Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Gold Stars

Hello everybody, my name is Joy, and I'm a gold star addict.  No, no, gold star is not the latest designer gin or raver drug.  It is that rush many of us get from being patted on the back.  I think it starts out very young when our parents say things like "Good job Joy!  You went pee in the potty!" or "Wow!  I'm so impressed by how much you ate of that mashed banana!" Praise!  Validation!  A warm, happy feeling spreads through your tummy.  You eat it up, and another gold star addict is born. 

And there's really nothing wrong  with gold stars and kids.  It helps them to make good choices, and to feel happy about their accomplishments.  A good mark (and maybe some praise from teachers and parents?) on a paper at school makes you feel so good that you want to work hard on the next paper too.  All through childhood I really do not see a problem, but at some point we have to be weaned away from this habit.

Once you're an adult it just doesn't work so well.  Sometimes, at work, you can find that kind of validation, but even there it's not going to be consistent.  Most of the time at work people simply expect you to do what needs to be done (or not but that's a whole other topic).  At home you really aren't going to get a lot of back patting.  You empty the dish washer and, hey presto, the crowd goes wild!  Not so much.  The key is to learn to do things for the sake of getting them done.

Becoming a mom has really brought this home to me.  M. is very good about helping out and offering encouragement.  However, most of the time it is just the two of us here at home, and the baby is really not capable of being a cheerleader.  At this point you just have to dig in and do the laundry, diapering, dishes, vacuuming, etc because you are the mommy and that's what mommies do.  Suddenly the gold stars seem to matter less.  A clean (ish!) house and a happy baby are their own rewards.  Most of the time.

Friday, September 24, 2010

It Gets Better

The gay rights movement has had an up and down week. In Florida, gays and lesbians are now able to adopt children after the state supreme court found the ban to be unconstitutional. On the other hand, Don't Ask Don't Tell remains in effect in the U.S. military. How some of this can still be allowed to stand in 2010 is beyond me. 

The challenges experienced by gay adults are nothing compared to those faced by children and teens. The suicide rates for homosexual (or even just those perceived as gay) teens are far above the norm. This type of abuse remains one of the most accepted forms of harassment because many parents still believe that homosexuality is wrong. School administrators and teachers often feel hog-tied in their ability to help because parents object to anything that might be deemed "pro-gay". Or at least that's the excuse.

Many students report feeling hopeless as their peers and even their families reject or abuse them.  For some it must seem as though a normal life may never be possible.  In response to the suicide of 15 year old Billy Lucas, Dan Savage made the video, It Gets Better.  You've got to see it.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Swaddler No More

Yesterday, we went to the store to purchase yet another box of diapers (go ahead judge me). We needed the next size up, but for some reason I just couldn't find our preferred brand in the correct size. Then M pointed out that the box I was looking for was right there on the shelf in front of me. Why couldn't I see it? It seems that size three diapers are a new category, and so the name and packaging change. I was used to looking for those nice green and teal "swaddler" boxes, but no, it seems that we are now purple "cruisers." I know this is a silly little thing, but it made me sniff a little. My baby is tiny no more.

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Hunger Games

Just a quick plug for my favorite series of late, The Hunger Games. While this author can be found in the Young Adult section, her stories are quite readable by all ages so long as you enjoy sci. fi. dystopian future stuff. All three books deal with issues around authoritarian governments, poverty, and human rights. However, the main theme in all three is actually the power of media to shape opinion. The Hunger Games themselves are the world's worst reality TV show where young people from all over the country are forced to fight to the death in a giant arena. The cameras are always on, and the rest of the population gets to enjoy the spectacle. Of course there's always that one person who can't seem to play by the rules. Just do your best to ignore the love triangle which is trite and unnecesarry.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Elder Niece Grows Up

Our first little girl (of her generation anyway) is really and truly growing up. Elder Niece turned twelve a few weeks ago, and I can hardly pick my jaw up off the floor. She is tall, graceful, well-spoken, and self-possessed these days; a far cry from the little kid she was about five minutes ago. I can so clearly remember that solemn little face, and I am very glad to notice that she smiles much more than in earlier times. She might even be, dare I say it, a tolerable teen when the time comes. Happy birthday big girl!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Corn and Blueberry Salad

I've been meaning to post this for ages. I saw a recipe like this one in a magazine, and I couldn't believe corn and blueberries would be a nice combo. Provided you get good ingrediants, it is an incredible (and pretty) salad. Red pepper and cucumber are nice additions too:

6 ears fresh sweet corn, husked
1 cup fresh blueberries
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 Tbsp. lime juice
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. honey
1/2 tsp. ground cumin (preferably whole, toasted, and then ground)

Try it out I dare you!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Ten Years Since 9/11

