Wednesday, March 31, 2010

In case you are wondering

where I've been for the past week, I'm in Orange County, California planning my father's funeral. A proper post will be done when I'm back in town and have more than 5 minutes to myself.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

“You can't raise a child in a dictatorship and expect them to function as an adult in a democracy.”

Dionna at Code Name: Mama provided a really great list of links worth clicking and reading. I’d like to go over a few I think are particularly important and useful. In particular, I wanted to get the word out on the site Parenting Wisely – What to do instead of punishment. The site is basically comprised of a list of articles on discipline. I haven’t read every one of them yet (there are quite a few) but I wanted give a sneak peak of some of the good stuff on some of the favorites that I have read so far.

Judy Arnall’s article, Positive Discipline; How to Avoid Power Struggles, has so much good stuff, I could practically quote the entire article here. Here are Arnall’s suggestions for discipline tools:

The most common discipline tools used for younger children up to preschool age are redirection, substitution, supervision, offering choices, changing the environment, learning child development, ensuring enough nourishment, sleep, stimulation and attention. Most discipline at this age is prevention.

The most effective discipline tools used for older, school-aged children and teens are active listening, "I" messages, time in, changing the environment, modeling, related consequences, and problem solving. Family meetings are also especially effective for this age.

Here is the underlying concept, which I agree: “You can't raise a child in a dictatorship and expect them to function as an adult in a democracy.”

I know I’ve mentioned it in other posts, but if you want a fabulous primer on how to use I-messages and active listening, read Thomas Gordon’s Parent Effectiveness Training. Even better, if there is a trainer from the Gordon Training Institute in your area, take the class. For a sneak preview of Gordon’s theory, go check out his article listed on the Parenting Wisely site, What Every Parent Should Know.

Back to more important concepts, in Annie Addington’s article, Rethinking Discipline, she interviewed author Alfie Kohn. Moving beyond just concepts of punishment, here are some key points on the use of rewards:

Rewards and punishments are not opposites; they're both ways of doing things to children to make them obey rather than working with kids to try to solve problems and help them become decent people. Rewards and punishments can achieve only one goal and that is temporary compliance but at a very large cost... . More than 70 studies have found that the more you reward kids for doing something, the more they tend to lose interest in whatever they had to do to get the reward.

Thus research shows that children who are given positive reinforcement are somewhat less generous than their peers because they've learned that the only reason to help is that they will get something out of it. Research also shows that when kids have been led to work for good grades they lose interest in whatever they were doing in school leading up to the grade. That's why the best schools in the country don't use grades at all and are more likely to produce kids who are deeper thinkers and more excited about learning.

What I noticed these articles and the other articles I read have in common is the theme of Respecting Your Child’s Needs. Children don’t ‘misbehave’ per se. They behave in ways they think will get their needs met, and they don’t yet know socially acceptable ways of doing this. Rather than punishing your child for misbehaving, Find Out What His Need Is!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Call to Action: Support the Ride to Conquer Cancer

Cancer has been a struggle in my family for at least three generations. My great-grandmother died of leukemia, my grandmother had a lump in her chest at the time she died in her 90s, and my father has been fighting non-Hodgkin's lymphoma for 6 years now. Given my family history, it is fairly clear to me that I have a genetic predisposition to cancer and will very likely have to deal with some form of cancer in my lifetime. Honestly, I don't know many people who haven't been touched by cancer some way, by either a friend or family member. One of my old friends from my San Francisco yuppy days now lives in Toronto, and is participating in a huge fundraising event called the Ride to Conquer Cancer. I copied and pasted his email below in hopes of helping him reach his fundraising goal. I have donated to this cause, and would love it if some of my readers would also support him!

I am writing, because I'll be participating in a 2-day major cycling event called The Ride to Conquer Cancer benefiting The Princess Margaret, one of the top 5 cancer research hospitals in the world.

