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.

“On Children” from The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran

Sometimes you just need a good quote get refocused on doing this whole parenting thing in a meaningful way:

“Your children are not your children.

They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.

They come through you but not from you,

And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts.

For they have their own thoughts.

You may house their bodies but not their souls,

For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.

You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.

For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.

The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.

Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;

For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.”

—Kahlil Gibran, “On Childrenfrom The Prophet

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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.

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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.

 

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.

Book Review (Gr 1-4): Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up By Sitting Down

As a parent with tons of responsibilities, how are you supposed to find the time to protest injustice while still making sure your progeny are well cared for and thriving? Well, the simple answer is that you can’t be out there on the front lines protesting day after day.

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But you can make an impact on the future by raising your children to be aware and prepared to stand up for themselves and others. There are some great books out there that can help you mold your children, at any age, into people who will make a positive change in the world.

Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up By Sitting Down (appropriate for grades 1-4) is a lovely book which tells very simply the story of the four African-American college students who sat at a “whites-only” Woolworth’s lunch counter in 1960 to protest segregation. The book was written by Andrea Davis Pinkney and illustrated by Brian Pinkney.

Without talking down to children, this book provides an easily accessible pathway into understanding this turbulent period of history. Beginning with a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr., “We must … meet hate with love,” this book tells how these four students sat “with hearts full of hope” in order to obtain the simple goal of being served “a doughnut and coffee, with cream on the side.”

The most wonderful thing about this book, in my opinion, is that it shows how a social movement can grow from a few people to many. Four people sitting at a lunch counter had an effect that was seen across the country. And the goal was simply to be treated as a human being. Something every young child can relate to.

Idealistic in theme, the book also bravely addresses the contretemps the protesters had to deal with: people throwing food and pouring hot coffee on them, yelling at and calling them names. (These pages disturbed my 7-year-old daughter, but only to affect her recognition of how brave these protesters really were.)

Sit-In is a great children’s book that leaves its readers full of hope for the future and a “recipe for integration” that “makes enough for all.”

Book Review (Gr 1-3): The Camping Trip That Changed America: Theodore Roosevelt, John Muir, and our National Parks

With the National Park Service being in the news lately for finding a way to tweet around President Trump’s recent gag order, and with Jason Chaffetz’s (R-Utah) House Bill 621 (H.R.621), the recently introduced bill to sell off 3.3 million acres of federal lands, it was hard for me not to review the book: The Camping Trip That Changed America: Theodore Roosevelt, John Muir, and our National Parks by Barb Rosenstock and illustrated by Mordicai Gerstein.

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Aimed for 1st-3rd graders, this book tells the story of what, in 1903, inspired Theodore Roosevelt to protect America’s wilderness. The narrative starts off with Roosevelt in his favorite chair enjoying a book about adventures in the California mountains by naturalist John Muir. Roosevelt is surprised, at the end of the book, when Muir makes a plea to the government to help save wilderness.

Roosevelt is not only surprised, but also puzzled by this plea. So he pens a letter to Muir and asks to join him on a camping trip in Yosemite.

On the camping trip, the men enjoy the majesty and freedom of the outdoors. Muir tells Roosevelt tales of his adventures. Muir also relays the ecological history of the U.S., starting with the seas that covered the soil, through volcanos and glaciers, to the natural environment that gives us the diversity of wildlife we have today (or back in 1903).

Roosevelt sleeps the first night on “forty thick wool blankets” and Muir sleeps on a bed of twigs. By the end of the camping trip, Roosevelt also sleeps on a bed of twigs. Both men wake up exhilarated one morning after being blanketed by a spring snow storm. “Bully!” Roosevelt says to this.

Unfortunately, as Muir explains, industry is coming to take over the land in the name of profit, leaving little left for future citizens and natural inhabitants of the U.S. to enjoy. Roosevelt will not have this and enacts legislation that protects these lands forever.

This book is a great way to introduce young children to an issue of significance today. It’s a personal story of two men enjoying the great outdoors, reveling in its beauty and its importance, and doing their best to protect it from this:

Badlands tweet NPS oil

Have you and your family visited any National Parks lately?

What do you think of the bill to sell off federal lands?

Comment below.

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UPDATE: