Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Light Therapy Worked

The good news this week is that my older son finished three weeks of the daily home light therapy (syntonic phototherapy is the technical name for it). That was being done for his recently diagnosed eye tracking problem. He had his reevaluation at the Behavioral Optometrist’s office.

The result is that the light therapy has worked. His visual fields which were abnormally smaller than they should have been are opened up to normal levels. No further light therapy is needed. The light therapy was done alone, that is, we have not been doing any of the ‘exercises’ that other Behavioral Optometrists use, some are more time intensive and the treatments can go much longer than just three weeks.

My son continues to have double vision problems, those have increased to be 50% better than they were before. The plan is to have him continue using his prescription reading glasses with the prism in them and do a recheck in four weeks. If it is not resolved I don't know what the next step will be. I am not stressing about it right now.

Note: An eye tracking problem causes reading problems. This diagnosis is considered to be a learning disability. A child with this condition may be identified and labeled as being a special education student in a public school and be called a ‘special needs student’.


Chris Gupta’s blog Share the Wealth has a good post about what syntonic phototherapy is with some medical references to the treatment.


Here is my previous post about my son’s diagnosis of an eye tracking problem (convergence insufficiency is what he has):

I've Been Learning About Convergence Insufficiency

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May 31, 2008 Saturday Review of Books

Semicolon's Saturday Review of Books May 31, 2008 edition is up. You can read all different people's book reviews there and share your own blogged book review or book thoughts with others too.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Quiet House After Book Hunting

The house is quiet. It is about noon on a Friday. Just what is happening here?

We just got back from a charity tag sale held at a nearby church. This year despite us getting there in the first hour or two of the sale, the pickings were slim and the prices were more than doubled with some of the more desirable things with special prices on them. However I did give my kids free reign to pick from the children’s books which today were selling for 50 cents each.

As soon as we got home my ten year old retreated to his bedroom to read a Garfield comic. My younger son went right to the art cabinet to retrieve blank paper, grabbed a pencil and is teaching himself, with the aid of a book, to draw skeletons.

I was surprised to see some flashback things from my own childhood. There were old workbooks for children in first and second grade to help with reading and penmanship. There were some sets of Colorforms that, when I saw the boxes, I knew I must have owned as I got a jolt in my gut when I saw them. They were priced at $5! There was a cool 1970s Colorforms bride set priced at $5 too, vintage and interesting to see. There were some neat paper dolls from the 1970s priced at $3 and $5. A few wooden peg puzzles from the 1960s were priced at $15! Lastly I saw a doll in like-new condition with a go-along book. This is the same kind as the one my grandmother bought for me. The one at the tag sale was $10 and was Hansel and Gretel, a cloth doll. One end of the doll is Hansel. You move the bottom clothing parts to reveal Gretel, and turn it upside down to have your Gretel doll. My own doll was Little Red Riding Hood on one end, the grandmother on the other and with at turn of the bonnet it is the wolf in grandma’s clothing. It was neat to see the Hansel and Gretel doll. I didn’t buy any of that stuff in case you are wondering!

I picked up some children’s books for us to use for pleasure reading. I picked up a couple of books that I bet people are looking for on PaperBackSwap. I will list them there in order to get the credits to use for books that I want or need and hope to get from PBS in the future. It is good to have some credits built up ready to use for when the books that are on my PBS wish list are listed into the system. Those books which I know will go quickly are a title used in the Five in a Row program, “The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey”, a tear-jerker living book, Christmas picture book and a hardback in like new condition American Girl book. It is worth it to sometimes buy a book for 50 cents or less with the intention of swapping it out on PaperBackSwap as there is a cost savings in the end when I get a book worth over $10 that we need or want.

I was on the lookout for other items which I did not find there. Specifically, antique cameras, plastic toy cameras, knitting needles and wool yarn, craft supplies, art supplies, blank journal books, books about knitting, sewing, and crafting. Especially with a congregation of older people and senior citizens I had hoped that some of those things would be for sale at that tag sale. Oh well.

If you want more information about PaperBackSwap and how I use it in our homeschooling, read this post Some Information about PaperBackSwap.

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Some Information about PaperBackSwap (PBS) is a website with free membership. You list books easily and quickly into the system that you are willing to give away to other people. When someone wants your book you are notified by email of it. You print off the shipping label on your computer’s printer. You mail the book out via media mail at your expense. That earns you one credit.

With one credit you may choose to receive any one of the over two million books already listed into the system. When a book comes to you, it does not cost you any money, it just costs you one PBS credit. Despite the name of the site they do allow swapping of hardcover books and board books. Audiobooks in cassette and CD format are also there but those cost two credits.

PBS has a wish list that allows you to input up to 200 books that you want that are not right now listed into the system. You wait in queue until the books become available. When they are available you are told of that and asked if you want the book, to go to the site and request it. If you know for sure you want it ahead of time, there is a button to click that will have the system automatically send it to you without asking you first.

There is a reminder list that you can add even more books into. I use the reminder list like an overflow wish list. I intentionally check the reminder list to can see if the books are in the system today you can then choose to order that book if you want. If a book on your reminder list is in the system now and is available that book pops right to the top of your reminder list.

One example of how I use PBS is to give away children's books that we are finished with, such as those we used in our homeschooling. Then I receive books that I am looking for such as books on my hobbies or other books that I'd like to own and read but that I'd prefer not to buy for full price new or to hunt high and low for the book if it is out of print. I have also swapped out cookbooks and books on hobbies that I'm no longer using to get books about my current interests.

PBS has discussion forums. There is a homeschooler’s corner there. That is convenient for posting when you have entered books into the system that you know are of special interest to other homeschoolers. People also chat there about homeschooling topics and ask questions about books and curriculum. The homeschooler’s forum is active. People do swap out curriculum on PBS too. Other examples of the way people use the forum is they will post when they have listed Sonlight or Five in a Row titles, or when they list teacher’s manuals for curriculum that a member may not realize has just been listed.

Also in the discussion forums is the Bargain Bazaar. That area is where people offer deals. Deals are things like 2 books for 1 credit, or 3 for 1 or 4 for 1 and sometimes even 10 for 1. Often people give offers for children’s books.

I have been on PBS for nearly two years. We have used many of these books in our homeschooling. It is great!

I am still a fan of attending used book sales held as library fundraisers. However PBS can be better for getting a book you need right now or that you are not coming across at library sales despite keeping an active eye open for it. Today at a tag sale, I found a third book in a series which my younger son begged me to buy, so I did. Now I will go to PBS to request books one and two, espeically if my local public library does not have those two books in circulation.

If you go on vacation or get too busy and don’t want to swap for a while you can put your account on hold with just a click of a button and that will pause the ability for people to request books from you.

As I said PBS membership is free. If you want to join and if you click through my link below or if you put my PBS member name down (ChristineMM—the same as my blog name) as me being the referring person then I get one free referral credit and I get to get one free book courtesy of you! If you do this, thank you in advance!

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Thursday, May 29, 2008

New Policy for This Blog

I am seriously beginning to suspect that organizations and media outlets have learned that they can increase the traffic to their sites and/or increase new members to join their paid membership by taking hold of certain current events and inciting anger or fear in people. This has extended over into inciting discussion on Internet discussion groups and into the blogosphere.

I am noticing a trend that a certain issue can exist and be ‘out there’ for people to know for a while. So many will not blog about it or will not discuss it on email discussion groups. However once certain organizations, sometimes months later, do a press release to incite anger and/or calling for action to be taken, the people are all abuzz about the topic.

The new policy of this blog is that if certain websites or organizations try to stir the pot about a certain topic when it is old news I will not fall in line to suddenly get upset about it (using my own mental energy) to blog the topic and to drive my blog readers to visit websites who are suddenly spreading the publicity “all of a sudden”. I will continue to blog new things that are of interest to me no matter what outlet first informed me of the issue. There is a big difference.

