Sunday, October 28, 2012

food-themed parties and allergies

Holiday parties loom in our near future;

     I have, as an adult, developed food allergies. Now, I don't usually care if I show up to a gathering and discover there's not much or even nothing I can safely eat.

     That said, I'd like to suggest that if you are hosting a potluck or holiday desert exchange gathering, and you know that at least a quarter of those invited and/or their young children, have mild to severe food allergies, you might considering compiling, or having one of the interested guests compile, a list of those allergies. Even if you don't feel like avoiding all or any of the things on the list, some of your other guests might. "Bring whatever you want and it will all work out," only actually works for people who don't have food allergies, and I would like the option to be inclusive if I reasonably can. No hard feelings towards those who don't feel inclined to accommodate special dietary needs. I know first hand it can seem like a pain, or an inconvenience that takes some of the joy out of your cooking or baking. I'm just asking you not scoff at or undermine those of us who would choose to attempt to be inclusive in our festive food and party preparations, and will find more joy in it as a result. Personally, I sincerely enjoy making it possible for someone who might otherwise not attend, to participate and enjoy a food-centered event. I like food, I like to bake, and I like sharing.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

smoking research is bunk

My dad smoked, yet neither any of my siblings nor I developed asthma, are addicted to tobacco, or suffer any other obvious consequences as a result of his smokig. Therefor I conclude that all research that indicates that children of tobacco smoking parents are more likely to develop asthma and/or become smokers themselves is all bunk.

Yes, I realize that "more likely" means they have an increased chance compared to children of non-smokers, but the fact that I know children of smokers who have not experienced these supposed adverse effects means, to me, that those statistics are obsolete. Besides, the oldest documented human smoked until she died at 122 years old; and my mom has been living with my dad for 32 years and she hasn't experienced any documented adverse effects. Also, there are other things that could cause asthma or lead people to start smoking.

Smoking is a personal choice. Parents should be free to breath cigarette or other smoke on and around their infants and children without anyone offering health concerns or research, let alone judgment. It should not be of concern to anyone but the child's parents. People who act like and promote the belief that smoking cigarettes is unhealthy, or that second hand smoke is bad for children or other people, are being judgmental and intolerant, and should learn to butt out. They should keep their negative opinions and "research" to themselves. It shouldn't matter if a parent who is considering taking up smoking, or quitting, has asked if there are reasons others chose to or not to smoke. Biased "research" about the risks associated with second hand smoke should not be offered as reliable resources. The parents should just do whatever feels normal or right to them, for their family. It should not matter if it might/will cost society, in terms of current or future medical costs for the parent or the child. It should not matter that it may now or later impact that child's quality of life in some regard, or that it could perpetuate a continuing harmful cycle whereby the child of a smoker grows up to smoke around their children who grow up to smoke around their children and so on for generations.

Again, I don't believe it will, because my dad smoked and I don't have asthma or battle cigarette addiction. I'm just emphasizing that it ought to be up to parents to expose their children to any "risk" they feel inclined to. They are the ones responsible for their children. It is their parental right.

As an aside, routine infant circumcision is a violation of basic human rights, and there is an abundance of evidence to show how at best it is unnecessary, and at worst how harmful (in some cases fatal) it is. But don't take my word for it; ask a sexually active circumcised man with a normal amount of ego and social conditioning, who hasn't done much (if any) research, if being circumcised as an infant had or has any negative impacts on him psychologically, physiologically, or physically, and if he says "no," then take his word for it, research it no more, and lob off a healthy, functional, sensitive and useful piece of your perfect newborn son's genitals. That's a totally reasonable and legit course of action.

Or, you know, research it, a lot. Don't know where to start? Just ask.

Friday, September 7, 2012

If you're not part of the solution...

Sharing an Alfie Kohn article on Facebook, thinking about public/mainstream schools, especially in these USA, varieties of "homeschooling," human development, our attitudes towards children, and was reminded of this;

Earlier this summer I had an out-of-state data collector come to our door, asking me to participate in a survey that helps them assess general population's needs and wants for early education and childcare. I wasn't able to easily answer many of the multiple choice "which best describes" type questions, because we've had some privilege and, equally significant, made it a goal and a point to create a life where many didn't apply to us. This lead to some to some tangent conversation.

She was a retired school teacher, yet said if she had young children now she would not send them to public (or most other mainstream) schools, and that she sincerely hoped her grandbabies would not be sent to them either. Among her chief concerns were all-day kindergarten, the amounts of homework given even to young children, class sizes/overworked teachers, inequities between school-zones within the same communities and/or schools within the same districts, and the children's physical safety.

Standing by our public/mainstream schooling system just because you are a part of the system is, in my opinion, similar to defending a criminal church member or church organization, just because you are a member of that church. If anything, that should give you more reason to want to set things right, to create a respectable, (and in the case of schools) evidence based system, that actually nurtures young people's minds and fosters a love of learning.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Help a mama out

I had a lovely talk with a mama-friend a few days ago, that served as a good reminder and motivation for me, so I wanted to share with you all.

When my friend had her last (3rd) baby, a little over a year ago, I took her family dinner one night, about a week after the baby's birth. Once a week for the next three weeks I went over, with my kids in tow, brought lunch, and spent a couple of hours with her. Once I held the baby while she showered, mostly I chatted and kept her company as she nursed and folded laundry, while our kids occupied eachother.

I meant to keep going once a week until at least six weeks, but stuff came up, everybody in my house took turns being sick, and it didn't happen. I felt bad that I hadn't done more. It didn't feel like I'd done much at all. Last week when we were talking, it came up, as she mentioned the thank you card she never sent me. "For what?" I asked. She proceeded to tell about how lovely and supportive I had been, and how much I'd done for her during those first few weeks. I honestly had no idea! She had/has lots of family, church family, and friends. I assumed they would have all been doing at least some of those things for her as well. Apparently, not many were.

