Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Dear Brain

Dear Brain,

It has come to our attention that you have been trying to do it all. I understand that in the last few days you have:
·         Minded your own children plus your friends’ children; prepared home-cooked meals; prepared a tax return; had a series of intensive interviews; cleaned your house; did the shopping; spent countless “5 minutes breaks” using social media; wrote several articles and are now in the process of writing this blog post.
·         Stayed-up late to write or watch inane television shows and woken up early to mind children and work. 
There's a body attached to that, you know
photo by Dream Designs
·        Done all the laundry yourself due to some “control issues” you’re still working-through.
We would like to advise you of the following:
-          The body needs, ideally, about 8 hours sleep per night. In your case, I suggest a minimum of 7. Getting 5 won’t cut it. If you continue to give us only 5 hours of sleep per night, we are going to enforce a work-to-rule, whereby we will stop supplying the brain with oxygen ‘round about 3 pm. This will result in some unfortunate decision making on your part in the late afternoon and early evening.
-          We need more exercise. Newsflash: the occasional stroll around the mall is not a cardio workout. Your metabolism wants to inform you that you’re not 25 anymore, you know. You may have noticed that your size 6 jeans have languished on the top shelf of the wardrobe for a good while. It’s ‘cause they don’t fit, isn’t it? Move your fat ass.
-          Your stomach and intestines would also like to advise you that if you cannot provide them with 3 balanced meals a day, they will not provide you with the fuel you need to reason with a 5 year-old child. He will win every time.

Be informed that this is our last letter of this nature. If you do not follow our warning signs, we will have to take the following actions:

 -         Add 10 (more) pounds to your ass
-          Make you feel exhausted
-          Reduce your vocabulary
-          Make you crankier than usual
-          Cause zits to break out all over your face
-          Etc.

We sincerely hope you heed our warnings. If not, see you in court...by that we mean the emergency room of the local hospital.

Yours sincerely,

The Body

Monday, September 5, 2011

Costumes for the Sewing Impaired

In a rare bout of spring cleaning that I finally undertook in September, I came across a hedgehog costume that I’d forgotten about. How could I have forgotten about it? When I was informed via note from the teacher last year that I’d have to make or buy a hedgehog outfit for my five year old to wear in the spring play, I was like: what? Did you say MAKE? I can’t MAKE anything except for dinner. Oh, and once the boys and I took an empty, plastic milk container, put two dots on the lid for a nose, pasted pink paper like ears on the front and a curly bit at the back for a tail. We called it a pig. Other than that, I can’t MAKE anything.
Spiderman Saves the Donkey
www.partymart.com

So, at the time of the spring hedgehog I had to enlist the help of buddy Sarah (of Fairy Face Designs fame). She doesn’t really do costumes, but, she saw the desperate state I was in and using something called a SEWING MACHINE (I’d heard of them but never actually seen one up close) she put a hedgehog costume together. I’d bought all the material and face paint at great expense, Sarah put in the effort, and the thing was worn for three hours. Six if you count dress rehearsal.

The new school year has started and I dread the next spring play like some people dread a visit to the dentist. The hedgehog outfit was a minor feat of engineering, what with stuffing his back and figuring out how to make the quills stand on end without puncturing my child’s skin. What’s the play going to be this year? Noah’s Ark and Zach is the porcupine?

I am a little relieved by the discovery lately of a place called partymart.com. Mainly, they sell costumes. They have women’s costumes, men’s costumes and children’s costumes. They also have party favours and such. It’s the children’s costumes I’m really interested in, though.  I want to send a note to the teacher and tell her she can only cast children as animals appearing on this or similar sites. So, that would mean: tigers, bunnies, donkeys, puppies, kittens, lions, monkey...

Maybe I could write an original script featuring only characters based on costumes I can purchase!
Note to self: Spiderman saves donkey from the evil clutches of a fairy princess.
Steve Jobs
from wikipedia

I could consider buying my own sewing machine and learning to use it....NAH.

Oh my gosh: I just remembered Halloween. Zach always wants to be a something complicated that can’t be purchased. Good on him and hoorah for independent thinking, but: I HAVE NO CRAFTY SKILLS, KID. I will try and talk him into a simple costume this year, like: Ghost in white sheet; or Ghandi; or Steve Jobs.

And maybe they’ll just do Waiting for Godot this spring and my husband’s old trench coat can be the costume. 

Probably not.


This post was brought to you by partymart.com.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

So Long Summer!

There are 10008 more minutes left of summer vacation. On Tuesday, August 30th, my almost 6 year old will go back to school to start his second year in primary school, called Senior Infants here in Ireland, and my 3 1/2 year old will go to pre-school 5 mornings a week. To say that I am looking forward to next Tuesday would be an understatement.  As of then, I will officially be joining the world of mothers with free time – also known as having kids in school.

Look! No Kids!
photo by Andy Newson
Over the last six years, I’ve looked with envy on mothers who have the mornings to themselves. I’ve had either one or two children in my care all the time and I’ve wondered about women with school age children. What are they doing with those few hours every morning? They must be in heaven. Are they getting together and having mother parties and not inviting me? Is champagne served? Do they party on down from nine to eleven am and then sober up enough in time to collect the kids at 1:30?

Well move over, Sally Homemaker, ‘cause I’m about to join the party!

I know moms aren’t really doing drinking in the morning (most of ‘em, anyway), but it will feel like an absolute party to me to have a few hours to myself per day. I’ll clean th windows and oven. And I’ll exercise. I was once driving out of the grocery store with my 3 year old, and I saw one of the mothers from my boy’s school out having a jog with another mom. A jog! As of next week I can go for a jog if I want to - ALONE. I am going to look HOT and my house will be CLEAN within a few short weeks.  I am so psyched.

I look after my boys from about 5:45 am, when the older boy wakes up, until sometimes 9 pm at night, when the little guy is finally wrestled into bed. Hubby does his bit, but still, I’m the go-to gal. I’m their main comfort, the person who knows them intimately, the one who they usually run to when they have a problem. I love them like they are a part of my body, like they are in fact inside me and are my own soul. And I can’t wait to share them with their teacher. Enjoy!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Review of Your Child's Writing Life by Literacy Expert Pam Allyn

Your Child's Writing Life: How to Inspire Confidence, Creativity, and Skill at Every AgeA review of Pam Allyn’s latest book “YOUR CHILD’S WRITING LIFE: How to Inspire Your Child’s Confidence, Creativity, and Skill at Every Age” published as a Paperback Original by Avery and available from August 2011. It retails at about $11.00.

This is my second review of a Pam Allyn book, the last one was on Pam Allyn’s Best Books for Boys. Pam has the ability to synthesise and present the latest research on literacy, teaching and our children in an captivating manner. And the woman is prolific. Best Books for Boys came out earlier this year, and now in August, we already have a second effort from her.

