Friday, August 31, 2007

Breastfeeding...Where's the profit in that?

The Washington Post reports today that our government department of Health and Human Services, in 2004, caved in to lobby pressure and changed ads promoting breastfeeding. The formula manufacturers were "grateful" for intervention which stopped health officials from "scaring expectant mothers into breast-feeding."

The original print ads displayed asthma inhalers and insulin syringes topped with a bottle nipple; bluntly insinuating when you feed formula to an infant, you are feeding them asthma and diabetes. These ads were never shown in the United States, but here is an international ad with similar imagery.

The pressure from formula companies caused the U.S. health organization to abandon the scary, shocking ads for softer, less assaulting suggestions that plainly inform parents of breastfeeding benefits. The Human Health and Services department was informed beforehand that these ads would be ineffectual, but they spent our money on them anyway. Current reports show that the number of breastfeeding mothers is decreasing.

Is anyone surprised? After all, infant formulas are manufactured by the pharmaceutical industry and big drug companies are known for their powerful influence and generous spending in Washington.

I imagine pharmaceutical companies would not only lose money from the decrease in formula sales, but later on, sales would be lost by the fewer number of people taking diabetes and allergy medication.

Why do we allow these companies to make decisions about our health?

I am sure we would not let a company who makes money per every high school drop-out decide how we educate our children. Doesn't it seem just as logical that an industry that makes money from sick people should not be pulling the strings in our government health offices?

Everyone should take an interest in our government's soft promotion of breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is more than the premiere bonding experience for mother and baby, it is the only way newly born human beings were intended to be nourished.

All mothers should breastfeed, plain and simple.

If a mother's health or physical limitations prevent her from doing so, fortunately formula is available as an artificial substitution. Keep in mind that this substance is a man-made chemical solution that is industrially manufactured. This should not be a mother's first choice for her baby.

In our society it seems acceptable for mothers to opt out of breastfeeding because it is an inconvenience.

If cooking dinner for the kids become too much of an inconvenience are we going to insert feeding tubes with a liquid supplement into each of their bellies? I'm sure they would all "turn out just fine", but really, it's just not an option!

Some parents believe that because their own mothers used formula and they turned out o.k., then that is what they should do too.

I guess that makes sense for some, but I was never able to look at any of our newborn children and maintain the philosophy of only trying to provide what is "good enough".

Thursday, August 30, 2007

You Know You're a Parent When...

You find yourself cleaning an excessive amount of glue from your preschooler's forehead, resulting from his six-year-old big brother's plan to glue his head to his desk.

The funny thing is, the four-year-old "victim" was completely compliant because he thought that this was a pretty neat idea, too.

(Another great day of homeschooling!)

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Diaperless Parenting - Are you trying to make me feel bad?

Yesterday was a homeschooling challenge for our family. I had a dental appointment at 8:00am and struggled with a very numb mouth for the remainder of the day. We all worked hard to stay on schedule, but the kids were understandably distracted a bit by their mom's sagging lip and unintelligible speech.

"Tomorrow will be better," I vowed. But, I am only more aware of my parenting short comings today after reading that I should have potty trained my toddler over a year ago!

That's right folks, the latest and greatest coup de grĂ¢ce in the "Who's the best mommy?" death match is diaperless parenting!

Reports reveal that there is
... a growing “diaper-free” movement founded on the belief that babies are born with an instinctive ability to signal when they have to answer nature’s call. Parents who practice the so-called “elimination communication” learn to read their children’s body language to help them recognize the need, and they mimic the sounds that a child associates with the bathroom.
Wow, I really have fallen short on this one. I wouldn't even know what grunt to begin with!

Although I pride myself in trying to interpret and anticipate the needs of my children, I will be the first to admit that I am no where near passing this parenting test. With the daily challenge of just keeping up with the location of each of our children, I have very little time for maintaining a constant "poop-watch" vigil for anticipatory grunts and body language.

I'd be lying to say that I never notice the signals of the secret language of poops, but seeing that this communication is usually very subtle, I regrettably concede that I am much more in tune with the not-so-secret odor of poops.

There are days when we are so busy that even the odor goes unnoticed for a while! (But as you can imagine, that's not often.)

