The Education Revolution: Perception, Possibilities and Parents’ Prerogative

Education Revolution: Perception, Possibilities and Parents’ Prerogative

NOTE: If you don’t feel like reading this blog right now,please consider watching this now or later, a TEDS talk clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDZFcDGpL4U

State of Education

Parents or caregivers in 2013 are facing very different straits than 50 years ago when it comes to deciding where and how their children will be educated during their formative years as set by our local and federal laws.  As a parent, I’ve been hypersensitive to any news regarding the state of education in our country whether it be standardized tests, curbing of budgets, teachers’ fatigue or fights and the list is endless.  We’d all be lying to ourselves if we didn’t also admit that our emotions are assaulted when observing horrific criminal acts occurring on school grounds—school campuses where it is understood as an unspoken sacred place that we entrust our students will thrive and learn without suffering the pains of a scary world just yet.

Perception

Why has it all shifted?  Most adults recall our early days as students in school as either taking a bus or having our parents/carpool drop off us at a building(s) where we congregated daily Monday through Friday from the morning until a few hours after lunch time—simple, repetitive, no awareness of alternatives.  Of course, there was the occasional homeschooler (read “weird outsider”) that we would encounter but as young children it was easy to fear or make fun of that which we didn’t know.

These days the common buzzwords for educating our children include public, private, magnet, charter, home-schooling, virtual schooling and more.  There is a contentious divide between the public school system and everyone else.  Of the many heated debates in my home state, for example, the Florida legislature considered a bill (HB 867) known as the “Parent trigger” that would allow parents to collectively pull the trigger on a failing school—see The Palm Beach Post column printed on March 29, 2013 by Kathleen Oropeza, co-founder of www.FundEducationNow.org: http://www.mypalmbeachpost.com/news/news/opinion/commentary-florida-public-school-parents-dont-want/nW6zY/

I’m beginning to finally process all of the information I’ve been ingesting over the past decade on the topic and have hit a peaceful conclusion to be continued on a daily basis as my children grow.   What do we think our children should learn? I believe that apart from knowing how to engage in language and other common core standards (see: www.corestandards.org ) that my children should love to learn.  I believe it’s not so important to make sure they attain greatness in one school or another as much as they should enjoy the journey of growing up surrounded by family, friends and community—I wish to help protect my children from the wrath of apathy rampant in many students today.

Possibilities

The Palm Beach Post printed an article today highlighting a place in Delray Beach, Florida called “Space of Mind” written by Allison Ross, read more at: http://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/news/local-education/delray-beach-social-homeschooling-facility-riding-/nYpwt/

Although “Space of Mind” is a very unique idea that may be catching nationwide slowly, it signals along with many other developments such as charter schools popping up everywhere that our country is definitely in the midst of an Education Revolution.  There are probably many folks who are unsettled by this reality of the “traditional” education paradigm shifting in different directions, however, may I offer a few suggestions as we ride through this together with the next generation we’re helping to raise?

Try to remember what this is all about: we hope for our future through our children’s progress as we understand that they will carry on after we leave.  With that basic philosophy in our hearts, we can as parents/caregivers exercise our prerogative to decide among the countless possibilities as to what’s the best route to take for our children’s education.

We must also keep in mind that whatever path is chosen must be considered a fluid one as a reflection of what life is really like for everyone.  What works for our 2nd grader attending the local public elementary school down the street may not work for them when they are in 7th grade and would perhaps benefit from virtual schooling with coaching by family and loved ones.  The only guarantee we can assure our young students of is that we love and care for them—we must also accept that we will likely also learn along the way with them, a blessing for adults who have been jaded by life’s difficulties.

Plenty of Resources

Thankfully in the age of internet and iPhones we have many sources of information to access for researching education choices for our students.  Accessing your local school board office is a great start to at least assess what is available in your area.  For example, we have Ms. Beth Gillespie who works for the school district overseeing the home education office for south Florida’s Palm Beach County—a county where more than 5,000 students were home-schooled this past school year.

Whatever you’ve chosen or will choose for your children, you’ll always be their first and most important teacher(s).  May we learn to grow with our little ones as they aspire to be like us—we hope they’ll be greater than us in capacity to love and learn for themselves and each other.

R.V.S.Bean

My sources:

www.palmbeachpost.com

www.corestandards.org

www.FundEducationNow.org

www.palmbeachschools.org

Mother’s Day: A Day Open for Interpretation

Attention all women: Happy Mother’s Day! (belated as it was technically yesterday-wrote this just before midnight)

Several years ago I sat alone in a greek Orthodox church in Falls Church, Virginia listening to the priest deliver his homily message on a spring Mother’s Day.   Although I can’t recall his specific words, I do recall that he said they would be giving out a single stem flower afterwards to every girl and woman in the room after the church service–this interested me greatly as at the time I wasn’t a mother yet.  He explained that the purpose doing this wasn’t just to avoid any awkward questions as to who was a mother but to also honor the nurturing role that females play in our human society.

This morning I was crawling on my knees between pews and following a darting flash of golden hair and giggles as my youngest demonstrated his toddler skills in another greek Orthodox church here in south Florida.  The priest was delivering his Mother’s Day message by making fun statements that “without mothers nothing would get done” and also alluding that whether any woman was a mother via birth/adoption of children, this day was meant to honor us regardless of being a mother or not.  It was a pleasant deja-vu moment to have the priest announce that a single rose would be given to each female exiting the church in celebration of Mother’s Day.

