Monday, April 30, 2012

Kids these days are so ____.

Have I mentioned before that my husband is amazing? He and Peter were making dinner tonight, measuring and stirring and learning about what is hot and sharp. My husband was carefully explaining how to do each step, narrating his own actions, guiding Peter, or allowing him to go solo as was appropriate. I commented that we are homeschooling already.

One of the things that makes my husband such a great teacher is that he assumes kids are not dumb. He described cooking to Peter in similar words that he would use with an adult. Did he explain more than Peter could understand or remember? Probably. But Peter's total engagement in the process indicated this wasn't at all off-putting. So in addition to cooking, he was expanding his vocabulary. And although he likely won't remember most of the explanation next time, he will remember some, and then a little more, and in a few years will be able to do many things independently.

He not only listens, he takes copious notes...

In my experience, many adults are unwilling to do this. They either constantly underestimate children or are uncomfortable talking to children as if they can understand the adult world. This would be bad enough, but many of these adults actively undermine others who are trying to teach.

Our priest gave a compelling homily on the importance of respect, highlighting specific situations that might arise at different times in our lives. "Young people," he said, "when you wear headphones to the table or text while out with a friend, it is rude. You send the message that your present company is less interesting and less important than whatever else you have available." And the congregation laughed. "Oh Father, they're teenagers! They don't know any better." Well, maybe they don't. But they were just told better, only to have the message undermined by adults who assume kids can't be expected to be courteous.

My husband was talking with another dad and his eight-year-old daughter. As the men began to compare the accomplishments of past presidents, the girl got bored and tried to redirect the conversation. My husband asked her if it was just presidents she found boring or politics in general. Before she could answer, her dad laughed and said she wouldn't care about any of it. Essentially, he called his daughter ignorant and ridiculed my husband for attempting to converse with a child.

I see this type of situation regularly. If today's children are as self-centered, ignorant, irresponsible, inattentive, and lazy as they are often portrayed to be, perhaps it is not through their own lack of character. Maybe they've just been told too many times to sit down and be quiet.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Characters whom I've wanted to be

Pearls Before Swine is my absolutely favorite comic strip

Have I mentioned before that I love making lists? It's satisfying to cross things off the list, but they're also fun to make, getting things all organized and concise. Tonight's list? Fictional characters I've wanted to be.

Lessa of Ruatha/Pern: She's smart, determined, stubborn, and full of adventure. She holds her own in a male-dominated society without giving up her love of smooth dresses and long hair. And she Impresses the queen dragon, which is pretty awesome. I want a psychically bonded dragon.

Laura Ingalls: Reading her books made me want to explore the west and make my own butter. Perhaps she was my first influence toward green living...? (In reality, I know being a pioneer could be brutal. But her books make it sound so much fun!)

Nancy Drew: Again, smart and pretty. She sees things others do not, goes on huge adventures, and always comes out on top.

Elspeth of Valdemar: [SPOILER ALERT for VALDEMAR FANS] Born a princess, she renounces her title and becomes the first mage in hundreds of years, learning from a people similar to Native Americans. She is super-good at self-defense and knows how to manage elite society while still being comfortable camping along the trail. Also has a psychically bonded "horse." I want one of those, too.

Miss Dove: Protagonist of Good Morning, Miss Dove by Frances Gray Patton. Miss Dove decides to be a teacher, the best teacher. She requires respect and academic excellence from her students and, by unwitting example, teaches virtue to generations of students.

Arnora: Heroine of Cloud Horse by Jill Pinkwater, Arnora is an independent spirit in a time and place when women were expected to stay in the home. She dearly loves horses and they respond well to her. [SPOILER ALERT] Ultimately, she becomes an explorer to the New World and gets the guy!

Elizabeth Bennet/Darcy: OK, her mother and younger sisters are rather irksome, but she has such a passion for life! She has a strong sense of justice and family loyalty. She is quite able to stand up for herself and others. And she marries Mr. Darcy. :-)

Anne of Ingleside: A kind, gentle, and wise mother to her own children and any child who comes into her life. She discourages gossip and treats all respectfully. She is supportive of her husband, and he of her. She is a model of a good Christian woman.