It was reminder to me how far a little bit of effort can go, and that it's never safe to assume someone has all the support they need without you. If each one of us puts in the little bit of effort to provide one meal for a mom with a new baby, and whenever possible makes sure that she is getting some time to shower alone and fold her laundry, it will be effort well spent. Even if you can't financially afford to provide a meal, you can hold a sweet baby while mama showers, or do a sink full of dishes or vacuum. You can take her older kids or her dog for walk. Even if you only visit and do one chore during her entire postpartum period, it matters. It makes a difference.

We live in an area with an estimated 50% of mothers experiencing postpartum mood disorders. Lets each do that tiny bit to help support eachother and reduce our risks of developing such a devastating condition.

Also, Happy Saint Patrick's Day.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

I wish I had an arm chair I liked.

Actually, the title is a lie. I wish I had lots of hammock-chairs and floor cushions, and that we could get rid of armchairs and couches without other people in my household having fits.

I've seen this being passed around Facebook the past few days, and have, thus far, bitten my tongue. So now my tongue is full teeth marks and is too sore to bite on anymore.

I think I understand what he's trying to say, and agree that generally, no single teacher should be held accountable for the graduating or dropping out of any single student. Still, I thought he made some very poor analogies, among other disagreements I have with him. All of the other professions he sites are primarily reactive, not specifically educational or preventative. If firefighters spent seven hours a day in a home, actively trying to make it as fire-resistant as possible, and the house still caught fire, then it would be a more accurate comparison. When a person sees doctors for years and the doctors fail to catch, diagnose, or effectively treat a treatable illness/condition, we do question them and/or mainstream medicine and their effectiveness, as much as some of us question any teacher and our current education system.

It struck me as yet another person who doesn't want to think about the implications of things like the USA's ranking in PISA surveys; that they might be part of or supporting a failing system; that if they are truly dedicated to effective, quality, equal education for all children, they need to help change the system they are a part of instead of blindly defending it.

Believe it or not, I have a lot of respect for teaching as a profession. I know alot of really dedicated teachers. I come from a family steeped with teachers. Generations of teachers. My mother, my grandmother, my great-grandmother, and even (get ready to gasp) I was a teacher. Admittedly, I was a substitute/assistant preschool teacher and elementary school classroom volunteer. I did not finish my degree in education. When I started college, my goal was to be a teacher. The reasons I didn't finish aside, among the reasons I wanted to be a teacher were to be better than many of the teachers I had had and met, and to help reform the system from the inside. I know a few awesome individuals who are teachers, in public schools, who are doing just that -pushing limits, breaking stigmas, managing their classrooms and teaching in the most effective, quality, equal, up-to-date evidence-based ways they can without getting themselves reprimanded or fired. They are not the ones posting and reposting articles like the one linked to above. They are educators who recognize that some of those "arm-chair educators and anti-teacher, anti-public school evangelists" are not any of those things. (I think it's funny that he resorts to generalizations, name calling and finger pointing, given that those are among his complaints.) They are the ones recognizing that not everything you are taught in college is fact, or permanent. Not everything in your textbooks is current or based on unbiased scientific study. Not everything being pushed for by certain individuals or organizations is actually healthy for our children. They are the ones who realize that just because someone didn't take the tests and turn in homework at an institution comparable to the one they graduated from doesn't mean they haven't done the same amount, or more, of reading and researching, maybe even the same books that were assigned to college students, and getting the same or more hands on experience.

I have no doubt he received some truly rude, anti-teacher, anti-public school, evangelical responses. He seems intentionally offensive, so I don't think it should surprise anyone that he elicited offensive retorts. I wish he would have taken a few minutes to word his post less argumentatively and judgmentally, with better analogies and examples. I wish that he seemed more communicative and open to recognizing that not every "arm-chair educator" is an uneducated, anti-teacher and anti-public school evangelist, and that even if some of them are, that doesn't necessarily mean their opinions or evidence are inherently invalid, let alone that the opinions, information and resources offered by all who disagree with him on this subject are inherently invalid. Some of them, who love the idea of quality, equal public education for everyone, are simply sad that that is not what is happening in the USA, and offer evidence of that, and ideas on how the situation could be improved. Some of those "arm-chair educators," who object to traditional schooling methods and current practices in the United States of America, use to or still do sit behind teachers desks in public or other mainstream schools, or squat next to children to engage in respectful exchanges, literally at their level, and inspire a love for learning.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Dear Girl Scouts

I am a former scout and assistant scout leader. I recently learned that transgender girls are being allowed to join Girl Scouts. I hope the unfortunately fearful and closed-minded girl and other people who purpose a cookie boycott because of this find a way to ease their discomfort before they further negatively impact the lives of so many others.

I would proudly be a sister to any girl scout, no matter her birth gender. Who knows, maybe I was a sister scout to a transgender scout? I wasn't worried about or examining other girls' genitalia. I'm still not.

I might question some cookie ingredients and organization changes since my childhood, but not this one.

I want to express my pride in having been part of this organization for over ten years. I will continue to...

do my best to be
honest and fair,
friendly and helpful,
considerate and caring,
courageous and strong, and
responsible for what I say and do,
and to
respect myself and others,
respect authority,
use resources wisely,
make the world a better place, and
be a sister to EVERY Girl Scout.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

The Power of Vulnerability

Because this might be my favorite TED talk ever, and it's in line with my last post, I share the following video.

The Power of Vulnerability