Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Words Around Town

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Solutions Monday: Lego—My Sanity!

We have a Lego problem in my house. And by “we,” I mean my husband. He has very fond memories of his childhood obsession love of his Legos, and I have the tubs of his beloved bricks, just waiting in the garage for our boys to be big enough for them to play with, to prove it. For now we are a Duplo family, and we have amassed what I think is a completely outrageous amount of them—he’s been placed on Lego Time-Out!

I remind myself every time I step on one of those swear wince inducing suckers, that at least they aren’t the small sized variety, microscopically embedded in my aching foot. But Legos are one of the most pernicious of the love/hate toys for me. My son can happily play with them for a blessedly good chunk of his regularly highly distractible pre-schooler attention span, but they get everywhere, and cleanup takes forever, if I don’t think strategically (hello former life in management, I've still got it on occasion).

I will tell you that the best advice my mother-in-law has given me thus far was obviously hard won during her years weathering my husband’s young obsession, and is, as most good solutions are, beautifully simple: a sheet. The rule in this house is that my Legomaniac can dump out every single Lego block to his heart’s content, as long as it stays on the sheet.

That makes clean-up go from this:

To this, in about ONE minute:

Another instance of brilliance survival instinct I’ve had is to save the flaps on the Lego boxes, so when my little builder simply MUST have the fire station rebuilt exactly to specifications (again), I have something to go on. Now he can also use these pictures to inform me I’m missing a critical piece that MUST be found as a guide for himself:

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE Legos; I get a kick out of what the kids and the husband come up with:

As long as it stays on the sheet...

Do you have any brilliant Lego management techiques? Do share!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Batteries Included: Relevant Kid-Proofing

You know those cute musical cards, the ones that play snippets of well known songs to express your sentiments? My three year old loves them. In a pinch I can always get a smile if I visit the aisle that has them, until he starts demanding that we get *them all* because to him they are "toys." And that's a problem I learned today. I had a chilling moment when I read this article in the New York Times cautioning about the danger posed to young children by the small button lithium batteries that are found in many modern gadgets, including you guessed it, those super cute singing greeting cards. With a nine month old who is cruising around and getting into everything and a three year old who *should* know better, but is still more impulsive toddler most days, I made sure to remove these seemingly innocuous bits of fun from the playroom and started to look around at my gadgets with a sharper eye. I hope you will do the same. They are still wonderful fun, but should be *supervised* fun.

Monday, April 19, 2010

TV is a Cinch, Twitter...That's Gonna Hurt a Bit: Teching Down and Tuning Into the Outdoors

If you follow me on Twitter, you know this is going to be a hard one for me, but as a mom and beginning homeschooler (for now anyway or my husband will start to have heart palpitations) I thought this "experiment" was a perfect way to really kickoff my journey into homeschooling. This week I shall be "down-teching" (at least during the day, I was too big a wuss to completely jettison my tech). We shall be getting outdoors, as well as exploring some interests connected with the letter "O," the Circle shape, and, you guessed it, the color Orange. I chose these because my 3 yr old seems to really "get" these right now, so we will start with having fun with something he is fairly comfortable with and interested in and ease our way in. I'm also looking forward to the outdoor activities in the nature journal. Want to join us? Please feel free to share what you are doing!

Still Banging Our Heads Into That Glass Ceiling: Relevant Feminism

A woman? Have a daughter, granddaughter, sister, niece, female friend...? Don't think that the glass ceiling (though cracked, as Hillary Clinton famously declared in the last Presidential election cycle) is still firmly over our heads? Read this article in the New York Times, "Why So Few Women in Silicon Valley?"

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Spare the Rod, Save the Child?: Relevant Discipline News

I haven't shared much personal stuff lately, but I am now the mother to two boys, a full fledged 3 year old, and sprouting 7 1/2 month old, and discipline is a constant puzzle we are working our way through one day at a time as the rubber really hits the parenting road. I have some baggage (who doesn't really) from my parental relationships and a few posts/stories in the wake of the newest research that shows strong links to adverse outcomes for children who are spanked are food for thought and discussion in my household of late:

