Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Power of Words

Number 3, our 1 year old, looked up at me, her eyebrows arched in shock and sadness, then she curled up into a ball and sobbed.
We'd been joking around about the current political farce, excuse me, 'election season', and I'd said something to the effect of "...pssht kissing babies... No More Kissing Babies..."  Number 3 had been playing happily at my feet throughout the conversation, and also, unbeknownst to me: listening.

I tried to tell her that I was talking about something else, and that I hadn't meant it with regard to her.  She was inconsolable.  Finally, I picked her up, and gave her a smooch, and said, "See babies still get smooches!"  She immediately calmed down, climbed off my lap, and went back to playing.  

For months I've known she understands almost all of what we say on a day to day basis.  A few weeks after she started to walk, I handed her a piece of paper towel, and asked her to put it in the compost bag in the kitchen under the sink.  Off she went, and did exactly that.  I knew she understood words, but I hadn't realized they could be so real for her.  To her, the phrase I'd uttered meant she was never going to get another smooch again.  The words created a reality for her, and it took a demonstration of an actual other reality to undo their effect.

Coincidentally, I've been on a 'positive power of words' reading spree lately, and No. 3 lent a perfect example to illustrate the point made by the books I've been reading.  If you're interested in what all the hubbub's about, here are some of the books I've sampled:

How To Stop Worrying and Start Living by Dale Carnegie
You might know this author from How to Win Friends, and Influence People.  This tract similarly lays out techniques based on the author's experience, the experience of students who attended his seminars, and the experience of successful executives the author interviewed.  These techniques include living life one day at a time; reflective writing to solve problems; and the importance of springing into action rather than dwelling on a problem.  Portions of the book may be off-putting if religion isn't your thing.  The power of positive thinking discussions in the book tend to reiterate the author's opinion that positive thinking is equivalent to prayer.  Personally, I found the examples drawn form many faiths, including agnosticism to be refreshing in their inclusiveness.

Illusions by Richard Bach
This was my first introduction to the power of positive thinking genre as a kid.  You might recognize Richard Bach as the author of Johnathon Livingston Seagull.  Illusions is a similar fable with a similar moral: You'll become what you believe you will.  The world at large, however, (whether it's a flock of allegorical seagulls, or human society), may not be ready for that kind of learning yet.  The prose is simple, and beautifully laid out.  The book follows a cynical messiah who leads the main character--a barnstorming pilot traveling the country selling rides in his biplane--on a journey of self-discovery.  The messiah character teaches both through parables and real-life examples.  There are heavy doses of the theme, "as you believe, the universe will oblige," throughout.  This book may not be for some folks as it liberally treats religion as philosophy, and vice versa.  Spoiler alert: while the book is certainly accessible to younger kids, the ending is a bit shocking.  

The Instant Millionaire by Mark Fisher
This is my most recent read.  It tells the tale of a young man whose eccentric uncle sends him to an equally eccentric old millionaire for advice.  It would make for a nice play because the entire book takes place in three settings in and around the millionaire's house.  The simple sentences in the book are beautifully written, and have an emotionally impact.  The millionaire, much like the Messiah character in Illusions, teaches about the power of words and thoughts by example.  He eschews doubt and fear; and encourages setting specific written goals and internalizing them by speaking them aloud daily.  If you're a fan of affirmations, the millionaires advice runs in that direction.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Happiness Bucket Connoisseur Consumes Kindergarten Stockpile

Number 1, who is suspect of most things I say, (she thought the dollar coin the tooth fairy brought looked suspiciously like a dollar coin that had been on the counter earlier in the month), came home from her second day of Kindergarten brimming with excitement at the invisible buckets of happiness she'd learned about.  It turns out that we each have one of these buckets.  The theory goes that when someone is nice to you your bucket gets a little more full, and when you're mean to someone, their bucket gets a little more empty.  Of course if you're mean to someone, your bucket gets a little more empty also, because it doesn't feel good to be mean to people.

 I told her that her new theory was awesome, and then told her I'd be right back.  I had come down with a serious case of the giggles, and had to flee the room so she wouldn't think I was laughing at her new theory instead of with it.  As I fled, my mind wandered through all the unintended consequences.  Could she arrive at the conclusion that others were responsible for filling her bucket?  Could she wind up thinking she was responsible for their happiness, and honor-bound to keep trying to get their bucket full enough?

 A few seconds later, I'd managed to contain my giggles, decided I was overthinking the issue, and returned to the living room to find No. 1 almost in tears.  While I'd been gone, she had fallen victim to an unintended consequence of a happiness bucket I hadn't foreseen.  Her little brother--Number 2--upon learning he had an invisible bucket of happiness, had immediately eaten his.  Unsatiated by a single bucket of happiness, he had proceeded to eat No. 1's invisible bucket as well!

 Rocked by further paroxysms of held-in laughter, I told No. 1 that I'd get her mom to help with this one.  Thus far her mom had  managed to maintain her composure, while overhearing all this from the other room.

 Fortunately, it was fairly easy to get the whole situation set back aright.  After I'd once again finished my quiet giggling in a remote corner of the house, I got 2, our local bucket connoisseur, and we found 1.  I asked 2 if he could, by any chance, hurl 1's invisible bucket back up.  Delighted at being asked to pretend to vomit, 2 immediately obliged.  I retrieved said invisible bucket, wiped off the invisible goo with my shirt tail, and presented it back to 1, who was once again grinning from ear to ear.  1 has now taken to storing her invisible bucket in places that 2 can't reach in case he gets hungry again.