As my first example of this new policy I do not plan to have a separate blog post on the current topic of this nature It was a one or more months ago when a certain contest was announced that had a rule about explicitly not allowing homeschoolers to participate. I knew of it then and I read the rules on the official website, back then. I didn’t like it but I investigated it myself and realized the goal of the contest was one thing which was not in alignment with rewarding individuals and it was not about giving anything to a homeschooling family, the goal was to give prize money to a school. Period. I interpreted it as a publicity stunt for free advertising for the two organizations involved. If the company truly just wanted to help a school out they could have just made a gift to one school and no contest would have had to be held. I chose to take no action as I felt any complaint or boycott would fall onto deaf ears. I didn’t blog it as I figured no one cared since no one was really talking about it much. This did not receive much media attention either or much chat on the blogosphere. However now that certain parties in this country are discussing it an inciting anger and a boycott now everyone is talking about it. To me this is “ho hum” nothing new. What surprises me the most is how one after the other, bloggers and people on chat lists are falling into line giving their opinion on this topic and trying to inform others and get them to take the action that a certain organization is calling for. “Jump on the bandwagon everyone!”

I am seriously beginning to wonder if some people who represent certain organizations and media outlets have learned that yes, it is easy to incite fear or anger and yes, this does not just apply to individual people but they can also, just by way of knowing the knee-jerk reaction of some people’s human nature, or the desire to call attention to themselves on their blogs, that they can use the blogs as tools, as additional mouthpieces, echoing their opinions and helping more individuals jump onto the praise bandwagon for them, like free advertising.

I hate the idea of being used like a tool and I will not let myself be used in that way.

Sorry if this disappoints you. This is my little spot in cyberspace and I get to make my own rules in my little world. If the traffic to my blog is less because The Thinking Mother has not taken the time and energy to put in her two cents on the incited topic of the day then so be it. On this blog I will write about topics that interest me enough to discuss only. I refuse to chime in on something just to jump on the bandwagon to have an opinion on that topic.

Are we homeschooling parents followers or are we leaders? That is a question for you to ponder. If you are a leader are you allowing others to treat you as a follower? Are you acting like a follower in your blogging and online chatting? I would venture that most homeschooling parents are leaders and I would urge you to act as a leader in all that you do.

It is your choice as to whether you want to be a leader and to cull your own news and take your own self-directed action or to sit and wait until a press release informs you of what action the company would like you to take, and then if you choose to do that action at that time. This is the choice between being a follower and a leader and it is yours to make.

Each of us gets to decide how we expend our energy and how we spend out time. This goes farther than the time we take to send an email to a group or to write and publish a blog post. This extends into manipulating our thoughts and it usually tries to control our emotions, which takes up our mental energy. Do you want to be a person who is always reactionary? Do you want to sit waiting for someone to tell you what to think and what action to take? Do you want to give away your power like that? If so, you have chosen the path of the lemming.

And if you didn’t know it yet, The Thinking Mother is not a lemming.

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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

North Woods Poachers: Book Review by ChristineMM

Title: North Woods Poachers
Author: Max Elliot Anderson
Genre: Juvenile Fiction, age 9-12, Christian
Publication: Tweener Press, 2004
Format: Paperback book
ISBN: 978-0972925686
Retail Price: $10.95

Disclosure: The author sent me a review copy of this book for the purpose of writing a review.

Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Max Eliot Anderson says his goal is to write books for reluctant reader boys to give them books which they will want to read and will enjoy reading. He wants boys to love reading. Also he wants good books which are age appropriate. He has written a number of books that are especially of interest to boys, they are mysteries. Each book has a different set of characters.

“North Woods Poachers” is about two families, two brothers and their wives and children. The two main characters are two boy cousins. Two girl cousins are in the book as well. The two families are taking their annual vacation trip to a lake in the Canadian wilderness. The boys are sick of going fishing every year and wished their vacation was more exciting. One of the boys is into computers and electronics and has brought along all kinds of new technology to play around with, as his father gets new products to test out as part of his job. The book therefore has an interesting blend of wilderness and nature with the most modern technology. Boy readers who like computers and technology and the idea of spying and spy gadgets will like that aspect of the book.

The mystery unfolds and as you can imagine the kids are working to solve it. Each chapter ends with a bit of a cliff hanger leaving the reader to want to go on to read the next chapter. The excitement builds as the story moves forward and the reader is held in suspense and is anxious to find out how the story resolves.

The book has a few Christian references in it. These are light, such as a boy talking about the word prey and pray and mentions his family prays before dinner. Yet when they eat dinner as a family it is not mentioned that they prayed (so the religious content is not heavy). As with all children-solving-mystery books, the kids break some rules and are put in danger. Later instead of just letting that go the father addressed with the kids what they did wrong and how they were put in danger with what they did and how it might not have been the best thing to do. Those are examples of the very light, in my opinion, Christian content. The book is not preachy. Also although the two families are Christian the kids are not sickening sweet. The boys have a fair amount of sarcasm and complaining “this vacation is boring” and so on, in a way that is pretty true to life for many boys of that age. Note I asked my son if this was a religious book with Christian references and he said "no", so he didn't even pick up on it.

When my 10.5 year old son read this book he was riveted. He read it over three days including staying up late into the night reading the last third of the book as he just had to find out what happened. I also was anxious to know what happened and read the book in one day.

As an adult I will say that the book seems to be action and suspense driven. There is a good amount of dialogue. I felt the characters were not deeply developed, unlike other books where we come to love the characters and care what happens to them—in this book we want to hear the mystery story and find out what happens to resolve the mystery.

The last important thing I want to mention is the layout of the book and the font. The book is different than most books published for reading for kids aged 9-12. The font is a bit larger. There is wider spacing and there is more white space on the page on both the interior and exterior margins. This happens to be very good for my son who was recently diagnosed with an eye tracking problem (convergence insufficiency). Children with undiagnosed or diagnosed eye tracking problems prefer books with wider spacing and more white space on the page. For that reason this book is easier for all kids to read, as the eyes can move faster across the page. It is especially good for those with eye tracking conditions to read than books with smaller font that is all squished onto the page with thin margins or words that go deep into the binding of the book.

I am giving this book 4 stars because I reserve 5 star ratings for children’s books on par with The Chronicles of Narnia and other fantastic classics.

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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

My Blog Visitor #190,000 & My 2000th Post

This blog post is my 2000th post. I began blogging three years and three months ago.

Today I had my 190,000th blog visitor. I began counting the statistics for my blog five months after I started blogging. So since July 2005 I have had 190,000 blog visitors.

I like to take a peek at who each 10,000th visitor is.

This blog visitor came directly to my blog by inputting the blog’s URL into their browser window. The reader has IP Address 68.9.143 and use Cox Commuications for their ISP. They logged in from Cheshire, Connecticut, which is in New Haven county and is about a 35 minute drive from my house! I wonder if this is one of the two moms that I met years ago through La Leche League that now also happen to homeschool and that I know live in Cheshire? Site Meter says they read one blog post and read three comments and were on my blog for 17 minutes. They visited on 5/27/08 at 5:56 pm.

The Hidden Dangers of Soy: Book Review by ChristineMM

Title: The Hidden Dangers of Soy
Author: Dianne Gregg
Publication: Outskirts Press Inc., February 2008
ISBN: 9781432717025
Format: paperback book
Retail price: $17.95
Author’s website:

Rating: 2 stars out of 5

Disclosure: The author sent me a review copy of this book for the purpose of writing a book review on my blog.

In “The Hidden Dangers of Soy” Dianne Gregg seeks to warn readers that contrary to popular belief or advertisements, soy is not a health food and can in fact harm a healthy person, and it can even deadly for some people who end up developing an anaphylactic soy allergy.

Gregg explains that soy has natural toxins that react badly in the human body. She states that soy can cause hypothyroidism in a person who formerly had no thyroid problems. Despite soy being in some diet foods and sometimes being recommended as a protein which is free of saturated fats, Gregg states that it can cause weight gain (due to it negatively affecting the thyroid which slows down the metabolism). Testimonies are given in the book that say that thyroid surgeries had to be performed due to what the people feel was caused by soy consumption. Gregg is adamant about explaining that unless soy is fermented with special processes, the natural toxins are dangerous for human consumption, and that many American processed foods with soy in them (i.e. soy milk) are not processed in the way to make them less dangerous. The book explains that people can suffer with mild symptoms from soy consumption (i.e. abdominal pain and/or bloating) and some suffer in worse ways (thyroid disease, large weight gain).