Mary Poppins: She sings, brings love to others, does magic, and cleans efficiently. All very admirable traits. :-)

Lucy Pevensie/the Valiant: She gets it. She can recognize Aslan when the others cannot, she knows what to do and when to do it, and her compassion is never overruled by fear.

Which characters have inspired you? Any you've wanted to become?

Thursday, April 26, 2012

New Recipe! And it's Pizza!

I decided yesterday morning that, after some downer posts, I needed to come up with something positive to write, even if I wasn't feeling happier. Well, two pieces of good news: I am feeling happier AND I'm going to write about pizza!

While wandering the internet in search of cheap and easy recipes, I discovered Owlhaven. She has all kinds of stuff about being frugal and homeschooling and being a mom. Most importantly, she has some excellent recipes! Without further ado, allow me to present Pepperoni Pizza Puffs.

Prep Time: 40 minutes
Makes 12 standard size muffins

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/3 cup cornmeal
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon basil
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup cubed pepperoni
  • 1 cup spaghetti sauce (optional)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Generously grease a 12-cup muffin pan. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, basil, and oregano. Stir in the mozzarella, Parmesan and pepperoni. Add vinegar to milk in a small bowl.  Let sit a minute before adding milk mixture and egg to the dry ingredients.  Stir the batter until just combined.  Divide among muffin cups, filling each cup about 3/4 full. Bake until puffed and golden, 20 to 25 minutes.  Serve alongside warmed spaghetti sauce if desired for dipping.

I admit I was skeptical that three muffins would be filling, but they really were. We each had some homemade applesauce and water and were quite content. Try them! Let me know what you think!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Very Punny.

A gift from my zany brother (well, one of the two) when he was visiting over Easter. 

Pet axes give sharp criticism

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

How do you measure age?

The sixth graders cheered tonight because they only have a few weeks left of being the youngest in youth group.

An eighth grade boy made repeated snide comments in our small group about seventh graders and their immaturity until I told him not to talk unless he could stop denigrating the other group members. (I think part of why he stopped was the new vocabulary word. Big words can cow arrogant teenagers.)

Of my four high school yearbooks (all compiled by editors who were seniors), three proclaim seniors as the best, ridiculing the other classes. I don't think this is unique to my school.

And then at some point, many women inexplicably consider their age to be private information. Do they begin to feel old? How is that even measured? Because my Grandpa was still traveling halfway across the country into his mid 80s, but I know of folks in their 70s who feel the best of life is over.

Age is a strange thing.

Or maybe it's just me... :-)

Being a 28 year old is strange, too.

I am married with a child; most of my friends are not. I work a lot with kids, but I think few of their parents consider me a peer. My son is too young. Of the other youth group leaders, I'm closest in age to a senior in high school who helps with the junior youth group. He and I get along well, joking around, but obviously I'm not his peer either.

I don't consider my age something about which to brag. Nor am I ashamed of it. I just wish I knew more people who shared it. Or, you know, were within a decade of it and wanted to hang out.

Monday, April 23, 2012


I'm having the kind of day (week?) in which I needed to hear this. Rather than bore you with the details, I'll just share and hope it reaches someone else who needs  it.

To humanity, which sometimes seems to be lost and dominated by the power of evil, selfishness and fear, the risen Lord gives the gift of His love which forgives, reconciles and reopens the soul to hope. ~Blessed John Paul II

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Why me, Lord?

Saturdays are usually great around here. We have nowhere to go, so the three of us laze around in bed for as long as Peter will tolerate before meandering downstairs for breakfast. Sometimes we go to the Public Market or do some shopping. We might visit the library. It's a good day, time to just be together while getting some chores out of the way. I particularly like Saturdays because my parenting partner is completely available (as opposed to days when he works from home and has work as the #1 priority).

Today we got up earlier than usual because we wanted to go to the market and hit up an Earth Day event at our favorite supermarket before about 10:30. Then it was rainy, so we decided to skip the market. And the Earth Day event didn't start until 11. And the reason we were in a hurry was because my husband was attending an all-day, males-only party. (A bachelor party, but that has cultural connotations that do not apply to a bunch of guys playing board games and eating a meat buffet.)

