Monday, September 28, 2009

Yet Another Reason I Love Babywearing

Since Isaac was born, I've become something of a germophobe. It's funny, people always say that you're less worried about things with your second child than you were with your first, but for me, it's been the exact opposite. When I had Elijah, I was 18 years old and still in that stage where I believed that nothing bad would really happen to me or anyone I loved. I never worried much about him getting hurt or getting sick. With Isaac, though, I'm much more cautious.

With cold and flu season upon us, I'm trying to be mindful of ways to reduce our chances of getting sick. So when I realized that I had to take Isaac with me to the grocery store this morning, I inwardly cringed as I imagined all the germs. The handles of the cart. People touching him. People in general. Sure, I could put him in the seat that's built into the cart, but I was horrified by the thought of him putting his hands all over it, and maybe even chewing on the cart handle (since mouthing things is how babies explore their world, and is especially a favorite pastime of teething babies). I could keep him strapped in his infant carseat and haul him and the seat into the store and perch it precariously on top of my cart while I shopped, but I did learn a very important lesson when Elijah was a baby: carrying around a baby in an infant seat is a pain in the... well, neck, shoulders, arms, and back. That is an error I have been careful not to repeat this time around.

I've been trying out a lovely ring sling that a good friend let me borrow, and this seemed like a wonderful opportunity to use it again. I could keep my baby close to me, where people are less likely to touch him. I could still use both hands to shop. And I wouldn't have to worry about him putting his hands and mouth all over the cart, or deal with carrying around a heavy baby-carseat combination.

So that's just what I did, and it was wonderful. Well, as wonderful as a Walmart trip can be, anyway. I don't understand why more people don't wear their babies. Even if you totally ignore all the benefits babywearing has for the baby (and there are many!), it seems to me that the convenience factor alone would be enough to get people interested.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

A Rant on the Government and Education- Enjoy!

I was going to post this on Facebook, but I have so much to say about it that I decided to put it here instead. Our President suggests that American children should spend more time in school because kids in other countries do and they're outscoring American kids on math and science tests. I have several problems with this.

For one thing, this is just another effort to make testing more important than it should be. We push and push for higher and higher test scores, completely ignoring the fact that some people simply do not test well, regardless of their knowledge of the subject. Besides that, there is a lot more to learning and knowledge than test performance. To focus so much on test scores is to take a very myopic view indeed.

Not everyone is talented in the same areas; while some people have strengths in science and math, other people have strengths in other areas- language, art, vocational skills, and so on. And that's okay! That's the way it should be. Making the school day longer and pushing even harder for high test scores in a few particular areas risks alienating even further those kids who are talented in areas other than the "chosen" ones. Want a surefire way to make kids even more likely to drop out or hate school? This is a good option, then! A love for learning and an environment that encourages success in areas of skill- these are so important, but we are shoving them aside in pursuit of higher test scores.

Testing aside, I have a serious issue with the logic here. "Everyone else does it, so we should too." I thought we wanted to discourage kids from doing things just because everyone else does. I'm not okay with the lessons being taught here: Test performance is more important than a love for learning, outperforming others is something we must strive for, and we should do what everyone else is doing. Wow, that's actually the exact opposite of what I try to teach my kids! I want my kids to love learning, do the best they can, pursue their areas of interest and talent, and stay true to themselves without worrying what other people are doing or how they compare to them.

And for that matter, even this article states that while kids in other countries do go to school more days out of the year, they actually spend less time in the classroom than American kids do:

"While it is true that kids in many other countries have more school days, it's not true they all spend more time in school.

Kids in the U.S. spend more hours in school (1,146 instructional hours per year) than do kids in the Asian countries that persistently outscore the U.S. on math and science tests — Singapore (903), Taiwan (1,050), Japan (1,005) and Hong Kong (1,013). That is despite the fact that Taiwan, Japan and Hong Kong have longer school years (190 to 201 days) than does the U.S. (180 days)."

Their days are shorter, not longer. So if we must continue to push test scores above everything else, let's consider that the students who are outscoring ours actually spend less hours in school each day.

I am starting to feel very frustrated with how much control the government wants to have over children and families- and how much control so many families are willing to give them! Whose children are they, anyway? After struggling mightily with the decision, I chose to let my oldest go to public school rather than homeschooling. There were personal reasons for that decision, and I am very, very supportive of homeschooling. I still consider it an option, especially if changes like this are made. I already think the school day is too long for our public-schooled kids- seven hours a day. That's just one hour per day short of a full-time job! Did you know that homeschooling families can easily accomplish the same amount of education in half the time each day? I wonder how long it will be before they take that option away (despite the fact that, on average, homeschooled kids score higher on those oh-so-important tests than public school kids)?

Our nation absolutely needs some education reform- but this is not it. This isn't even close.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Trouble With Blogging

As much as I love to write, I've noticed that lately I have been having a hard time blogging. I think there are a few reasons for this (beyond generally being busy, that is).

I think it's human nature to present the most positive side of yourself to others. It makes sense; after all, who wants to put all their failures and worst moments out there for everyone to see? It's hard enough for people to share their struggles with even the people who love them most, much less on a blog that just anyone could read.

Some people, like me, really enjoy writing about their thoughts and the beliefs that are important to them. I especially like to focus on topics like parenting, simple living, and faith, just to name a few. But I find myself wondering if I am going to unknowingly give a false impression of myself. To a person who reads my blog, am I going to look like I have it all figured out and never struggle in certain areas?