Oh, and the thing about the tooth fairy?  Number 1 would never say so, since she thinks fairies of all sorts are awesome, but I'm pretty sure she suspects the tooth fairy of stealing my coin to put under her pillow.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Propagating Parenting Blogs

As I've been writing about our fun with unschooling, and parenting in general, I've also been reading a lot of excellent homeschooling, and parenting blogs.  If you to would like to "Read more about it," here's my reading list so far:

Stories of an Unschooling Family

This blog features the adventures, and thoughts of Sue Elvis and her family as they navigate Australian home schooling.  In addition to interesting posts, Sue has produced a series of videos where she lays out her thoughts on homeschooling with a mellow, happy tone.  Sue updates regularly, so the blog is a good source of both information, and support in our familiy’s endeavors.

Mom of All Capes

The educational adventures of a family with three daughters.  The posts here are about a conventionally schooled family.  They range from parenting, to schooling, to occasional thoughts on politics.  The posts are fun to read, just as long as they need to be, and raise interesting points!  The site's about page says:

We're "life-nerds" searching for the answers through experience.  We affirm that life is an extended adventure with discoveries hidden in plain sight.  Curiosity is our best feature.  Discover with us!

Happiness is Here
This blog featuring regular updates with thoughts on the homeschooling experience is full of beautiful photographs of the Australian outdoors.  In addition, it has great ideas for organizing your learning space, as well as home/unschooling activities.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Gentlemen, Know Your Nipple Shields

This is a nipple shield, and you just might need a few.

As you’re expecting your first baby, you may think the feeding of said newborn is something you, as a dad, don’t have to worry about; perhaps the only thing you don’t have to worry about.  Well, I'm sorry, but... well... you do.

As you may have heard, breastfeeding is a beautiful thing that strengthens the bond between mother and child; nourishes the kid like no other kind of food can; and helps to build their nascent immune system.  All of these thing are true.

What you may not know however, is that the mother of your child has heard all of the above, over and over since way before she became pregnant.  She’s heard it on the evening news, the morning talk shows, twitter, just about everywhere.  And in the months running up to the blessed day of deliverance, excuse me, delivery she’ll hear it even more.  Doctor’s offices, midwive's offices, and every pregnancy book, and web site available are slathered with ever more positive breastfeeding missives.

Here’s the thing though.  Even though La Leche, your doctor, your midwife, your mother-in-law, and heck even your own mom are loath to admit it: sometimes breastfeeding just doesn’t work at first.  The good news is that it will work eventually.  The bad news is that given the huge burden of the aforementioned breastfeeding expectations, when it doesn’t work?  It's a bit of a let-down. (That's a totally intended breastfeeding pun.  You'll find out.)  Expect sobbing and lots of it.  Labor, as well as your newborn's pheromones, (Number 3 caused some people to literally sob just by being handed to them), generates an overflow of hormones in everyone in the room.  Hormonal overflow + Unexpected La Leche Induced Stress = Sobbing.

When and if this happens, the first thing you’ll need to have is a handful of nipple shields.
Pro-Tip: Buy them ahead of time.
While virtually none of the breastfeeding material will mention nipple shields, they'r the first thing your midwife/nurse/doctor will suggest when breastfeeding doesn't go as expected.  However, when I made the emergency run to Target to pick up a pair after the birth of our first kid, they were almost sold out!

The second thing you'll need is a box of Similac.  I was raised on the stuff; my  mother could't breastfeed because of complications during pregnancy.  Even so, before we had our first kid, Similac was nothing to me but an entertaining anachronistic reference in a Bob Schneider song[1].  Nevertheless, you might need some to tide Junior over until all systems are go.  As you're madly scrambling through the store, you'll be looking for a logo like this:

The last thing you'll need is an appointment with a lactation coach.  That's right, there are coaches for breastfeeding.  Who would have thought?  It'll cost about $85, and they may or may not tell Mom, anything of any real value.  Our lactation coach was apparently educated at Hogwart's in Slytherin House.  She explained that you make a distinctive noise, (that sounded for all the world like a hiss), and then slap the baby's mouth onto the at-ready nipple.  However, when I summarized her method as "OK, got it.  Hiss, and slam the kids face onto the breast," our coach was more than a little aghast.  So, as I say, the value of the advice is debatable.  But, you know what?  That's not for us dads to judge.  Because what makes the $85 more than worth it is that the beloved mother of your child is going to exit the appointment with a newfound sense of stability and confidence, and life will go back to the normal, even simple routine of constant low-level stress induced by sleep deprivation shared by all new parents.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

We Made This! Smitten Kitchen Garlic Wine and Butter Steamed Clams

Yum!  These were super-easy, and tasty!  Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen fame, recently posted a recipe for steamed clams.  Given that our butcher/seafood shop—known to us as the redhat because of its red awning—always has a few pounds of clams on-hand at $5/lb, it seemed like a fun way to kill part of our afternoon.  We let the clams spit out all their sand, per the instructions.

Clams Spitting out Their Sand

Then, we minced and sauteed a bit of shallot and a bit of garlic.  There wasn't any parsley to be found on that particular day, so we skipped it.  We chucked out the chipped clams, and then dumped the rest into the pan.  A few minutes later we began to hear clicking sounds from under the lid.  Peaking in, we found that the clams were opening up, hence the popping.  We plopped the lid back on, and measured the rest of the cooking time using the microwave popcorn method:  when the popping sounds slowed way down, we turned off the flame.  Voila!