After reading a bit about this potty training idea, I began to wonder why this story is considered newsworthy?

I seriously doubt that this technique is really an option for most parents. The experts and doctors both seem to agree that there is no scientific or medical basis for the belief that infants are even able to be potty-trained.

I guess they need something to report on... but come to think of it, aren't we still at war?

Don't we face an environmental crisis with global warming? Not to mention the our dwindling energy resources, rampant government corruption and an economy that continues to teeter on the brink!

I would imagine that these things would all be great topics for the aspiring investigative reporter, but I guess most people think it is more interesting to read about a 12-week-old infant pooping on a potty.

Actually, it is pretty interesting!

Friday, August 24, 2007

My Secret Obsession: Etsy

The Chronicles have suffered this week because I have developed a minor obsession.

This past week I have spent all of my internet "free-time" visiting and revisiting one website. This website is an eclectic artists' market,

Have you heard of it?

My sister introduced me to it a few months ago, but I had only glanced at it a few times until this week. This website showcases handmade items from all over the world. The depth of creativity realized in this one site can be overwhelming, but the site designers have devised a lot of interesting ways to showcase each artist's work.

The only thing that seems to be lacking from Etsy is an advanced search filter, but the items are so much fun to browse, it doesn't really matter much.

I must admit that viewing the ideas of so many thriving artists has stirred my own creativity. My long neglected art training seems hard to ignore and I find myself wanting to rediscover those forgotten skills.

Because time is so scarce, and my days are so busy, I know it will be a challenge to squeeze anything new in, but I am going to try. Even if it only means carrying along a tiny sketchbook so I can scratch out a few drawings while waiting for soccer practice to finish, swim practice to let out or dance class to end.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Why This Soccer Mom Supports Ron Paul

You may have heard a bit about the Iowa straw poll in the news the last couple of weeks, but it is unknown to many that other states also have straw polls that are never recognized by mainstream media sources.

A Republican straw poll was held in West Alabama last week and you may be surprised at the results. Ron Paul, a much ignored, neglected and often smeared libertarian-republican, came in first place by a landslide. Here are the results.

I must admit that I usually lean to the left in politics, but gosh darn it I like Ron Paul! Let me tell you why.

If you are a parent of more than two children you have probably experienced the whining, grabbing, and the cruel crossfire that ensues between two siblings who are vying for the same toy. I would estimate that at least once a day I have to resolve some sort of fight over something the kids want at the same time or don't feel that they can share.

This is much like our political system.

Republicans and Democrats squabble and bargain for their share of tax money. Sometimes they agree to share, but mostly they just whine, grab and harshly shred the opposition. If I have to choose a side in this "who gets the money?" battle, I usually side with the Democrats, but the whole system makes you feel bad because the end often does not justify the underhanded means.

That is why Ron Paul is an alluring candidate.

Any good parent knows that when kids continue to incessantly fight and argue over one stupid toy, and the brawling disrupts the house and begins to destroy their relationship, there is only one thing to do!

Nobody gets it.

I can't count the number of times that I have had to take away something, sometimes even throwing it in the trash, because no matter what, it was going to cause a fight.

And maybe that is what needs to happen in Washington with federal spending, the eternal squabbling needs to be put to a stop by simply declaring, nobody gets it.

Ron Paul wants to send most federal programs back to the state level. He actually believes in a smaller federal government that limits itself to upholding the constitution.

This could be exactly what our country needs. Perhaps we wouldn't be as divided if most decisions were made on the local level. Citizens would feel like they could still play a part in the political process and our individual needs, unique to each area, would be taken into greater consideration.

The idea of reducing federal control and spending is obviously taboo. Large corporations, political action committees and even foreign interests have a lot invested in our current way of doing things. They know how to pull strings and make things happen, all of that is threatened if the states were given decisions that are now made in Washington.

I think that it is pretty safe to say that the mainstream media has mostly ignored Ron Paul, but hopefully that will change. Fortunately, many people do not have to rely only on television, radio and print. Citizens are now able to seek out ignored information on the internet.

Ron Paul has a very strong following on the internet. Some people have even taken to calling all Ron Paul supporters fat, pimpled-faced computer geeks that sit in their parents basement and spam online polls.

