Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves - The Bad and the Ugly

Although Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves had some good points, overall I found it frustrating. Here's why.

The Bad

Don't tell children what they should do. Naomi Aldort frequently reminds parents to respect their children's choices and allow them to be authentic. Don't tell children they should share, say hello, or help with household chores. This is moralizing and is bad. (Anyone else see the irony of labeling moralizing as bad?) According to Aldort, if parents model what they want to see (being polite, friendly, or helpful), children will respond in kind as they mature. She specifically warns, "Sometimes we think we are following the child's lead, yet we try to sneak in a little teaching or guidance" (p. 59).

Moralizing is defined as "to explain or interpret morally; to give a moral quality or direction to, to improve the morals of." Far from being a parenting no-no, I consider this to be a significant parent responsibility! I want my son to share my values. I want him to understand social conventions, morality, and how the two intersect. Yes, part of teaching is through example, but I think it is reasonable to use words when necessary and require appropriate behavior even if a complete understanding of morality is not yet present.

TEV Bible Catholic Cover
Man, talk about moralizing...

Anything goes, as long as your child is emoting. Aldort does not advocate for a home devoid of rules. She acknowledges that even strict parents can still display unconditional love. However, throughout the book she indicates it is acceptable, even good, to allow children to scream for hours, throw hard objects, and insult people when upset. These children feel safe to express their emotions. Parents shouldn't try to curb this behavior or children will learn that their emotions are scary/bad/too intense for their parents.

During grad school, an instructor once told us that we should never ask someone not to swear during counseling. If we respect them, we need to offer a safe place where they can feel free to do anything. I disagree. Yes, I respected the emotionally disabled, inner city teens with whom I worked. And I expected respect in return. I received it. The kids understood what was tolerated and what was not and they liked me. I hope my children learn that, while it is OK to be angry, it is not OK to take out your anger by being aggressive toward others. That's called abuse.

Treat your children as you would treat an adult friend. The idea here is that the real world does not function with authority figures telling us what to do and handing out rewards and punishments. We should ask our children for cooperation, but respect their decisions either way. We should not, in any way, try to control our children.

The problem is, the real world DOES work that way. If we have an employer, we have an authority figure assigning tasks and rewarding us with a paycheck. Even for the self-employed, there are customers making demands and controlling whether or not to pay. There are rules to follow, called laws. If we decide not to cooperate with others, others will not respect us and try again tomorrow, they will leave us alone. If parents want to raise their children counter-culturally, that is their right, but they should know that they are doing so.

dollar done
What's a paycheck if not a reward?

The Ugly

"The Bad" are all judgment calls. They are parenting theories with which I strongly disagree. But I respect that this is Aldort's book and she is certainly free to advocate for whatever she believes. There are two points, though, that I think are reprehensible. Both are underlying themes throughout the book and are clearly stated on page 75:
Other manifestations of doubting parental love are: unhappiness, disinterest in doing things, problems in speech or learning, bed-wetting, tics, sleep disorders, aggression, eating disorders, general tension, and irritability. When a child feels completely secure in parental love, he has no need for such expressions, he feels self-confident and spends his time pursuing his passions.
Got it? If your child is suffering from any of these conditions, it's because he doubts your love for him. WHAT?! Now wait, don't get all excited. It's not your fault. The next paragraphs starts:
If you had to please an impress your parents to earn their love, you may now feel reluctant to give love unconditionally.
OK folks, there are your take-away points. If your child has problems, it's because you're not expressing your love as you should. Don't feel bad, though, it's your parents' fault.

These themes, while not so explicit elsewhere, are present throughout the entirety of the book. Now, I understand that there is value in self-knowledge. You should be aware of your own baggage so you don't pass it along to your children. Also, there is more than one way to parent. But a book that makes parents feel guilty because Jr. has a speech impediment and then suggesting, "If you disagree with my theory of unconditional love, blame your parents," will not make my list of good parenting books.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves - The Good

A good friend of mine recommended Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves to me and lent me her copy to read. Overall, I did not agree with the author, Naomi Aldort. It took me about three weeks to read because I kept getting frustrated and putting it away. That being said, there was good information. Tomorrow's post will focus on the Bad and the Ugly; today's is about the good stuff.

