Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Interview With Zoe Weil

Recently, I got the chance to interview Zoe Weil, President and co-founder of the Institute for Humane Education and author of Above All, Be Kind: Raising a Humane Child in Challenging Times. Here is what she had to say about being a Humane Parent.

K: How would you define Humane Parenting? What are some of the goals of Humane Parents as you see them?

Z: Actually, I’ve never defined humane parenting or considered the goals of ‘humane parents,’ because what I’ve focused on is using the tools of humane education to raise humane kids, which I write about in my book Above All, Be Kind. I feel more comfortable sharing my experiences as a humane educator with people who want to give their children the tools and motivation to be humane rather than try to define what humane parenting looks like. With that said, to me humane parents are simply people with children who actively cultivate the best qualities of human beings (one of the definitions of the word humane) and model these qualities for their kids. The actual tools of a humane educator are key to raising a humane child. They are to:
• Provide information about the issues of our time in age appropriate ways so that our children have knowledge about the effects of their everyday choices
• Foster the 3 Cs of curiosity, creativity, and critical thinking, so that they are good learners and thinkers, able to make wise decisions
• Instill the 3 Rs of reverence (in our young children), respect (in the middle years) and responsibility (as teens) so that they become compassionate choicemakers and engaged changemakers for a better world
• Offer positive choices and the tools for problem solving so they can make a difference.

K: What is the biggest challenge that you have faced as an activist when it comes to raising your son?

The biggest challenge by far is living in a culture that does not support, foster, or encourage many of my values and actively undermines them at every turn. Whether it’s TV, violent and sexist movies, music, and videogames, inhumane, unhealthy, and unsustainable foods marketed to my son, or rampant materialism, I feel like society presents enormous hurdles to humane living and raising humane children.

K: What are the biggest lessons you have learned during your Humane Parenting journey?

Z: Again, I wouldn’t call it humane parenting, mostly because I have felt so humbled by being a mother and would, in retrospect, change many of the ways in which I parented my son, but here are the two biggest lessons I’ve learned as a parent trying to raise a humane child:
  1. The culture in which our children live exerts enormous power over their desires and behaviors which we cannot fully prevent.
  2. It’s important to back off and let our children make their own choices in age appropriate ways, even if they are different from ours, and to honor and love them for their independent thought.
K: Have you found that you have any personality quirks that most interfere with your goals as a parent?

Z: Oh my, yes! Although I try to cultivate the best qualities of human beings, and do well in some arenas like loyalty, compassion, honesty, and perseverance, I’m also impatient, reactive, stubborn, and fairly controlling. These definitely interfere with my goals as a parent!

K: I am interested in the tension between cultivating a sense of responsibility to the world at large in our children and our desire as parents to help our children grow into the person they are meant to be. Have you found this to be an issue, and if so, how have you come to terms with the conflict?

Z: A few years ago I was leading a humane education training workshop and my son, who was 13 at the time, came to the end of it in time to participate in an activity we call “Spectrum.” In this activity, I place four cards down on the floor which have “I” statements on them indicating behavior choices along a spectrum. I ask people to stand in front of or between the card or cards that best represent them. There are four sets of these four cards, one on animal issues, one on environmental issues, one on social justice issues, and one on consumerism issues. The purpose of the activity is multifold. First, it’s interesting for people to realize that while they may have made some choices, like being vegan, not buying products tested on animals, adopting dogs and cats from shelters, and so on, that are kind to animals, they may be making other choices such as living in a big house, driving an SUV, having more than 2 children, that have a negative impact on the environment. It’s humbling to realize that our righteousness is not warranted when we see others who are making a big effort in another arena that we aren’t so “evolved” about. The other goal is to notice the changes one has made over the years. I’ll ask where they would have stood on the spectrum five years earlier. Almost everyone has moved further to the more sustainable, compassionate, peaceful end over those years (not surprising since these are people who’ve come to our workshop!).

When my son participated, he was further into the consumptive end of the consumerism spectrum and had moved away from his vegan upbringing on one end of the animal spectrum. While everyone else had moved toward more compassionate lifestyles, he’d moved away from his upbringing. People asked him why, and he was quite forthright in saying that it was just easier and more convenient and his desires sometimes trumped his values.