While Best Books for Boys was aimed more at the classroom teacher rather than the parent, Your Child’s Writing Life is aimed at parents – though teachers will gain from reading its pages.

If you’re a writer, like me, you know that good readers make good writers. What Pam drives home in this book is that good writers in turn make good readers. There is a positive feedback cycle between these activities. Readers make writers, and writers make readers. In her introduction, she outlines why writing matters:

1. Writing fosters a child’s emotional growth
2. Writing helps develop critical thinking skills
3. Writing leads to GUARANTEED improvement in academic achievement

And what really piqued my interest in this book is that “far earlier than the start of formal schooling, your child can begin to have a writing life...the human instinct to connect through language begins in a baby’s first smile.” Allyn wants to help us to help our children “write from the youngest age.”

Studies show that “the early childhood years, from birth through the age of eight, are the most important period for literacy development,” Allyn explains. The book is filled with both wisdom and with practical tips from Pam Allyn for mothers of pre-schoolers on how to nurture their children’s writing life. Her wisdom includes concepts such as “be a dedicated listener to your child and what she has to say;” and “believe that he has something worth saying.” This sounds simple, but how often do you ignore what your child is saying to check an email or read a message on your phone? I’m guilty of it.  On the practical side, Pam includes discussions on children’s developmental progression so that you can check to see if your child is off track, and get the help you need if she is.

Pam Agreed again to a short Q&A with me, and I’m so pleased to be able to include our exchange here:

1. Why did you write this book?

I wrote this book because the two things i love most in the world are children and stories. And i don't think children get enough credit for two things: how much they naturally love to write from a very young age, and how many stories they have inside them that will compel them to really want to write forever.
2. Who is the target audience?
The target audience is parents and all caregivers, but i hope teachers will read it too. And i've already had people tell me they love it even if they don't have children in the home! That it's inspiring them to want to write too!
3. Is it ever too late, as a student, to start learning to write analytically?
It's never too late! But it requires mentors, both in terms of people who write well and also in terms of texts that are knockouts. Students need to see examples of what we mean by great writing.
4. Case Study: My Older boy is 5 1/2. He's only just starting to write his name and such. He can read a small bit. What are a few simple things I can do to encourage him over the summer?
Go with him to the store and purchase a writers notebook. It can be something as simple as a composition book. Then bring it home and decorate it together, with pictures of things he loves and is passionate about. These become springboards for his writing life. Save even ten minutes a day for writing together. You should have a notebook too. Tell each other stories, then encourage him to write his down and you write yours. Don't criticize his spelling. Let him spell his own way. The main thing is to get him to learn to write in volume, and to enjoy the ritual of it every day. Make sure you allow time every day to read aloud to  him from a variety of books and stories and poems. Reading aloud helps our children fall in love with language.
5. What about mothers of 2, 3 and 4 year olds - kids who barely know their alphabets - what three things can mothers of children in this age groupd do to encourage "a writing life"?
Great question! Three things:
1. Make sure to allow lots of time for play. Play is the base for all storytelling and for the child building her capacity for narrative.
2. Read aloud at least two to three times a day. It is just essential, like fruits and vegetables for the growing mind. Good delicious ones!
3. Make sure to have all kinds of paper and writing materials available and handy for your young child. Create a writing corner in the kitchen or wherever you are as a family a lot. Provide lots of fun, safe tools for writing, scribbling, drawing. Your child will start feeling like a writer immediately!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Drowning in Baby Accessories

I'm Drowning in Crap - and although I am potty training a certain 3 year old at the moment, the crap I’m talking about isn’t the poo kind. I’m referring to all the baby and toddler accessories my husband and I (more I than my husband, to be honest) purchased in the last several years. It’s everywhere, and most of it is unused. Or, it was lightly used. Or, it has been used, but not for the purpose to which it was intended. I don’t mince words: I’m drowning in crap.

Do I need this? photo by Tratong
Where do I begin with this stuff? Uh...let’s start with the high chair. It was quite useful in its day, but has since become a climbing frame – dangerous and annoying and loved by the potty training three year-old. I’ve put it up for sale on a website (for cheap – it’s an Italian mamas & papas jobbie, cost me almost two hundred and all I want is 40 - I know, don’t berate me about the cost, times were better for us all then, weren’t they?).

Then there’s the booster seat. At least the high chair has been used many times. The booster seat was used a grand total of twice in 6 years. The high chair pulls up to the table, you see, and by the time they’re ready to get out of it, they don’t want to be strapped into something else. They just want to sit at the table. Right, that was a waste of 30 bucks, or whatever it was.

And the walker. Turns out they learn to walk even if they don’t have a rolling toy with flashing lights. They hang on to furniture, the walls, your legs, a tree – in short, anything. Now, the baby walker takes up space in the kitchen or utility room. Occasionally, one of the boys finds it and races it back and forth downstairs. It’s very annoying. It must go.

What’s next? Oh yes: The travel bottle system. Such a stupid idea, I can’t believe I opened my wallet for it. I bought it for the occasional long trips we take to see the grandparents or make other visits. When they’re little babies, they feed often. Even when they’re toddlers they like to have drinks at regular intervals. I bought this device with a straw system that helps the baby drink the bottle while on the go. I figured I could pump and put the breast milk in there, and later juice. I could never figure it out, so I never used it. I just gave up and stopped to breast feed or, later, bottle feed or use a sippy cup. So the trip was longer than usual – fine. That thing is now clogging up my shelves.

One great thing I really always loved using was the travel bottle / food warmer. It’s like a warm insulated pad you plug into the cigarette lighter, then wrap around a bottle of milk or small tub of food. You can drive along and in ten minutes the good is warm. I LOVED that thing. I used it often.

Of course I’ve looked everywhere and I have no idea where it is.

What’s clogging up your house?

Friday, July 22, 2011

Chef jeff “dinneRevolution” Giveaway

I’ve been blogging in this space for almost a year, and I thought I’d run my first giveaway as a fun way to say thanks for reading. I’m giving away an E-copy of Chef Jeff’s “dinneRevolution.” It’s a family-friendly cookbook that contains “Healthy and Modern recipes, made simply with 10 ingredients or less in under 30 minutes.”

In the words of Cheff Jeff, a US chef and author with an interesting and diverse cooking background: “I realize that in today’s busy lifestyle people simply don’t have the time or desire to spend all day in the kitchen. My hope is that these recipes bring more time and joy back to your life because only when we prepare our meals do we truly know what we are putting in our bodies.”

