Wednesday, August 29, 2012

This is not a post about politics, it's a post about political posts

It seems the politics are never ending on Facebook and other social media. While I've always had friends who always had more political posts or not, and while politics has always been dirty, it seems to be getting worse.
Maybe it's just because it's a presidential election year.

Now, I understand that many of us have strong political views. (Some don't, and that's fine, too). I actually have a lot of strong political opinions, on a variety of issues. I just choose to limit how much I post about them. A friend once accused that if I "don't stand for anything I'll fall for anything". I don't think that's true; I do know where I stand, and that stance informs my votes. If any of my friends wants to know where I stand on a certain issue or how I voted , I'm happy to share that. I limit the unsolicited political announcements for a couple of important reasons.

First and foremeost, I'm pretty sure my post- especially if it's an angry post- is not going to change the way you vote. A reasoned discussion between us might change how either of us votes, but I can count on one hand  the times I've seen THAT happen on Facebook.  Let's face it- they pretty much all go the same way:

"I am SO ANGRY about what this person said or did! You should all be outraged!"
(People with same viewpoint) "YES WE ARE!! ANYONE WHO ISN'T IS AN IDIOT!"
(People with another viewpoint) "I'll just be over here, perhaps quietly unfriending this person who thinks I'm an idiot".

Related to above, I don't want to be part of the hate that seems so endemic. I don't see nearly enough of people posting what they stand FOR, as I see them ranting against what they are AGAINST.  Politics nowadays seems to be less about voting for someone you truly believe in and more about making sure the other guy doesn't get into office. If you want to be a political advocate that I will listen to, tell me something positive. Tell me you're voting for a candidate because he or she has such a great record on issues that matter to you. Much of what I see people posting doesn't stand up to scrutiny.  Most importantly, if I disagree with you on an issue, don't consider me an idiot, ill informed, or some kind of traitor to your cause. Recognise that people of good conscience can read, research, think and come to very different views on a subject.

Perhaps most importantly, your friendship is more important to me than political advocacy. I won't change the way I vote to please someone, but I am friends with people all over the political spectrum and I like it that it. It makes me keep thinking. I've seen friends unfriended by others over their political viewpoints; I've seen people hide their family's posts until after the election, and I've seen friends take a break from social media because of all the politics. I have at times been saddened by finding out some of my friend's viewpoints; it's led me to both hide my ticker and install socialfixer , and pretty give up on a few blogs for the nonce. Even when I mostly agree with people. I'm pretty sure some of my comments and likes have hurt friends and if they have,I apologize.

In closing: I don't want to use this post to talk about my own politics, but I will say a little. I don't vote based on party, and while many issues are important to me, when it comes down to a deciding issue I will ALWAYS go with environment. I think all those others issues are less important if we don't have a nice place to live.
A closing word on partisan politics: I must say to all the angry people that you aren't just losing the undecided voters, you're losing a lot of people who used to vote with you. The angry, that hate, the misinformation, and massive amounts of money that both the major parties are spending on their smear ads are a huge turn off.

What matters to you? Will you ever convince people to your viewpoint if you alienate everyone who doesn't agree with you?