  • I read Alfie Kohn's Unconditional Parenting early on in my first child's life, and I have to admit that while I sorta got what he was saying in theory, I didn't really understand what it would look like in day to day life. Still don't, but working on it. It is undeniable for me however, given my past experiences, that he does make a compelling point that cautions against using parental love and attention as a leverage point in managing your children's behavior. Read more in his recent New York Times health piece.
  • If I'm conflicted about spanking, you can believe the thought of a member of the school's personnel being at liberty to hit my kid, with an implement, doesn't sit well with me at all. (That's an understatement) A city in Texas has revived the use of the paddle in school discipline. Again, I have some personnel experience here. I was a straight and narrow, high achieving third grader who once found herself in the Principal's office facing a paddling because another kid lied and said I was talking about a woman's period (why that would be a paddling offense is a whole other story) in the lunch area. Needless to say the old spelling trick to learn how to properly spell "principal," as in "the principal is your 'pal'" most definitely was voided in that moment. Point is should fear ever be employed in a place of learning? What I was taught in that moment, beyond the fact that women's bodies and functions were something to be ashamed of, was that I was subject to a power beyond myself that would harm me regardless of whether or not it was true or not. I toed the line, for sure, but I felt betrayed and learned to keep my thoughts and feelings to myself. Is that the lessons they want to teach?
  • Finally, the HuffPo had a really good post about learning to recognize and respond to "the about to moment" and build the ability to stop and more mindfully choose one's response.

The Uncomfortable Side of the Russian Adoption Shocker

The nightly news thrives on the extremes and this was fully evident in the furor caused over the recent (shocking) return of an adopted Russian boy by way of an unaccompanied one way airline ride back to his native land. Little is really known about why this mother felt this was her only viable option, and in the wake of this story and the attendant outrage poured over this family for doing such a thing, some interesting stories and posts are starting to surface that make for interesting reading, and a deeper consideration of what may have been at work beyond the shocking headlines:

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

If You've Read One Canned Parenting Article, You've Read Them All

This one has been percolating for a while now...

How do you feel when you watch a birth on your typical sitcom or movie? Now think, do you respond to them differently now that you or your partner has given birth? I still begrudgingly laugh at all the right parts for the most part, but for me it is different now that I have given birth to two children and experienced one miscarriage. The familiar gags that are played for effect just don't do it for me anymore, because I just know now that there is so much more, and in fact I get a little pissed off at moments that they can't seem to muster up an original thought. The canned laughter sticks out like a sore thumb to me.

I feel the same way about parenting "journalism" now. More on why I choose to enclose that in quotation marks in a moment.

My tastes have been changing, and this presented a little problem for my original blog baby, Relevant Mom, because the passion I once felt seemed to have gone missing. This didn't seem right however, because I continued to read pretty voraciously, and share prolifically in my Twitter and personal Facebook streams, and spend time working on my other blogs and writing. But upon further reflection, I realized I am no less passionate about parenting and motherhood issues, it's just that after a fair amount of reading for the past few years, I started to get, well...bored. It was always the same familiar gags employed and designed I presume for maximum SEO effect. I also noticed that the stories catching my attention are not those that are typically featured in the marquee mainstream sources, but those being written about in a million tiny little blogs adorning the world wide web, like the prismatic beads of moisture revealed when the sun hits a spider's web just so after a rainstorm. I find the sheer variety of experience, and really insightful thought about a shared journey, inspiring and more importantly interesting.

It is for this reason that when I read recently yet another article dealing with the divide between people with children and those without that relied upon the well trodden snarky comments disguised as constructive "advice," that I literally wanted to phone up the reporter and tell them that it bordered on plagiarism because it has literally been written, exactly in that manner, countless times. A few parenting publications I have subscribed to need only be read for one full year, because like clockwork they start regurgitating the same stuff, interspersed with some pretty ad space.

This brings me to why I enclosed journalism earlier in quotation marks. If you can't be bothered to write something that even approaches the subject with any degree of investigative insightfulness, or journalistic authenticity, please do not write it at all. All writers (this one included) have fallen prey to cliche, or written so as to push those common cultural funny buttons, but if marquee publications that are struggling to find ways to justify to the modern reader why their content deserves to be duly compensated for, they need to step it up and stop writing predictable drivel, because there are a million more authentic voices out there just a Twitter stream away that are delivering it every single day for free.