It was my pleasure to reach out today and wish a “Happy Mother’s Day” greeting to my family and friends whom I know are called “mother” by their roles in their families and rank.  At the same time, it was equally natural to me to recognize and express gratitude to the other women in my life whom I know or have met in passing who have also fulfilled the role as a mother through their selfless giving of themselves to me or my own children.

Happy Mother’s Day!

R.V.S.Bean

Ramona's cell phone download 930

iParenting: The Positives, Negatives and i-don’t-know!

iPARENTING: The Positives, Negatives and i-don’t-know!

iSCARED

Note:  I would like to apologize upfront for any possible offences I may incur at what follows in my article—I only hope to help continue the necessary discussion on what is best for the future generation.  Also, I fully admit that I too am struggling on a daily basis to find what the right balanced approach is to using my mobile device and raising our children.  R.V.S.B.

I continue to write about the rising usage of iPhones or similar mobile devices by parents in front of their babies and young children because I am in the season of life where my children are under the age of 5 years.  It wouldn’t surprise me if as my children grow into teenagers and young adults that I may feel the same way I do now about parents heavily using their incredible gadgets in their offspring’s presence: confused and anxious!

My default emotional reaction to the general mob obsession with iPhones and the like devices is to boycott them and rule that they are completely negative and poisonous around our children.  However, I’m not ignorant to how these gadgets are becoming a mainstay in our society on a global scale.  As with most things in our human history, though, I do feel it is critical that we begin to focus our energies on how to balance the effect of these multi-use gadgets into our social lives—especially in terms of our family relationships, e.g. our children.

iNEED HOW MANY PHOTOS?

I am in full disclosure that I’m guilty many times of being without my perfectly good digital camera when I go somewhere special with my kids.  Aha! I have a Blackberry smart phone that allows me to whip it out and use the camera setting to capture that moment(s) as needed.  As it is so easy to just thumb-click to snap the photo (still cracks me up that we have a camera shutter-like sound to accompany the photo-taking), I end up getting a bit trigger-happy resulting in many more photo than I know what to do with later.  It turns out I’m a good 5-6 years behind on album/scrapbooking my family life and that’s counting the photos I’ve actually developed. Scary how many photos/video are still sitting on my memory chip in my phone and not in actual photo paper form or saved DVD format!

One day I was at a children’s museum and I made myself take just about 10 photos before I put the Blackberry away in my pocket to focus on spending time with my boys in the various interactive exhibits.  What amazed me more than the real time fun I was having playing with my sons was how I suddenly noticed all the parents around me in relations with their children or lack thereof.  It was a horrific site: I would have rather witnessed their children running around amok and unsupervised than what most parents looked like standing right beside their little ones.  There was a mom with her son who was continuously trying to get her attention and she showed little regard for him and no explanation as to why her iPhone was more important. There was the dad who was sitting opposite of his daughter fully engrossed in his respective mobile device and also unresponsive to his daughter who kept beckoning him to check out her construction. But I digress, what I especially noticed was how many other parents I looked like when they’re trying to frantically take as many photos as their thumbs/fingers can click off. Do we really need so many photos? Isn’t it more important to create memories with our children that they’ll remember carving through their early development with their parents right there interacting with them and not just making them pose or paparazzing them with our relentless photo clicks?

iPLAY WHILE YOU PLAY

I will continue to beat this drum until I see a change in the outside and indoor playground scene:  It really is a shame that many parents take the opportunity (except for odd situations like traveling and needing directions, urgent phone calls, etc) of being at a playground with their children as the green light to unabashedly indulge in their fix with their iPhone or like device.  In that case, if I am using parallel logic, I should feel free to pour myself an adult liquid concoction, play loud bootie music and get down and dirty with my dancing by the swings like I’m faux pole-dancing at the local Dr. Feel Good’s club.  See one of my prior blog shorts on a possible child reaction: https://ceoofthehome.net/2012/05/31/ipicture-this-what-does-your-child-see/

Where places like the museums, zoo and other educational outings are opportunities to engage and guide our children in intellectual pursuits and personal knowledge growth, playgrounds serve as the training grounds for our children’s social and physical development.  Why are we missing this obvious reality that by going into our own little worlds on a consistent basis we are losing the opportunity to be etched into the memory card of our children’s hearts?  When these years pass they are irrevocably written and what do you want your kid(s) to consistently remember about you when they were in your presence?  Again, this is NOT easy.   I have had to repeatedly discipline myself by putting my Blackberry away tightly in its case or even just leaving it a few steps away locked in the car.

iOFFSHORE MY PARENTING

Upfront I will admit that there was one time and one time only that I handed my mobile device to one of my children to hold without me and it was in a local urgent care center where I had to have my son’s eye examined for possible glass shards and the poor baby was hysterical and it was the only thing I had to hand over for a distraction to help the medical staff get him calm—that being said, I will not do it again and as my four year old son asked me recently if he could hold it I said no as it was mommy’s and he hasn’t asked again.  At the same time, I only use it when I need to and always inform my children as to why I am using it.  Example: “Mommy is calling Mama So-and-So so I can check where we are meeting her and her daughter for our play date this morning.”  I could go on and on as to how I conduct myself in front of my children when it comes to my phone and computer but it wouldn’t be to seem better than anyone.  It does require sacrifice, it’s not convenient sometimes and of course it would be easier to just put a child app or video on my device to pacify my energetic boys when I’m in difficult social situations like traveling with others or out to dinner, et cetera.