Peter and I went to the zoo for the Great Cloth Diaper Change and got some nice samples (including Rockin' Green diaper detergent, which honestly was the primary reason we attended). Did you know the Guinness Book of World Records has ridiculous regulations? Like, all attendees must be present at noon, and all publicity must list noon as the event time, but it won't actually happen until 12:30. Argh. Peter was great, though. (And it helped that Luvaboos, local event sponsor, had some entertainment for the kids.)

The tambourine really makes the outfit...

He fell asleep on the way home and napped for almost 3 hours, allowing me to have lunch and get a 2 hour nap myself. He really has been remarkably well-behaved all day. Even when we had to wait an extra 25 minutes for my husband to get home because his car got stuck on the way out of the camp. Bedtime routine was good, he nursed, wanted to get into bed... and then would not sleep for over an hour.

It's completely my fault that I'm cranky. I stayed up late last night. I could not appreciate Peter's high spirits at bed time (all he wanted to do was play in bed with me next to him). I feel entitled to have help with Peter all day on Saturdays. (Which is ridiculous. Jeremy deserves to have a life, too.)

Why me, Lord? What have I ever done
that was worth even one
of the pleasures I've known?
Tell me, Lord. What did I ever do
that was worth loving you
or the kindness you've shown?

Lord, help me. Jesus, I've wasted it so.
Help me, Jesus, I know what I am
Now that I know that I've needed you so
help me, Jesus
my soul's in your hand.

- "Why Me" sung by Willie Nelson

Friday, April 20, 2012

Why Aren't Young People in Church?

My husband's thoughts about the topic. Does any of this resonate with you?

There are a number of factors keeping young people out of the Church. This is not just a Catholic problem, or just a problem in Rochester. I did not write this sooner because I'm always hesitant to try and speak for my generation, but in the past few months, many of my Christian friends have independently brought up many of the same lamentations I have about church culture.

Here are the mistakes that I see happening many places and what I think can be done to correct them:

Don't patronize us. This is probably the biggest factor, at least for Mass attendance. We have had ideas dismissed because "we're young", or have just generally had to endure condescension and aren't-they-cute tones in our conversations. The term "young adult" is generally aggravating to anyone with a mortgage, spouse or child, because we grew up in an age when "young adult" was a term used to placate middle school students who believed they could make their own decisions. (For example, I assure you there's nothing in the "young adult" section of the library I'd remotely consider reading.) Even "it's so nice to see young people here" is counterproductive. The bottom line is this: people want to fit in. This may be especially true of my generation. Getting treated like a child (even if you're the same age or younger as that person's children) does not help you fit in. The reason "it's so nice to see young people here" is counterproductive is that it underscores the fact that it is unusual to see people my age in church regularly these days. (Honestly, this may or may not even be empirically true, but comments like that make it seem that way.) While we can't exactly mandate a "Gen Y Sensitivity Training" for all parishioners, we can at least train the greeters in how to engage young people.

Get people involved in the community, but NOT necessarily the ministries. In the last 4 years, I have been recruited for just about every ministry in our cluster. Most of these efforts came from people I don't even know. This is a big problem. It suggests that the criteria for participation in these things are one or more of "young", "male" and "alive". Besides the fitting in issue discussed in the previous point, that doesn't make them seem particularly desirable. A friend has said that he believes the lack of priests in general and in Rochester explicitly can be attributed to the efforts to make priests seem "just like everyone else" to the laity. "Why," he asks, "would anyone ever want to be 'just like everyone else', and also have to be celibate, make $20,000 a year and have to live wherever the Bishop tells you?" If there's nothing special about the group, why join it? People do want to fit in, but they want to fit in because of some common factor or personal strength, not because "we really need people and you look healthy". Or, worse, the implication that the job is so horrible that they can't find anyone else willing to do it. If we want to get people involved, start with having events that are FUN. That's how you draw people in. Then, once you get to know them, their strengths and gifts will become more apparent and it can be a personal recommendation for a ministry, which means ever so much more.