I’s that last sentiment, “when we prepare our meals do we truly know what we are putting in our bodies” that I’m glad he expressed. That’s my feeling exactly. I try to prepare all my children’s meals myself so that I know what they’re getting. I prepare ahead in bulk and freeze in portions so I have quick meals to hand. The recipes in this book are based on popular family favourites, some of which will hopefully appeal to you and your kids. Examples of some of the ones that appeal to my family are:

Chicken and chickpea soup
Balsamic Glazed Salmon
Crabcakes with mango
Oven baked fish sticks
Spaghetti with Shrimp and snow peas
Crispy Black bean burritos
Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie


GIVEAWAY CONTEST RULES
  1. Post a Comment below telling me you did the above.
           Get an extra entry by liking my facebook page AND following me on Twitter

          Get two extra entries by also adding me to a circle on Google+
 
I will generate a random winner in one week, on July 29th!

Looking forward to hearing from you.
-          Lory
 
Disclosure: I received a free copy of DinneRevolution

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

What Motherhood has Taught me about Management

I wrote about the Mommy Brain in a previous post as well as in a 17 June Irish Examiner newspaper article titled “Mum Knows Best.” As per National Institutes of Mental Health neuroscientist Dr. Pilyoung Kim, women’s grey matter actually GROWS after childbirth. We become smarter. Raise your mugs of coffee and say a toast, mommies, because your muddled brain is attributable to exhaustion and not to some post-partum depletion of your faculties. Hormones actually work in your favour.

Manage that Baby! photo by CapemayL
I’m positive this whole motherhood thing has improved not only my brain but my managerial skills as well.  And I’m not the only one who thinks so, either. Read this article by Liza Kent in the May 2003 publication “Women in Business.” In it, Kent says “the lessons a mother learns are unique, and I have found that mothers often are surprised at what they already know about being an effective manager, based on the everyday experiences in their homes.” And, yes, our articles have the same title. It’s a coincidence (thought of mine before I saw hers and I’m keeping it. It sums my main idea up perfectly).

Women, tell me: aren’t you better at managing after kids? One of the brain areas which Dr. Kim discovered improve after childbirth is a part that deals with planning and judgement - key components of management. I used to hear about people who could see one step ahead; about tennis players who were good because they knew the next step their opponent was going to take; about people who could manage staff very well because they understood human behaviour; and, most importantly, about people who could see the consequences of their own behaviour – and that of others. I’m now one of those people.

I know EXACTLY what my three and five year olds are going to do next. I have an intimate understanding of their behaviour and understand exactly what the consequences of every interaction will be. I know that if I find a promotional packet of stickers in with the cheese stick bag and I give it to one of them, there will be war in the living room. So, I wait until we buy another bag of cheese sticks and get a second promotional packet of stickers. I don’t distribute any stickers until that time. This is a simple example, but it’s all about understanding human psychology and behaviour in a way that I didn’t before.

Knowing consequences makes you a better planner and organiser. You see what’s coming, and prepare. You don’t leave the house without baby wipes and a change of pants for your kids, do you? Of course not, because if you did it would ensure someone wets themselves and has to spend the rest of the afternoon wearing nothing but an old towel you found in the back of the car.

A great deal of this understanding you develop as a mother seems to come from paying attention to the needs of others and being a good listener - key management skills. But understanding what someone is articulating – his wants – doesn’t mean you’re going to give it to him. Think of how many times you have to say no to your child in a day. It’s healthy. They can’t have every toy they see or every sweet they want. Saying no and meaning it, being honest, is also a good skill for a manager. You have to know where to draw the line.

Some of this improvement in my managerial skills probably comes with age (don’t ask mine, it’s not polite); or maybe it comes with motherhood. More likely it’s a combination of the two. In either case: I win! Oh, by the way, since the improvement in brains is partly due to hormones and partly due to interaction with the new baby, scientists postulate that adoptive parents and fathers also experience some brain growth due to interaction with new infants and the challenges presented, even though they don’t get a dose of post-partum or breastfeeding hormones. Dads: as long as you interact loads with your kids, your management ability can improve, too.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Parenting Techniques Survey

Please take my Parenting Techniques Survey. It will only take you a few moments to complete, but the answers you give could help save a life (not really - but it is a bit of fun).

Click here to take The Mom Blogs Parenting Techniques Survey!

Leave a commet below about how you answered. 

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Breastfeeding in Public: The Irish Edition

The current received wisdom is that breastfeeding is best for baby and mother. The benefits are numerous and include: Safe, healthy food for the child since you don’t have to worry about baby bottle contamination; Convenience and money – no weekly purchase of formula required, and you don’t have to bring prepared bottles around town with you; reduced colic; a perfectly adapted food source for the infant; reduced ear infections for the child; weight loss aid for mothers post-partum; decreased risk of obesity for children who were breastfed; and I could go on.  


photo by Koratmember
Despite this being the message people like American First Lady Michelle Obama are spreading, modern society is not really doing a huge amount to support breastfeeding mothers. If babies should be breastfed for their health, the health of the mother and the health of society, then they’re going to have to be breastfed in public on occasion. Mommies have to get out of the house sometimes, you know. We need to go shopping, run errands, stop by the post office, take baby to Gymboree class and so on.  And when we go out, so do our babies. And they need to eat. Often.

While I’m sure we would love to be able to squeeze our errands into 90 minute slots between feeds and be comfortably seated on the sofa before baby starts to howl for a suckle, it rarely works that way.  So, often, we are in the coffee shop or the playground with our older kids or maybe out shopping and, boom, feed time comes ‘round. Or, maybe the kid just wants to eat early – they’re not robots, you know. So, we feed them. This may have to be done, as a friend did recently, in the dressing room of a clothing boutique, or as others have done, in a toilet stall. Sometimes, though, you just have to feed them in front of others in a restaurant or city park.

I’m done with breastfeeding, but back when I was breastfeeding, I never cared what anyone thought. Once, my baby started howling during a doctor visit so I just picked him up, pulled down my top, stuck him on the breast and kept talking. Once I was at a pub lunch in the Southwest of Ireland with some visiting Americans. Zach – about a month or two old at the time – started howling for a feed. I picked him up and breastfed as long as I needed to. The waiter came and went, staring at my boob out of the corner of his eye. I didn’t care. And I didn’t care if anybody else cared.  Zach needed to eat. Babies are part of society. They get to eat while out mixing with society.

Some women would like to be more private about it, and I totally understand this. They’d like to sit comfortably not in a toilet stall but perhaps on a chair with a cushion and feed the baby. There are rarely any such conveniences available when you’re out and about, though. Even if you want to be discrete (not me, mind you, I couldn’t care less) but you, you well bred, polite and discrete lady – even if you wanted to be discrete, you couldn’t be half the time. You have to feed in a corner of the cafe.