What are your thoughts? Do the articles you read seem repetitive and canned to you? Does this help or hinder a parent?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Haiti Update: BRESMA orphans and McMutrie Sisters Are Safe


This morning 53 of the 150 children at BRESMA orphanage and one of the McMutrie sisters, Ali, arrived safely in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to great celebration. Jamie McMutrie will be arriving soon with one last child who had gone missing and she had stayed behind to find. They have been granted a two year humanitarian visa. 47 of the children had already been in various stages of adoption to the U.S., Canada, and Spain before the quake, and 7 are to be placed. The balance of the children at BRESMA were similarly evacuated to France and the Netherlands, where they had also been in the process of being placed before the quake struck.They were accompanied by Gov. Rendell and members of Congress and a host of medical personnel.

To say that this is a unique situation is a gross understatement! The unfolding of this story involved a inspiring and at times flawed marshaling of human power through networking channels, most notably through social media networks.
There will be a lot of lessons to be learned from the situation, but for now two American women and a vast network of supporters inspired by their passion moved mountains and over one hundred Haitian children are on their way to the arms of their new families.

To learn more: (a Must read behind the scenes look at what was happening to make this a reality from a key player) (local Pittsburgh blog--excellent and tight reporting)

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Broadcasting the SOS call of the #BRESMA Orphans of #Haiti

The devastation is unimaginable, the need is overwhelming, and the feelings of helplessness are almost suffocating. It's hard to know what to do, whom to donate to, whom to trust will do the right things, get to the right people. In the wake of such a crisis, scams abound, preying upon the desperate need to do something to help. I have to say in the hours and days following the catastrophic earthquake in Haiti I've been a bit numb to it. On purpose. It was just too much to take in.

That was before I learned about #BRESMA.

For those not familiar with Twitter-speak, the hash tag is a way of linking and following a common thread on Twitter. As I reviewed my daily Twitter feed, amidst the #Haiti tweets that were rolling in, the tweets about an orphanage in Port-Au-Prince that is spearheaded by two young sisters from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania started to catch my attention. By Saturday, when the distressing tweets started to appear that this orphanage, currently caring for 150 children and babies was nearly out of water, I knew I couldn't turn away.

I started retweeting the distress call put out by @JanePitt, a columnist from Pittsburgh who is working with the women's family to coordinate information and get their story out via her blog. As I started to learn the background of these amazing, and humble, young women who have found their life's calling in helping these children, I became convinced that amidst all the chaos and bewildering need, focusing on getting attention and immediate help to these individuals that make such an impact was a way that I could contribute something more beyond my dollars. These women literally climb mountains, and have traveled in treacherous hurricane conditions to reach children in need. And they have a astounding 100% placement rate, and the fastest in the Haitian adoption community due to their dogged determination. These kids all have families waiting for them! I felt something needed to be done, and NOW.

I am not alone. This is where Twitter gets amazing.

My fellow tweeters have also been furiously broadcasting this singular SOS. News people, politicians, even no joke, an aircraft carrier sitting off the coast were targeted to try and get their attention, to find someone who knew someone on the ground to get water to them. Celebrities with large followings were appealed to, and it was wonderful to see @JillianMichaels and @Alyssa_Milano take notice and retweet to their followers, eliciting an immediate bump in the volume. CNN had even been there previously, and was running a segment about them. GPS coordinates were posted to aid anyone who could get someone there.

Information and pleas were flying. This is where Twitter gets dicey.

As I said, CNN had been there in the last several days, and they started to report the news that the women had secured permission to get the children out! But unfortunately that information was inaccurate, taken from an AP report sourced from an incorrect local Pittsburgh media report. So the tweets started rolling out to not lose focus, these women and their charges ARE not out of the woods by a long shot.

But a bright spot. This is where Twitter gets inspiring.

From @collazoprojects, a managing editor for a travel publication based out of Mexico City, I learned that he and a connection had networked to get a person on the ground to the orphanage, and had spoken with him this evening. He reported that while their need is severe (especially for baby items) that they are staying strong and holding on.

Tonight I'll pray. Tomorrow, I'll check my Twitter feed, and see if beyond resources there is anything else I can do to help people a world away, caught in hell, who thanks to social media now have names and faces.

I pray that it will be enough for the McMutrie sisters and their young charges.