Improve catechesis for everyone. People are not inclined to belong to an organization if they don't share it's values, in our case, belief in Christ and in the Catholic Church. We're now coming up on a second generation of people who have not been well-taught in the reasons behind things. Their views on the teachings of the Church, even if they were raised in the Church, come primarily through the media. That's what we're up against. And I'm afraid we're not doing a very good job combating that. Many CFF teachers are not adequate. Some are great, but many either do not have a strong knowledge in the Catholic faith themselves (rarely rising above "God loves you" even with older children), and others do but are not good teachers. (CFF is another thing I was recruited for at one point, even though I myself am a really terrible teacher of children.) Provide classes up through high school, perhaps even into college. Encourage all adults to be involved in a faith formation group, whether a Bible study, book club, or discipleship and faith-sharing. The first step is to offer it. The second is to make it worth their while. I don't know what we need to do to ensure that our CFF instructors are both knowledgeable and engaging, but we need to do it. Even if we don't add more programs, we should at least fix what we've got now.

Practice what we preach. These are all sort of related, and this goes back a bit to being "just like everyone else" and the lack of knowledge about our faith. If you don't understand the doctrine, it seems arbitrary and outdated at best, oppressive and ignorant at worst. If anyone does bring up the doctrine to you, that person becomes the enemy, because it's not going to be backed up by the church authority. How can we talk with someone about divorce, for example, when we have priests who publicly state that it's OK?  I'm not saying we need to be fire and brimstone; in fact, I fear all of Christianity is doomed to swing between these two extremes for eternity because people seem to fear moderation. I'm just saying we should create an environment in which Catholic teachings are explained and CELEBRATED in LOVE. That's what we're missing. I used to think the Catholic Church was a dinosaur at best and demonic at worst. I had to read 3 books and talk with about a dozen priests before I finally understood Catholic doctrine - not the mysteries of our faith, not Aquinas' writings, but stuff like "why is NFP OK but condoms aren't?" Most people are not nearly that patient. I don't expect all people in authority to have every answer, but I do expect them to have answers to the basic questions that come up frequently. More specifically, I expect one answer - the Catholic answer, even if you don't personally agree with it. To me, Tradition and solid, consistent theology are what the Catholic Church has to offer to followers of Jesus. Without those, we're "just like everyone else" - except with a bunch of seemingly arbitrary restrictions on what you're allowed to do in your bedroom and occasional inconsistent guilt trips about not attending Mass weekly.

Jeremy considers CatholicMommy to be one of the great CFF teachers, and not just because he has to say that. If he has anything to say about anything, he typically has a lot to say (this post was once twice this long); yet, most of his writings that are available online can be seen on Twitter @top10wolves. How odd.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Those who can't, teach: On raising saints

Sometimes I feel like a defective mother. Other moms talk about how they instantly fell in love with their baby when he was born, or that they had a new appreciation of their own mother, or how they love this child more than they ever thought possible. And I smile and say that's beautiful. But truthfully, none of that happened for me.

Which isn't to say that I don't love Peter or my mom. I've always appreciated my mom and understood that she sacrificed to make me happy. I love Peter with all my heart and that love keeps growing, but it's not more than I love other people, just different.

One thing has changed, though. I value his soul more than my own.

In marriage, my husband and I were made one. I became just as concerned for his faith as I was for my own. We are a partnership, seeking God together in this life He has given us. In my family, my parents are counselors and spiritual leaders for me. My brothers, cousins, and friends, whether they are Christian or not, I generally see as companions on this journey. I pray for them, but I don't hear a calling to make them my particular responsibility.

"Be gentle with the tree. It's a present for us from God!"

Peter changed everything. I want to have a better prayer life, that I can lead him to a life of prayer. I want to do acts of service, so he will understand the call to serve the poor. I want to read the Bible, stories of saints, and prayer books so he knows about those who have gone before us. His soul has been entrusted to me and my husband; I am doing what I can to help him reach paradise. I am not confident that I can live out holiness, but I want to teach it to Peter.