Breastfeeding rates in Ireland are still amongst the lowest in Europe. According to a 2010 article in the Irish Medical times, “If breastfeeding isn’t considered the culturally accepted method of infant feeding and not perceived traditionally as the norm, then it tends not to be the highest rate of infant feeding. This is the generally accepted situation in Ireland.” Let’s face it: You do feel really awkward trying to get your baby to latch on in public. The whole vibe and atmosphere around here is that it should be done behind closed doors. But if you want breastfeeding rates to increase – and all the doctors and midwives and public health nurses say this – there has to be a cultural change, not just more clinics as suggested in the article.  In order for the culture to change, more women have to get out there and breastfeed in public, as needs dictate. If you’re willing to warm a bottle in a cafe, you should be willing to breastfeed. Use a shawl or large t-shirt or a baby blanket to cover up while you’re helping the child latch on. Once you’re both comfortable, you could consider opening your shawl a bit or adjusting the baby blanket so that the child’s face is visible to you.  Turn away when you’re putting the baby on the breast. Have a friend or husband stand up and cover you both while you settle in. Like most things, it’s the beginning and the end that can get awkward or embarrassing – the latching or the buttoning up when you’re done.

If you choose to bottle feed, you’re set. Society loves you. As long as your baby doesn’t make too much of a fuss (though you know she will) you’ll have an easy ride out in public. But, if you need to use your breasts to feed the baby, as has been done since the dawn of time, you may be in for an awkward ride. But stick with it. It’s worth it.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Breastfeeding in Public, or How to Become Socially Unacceptable

I've done a post swap with Marilia of Tripping Mom. Marília is a surfer-single mom of a 4-year old girl. She writes about our common values system, how to find a relevant education and ways to keep your sanity around a kid. Her single mom blog has lots of unconventional parenting ideas. 

Below, she writes about breastfeeding in public in metropolitan Brazil - apparently not as socially acceptable as you might think.  I'll be posting about breastfeeding in Ireland over on her site, soon.

Enjoy!

****
Breastfeeding in Public or How to Become Socially Unacceptable

 If you decided to breastfeed your baby on demand, or even if your child is on a schedule, it´s hard to avoid doing it when you are out of the house. If you have a young baby, say up to 6 months, people are tolerant to breastfeeding in the big cities. But if your baby is a bit older, then you get all kinds of negative reactions from people looking at you disgusted to outright telilng you that you could be doing it elsewhere  (like the bathroom, go figure), to asking silly questions about your toddler like ¨Isn´t she too big to breasfeed?¨

We know there is no such a thing as too big to breastfeed and La Leche League has tons of articles about the benefits of extended nursing (beyond one year).

Back in my home in the northeast of Brazil, a small beach village, breastfeeding is more of the rule. But when my daughter was 2.5-years old we went to visit my family in São Paulo, a big metropolis with over 20 million inhabitants. There, I felt really judged for doing this wonderful nurturing thing. Even my family felt awkward too see a ¨big¨ child breastfeeding.

I felt so bad about this, and breastfeeding was still so central in my relationship with Luísa, that I decided on not going back while I was still nursing. I went back to visit my family only last January, when Luísa was closer to 4-years old and free from the boob.

For me it was easy to solve the problem just by staying away from the big cities (where crazily people avoid so many natural things). But the women living in the big cities have to face people´s unfounded criticism no matter what.  La Leche League advises us to do it anywhere anyway, instead of hiding, to encourage other women to do so, to make this more common place with time.

 If you live in a big city, you can use humor when people ask you stupid things like: ¨Why are you still breastfeeding her?¨  You can try something like this:

¨I decided to be socially inacceptable.¨

¨My child is not very keen on the hormones injected in cows.¨

¨We have an incestuous relationship, as you can tell.¨

The important thing is to keep the answer short and not engage in too much of a discussion. First because this would mean turning yourself into a breastfeeding advocate, publicly trying to get people on our side (and although there´s nothing wrong with that, I think it´s better to do it by example than by engaging in polemics with narrow minded people). Secondly, because no matter what you say, those people will most likely keep thinking you are an aberration.

 Instead of discussing the important topic with people that clearly have no idea, get inspired by people who are also doing it.

If you don´t know anyone in your physical world doing it (I didn´t), get online support, read stories and rest reassured of the fact that breastfeeding is one of the best things you can do for your baby. Remember that besides the weird looks, there might be silent curious looks from women who will get encouraged by you.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Q&A with Pam Allyn, author of "Best Books for Boys"

Pam Allyn’s ninth book for Scholastic publishers provided me with some disturbing information about the state of boys in education today. They’re basically falling behind girls in every subject. However, in the pages of "Best Books for Boys" Allyn also provides hope to mothers of boys (such as me) by offering creative solutions to boys’ education. The simple act of placing books in baskets rather than on shelves, in making them accessible, and in expanding our definition of what “reading constitutes” allows room for boys to be boys when it comes to reading and to education. Allow active young men to read in groups, to talk about what they read, to gather around a computer screen or to take a book to recess. With flexibility and an open mind, boys can be encouraged to read and ultimately to re-engage with the educational system.
Pam Allyn's Best Books for Boys: How to Engage Boys in Reading in Ways That Will Change Their LivesPam Allyn was kind enough to submit to a Q&A with me. Following are very interesting details about Pam and her work, in her own words:

Lory: What is your background, Pam, and how did you come into your current line of work?

Pam: My two passions are children and the power of literacy and I am very blessed I've gotten to travel along this journey that combines them both. I started out as a teacher of the deaf, became a leader for literacy reform in New York City and started my own organizations, litlife and now litworld. Early on, I did a lot of advocacy work at a foster care agency in New York where I launched the award winning Books for Boys campaign. Every step of the way has felt like the next logical step. I am just trying to reach as many kids, families and teachers as I can with the message that words do change worlds. “Best Books for Boys” is my ninth book for Scholastic Publishers.

Lory: How long have you been planning this book?

Pam: I think it has been simmering inside me for the last decade, ever since my Books for Boys initiative started growing in a big way. I started to think that there is a big message here in that we as adults are not really paying attention to the messages boys are sending us about what they really want to read, and in the last few years, the alarming statistics about boys as readers got me fired up to make sure I could make this book happen. Luckily my publisher agreed this is an important topic!

Lory: Who is the intended audience of the book?

Pam: Early on I knew this book would be compelling for both teachers and parents. So although it is published in the teaching division and seems more geared to teachers, I've already gotten tons of emails from parents saying it suits them just as well. This is what I was hoping for.

Lory: Why does the classroom set up favour girls?

