, if God can see the struggles we face his judgment can be sound. We must look at our situations with an honest eye and see if we really put ourselves there. If we are the cause for the reason to sin God may not be as forgiving as if we are not.



As a side note: In regards to the cited essay. I don’t think McCaughan is half as intelligent as he tries to make himself sound. I think he is making excuses for his indecisiveness in knowing himself. Based on his web site I infer that he is a jackass.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Wolves in the Walls


When I hear the name Neil Gaiman I think of Sandman comics, graphic novels with mature adult content that I won’t let my daughter read until she is twenty-seven (even though I started reading them when I was a teenager…mother’s prerogative). I don’t think of a child’s story. So, of course I was quite intrigued when I saw The Wolves in the Walls written by Mr. Gaiman sitting near the graphic novels in my favorite comic book shop.

I was immediately drawn to the aesthetics, but I did not purchase it. The page where the family is brandishing chair legs put me off. I didn’t want my daughter to read anything that was violent. I guess I should have kept reading.

A few months later we visited the public library and The Wolves in the Walls was displayed on a shelf that would have been eye level to an eight year old as we entered the children’s area. I was drawn to it like a dog to food. I snatched it right off the shelf and wondered if I should bother checking it out. Maybe I should wait until my three year old is a seven year old. Would it frighten my daughter like I knew it would another three year old at her daycare that worries about a giant spider with a large mouth coming to visit him at night?

I asked L (my daughter) if she wanted to get it. She took a quick look at the cover and said yes.

That night as I began to read The Wolves in the Walls to L, I prepared myself to give another talk on what is real and what is pretend, complete with the examples routine that she is so fond of. “If I say that mommy has pink eyes and blue teeth, is that real or pretend?” However, none of this was necessary. She loved the book.

The Wolves in the Walls takes the classic idea of a child knowing that something is not quite right yet no one listens to her, and twists it just right. A little girl named Lucy hears noises coming from inside the walls of her house, “…sneaking, creeping, crumpling noises,” and she knows it’s the noise of wolves hiding in there. She tries to tell the rest of her family, but to no avail. Although they don’t particularly believe her, her mother, father, and little brother all tell her (my daughter’s favorite line) “if the wolves com out of the walls, it’s all over.” Lucy questions this statement with a critical tongue each time it is alleged. The next night the noises stop, but then, suddenly, the wolves come out of the walls. The family flees from their home, only to take refuge in their garden where Lucy’s mother, father, and brother discuss other farfetched places they can live, places were there aren’t any wolves. Lucy, however, isn’t so ready to give up her home. Later that night she sneaks back into her house and through walls to her room, so she can rescue her treasured pig puppet. While in the house she witnesses the wolves doing the kinds of things you would do only in a house that did not belong to you. The next night Lucy convinces her family to go back into the house to sleep inside the same walls where the wolves had been waiting to break out. They didn’t sleep long because they were awakened by the sounds of the wolves having a party. Finally, the family gets fed up and Lucy leads them out of the walls to confront the wolves. How do the wolves react? They scream “…when the people come out of the walls, it’s all over” and dash out of the house. The family is able to get everything back to normal. But when Lucy heard “…a noise that sounded exactly like an elephant trying not to sneeze” she decides to keep it just between her and her pig puppet.

This book is a fantastic read. The words entice the reader to keep reading, even if the reader thinks the illustrations are a little creepy. Personally, I think they are great. The art is captivating for adults and children. There is so much to look at on each page that their eyes are glued to the book while being read to, which enhances what is being read. The art is a montage of what seems to be painting, pen drawing, photographs and computer graphics. The semi-abstract human characters both blend in with and stand out against their abstract back grounds. The wolves are brawn in ink or felt pin. All of the human elements (clothing, furniture) that are shown with the wolves remain in the same abstract form that they were seen in with the humans in the picture, which provide charismatic contrast. The bright, smooth texture of Lucy’s father’s tuba, the video game the wolves play on the television, and fire in the garden are quite distinct against the earth tones used throughout the rest of the book.

The person inhabiting username DuMarigny on the Common Sense Media website says that the family’s “…actions and conversations are similarly disjointed and confusing.” I have to disagree. If a child is able to read the book on their own and maybe learning about writing, they can absorb a real sense of the effectiveness of ordering within the story. They can also learn about syntax, as it is clearly triumphant in this book.

DuMarigny also states “…the action and images in the book are so distressing that there can be little understanding…to be gained from this story.” I think this reviewer is having trouble coping with a book that steps just a bit outside the norm. The book does hold some similarities with other excellent children’s literature. It gives the message that you should be yourself and stick to your beliefs when others doubt you or don’t agree. It gives the message of not giving up in the face of adversity. The book is wonderfully imaginative. But, as I have stated, with younger children you may need to be prepared for a talk on real and pretend.