I certainly don't fit that description and these people don't either.

If you would like to learn more about Ron Paul, here is his official website.
There are also countless interview videos on Ron Paul's YouTube channel.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

You Know You're a Parent When...'ve realized that the most effectual way to get poop out of a bathtub is to scoop it quickly with your hand before it breaks into smaller pieces (the bath soap is close-by for afterward, so don't hesitate).

Remove the children first and then get the poop out before the water drains, while it is still floating, or it will smear onto the bottom of the tub.

By-the-way, I don't think Henry's body knows how to digest grapes.

Monday, August 13, 2007

"Pop!" Goes the Nursemaid's Elbow

Yesterday, around 11:30, I started our nap-time routine by herding together our two youngest boys.

Being three, Jacob is old enough to dread his nap, and he began to protest, while Henry, 18-months, held my hand and climbed the stairs next to me. In playful retaliation, the J-Man, decided to grab hold of Henry's leg during our climb. Trying to prevent a serious fall, I was forced to maintain a firm grip on our toddler's hand while the full weight of our 3 (almost 4) year-old son threatened to pull everyone down the stairs. The end result of this tug-of-war was the sound and vibration of a firm "pop" from little Henry's arm, followed by crying.

He cried for a good 15 minutes, but was very tired and fell asleep for a short bit. About half and hour later, Henry was awake again and crying. He held on to his left arm and would not move it. For a while I was able to distract him as I called and consulted our pediatrician's office. The nurse advised me to bring him to an Urgent Care clinic or the ER so that he could be X-rayed.

While waiting for my husband to drive home, I carefully observed our injured toddler, so that I would be able to answer any questions the doctor might ask. I noticed that he was holding his arm slightly bent and perfectly still, almost as if it were in a sling. He was in good spirits and even smiled and tried to play. If he forgot about his injury and tried to move his arm he would flinch or cry.

It is amazing to me how resilient children are, because for all little Henry knew his injury could have been permanent but despite this grim idea, he continued to play. When he encountered a situation where he wanted to grab something but could not because his right hand was full, he would stop and carefully calculate what to do.
"Ok, I've got my Thomas train in this hand, but I want to grab that tricycle. Hmmm, what can I do....well, that other hand is no good anymore, so let me think.....I can try to grab both in the same, no, that doesn't work....this is the only arm that moves, so I need to find somewhere safe where I can put my train down and then I can grab on...."
All of this seemed to play-out in his head as he held his useless left arm firmly paralyzed at his side. It was a very, very sad thing to watch, but I was amazed at his ability to adapt to the situation!

After Corby arrived home to stay with the big kids, I was finally able to leave for the ER. Worst case scenarios accompanied by visions of little Henry toddling around in a cast played out in my head as I drove into Huntsville.

When we arrived at the Pediatric ER, the administrative nurse look doubtingly at Henry, who was all smiles in his stroller. While I described what had happened to him she calmly stated,
"It sounds like Nursemaid's Elbow."

We were admitted without a wait, but there was no urgency. Next the triage nurse assessed Henry,
"Probably Nursemaid's Elbow."

No one seemed surprised or worried. The doctor came in and I began to explain what happened. Before I could even finish, while holding Henry's arm and twisting inward, he said,
"There, it's fixed. It was Nursemaid's Elbow."

Wow, it really was fixed!

No x-ray or cast needed. He was diagnosed and cured in an instant of something I had never heard of before.

It turns out that Nursemaid's Elbow is a common injury to children whose arm has been pulled too hard. The doctor said that once it occurs it is more likely to happen again, up until the age of 6 or 7. Needless to say, I had the doctor show me how to "pop" the elbow back into place.

Henry began to use his arm almost immediately after the "fix" and never showed any sign of residual pain.

I guess having the experience of parenting three toddlers doesn't show you everything there is to know. Does anyone ever get to the point of being a hardened parenting veteran with encyclopedia like knowledge?

Maybe these parents.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Power Outages. What, Me Worry?

Last Thursday it was so hot. How hot was it? It was so hot that my daughter's soccer practice was cancelled at 5:30 for fear of the heat, and I have heard from parents with children in school that the kids are not allowed to go outside for P.E. All of the children are relegated to the gym.