Pam: Most teachers are still women and we bring our own memories and biases about what constitutes "real" reading. We have to be really careful we do not bias our learning communities in these ways. For example, there is a preponderance of narrative fiction in our classrooms, when in fact boys tend to gravitate towards nonfiction. We have to pay more attention to what all readers want.

Lory: You have a fabulous and extensive reading list here. How did you decide on what to include and what to exclude?

Pam: This was a very difficult task! There are millions more great books out there. I tried to be very true to the fact that good writing is compelling, no matter what the genre. I also heard some titles over and over from the boys I interviewed and I wanted to be sure I honored their voices.

Pam Allyn's Best Books for Boys: How to Engage Boys in Reading in Ways That Will Change Their LivesLory: Who else, like you, is leading the way to getting boys back into education and reading?

Pam: I have some wonderful mentors, role models and friends in the field who are also speaking to this issue, and for whom I have the deepest respect. They include Alfred Tatum, Tim Rasinski, Ralph Fletcher, James Patterson and John Sziescka. I am proud to be a woman among these great men, speaking as someone who has taught in classrooms of all ages and who has nurtured and loved the boys with whom I have worked. I think my vantage point as a teacher of teachers is unique and I hope complements these other wonderful voices.

Lory: Any other comments?

Pam: I hope the next time a boy says he doesn't like to read, we don't give up on him!


Disclosure: I received a free copy of Pam Allyn’s e-book.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Bloggedy Blog

MOTHER'S DAY  Guest Blog on Printsasia

Click here http://bit.ly/lXeSj4  to read my guest blog for Printsasia.com's book blog on U.S. Mother's Day, May 8th, 2011. Yes - this is in lieu of a real post! 

This Wednesday I will be posting a book review and Q&A with Pam Allyn, as part of her blog book tour.  Here is some information about Pam: http://bit.ly/jhpt93
Here is her book:
Pam Allyn's Best Books for Boys: How to Engage Boys in Reading in Ways That Will Change Their Lives

See you Wednesday!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Mommy Track not Mommy Brain

Women increase in intelligence after becoming mothers. That old adage about mommy brain or baby brain is bunk. It’s been written about and studied. Katherine Ellison wrote a popular book about it in 2006, The Mommy Brain.  This does not explain why, during the last weeks of pregnancy with my first boy and for months after giving birth to him, I went to the grocery store, leaving the front door wide open for several hours. Or, the afternoon I came home, went into the house, correctly locking the front door but leaving the car door wide open for the entire day. Or, the time I poured milk into my mug and filled the baby bottle with coffee.  Leaving those aside for the moment, research says I’m smarter. Check out this article by Erin Crawford in the Des Moines Register, 2006 about Katherine Ellison’s book.

Ellison says my perception improves. I’m more clued in to sounds of need and distress in my babies. This is true. I can hear my little guy (now almost 3) yelling in the living room while the older one does Power Ranger karate moves on him; Or, the older guy yelling because the little guy has retaliated by pulling his hair. Sometimes I wish I could tune these signs of distress out. They occur often.

Smart mommies are good at
childrearing and jobs, too!
photo by healingdream
She also says I’m more efficient. Supposedly I’m better at prioritizing and more focused and quicker at finishing work. This is absolutely true. I don’t know how I do it, but I get my work done in the 45 minutes I have to do it, instead of the 3 hours it used to take. I read stuff I have to read while standing at the stove or waiting in the car park for school to let out.
I started prioritizing the day I got home from the hospital with Zach. After he’d fall asleep I knew I had only minutes before he woke again for more time on the breast. I learned to prioritise immediately. Thoughts at the time:
1 Toilet – has to be done
2 Shower – dying for one. There’s breast milk all over my torso. 3 minutes, max, no hair washing.
3 Dress – can’t leave the house without clothes
4 makeup – if he wakes while I’m on step 3, I can skip this
5 eat – I can do this while breastfeeding, so will multi-task it
6 sleep – God, I wish I could put this at number 1, but will try and snooze while he feeds
My ability to prioritize has been improving ever since. I’m such a master at mommy multi-tasking now, I don’t understand why my husband only does one thing at a time.  I can simultaneously wipe a nose, send a text message, turn off the oven, start the dishwasher, answer Zach’s question about unicorns and begin the grocery list on a sheet of paper. Concentrating on one thing at a time makes me feel constrained and boxed in. I can’t ONLY do ONE thing at time. That is totally underutilizing my capacity.
Anyway, look, I’m re-opening this debate because despite the evidence, and the supposed status of women as having equal rights, working mothers get “mommy tracked”. There’s no denying it – check out this article about a GoldmanSachs working mother who claims she got put on the mommy track and is now suing. I’ve seen it first hand, I’ve experienced it. Why does this happen if we’re smarter, more empathetic (as per Ellison), can prioritise better, manage better, and get the same amount of work done in half the time? Trust me, if we leave the job ON TIME to go collect our kids from day care, we will still meet the deadlines set, come in on the weekends around trips to soccer matches, and generally outperform the guy sitting across from us who can stay until 7 pm, dials in on his laptop Sunday mornings and goes to after-work drinks with the lads. He’s spinning his wheels. I’m working.
Limiting the workplace to single people and men is not diversity, and it isn’t healthy. Would businesses advocate limiting the workplace to white people or males? How about limiting it to brunettes? They’d be losing out on valuable input from people who, due to the release of massive amount of hormones, are now smarter, calmer, happier, more empathetic, more perceptive and better able to prioritise and multi-task. Some may be blonde. We do, however, want to go home on time to collect our children; need to take our legally, duly-earned vacation days for time off with the kids; and will, on occasion, have bits of oatmeal or baby formula on our lapels. These can be cleaned with baby wipes, which we carry in our large handbags, since we are so organised.  
And, by the way, if you don’t have kids or are not a woman, I’m not saying you’re at a disadvantage or not as smart as me. Sleep deprivation (for me) evens us out. I’m just saying: we’re equal.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Easter Break

School has let out for two weeks. The cousins were down over the weekend and we all had a blast, but now that those kids are gone, it’s me and my two for 13 more days. What will we do with ourselves? My kids and I have differing opinions.

Things my children (2 and 5 years old) would like to do over the two-week Easter Break:
photo by Jeroen van Oostrom
  • Stay in pyjamas all day, eat chocolate for breakfast, ice cream for lunch and ham straight out of the packet for dinner
  • Go to the local soft play centre, daily (at 14 bucks each time) 
  • Be driven two hours to the zoo, in another city
  • Sail a boat (the five year old insists he can because he knows how to say, “Man overboard.” He’s never been on a boat)
  • Visit the Great Wall of China 
  • Drive my car to the shop
  • Get a pet dinosaur
  • Battle an evil transformer
  • Meet the Queen.

Things my children will actually do over Easter Break:
  • Be let outside to play.