Gregg’s own interest in this topic came when she found out she had an anaphylactic allergy to soy. After emergency treatment for an anaphylactic shock allergic reaction her self-education journey to learn more about soy began. The book then goes on to address soy allergies. Because soy is in so many processed foods and is used in preparing some restaurant and hotel foods, it is hard to eradicate it from the diet unless you cook everything at home from scratch and stick more to whole foods. The book explains that soy is in many foods that a person may not realize. However those who already are well read on issues with nutrition may not learn anything new in what is revealed.

Gregg discusses the soy growing industry in America and the history of how soy became an ingredient in so many processed foods. There is discussion of the history of the advertising and marketing of soy products is covered. Gregg states that soy is not a health food and provides references to studies that show that soy does not do all that some past media reports, advertising or product manufacturers claim it does (i.e. lower cholesterol). So far it seems to me that Gregg is a lone voice in the wilderness calling out the warnings.

Included in the book are recipes cooking meals from scratch which do not have soy products in them. I was surprised that the recipes were included in the book as anyone can get any cookbook or search the Internet for recipes that can be made at home from scratch. There is nothing special about the recipes. Gregg makes it clear that she is upset at having to prepare her meals from scratch at home and that she cannot rely on the use of processed and prepared foods purchased at the grocery store. The fact of the matter is that many Americans choose to eat meals cooked from scratch for a variety of reasons ranging from cost savings, that they have a higher nutritional content, less sodium and less chemicals and because the foods taste better anyway. Gregg’s resentment from cooking from scratch is clear and it is a shame that she feels that way because many of us feel that consuming foods that we cook from scratch is not just healthier for many different reasons but tastes better anyway. Many people including myself reject the many offers of convenience foods for sale in our grocery stores; just because they are there does not mean we should be eating them.

A downside to the book is the author’s anger and emotion is clear throughout the book and she seems to be lashing out at the soy industry. The bitterness toward the soy industry is very apparent. It is so direct in some areas that I worry that the author may be sued by the soy industry. (Remember what happened to Oprah when she said on television that she would not be eating beef anymore, after hearing about Mad Cow?)

Additionally I am surprised that Gregg did not come down on the vegetarians and vegans, the people themselves who are part of the movement to consume more soy? Why did Gregg not chastize them for helping pursuade other people to consume something that may actually harm their health? We need to remember that we (people) are pressured by the vegans and vegetarians to stop eating animal protein and to increase our soy intake as a healthy and better protein source.

I would have preferred a deeper investigation and explanation of how healthy people can harmed by soy consumption, specifically, how soy is said to damage the thyroid. The testimonies were a bit unclear about whether thyroid problems were reversible or not after soy consumption is stopped. I would have liked more direct referencing to studies that showed a link to soy consumption and thyroid problems.

I have lived with people (my children) with food allergies requiring an elimination diet and I know it can be difficult to find foods without certain ingredients. I understand that eating in restaurants or eating at parties or relative’s homes can be very difficult, so I have empathy. With that said I would have preferred more of a clear separation of the issues with soy consumption with non-allergic people versus the issues with those who do have a soy allergy. Another topic not made clear is how perhaps eating soy without a problem for some time can end up resulting with a soy allergy at some point.

Lastly the book does not discuss food allergies in general in a basic way, so as to explain to the reader who may not know much about food allergies, how it develops and how it can be managed. Also leaky gut was not addressed which was a shame. Lastly there is nothing said about the different remedies or strategies for treating food allergies such as nutritional supplements, fixing the leaky gut or other measures. The author only discusses living with an elimination diet for the person whose allergic reaction is anaphylactic.

The book is short too, which is a shame. I felt that the book should have gone deeper and should have been more comprehensive and gone longer. At the very least the author could have provided references for the reader to learn more about food allergies, thyroid problems and other related topics.

I feel this is an important topic that needs more investigation. What I would hope is that Gregg goes back and revises and expands this book to dig deeper and find more research and examples so it is very clear that this is not just Gregg’s opinion or imagination. I also would hope that she would find an editor that can help the book come across more objective and less emotional. At some points I worried that Gregg’s perspective or interpretation of study results may have been tainted by her justified worry over a possible future anaphylactic shock and her bitterness about misinformation in the media and advertisements (whether intentional or accidental). Anger can be channeled into energy to power something like writing a book but that anger need not come across so blatantly within the pages. A longer book that is more comprehensive would justify the cost of the book.

In the end my eyes were opened and I am now cautious about soy. I will be researching this further and keeping this information in mind when making food purchases for me and my children.

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Carnival of Homeschooling Week 126 Has Been Published

The Carnival of Homeschooling Week 126 was published on May 27, 2008 at Walking Therein.

There are a lot of entries in this blog carnival. It provides a lot of homeschool-related reading (and its free, too).

I have an entry in this blog carnival.

If you have a blog or a website and write about homeschooling I encourage you to consider submitting an entry to this weekly blog Carnival. For information on how to make a submission, see here.


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Monday, May 26, 2008

Growing Up Green: Book Review by ChristineMM

Growing up Green! Book Review by ChristineMM

Title: Growing Up Green!
Author: Deirdre Imus
Publication: Simon and Schuster, April 2008
ISBN: 978-1416541240
Format: Paperback book
Retail: $15.95

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publicist for the purpose of writing a review.

Rating: 3 stars (out of 5)

I really wanted to love this book and had hoped to give it a 5 star rating. In this review I will fully explain the reason for rating this book with 3 stars. I think I have given it a fair judgment. Note I have implemented many of these suggestions in our family’s life in the years past and am supportive of families making healthier choices as well as making choices that are better for our environment.

The best thing about Growing Up Green! Is that Deirdre Imus has taken every single green living issue pertaining to children and health and summarized it in one place. Buying and reading this book can save you lots of time and money. As a comparison, I have been reading about health, wellness, and green living and parenting for twenty years and have spent hundreds if not thousands of dollars on books and magazines and hundreds of hours combing through lots of information to extract out the latest recommendation on a topic. If you have not yet invested that kind of time, this book is a time saver for you (and a bargain).

The book is easy to read. You can breeze through it quickly. One of my problems was that I was so horrified by two subjects that twice I had to shelve the book for a few weeks to save my sanity (more on that later).

The book’s strong point of being all encompassing and cutting to the chase is also its weakness. Imus covers each topic shallowly, sometimes too thinly. Although she does provide websites to go read for more information on nearly every topic, sometimes there just is not enough information to explain a topic. Other topics deserve reading an entire book (or two) on the topic. Specifically troublesome was that some topics that I know from other sources are conflicted or are being credited as junk science is never mentioned in the book. Things come across as fact without saying that some of these topics are questionable, with conflicting studies published on both sides of the position, so I (the informed reader) don’t truly know what to believe (others ignorant on some topics may take everything as gospel).

Several times, Imus says that we should just choose the course of action assuming the worst is true, and avoid that thing lest we possibly harm our children’s health. That would not be so hard if it involved one or a few choices in our lives but when you put all the recommendations together, to really do all the things in this book just may drive a person crazy (seriously) or at the least, would leave them worried and possibly angry at the world too.

Another major issue is there is no prioritization of the recommendations. Eating your fruits and veggies versus eating organic versus going totally vegan versus using all green school supplies and children wearing only organic cotton and renovating your home to replace everything with green materials is all weighted the same. The fact is that even if we have a desire, putting every single one of these recommendations into place is not possible, especially when a family’s budget is limited. It is not feasible for most families to renovate their homes just to make them greener. Even with our best intentions the fact of the matter is that some of the lifestyle changes that are not prohibited by our budget are hard to be consistent with over the long-term as they require constant effort to go against the tide which can be emotionally draining and exhausting. I speak from experience when I say that swimming upstream is difficult in the long term.

Additionally we hear over and over how the author was able to implement these changes with her only child. Perhaps if she had two or more children she might see that sometimes a parent’s best intention is altered by the different wills, personalities, and taste buds of different children even born into the same family and raised with the same parenting style and diet as the other children in the family. Additionally parents with more than one child have less energy and patience to juggle all these recommendations with different aged children. This book does fall prey to the mother of an only child typical thing “I did it with my one child so you all should have the same success with all of your own children if you would just try”.