Yet, as hard as it can be to deal with being so fully engaged mentally with my children in their relentless conversations daily whether or not we are around others, I wouldn’t trade it for just handing off my mobile device to them to shut them up.  I’ve noticed that adults are amazed everywhere I go with my older son because they find it remarkable that he can initiate, conduct and even inject clever humor into conversation with them.  I started to get concerned about it because although it’s a nice compliment, I couldn’t understand why it was getting such special attention in a wide variety of audiences: family, friends, cashiers, new acquaintances, strangers in a store.  Except when you start to notice around you how young children are being satiated for their constant need to interact these days.  DVD players in car seats for just regular driving during the day, iPhone educational apps at their fingertips in the doctor’s waiting rooms, shows on the mobile device while sitting in their high chairs at the restaurants, getting into fights with their parents while playing with their iPhones in the register checkout lane at the supermarket and the combinations are seemingly endless.  What are our children learning in terms of human interaction in the mundane although necessary parts of our lives?  If the world seems like it is full of people struggling with feelings of loneliness and social isolation today, what does it mean for the adults of tomorrow who are growing up with lighted-up colorful moving wonders in a rectangular disc being thrust in their faces when they reach out for that human touch and instead get a cool, slippery metallic device?

iHOPE iPRAY iLOVE

It goes without saying that what matters most in our parenting is that we love our children and make sure we tell and show them so.  While I may rail in an anti-iPhone rant more times than I can click a photo in a minute, I also have hope that our humanity will prevail despite the numbing speed at which we are progressing when it comes to our mobile and computing devices.  As with the countless battles and wars we’ve endured, I do sense that we can overcome the drawbacks of our overconsumption of iPhone and like device usage and use them for positive things like motivating political and human rights change.

Most important, may our love for our children always win out so that they can pass that on to each other and  their own possible offspring one day.

R.V. Saridakis Bean

SAVE THE BUTTERFLIES: Why It Matters What You Do

SAVE THE BUTTERFLIES! : Why It Matters What You Do

INTRODUCTION: Just One of Nature’s Many Philosophy Lessons

It was another hectic day, one of those days that it seems there is no end to movement by vehicle or by foot.  As I exited off Interstate 95 I was held up at the red light and as I resigned to this unavoidable wait I looked to my left where the grassy field was alive with activity.  There were little yellow butterflies dancing in the air over the flowers that were some sort of weed by their appearance and random placement.  I chuckled to myself wondering why I was suddenly paying attention to this seemingly useless enterprise.  After a couple more moments, a lesson in life began to affect my mind as I noticed how the butterflies not only traveled in a dizzy flight to each flower, they also interacted with each other: sometimes just two, sometimes three or more and then they would go about their own business again.  How interesting that they would correspond not just to mate but to check in with each other as they went about their mundane grind to pollinate.  For more random facts by the experts: http://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/pollinators/animals/butterflies.shtml

DOMESTIC: Where Are We Americans?

It seems like the past 15 years or more have been filled with anxiety concerning finances and national security.  We’ve been saturated with fast-success moments like the “dot.com” burgeoning era following the launch of the World Wide Web only to have the “tech bubble” burst.  Y2K was the big talk leading up to New Year’s 2000 and then by September 11, 2001 our secular society was shocked by the actions of people that truly made no sense.  With the stock market being too uncertain, the housing market became the new bargaining tool for quick riches and today most Americans are affected one way or another by the housing market bust of the mid-Aughts.

Our political landscape has been entertaining to say the least, I have admitted more than once in my public writing that I was an employee of the former U.S. Representative Mark A. Foley.  I don’t regret it and I will always say that he was a great congressman for our Florida district 16 and his bipartisan way of working on the Hill kept me having faith in the system of government we have in place.  Nevertheless, the personal and ill-acted professional antics of many politicians have rocked the public’s conscience in the past several years.  We have triumphed in having the first biracial President of the United States that was elected in 2008.  Yet as we approach this year’s election our jaded multimedia is still focusing on subjects that are not important and petty.  It doesn’t help that we’ve also had unfortunate voting decisions like the recent one in North Carolina concerning gay marriage: really folks, it’s the year 2012 and we have kids coming out of college with degrees having extreme difficulty finding jobs they can enjoy and thrive in—in my humble opinion, whether homosexual or bisexual individuals decide to marry should literally be up to them, their families and their faiths.  I guess it’s just there’s such more critical issues for our American society to sort through like our undoubted rising debt, inflation and general lack of cohesive national strategy of what our country wants to better itself in like level of education, business direction (should we be more supportive of fair trade, environmentally friendly, innovative energy sources) and the list can go on nearly endlessly.

The butterflies reminded me that even you and I if we seem to be just the “little players” on this busy world stage, we still very much have a major effect on the flow of things in how we relate to others in our field of range.  When I go to the grocery store I do my best to engage with everyone I come in contact with-especially the cashier- you never know how that simple, genuine chat with another human being may bless the both of you.  The relationships you maintain with family and friends is an obvious example of how dynamic we can be with each other and how many times we don’t even see the true aftermath of those countless interactions.

So the economy here in America has us all repeating the same refrain: things are tough, the economy is hurting…but guess what? You do have the power to help those businesses down the road from you.  You can start your own little business with friends to follow a passion and serve a need in the demand for supply locally.  How about that person you know who makes something from hand and sells it?  What about that family restaurant that’s been on the corner forever? Truly if we all began to look at each other and pay a little more mind it would send a ripple effect through the American economy that may not send people into wealthy categories but at least encourage hearts and stoke more activity in business and progress.  As humans we crave and need each other and in America we are diverse and often decisive but we remain somewhat invincible when we really stick together UNITED.