Children are important. One key theme is that children are people, too. They have legitimate needs, even if these needs seem silly to adults. Children deserve to be respected and treated with compassion. Our children are more important than a schedule or a clean house.

Give language to emotions. Children, especially young children, cannot express themselves clearly. They may not even be able to pinpoint why they are unhappy, much less explain it. By asking, "Are you angry because you wanted to play longer?" a parent acknowledges the emotion and helps the child to express himself in the future. Validating emotions helps a child know he is not being ignored.

Allow failure. From a baby learning to walk to a teen trying out for a team, parents cannot protect their children from every struggle and even failure. Children who have the opportunity to fail learn to trust themselves and learn that they are able to cope with difficulties. That being said, don't let your baby crawl near the pool or give your teen the keys the first day he has his permit!

Appropriate failure: Spilling water
Inappropriate failure: Falling out of his high chair
(hence the belt)

Children are different. Some children can sit quietly at a young age, others grow into adulthood still dreading meetings that last more than 15 minutes. Some children want the noise and energy of a play group, others simply want time alone. Know your child. Don't put your three-year-old in gymnastics class if she cannot sit or follow directions yet. Everyone will end up frustrated.

Tickling can be cruel. Aldort lays down important rules to keep tickling fun. It should be chosen and controlled by the child, not the adult. A child should not be tickled to the point where he cannot talk. Do not assume laughter means the child is having fun.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

iPad 2 Giveaway! $499 value! (US only)


Twenty-three bloggers have united to offer an iPad 2 to YOU! Well, you or whomever actually wins. The iPad we'll be giving away is the WiFi 16gb iPad 2 in your choice of white or black. The iPad 2 features:
  • 16gb storage
  • Wi-Fi
  • Bluetooth
  • 9.7-inch (diagonal) LED-backlit glossy widescreen Multi-Touch display with IPS technology
  • Back camera: Video recording, HD (720p) up to 30 frames per second with audio; still camera with 5x digital zoom
  • Front camera: Video recording, VGA up to 30 frames per second with audio; VGA-quality still camera
  • Up to 10 hours of surfing the web on Wi-Fi, watching video, or listening to music
  • Charging via power adapter or USB to computer system
  • Audio formats supported: HE-AAC (V1 and V2), AAC (8 to 320 Kbps), Protected AAC (from iTunes Store), MP3 (8 to 320 Kbps), MP3 VBR, Audible (formats 2, 3, and 4, Audible Enhanced Audio, AAX, and AAX+), Apple Lossless, AIFF, and WAV
  • AirPlay Mirroring to Apple TV support at 720p
In the box:
  • iPad
  • Dock Connector to USB Cable
  • 10W USB Power Adapter
  • Documentation
 Enter for your chance to win! Be sure to follow all the blogs participating for more chances! (I assume you'll enjoy this more than a light bulb. But who knows.)  :-)a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, January 27, 2012

Bummis Fabulous Wet Bags

Every now and then, I like to do a review of some product I really appreciate (or, once, found absurd). So far, companies haven't been beating down my door to offer me free products, so I am at liberty to choose only things I use and really think are worth promoting.

Allow me to introduce the Fabulous Wet Bags from Bummis. We own four of them, two medium and two small. I use them for cloth diapers, wet clothes, swim wear, and sometimes just as a mini diaper bag (if I know I'll only be doing one change).

They are sturdy, easy-to-clean, and water-tight. They can be laundered with the diapers. I like the bright prints and the fact that they match Peter's diaper covers. :-) I have been very impressed with how well these wet bags contain smells. I thought that the zipper might be a weak point, allowing moisture and odors to escape, but I have happily been proven quite wrong!

Bummis wet bags are made in Canada, all materials come from North America, and products are shipped in environmentally-friendly packaging.

Finally, they are reasonably priced at $11.50 for a small bag and $14 for a medium bag (at least at our local store). I can't think of a single criticism of these bags; they're a great investment!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Or just feed him.