The author gives no sympathy to the reader by way of acknowledging that making all of these changes might be difficult, by the way.

Take it from me, a mother who has over the years implemented and practiced some alternative parenting methods and choices, managing an alternative parenting lifestyle is challenging. We face challenges at the grocery store when shopping, when at friend’s and relative’s homes, when at children’s birthday parties, and when at the doctor’s office. The lack of guidance with some kind of a priority scale and the lack of encouragement for readers to use critical thinking and their personal discernment about which battles to fight and which to surrender is an issue. Reading all of these recommendations for green parenting will leave some readers overwhelmed. Some readers will be left confused and may give up, while some may even end up neurotic and angry or exhausted as they try to do everything recommended (and worry of damaging their children if they fail or choose to not follow a recommendation).

I found the book scary in some parts. The most disturbing to me was the one thing that I’d not heard about before. The author says that chemicals and drugs used in the infertility treatment process may damage the very children that are conceived from such procedures. We were not led on where to go for more information or told what studies or reports discuss this. If this really is true our country is in real trouble and we all would have serious reasons to be skeptical of American medical doctors.

The next issue that caused me worry and family strife was the use of plastics in food wraps, food storage containers and water bottles. One of the issues is Bisphenol A. I was so worried about what I read that I went and did more research and found the topic to be debated and studies conflicted each other. The author may be happy to know I’ve thrown out most of the plastic we own in a fit of fear and anger after reading that section of her book. I’m now worried about hormone disruption in my sons and wonder if they will be infertile in adulthood. My husband thinks I’m crazy and we’re actually having disagreements over this topic. This is one topic in the book that is not covered as deeply as I felt it deserved. For example if a study showed that the plastic with food in it should not be heated then why can’t we still use it to hold cold food? We are told instead to just avoid the use of it entirely and buy glass food storage containers.

Although the book has a chapter on how to become an activist in the community, it is lacking something else more important. The book really needed a chapter about how concerned mothers can convince their husbands to go along with these changes (especially since some are not easy to implement and others are very costly and some may be too costly for the family budget). In fact the topic of the budget is never discussed, since it is not an issue for the author I guess she thinks it is not an issue for mainstream Americans? Additionally dealing with other relatives on our alternative choices is something that we need support with. That topic is completely absent. If you do all the things in this book it will be you against the world, or perhaps only with the support of other green living parents that you meet in online discussion groups.

The author quotes about a dozen medical doctors who are famous in their fields or have published books on the topics. Their biographies are at the end of the book. To be more of a thinking person readers should really go on to read those books too. I have read some of them and they educate and enlighten the reader more than this book can in its short length and broad scope.

The book really needs an index so we can quickly reference the topics, especially to look back on a topic we know we read on the first go-through. I can’t believe there is no index!

The book also had some typos, spelling mistakes and grammar mistakes. One duplication error was in a chemical reference chart. I’m surprised the editor and this major book publisher let those get through.

The topics in the book span from pre-conception through raising teenagers. Some of the larger topics touched upon which deserve more reading and self-education are Autism and the vaccination debate. One or more whole books on those topics really should be read. A few other topics are thrown in like saying we should use public transportation. My husband said he heard Don Imus on the radio the day after Deirdre did a book signing at her own town’s library in which he admitted he sat in the limo with the engine idling while she did her talk, and he was chastised by a citizen for doing so. Could they not have driven themselves from their own home to the public library in their same town or used public transportation?

To summarize if you want to be told what to do and to not think much about all the background information or to even question if these statement are correct you’ll love the book and would think it is 5 star book. If you want all the topics in one book for fast reading you’d love it too (5). If you worry that the book over-generalizes or possibly conceals that the topic is actually based on junk science, it is a 3 or a 2. If you are well read on these topics already then the book won’t be of much use to you and it would be a 3 or a 2. If you like to gather your own information and think on your own you may think this is a 3 or a 2.

I have implemented many of the suggestions in this book before it was published. If you don’t know this stuff already perhaps this is a good starting point for a quick read summary of all the recommendations.

I wish all parents well and hope that everyone’s children are healthy now and in the future. I hope you are able to be happy on your parenting journey too—don’t let worries ruin it.

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Sunday, May 25, 2008

Books Read Lately

I have been doing a lot of reading lately in between living life. To be honest I think I have been too busy lately with appointments and scheduled activities. Somehow I am managing to read every day. I plan to blog about all of these books. I'm having more trouble finding the time to blog.

Growing Up Green! by Deirdre Imus (non-fiction)
(review copy sent to me by the publicist)
I finished reading it 5/23/08. Book review needs final edit before publishing on my blog.

The Hidden Dangers of Soy by Dianne Gregg (non-fiction)
(review copy sent to me by the author)
I finished reading it on 5/24/08.

North Woods Poachers by Max Eliot Anderson (juvenile fiction for reluctant reader boys, a wee bit of Christian content)
(review copy sent to me by the author)
I finished reading it on 5/25/08.
My 10.5 year old also read this last week and plans to review it.

Rules are Rules by Julie Scandora
(review copy sent to me by the author)
I am half way done 5/25/08 and will finish it later today.

i love dirt by Jennifer Ward, abridged sample copy of book sent to me through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program
I finished it last week, it is just a sample size and hard to review a partial book to be honest...

The Lifestyle Fitness Program by Debi Silber. This is a book on nutrition and fitness for mothers. I have read two chapters in the last week. Review copy sent to me by the publicist.

I have a couple of other books in process just for fun reading, including one on knitting, one on toy cameras. I also read the latest issue of Home Education Magazine cover to cover and enjoyed that. It is my favorite homeschooling magazine.

Semicolon’s Saturday Review of Books

The May 24 edition of the Saturday Review of Books was published by Semicolon. There you can see a list of books reviewed by bloggers and link through to read the reivews of interest to you.

Friday, May 23, 2008

"Did You Get Out of School Early Today?"

Today I did a quick run in to a volunteer-run thrift shop to check for books, yarn, art and craft supplies and photography equipment. You never know what treasures a thrift shop may yield for pocket change. The kids were in tow and this was just one of a string of errands that I wanted or needed to do in that geographic area while I was there for an appointment. Due to the price of gasoline, if I have to be in a certain place to do something, I try to do all the various errands that need doing right around that place or on the way to that appointment. Doing errands in that way is not always fun or convenient but it is what I'm doing to try to save money.

Anyhow we walked into this shop and two feet in the door we get THE QUESTION.

We get asked this question at least three times a week. It is getting a little old to be honest. I have been asked this question now for nine years. Yes, nine years. It started when my oldest was two years old. I am not kidding.

An older woman addressed my children directly, "Did you get out of school early today?"

The time was 12:25 p.m. Today is Friday. Yes, public school is in session today, as are all the private schools.

My ten year old piped up, this time without hesitation, although I wish he would do it a little louder and with more confidence. "We are homeschooled", he replied.

"OH! So are my grandchildren. Well, three of my grandchildren are homeschooled. That is so great!"

Now that is not the typical reaction. I'll take it.

But to be honest I was annoyed at being asked that. And the kids had just got done whining about doing the string of errands with me so I was in a grumpy mood at the moment. So I just smiled and walked away.

While browsing the store quickly I thought maybe the fact that I didn't strike up a full blown conversation with her was not being a good Homeschooling Ambassador. You see, once we are labeled by a stranger, we are REPRESENTING. We are the face of the homeschooling community. You never know what may result from one of these interactions.

Sometimes I've found out later that something I said had a positive impact. Someone I talked to years ago went on to homeschool their own kids. And a father I met on the train asked me questions for the rest of the trip, over an hour. I have a feeling that his opening statement that he didn't want his two year old in their local public schools (West Hartford, Connecticut) and that he had homeschooling in the back of his mind, might have changed to being a realistic option for his daughter. (Hey if you are a mom who used to be a professional ice skater who works teaching kids to ice skate and you have a two year old that you think is gifted, and you live in West Hartford and are married to a Boston College alum whose brothers went to the University of Notre Dame, and if you end up homeschooling, drop me a line to let me know that something I said was of use and inspirational. It is good to hear things like that sometimes.)