My own salvation, of course, remains important to me. But so often when I turn to God in prayer, receive the Eucharist, or meditate on Scripture, I come back to a common refrain. Please God, give him a heart that follows you. Make me a model for him. Use me to strengthen his faith. This, I guess, is why motherhood is a vocation.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Spring Break Fun

Just lion around...

His own place setting! (Yum, potato soup)

Big boy or small room?

Very excited about trains and cars these days

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Wisdom from Dwija: How to Have Toddlers & a Clean House

Dwija, witty writer found at House Unseen. Life Unscripted. (and now Catholic Exchange!), has bestowed upon us less experienced mothers a gift from above: how to maintain a basic level of cleanliness while still allowing your toddler to leave his room. For a full explanation, you can check out her guest post at Finding Great Joy.

I was most enlightened by her categorization of chores into three categories: sleepy time, wakey time, crazy time. What chores can be quietly done without disturbing a little boy who resisted his nap for an hour? What can be done while he is happily lining up his fruit? What can be done when he is absolutely certain that the best place to be is within .0024 inches of me and/or he needs a distraction?

Wait, your kids don't do this?

I am a bit of an organization fanatic (my husband's socks are separated by color), so I love this plan. Of course, I had to sit down and create my own lists right away! Here's what we've got.

Sleepy Time
* Clean our bathroom & little bathroom
* Computer time: Facebook, blog, emails
* Scrapbook
* Dishes (but quietly. because he loves to pull things out of the dirty water.)

Wakey Time
* Clean kitchen
* Clean guest bathroom (right next to his room, can't do it when he's sleeping)
* Dusting
* Strip & make beds
* Pick up toys and books. Repeat.

Crazy Time
* Laundry
* Weeding

These don't include my husband's chores of mowing the lawn, feeding our worms, making dinner, and managing garbage and recycling. But he usually does his chores when I am home or have taken Peter with me, so it's less of a challenge for him. (Which is good, because he has enough challenges working 40 hours a week!)

Do you have any tips for managing a household with little ones?

Monday, April 16, 2012


I am reading... The Hunchback of Notre Dame in all its unabridged glory. It's long. Overall it is well-written and enjoyable, but every now and then Hugo spends an absurd amount of time describing buildings or scenes of Paris in great detail. I've been skimming those sections.

I am praying for... our secular leaders. Regardless of one's political leanings, it is good to pray for those in authority. May they be blessed with wisdom, understanding, and receive accurate information upon which to base their decisions.

My favorite seasonal food is... a hard boiled egg. I realize these are easy to make and I could eat them year-round, but for some reason I don't. And when I have them at my parents' house at Easter, I can slice my eggs into little circles with their egg slicer. So cool!

I am planning... our vegetable garden! So far all I've done is pull out the dead stuff from last year and reprimand the ivy that wants to enjoy our nice garden soil. We're planning a trip to the public market this Saturday to see if they're selling anything we should be planting this time of year. Perhaps lettuce?

He's been ready for months...

I was recently surprised by... today's weather! Last week was cool and rainy, which is the forecast for the rest of this week. But today was 86 and sunny with a strong wind. I was able to dry THREE loads of laundry in one day!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Optimistically called Faith Formation

When I was young, Sunday school was called CCD. None of us children knew what it meant, but we knew it was religion class for kids who went to public schools. (Turns out it stood for Confraternity of Catholic Doctrine; doesn't that just roll of the tongue?) Apparently the Powers That Be decided CCD wasn't an appropriate name, perhaps because those in it didn't understand it. So they changed the name to Religious Education. That was fine. Simple, straightforward, accurate.


Of course it couldn't stay that way. I don't know if a mission statement was updated or someone just decided we needed to change the name to prove we're contemporary, but the name was changed once again. Now it is called Children's Faith Formation. (There are also adult and family faith formation programs.)

I asked my third graders recently why they come to Sunday school. Not why they should come, but why do they actually come. The answers ranged from "I have to" to "my parents want to go grocery shopping" to "I like Peter" (my son, not the Apostle) to a few "I want to learn about God." I then asked them why do they think I want them to come to Sunday school. General consensus was that I want them to learn about God.