INTERNATIONAL:  My Greece-Ellada Mou

I am not very well informed on the specifics of the political parties warring with each other in Greece at this moment as the Greek government and “powers that be” try to sort out what is the next elections plan for the country.  What I do understand is the general opinion of those in America who feel that Greece is a nation that was irresponsible in its fiscal policy and lacks direction in its own national strategy.  How very similar this sounds as the United States and many other countries around the globe are wrestling with these same issues.

Beyond the story told by video footage and photographs at Greek hotspots like Syntagma Square, it depends on who you speak with in Greece as to how violent and unruly things have become in everyday life there.  There is definitely no argument if you summed up the population as being emotionally drained and financially struggling.  What can we do?

If you’re Greek or American I think the answer is simple and powerful if everyone participates.  In Greece, this time of uncertainty and fiscal pain can be paralyzing but if could also be empowering in driving people to do something completely different.  The country is known for its tourism appeal but if you’ve gone to some of the shorelines, especially south and east of Athens, you’ll find a disgusting amount of garbage.  If there are no beach cleanups, why not start?  It would be great way to get young people involved, aware and build pride in the physical state of their nation.  When it comes to economy, why not start small with local business and build out with companies that can help provide exports like organic feta, olives and wine (a major fad in current foodies’ cycles)?  As for the Greeks abroad, we can help our mother nation by assisting friends and family in financial and emotional support. Again, the reality is even the smallest player can affect the general direction of a nation if we only start with each other, those around us whether or not we know them personally.

FINAL WORD:  Butterflies Live It Fully

There are many kinds of butterflies and they all have different average life spans: the common thread in truth is that on average their life spans are short in comparison to many other living beings and to us humans a mere blink of an eye.  The Monarch is a popular variety and in American can live from 2-6 weeks depending on their generation: http://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/pollinators/animals/butterflies.shtml

Either way, these half-dancing, half-flying creatures live their life to the fullest regardless of how perilous or repetitive their respective journeys.  As people we are certainly much more complex in our composition but I think we have the tendency to over-complicate in our mind.  There is a shot at true happiness in our daily life if we only engage fully every step of the way—even on those boring or ruthless days when we wonder how we’ll make it to the end of the day.

The light turned green and I was on my way again to the next task, the next unexpected “checking-in” with whoever came in my path as I fulfilled my personal “flight”.

R.V.S.Bean

The What: Food and Money – The Tango Tangle

THE WHAT: FOOD AND MONEY  – THE TANGO TANGLE

My heart pinched inside my chest as I listened to the cashier’s announcement of the total price of my Publix grocery purchases.  “Absurd amount of money!” is the first reaction internally followed by a justification speech by the concerned mother/caretaker in me that knows it’s better to spend money on good food for my family even if it tightens the household budget in other areas.  This scenario repeats itself and the outcome is the same at least for me: I choose quality of food over cheapness and quantity any day.  What are the economic and environmental factors that any of us face today when making our food choices on a daily basis?

THE WHO

The perspective on who we’re buying food for obviously affects our choices.  Whether you’re single, married, living with roommates, with children, with elderly—all these groupings carry their respective needs, wants and overall themes.  Personally I can attest to the interesting blend of tastes I accommodate in my cooking and choosing of groceries as I have a husband, two boys under 4 years old (one an infant) and two octogenarians.  When I look around at many of my colleagues with children, it seems a majority of parents today are very sensitive to the question as to whether the produce they purchase is organic or not.  It turns out that there are some produce items that are more critical to buy organic like spinach and berries because of how porous the skin is and therefore easily absorbs pesticides.  Some websites you may find helpful for resource information:   www.organicconsumers.org , www.organic-center.org , www.non-gmoreport.com , www.healthychild.org , www.texasgrassfedbeef.com , www.centerforfoodsafety.org , www.chemicalfreekids.com , www.foodnavigator.com

THE WHY

Organic, non-genetically modified and local are some of the current buzz food words.  The term organic always makes me chuckle for a nanosecond as there’s hundreds of years of human evolution coursing through my blood that reminds me all food was once “organic” without the labeling.  It’s just that in the last century or so that our civilized societies started to meddle beyond what hybrid practices were in place already in agriculture.  It is interesting to note that recently many farmers are returning to using more natural methods in their crop and livestock management—part of it could be the increased consumer demand for organic products and another part may be that it has been found more cost-effective to use better sustainability practices on the environment when cultivating the Earth or animal stocks.  Again, my own battle is complicated when it comes to whether I buy organic, conventional or local food products.  I prefer organic but it’s not always available or cost-effective.  Local produce is desirable because I like supporting the farmers in Florida and it’s fresher with less gas emissions spent on its transport to my kitchen.  At the same time, a pint of blueberries from Peru may be farmed with the best ecological-friendly practices and taste better than the pesticide-laden ones from a few counties away.  Here are a few more resources that may be helpful:  www.farmigo.com , www.localharvest.org , www.slowfoodusa.org , http://foodnews.org/ , www.foodnavigator.com , www.environmentalhealthnews.org , www.biointegrity.org , www.localfoodswheel.com , www.greenling.com

THE WHEN

Sometimes I wish I were ignorant and just went to the store and was able to buy the cheapest of everything to feed my household.  The truth is irreversible once attained; I know what is best for my family’s situation and it happens to be a diet that contains the freshest fruit, vegetables, dairy, legumes, meats and then on to the grains, pastas and et cetera.  Making the conscious choice to use less canned products and other foods that contain more harmful ingredients in process/preservation means that our grocery bill is higher than it would be if I blindly chose based solely on cheap economics.  Not everyone thinks through what they buy when at the grocery store but it’s only a matter of time when many if not most of us will realize that how we eat is like a form of preventative medicine for our bodies.  The cost you may incur now can serve to defray future medical costs after years of eating products that can slowly sabotage your body’s ability to fight off infection and other illnesses.   Then there’s the question of the effect on our environment by our agricultural practices and that factors into many people’s choices of food economics.  Social impact in the form of “fair trade” practices is yet another factor weaving into our ethos as consumers of groceries for ourselves.  Some more websites for your personal research:  www.fairtradeusa.org , www.greenamerica.org , www.fairtraderesource.org , www.kidsorganics.com , www.rodaleinstitute.org , www.opensecrets.org , www.allergykids.com  , www.usda.gov , www.fda.gov

This blog post is woefully inadequate in addressing all the various facets involved in the economic and social challenge we face in our food purchases as the commodity prices continue to rise on a monthly basis.  I hope it at least helps in starting a conversation or a journey for information as this is an issue that will continue to grow in importance as we face upcoming agricultural changes and trade practices that can affect both the quality and quantity of our food in America particularly.

RVSB

 

WHY BOTHER? FOOD AND RELIGON FOR THOUGHT

WHY BOTHER? FOOD AND RELIGON FOR THOUGHT

As I wrestled last week with my very hyper older son while trying to hold on to my squirming infant son in our Greek Orthodox church pew during worship service, I thought: Why bother? The same question pops into my mind when in the middle of a grocery aisle with two restless little souls while trying to decide which dry food good is healthier for my family’s pantry. It seems there are a couple items I’m quite passionate about when raising our children, one rooted in spiritual sustenance for their souls and the other being physical fuel for their bodies. I’m guessing that I’m not the only mom out there in any given country that feels the same way.

WHAT’S IT ALL FOR? Sense of Incense and Icons

So back to last week: As I chased the rabbit in my mind who was screaming “why bother?”, I reminded myself to look around and remember why I do bother, along with my husband, to go through our weekly ritual of attending our Greek Orthodox church. I cannot speak for other faiths such as Jews, Muslim, Hinduism, et cetera—but in my faith, besides the obvious theological tie to the miraculous belief of the Trinity and Christ’s Resurrection…I appreciate the hope of things to come and that while we’re going through the rumble-tumble ride that life can be, we can find ways to help and love each other. There are so many things about our world and the creation beyond our atmosphere that I don’t know that I’m in awe of the God force behind it all and I’m grateful for the chance to live and participate. If I can share this with my children in a way that inspires them to embrace life, love and respect for others then I will be at peace at the end of my journey here. This can be a tough philosophy to re-enact when dealing with a temper tantrum or a tired-tot meltdown, however, I encourage perseverance if not to help you remember what’s important to your belief system in your practicing faith. My husband and I do agree that ultimately if our hearts are not in it, then it does our children no good and it would be a moot point for us to attend church if we are only bitter shells of ourselves in the congregation.

FOOD IS FOOD, RIGHT? Discerning What’s Best

The ridiculous part about this food subject is that many of in the “civilized” world have way too many choices. It’s sort of like how women hundreds of years ago didn’t have so many choices when it came to family planning but now are sort of paralyzed sometimes in whether or not to have children. When it comes to planning our family’s menu day to day, I make countless choices in the lead up to the final product that arrives on the table for the main meals and snack times. For my own crazy methodology, I like to seek out organic and locally fresh ingredients when possible. Organic and even local can mean very high prices: in those instances I may purchase conventional or just skip that type of meal until later. It helps to educate one’s self on the foods you and your family prefer to eat so as to know if you want to make a concession or not. But don’t peg me for a purist, either. I often tell family and friends that in the end there’s a reason I give thanks and pray before every meal, especially when eating out at a restaurant: I can’t control every single ingredient sometimes and as we’re finding out in recent news, I may unknowingly purchase something under a false label or omission of vital information (Google search the recent news on meat labeling for items such as poultry and pork-evidently many of those meats are injected with solutions like water, broth and other things to plump them up and they’re not currently mandated to be labeled as such). Let’s not forget-for some of us, fixing food is our way of loving our family and friends, so it’s worth the hassle even with the “bewitching hour” for parents (I highly recommend Crockpots!)

FOOD AND RELIGION, IS THAT ALL? The Countless Other Things

As a lover, mother, daughter, sister, friend and wife that I am these days, there are many other things that I strive each day to share and instill in my children. I know that I’m not perfect and many times can be hypocritical in my beliefs—sometimes even changing my views on what I thought was my solid opinion beforehand. What’s most important must be how we love each other and when it comes to our children that’s truly what they need the most is our unconditional love, all the rest of the countless other things we try to give/share with them are just the details of life that make us all unique.

RVSB

Book Review and My Personal Reactions: “In Praise of Stay-at-Home Moms” by Dr. Laura Schlessinger

To begin my small book review and personal reaction I would like to quote Dr. Schlessinger’s Preface for “In Praise of Stay-at-Home Moms”: “With appropriate apologies to Shakespeare, I come to praise at-home moms, not to bury full-time working moms. This is not another missile attack in the ‘mommy wars,’ nor is it debate on day care versus mommy care.” These were literally the first two sentences that I read in this book and they served to immediately allow me to enjoy and finish her work in less than a week.

I received the book as a Christmas gift from my husband and appreciated it but in the haste of the holidays and family in town I never looked at it until one of my exhausted and depressed evenings last week. I guess I was a little skeptical at what this Dr. Laura would have to say. In truth, I’ve not listened to her radio show nor read much of her writing expect for excerpts from folks that don’t have glowing feelings for her in the mainstream media.