Thursday afternoons I volunteer at Angel Care. I met with a social worker today to give her a pack-n-play for one of her clients. She had just met the little boy (20 months) and his mother and wanted needed to tell me about him.

She wasn't sure about the timeline of events, but this little boy was doing well and developing typically until his mom stopped breastfeeding him. I would guess this was around one year, but she wasn't sure. At any rate, this mom, one of the rural poor, had done what she could to give her little one a good start. She co-slept and breastfed. When she switched to formula, all hell broke loose.

The little boy had allergic reactions to one formula after another, vomiting everything he tried to eat. His weight plummeted. At this point, he refuses to even attempt to eat. (Can you blame him? Eating equals pain in his world.) And along with his "failure to thrive" diagnosis came social workers.

Now he is being put in a pack-n-play to sleep. Not that there's anything wrong with that; Peter slept in one his whole first year. This little guy is still in his parents' room. What makes me sad is the implication that bed-sharing is unhealthy and put him at risk.

His mother is convinced he could heal and gain weight if she could give him breast-milk again. A logical assumption. Unfortunately, Medicaid won't pay for her to enroll in a program. And I imagine the social workers would be uncomfortable with a direct donation from people in the community.

Who are the victims here? The social workers, doing their best with limited information (the woman told me she's never had a pediatric case before), limited resources, and long hours. The mother, feeling guilty because she's being told that bed-sharing was a bad practice and because she is powerless to give her son what she knows he needs. The little boy, for obvious reasons.

And us. Tax payers. Medicaid will not provide what might change this boy's life. They have provided a g-tube for feeding, but will not provide breast-milk. What happens to kids with prolonged failure to thrive? It varies, but long-term effects can include emotional disturbances and lower IQ. These kids are more likely to end up needing special education services in school. So instead of footing the bill for a one year old to eat, Medicaid provides a special g-tube while increasing the odds that the state will spend significantly more money on this child during his journey through public education.

Why can't we just feed him?

Note: This isn't meant to be an anti-Medicaid or anti-public health care post. If this family did not have Medicaid, the little boy might be dead by now. I am just frustrated with the state of "the system."

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Highlight Reel and CFL Giveaway!

Blogoversary or blogiversary? It bothers me that I can't find a clear answer to which spelling is preferred. Anyway, it has been one year since I began posting! Many thanks to those of you who have challenged me, encouraged me, and laughed with me. It's been a good year! As a highlight reel, I present the following.

Drum roll, please.

Something beautiful. Of course there are many beautiful pictures of Peter posted, but as far as imagery through words, this description of my childhood stands out among my posts. I was pleased with the final result that illustrated my life in a loving family in the context of a friendly urban neighborhood.

Most popular. The winner for this one is easily my first Carnival of Natural Parenting, listing the top ten reasons I choose to breastfeed. From selfishness to self-giving, there are many reasons why breast is best for me and my family!

Frequently searched. I am pleased that my Pee-Pee Teepee review is consistently on the front page of search engine results for this ridiculous product. It makes me feel good that I am saving people money and/or providing them with entertainment. :-)

A surprising success. When we became a one-car family, it resonated with people more than I thought it would. One things I've learned this year is that I don't know what will interest you! Sometimes I throw something together and people love it, other times I spend a lot of time writing and it gets largely ignored.

Under-appreciated. On that note, I thought this one was pretty good. Maybe people who were Christian didn't bother to read it? Maybe all of you are already NFP enthusiasts and don't need convincing? Who knows. Anyway, go read it. It's good. :-)

A job well-done. I still feel a sense of accomplishment when I can easily find a utensil in our kitchen. Not only did exploring minimalism benefit the less fortunate in our community, it also gave me a better understanding of what I own and how I use (or don't use!) it.

Practical. Peter continues to learn new signs and express himself more clearly. If you've been considering teaching some ASL to your little one, check this out! Fun fact: A CODA (child of deaf adults) will "babble" in sign the same way a hearing child of hearing adults babbles through speech.

The Giveaway

Win a 60 watt CFL from SpringLight! Giveaway open to residents of Canada and the United States (sorry, Amy). Contest ends Saturday, 1.28.12 at noon EST.

Each person is allowed two entries. You may do either or both. They're pretty simple.

1. Tell me one of your favorite posts from this blog and why you like it.
2. Tell me something you'd like me to cover in an upcoming post.

It's that easy! Leave a separate comment for each entry and be sure to include your email address so I can contact you if you win.

SpringLight is not associated with this blog or giveaway in any way.

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Burden of Wisdom

Solomon was a brave man to ask for the gift of wisdom. It's rarely easy to acquire the gifts of the Spirit, but at least in most cases you end up with something you want. For example, we develop the gift of patience by experiencing trying situations, but once patience has been cultivated, there's not really a down side to it.

Wisdom, though? As one of my mentors told me, "Consider yourself both blessed and cursed that you can see the forest for the trees."

I was at a retreat years ago where we studied the book of Ecclesiastes. I believe they nearly choked when I said that I wouldn't want wisdom. It's from God! Of course it is good! And indeed it is good, but it's not as simple as, say, joy.

Wisdom opens ones eyes. The wise can see inequalities and white lies. They understand what is required for justice. They know how far to push someone so he stretches but does not break. And not only do they see the world more clearly, they see themselves. Wisdom reveals what is wrong in the world and what can be done to fix it.

The problem is, the world cannot be fixed by one person. The wise one must see the problem, the solution, and know he is not able to be all things to all people. He sees the folly of others and recognizes that the same mistakes will be made again and again.

I would not count myself among the wisest and I am grateful for this. God gives us gifts as we require them, so I am thankful that the wisdom I have can be used to help those around me. But I would never be so bold as to pray for wisdom.

For in much wisdom is much grief, 
And he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.
Ecclesiastes 1:18

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Self-Defeating Habits

Last night around 7PM, my husband asked if I wanted to go to Syracuse for the weekend. Meaning, "Do you want to get everything packed, Peter into his pajamas, and drive two hours tonight?" I said yes. A good friend of ours had an emergency appendectomy (are there ever routine appendectomies?) earlier this week and was still hospitalized, bored out of his mind. Personally, I think he's taking things a bit too far to avoid going to next week's square dance with me...

I'm not that short. He's tall.

We got back tonight and I settled Peter into bed. The chores I didn't get done today (cleaning the bathrooms, washing the dishes, possibly dusting) are all still undone. It's only 9:30, though, and with Peter asleep I should be able to finish them fairly quickly.

But I probably won't.

Because when I feel overwhelmed, I want to read a good book and disconnect from reality. I happen to be in the middle of re-reading Little Women and read the first of the Hunger Games series today. I will probably read a book until bedtime. All will be well, until Monday when my husband goes into the office for the day and I must decide whether to do chores or get some sleep while Peter naps.

Anyone have some spare willpower to lend me? :-)

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Exodus 20:7

OMG. TGIF. And many, many more. How many times each day do you hear God's name taken in vain? How many times do you actually notice it? "You shall not invoke the name of the LORD, your God, in vain. For the LORD will not leave unpunished anyone who invokes his name in vain."

Using God's name in vain has become so commonplace in our society that most people don't give it a second thought. At least in upstate NY, I've noticed this is more common among Catholics than non-Catholic Christians, but is certainly not exclusive to one denomination. We break this commandment so frequently that many people have convinced themselves they're not breaking it at all.

Certainly there are others ways to take God's name in vain. To ask for God's blessing on an activity you know is immoral. To claim God's agenda is the same as yours when you have no reason to think so. To lie about the nature of God (e.g. "God hates gays").

To take God's name in vain is to use it without due respect. Certainly there is nothing wrong with giving God thanks for a good week and the chance to enjoy the weekend. But most people who say, "Thank God it's Friday," aren't thinking about God at all. Imagine what a life of gratitude we might lead if we sincerely sent a prayer of gratitude every time we said, "Thank God!"

We have so much for which to be thankful!