The only part of this book that I am not sure works for it’s child readers takes place as Lucy is about to convince her family to retreat back to their house. After a line up of ‘what’s’ from her family Gaiman throws in another “what” from the Queen of Melanesia, who apparently stopped by to help with gardening. While I adore profound and nonsensical jabs that come out of nowhere I’m not sure a child reader would appreciate this. The only other show of the Queen is a page earlier where you see only her hands in the lower left corner cutting the grass with pruning shears, and you really have to be looking for that to see it. I must find test this book on children older than three to see if they catch the pure silliness.

On a 1 to 10 scale, I give this book, written by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by his long time counterpart Dave McKean, a 10. No doubt. Some reviews claim the book is for children six to eight and up, but I have seen it listed for ages four to eight. While the book seems like it may be for older children, my three year old loves it (OK, she’ll be four in less than four months). If I had to put up defining ages I would say four to ten, but with a comment on how it could inspire children even older than that. In her review, Carlie Kraft Webber wrote that “…this is most definitely a book for older readers.” I agree, somewhat. While I was willing to give a try with my daughter, knowing that I could explain the difference between truth and a story, I would not let her take it to daycare with her when she asked, for I knew that it would frighten the little boy with the giant spider in his room.

…and, oh yeah, it is fantastically creepy.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

J

This morning as I was getting breakfast in the cafeteria at work I received …some bad news (these words can’t describe). One of my work friends (you know, one of those people you share your time with but if you were to leave the company, more than likely the friendship wouldn’t sustain) had just found out that her grandson had died. He was only three. three fucking years old. Six months younger than my daughter. He had been at my daughter’s second birthday party. At the party we kept trying to engage him but he seemed to be in his own little “J” world until I have him a little toy that twisted all over the place and had beads for noise, something simple.

At the time I received this news my friend did not know how it had happened and no one would tell her over the phone; however, she had her suspicions. Her daughter, J’s mother, is involved with a man who she allowed to hit J. They just had a baby together 6 months ago. My friend had called the authorities to report the abuse. Both children had already been taken away from the mother once and they are/were still investigating the man and J’s mother, if you can call her that. I mean she birthed him, but what beyond that? It was her responsibility to keep this child safe.

Of course I do realize that there is a possibility that my friend’s suspicions will not prove justified. That thought is the only thing keeping me from punching something.

I think I was in that denial stage at first because it took a few minutes for the news to sink in. Then I started crying. Another friend of mine was telling me that if J was being abused then he is in a better place, with God. This thought is what brought me back around when I started to slip so many times today.

But the idealist in me comes out. I’m not the person who thinks “things are bad but that’s the way the world is.” In my head, in this thought’s place is “It shouldn’t be that way. I will never accept the wrong and I will do whatever I can to change it.” This perspective battles with the comforting ideas my friend is trying to give me. J (and his baby sister) should never have been in this situation in the first place. He’s safe now.

I asked my grandmother once why we cry so when someone dies if we believe they go to a better place. The thought was provoked because I was telling her how I wish my grandfather, who had passed away eight years prior, could have met my daughter. Of course he will get to meet her, and he is probably looking at her right now. I will never forget the answer my grandmother gave. She said when someone dies we aren’t crying for them. We’re crying for the whole that is left in us when they are gone.

Right now I am feeling like the things I have been fretting over are somewhat petty. Any day that I still have my daughter is a good day.


“There was no way out except to keep going and hope there was a shining white light somewhere, with the voices of dead loved ones calling from inside it.”

- from Wounds by Jemiah Jefferson

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Enter the Rockin’ Mommy Blog.

The idea for this blog was birthed from a dilemma brought to surface in one of my attempts to persuade a friend of mine to move back to Florida. We discussed that neither of us were succeeding in finding mommy friends. We simply do not have much in common with the moms we meet, other than the fact that we have children. Some moms cannot even get past my tattoos and lip ring long enough to hear me speak on my parenting philosophies, teaching philosophies, or anything else.

This blog will be written from the perspective of a mom from the radical end of the conservative/radical spectrum. Here I can not only share and engage in conversation with other parents like me, but hopefully open the eyes of those more conservative, show them that just because a person has tattoos or piercings, or dyes his or her hair unnatural colors, does not mean that he or she is a bad parent.

The main focus of this blog will be parenting, but I will mix it up a bit. I want to give my perspectives on parenting and provide other parents with respectable resources. In addition to my wisdom (or opinions, depending on how you want to look at it), postings could include links to hard to find alternative clothing (for adults and children), introducing new music (for adults and children), tattoo artist finds, art finds, good literature, and any thing else that appeals to me or that I think might be enjoyed.

I want to encourage other parents to share their thoughts, experiences, and findings, and ask questions. I enjoy the want for networking without competition. Everyone is welcome. I want to offer friendship and a place without judgment.

I hope to bring a new perspective to the online parenting network, like I tend to do away from the computer. I have a tendency to open people’s minds if I can just get them to listen, but as I have stated, getting them to listen is the hard part. I am often told “Before I talked to you I thought you looked really mean.” Again they could not look past my appearance long enough to see what was in my heart. This blog will be a chance to show what is in my heart without the restrictions of aesthetics (except for the ones I add).

Please, interact and enjoy!