I agreed, but told them it's much more than that. I can teach them Bible stories, Church teachings, and how to pray. I can give them written quizzes and ask questions during our trivia games to determine if they've learned the Beatitudes and how to be a Christian in daily life. But all of that is secondary.

I want them to have faith. And I can't teach that.

Knowledge and understanding can water the seeds of faith, but they are not faith. I can show them my own love for God and try to pass along God's love for them, but I cannot give them faith. Faith is an individual's response to God. I pray that our program can live up to its name, while knowing that all of our formation amounts to nothing without faith first being present.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Poor neglected me...

When I was little, my cousin was interested in photography and used me as her subject matter somewhat regularly. This one cracks me up; I look like a poster child for sponsoring a child overseas!

Do you ever feel like this? As if no one understands how hard life is? During this week after Easter, many Catholics pray the Divine Mercy novena. The prayer associated with this image of Jesus' mercy is simple.

Jesus, I trust in You.

He gets it. He loves you. Everything else is details.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Autism Scare

First let me say that I'm not being dismissive of children (and adults) with autism. My brother is likely on the spectrum and works at a school for high-functioning teens on the spectrum. I understand how important it is to have early interventions, ongoing support, and a society that can accept the strengths and limitations of those with autism. Raising awareness of what autism is and how it is manifest is a noble mission.

However, I don't think scare tactics are the way to go.

As a former school psychologist, I get frustrated by data like those depicted on the button above. (And the probable typo in the parenthetical comment, but for different reasons...) Yes, the number of children identified on the autism spectrum has risen dramatically over the past ten years. Optimistically, this is the result of better autism awareness. Kids with Aspergers or high-functioning autism are now being identified and getting assistance, rather than just getting by and being "quirky". Children who previously were mis-identified as mentally retarded are now recognized as having autism. This is a cause for celebration, not scare tactics.

Data from the US Department of Education show that mental retardation rates have dropped in the same manner as autism rates have risen. Pessimistically, the autism label may be preferred by parents, so children are being mis-identified because of pressure on school. I know of at least one child suddenly identified as autistic in 3rd grade. He shut down socially after his parents traumatic divorce. When reviewing his case for a Committee on Special Education meeting, I noticed he had no symptoms of autism before 3rd grade. I pointed out to the committee that trauma does not cause autism and was completely ignored. The parents wanted an autism label rather than emotional disturbance, so they got it. This is certainly anecdotal, but it does attest that such things can and do happen.

April is autism awareness month. Take the time to learn about autism and how to support families struggling with it. Spread the news. But please don't make it a message of fear.

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Gospel for Mean Kids

While watching the Catholicism series (which is amazing!), I learned important contextual information about Jesus' admonition, "If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also" (Matthew 5:39). Fr. Baron explained that Jews of that time would not use their left hand to strike a person. So to strike your right cheek, the aggressor would use a backhanded slap, as one does to a slave or other inferior. By turning the left cheek, the recipient of violence refuses to be treated as an inferior. The aggressor may choose more violence, but will be forced to treat the other as an equal, striking with an open hand.

The message, then, is not to cower before violence, but to make the aggressor aware of his action and maintain one's human dignity. We are to engage in nonviolent protest.

Local 12103 on strike

What are we to do, though, when violence is between children? Whether physical or verbal, bullying can happen even in youth group. Our parish recently made the difficult decision that a child could not return to youth group unless accompanied by a parent. This happened after repeated incidents of physical aggression.

I saw the boy on Easter, called him by name, and said hello. He looked ashamed, waved briefly, and disappeared into the crowd. My heart went out to him. This is the child who needs to be at youth group. He needs to know that he is valuable and loved. He needs to know the Gospel, the Good News, of freedom from fear.

And we sent him away.

I don't know if we had another good option. I am grateful not to be the one who had to make the final decision. Could we have addressed the issue as a large group (60+ middle school kids)? Would it have mattered if we talked about what it really means to turn the other cheek? Or would his aggression have continued unchecked, possibly driving away other kids who need the Gospel?