Friday, August 24, 2012

A trip down memory lane with Mayim Bialik

It's been a long time since I've had babies, so one might wonder why I felt compelled to pick up Beyond The Sling by Mayim Bialik.It was a triple draw for me; a book written by an actress on one of my favourite TV shows, about the style of parenting I've used from the beginning, and with the insight of a PhD in neuroscience. Winning!
I didn't come to the book for advice, (although the reminders about communication with our children were a valuable boost), but I found myself remembering fondly my childrens' early years.Birthing, nursing, co-sleeping; all amazing, foundational acts that I believe are the most important things I have done in this world.  Some of my strongest memories are of my husband carrying our eldest in the sling to come meet me at work so he could nurse on my lunch break ( I returned to full time work for a year and a half after my oldest was born, with my husband and I off shifting so we were his only caregivers, and my son nursing and drinking expressed breastmilk; the extreme challenges I faced nursing my daughter, the lactation consultants and La Leche League Leaders who helped us, and, I have come to believe saved her life; the joys of warm babies snuggled between us at night. Such joy.
Beyond the Sling is an apologetically pro attachment parenting book, and I will admit that I would only get it as a shower gift if I knew the parents were investigating AP. Nor am I quite as hardcore as Dr Bialik and her family; I never practiced elimination communication, and I am much more likely to seek Western medical care (although I think we'd both agree that no cure can beat the preventative effects of healthy eating and exercise!)
But what I want to touch on in closing is not just a review of the book. One criticism I could see it coming under is that Dr Bialik's children are still very young, and the proof is not yet in the pudding.  I want to assure any readers who read the book and have these concerns that this way of parenting DOES work in the long term. My kids are 15, 13 and 10; they all weaned from the breast and family bed at their own rate, which was different for every child. As I type, my teenagers are on their way home from a week's church camp in another state. See, Gram, they separated, they slept on their own, and without any blips! (I had to extort good-bye hugs from them by holding onto their pocket money. Surely not pure AP! Oh well.) I have always believed, like Dr Bialik, that manners should be "caught not taught", and that's worked beautifully! Amazing that your typical child really can become " the most polite child I've seen all day" just by having it modeled for them, and extended to them. Both at home and at my job in the church nursery, I rarely have to use coercive discipline. Why do I think that's so? Also touched on in this book; "Many families using gentle discipline seem to have more rules and expectations..." (Emphasis mine) I always make my expectations clear to children ( whether my own or not); I make sure they know that I need their help to make sure things get done, and I expect that children CAN be contributing members of whatever group they are in. They will almost always rise to the challenge. My kids are amazing, polite, hardworking members of society, and beyond a little hormone fueled drama, I have yet to see any of the "horrors" that are supposed to come with having teenagers. Attachment parenting works, from birth to college and I am sure, beyond.

You can read Mayim Bialik's writing on Jewish parenting at Kveller

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Some thoughts on Halo from a non player

When we got out X Box 360 this January, my husband made sure to get the package that came with a Halo game. It quickly became a favourite among my boys, though the DM and Supergirl play less frequently.
Even though I don't really game, I get plenty of time to hear and observe. My kids like to joke that if I were in the Halo universe, I'd be Dr Halsey, because she also is obsessed with coffee (ha!) .

I have many friends who won't let their kids play Halo (I support their choices) and some of them are horrified that I do (that's what I get for being a peace loving hippie freak). It is violent, yes, and if you choose not to let your child play violent video games, it's not for you. For those of us who do, Halo has got a lot to recommend it. The female characters are not just the equals of the men, they have similar armour. No half naked game babes. There is also racial and ethnic equality. As anyone who keeps up on the gaming world knows, sexualized women and pervasive racial stereotypes are a big issue in video games ( still). It's nice to have games that will actually appeal to teenagers where they aren't.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Cloth Diapers: a Reflection

It's been a long time- about 7 1/2 years- since I had a kid in diapers, so you might not think  have too much reason to reflect on that aspect of my life. But I do from time to time, as the decision is still with me.
Cloth diapering was a decision I made long before having kids, and I never considered disposable. I had been wearing cloth pads for years before I had my first kid, so along with other considerations. I knew cloth felt nicer than paper.
When my oldest son was a few days old, my father in law called and wanted to hire a baby nurse for us. My husband (rightly) turned him down but ignored my frantic "Tell him we'd like diaper service instead!!" . Next time round, I bypassed my husband's sense of pride and let my FIL know myself that we'd LOVE diaper service. He got us six months worth following the birth of our second and third children, which was a boon in those post partum months.
After that, we washed our own diapers, and I never found it onerous. I bought organic diapers online from a mama with her own business. Several types of good there!
While my oldest, now 15, was tiny I quickly figured out cloth diapers were not just good for diapering, but for cleaning up spills. It was at that point that we stopped buying paper towels- and I have not bought a roll since. The picture at the top there was taken this week. I don't just still have the knowledge that I made an ecologically sound choice; I'm still wiping up spills with the same diapers I used on my babies.
Cloth vs disposable is usually treated like any other parenting decision- sacrosanct. I have come to a point where I don't agree with this. Putting (literal) tons of non biodegradable waste into our landfills isn't a deeply personal decision, like feeding or sleeping methods. It affects every single person on Earth. We should treat is as the ecological decision it it.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Look Me in The Eye by John Elder Robison

I picked up Look Me in the Eye by John Elder Robison on the recommendation of some guy at the comic book store. after an evening of casual Magic, he had suggested it as reading for Turbo, feeling that he has some of the personality traits of Aspberger's. Now, aside from the fact that I find lay diagnosis of other people's children to be a bit rude ( believe me, as someone who works with small children and has repeatedly NOT suggested elimination diets for kids with eye-bags, I get the urge), and aside from the fact that we did take him to a kid shrink at one point and she declared him neurotypical, it's just too easy to walk into a comic book store full of gamers and start handing out diagnoses. It's like shooting fish in a barrel.