The truth is, I do struggle, and I certainly don't have it all together. At this very moment, for example, I feel like I am about to lose my mind. Clark is at work today and is going out with friends later, so we are not going to see him all day. Isaac has been resisting sleep and Elijah is talking my ear off. It's raining again. Yesterday I finished up the last week of a project for my job, which made the last few days long and crazy. I have a ton of stuff to get done around the house, errands to run, commitments to keep, and a lot on my mind that I would just like to sit and think about without anyone or anything disturbing me. I am definitely not the picture of a perfectly patient or gentle parent today.

Sometimes I wonder if my inability to consistently live up to my beliefs and ideals means that I must either be a liar or a hypocrite. The fact is, I am neither. I am human. I struggle. I mess up. Every day. And if I'm being honest, I'll admit that I hate that. I just want to get it right all the time, but no one can do that.

The trouble with blogging is that it's easy to present our ideals, our accomplishments, and our moments of brilliance. It's much harder to let people see failures, frustrations, and setbacks. If we want to be honest about ourselves, though, we have to include both. My failures do not invalidate my beliefs and ideals, and the beliefs and ideals I hold do not prevent me from messing up.

This is why I've had a hard time blogging lately. I want to find the right balance. It seems that a theme of my posts so far- and a theme of my life, really- is trying to find balance. Going to extremes comes easily to me, but balance does not.

It's not going to be easy to hit "publish post" when I'm done with this. I'm going to second-guess myself: should I have really said all of that? Does anyone even care about what I'm writing in the first place? Maybe I should just keep these kinds of thoughts off the blog.

Here goes.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Puzzle Pieces

There's a lot of random stuff on my mind that I need to get out...

Over the weekend, I learned that while I love the mountains, I think I prefer their beauty from a distance rather than driving through them. I feel so claustrophobic (not to mention carsick) when traveling through the mountains in a car. Give me wide open spaces, please.

I also learned that while I like the idea of big cities, I don't think I want to live right in the city. Visiting is great, though. I could probably get used to a big city over time.

I have a really screwed-up view of what I'm realistically capable of. On one hand, I tend to expect more of myself than I can actually accomplish while remaining sane. But on the other hand, I don't believe in my abilities very much. Again with the "all or nothing" aspect of my personality.

More and more I'm realizing that this is my only shot at life, and I'm tired of playing it safe. At the same time, I'm scared of taking risks, especially when we have children who depend on us. We have so many dreams and goals, and every last one of them requires taking risks. If we don't, we'll be stagnant forever, making it by just fine but missing out on a lot of excitement. Shouldn't we enjoy what we do? I'm reminded of the quote I loved so much from Wall-E: "I don't want to survive; I want to live."

Everything in this post fits together like a puzzle. I can see it, even if the reader can't. I'll put all the pieces together for you some other time.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Changing Culture and Showing Sensitivity

A big question has been on my mind for weeks now:

How do you change culture while still being sensitive to people within the culture?

This question could be applied to a lot of things, of course, but the specific topic that has brought it to my mind is breastfeeding, particularly breastfeeding in public. After a conversation with a friend a few weeks back, this question has been weighing heavily on my mind.

To fill you in a bit, I need to explain a few things about myself. First of all, I am the type of person who feels like a terrible hypocrite if I believe strongly in something but then do not live it out on a regular basis. To me, it seems pointless to say you believe something if you aren't going to follow through in action.

What happens, though, when your strong beliefs collide?

Here is another important tidbit about me: I believe wholeheartedly in breastfeeding. That is how babies were meant to be fed, and I see absolutely no reason for a woman to be made to feel like she has to leave the room or hide under a blanket just to feed her baby. I passionately believe that our culture's views of breasts have become sexualized to the point that people in our culture get really uncomfortable (and sometimes even confrontational) when a woman nurses her child publicly- even if she is doing so as discreetly as she can. I could say a lot more about my beliefs on this subject (as the friend I conversed with can attest to, lol), but for now I will leave it at that. The point is, I believe our culture absolutely, unequivocally has it wrong when it comes to breasts and breastfeeding. And I believe strongly in doing my part to change our culture by living what I believe, so for many months now I have nursed my baby in public, as discreetly as possible, but without draping a cover over us or hiding in a nasty bathroom.

However, there is something else I believe in very strongly, and that is sensitivity and love. And if I know that people are uncomfortable, it would be insensitive and unloving of me to knowingly do something that makes them uncomfortable. In our culture, discomfort when confronted with nursing a baby the way I have been is, unfortunately, common.

So, two of my very important beliefs have collided. On one hand, I feel like a hypocrite if I do not live out my strongly held beliefs about nursing babies in our culture. On the other hand, I feel like something even worse than a hypocrite if I make people uncomfortable for the sake of my cause. Love and sensitivity for other people obviously win out over a cause. So I have started using a nursing cover again.

Still, my mind keeps coming back to the question at the beginning of this post. If I truly believe our culture's views of breasts and breastfeeding are terribly skewed and need to be changed- HOW can I help change this aspect of our culture, while still being sensitive to people within our culture? Sensitivity can be such a fine line, because in a way I almost feel as though I am bowing to and accepting our culture's views. Balance is especially hard to find for someone like me, who tends to be all-or-nothing about everything I do.

There are so many areas in which our society's attitude is broken; this isn't the only one. And we are all passionate about changing different things. So I ask you: how do YOU change culture while still being sensitive to people within the culture?

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Nursing a Sexually Wounded Culture

I came across this article today and thought it was a good one. It's called "Commentary on the Intersection of Faith, Sex, & Culture"