"Oh my God" is even more prevalent and probably said more flippantly. It's often used an expression of surprise, excitement, or disgust and annoyance. As I frequently remind the kids in Sunday school and youth group, "God's name is too important to be used like that." This is the Creator of the universe. His Name should not be slang.

It's easy for me to address this topic with the kids I serve. They expect me to be a moral authority in their lives. I don't belittle or accuse them; they don't get defensive. It is simply another teaching moment.

My concern is how to address this with adults, particularly those who "should know better." Regular church-goers, pastoral staff, or priests. How do I respectfully tell someone older and wiser than I that s/he should pay more attention to word choice? Saying, "God's name is too important to be used like that," seems condescending. My aunt suggested, "You know, when you use God's name like that it makes me uncomfortable." This seems better, but I haven't tried it yet. I guess I'm afraid of being teased or ridiculed.


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Worm Composting Bin aka Vermicompost

For Christmas, my husband was gifted with 1,000 worms. Now that they have settled into their new home, allow me to share some details about worm husbandry. :-)

How much space is needed?
Our worm bin requires about two square feet of space and when fully operational will be about three feet high. We kept it on our counter for the first week, but I wanted my counter space back, so we evicted them to the garage. We still keep a container to hold unprepared kitchen scraps and a food chopper on the counter, though. (Worms prefer food to be broken quite a bit before they get it.)

Where do you keep them? Do they smell?
When our worms were in the house, they emitted no odor except for an earthy smell when the cover was lifted to add new food. If we didn't have a toddler, I would have kept it in the corner of the kitchen, but I don't really want to find them strewn about the house some day! Instead, we are keeping them in the corner where the two interior garage walls meet. (We have an attached garage that shares two walls with our house.) The door is insulated, but the exterior wall is not. Worms are fine in temperatures down to 40F. Even with night-time temperatures of close to zero, our worms have not asked for extra blankets.

No, the worms don't smell. He's just being weird. :-)

What do they eat?
Worms will eat any plant matter other than citrus (fruit or peels). This includes kitchen and plant waste, coffee grounds, and even shredded paper. In fact, they prefer about half kitchen scraps and half fiber. Fiber includes junk mail, dryer lint, vacuum dust, tea bags (no staples!), and coffee filters with grounds. Worms appreciate egg shells and the occasional grain (bread, cereal), but do NOT want dairy or meat.

How much can they compost?

A pound of worms (~1000) will eat about 1/2lb food each day. This isn't very much. You certainly would not be able to compost your yard waste in a worm bin! At present, we have found that eating bananas and avocados regularly almost overwhelms our worms just from the peels. As our worms continue to raise families, they will be able to handle more food.

How many worms do you need?
To get started, at least 500 worms are needed with 1000 being recommended. Every three months, your worm population will double. Adding new trays allows you to keep enough food and space for all your worms as well as allowing the bottom trays to compost completely.

What do you do with worm tea?
The "worm tea" (also called leachate) can be used on outdoor plants at full strength. For house plants, it is recommended that it be diluted with equal parts of water and "tea". The composted dirt is good for any plant!

Do worms need a sitter during vacation?
Once your worms are mature enough to not answer the phone and stay away from the stove (or after their first couple weeks), they can be left alone for up to a month. If you live in a hot climate, make sure your worms are somewhere that will be cool and moist enough for them.

Anything else?
Yes. A quote from our worm manual. "Worms can become stressed during shipment. They may take a week or so to adapt to their new environment. Leave a light on at night to encourage them to burrow into their new home." That's right. Just like Motel 6.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Marriage Blessing

I was the matron of honor for my best friend on Saturday (which explains the lack of new blog posts this weekend!). As the conclusion of my toast, I wrote the following wedding blessing. May it be true for all married couples!

My prayer for both of you is that you receive the gifts of the Spirit in abundance. 
Love for God and each other. Joy in your home. Peace in your hearts. Patience during trials. 
Kindness to those who need you. Goodness where it is lacking. 
Faithfulness through the years to come. Gentleness with yourselves. 
And enough self-control that, even when you know you’re right, you don’t say it out loud. 

To Becky and Kenny!

