Not Anymore

This year, we have received many compliments from friends, neighbors, and teachers about how our children behave. We are told that they are kind, they listen, they are creative and thoughtful, they are calm and patient. Compliments like this fill my heart to overflowing and I’m so appreciative of people who go out of their way to make me feel good about my parenting skills.

I have to say this about how we go about our lives. We, as parents, make sure that kindness, thoughtfulness, and creativity are the foundations upon which we build everything else.

But also, as parents, we make sure we don’t put up with any behavior which affronts our standards or doesn’t meet the mark of what we would expect of a common, decent human being. I am convinced that our unwavering strictness when it comes to a common, decent standard has made our children the wonderful people they are turning out to be.

That being said, we find it very hard (impossible) to tolerate the behavior of adults that falls below what we would expect of our own children.

For me to stand down in the face of behavior that falls far below any common, decent standard, is tantamount to going against every fiber of what I believe to be true, and right, and good.

My children are a product of my husband and me. And if my kids are valued and appreciated for exceeding expectations, then I and my husband need to be equally valued for our approach to parenting, and life in general.

We are a family of strong people. I’m proud of the strong family that we’ve created. I’m proud to stand up for myself. I’m proud to stand up for my children. I’m proud to stand up for anyone who feels that they don’t have a voice. I’ve been that voiceless person.

Not anymore.

Teaching Children to Help in Emergency Situations

Fun Shopping Trip Turns Traumatic

So today, my daughter and I took a trip to Goodwill. She wanted to look for electronic items that she could take apart to see what they looked like inside. We were browsing the electronic section when we heard the crash of glass breaking. As always, we (and others) looked around for the source of the sound. We found it to be a woman in the same aisle as us that accidentally knocked a vase down off of a shelf. A Goodwill employee walked over and then went off to, I assumed, get a broom.

Ok, that’s taken care of, I thought to myself.

After a while, I noticed that the woman was still standing in the same spot holding on to her shopping cart with one hand and holding her foot with the other. “Did she cut herself?” I asked my daughter. We agreed that she had and I searched my purse for a band-aid. I couldn’t find one (great mom I am). As the woman was still standing alone with her cart holding her foot, I took my daughter over to her and asked if she needed help. I noticed that she was bleeding quite profusely. In fact, there was blood dripping all over the floor. I told her I’d go to the front and see if they had a first aid kit.

As I approached the registers, the employee that originally checked on the broken glass was walking out with a broom and a couple of bandaids. I said, “Oh good, you have band-aids.”

When we went back to the woman she was still bleeding, dripping blood on the floor. The man started sweeping up the glass. And I gave her an antiseptic wipe to clean her wound. The cut was deep and still bleeding. She needed help.

Full ER Mode

I ditched my purse and gave her another wipe to apply pressure to her wound. The employee looked at me for direction as to what to do next. I spoke up. “Can we get her a chair so she can sit? I noticed some plastic ones over there.” He brought back a white plastic lawn chair and the woman sat down.

Her foot was still dripping blood. “Do you have latex gloves and a wrap?” I asked the employee. “Gloves and a wrap,” he repeated back to me and ran off. I left my daughter with the woman and went to get another chair so we could elevate her foot.

Foot elevated and pressure applied, the blood flow was starting to ebb. The employee returned with some blue latex gloves, more antiseptic wipes, some gauze, and some large band-aids.

This whole time my daughter was watching, whispering in my ear, “Good thing you’re a doctor, mommy.” (For more on my experience in medical education click here.) She had my purse hanging across her shoulders and was attempting to open another package of wipes for me.

We ended up with a nice gauze pad to apply pressure and improvised a string of band-aids to wrap around the wound and the gauze pad.

Helping Feels Awesome

When all was said and done, the woman thanked me. The employee thanked me. I wrapped the bloody wipes and failed band-aid attempts inside the glove as I snapped it off my hand inside out. I left the woman with a promise that she would go to an immediate care. “Yes,” she said and thanked me again.

I then retrieved my purse from my daughter. And said, “Do you want to go look and see if they have any nice shorts?”

“Sure,” she answered.

