Saturday, October 29, 2016

Why More Parents Should Hunt and More Hunters Should Parent Part II

The one-year-olds I’ve known were able to join the hunt so-to-speak, walking half a mile unassisted after a few months of practice.

Staying Wild: Your first steps to (parental) independence: patience, stamina, and orienteering
As your first kid grows, well-meaning parents may try to convince you of the utility of a stroller.  “They’ll outgrow the wrap,” (wrap: attachment parenting for that strip of cloth you’ve been tying the kid to your chest with.).  “Once they’re out of the wrap, they won’t be able to keep pace with you on foot,” they’ll say.  “You’ll appreciate the mobility,” they’ll insist.  Do Not Cave.  Tap back into your hunting mindset, and tap in hard.  Patience is the key to nirvana here.  Of course a one-year-old won’t be able to keep pace with you, but remember, slow and steady gets the job done.  As you obstinately insist on letting nature take its course, your infant-cum-toddler will get faster and build endurance.  The one-year-olds I’ve known were able to join the hunt so-to-speak, walking half a mile unassisted, after only a few months of practice.

As your kid develops in his or her own way, flourishing in the complete independence you’ve afforded them, a number of things will happen.  You’ll introduce them to navigation by landmarks, just as you’d introduce fellow hunters to a new stretch of mountains they’d never hunted before.  You’ll develop directional communications to get from place to place, and finally, the best part. Remember that small pack of baby accoutrements you’ve carried?  It’ll be yours no more.  At the age of 2, the kid can assume the pack responsibilities, and you, my fellow outdoors-person, you’re free!

Real all the installments!

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Why More Hunters should Parent, and More Parents should Hunt: Part I

Little if any mention is made of hunting in modern parenting literature, but it is, to put it simply, the fastest path to parental bliss.  Hunting teaches the patience, confidence, and self-sufficiency so critical to raising young ones in today’s urban wild.  

My hunting buddy and I were moving at a classic stalking pace.  She’d take a. step, mirrored by mine; we’d pause for a few seconds surveying our surroundings; then, carefully placing our next step, we’d watch our quarry while again taking time to register changes in our environment.  Our prey, stock-still, never moved.  One would have expected, what with all the noise of passing cars and ambling passers-by, that it might have bolted.  It held steady though.  A few minute later, No. 3, my hunting companion and one-year-old daughter, gleefully giggled as we overtook our target: a young, at least judging by its short stature, set of stairs that led to a door stoop.  3 spent the next several minutes wobbling first up, and then down the stairs.

Attachment Parenting and Hunting:

Attachment parenting, incumbent with its mysterious vernacular, can seem daunting, but in reality it’s the hunting parent's best friend.  For those more familiar with hunting than parenting, ‘attachment parenting’ is the interesting theory that your children will be--paradoxically perhaps-- more independent later in life, (once they’ve reached walking age), if they spend their early lives literally strapped to you at all times.  Attachment parenting zealots are not so different from deer hunting fanatics.  While the ‘gone-native’ deer hunter will drench themselves in the pee of their quarry and then stand naked downwind of wet-wood fires to absorb the natural smells of the area in hopes local deer will be unaware of their presence, so the attachment parenting zealot will encourage you to strip off your shirt, strip your baby naked,(with the possible exception of their nethers), and then strap the little tyke to your bare chest for the proper bonding experience.  While attachment parenters don’t specifically mention soaking yourself in the urine of your young, don't worry, that too will come in time.

For a hunter, the beauty of attachment parenting comes in the latitude you’re afforded when preparing for an outing.  You’ll find packing very similar to what you might do when embarking on an all day stalk.  You take only what you can carry, and then only what you can carry quietly and compactly: your gun, (read baby) strapped over your back, (to your chest); a small pack containing only the essentials: perhaps an additional layer of warm dry clothing, (diapers in our context), a few light snacks of course the essential tools of the trade (read baby wipes, diapers, and produce bags), and perhaps some water, unless of course, you’ll be getting that from snow melt (coffee shops and water fountains).... End Part I

Read all the installments!

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!

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

On Division and Balloons

Number 1 is learning division.  We're working on two different techniques.  I'm not sure which is working better, here they are.

Method the first:
When presented with the problem 12/4, we tell her to think about having twelve things she has to divide evenly between herself, her sibs, (Number 2, and Number 3), and a friend.  The downside of this version, is she has to guess.  The whole thing becomes experimental, (which has value in and of itself).  Number 1 draws twelve balloons, (she invented the technique), and then tries different groupings of the balloons until she finds one that's fair to all the sibs and their friend.  The upside is that there's a reason to want to divide in the first place; there's an application.

Method the second:
When presented with the same problem, we ask her how many groups of four she can make out of twelve things.  One of the upsides of this method is that it's mechanical.  No. 1 once again starts with a drawing of balloons, but this time, she just counts off four balloons, (or what ever the number in the divisor is), at a time.  When she's done making groups of four, she has the answer: three.  Another advantage of this method is that it carries over into long division quite nicely.  The downside of this method is, of course, the converse of the upside of the first: there's no apparent application; it's a parlor trick.

What's your favorite?
We could always use another way to think about math problems.  What's your favorite method for teaching division?