After ingesting this book I believe it’s a great book for all types of mothers out there, not just those whose full-time position is regarded as SAHM (Stay-at-Home Mom), homemaker, CEO of the Home or my favorite per one of my girlfriends: domestic goddess. She breaks it down into several chapters including poignant sections like: “The Decision, How Staying at Home Impacts the Marriage, The Good the Bad the Unforgettable”.

Overall the style of “In Praise-“ is conversational and has many transcripts and letters from her radio show and correspondence of listeners and readers. It is a strange comfort to read other women’s struggles with leaving the career-driven workforce for what can seem to be mundane housework, child care and certainly no financial rewarding reviews at the end of each pay period.

It was also refreshing to learn of Dr. Laura’s odyssey to becoming a SAHM herself during her life. It was reminiscent of my own experience and those of many of my girlfriends and colleagues in general. She was educated, went on to pursue a path of career excellence and in the course of it all found that even the markers of secular/business success were not “completing” her personhood. A comical reflection on watching the old PBS NOVA 60 minute presentation on the miracle of life is what finally propelled her to seek what ultimately brought her joy, albeit not perfection and not always happy times, but true completion as woman, wife and mother.

Although I was married nearly 8 years when my first child was born I still consider myself a late-bloomer to being a self-professed CEO of the Home and full-time wife and SAHM. I was simply petrified to follow somewhat closely in my own mother’s footsteps of having children at an early age as a young woman in my twenties. It’s as if I felt I needed to rack up respect or evidence that I was competent in “real life” in the full-time workforce. This brings me to Dr. Laura’s Chapter Two: The Stay-at-Home Mom’s Inner Struggles. “The older you are when you decide to marry and have children, the more ingrained you are with your own habits, and the more control you’ve been used to having over your own life…It was remarkable to me that something that barely weighed anything, couldn’t roll over on its own, couldn’t feed itself, and couldn’t talk to me literally ruled me, my husband, our time, and our home…There were days I didn’t shower until my husband came home”.

The dirty little secret for many of us SAHMs is that although our regret ratio is low, we still battle our inner doubts, our jealousy of our husbands and colleagues who have kid-free workdays and the loss of income that is especially felt if we had once enjoyed the cushion of being DINKs (double income no kids). Dr. Laura doesn’t mince words to this truth and share many experiences from her own life as well as other women who have shared their lives.

Undoubtedly the most impacting part of this small book were the tidbits sharing tender interactions between mother and child/children or quoted words from the children of SAHMs or their own written words. I was even more floored when I read about a mother who wasn’t a SAHM but then became one later during her son’s young life: “He handled it all so well, never complained when he had to be shipped off to another location or do things he didn’t want to do. It was the greatest gift to give him when I told him I would be home all the time to take care of him. He became less stressed, happier, calmer, and more loving. He could actually have a childhood with friends, play dates, and join things if he wanted. I will never regret staying home. Wish I could have done it sooner, but it’s never too late to make your child a priority…”

I realize by sharing this book review and personal reaction piece that I risk making some of my female colleagues feel certain emotions that may not be positive, perhaps downright hostile or defensive. Yet I would rather risk this because as my own life journey has taught me, there is nothing like being there for my child and husband even though we at the moment don’t even have our own personal living space. It is not the easiest and many times seems like it lacks any rewarding element—especially as my 33 week pregnant self with our second child fatigues easily. However, there are moments that I am able to witness and relay to my husband that I would otherwise miss if cloistered away in my work office during my son’s active days.

A final note on Dr. Laura’s book “In Praise-” is that even those women who are without children or unmarried can benefit from reading it as there are great pieces of advice on how to prepare for life as a SAHM—even though the reality is you can never be fully prepared for the ride it truly is when it occurs. Another touching shared experience from Dr. Laura’s book: “My son proceeded to tell me that he’s glad that I don’t work because at the CDC (child day-care center) you don’t get to do whatever you want, like go to the fridge to get a snack or go to your room to play with your toys, which he enjoys immensely after a long, structured day at school. He continued with, ‘Mom, do you know why I like to be in the kitchen so much?’ I replied that I didn’t and could he please tell me. My adorable son then went on to tell me that it’s because I’m there”.

Does Dr. Laura ‘preach’ that once you’re a SAHM you can’t take on any work that brings a paycheck to the household?—of course not, she herself still worked on her radio show, the caveat being that she went to the studio after her son had gone to bed for the evening. I myself am hashing out this blog piece at a start time of 4:57am on a Thursday morning; my track record usually is after my little man has passed out in the evenings when my own thought processes are delirious at best.

I encourage you to read this book if possible, especially if you have decided to take on the now-taboo work title of “homemaker, stay-at-home mom”. We need to remember that although the feminist era in the 20th century may have given us some freedoms and allowances, they also did us a disservice by trying to convince us that “quality time” with our children is better than “quantitative time”—try to teach your child or children that when they recall their childhood one day and either remember you being there during the good and bad times or just the “quality times”.

RVSB

The Art of Saying “No”…Does It Really Exist?

I’m still amazed at the frenetic pace of my life sometimes.  I wonder does everyone else feel the same way about how quickly and how many things we go through on a daily, weekly and monthly basis?  Is it really within our power to simply our lives by saying “no” to people and circumstances?