I couldn’t have asked for a better adventure with my daughter. Instead of telling her (as I quite often do) that she should help people, I had the opportunity to show her. Additionally, I did it without getting anything in return but a thank you. And that’s quite enough. I hope that this experience will have made a deep impression on her as she travels through life and through an America that has been empowered to step on the downtrodden to get ahead.

What Can You Do?

If you’re still reading this, you care about other people. So here is a quick mnemonic from firstaidforfree.com to help if you ever find yourself in a similar situation:

SEEP

  1. Sit or lie the victim down
  2. Examine the wound
  3. Elevate the extremity
  4. Pressure on the wound

 

Book Review (Gr 1-4): The Youngest Marcher

I believe the children are our future. Sounds like a funny reference to an 80s hit song, but it’s true. I really do believe that what we teach our children now can make or break the future. Apparently Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. did too.

If you click on a recommended book link and purchase, I will get a percentage as an Amazon Affiliate.

I had never heard of the 1963 Children’s March before reading The Youngest Marcher by Cynthia Levinson and illustrated by Vanessa Brantley Newton.

This children’s book (Grades 1-4) tells the compelling story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, an African-American elementary school student who volunteers to go to jail in an effort to answer MLK’s call to ‘fill the jails’ in Birmingham so no more civil rights protesters could be arrested.

After the adults had failed to answer the call, Reverend James Bevel came up with the idea that children could make a difference and proposed the Children’s March. From May 2-7, 1963, between 3,000 and 4,000 children marched and were arrested. Audrey Faye Hendricks was the youngest known marcher and was sent to juvenile hall for 7 days, during which time the jails were successfully filled, which allowed change to take place in the city of Birmingham.

This book is inspirational and really touches a nerve, for parents and children alike. Not only did young Audrey exhibit much bravery in her decision to fight for what was right, but so did her parents. I’m not sure that I would be brave enough to allow my child to do the same, even in the face of such serious injustice.

Children are powerful. And it’s very important to me that my children know that and feel that. This book highlights the power of one very brave little girl.

 

Talking Until We’re Blue in the Face About Climate Change and Carbon Dioxide

The science of climate change has been explained many times to many people. Some people understand it, and some people don’t. Many people that don’t fully understand the process that unfolds with too much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere understand that the scientists who study climate change know the process step-by-step. The scientists study it, tell us what will happen if the problem isn’t cared for, and suggest possible solutions.

But there are other people who do not fully understand the chain of events that happens when too much carbon dioxide is in the atmosphere who think that because they don’t understand it, it doesn’t exist and that the climate scientists don’t know what they’re talking about.

I would like to detail another complicated reaction. One that happens when too much carbon dioxide builds up, not in the atmosphere, but in the human body. There are scientists that study this, tell us what will happen if the problem isn’t cared for, and suggest possible solutions.

Every person that denies the events that occur as a result of too much CO2 in the external environment needs to think about what they would do if too much CO2 built up in their own internal environment.

Here goes:

In living organisms, including our own human bodies, there is a system called homeostasis. This system exists to make sure each element in your body stays balanced with all the other elements. It ensures that your body, as it exists, remains in a constant state that is compatible with life. When one element is thrown out of whack, we have compensatory mechanisms that gear up to balance this out. Our bodies are amazing machines when it comes to homeostasis.

But what happens when our homeostatic mechanisms are overwhelmed?

Let’s look at carbon dioxide, for example. We all know that too much of this gas is not good for our bodies. And most of us have the scientific knowledge to understand that we breath in oxygen and breath out carbon dioxide. We breath it out because it is not a useful gas for us.

Normally, we can balance the intake of oxygen and output of carbon dioxide even if we are faced with a little bit of extra carbon dioxide in our bodies. This happens by way of our bodies’ remarkable mechanisms of homeostasis.

But before we get into our bodies’ homeostatic mechanisms when it comes to carbon dioxide, there is one fact that needs to be understood: CARBON DIOXIDE IS AN ACID. So too much carbon dioxide in your body acidifies your internal environment. This is not good. And our bodies do what they can to expel this potential poison.

The first thing that our bodies do to get rid of extra carbon dioxide is to speed up respiration. That is, we start breathing faster to blow off the extra CO2. Unfortunately, this is where some people run into trouble.

What happens if we are unable to expel carbon dioxide through respiration (breathing)?