But today I'm not feeling inspired. I'm not in one of those warm, fuzzy moods. Maybe it is due to the fact that I woke up with a headache and it stayed with me all day. Or the fact that I still have a bad head cold. Or that I have a lot to do that I don’t feel like doing and appointments are all set up in a row from today straight through to June 6th. Yes, June 6th is the next ‘appointment free’ day that I have on the family alendar. So I'll share what is on my mind this very second: you know what, I'm getting sick of representing the homeschooling community when I meet strangers in public. I just am. Possibly what I dislike is the fact that humans make snap judgments based on very quick exchanges. They judge you on your looks, how you are dressed, what the look on your face tells them, how your kids are behaving in those few seconds and so on. It is hard to feel "on" all the time. It also is not good when the kids do something that is less than perfect behavior. In this case my kids were fine. In others, not so fine.

Later while sprinting through the aisles of Wal Mart and wanting to get out of there as quickly as possible (and noting the awful odor of plastic or chemicals or both incidentally and realizing how different it was from the wonderful fresh spring air outdoors), I began thinking about it and I got a little annoyed. What I was thinking was, if she approves of homeschooling and knows that kids are homeschooled, then why does she ask that question of kids? If she does not want her own grandchildren embarrassed or having to defend themselves to strangers, why doesn't she quit asking that of the kids she sees during the day?

I got so worked up about it that I considered driving back over there to ask her that question. I have my limits though. I have the chutzpah to say things to someone's face if I think it up quickly enough but I don't usually drive back to give someone a message face to face.

I wondered if she knew what her daughter or daughter-in-law, the homeschool mom, thought of the exchange. Does that mom get asked all the time about why her kids are not in school? Does she like it or not? Does she realize that her mother or mother-in-law is giving the same grief to other homeschooling families? If she hates the question too, then I wish she'd tell her relative to stop asking kids the question.

This is what is on my mind. Not everything we homeschooling families deal with is rosy and light. I just feel like venting. Thanks for listening.

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Michael Vandeman's Thoughts on the Book "Last Child in the Woods"

Today I received this comment on post I did earlier this week titled: Daycare Kids and Outdoor Play. That post was inspired by a Dr. Laura blog post titled: Why Day Care Kids Don't Play Outside.

In that post I had mentioned as recommended reading for the reason to support children playing outside and children playing in nature, the book "Last Child in the Woods" by Richard Louv.

I thought the comment left by Michael J. Vandeman, PhD deserved a blog post of its own. Here is what he left in the form of a comment to that other blog post of mine.

Last Child in the Woods ––
Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder,
by Richard Louv
Michael J. Vandeman, Ph.D.
November 16, 2006

In this eloquent and comprehensive work, Louv makes a convincing case for ensuring that children (and adults) maintain access to pristine natural areas, and even, when those are not available, any bit of nature that we can preserve, such as vacant lots. I agree with him 100%. Just as we never really outgrow our need for our parents (and grandparents, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, cousins, etc.), humanity has never outgrown, and can never outgrow, our need for the companionship and mutual benefits of other species.

But what strikes me most about this book is how Louv is able, in spite of 310 pages of text, to completely ignore the two most obvious problems with his thesis: (1) We want and need to have contact with other species, but neither we nor Louv bother to ask whether they want to have contact with us! In fact, most species of wildlife obviously do not like having humans around, and can thrive only if we leave them alone! Or they are able tolerate our presence, but only within certain limits. (2) We and Louv never ask what type of contact is appropriate! He includes fishing, hunting, building "forts", farming, ranching, and all other manner of recreation. Clearly, not all contact with nature leads to someone becoming an advocate and protector of wildlife. While one kid may see a beautiful area and decide to protect it, what's to stop another from seeing it and thinking of it as a great place to build a house or create a ski resort? Developers and industrialists must come from somewhere, and they no doubt played in the woods with the future environmentalists!

It is obvious, and not a particularly new idea, that we must experience wilderness in order to appreciate it. But it is equally true, though ("conveniently") never mentioned, that we need to stay out of nature, if the wildlife that live there are to survive. I discuss this issue thoroughly in the essay, "Wildlife Need Habitat Off-Limits to Humans!", at

It should also be obvious (but apparently isn't) that how we interact with nature determines how we think about it and how we learn to treat it. Remember, children don't learn so much what we tell them, but they learn very well what they see us do. Fishing, building "forts", mountain biking, and even berry-picking teach us that nature exists for us to exploit. Luckily, my fort-building career was cut short by a bee-sting! As I was about to cut down a tree to lay a third layer of logs on my little log cabin in the woods, I took one swing at the trunk with my axe, and immediately got a painful sting (there must have been a bee-hive in the tree) and ran away as fast as I could.

On page 144 Louv quotes Rasheed Salahuddin: "Nature has been taken over by thugs who care absolutely nothing about it. We need to take nature back." Then he titles his next chapter "Where Will Future Stewards of Nature Come From?" Where indeed? While fishing may bring one into contact with natural beauty, that message can be eclipsed by the more salient one that the fish exist to pleasure and feed humans (even if we release them after we catch them). (My fishing career was also short-lived, perhaps because I spent most of the time either waiting for fish that never came, or untangling fishing line.) Mountain bikers claim that they are "nature-lovers" and are "just hikers on wheels". But if you watch one of their helmet-camera videos, it is easy to see that 99.44% of their attention must be devoted to controlling their bike, or they will crash. Children initiated into mountain biking may learn to identify a plant or two, but by far the strongest message they will receive is that the rough treatment of nature is acceptable. It's not!

On page 184 Louv recommends that kids carry cell phones. First of all, cell phones transmit on essentially the same frequency as a microwave oven, and are therefore hazardous to one's health –- especially for children, whose skulls are still relatively thin. Second, there is nothing that will spoil one's experience of nature faster than something that reminds one of the city and the "civilized" world. The last thing one wants while enjoying nature is to be reminded of the world outside. Nothing will ruin a hike or a picnic faster than hearing a radio or the ring of a cell phone, or seeing a headset, cell phone, or mountain bike. I've been enjoying nature for over 60 years, and can't remember a single time when I felt a need for any of these items.

It's clear that we humans need to reduce our impacts on wildlife, if they, and hence we, are to survive. But it is repugnant and arguably inhumane to restrict human access to nature. Therefore, we need to practice minimal-impact recreation (i.e., hiking only), and leave our technology (if we need it at all!) at home. In other words, we need to decrease the quantity of contact with nature, and increase the quality.


Ehrlich, Paul R. and Ehrlich, Anne H., Extinction: The Causes and Consequences of the Disappearances of Species. New York: Random House, 1981.

Errington, Paul L., A Question of Values. Ames, Iowa: Iowa State University Press, 1987.

Flannery, Tim, The Eternal Frontier -- An Ecological History of North America and Its Peoples. New York: Grove Press, 2001.

Foreman, Dave, Confessions of an Eco-Warrior. New York: Harmony Books, 1991.

Knight, Richard L. and Kevin J. Gutzwiller, eds. Wildlife and Recreationists. Covelo, California: Island Press, 1995.

Louv, Richard, Last Child in the Woods -- Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder. Chapel Hill, N.C.: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2005.

Noss, Reed F. and Allen Y. Cooperrider, Saving Nature's Legacy: Protecting and Restoring Biodiversity. Island Press, Covelo, California, 1994.

Stone, Christopher D., Should Trees Have Standing? Toward Legal Rights for Natural Objects. Los Altos, California: William Kaufmann, Inc., 1973.

Vandeman, Michael J.,, especially,,, and

Ward, Peter Douglas, The End of Evolution: On Mass Extinctions and the Preservation of Biodiversity. New York: Bantam Books, 1994.

"The Wildlands Project", Wild Earth. Richmond, Vermont: The Cenozoic Society, 1994.

Wilson, Edward O., The Future of Life. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2002.

This is my reply to Michael Vandeman's comment.