They better get used to it, because it’s pretty much what they’ll be doing for the summer holidays, too.

Happy Easter and/or Passover!

Monday, April 11, 2011

How to Survive a Shopping Trip with Your Kids

Oh, dear: the fruit bowl is getting empty. Max and I finished the last of the bananas this morning. Also, we’re out of bread. I need more frozen strawberries – I keep them around for making fruit smoothies with Max in the mornings. All this we can survive, but I’m also down to three diapers and 1 roll of toilet paper – currently in use. I HAVE to go to the grocery store, and I’m not alone. I have to take the kids.
photo by Nutdanai Apikhomboonwaroot

There’s little I like less than shopping with the kids. Well, maybe root canal. Shopping with them is such a hassle. It turns an activity that should be fairly straightforward into a marathon of “No – put it down – we’re not buying it – it’s not good for you – don’t bite the bag – don’t throw the food – please help, go find a bag of carrots – no – no – no – that’s cheap garbage, no – no, it’s full of sugar – why not? Because no – I love you, I won’t buy that for you it’s garbage - no...no...”
I don’t have the budget for the amount of garbage they want, and even if I did, I wouldn’t buy it for them.  My two sons would like to switch the family to an all sugar-fat-salt-character branded diet, but I’m resisting.  

The kids also tend to run around and do wild stuff in the shop. I have, in the past, abandoned the trolley and walked them out to the car, cutting the shopping trip short because I’d warned them multiple times and couldn’t take it anymore. Sometimes, I try to keep them focused with little tasks like, “Got find the bagels!” or “Two broccoli heads, please.” But they get distracted along the way or afterwards, and, let’s face it, they are young and poor at picking out the nicest vegetables or handling milk containers with care.

How will I make it through today’s shopping trip? I need the food and other items. Following are some options:
  • Go in the morning with Max only, before Zach get’s out of school: Definitely. This cuts the begging by 50% or more.
  • Sedatives: For them and me – probably not the best way to be productive the rest of the afternoon, though
  • Leave Max in the car: dangerous and hot
  • Leave Max at home: With whom? No one’s here. My friends are busy or at work. Husband has a job. Perhaps cows in the field can keep an eye on him? He always wants to run away and live with them. What about the electrified fence? Hmmm...maybe not.
  • Get one of the workers at Supervalu to look after him for 15 minutes: Meantime, I can run around the shop throwing things into the trolley...They have good customer service, but I don’t think it extends to childminding.
OK, I'm out of ideas. I'm going to have to take a boy shopping today. Mothes, pray for me.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Jimmy the Spider

The kids are dying for a dog. They talk about dogs, they look at dogs, they run after dogs on the playground, they look at dog pictures, tell dog stories and ask for one several times a week. I am not dying for a dog. Not because I don’t love dogs – I do.

The first love of my life was a St. Bernard bitch, big and lazy. She shed everywhere, slobbered profusely, couldn’t do any tricks, ate the food off my plate if my attention lapsed for even a second, and woke me up in the middle of the night to let her out. Also, she didn’t like children much (except for me), and she really didn’t like them to run. That made her crazy, and she’d growl until you slowed down. I loved her to bits. I used to lie on the floor hugging and kissing her and playing with her paws. When I was smaller, I’d push the footstool up beside her, climb on, grab her collar and ride her like a horse around the living room until I slid off her loose coat. She was brilliant.

However, I just can’t handle a pet in the house right now. I’m barely able to cope with two boys, and I can’t imagine throwing a dog into the mix – with the walking and the feeding and the attention and the training and the commitment and the vet bills. Not right now – but someday yes. In the meantime, I thought recently, I’ve got to get them to stop haranguing me for a dog. I keep saying soon, and the 5 year old is starting to think that soon means never.

The other day, I had Max, the 2 year old, on the counter in the bathroom, changing him. Zach, 5 years old going on 13, was washing his hands next to us. I heard Max yell, “Ah! A Pider!” We looked up and there was a GIANT spider on the far wall. Zach yelled, “Yikes!”

They freaked out (the thing was the size of my hand), until I said, “Hey, guys, what are you screaming about? That’s our new pet Spider! He’s come to live with us. He’s the perfect pet – very low maintenance.”

That calmed them down immediately. They started smiling at the spider, looking at him in a new light.

“What should we name him, boys?”

Zach and Max stared at each other for a minute, and then Zach piped up: “Jimmy!”

So, after that, we started calling him Jimmy the Spider. He had webs set up in every corner of the bathroom ceiling and the game every time we went to the bathroom was to look around and try to find Jimmy to say Hi. Jimmy’s been her for a while – I’ve lost track. In fact, Jimmy’s been here so long now we’ve made up a song:

He’s Jimmy the Spider
The Wonderful, Wonderful Spider
He sits
He stares
He walks around
Sometimes, he eats a fly
He’s Jimmy the Spider
Hey!

Jimmy’s awesome. I don’t have to feed him, I don’t have to walk him, I don’t need to microchip him and if, perchance, tragedy were to strike and someone were to smash him, I could easily find a replacement.

Friday night, the way kids do, Max pulled on my guilt cord. After a bedtime nappy change he looked for Jimmy. I zipped up Max’s pyjamas, picked him up and told him to say good night to Jimmy.

So he did: “Good night Jimmy. I love you.”

How bad a mommy am I, pretending a household pest is really a household pet? A wave of shame washed over me as I realised, these guys need a real pet. Not one who’s going to die or be eaten in three weeks.

Hmmmm....a dog...

Anyway, the following morning, we noticed there was a second spider in the bathroom. I thought: oh dear, this is getting out of hand. It’s an invasion: I better get rid of these spiders.

Zach looked up and said, “Hey! Another spider!” He Thought for a moment, “We’ll name him Oscar! Now we have TWO pets! We don’t need a dog at ALL!”

On second thought, they can stay.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Operation Preparation

My 5 year old will be having an operation tomorrow. It’s a minor procedure (ear tubes, commonly known as grommets) and, all going well, he should be home in the evening. Nevertheless, I’m in a tizzy. Anaesthesia! Pain! Complications! A strange hospital! Roommates! Disruption! All this is going through my mind, and more. It’s a day procedure, but I’m going to pack a bag and I’m pre-preparing meals for the end of the week, like ANYTHING could happen. I also made sure to discuss the operation with my boy, dispel misconceptions and answer questions. I went through what would happen that day and what was to be expected. It’s been a running conversation, and we’ve had it a few times. I’m glad I did this, because some of the things he thought were going to happen were very funny, and he had some good questions.

Following are highlights from our Operation Preparation chats. This script is a composite of discussions:

Me: Zach, I want to discuss something with you.

Zach: (Playing with a Transformer in the back of the car): What?