The temperatures seem to be maintaining their triple digit streak, and there has yet to be a sign of it letting up in the forecast.

With it being so hot, and everyone cranking up the A/C, it was reassuring when Huntsville Utilities informed customers that "there's no need to conserve energy... despite the summer-time peak" and usage that "tops the charts". (link)


I was starting to suspect that our local power infrastructure would be susceptible to the same failings of similar power companies in similar heat conditions. Within the past week outages attributed to the heat have occurred in:
... Arkansas,
... Missouri,
... Texas,
... Virginia,
... West Virginia
... Georgia, ..and again in Georgia.

I suppose we are lucky to have our power provided by the far superior and indestructible Huntsville Utilities, but my excitement was short-lived. Yesterday I received a call from my sister in Huntsville.

Uh-oh, her power is out along with a large portion of the city.

Even on University Drive, a commercial shopping area, the power outage has forced retail businesses to close, and on a Saturday no less!

Is this an early indication that global warming is beginning to rear its ugly head and show us what kind of discomfort and inconvenience we have to look forward to?

Could it be that our energy resources are not capable of exponential growth and as our population continues to grow, they will only be more scarce and hard to maintain?

Are our power infrastructures aged and more susceptible to the strains of demand than our utility providers would like us to believe?

We need to answer all of these questions, and hopefully this power outage will be the catalyst for the consideration.

Lets see...

Today the Huntsville Times reported on yesterday's power outage:
About 30,000 customers of Huntsville Utilities sweated out a power failure in 99-degree heat Saturday afternoon when a switch failed.

At 4:30 p.m., a delivery point that disperses electricity from the Tennessee Valley Authority power grid shut down, the utility said. Crews restored power to about 23,000 customers by 5:18p.m.

Crew completed restoring power to 7,500 customers in the Nick Davis and Old Railroad Bed area by 6:35 p.m.

The heat, weather conditions and the heavy load of electricity usage this past week were not responsible for the failure, the utility said. (link)

Oh, silly me! I got myself all worked-up and afraid for nothing!

My local, friendly utility company, Huntsville Utilities, said the weather and heavy usage was not a factor, and I know they only have my well-being and comfort at heart!

I am sure they would tell us of any problem they might be having, even if the public response would be negative and against their best interest. Even if the reality of a situation were to reveal evidence of global climate change or the inadequacy of their own resources, they would surely tell us!

Wouldn't they?

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Hey Kids, What's In It For Me?

Yesterday, I took our two oldest children to the Sci-Quest science museum in Huntsville for homeschool science labs. Both of the kids had a lot of fun learning about light, prisms and rainbows.

During their hour-long class, I walked among the exhibits with our two younger boys and met many homeschooling parents. I ran into a few friends who use our cover school, and also met other families who I had never seen before, many from nearby cities like Decatur and Athens.

Not feeling in the least bit shy after encountering so many pleasant homeschooling parents, I approached a father with three young boys. Although it is uncommon to meet a homeschooling dad, it is not unheard of, so I decided to strike-up a conversation.

When asked if he had children attending the homeschool science workshop, he grimaced and quickly retorted an emphatic "No!". He followed with, "Is that what this is?" gesturing at the many parents and children playing and exploring the museum. I told him that all of the school-age kids there that day were probably homeschooled because the public schools had already started. He quickly informed me that he was from Birmingham (as if an excuse was needed for being ill placed). He said his kids started back to school next week, then he added that he couldn't wait for them to go back and he looked forward to the day when school would be year-round.

This miserable parent and his anticipated release seemed to fit a pattern I have long observed.

Ever since our first child was born I have come to realize that there are two distinct groups of parents in the world. Those who genuinely like to spend time with their children and those who tally every minute alone with them like a prisoner in a jail cell. I can recall mothers telling me, when our daughter was only a toddler, that they could never stay home with their kids because they "wanted a life". Come on, give me a break! I have a hard time considering the pursuit of selfish and material gains an equal trade for the rare and priceless opportunities offered fleetingly to a parent.

Can you think of any way that you could ever influence any other human being more than the influence of a parent to a child? Why do so many parents repulsively thwart spending long periods of time with their kids?