Dear Mike Vandeman,
Wow, thank you for your thoughts.

I have read "Last Child in the Woods" yet. I bought it, but I have not yet read it.

I really appreciate your thoughts. I too think that nature needs us to stay away. Treading lightly and not harming nature is of course important.

I often see young children damaging nature. When my oldest was six, at a Little League picnic, children unsupervised (young too) were off tearing branches off a pine tree on the school grounds. They then were peeling bark and whacking the tree with the torn off branches. None of the other parents cared. I tried to get them to stop but none cared to follow what an authority figure said.

Last year in Cub Scout Day Camp the them was detectives and clues (Cub Scout Detectives). Each got a little magnifying glass to look for insects with. Well, in each Den there were multiple boys using them to burn live insects with. I thought it was just my group and was working in my group to put a stop to it. Yet they had to do camp-wide announcements, multiple times to try to get the kids to stop.

I also gave a lecture to all my Den because there was a dragonfly that one kid caught and pulled a wing off. In a small group they proceeded to pull all the wings off and one of the legs was broken. It was still alive. I tried to talk some empathy into them and talk about not hurting the creatures. One begged me to kill it and to put it out of its misery. We debated this. I decided to let it sit there on a rock and maybe a bird would eat it if it found it alive. Two kids thought I was cruel for that. I was angry at the ones who tortured the thing in the first place.

It is true not all interaction with nature by children in groups or unsupervised leads to good things. It seems too that some kids think nature is there JUST to exploit and destroy for what they consider to be fun.

Lastly I used to mountain bike in the woods when it first came out in the 1980s. What I liked about being in nature with the bike was not about nature appreciation which I got from other endeavors. I liked just being off of the road and not in contact with cars and bad drivers, not being with rush hour commuters and so on. I enjoyed breathing woods air, fresh, not car exhaust. However you do concentrate so much on handling the bike and staying safe that you can't just enjoy nature such as when on an easy hike. When whizzing down a hill or puffing to go up a steep rocky hill you can't notice details in a wildflower's blossom or spot creatures or even look around much--your eyes have to stay on the trail and on the bikers around you too.

A new book "i love dirt! 52 activities to help you & your kids discover the wonders of nature" by Jennifer Ward provides 52 outdoor experiences for parents or grandparents to do alongside their young children, with direct supervision, as a way to spend time together. There are ideas here to help parents who feel they need more ideas or information in order to go out and explore nature with chidlren. These ideas don't harm nature.

So what do you think? Please consider leaving a comment to share your opinion and experiences.

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

I Guess They Taught Themselves Scrabble

In a combination of the homeschooling “strewing” method and Montessori, I have filled our home with good stuff for kids to do and left it within their reach. The idea is that if they spot good stuff around they’ll pick it up on their own and use it.

I had purchased Scrabble at a tag sale but we had not played it yet. We just have not gotten around to it, plus my younger son was young anyhow—no rush.

I was just decluttering and going through the board games. I realized we had two Scrabble’s. I opened each to see which was in better condition so I could let the other one go. Inside of one box was one of our pencils, received in a goody bag from a birthday party. (For some things I have a photographic memory.) I see a notepad from a hotel, from a business trip that my husband took. In my older son’s handwriting is a score sheet for he and his younger brother.

So I guess they taught themselves Scrabble. They took it off the shelf, played it, and put it all away.

I love it!

Carnival of Homeschooling Week 125 Has Been Published

The Carnival of Homeschooling Week 125 was published on May 22, 2008 at Po Moyemu – In My Opinion.

There are a lot of entries in this blog carnival. It provides a lot of homeschool-related reading (and its free, too).

I have an entry in this blog carnival.

If you have a blog or a website and write about homeschooling I encourage you to consider submitting an entry to this weekly blog Carnival. For information on how to make a submission, see here.


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I Give Up on Planning Younger Son’s Birthday Party

Our busy schedule, including adjusting to new participation with my older son’s recent cross over to Boy Scouts has complicated having birthday parties for my younger son. I began to ask around with the relatives that would attend the family party and everyone has been busy. I contemplated holding it before his birthday, then right around it, then after it. I have not been able to find a date from April 18 through July 11 that was good for everyone, for a May birthday celebration. And even if I plan the party way out into the future people’s schedules still book up so that doesn’t work either. When the priorities with our families are school, sports, extra-curricular activities and Scouts, well, something always is happening to cause a conflict for even a short family gathering.

May and June are busy months. We attended a first communion and a baptism of family members. In those times are two camp-outs for Boy Scouts and one for Cub Scouts. There was a Boy Scout Eagle Court of Honor one weekend afternoon and there is a year end family picnic on another. We are participating in the family competition again “No Child Left Inside Great Park Pursuit” in which in seven weeks we will visit seven Connecticut state parks and do a family activity such as hiking, letterboxing, and playing family games. I have to attend training to be a volunteer day camp leader one day.

Somewhere mixed in with all that we need a good two or three full days to do yard work. We have had a lot of rain this spring, the type where some rain happens then is followed by full sun, and repeating nearly daily. That is fantastic for helping the grass seed that we sowed as over-seeding to cover the bare spots sprout. It also has made the weeds in the foundation garden and in the edges of our woods grow almost two feet in the last ten days. I am not kidding. We need to weed. Seriously. We need to buy and spread wood bark mulch on all the garden beds as it has all decomposed at this point. We need to clean up the overgrown wild plants at the edges of the driveway. All the bushes in the front and sides of the house need to be severely pruned. Some bushes have died and they need to be removed. And while we’re at it we need to hire an arborist to come and use a truck with a bucket to prune back overgrown ornamental trees which are way too large and should never have been planted so close to the house as a foundation garden planting. Two crab apple trees also are very overgrown and are hitting the cars and trucks that enter our driveway, they really should be just cut down and gotten rid of, as it seems silly to spend hundreds of dollars every year on a professional arborist to prune them—and they grow so fast. And yearly they grow a fungus that I’m told needs a $400 chemical spray on annually to keep away—no thank you to the chemicals which would leach right into our ground water which is our well water supply.

My younger son feels that he is not a priority since his birthday has come and gone without a party of any kind. All we did was make him a small cake and ate it as a family with one friend who happened to be with us on his actual birthday. We also gave him his couple of gifts which he enjoyed.

I just declared that the yard work day this Saturday is now going to be family party day. A simple affair of cake and coffee will be held for just close family members. To make it easier on everyone it is being held at my mother-in-law’s which is closer to where everyone lives. That also means I don’t have to obsess over making the house immaculate in order to avoid criticism and teasing.

I got on the phone today to extend last minute invitations. Of course some cannot come. No matter what I do, some cannot come. One has a Saturday Memorial Day party (and another party Sunday and another party on Memorial Day itself). One has a choir recital followed immediately by a softball game. One family said they’ll leave a picnic early to attend. It will have to suffice. Weeknights are not liked by everyone else due to the lifestyle of schooled children, homework, early bedtimes and busyness due to evening sports and other extra-curricular activities in between school and bedtime. When the weekends are booked and when the weekday evenings are booked, well, there just is no room to do these things like a simple birthday party. I considered not holding a party at all but that didn’t seem right.

So the party will happen and I will not be upset with anyone who cannot make it, that is all.

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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Green Partying Attempts at the Democratic National Convention

At the Democratic National Convention to be held in Colorado, attempts are being made to make the event ‘green’.

Here is some information from the Denver Post’s article dated 5/18/08:

Article Title: Caterers find eco-standards tough to chew
By Douglas Brown
The Denver Post
Article Last Updated: 05/18/2008 11:33:44 PM MDT

The Rules

"Fried foods are forbidden at the committee's 22 or so events, as is liquid served in individual plastic containers. Plates must be reusable, like china, recyclable or compostable. The food should be local, organic or both.

And caterers must provide foods in "at least three of the following five colors: red, green, yellow, blue/purple, and white," garnishes not included, according to a Request for Proposals, or RFP, distributed last week."

Are the choices really green?

"Joanne Katz, owner of Three Tomatoes Catering in Denver, cheers the committee's environmental aspirations and is eager to get involved with the convention, but she wonders if some of the choices the committee is making are really green.