After reading the book, I am very glad I did not just hand it to my 10 year old. It's not appropriate for that age group. It is, however, a fascinating look at a man who grew up with Aspberger's in  a time when no such diagnosis existed, and in a dysfunctional family to boot. Robison is to be greatly commended for his perseverance.  As a person who faced her own odds growing up, a passage near the end of the book struck a deep chord with me:

I don't know why, but I never gave in to the voices. Many times, quitting would have been easier than going on, but I never did. And I never turned to anti depressants or liquor or pot or anything else. I just worked harder.  (emphasis mine).

You can visit John Robison on the web at

Related works I've tagged for future reading:

Born on a Blue Day

Running With Scissors

A Girl Named Zippy

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

My agenda for the rest of the summer

It's hard to believe we only have about three weeks of summer left. I think it especially seems to sneak up on us in the Pacific Northwest, since we usually don't start even getting nice weather until after July 4th. This may be why our school years seem to start and end so much later than the rest of the nation! With that in mind, there are both things I need to get done to prepare for the school year, and to squeeze the last out of summer.

-Take kids to the lake a few times a week, since we finally have the weather for it.
- Type up lesson plan sheets, and print them out
-Plan first couple weeks of lessons
- Prepare for my 40th birthday party
-Read, read read- and review!
-Blog frequently; on a daily basis if possible. Make enough of a name for myself as a geeky mom blogger that GeekGirlCon invites me to be a future geeky mom panelist.
- Keep trying to figure of what's wrong with me, and resist the urge to give up
-Get as far as I can on The DM's Big Damn Christmas Sweater- not easy in this heat1
-Take advantage of the time for double workouts .

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Evolving in Monkey Town by Rachel Held Evans

Evolving in Monkey Town by Rachel Held Evans is not what the title would suggest at first glance. Although it chronicles the journey of a young woman growing up Christian in Dayton, Tennessee (home of the Scopes "monkey" trial ) , the book is not so much about the relationship between religion and science but the need for people of faith to be willing to evolve. Spurred by the example of her religious professor father and compassionate public school teacher mother, Held Evans found herself questioning many deeply held evangelical concepts, especially those that did not fit in with Christ's compassionate nature. I feel this would be a wonderful read both for those Christians who wonder if it's OK to doubt, and those so sure in their dogma that they cannot accept alternate interpretations of Scripture.

You can follow Rachel Held Evans on twitter @rachelheldevans

Monday, August 13, 2012

No "switch dance" ; Raising Respectful Kids Non-violently.

Pretty much everyone who knows me knows my stance on striking children: Don't do it. Just don't. I realize there have been times in my life where my viewpoint didn't hold much water with some people. My kids were younger, sometimes wild, and we had yet to see where my parenting style would lead us. The fact that my mother didn't hit me didn't seem to hold much weight with people, either, even though I turned out to be a  contributing member of society instead of the criminal that many spanking advocates would have us believe non-violent parenting produces.
   It seems that every couple of years my tolerance for the pro-spanking  lobby reaches a boiling point, and I just have to blog about it. This time, it's a rash of graphics I've seen floating around Facebook.

 It's probably a positive thing that I revisit this from time to time, as my kids grow more awesome and I see more and more evidence that this WORKS.

I've been giving a lot of thought to why there is this strange nostalgia for a time when it was more socially acceptable to hit children. I think it's because many people have a perception that kids today are less respectful than they were a generation ago, and that the world is going to Hell in a hand basket. You know who else made those same complaints? Hesiod (700 BC) and Socrates. It's too easy for an adult to view youth who are doing the same things they did as being "bad". And spanking is supposed to "fix" this. Parents, to you really think you can REQUIRE your kids to respect you and beat it into them if they don't? It won't work. That's not respect. Respect has to be earned, or it's not true respect.
On the other hand, I won't deny that our world can give us both small and large things to despair about. There's no doubt that at some point, the parenting culture reacted to past abuses of children by swinging too far to the other side of things. In some cases,  the concept of parenting without doing physical or true psychological damage to out kids unraveled into any coercion is a form of violence and  should be avoided at all costs. Some parents went to such an extreme that in an effort to live cooperatively with their children, they subsumed their own needs to their children's wants. I'm in no way advocating for that. What I'm saying is this: It's not one or the other, and the happy medium DOES exist. I raised my kids without spanking and shaming, but with discipline. My goal has been to set guidelines, teach them how to do things for themselves, expect them to contribute to our family, and to require more work from them if they failed to meet my behavioural guidelines. (Sometimes my floors would be REALLY clean before they got the hint, so either way, I win, right?). I'm a big believer that from the time they can walk, kids should be doing chores, and that the older they get, the more we should expect from them.  I also- very importantly- teach them that all people need to be treated with manners and courtesy, and model that by teaching THEM that way ( to the best of my ability).