Matron of Honor and Ring Bearer

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Love and Profanity

All dirty words are not created equal. For my own speech, you won't hear much beyond darn or describing a cruel person as a brat. As a child, we weren't allowed to say, "Shut up." I think the language we use affects our image and dirty words are crude. I don't want to be that person. My husband, on the other hand, thinks the sentiment is what matters. If you're talking about or comparing something to excrement, it doesn't matter what term you use. If you're insulting someone, it doesn't matter if you call her a brat or a female dog. (For the record, he doesn't swear around me, nor do most of his friends, because they know it bothers me.)

Nash was very sweet, even if she was a female. :-)

There is one word, however, on which we agree. Merriam-Webster defines it as a transitive verb, "usually obscene : to engage in coitus with —sometimes used interjectionally with an object (as a personal or reflexive pronoun) to express anger, contempt, or disgust." Whether you categorize dirty language based on intent or the word itself, this one is in a class of its own.

This is particularly relevant for those of us who see sexuality as a gift. If our sexuality is an expression of love, a treasure given to us by Love and meant to be shared within the covenant of marriage, it has no place being used as an expression of anger, contempt, or disgust. Referencing a sexual act in terms that make it at best impersonal and at worst violent or animalistic degrades sexuality. It profanes what is sacred.

So think about it. What words do you use? What do they say?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Play Date!

Sharing the Slide

It's possible Peter gave her a small shove when she didn't slide quickly enough.
Thankfully, she didn't seem to mind.

Another fun trip to the mall with L! This time, they actually interacted a little bit and even shook hands when we were all done. :-) I was relieved to see that Peter will interact with kids his own age, since prior to this he ignored all overtures from other children who weren't a few years older than he.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Worm Tea

Welcome to the January Carnival of Natural Parenting: Experiments in Natural Family Living
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have reported on weeklong trials to make their lives a little greener. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.


We received a worm bin for Christmas, but when this post was written, we had only experienced two days of worm care, which left me a little short on real world wisdom to share. In lieu of practical information [added 1.17.12], I'll give you the highlights of our worm adventure so far.

"We know Liana doesn't want you to get a dog, so we bought you some other pets," my parents told my husband on Christmas. He opened a box of 1000 red earth worms. He was speechless.

We were going out of town for a week, so my parents agreed to worm-sit. My Dad called that night to report that the worms were comfortable in their new composting bin. "They asked where they were, and I said Rochester. Aside from a few plaintive strains of I'll Be Home for Christmas, they seem to be fine."

Complete with spigot to drain worm liquid waste tea.

Later in the week, we spoke again. "Tell Jeremy the worms miss him." "I only saw them for a couple minutes!" "Worms bond quickly."

Our worm manual warns repeatedly against over-feeding. The worms must be engaged with what has been supplied before new kitchen scraps can be added. My husband checked his pets tonight. "I'll go see if the worms are 'engaged' and then feed them some of this nasty salad."

Worm manual from FindWorms.com. No, seriously.

Our worm manual also outlines our top two goals for us. Thanks, worms. I was feeling rather directionless up to this point.

All in all, I'd say it's going quite well. Stay tuned for continuing updates on the worm saga!
Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

Monday, January 9, 2012


I am reading... The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, a Christmas present from my brother. It definitely has adult themes, but I am enjoying it. If you enjoy fantasy, definitely check it out! I'm also reading Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves. It's interesting. I'll probably do a whole post on it once I've finished.

I am praying for... my best friend and her fiance as they approach their wedding day on Saturday. I pray for love and joy and an ever-stronger faith for them as they begin their new life together. I pray that their marriage be blessed and a blessing to those who witness it.

My favorite seasonal food is... peppermint hot chocolate. I first tried it at McDonald's and have since discovered I can make the same thing at home by stirring my hot chocolate with a candy cane!

I am planning... to write thank you notes. I enjoy receiving them and think they are important to send, but they tend to fall off the bottom of my to-do list. Perhaps stating my plans publicly here will motivate me!