How do we share the Gospel with those who most need it?

Divine Mercy

Thursday, April 5, 2012

A time of prayer

May you have a blessed Triduum and a joyful Easter. See you next week!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Thoughtful, Beautiful, Practical Gifts

And she hadn't even seen the table cloth!
Also came with a box of tea.

There were six brownies.
Now there are none.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

When is ADHD a problem?

Attention Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) affects 2-16% of school children. Many parents, teachers, and doctors consider a trial of ADHD medication a reasonable course of action when behavior problems seem to stem from an inability to sit still and/or concentrate. But why do we jump into treatments before determining if there is a problem?

Sometimes kids are just being kids!

A disability is an impairment that affects one or more "major life activities." What major life activities do we expect for children? To have positive social interactions, to learn about their world, and to be reasonably self-sufficient for their age. Often the ADHD symptoms we see are problems because of the adults, not the child. Consider the following questions.

Does the behavior prevent the child from achieving her goals? If she is so distracted she can't learn the rules to a game she wants to play, or so active she can't finish a book she is enjoying, there might be a problem. If the behavior is manifest through unfinished homework, daydreaming during instruction, or hours playing outside, the issue might be an unwillingness to focus rather than an inability.

Does the behavior compromise personal safety of self or others? Our responsibility as parents is to keep our children safe. (Within reason. No bubble wrap, please.) Impulsively decorating an entire wall with stickers is significantly different from impulsively running into a busy street to get a ball. Look critically at behavior to determine if there is a pattern of unsafe behavior.

Does the behavior damage important relationships? If parents or siblings are unable to cope with a behavior, the child may need help in modifying the behavior to maintain a supportive home environment. If the offended parties are 'friends' your child doesn't like, it's probably OK to let that relationship end.

If the answer to all three questions was no, then a medical treatment seems unnecessary. If you are concerned about your child's academic performance, meet with the teacher. Ask to do a classroom observation and compare your child's behavior to the class. Is he being age-appropriate? If not, consider pursuing a 504 plan or possibly an IEP to make the academic environment work for your child. Or, skip that mess all together. Home-school!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Menstrual Musings

As the title suggests, this post might have too much information. Read at your own risk.

Some time after Peter was born, while I was exploring the wide world of cloth diapers and natural parenting, I came across the topic of mama cloth. And snickered. Because really, "mama cloth"? That is apparently the trendy name for cloth menstrual pads. Aside from being amused, I didn't give it a second thought.

As an aside, must be a bummer to work in marketing for menstrual products. How do you take something that contains blood and make it sound stylish and appealing?! Hint: Not by putting encouraging messages on the tampon labels, as one company does with their "sport" brand. I kid you not, one such message says, "I'm your biggest fan." Far from encouraged, I would be distressed if that were true.

Anyway, eventually I decided to try cloth pantiliners... cheaper in the long run and generate a lot less trash. Besides, they rarely get dirty, so it wasn't that big of a step. Peter was 17 months old when my period returned and by that point I was pretty much brain-washed by natural parenting blogs. A couple months ago, I bought some cloth maxi pads. (No, I am still not calling them mama cloth.) Again, I justified it to myself by pointing out that I only use them as a tampon back-up, so it's just another small step.

But then this month I bought a DivaCup. Again with the naming, folks. And if just the name isn't enough to make you smirk, consider this: each cup is sold with a cute little diva pin, so you can tell the world you've got silicone in you! I'm not really in a position to cast stones, though, since I own one. (I don't wear the pin. And never will.)

At this point, there's no turning back. Two years ago, I would have been thoroughly grossed out by reusable menstrual products, but here we are. I think they're more comfortable and definitely more ecologically friendly. And hey, makes packing easier, too.

And since you've read this far, allow me to vent my one menstrual frustration. Before being pregnant, I had almost zero PMS symptoms. Now, for the week leading up to the big day, I am tired, moody, and struggling with nausea. Which, incidentally, were also my early pregnancy symptoms. So now I never know! And I feel gross! "First World Problems"