FAMILY

I begin with this subtitle because it is what many of us are most familiar with.  Our parents. Our siblings. Our cousins. Our aunts and uncles. Family consists of many different titles but the urgency is usually the same.  I really can’t say “no” to family but I can try to set boundaries and perhaps corral requests as a cattle farmer herds his cows.  This is never an easy task, however, and I caution that some forethought should be involved before speaking.  My standard habit is to ingest the request(s) and let it filter through my mind while managing small talk in between.  If it’s a low-key item or two, I can easily respond in the positive.  If it’s more complicated, I usually stall an answer and say I’ll get back to them on that or some other clever response.  In my heart I would never really want to be able to say no to beloved family since I do love them and truly desire to help them through the bumps of this physical life we lead.

FRIENDS

Being in my thirties now I’m definitely learning some hard lessons in the friends department as well as enjoying the immense blessings.  I’ve read many a magazine article that breaks down all the “types” of friends one can have and how to mitigate conflicts that may arise.  Many times I try to pre-empt my colleagues by offering to be available whether by verbal communication or by spirit in prayer because I do want them to know that I’m not just a fair-weather type of friend. Yet life has a way of predetermining which friends can weather my personal storms of life and I need to just let go and know it’s okay to say “no” inside when I wonder if I should reach out one more time.  Also, if a friend is a constant drain on energy sources then it may be time to set some distance to help recharge and reassess the relationship.  Again, never easy.

WORK

Our jobs seem to have spilled over into our personal lives since the advent of cell phones, internet communication and long, unnecessary hours.  Add to that the scarce holiday, vacation and personal days and we have a society filled with stressed singles, marrieds and parents that try to balance their lives with the constant demand of “the man”.  I’m not a sage in this department as my past decade of life included working in the halls of the U.S. Congress, Treasury Department and countless corporate firms where money and hours spent at your job was your merit.  I still can taste the bitterness in my mouth of biting my tongue when the days would grind on endlessly and the boss was a nightmare and I in turn reflected nightmarish tendencies.  At the same time, I remember the day I submitted my resignation when I became pregnant with my son.  I had been looking forward to it for weeks, I knew it was the right choice for me at the time.  Weighing all the pros and cons, I decided it was time to say “no” and consider other options in the aftermath.  I have never regretted the decision.  This is not shared with you to encourage quitting your job in a tough economy such as ours, however, I hope it can inspire you to really examine what is important to you, your family and what type of career would truly complement your zest for life.

BOOKS/SELF-HELP

The art of saying “no” is the soapbox for many writers, psychologists and others.  You can certainly find a book that suits your needs or a CD set that talks about how to get a better grip on your hectic life and hopefully help you lessen the load.

My personal experience is that I seem to move things off my plate just in time to welcome new things.  Perhaps the goal should be to find a “balanced diet” on this life plate that sustains itself through the years.  As my family and close friends know, my spirit always relies on the strength of our Lord as God has an inextinguishable amount of energy sourced by the Universe and Creation itself.  But that is my way of living, you can only know your way yourself.

So my conclusion is that saying “no” is the wrong focus, rather how can we say “yes” and follow through?

R.V.S.B.

Our children and networking websites: a glimpse of the future

Yesterday I walked into my local U.S. Post Office with my son T.A. in my arms while balancing the 4 small packages I was endeavoring to send off Priority Mail style.  Which, by the way, kudos to our USPS for putting these self-service kiosks in along with standard mail supplies so people like parents of small children can get stuff done without necessarily waiting in that long, winding line in the main area.

I set my son on one of the work tables and held him with one arm as I addressed and sealed my packages with my free hand.  All the while I am feeling proud of myself for getting this minor task done without a meltdown or acting-out by my 21 month old. 

My happy-go-lucky soundtrack in my mind is suddenly shattered by the one-way conversation I overheard as a lady walks up talking on her cell phone.  “Well, you know they are going to ask us soon enough to have a Facebook account as they’ll be 10 and 11 years old soon, and well we will have to deal with it but yeah, there is just so much danger with these things that they don’t realize…”

If she said anything further I didn’t hear the words,  had already tuned the lady out as I begin to dwell on the idea of my child wanting to have his own link to a networking site one day when he is an adolescent, a bulging teenager.  The very thought jarred me completely, I was weighed down by the realization that the challenges continue to get more complicated as our beloved children grow.

My son argues with me nowadays with grunts and wordless syllables that can most easily be pacified by a food treat or changing the subject.  What will it be like when he is going back and forth with me in long sentence diatribes about how unfair I am to keep him from connecting to the internet unfettered.

Is it so far-fetched of me to think that allowing kids to log on to the internet with no supervision is much worse than letting them drive cars at 16 years old?  Why do we as parents feel that we must accept computers and the internet as the new norm for our children? 

Maybe I’m just a dinosaur when it comes to technology, but I just don’t think that developing bodies and minds should become so dependent on them.  Should they know how to use them–of course!  Should they use the internet for all their research projects?  I truly believe the answer should be no but am willing to permit perhaps 25% from that source.  It’s not helpful to guide the next generation to get all their answers to life and interactions in friendship and love through these silly keyboards and mouse clickers.

I know some of you may be angered by my opinion and it is understandable if your knee-jerk reaction is to say, “Oh yeah? Just you wait until you have to deal with this issue from your child.”  But I also know that we as parents can stick to what we believe is right for our children. 

For instance, my husband and I agreed that it was important to us that we avoid having our son watch commercial TV prior to me giving birth to him.  21 months later and I can honestly say that we have succeeded with a couple concessions, in the last few months we have allowed him to see us watching our Alma Mater college football games and we started a couple bilingual videos that he watches every other day and sometimes daily.  We also had to cut back our own viewing of TV in order to accomplish this and feel we have benefited from it as well.