I'll be cycling over 200 kilometers that weekend, from Toronto to Niagara Falls, with thousands of other Riders. All the proceeds will go to The Princess Margaret to support cancer research, treatment, and services. The Princess Margaret is Canada's leading comprehensive institution devoted to cancer research and care, and the work they're doing is leading-edge.

I've agreed to raise at least $2,500, but I've set my personal goal to $3,000. So here's where you come in, because I need your help to put me over the top. Could you please consider making a donation? Use the link at the bottom of this email to go visit my webpage, and please take the time to support me. Please keep in mind the commitment I'm making to end this heartbreaking disease and the personal efforts I'll have to make to accomplish this.

This ride certainly has a personal note. Having felt the effects of cancer from my mother’s survival of breast cancer this past year, my friend Hector’s ordeals and ultimately losing my closest friend Rick to pancreatic cancer, I want to do what I can to help. Information also shows that over 45% of men and 40% of women will develop cancer in their lifetime. That's why I'm riding. To do something BIG about cancer. I hope that you'll share this incredible adventure with me by supporting me in my fundraising efforts.

Thank you in advance for your generosity!

Click here to donate!

Friday, March 19, 2010

More Words!

I think we might finally be starting a breakthrough with this whole talking thing. Tonight when I took Schmoopybaby to say goodnight to John he actually said "Night, Dad." John almost melted into a puddle of goo right on the spot (although he adamantly denies it). So cute.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

This Week's Top 3 Schoopybaby Updates

I really want to go to sleep but I'm feeling guilty that I haven't given any Schmoopybaby updates in a while. So here are my top 3 report-worthy updates for this week.

1. Thanks to YouTube, Schmoopybaby can now imitate Swedish Chef from the Muppet Show ("Bork Bork Bork!" ::tosses whatever he's holding into the air::)

2. The crazy kid grew another inch this weekend (first clue we were starting a growth spurt - on Saturday from the time he woke up until he took his nap 6-7 hours later he didn't go more than 20 minutes without wanting food). His head now reaches the stove knobs, or, as John referred to them today, the stove turny on-y thingies.

3. He can tell you the sounds made by a cow and a chicken, but he still won't say anything that would be considered helpful in getting his needs met (such as yes, no, milk, etc).

Friday, March 12, 2010

A Letter to the Top Executive of My Organization

Dear Ms. Top Executive:

You are the most powerful person in our organization. You are also a woman, as well as a mother. As such, you are a role model to the other women in this organization, giving hope to young new employees that if they work hard and work well, they too may aspire to holding the most powerful post in the region.

That is why I am so disappointed and, quite frankly, shocked and appalled by your introductory remarks at the recent Woman’s History Month training event. You told us of your own personal experience with sexual harassment during the course of your career with this organization. You told us of ugliness, inappropriateness, and humiliation. And then you excused it. You wiped it away. You told us it didn’t matter that you were subjected to such ugliness, that it may happen to us and when it does then we should just let it go and pretend we weren’t humiliated, that we weren’t made to feel inferior or objectified. That we should just go on with business as usual. Because, you said, these things are not intentionally mean-spirited.

You are wrong, Ms. Top Executive. Humiliating or objectifying behavior is always done with the smugness that belongs to the privileged, powerful oppressor. It is the behavior of one who wants to wield control over another person or group of people. And the intentional wielding of control over others is always mean-spirited. It is never ok, and should never be blown off in the cause of business as usual. I might have no choice but to put up with obnoxious behavior from some random stranger driving by while I am walking down a busy street because I live in a culture that accepts such behavior and propagates it through the silence and nonintervention – such as you advised to your staff. I should never have to put up with it in the environment where I spend 40 hours every week, giving my earnest hard work and dedication to a mission I believe in.

Will you tell your daughters one day, “That boy didn’t mean to rape you. You were on a date, you were drinking. It’s not like he was a stranger attacking you with a knife from behind a tree. It wasn’t intentionally mean-spirited.