Me: You know how you’ve been having trouble with your ears? And your nose was running a lot for ages?

Zach: (Not taking eyes of Transformer) Yeah.

Me: Well, The doctor is going to take care of it. You’re going to have a little operation to put tubes in your ears, and it’ll make your ears feel better and you’ll hear better and everything.

Zach: (Eyes wide, head cocked sideways, brows knitted) Tubes?!?

Me: Little tubes

Zach: How small? Like, the garden hose?

Me: Eh, no, smaller than that. Really tiny, like, you know, to fit in your ear.

Zach: How the heck are they going to get them in?

Me: Don’t say heck.

Zach produces impish smile.

Me: They’ll just go into the hole in your ear and put them in that way.

Zach: What hole in my ear?

Me: The ear canal-that opening in your ear.

Zach: I have an opening in my ear?

Me: Eh, yeah. Take your finger and put it in your ear.

He does so.

Me: That’s your ear canal. It’s an opening into your ear. They just go in there and put the tubes in.

Zach: But how will the tubes get out?

Me: Good question – they will fall out naturally in six months or so...when you’re six years old, they’ll come out around then.

Zach: But I won’t be six for YEARS!

Me: You’ll be six at the end of this year.

We get home: Toilets, wash hands, change clothes, beg for sweets, mommy denies sweets and tries to push fruit, boy refuses fruit and finally, after much haggling, a compromise is reached whereby toast and a banana are agreed upon. Ear tube conversation resumes.

Me: So, Zach, on Wednesday, we’ll wake up very early and go to the hospital.

Zach: What?! You mean they’re not coming here?

Me: Here? No – it’s more convenient to have operations in a hospital.

Zach: Why?

Me: Well, that way they have all the nurses and doctors and beds they need in one place.

Zach: Beds? What are the beds for?

Me: To lie down...eh..you’ll see. When we wake up on Wednesday, I have to shower you. I may or may not put pyjamas on you at home.

Zach: Pyjamas?

Me: They go well with the beds...look, we’ll keep going with this later – finish eating, then homework time.


EXTRA NOTE - COMING ON 28TH MARCH - I’ll be featured on mamapedia.com Voices again on 28th of March with my post, Human Breast Milk Ice Cream. Keep your eyes open for that.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Best Purchase for Young Children is No Purchase at All

Someone recently asked me about toys that are good buys for young children. The March 7th Social Mom’s writing prompt asks: what was the best purchase I ever made as a mother? After having a think about this, I decided that I couldn't in good conscience write a blog post about spending money. Firstly, I have little of it. I could wax lyrical about great products, but I won’t be buying any right now. Secondly, lots of other people these days don’t have enough money, either. As they say, though: the best things in life are free. This sounds like a cliché, but when it comes to raising kids, it’s almost true. Here's a list of the BEST NON-PURCHASES I'VE EVER MADE:

1. Dirt – I used to pay for sand, but when the sand ran out one day, my two boys just sat down and started playing in the dirt under the sand table. I was like: ‘What the Hell – why not?” I have to make sure and bath them after an afternoon outside-- but I had to bath them after a spell in the sand box anyway. Sand is worse, actually, as it goes EVERYWHERE. PRICE: Free

2. A Large Cardboard Box – Because my two year old killed the TV last week (there’s another blog post in that story), my husband brought home a new TV on Friday night. It came in a large box. Last summer, I bought a large piece of furniture, which also came in a large box. Guess what happened with these boxes after their contents were removed? That’s right – hours of play. They ended up outside and the kids hid in them, imagined in them, and, eventually, destroyed them. Price: Free (initial purchase required-unless you go box hunting around town...) Warning: you may have to clean box pieces off your lawn or living room rug. Trust me, this is worth having them entertained and stimulated (read: out of your hair) for a while.

3. Fresh Air - There’s nothing like several hours outside to exhaust them and get them into bed by 7:20 pm. How does my family like to get fresh air? Walks, bike riding, skateboarding, “insect hunting” in the garden with old fishing nets, chasing each other, etc. If you don’t have a bike or anything else, walking will do. Collect stones, weeds, and other interesting tit-bits along the way. Price: Free (If you don’t have outdoor fun gear, secure hand-me-downs or shop in a thrift store.)

4. The Local Playground - I want us outside getting physical exercise as much as possible. Playgrounds are great for climbing frames, area to run, swings, and so on. They make a change from the front garden, and you can picnic there, as well. We were home in Florida visiting family over Christmas 2009, and made the disappointing discovery that the local playground in Broward County was closed two days a week because of cut backs in public services funding. We showed up there one afternoon ready to play and couldn’t. What a bummer. This means that the fabulous public amenities they have in Broward aren’t available to children and adults on those days. Price: Free – unless you want to include your tax dollars that go to maintenance. And, petrol to get there (unless you can walk).

5. A Packet of Balloons - The kind you inflate with your mouth. Having a pack in the cupboard is no less than a lifeline on rainy days. Blow them up and play balloon volleyball in the living room. Or, balloon soccer. Or, balloon catch...you get the picture. The kids get exercise even when there’s snow or ice outside- and you can’t break anything with them (unless you do a vicious spike – but my 5 and 2 year olds aren’t capable of that). PRICE: A Euro? A Dollar? Some Rands?

6. The Library - Raining again? Go to the library. It’s good for you, and often they have more than just books on offer. There are sometimes activities, computers, and in some even toys and play areas. Price: Free or the cost of an annual membership – only €2 at my local library!

I could keep going here, but use your imagination. Sometimes, you do need to spend a little money – but not much. The best toys are the core ones that get kids engaged, and which don’t cost much: Paper, crayons, Play-Doh™, reading books, balls, blocks, buckets, bowls, spoons, shovels, blankets. Some of these things aren’t even technically “toys”, but your kids’ imaginations will make them so.

In closing I’d like to say that, to be honest, one of the best purchases I’ve ever made for young children was part-time childcare – but that was a purchase for me, not them!