Compostable products, such as forks and knives made from corn starch, are often imported from Asia, delivered to the U.S. in fuel-consuming ships. But some U.S. products are made from recyclable pressed paper. Which decision is more
environmentally sound?"

Missing information, hard to make informed choices

"Customers are beginning to demand these things, and we don't have all of the information," she says. "And we are doing the best we can, one project at a time."

Burnap acknowledged that figuring out what is most green can be difficult.

The dots are not yet connected regarding wanting to compost and actually composting it.

"Composting for the convention hasn't been entirely figured out yet, she says.

Colorado has commercial composting companies, such as A1 Organics in Eaton, but the link between the composters and caterers hasn't been made."

Next up, carbon offset fees

"The committee is working with other groups to develop a carbon-footprint "calculator" that will measure the environmental impact of each event and suggest an "offset" — a fee — that will go toward a fund helping to match carbon losses with carbon gains.

"That's a fun one," Burnap says. "If these event planners will calculate and offset, it will start to get the money flowing into the Colorado Carbon Fund, a fund that will reinvest in renewable energy here in Colorado."

The bottom line is that meshing ideals with reality is sometimes hard to do. I can't blame them for trying. Perhaps it really is true that green living is easier to do with individuals rather than in commercial applications and for big events.

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Daycare Kids and Outdoor Play

Here is an interesting blog entry from Dr. Laura about why daycare workers don't have kids playing outdoors much. Dr. Laura's blog post inspired me to blog my thoughts on this topic.

Why Day Care Kids Don't Play Outside

I recall my nephew with Autism was a problem for the daycare workers at one point because the baby and toddler normal desire to put things into their mouths stage lasted longer than typical for him. One day when my brother went to pick his son (age 2.5) up early and found him strapped in a stroller, with no one around him or interacting with him at all, outside. He asked what was going on and they said they couldn't keep him from eating the wood chip mulch so they would strap him to a swing or stroller and leave him there. They said it was a safety issue and that was what they did with the boy every day. My brother had no idea that was even happening, they didn’t tell him he was eating mulch and they didn’t tell him that they were restraining him and leaving him alone off to the side of the playground. My brother was horrified. That was the impetus for he and his wife to find a new group daycare facility for him.

I have a feeling the worry over the types of shoes or the outerwear the children wear is a liability issue. It is true; flip-flops are dangerous to run in, especially in wood chips, those shoes are tripping hazards. If a child without a coat goes out in the cold they leave themselves open for criticism from the parents, the very ones who didn't dress the kid right.

The fact of the matter is that it is not easy to keep an eye on a lot of children of young ages, even on a fenced in playground. It is impossible to push them all on the swing, help them down the slide, and supervise the climbing of the ladder and so on.

All children should be playing outside. Very young children need close adult supervision when playing outdoors, climbing up high ladders, when climbing the rope ladder, when learning to use the monkey bars, and they need a push on the swing until age 4 or 5 when they finally can propel themselves independently. The fact of the matter is that the adult to child ratio at daycare is too high for that type of close supervision and helping the children. Additionally having children at daycare mixed only with their same exact age mates puts them in a position of being around a lot of other kids but ones who are as incompetent as they are. If this were more of a family model with kids of mixed ages, or a neighborhood model, being around kids of a range of ages, the kids could help each other.

Dr. Laura was referring to playing outdoors at daycare facilities. Those usually are fenced in places with plastic, metal or wooden playscapes. Children also need time outdoors, running free in nature. Children should be playing on grass. Children should be in wild places, whether it is on an empty city lot with wildflowers and grasses or in the woods or in meadows. Children should be outdoors to experience rain, puddles, and mud. Children should splash in water such as brooks, streams, ponds, lakes or the ocean. Children should experience a sandy beach. Children should be able to run free in their neighborhood, to feel it is their territory and their home place, that they are familiar with and feel safe in. Children should walk and run and skip and hop. Children should be riding their bikes.

Daycare facilities who do allow outdoor play are still a poor representation of what children need. They don’t just need fresh air and playscapes, they need the wild places and to explore their own neighborhood and to ride bikes and to feel free. I wonder if the children who only get to be outdoors in the fenced in play yards of daycare facilities feel like caged animals? How can one not liken them to caged pets or zoo animals, trapped in and locked into a facility all day long, seeing the outdoors from what is nothing more than a big cage?

Yes, daycare is an artificial environment.

If you don't believe that daycare has problems, read the book "Ships Without a Shore: America's Undernurtured Children" by Anne Pierce PhD (read my book review here) or for a longer book just on daycare, "Day Care Deception: What the Child Care Establishment Isn't Telling Us" by Brian C. Robertson.

A book about the importance of children being in nature is “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder” by Richard Louv. If you need ideas on how to explore nature with your children, check out the new book “I love dirt! 52 activities to help you & your kids discover the wonders of nature” by Jennifer Ward.

Voices From the Education Reform World

In the education theory world, about one hundred years ago, both Rudolph Steiner, who created the Waldorf (private) schools and Charlotte Mason, who created a new home education method to replace what she thought unacceptable academic conditions in schools--both recommended that children spend time outdoors and specifically in nature every day. Both felt that children should experience nature in all types of weather, in rain, snow, and in the cold. Yes, they should be dressed appropriately and kept warm and have a change of clothes if necessary when they returned indoors, but they should go out daily. Charlotte Mason still inspires many homeschooling parents today.

What is Happening in My Neck of the Woods

I’m thinking now about my homeschooled children, and the children we know with stay-at-home mothers. This whole discussion has me wishing again that the children of our neighborhood were allowed free reign to play with each other outdoors for hours on end without adult supervision, like I did when I was a child.

For now I have to rely mostly on a paid experiential nature class to get my children in the wild on a weekly basis, with other children. This is what we have come to with this younger generation, paying for a class so our children can have certain experiences. Another example of this is a local farm charges families so that the children can go to the farm, hang around there with the animals, observe farm life and do light farm chores. Yes, the parents PAY the farm so that the elementary grade children can do (light) farm labor. Unbelievable.

Books Mentions in this Blog Post

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Young Son Turned Eight; Thoughts on Being a Mother-at-Home

Dateline: August 1999

On this day, on the way to the photo shop to get my older son's second birthday photo taken, I realized I was a few days late in my cycle. We went into the photo studio to get his photo taken and the photographer said there were a couple of exposures left on the roll and asked to take them with me and my son together. It was not planned, my hair was still damp and I didn't eve have make up on, but I let her snap them anyway. I bought a pregnancy kit in the grocery store next door and headed to my mother's house for a visit. In her bathroom I discovered I was pregnant. It was a total surprise. I guess that explains the glow in my cheeks. At this time my son was a happy toddler, still nursing, being raised at home by me with an attachment parenting style of parenting.

Dateline: Summer 2000

Here's my younger son at twelve weeks old. Yes he was a big baby, he was 11 lbs. 11 oz. at birth and I was thrilled to finally have the medical intervention free birth that I had wanted. He thrived on exclusive breastfeeding, and in this photo he was just over 20 lbs. at twelve weeks old! He smiled on the first day he was born and was a very happy baby. Today he laughs easily and he likes to make people laugh with jokes and silly antics. Last week he asked me if people can make a living at being a professional comedian and said he thinks that is what he'd like to be when he grows up.

Here is another photo from that summer; it is my older son, in the month he turned three years old, in Cape Cod.

Active parenting and being a mother-at-home is a very hard job. It is the most rewarding job I've ever had in my life. I feel it is an honor to be able to pause my corporate career to "stay home" to raise and home educate my children. Despite what the media and some people say, as a woman not working for pay, with has a diploma in a trade and a bachelor's degree as well as continuing my self-education through reading, I am very fulfilled and mentally stimulated. I have a lot of interaction with other adults. I am free from the bondage of a work schedule, I control my life. Although the phrase is "stay at home mom" the truth is I am very much out of the house and actively living in the world. I did find it a difficult adjustment in the first months, to leave the corporate life behind however the truth is as soon as I realized that I was actually living in total freedom I felt more liberated than ever!