My kids are now 15, 13 and 10. I think at this point I CAN speak to the success of non violent parenting. My kids aren't perfect ( and neither are you) but they are hard working, talented kids, and I am STILL getting compliments on their manners. This year, my 15 year old went on his first mission- helping renovate the daycare attached to out church, and not only did I hear many wonderful things about his work ethic, but he raised every cent of his expenses himself, and then some. He and the 13 year old volunteered at VBS yet again this summer, and I heard many of the same compliments. One of the best ones was from a kitchen worker who worked along side my daughter, who told me "she doesn't just work hard, she works smart."  The fact is, when my teenagers volunteer for a service project, I hear awesome things about them. The 10 year old? For about the 4th year in a row, he asked for donations to charity for his birthday. (His chosen charity this year wasWe Can Be Heroes ) He has a true servant heart.

I don't claim to have all the answers, but I think a  few of the things I've done have helped my kids on the path to awesome.

- When they are babies, respond to their cries.
- When they are toddlers, start requiring them to contribute to the family. If they can walk, they can put their own dirty clothes in the hamper, plastic dishes in the sink and learn to sweep. Keep adding responsibilities and by the time they're teenagers, they should be able to go to the store for you, cook a meal, wash, dry and fold their own laundry, and mow the lawn. Never do for a child what they can do for themselves.
- Treat them with courtesy, and let them see you treat others with courtesy. You really can't expect your kids to be polite if you tell them to use their manners, but then you're a total dick to your waiter.
- Use chores as a behavioural tool. I find this much more effective than I imagine hitting a kid would be, because it teaches them that getting along with other people is work, and that if we wrong another, we provide recompense.
-If your kids screw up outside the home, don't save them from the consequences of their actions. If your kid doesn't study, let them get a failing grade. It's not their teacher's fault they slacked off. Forgot to wash an item of clothing, take a towel to camp, or tell you until you're already on your way to somewhere that they were supposed to bring cupcakes? Oh well.
-Teach your children to plan.
-Maybe OT, but get your kids in the habit of showering daily and wearing clean clothes everyday from a young age. I am so VERY glad now that I got my kids into the habit of daily bathing as toddlers, because we ( and everyone who has to be around them) reaps the benefits now.

I believe that together, we can lead people to respect each other, and without fear.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Two books dealing with becoming parents

Two of the books I have finished this weekend pertain to becoming parents. The Right to be Parents by Carlos A Ball details the challenges that LGBT parents face in both becoming parents and maintaining their parental rights. I think it's a valuable read not just for those of us who already support LGBT rights, but for those who are not sure about the issue. I believe one thing we all share is the desire to see children live in and stay in stable, loving homes, and these homes are often torn apart by laws that are against LGBT parents. Making sure that LGBT parents have the right to foster and adopt also opens up many more homes to children who desperately need a stable home.

Population: Opposing Viewpoints looks at varying views on population's environmental effects, the role of education, government intervention, and immigration's effect on population. I have a moderate viewpoint on this issue: I don't dismiss out of hand the "carrying capacity" theory (the Earth can only hold so many) but I believe much of the misery in our world right now is caused by an unequal distribution of resources we have. I oppose government controls on population but believe in education and the free distribution of contraceptives, including surgical sterilization (pursuant to that, but not touched on in the book, I think doctors should NOT deny a patient sterilization on the basis of age, or having none or only one child. any able minded adult should be able to consent to surgical sterilization) On the other hand, I also support those parents who chose large families, especially as I believe that in a developed country, the parents who choose that will be so rare as to not truly impact population rates. I believe in promoting legal immigration of hard working people.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Supergods by Grant Morrison

Grant Morrison as a Renaissance man who is probably best known to most audiences as a comic book author. In our family, it's pretty safe to say that he's best known for his work on Batman.

Supergods is part history of comics from 1939 to the present, and part autobiography.  It's a great read for any one of us interested in either of those topics, but Supergods is  most notable for it's exploration of WHY we connect so much with superheroes and the books and movies they inhabit. Those of us who take comics and superheros seriously will be thrilled to have such an eloquent treatise on our side, and will wish those who mock us would be able to read it with an open mind.