Resources to learn more:

Friday, January 15, 2010

Haiti, Medicating Toddlers, And Choosing a Mate Based on Autism Risk: Random Relevant News

News bits that peaked my interest, and seriously clogged my open desktop windows recently:
  • The tragedy in Haiti is dominating news, and I've been following the efforts to help the BRESMA orphanage. There were several adoptions in progress for this orphanage and others, and distraught adoptive parents are intently trying to find any way to get to and help their children.
  • A four year old medicated, and who allegedly died from an overdose! The trial for the parents is just getting under way. I have a longer post brewing on this one coming.
  • A GREAT WSJ article about thinking outside the traditional office box, and embracing the office babyboom.
  • I see where he's coming from, but not sure that I agree with Gever Tully about his "5 Dangerous Things for Kids," but certainly food for thought.
  • School pressure mania is starting to seep into my household as my son approaches three. It's all to easy to buy into the anxious worry that your child will not be prepared. And, it's insane that this worry starts virtually in the womb. A well done post on the "Importance of Simple Play" that I think most parents need to hear.
  • Autism clusters in Northern CA. Increasingly research is seeing some perhaps causal link with autism and highly educated parents, but is it a true biological link, or more of a commentary about informed and tenacious parents who get their kids recognized on the spectrum?
  • Lots and lots of problems in CA education system. Yet more legislative effort is afoot.
  • Hot topic: "when a surrogate mom asks for her babies back"
  • If you have heard about the elementary school boy in Texas who is getting hassled for having "too long hair," head over to this blog that said it better than I can at the moment.
  • This one might make you choke on your coffee, but evidently "parenting actually REDUCES your blood pressure."
  • Ever heard the expression, "you have to have a license to drive a car, but any old (bleep) can have a kid?" Sad but all to true, and honestly the driver's exam (at least in CA/US by international standards) is pretty lax, but I think it is worth thinking that perhaps, just perhaps, parenting is worthy of continuing education. On this front, an interesting FREE program is being offered : "Positive Parenting Solutions Announces Free Online Training for Parents"

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Support Means A Little More Than Your Bra Color

Unless you engage in little or no social media, you are no doubt aware of the bra color breast cancer awareness meme circulating. In theory the cute, indeed attention grabbing antic, serves it's purpose and gets people talking in great numbers very quickly about an important topic. Seemed like a good idea to me, and I shared. But what innocently gets forgotten is its effect upon those that have suffered, or struggle to survive the very thing that you are trying to raise awareness about. You see, by drawing attention to the bra, you are also drawing painful attention for those who have, or have survived, breast cancer to the one symbol of their femininity that many of them no longer have. This dimension was eloquently written about by a blogger, Susan Niebur, aka WhyMommy, here, and definitely deserves a read. I say, share on, and be grateful you are able to. But also have a thought for the breast cancer survivor who can not, and maybe do something out of awareness of that.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Women's Emergency: Global Warming, Forced Sterilization, and They Took Away The G Spot?

A few news stories have caught my attention in the last few days:

1. Gender equity, specifically how women are treated, is closely linked with the effectiveness of efforts to control climate change according to an essay in The Jakarta Post. Evidently we're also most affected by climate change, and when a natural disaster strikes, women are more vulnerable. In the developed world, we usually control household decisions, and hold increased influence over strategies to combat climate change.

2. A woman, who has nine natural children claims that she was sterilized without her consent while undergoing a cesarean section in 2006, and is suing for damages. The story is complicated with some fishy details on both sides of the suit; the hospital contends that record of her consent can not be found in its records--not that it didn't happen, just that it could not be found. Also, there are some questions surrounding the woman, as she has previously filed suit and settled over being sold expired spermicide. She contends that even though people may not agree with her life and choices, she still has the right to decide on her own reproductive destiny.


3. A British medical journal claims that the female "G spot" is a modern myth. The study presented was conducted with several pairs of identical and fraternal twins and involved asking them if they had the notoriously difficult for men to find G spot, and the study's authors claim that because the majority of the search set reported not having one (even if their twin reported that they did), it just must not exist.

No clever observations on these stories, except to observe that if found to be true that the woman was effectively sterilized against her will, strikes me as a fundamental issue of freedom of choice, and should be treated as such, irregardless of her life circumstances. Kind of an interesting twist on the right to life/freedom of choice debate don't you think? And I've heard that sex is in a woman's head, but we are all under the influence of a massive delusion? Hmmm. And I have to grouse a little we've got the weight of climate change on our shoulders to?

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