I am happily married. Both of my husband and I believe that marriage is a committment to live our lives together with a common purpose. For me, marriage is not a bondage experience. The marriage takes work and it is worth it. By weathering the storms such as unemployment, seeing a parent sick and dying and things like that, our relationship has grown stronger. I am completely happy to let go of my income and to rely on my husband to be the sole financial provider for our family. We are both willing to live the way we do and to forego some luxuries such as luxury cars, frequent fancy vacations, not having the house professionally decorated, and following all the latest trends in fashion in order to be at home with my children and raise them in the way that we feel is best for their development. Both my husband and I had a mother-at-home to raise us and we wanted that for our children too--it was planned by us back when we were dating, before we were even engaged to be married.

Boy, do kids grow up quickly. Here they are now.

Younger son on The National Mall, April 2008, close to his eighth birthday. He asked to do this pose, it was his idea, as he thought it was funny to try to make it look like he was leaning on or holding up the Washington Monument.

Older son age 10.5, at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum Udvar-Hazy Center, April 2008. Since age one this son has had a strong interest in space travel and he wants to be an aerospace engineer or a mechanical engineer when he grows up.

My boys and I in front of The White House, April 2008. (Younger son intentionally making a face to be a schooch.)

Explanation of the term and evidence ongoing self-education on my part: Note while blogging that word 'schooch' I wanted to double check the spelling as I've never written it before. I learned it is not an American slang term as I thought. It is an Italian word that has made its way into local slang in this area due to the large number of Italian immigrants who live here. The long word is scocciatore and it is shortened to 'scocc' pronounced 'skooch' and it means 'being a pest, a nuisance'. Specifically, when that is said it refers to a person who intentionally makes themselves a pest to bother another person, to be a pain in the neck to them because they want to annoy a person. I am sure some other parents have a 'scocc' or a 'schooch' as a child and if not, you may have a schooch in another area of your life. Learning about that word is a small example of self-education. A larger example is the fact that the children and I had free schedules and were able to tag along on my husband's business trip to Washington D.C. where we saw and learned a lot of things.

Recommended Reading to Reinforce that Being a Mother-at-Home is Good for Both Mother and Child

"Ships Without a Shore" by Anne Pierce PhD

"Sequencing" by Arlene Cardoza

Also of interest---

"Surrendering to Motherhood" by Iris Krasnow, this is a memoir about letting go of her career to raise her children.

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Monday, May 19, 2008

What Are YOUR Kids Doing Online?

I’m on my soapbox again, banging the drum and sending out the message that parents need to know what their kids are doing online. All parent. Parents of "good kids". Parents of "religious kids". Parents of middle schoolers. Parents of high schoolers.

Parents should put rules and limits on the use of technology, from the Internet, computers, to cell phones and text messages. No parent should assume that their children are safe or not engaging in immoral or illegal activity using today’s technology.

Parents need to check up on what their kids are doing. Period.

One way to check Internet use is to track with a parental software program such as SafeKeeperPlus (for PC not Mac).

A story from Westport Connecticut broke this weekend:

"(Westport Superintendent Langton) said that parents have to talk to their children about potential dangers online, especially of posting compromising photographs.

"It's important that parents and children communicate, and that's the important word," Darmory said."

Here is more about the situation:

"Middle and high school students have been sharing nude pictures of themselves electronically, the school district's superintendent told parents this week.

In a letter and e-mail, Superintendent Elliott Landon revealed that the video and still images show students completely nude and "engaging in inappropriate acts while in the nude" in their homes.

The images have been forwarded to countless people, according to Landon's Wednesday letter. A few of the students' identities may have been revealed to people who do not live in Westport.

"This behavior is totally unacceptable in terms of our community's mores," Landon wrote. "More importantly, this type of behavior has the potential to be dangerous to the students who are engaging in the transmission of these images of themselves."

NOTE that since the superintendent is involved we are left to assume this was done while at school or viewed with school computers! Who thought that such a thing would be done with school computers! This is what happens when technology makes it to the classroom?

And this--

"Westport police are investigating one incident reported earlier this week, said Lt. David Kassay. He would not reveal whether the case involved multiple images."

The problem is not just happening in Connecticut either. The story references a recent case in Arkansas.

"An Associated Press story last month noted that some teenagers have started using cell phones to send nude pictures of themselves as a form of flirting. Sometimes, the photos end up posted on the Internet."
I read in another article in the Hartford Courant, that recently the same thing happened in Ohio.

The article also mentioned a news story I blogged on last year. It was about the nude photos that surfaced from Vanessa Hughes, that she took and gave to her then-boyfriend. Hughes is a celebrity well known to elementary, middle and high school students, she is a main character in Disney’s hit movie series “High School Musical”. High School Musical 3 will be released this summer in movie theatres, by the way!

While I was blogging another news story a few months ago, doing an Internet search I was led by Google to a LiveJournal blog of a high school sophomore who had blogged the same news story and told her opinion based on her own experience having been at that event. Reading information in just a few of her blog entries I knew her first name, her mother's best friend's first and last name (it was an atypical name in this small community so it was easy to connect that it was someone I know through Scouts). I learned that she was singing in a private choir in this area, what school she went to and that she was a sophomore. The entries were laden with profanity. One entry said that her mother thinks she is promiscuous and that she resented that. She discussed sexual encounters with teen boys, one was in detail, using the boys first names and telling what they did, while they were at home with her parents in the house while they watched a G-rated movie on TV. She also said in more than one entry, while discussing who she thought was hot (by name) that just writing about that person made her want to go and, using a code word, go do something which I'll not mention here. This is the type of thing that younger teens are doing on the Internet. I would bet anything that her parents have no clue she is doing that.

To read the full article about the 'Westport students' as they are referring to them as, go here:

Westport students shared nude photos, schools chief says
By Lisa Chamoff
Staff Writer
Article Launched: 05/17/2008 01:00:00 AM EDT

So what kind of a place is Westport Connecticut? Westport is considered a very desirable place to live in Fairfield County. Here are statistics from with data from the 2000 U.S. Census Bureau. If you are curious what kind of a community would contain teens sharing nude photos online, here it is:

Westport, Connecticut

Population: 25,807

Economic Indicators

Household Income

Household Income
<$10,000 1.8% $10,000-$14,999 2.1% $15,000-$24,999 4.1% $25,000-$34,999 4.9% $35,000-$49,999 8.4% $50,000-$74,999 10.3% $75,000-$99,999 9% $100,000-$149,999 16.6%
$150,000-$199,999 12.2%
$200,000+ 30.4%

(among employed persons over 16)
Mgt./Professional 65%
Service 5.5%
Sales/Office 25.5%
Farm/Fishing/Forestry 0.1%
Construction/Extraction/Maint. 1.8%
Production/Transportation 2.1%
Unemployed 2.1%
Below Poverty Line 2.6%

Educational Achievement:
(among people 25 years or older)

Less than 9th grade: 1%
9th-12th grade (nongrad): 2.6%
High school graduate: 10.4%
Some college: 11.8%
Associate degree: 4.7%
Bachelors degree: 36.6%
Graduate/Professional: 32.9%
High school or higher: 96.4%
Bachelors or higher: 69.5%

Marital Status:
(among people 15 years or older)
Never married: 16.2%
Married: 69.2%
Separated: 0.7%
Widowed: 5.8%
Divorced: 8.2%

Stability/Newcomer Appeal:
Same home 5+ years: 64%
Social and economic indicators
based on 2000 Census sample data.

Are Parents In Denial?

My husband heard an unbelievable story this weekend about a middle school aged boy. Without revealing the story, the point I want to make is when adult in authority confronted the parents about the immoral and also, illegal activity that took place the mother said “My son would never do that, he is a good Catholic boy”. The parent later called the person back and demanded the adult apologize to the child (he refused to do it). The parent to this day refuses to believe their child did the immoral and illegal activity. Parents do not assume your innocent and/or religious children are so innocent. And for the life of me if another adult especially one in a position of authority comes to you to let you know of a problem that happened don’t disbelieve it just because you don’t like the idea of what your child is said to have done.

Other media reports about this story:

WTNH local television news story dated 5/17/08

Hartford Courant article dated 5/19/08

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