I was recently surprised by... how quickly Peter is learning language! His spoken words are becoming clearer and more numerous, he is learning and using more signs, and he is even beginning to recognize and name letters! His favorite is O, which he will point out any time he sees a circle. :-)

Bible alphabet blocks from his Godfather - very cool!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Cheap and Easy Party Favors

Today was my best friend's bachelorette party. We went ice skating downtown, out to dinner at a hibachi restaurant, and got creative at a paint-your-own pottery place (wearing pajamas!). It was a blast. To make the day more festive and unify the group, I made scarves for us! This sounds more impressive than it was. They were just strips of fleece. But they looked pretty all tied up and served their purpose well.

Measure 8" of fabric and cut.

Fold each scarf in sixths and tie with a sparkly ribbon (18")

Add a pair of matching gloves for the bride-to-be!

Friday, January 6, 2012

My Epiphany

Today is the feast of Epiphany, celebrating the arrival of the Magi coming to worship the child Jesus. My mother's family, following the German tradition, called this "Little Christmas." (Which reminds me, I have some stöllen to eat that I have been saving until today!) Children in Germany would go caroling, collecting alms to give to the poor. In Mexico, children leave boxes of hay for the camels, hopeful that the Magi will leave presents to express their gratitude.

In our house today, we went to McDonald's for dinner. Very spiritual and festive.

Our tree is still up. The three kings have been moved to stand in the manger. (This probably isn't an accurate representation of events, but I'm not ambitious enough to have a house in addition to a manger.) I've been singing "We Three Kings" throughout the day. But I don't think Peter knows anything was special about today. Sometimes I have to accept that one missed opportunity does not mean I am a neglectful Catholic mommy. Tomorrow is a new day.

And he has a pretty fantastic Catholic daddy helping him, too.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Science of "Crying It Out"?

Somewhat recently, I read an article titled, Dangers of "Crying It Out". Of course it resonated with much of what I already believe, which made it a good read. We all like to know we're right. However, I cannot undo seven years of learning to critically evaluate information. I had to dig deeper than a Psychology Today blog post.

I read through the References section and found a full PDF was available of Schore's article, The effects of early relational trauma on right brain development, affect regulation, and infant mental health. This was published in 2001 in a peer-reviewed journal by a UCLA professor. The following paragraphs are excerpts related to allowing babies to cry themselves to sleep.

In an immature organism with undeveloped and restricted coping capacities, the primary caregiver is the source of the infant’s stress regulation, and therefore, sense of safety. ...  The infant’s immature brain is in a state of rapid development, and is, therefore, exquisitely vulnerable to early adverse experiences, including adverse social experiences. ... There is extensive evidence that trauma in early life impairs the development of the capacities of maintaining interpersonal relationships, coping with stressful stimuli, and regulating emotion. ...

In contexts of relational trauma the caregiver, in addition to dysregulating the infant, withdraws any repair functions, leaving the infant for long periods in an intensely disruptive psychobiological state that is beyond her immature coping strategies. ...

In the initial stage of threat, a startle or alarm reaction is initiated, in which the sympathetic component of the autonomic nervous system (ANS) is suddenly and significantly activated, resulting in increased heart rate, blood pressure, respiration, and muscle tone, as well as hypervigilance. Distress is expressed in crying and then screaming. [emphasis mine]

In very recent work, this dyadic transaction is described by Beebe as “mutually escalating base of text overarousal” of a disorganized attachment pair:

Each one escalates the ante, as the infant builds to a frantic distress, may scream, and, in this example, finally throws up. In an escalating overarousal pattern, even after extreme distress signals from the infant, such as ninety-degree head aversion, arching away . . . or screaming, the mother keeps going. (2000, p. 436) ... [emphasis mine]

But Perry’s group describes a second, later-forming reaction to infant trauma, dissociation, in which the child disengages from stimuli in the external world and an attends to an “internal” world. The child’s dissociation in the midst of terror involves numbing, avoidance, compliance, and restricted affect. Traumatized infants are observed to be staring off into space with a glazed look. This behavioral strategy is described by Tronick and Weinberg:

[W]hen infants’ attempts fail to repair the interaction infants often lose postural control, withdraw, and self-comfort. The disengagement is profound even with this short disruption of the mutual regulatory process and break in intersubjectivity. The infant’s reaction is reminiscent of the withdrawal of Harlow’s isolated monkey or of the infants in institutions observed by Bowlby and Spitz. (1997, p. 66) [emphasis mine]

The state of conservation-withdrawal (Kaufman & Rosenblum, 1967, 1969; Schore, 1994) is a parsympathetic regulatory strategy that occurs in helpless and hopeless stressful situations in which the individual becomes inhibited, and strives to avoid attention in order to become “unseen.” ... If early trauma is experienced as “psychic catastrophe” (Bion, 1962), dissociation represents “detachment from an unbearable situation” (Mollon, 1996), “the escape when there is no escape” (Putnam, 1997), and “a last resort defensive strategy” (Dixon, 1998).

Proponents of the "cry-it-out" method point out that children eventually learn. They stop screaming and go calmly into their cribs. They have learned to self-soothe, a step toward independence. I am not confident that it is child abuse to leave an infant to cry it out; perhaps the cited research was done with children experiencing much more trauma. But the pattern of crying, screaming, and then withdrawing quietly and self-comforting sounds very similar to what I've heard from supporters of crying it out. Food for thought.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Tidings of Comfort and Joy, Mostly

Comfort, joy, and a cuddly version of an alien that my brother bought for Peter. Sigh. :-)

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Homeopathy and Modern Medicine

I have some reservations about modern medicine. I don't think the chicken pox vaccine needs to be a routine shot. I am certain many children's mental health issues are misdiagnosed and over-medicated. I try to avoid pain-killers and cold medicine unless I can't function without it.

Modern medicine is a science. Like all sciences, nothing can be proven true, only proven false. So we assume a medication is safe because, in a controlled setting, nothing went wrong. But we never know for sure, which makes parents uneasy. If there is even a chance that the chemicals in this medication can harm my child, I want to know!

So when parents choose to avoid medicated diaper cream, or try a chiropractor for non-spinal concerns, or even not vaccinate their children, I get it. It may not be what I would choose, but I understand.

What I don't understand is the mindset that modern medicine is full of hidden dangers, but any herbal tea, essential oil, massage therapy or ground up plant is safe -- because it's natural. To quote a good friend of mine, "Arsenic is organic, too."

Just because he can eat it doesn't mean you should.

Modern medicine can't promise any remedy will be risk-free, but at least they can make an educated guess. If you want to skip this year's flu shot, go for it. I'm not getting mine either. But please do some heavy-duty research on the potential risks and benefits of any homeopathic care you choose. Natural does not mean safe.

Monday, January 2, 2012


Happy New Year! I hope your holidays were as wonderful as mine. Sincere apologies to those of you who hounded me on Facebook or complained about a lack of Peter pictures this past week. :-)

My favorite Christmas picture this year

I have decided on three resolutions for 2012, for my mind, soul, and body.

1. Learn more German. Peter got a fun book and CD for Christmas that I'm hoping will be educational for me as well. I'm debating about the best way to continue my own education in this area... I've had two recommendations to use Rosetta Stone, but it is quite expensive. There are many resources available for free online, but I lack the motivation to seek them out and use them regularly. The Rosetta Stone program would be cheaper than taking courses at our local community college, so I haven't decided definitively against it. We shall see.

3. Take my own advice. I had a lot of fun writing my book. Taking the time to reflect on how faith can be part of daily life with small children gave me some great ideas. Unfortunately, I am not always diligent about implementing them. My husband made a few hard copies of the book for me for Christmas (six, to be exact. very limited print run.), so now I have it out as an easy reference for myself. :-)

2. Run two miles each week. In high school, I easily ran between 15 and 30 miles in a week. In college, I ran 15 miles in a month. I probably ran 15 miles total during my three years of graduate school. I have not run any significant distance since Peter was born. Time for a change. (My brother challenged me to run a 5K this summer. I told my husband I need to get pregnant so I have a good excuse to avoid the race. He thought that was a horrible reason to want a child.) (I agree.)

What resolutions have you made?