It was my second week of teaching (in my whole career) when I heard about the first plane. I remember going into my principal's office and watching the smoke pour from the first tower. I wish I'd kept a blog back then to remember the rest of the details. I do remember the kids having lots of questions. It was probably quite different then because most kids didn't have cel phones. If something like that happened today; it would be a different story. I saw a TV piece about how many of the soldiers who are currently in Afghanistan can barely remember 9/11 since so many of them were elementary kids at the time that it happened. The world will never be the same.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Rolling Over

Delphinium did it! She rolled over! She's been doing a lot of almost sit-ups and side curls for some time now, and today, just after her dad got home from work, she rolled all the way over. She seemed truly surprised to find herself on her tummy all of a sudden. Then she proceeded to do it again just for good measure. M tried very hard to capture it on video, but she refused to perform. Next up, crawling, and then the world!

Thursday, September 09, 2010

First Day of School

Yesterday was Elder Niece's first day of middle school! She was really, really nervous about going, but I have no doubt it will be a good transition. She is, of course, in the high performing program which is a great fit for her intelligence and her dedication (but I'm not biased!). Proof that she's in the right place? She took herself to the bookstore over the summer and bought a middle school prep book and a spelling book. She spent a portion of her summer studying up (not that she needed it) and it was all of her own free will. I wish she could be in my class!

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Rainy Walk

Ever since Delphinium was very tiny, we've struggled over walks. This is due to the fact that I like them and she doesn't. It seems to stem from her dislike of most baby carrying methods such as strollers, baby packs, and other strollers. Were I willing to carry her in my arms the whole way, she would be a big fan of the walk. Unfortunately, after about the first half mile, this gets very tiring for maternal backs.

Then we hit on something big. We've been using the Baby Bjorn since she was born, but it was not until Delphinium was strong enough to face out that it became popular. Now you can put her in it, and she will remain happy for an hour or more. This is exciting for all kinds of reasons.

Yesterday, we decided to put the Bjorn to good use by going for a walk. We'd been cooped up in the car during the morning, so it seems like a good idea to get out and move around. I'd never taken her out in the rain before, but since she's so close to me while in the Bjorn I knew an umbrella would work well. We bundled up a little, grabbed our sunny yellow umbrella, and headed out into the world.

The umbrella turned out to be half the fun. She kept looking up at it (do admire the color?) and chatting out loud about it. We looked at flowers of all colors, watched crows hopping around in the road, and admired the big kids who were playing in the yard at the school. The best part, though, was the deer. She was standing in a forested spot near the school, and she did not seem in the least worried about our presence. She calmly stood there eating dripping blackberries about twenty feet from where we were standing.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Camping at Penrose Point

For the past five years, a sub-set of the family has used the last weekend of August for our traditional camping weekend. We love to pitch our tents in some beautiful site, build fires, cook our meals over the coals, and then sit around singing songs and trading puns and word play. It's a great chance to catch up with one another before the craziness of the school year hits. This year, everything seems to have changed, but we still didn't want to miss out on this chance.

This year, we had a few more challenges than before. Not only do we have a new baby to think about, but my broken tailbone is still bothering me too. Nevertheless, we remained undaunted, so off we set for Penrose State Park near Purdy. The car trip was a bit uncomfortable for me, but the baby did a fabulous job and did not cry even once. After about an hour and a half of driving, we crossed over the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. This was very exciting for all of us (having never been) since we've seen the old video of "galloping Gertie" many times. Luckily she stayed safely aloft for our trip over.

A little more driving brought us to the park where the rest of the family was already waiting. It is a beautiful park set on the water with the camp sites back in the woods. Sites are close together, but if you went on a less popular weekend, the might not be an issue. For us, it turned out to be a bad thing because the 50-something lady in the campsite next to ours decided to stay up late drinking boxed wine and talking, talking, talking about anything and everything. We heard her opinion on dozens of topics, but we did not hear quiet until two or three in the morning.

It was also a bit anxious to camp with the baby because the temperature got down into the low 50s, and it was very tough to be sure that she was staying warm enough. At one point in the night I found that she'd poked her little hand out of the blankets, and it felt as cold as a popsicle. I kept waking up to check that she was warm enough all night long. It was not what you would call a restful night.

The next day we did get the chance to enjoy the dramatic scenery. The park is surrounded on two sides by water, so there are many impressive views. Rocky beaches and mud flats are also common, and the girls had a wonderful time cruising the edge of the mud flats looking for sand dollars and tiny fish. There were kayaking and fishing opportunities as well, but we never got that far.

As much as we enjoyed ourselves on Saturday, as it got closer to bedtime, I just couldn't face another night in the tent. Our noisy neighbor was still in residence next door, and the overnight temperatures were not supposed to be any warmer. Thus we admitted defeat. After a lovely campfire dinner, we headed for home. Next time maybe we'll last the whole weekend. Still, I'm very glad we went.