Some argue that they need quiet time; time to do grown-up things. But children aren't young forever. Is it too much to sacrifice a little of that "me" time for them? Don't they deserve that much?

You might think that the idea of feeling obligated toward children is what perpetuates the attitude of unhealthy entitlement that so many adolescents seem to exhibit. But I would argue the opposite.

Children model their behavior after their parents and when they see that Mommy and Daddy are constantly preoccupied with a "what's in it for me?" mentality, then of course these children will grow-up asking that same question.

I think that children of selfless parents are less likely to only think of what they have to gain in each situation. Having a parent who gives you respect and values you enough to give you his or her precious time will go much farther to build character than a special preschool and any amount of fancy toys and gadgets.

Be sure, I am not in any remote way suggesting that parents deserve no time for themselves. But, I do think that our society tends to diminish the value of selfless sacrifice, while heralding the rewards of selfish pursuits and the general disregard of others. We only need to turn on the television, open a magazine or read a newspaper to learn of the many ways you can achieve more for yourself, whether you are accumulating fame, power or stuff.

The attitude of "I sure can't wait to get rid of these kids" will only be more and more common until parents realize that they have a lot more to gain by actually giving it all away.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

McDonald's and the No-Hold-Bars Marketing Smackdown of Preschoolers

A new study has revealed that children surveyed at a Head Start center in California preferred the taste of food wrapped in the McDonald's logo over the exact same food unwrapped. Some of the foods were common-place snacks like carrots and milk.

Researchers are balking at the overly successful effects of McDonald's strategic marketing toward children. Psychologists are lining-up against MickyD's while others choose to blame the parents.

So, whose job is it to monitor what children are seeing and consuming?

As parents, my husband and I have always taken it upon ourselves to try to filter and educate our kids about advertising. We are a very non-commercial family. We hardly ever watch commercial television, in fact, we do not even have cable. The few times I have seen advertisements geared toward the kids, I have taken time to explain to our children what the ad is trying to accomplish and how it is trying to change their minds about what they are selling.

Marketing towards children is ruthless. There is nothing a corporation will not do to instill those warm, associative feelings toward their brand early in children. (Even our own government knows how to play the game.)

I have to agree that parents must beware.

But, does that mean that advertisers can do whatever they want? What else can we learn from this study?

It seems to me that it is evident that children in poorer, low-income families are more likely to report this way. In fact, I wonder if the study knew ahead of time that they would be able to produce these results by surveying a Head Start center. (Head Start is a government provided preschool for low-income and welfare families). I think it is plausible to expect low-income families and immigrants to be naive and uneducated of the harmful affects of television.

A study released last month reports that children with more educated parents watch less television. I do not think that it is safe to assume that this survey would find similar results in children from a more diverse background.

Educated parents may begin a sigh of relief, thinking "My kids sure don't watch that much television and we never eat fast food", but not so fast. Even I, an admitted television nazi, am concerned by the broader ramifications of this study.

The health and eating habits of low-income families should be a concern to us all. These are the people who are being supplied Medicaid by our tax dollars and will potentially not have insurance in years ahead. Being a society that attempts to provide care for all citizens, we cannot forget that the exploitation of the disadvantaged is an exploitation of us all.

Just because we know better than to eat McDonald's poison, doesn't mean that we are not feeling the toxic affects inadvertently. The "If you don't like it, don't eat it" mentality only works for adults. I don't remember being able to go out and grocery shop for myself when I was 4-years-old. Do you?

Friday, August 3, 2007

You Have The Most Powerful Tool For Change, USE IT!!!

Are you dissatisfied the with direction of our country? Do you want to change the level of global environmental concern?

Despair no more!!! Now is the time to cast your vote and change the world!

I know you may be thinking "It's not November yet!", but the kind of voting I am talking about has nothing to do with the government. This vote is more powerful than any ballot you can cast in any political election. It is actually the most powerful vote in the world, and the most amazing part of all is that you have more than one to cast, actually probably hundreds. And, if you cast your votes carefully, you can change anything about this country you may not like. Anything.

The secret is to vote with your dollars.

Every day of your life you should view every dollar you spend as a powerful tool and every purchase as an opportunity to send a message.