First of all, you may think this is an uncommon problem. After all, everyone you see around you is breathing. But there are certain subsets of people who are not always efficient at the oxygen/ carbon dioxide gas exchange. Like people with asthma, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), chronic bronchitis, or sleep apnea.

Many people suffering from these conditions have difficulty exhaling due to swollen and constricted airways as well as excessive mucus production. One can hear this difficulty exhaling as the sound of an expiratory wheeze when listening through a stethoscope.

Those in the health profession may observe other subtle symptoms in long-time sufferers. They sometimes refer to these types of patients as blue bloaters. Blue, because their lips may appear blue from cyanosis (bluish color of the mucus membranes and extremities due to lack of oxygen in the blood). Bloaters, because these patients often appear bloated or stocky because they are holding onto extra, unusable gases.

If you took a blood sample from an artery of one of these chronic patients, you would see that the partial pressure of carbon dioxide is way higher than it should be. That is to say, there is an increase in amount of CO2 in the blood that is being pumped AWAY from the heart to be used by the rest of the body. Additionally, the partial pressure of oxygen in the blood decreases, because the carbon dioxide is saturating the blood. The body is not getting the fuel it needs to function. Furthermore, the body is using the little oxygen it has to power itself and creating more CO2 as a byproduct of metabolism.

This leads to something called respiratory acidosis (carbon dioxide combines with water to form carbonic acid, H2CO3) and can ultimately be measured as a drop in the pH of the blood. The body tries to fix this in two ways:

  1. It tries to balance the extra acid by producing more base (in the form of bicarbonate).
  2. It tries to excrete the extra acid via the kidneys (meaning that your body tries to pee out the carbonic acid and hold on to the bicarbonate).

After the body maxes out the effectiveness of these two methods of maintaining acid/base balance, it may move on to another compensatory mechanism: increased erythropoiesis. That is to say, it will increase the number of circulating red blood cells. These extra red blood cells, the body thinks, will help more oxygen circulate through the blood. It makes sense because oxygen attaches itself to the hemoglobin in the red blood cells as if it was riding on a trolley through San Francisco. It travels to where it needs to go, then hops off to power a muscle somewhere.

Unfortunately, too many red blood cells can be produced. When this happens, it is called polycythemia. Simply stated, too many red blood cells can clog up your blood vessels, leading to impaired circulation and even stroke.

Another thing your body does when faced with decreased oxygen supply is to cut off circulation to parts of your lungs. This increases the blood pressure in your lungs, which increases the amount of effort the right side of your heart needs to exert to push the blood through your lungs, which can then lead to right-sided heart failure.

On top of all that, increased levels of CO2 in your blood causes headaches, confusion, sleepiness, and increased intracranial pressure (in and around your brain).

Scientists who have studied this know what’s going on and know how to make it better. They’re called physicians. I’m sure that if you had any of these symptoms, you would trust the experts with your care.

There are other scientists who study what happens to the earth on a larger scale if too much carbon dioxide builds up in our external environment. They’re called climate scientists.

Think about it.

Reference: http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/301574-overview

A Secular Easter for the Restivus

It it always important to remember that not everyone celebrates the same holidays in the same ways. There is always someone out there that does something different. And different is ok. Teaching our children this as we celebrate our holidays is an integral way to move us toward a more tolerant and accepting society. This post is how our family celebrated Easter this year, starting with learning about the history of this holiday.

Before the Christian religion co-opted Easter as its own holiday, the Anglo-Saxons celebrated the goddess of fertility and spring, Eostre. The symbolism surrounding modern-day Easter can easily be explained by exploring how the Anglo-Saxons celebrated: Eostre’s earthly symbol was the rabbit and, quite obviously, eggs are symbols of fertility.

As I reflect on this, I cannot help but notice the switch from celebrating a woman for her life-giving power to celebrating something quite the opposite. In any event, our family set out to commemorate Eostre, do some science, and enjoy a lovely spring day.

First, we started a little science experiment to make an egg that bounces. The experiment is still in progress. But we did the first step:

  1. Place egg in bowl and cover with vinegar.
  2. Wait 3 days for the completion of a chemical reaction between the calcium carbonate of the eggshell and the acetic acid in the vinegar. (You can see some bubbles of carbon dioxide forming on the egg below.)