If you have more creative ideas for free or almost free activities, please share them in the comments section, here.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Free Education, My *ss

Let’s set aside the fact that third level institutions in Ireland have “registration” fees in the thousands of Euros and plan to increase these; and that universities (or our new government to be more precise) may also introduce some sort of graduate tax or other way to make Ireland’s “free” third level education even less “free” than it already is. If we set that aside, you may assume: well, you’re a developed, Western country so you still have free primary and secondary education, like they do in France, Canada and the U.S.A. As mother to a boy who has just started Jr. Infants (roughly equivalent to Kindergarten or first grade in the US) I’d like to say: Free Education, My *ss.
photo by Dean Terry
Maybe I’m looking back on my youth in the U.S. through rose tinted glasses strapped firmly onto my neocortex. Perhaps I don’t remember the cost in the States. Also, I grew up in the US, but am a mother in Ireland, so I don’t know what it’s like to parent school kids in the U.S. on a day-to-day basis. Nevertheless, lots of stuff seemed free in American schools, which isn’t free here. I have to buy my child all his school books, every year. I have to buy the 2 uniforms (sport and regular, with multiple shirts and trousers) plus shoes. (OK, we all have to buy school clothes, pencils and notebooks – but textbooks? In the US we get them for free – though some of them now may still list Reagan as president). Not only is there no subsidised lunch system in Ireland, there’s no cafeteria in most schools: so I provide a cold lunch plus snacks daily. There’s more: I have to pay a fee every quarter to CLEAN THE SCHOOL. Really, the Department of Education doesn’t provide the school the budget to clean—so, we pay for that. I had to buy tickets to see my kid in the school play PLUS make the costume. I pay for his transport. Then, of course, there’s the additional stuff like the book fair, fundraisers, competition entry fees, so on and so forth. The school urged us all to buy a certain newspaper, because if they collected enough tokens from the front page, they could get free sports equipment. People bought stacks.

To top this all off, my school is finally moving into a proper building this year, and THEY HAVE TO BUY ALL THEIR OWN FURNITURE, WHITE BOARDS, etc.  Guess who’s paying for this? That’s right: not the Department of Education - the parents. What does the Department of Education pay for? Teacher salaries and building rental, I think.
The expense of the Irish school system is draining me dry. I walk through the school yard at collection time in the afternoons like a soldier running through a field rife with enemy fire: head down, look at my shoes, go fast, avoid the bullets of other mother’s eyes as they try to sell me baked goods or raffle tickets, or try to get me to sign up for stuffing grocery bags for coins down at the local grocery store. (I’d help, really, but I have a toddler on my hands and don’t know how I’d stuff bags and keep him from throwing the contents around the place.) I end up buying tickets or fairy cakes which, frankly, my *ss doesn’t need (there’s that bottom theme, again.) 
Look, I know you pay either way--either in taxes or straight out of pocket. But when you pay out of pocket, you’re paying from your already taxed income. There seems to be something inherently fairer in a system where taxes are collected and evenly distributed amongst the schools in a manner sufficient to cover needs such as sports equipment, desks and cleaning. And if that isn’t the way it works in the States, that’s the way I remember it working.  Maybe I’m wrong. American moms, set me straight.
I’m just ranting because I’ve come to realise that not only do I need to save for my boys’ college education, I need to save for their primary education, too.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Liebster Blog Award

I'm the proud recipient of a Liebster Blog Award! I was tagged by my fellow blogger and talented friend, Sarah Flynn over at Fairy Face Designs. Thank you, Sarah. As part of accepting the award, I must do the following:

1) Create a post on my blog and add the Liebster blog image. Check

2) Link back to the person who gave me the award and say if  I accept.  Check

3) Choose 3-5 of my favourite blogs, link to these in my post and tell these lucky bloggers that they've been tagged.

The aim of this award is to bring lesser known but good blogs to light. (Therefore, lucky bloggers, please don't go on to tag somebody with, for example, 300 followers.)

I don't keep a blog roll or list on my blog. I just don't want to offend anyone or have them feel left out. I follow A LOT of blogs that cover mainly literature, writing, politics, food, a few design and, of course, many "mom blogs". Lots of blogs are great, the ones I link to here are just a few that I return to again and again for a chuckle, some enlightenment, or that feeling of "Yes, I've been there!"

1. Crumbs - recipes to feed your family - I love the recipes, and this blog has a great look. It's a blog with integrity

2. Fenland Witters - She writes with a lovely voice and can be darkly funny. You'll connect - especially if you have children on the younger side (toddlers through primary school).

3. Kerry On Living - An honest, humorous writer. Go visit her blog and cheer her up, she just took redundancy! I especially like her since she, like me, rarely mops.

Check these ladies out! I do, regularly.

Bloggers, now I've tagged you, feel free to pass the award on to some of your favourites.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Human Breast Milk Ice Cream

Earlier this week, a London shop started selling ice cream made from human breast milk, cream, sugar and vanilla. It was called baby gaga, was served in a chilled martini glass and retailed for £14 GBP per serving. I use the word “was” because a few days after they started selling it, authorities in London confiscated the ice cream from the shop. They will run tests on the ice cream and determine if it’s safe for human consumption (you can read about it here: http://on.msnbc.com/fJdHAp). I think they’re taking a pause in order to consider if selling this ice cream is a good idea or not.

by dondur
This is the inevitable end to a stupid idea. Firstly, most STDs can be spread through breast milk. So can alcohol, drugs, and so on. Heck, I know a lot of mothers who couldn’t even eat curry while they were breastfeeding because their babies would balk at the flavour of their milk, or get smelly poos. What is the lifestyle of these mothers donating the milk? It’s not possible to know.

The integrity of the food chain is important. Food safety is important. Cows, goats and sheep live and give milk in a controlled environment. They’re raised to standards, their milk collected and stored in accordance to regulation. If one cow in a herd gets a serious, infectious disease, the whole herd is often put down in order to prevent contamination to humans (as many in Britain and Ireland know only too well). Humans are not put down when they get serious illnesses. They’re treated. Human lifestyles are not regulated.

Aside from food safety concerns, I have other issues with this ice cream. Mainly, I think human breast milk should be for human baby consumption. Not human adult consumption. Clearly, this ice cream served in a martini glass and priced at £14 per serving is for curious adults, not babies. There are women who have problems producing their own breast milk in sufficient quantities for their babies. They could benefit from the milk these women are selling to the ice cream parlour. There are breast milk banks that take donations, properly and thoroughly test it, before passing it on to women and babies in need. One great benefit of donating breast milk is to premature babies who don’t have a developed suck reflex. These babies could die from Necrotizing Enterocolitis, a condition where tissue in parts of the large intestine may start to die. Drinking breast milk instead of formula improves the outcomes for these babies. There are many conditions affecting babies (premature and otherwise) where outcomes can be improved by drinking breast milk. Mothers with excess breast milk could consider donating to help these babies.

Thinking through all this has raised issues for me regarding the use of cow’s milk. If mother’s milk is intended for human babies, isn’t cow’s milk intended for cow babies? Of course it is. Why do I drink it? Is it wrong to use cow’s milk? I care about animal welfare, too, and used to be a vegan. I gave all that up somewhere along the way and am now a total carnivore; glimpses of my former self shine through when I read stories like this, however, and think about cows giving their milk for human consumption. A blog post on animal welfare is for another day, though. For now, I’d just like to urge mothers to keep breast milk for babies.

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