It’s by no means easy to be a parent, especially in the 21st century when technology can be a useful tool and yet also a divisive instrument that can alienate families in their own home (picture family evening with dad with blackberry, child with Ipod, child with laptop, mom with cell phone texting, etc).

Ultimately, you make the choice as to what’s appropriate whether it be to allow a Facebook page for your son or daughter–I hope for you it is the choice that makes you feel at peace as you raise your child(ren).

RSVB

Boomerang Babies Survival Tips…

Some of you may know what the latest title of being a “Boomerang kid” means.  Many of us who were born in the late 1970s and early 1980s have recently landed facedown into the mud that is called “Moving Back in with the Parent(s)”. I like to think of us as the “Boomerang Babies” generation, a weak comeback to the ever-suffering and complaining “Baby Boomers”.

For reference purposes, I have selected Oxford University Press’ definition of the word found on their website http://www.oup.com boomerang kid (also 'boomerang child) noun an adult child who returns home to live with his or her parents after being away for some time: With the country in tough economic times, more young American adults, over age 18, are returning to the family nest.

The reason(s) for this influx of Boomerang babies can be anything from mismanaged credit card debt, a blown-up relationship, loss of job, lack of employment opportunities or upside-down mortgages.

In my husband and I’s case, about a year ago we moved back to my home state after the loss of his job in a political environment that had changed and the recent birth of our son.  Given the unfortunate job and housing market, both of which we were hard hit in, we decided it would be better to try to figure things out in a familiar environment with family on both sides near.

It seemed a good idea at the time:  move into my mother’s house, weather the storm of uncertainty until my husband could find work. Six months later, thankfully new job in hand for my husband but still reeling from draining our savings and retirement–we couldn’t move out on our own yet.  However, we’d exhausted our stay at my mother’s since our son was approaching toddler-time and was systematically taking apart her un-childproofed home, so we moved in with my grandparent-in-laws: what were we thinking?

We were following the logic that most of us Boomerang Babies are slapped with when the bills start pouring in and we realize that we cannot afford our lifestyles on our own.  How rude of a letdown. We’re not talking about shattered dreams here.  We’re raised to go fly on our own and we end up trying to take off with clipped wings. Thank you dot.com bubble burst. Thank you 9-11 terrorists.  Thank you real estate boom and KA-BOOM.  Thank you TARP bill.

Here are some Boomerang Babies survival tips that I hope you find at least amusing if not helpful, the order of tips is not important:

  • Make a hopeful list of “unbudgeables”, in short, what do you want in your new post-Boomerang phase of life in your much-fantasized own home that you will not budge on? For example: I must have the pots and pans hanging from the ceiling in my own kitchen one day.
  • When parent/family member who owns the home you are staying in approaches you with a request like, “Can you please make sure to return the magazines in their proper order on the coffee table?”, smile sweetly and happily concede to them while doing your best not to show exasperation in your face for fielding over a dozen of these command/requests daily from them.
  • Remember: This is not your home, these are their rules that you must follow while under their roof–proof of your adult age doesn’t matter one iota, neither does having a demanding infant(s).
  • You pay for your stay in your family’s home one way or another: try to select that payback by offering to pay the electric bill or for groceries…otherwise you’ll be blindsided by annoying side expenses left and right–some of which could include infuriating indulgences for your said family member.
  • Just think to yourself: You will NEVER take having your own place for granted again, at least in this lifetime.
  • Do something kind for your family member every week, like bringing flowers home to your mom or picking up a six-pack for your dad: whatever little pleasures they enjoy, doing so for them will soften you from being too harsh when faced with the humbling effect of having to live with them again as an adult.
  • Read some historical novels, especially if you are out of work and have free time on your hands.  Cost shouldn’t be an issue as public libraries do still exist and even some free books are available online.  These historical novels should include story lines that will remind you that this boomerang phase was how most families lived back in the day–sometimes three generations residing under one roof.
  • You are blessed: I don’t care if you an atheist, you are blessed to have a home to stay in, people who love you enough to take you in irregardless of how you got in this position. This is a hard fact to remember when facedown in the humiliation of this boomerang moment in your life, but try.
  • To lighten the mood on those dark days, just think of the “Annie” song, “It’s a hard knock life for us…”
  • If TV watching is a scheduling hassle in the household, try to rely on sites like www.hulu.com for your sitcoms fix.
  • If no internet service, try local library, coffee shop or Kmart for your logon needs.
  • Try to take pre-emptive action in household chores: the more like a Cinderella you act, the less nagging you’ll weather…trust me on this one.
  • Take up a low-cost, old or new hobby. It will help you to do something that is exclusively yours as you are now living in an environment that is NOT your own.
  • Recall the 1980s feel-good theme song: “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”.
  • Write your friends, don’t just Facebook or text them, actually take a pen and write freehand on a piece of paper or in a card…it is good to send them a personal note as if you are writing from a war battlefield far away called Your Pride.
  • Exercise.  It does a body, mind and heart good.  The soul benefits as well.
  • Consider blogging, I’ve resisted the notion for nearly a year now, but I’m glad to be sharing with the cyberworld now.

We are still living the gypsy life as I prefer to call it.  If you trace back to the ancient days, nomadic living was the norm.  Perhaps I should just take it a day at a time and in the meantime focus on the things that are most important: my relationship with my Maker, my husband, my son, my family and friends…these are not material things as a dwelling is, these are entities, loves and souls–eternal things not restrained by seasons of life like being a Boomerang Baby.

RVSB

Wyoming Life

"God bless it and keep it wild"