We’ll see if it works.

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Next, we dyed eggs experimenting with natural materials. The materials we chose were beets, purple sweet potatoes, spinach, and turmeric.

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To make the dye, we placed a generous amount of each into their own pot of boiling water along with 2 tablespoons of vinegar and simmered for 30 minutes.

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After straining the natural materials from the dye mixtures, we let them cool for a bit before placing the already hard-boiled eggs in them to soak up the dye. Natural dyes are not as intense as the dyes from the store, but they are beautiful.

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And you get mashed purple sweet potatoes!

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We finished up our family secular Easter for the Restivus with mud puddles and shooting hoops. Fun!

UPDATE: After 4 days, we removed our eggs from the vinegar and, sure enough, they bounced!

My son shot this video as he instructed his sister to bounce it higher.

She didn’t, so he bounced his higher. This is what happened:

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Teaching Kids Why Facts Matter

The other day, I found myself explaining to my very curious children what the definition of fact was and why facts are so important.

First, I asked them “What is a fact?”

My daughter offered that a fact is something that’s real. Ok, I can accept that.

My son said that a fact is something that can’t change. Oops, not true.

I took that opportunity to provide them with examples of facts that can change. The weather, for instance. A simple fact is: It’s not snowing now. But if it starts snowing that fact becomes a falsehood.

My son went on to explain that he was talking about the word fact in math terms. It’s pretty absolute that if you take one number and add another number to it, you get an unchanging fact. True. 

So we all agreed that 2+2 was 4. That is a verifiable fact.

But we couldn’t stop there in our exploration of facts. (Especially not with ex-presidents using their camera/microwaves to spy on current ones and those horrible calamities in Sweden and Bowling Green.)

I then went on to explain to my children that some people in very powerful positions are making up their own ideas of reality and calling them facts these days. And many people are believing them.

I asked the kids if they could see why that would be a problem. Well, they answered, everyone can believe what they want to believe. Hmmmmm. It seems I’ve taught them the value of coexisting with others that don’t share your beliefs. Which makes me a somewhat successful mommy, but doesn’t help when it comes to the importance of discerning reality from its alternative.

So I asked them what would happen if Mommy insisted that 2+2 was 86?

They said they would tell me to use my calculator or my fingers to prove the fact that 2+2 was not 86. Fair enough.

So I asked, what if Mommy was the powerful Queen of the World. And I say that whoever says 2+2 is NOT 86 has to go to jail. Ooooh, they said. They could immediately see this was a problem.

As you can see, I tend to teach with oversimplification and hyperbole. But it gets the point across. The ultimate point it is this: There is really no defense against a person, or group of people, to whom facts don’t matter.

What the American president, the whole executive branch, and the Republicans in Congress are doing right now is manipulating the truth in the attempt to gain more power at the expense of, literally, innocent people’s lives. We cannot let them get away with this. And we cannot let any of their followers get away with it either.

For insight and information on how you can help dam the flood of untruths see How to Communicate Facts in the Age of Trump and 4 Things I Learned Engaging with Trump Supporters.

Teaching Genetics to a 4-Year-Old

If you ask me, it’s never too early to learn something.

My little girl asked me why I have brown eyes while she has blue eyes. I told her it had something to do with the DNA that she received from her parents. (She and her brother are well aware that they each have half of my DNA and half of their father’s.) But I thought I could go a little further with this. Hence, a lesson in the Punnett square.

Though I didn’t use Punnett squares to attempt to explain dominant and recessive patterns of inheritance, I did think that working through a few Punnett squares and making some connection to genetics and DNA would be helpful in her understanding of science later on. (I recall learning Cartesian coordinates in school and thinking how easy it was because I grew up playing Battleship.)

Anyway, above are the Punnett squares my four-year-old daughter and I worked through together. She picked the letters and the color and I helped her fill in the squares. She did the last one almost entirely on her own.

UPDATE: I wrote this post more than two years ago. I was inspired to post it here because my son, 6, asked me the same question that she asked: why does he have brown eyes while his twin sister has blue eyes? This time I did attempt to explain dominant and recessive genes while working through a Punnett square. Not sure how much he will retain, but at least the neuronal spark will be there when he learns about it in school.