The very thought makes me sick to my stomach.

When a person from a historically disadvantaged background acquires power and status traditionally held by some majority group, the disadvantaged person often has to assimilate to some extent with the powerful majority. During World War II in German occupied Europe, Jews often joined the local police department and did the bidding of the Nazi occupiers in hopes of securing status, power, and favor that would leave them and their families immune to the pain being inflicted on their community members.

It appears that you, Ms. Top Executive, have joined the Old White Man’s Club. You are playing the Man’s game according to the Man’s rules. You have accepted their terms, their behaviors, their dominant culture, and in reward you have the title you wear today. Joining The Club did not serve Poland’s Jewish policemen, and Joining The Club will not serve you, your daughters, or the women in this organization either.

You disappoint me, Ms. Top Executive. I have lost and esteem respect for you, as a leader and as a person. Your status as Top Executive remains, but your status as role model is gone.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Force that Drives the Water Through the Rocks

Welcome to the March Carnival of Natural Parenting: Vintage green!

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month we're writing about being green — both how green we were when we were young and how green our kids are today. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

My father was the first environmentalist I knew. Every day he and my mother put their daily newspaper into a brown paper bag and stacked it along the ever-growing wall of brown paper bags on the side of our house, until it was Paper-Drive Day at my elementary school. My father would fill the trunk and back seat of his car, and sometimes the bags would spill over onto my lap in the passenger seat where I sat with no seatbelt (I know I’m aging myself here). My class frequently won the paper drive, and as reward my class would win an ice cream party – individual sized plastic cups of vanilla ice cream with wooden sticks as spoons (oh, the waste that generated!)

At the news of oil spills or other pollution-oriented catastrophes my father would become outraged and exclaim, “Crimes against nature are crimes against humanity!” He would tell me all the things he did to conserve water in arid southern California where we lived, proudly declaring “And I even don’t flush the toilet after every pee!”

My father taught me that the earth was special, that nature could be magical. He held a spiritual connection to nature, which I couldn’t help but absorb. When my dad picked up bonsai as a hobby, he told me about a Shinto belief that spirits would find beautiful places in nature to reside. It was his goal to create a bonsai tree so beautiful that a Shinto spirit would honor and bless him by making one of my father’s trees its home. He seemed most at peace outside, planting and tending to flowers, concentrating on trimming his bonsai just right.

The first time my father and I climbed the mountains near our home, I was somewhere around 10 years old. I felt more than just accomplishment of the physical feat. I felt something other than father-daughter bonding. The mountains were special, and I experienced an energy, a sense of peacefulness. I, like my father, felt what I can now describe as a spiritual connection that I continue to experience to this day. A few phrases from Dylan Thomas’ poem, “The Force that Through the Green Fuse Drives the Flower”, come to mind when I try to describe the connection I experience with nature.

The force that through the green fuse drives the flower
Drives my green age; that blasts the roots of trees
Is my destroyer.
And I am dumb to tell the crooked rose
My youth is bent by the same wintry fever.

The force that drives the water through the rocks
Drives my red blood; that dries the mouthing streams
Turns mine to wax.
And I am dumb to mouth unto my veins
How at the mountain spring the same mouth sucks.

This is why I try to protect and conserve when I can. This is why, before there was a recycling program at my office, I used to take home “trash” paper and plastic bottles to recycle at home. This is one of the reasons why I choose organic and locally produced foods when possible.

My father has an admittedly different view of organic farming. He was born in Shanghai, China and grew up there until the age of 13, when the new Communist leadership expelled all non-ethnic Chinese. In those days, Shanghai was not the budding industrialized metropolis it now is. People were poor, and farming was truly “natural”. Fields were fertilized with raw manure and there no chemical pesticides or anything else-icides. Everything that came out of the ground was so laden with parasites, it had to be boiled until it was tasteless mush. Even then, my father still became infected with tape worms several times. So, what is his viewpoint on farming?