It doesn't matter how much money you have, anyone can participate. You may be wondering, "What sort of message can I send with my money? How can a dollar be a vote?" , here are a few simple examples:
If you believe a large retail corporation unfairly treats their workers, don't shop at their stores.

If you want to tell the producers of animal by-products that antibiotics and hormones are not what you want in your food, then buy organic.

A particular television show or cable channel may repulse you, so don't buy the products advertised there.

If you feel that too many U.S. jobs are being lost overseas, make an effort to buy American.
I admit that sometimes this may add to the cost of the goods or services you are shopping for, and I agree that even our finances limit what we can do, but it doesn't have to be all or nothing.

For example, I prefer to look for products sold by socially, environmentally and organically conscious companies, but their products are usually higher priced. I will often buy 3 of the cheaper "regular" products and just 1 of the more expensive "conscious" brand. Every little bit helps, even if you cannot commit 100%.

To look at our political system as the solution to all if our problems is a flawed mentality. Nothing will change unless we start to really pay attention to the message we are sending everyday with our dollars.

Money, more than any other method available to the average citizen, has the potential to change the world. Take time to research where your money is going and take advantage of every cent.

Ultimately, this is not about what you get to bring home with you in your shopping bag. This is about trying to envision and cultivate a better future.

Begin making responsible decisions today, tomorrow, the next day, and every day from here on out.

Everyday is election day!

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Probably Overscheduled, But What Can I Do?

The public schools are starting. Today Madison County schools had their first day, and next week Madison and Huntsville City schools will start their year off. Despite being a homeschooling family, I still feel a tinge of stress and anxiety when the schools get started because I know that kids' activities are soon going to start.

I must confess that our kids are moderately over scheduled. There are many articles written by psychologists that enumerate the disadvantages of enrolling your child in too many activities, but I'm not sure how much of their logic would apply to the homeschooled child. Many doctors say that kids are stressed by being away from home and family, first all-day at school and then in sports and other extracurricular pursuits afterward. But, our kids are home all day long and are always excited about their out of home classes and sports, and that is the problem.

Our kids want to do everything!

Last year Elora participated in Brownies, soccer, multiple dance classes, chess tournaments, swim team and piano lessons. Corbin also played baseball in addition to soccer. We are also involved in classes and field trips with our homeschool cover, and we try to maintain some involvement in our church's children's activities.

Corbin has been begging all summer to get involved in tennis and basketball, and Corby would really like for the kids to be involved in some classes at the children's theater.

How do you decide what to do? You certainly can't do it all!

There is always the cost to consider. Dance classes, theater classes and tennis lessons are billed monthly, our piano lessons are free (Thanks John!). Chess class is also free, but it can cost anywhere from $20-$40 for a tournament registration, and if that tournament is far enough, you pay travel expenses. The sports through the city recreation department (baseball, basketball, soccer, and swimming) charge a up front fee of about $90 each. Scouts are relatively cheap, but then you have the inevitable fundraiser where all the kids are pitted against one another to see who can sell the most cookies or popcorn.

Another consideration is logistics. Piano lessons are the easiest because they are at our house during the day at a convenient time. Our Friday homeschool classes are also in the morning, which is not a conflict because we do most of our school Monday through Thursday (The one-on-one teaching actually goes much faster than classroom learning, and we use Friday for tests, review, make-up work or fun stuff.)

All the other activities the kids are involved in are in the afternoon, because they are open to school age children, so they take place after school is out. Tennis and swimming are at a very nearby park, while baseball and soccer are a bit farther away. Dance and scouts are very close, while theater would be the farthest away activity.

I am trying to weigh all of this information, but I haven't even received a complete schedule for most of these activities. What about the time conflicts? Elora would like to join the winter swim team, but they practice 3 days a week. That certainly limits the amount of time she has available!

You can see how all of this may be a little stressful, and I am sure it seems a little ridiculous. Part of being a parent is knowing when to say "NO", but I have a hard time refusing the kids experiences that I myself enjoyed as a child. You are probably wondering, "Why do kids have to participate in so much stuff?", and believe me, I wonder the same thing. Can't we just decide on few things and eliminate the rest? We are finding that decision very hard to make.

We really need some feedback on this, so I am adding a poll for you to offer up your opinions. Please leave a comment if you have the time, every little bit helps!