Chemical fertilizers? Yes, please!

Pesticides? Delightful! I’ll take two!

Organic produce? Danger. Potentially life-threatening illness. I’ll pass.

Can I blame him?

Despite our different perspectives on organic foods, we still share that connection that guides us in making green lifestyle choices in an attempt to live more in harmony with this good Earth – so the water driven through the rocks, by that same force that drives my red blood, might run just a little bit cleaner.

Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Code Name: Mama and Hobo MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants.

(This list will be updated March 9 with all the carnival links.)

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

How tired are you?

I am so tired I fell asleep this morning during a conference call while drinking a cup of coffee. Awesome.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Normal Days

I don't remember exactly how I came across this blog. Nonetheless, I discovered the following quote that moved me so I thought I would share it:

Normal day, let me be aware of the treasure you are. Let me learn from you, love you, bless you before you depart. Let me not pass you by in quest of some rare and perfect tomorrow. Let me hold you while I may, for it may not always be so. One day, I shall dig my nails into the earth, or bury my face in the pillow, or stretch myself taut, or raise my hands to the sky and want, more than all the world, your return.

What does your normal day look like? Does it start with being woken up too early by a little crying Schmoo requesting the comfort of your presence? Do you rush off to a job that provides mental and social stimulation you need to be a happy, well rounded person? Do you drag yourself to a job that doesn't make you happy but pays all your bills in these uncertain economic times? Do you spend the day reading the same torn up story book again and again and again, between vain attempts at keeping crayon off your furniture and food from being hurled onto your floor?

Do you ever get stuck when you talk to family or friends? Perhaps they ask you how everything is or what's new and good, and you think to yourself - Nothing really is new, Nothing really is exciting, Life is just one normal day after another. And that is ok. That is actually quite nice and comforting.

Perhaps I will also write a little note and stick it on bathroom mirror, reminding me to be aware of those treasured, normal moments before they depart.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Quick Monday Update

We just got back from a weekend trip to California to visit my dad. He was in the hospital for about a week and a half because of congestive heart failure and the inability to control his diabetes. He is due to go back into the hospital sometime within the next week or two to get a pacemaker.

There is a lot of concern about this surgery and his health in general. Quite frankly, every time he goes into the hospital, the doctors are surprised when he walks out. It seems he is constantly hovering – 3 steps from the grave, 3 steps from recovery. So far, he has always chosen recovery (to the extent a man with cancer, diabetes, irregular heart beat, and eternal fluid in his lungs can recover).

SchmoopyBaby was in rare form all weekend. Perhaps he was still feeling out of sorts from the two shots he got two days before we left. Perhaps those darn molars are driving him up a wall. Perhaps he was restless and bored from being stuck indoors all day on Saturday while rain came pouring down. Perhaps it was a combination of all of the above. He is entitled to have ‘bad’ days. He is a person and all persons are entitled to have bad days. It is unfortunate that his bad days happened to correspond with what might be the last time he sees his grandfather alive. Of course, every time I visit my father I can’t help think that that might be the last time I see him alive, so maybe I’m being a little overly melodramatic.

It makes me sad that my father takes SchmoopyBaby’s bad days personally, as though they are a reflection of his feelings for his grandfather. They are not. Although certainly SchmoopyBaby has preferences for certain people, for what reason I do not know. My mother, for example, is pretty much SchmoopyBaby’s favorite person in the whole world. Mommy-who? Daddy-who? There’s Grandma!!! It is hard for my father to feel adequately loved and appreciated when he sees SchmoopyBaby’s enthusiasm for his grandmother. Heck, it is hard for me sometimes to feel adequately loved and appreciated when I see my son’s enthusiasm for his grandmother.

Anyway, my quick update is turning, once again, into a long-winded rambling session. I’ll post pictures from the weekend when I get a chance.