At that moment I could have felt a bit embarrassed. After all, I was leading the workshop and here was my son no longer living according to the values I’d raised him with. But I didn’t feel embarrassed. I actually felt proud of him and of myself. I was glad that despite being raised by an often overbearing, rigid parent who believes certain things are right and wrong and we should do this and that, he felt comfortable being himself, being different, and being honest about who he was. I guarantee that there were adults in that group who weren’t honest about where they were on the Spectrum because there’s a lot of pressure to conform to the “humane ideal” in this situation, but my son wasn’t one of them. He was not belligerent or standoffish in any way; he was well-spoken, friendly, and fine with being who he was, different from his mother. I felt like I’d done a good job of raising a polite child with a strong sense of self who could speak his truth – even if it differed from mine. When it was over, he draped his arm around me. I knew he was proud of me, too, even though we were sometimes making different choices.

K: What has been the payoff of your efforts at Humane Parenting? Do you have a specific story to tell about your son that illustrates the qualities you have tried to cultivate in him?

Z: My son is very honest. This is a curse as well as a blessing because I often know more than I want to know! He is also fiercely loyal, compassionate, and incredibly generous. For the past few years he’s been a significant donor to my organization, the Institute for Humane Education (IHE). Two years ago, I was sitting at my desk and he walked in and handed me a tiny scrap of paper. On it was a little drawing. I didn’t know what it was but he wouldn’t tell me. He made me figure it out. Finally I realized it was the first drawing in a treasure hunt. I found the next drawing and the next and so on traversing every corner of the house until I found the treasure: $150 for IHE.


The Institute for Humane Education is offering a month-long online course called Raising a Humane Child starting next Monday, October 4. I was able to participate in a pilot version of the course and can tell you that it is well worth the time and will transform the way you view your parenting. Please head on over and enroll - and tell them Ahimsa Mama sent you!

I am a scholar-turned-mother/activist who is interested in sustainable living and social justice. I have published a number of articles and given presentations internationally on the topics of voluntary simplicity and humane parenting. Learn more at my website www.beautifulfriendships.net

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Paradox of The Peace Book













I've always liked Todd Parr books. I think his bright and colorful illustrations are engaging for young children, if not particularly aesthetically pleasing to me. I like the simple language and the positive message he usually imparts.

One of my favorites has always been The Peace Book. I love the way he makes the idea of ensuring clothing, food and shelter for all accessible to young children, and I like that it includes a diversity of people (even if some of them are blue).

Last night, though, I heard my husband reading this book to my kids and all of a sudden, I was struck by this inconsistency:
































Does that fish look free to you? Does he?

See, this is why I need to start writing children's books.

I am a scholar-turned-mother/activist who is interested in sustainable living and social justice. I have published a number of articles and given presentations internationally on the topics of voluntary simplicity and humane parenting. Learn more at my website www.beautifulfriendships.net.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Blogging on Gender Issues

Photo courtesy of flickr user taberandrew

Check out my recent post on Your (Wo)Man In Washington on the issue of college loans and gender equity:
According to the College Board report Trends in College Pricing, "Reductions in revenue from sources other than tuition, particularly state and local appropriations in the public sector, are associated with rapidly rising public college tuition levels in recent years." So here is yet another instance where government spending decisions have a greater negative impact on the economic security of women as compared to men. When are we, as a country, going to step up and show our support for the mothers, sisters, aunts, and daughters who care for us?
Read the whole thing here.

I am a scholar-turned-mother/activist who is interested in sustainable living and social justice. I have published a number of articles and given presentations internationally on the topics of voluntary simplicity and humane parenting. Learn more at my website www.beautifulfriendships.net.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Humane Parenting Twitter Party Tonight!

Photo courtesy of flickr user woodleywonderworks

Okay, so it's short notice, but...

If you're around at 10 pm (Eastern time) tonight, please tune in for a humane parenting Twitter party featuring Zoe Weil, President and co-founder of the Institute for Humane Education, author of Above All, Be Kind: Raising a Humane Child in Challenging Times, and a friend and mentor of mine. I will be interviewing her on Ahimsa Mama next week in anticipation of the Institute's Raising a Humane Child e-course next month!

Look for #holisticmoms, and hope to see you there!

I am a scholar-turned-mother/activist who is interested in sustainable living and social justice. I have published a number of articles and given presentations internationally on the topics of voluntary simplicity and humane parenting. Learn more at my website www.beautifulfriendships.net.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Tips for Moderating the Morning Mayhem

I am reading The World Needs Your Kid: Raising Children Who Care and Contribute by Craig Kielburger (from Free the Children), Marc Kielburger and Shelley Page.  It's pretty good - I'll be posting a review of it when I'm done.

One thing that caught my eye is that the first of their "100 Tips to Raise Global Citizens" is:

Early to Rise. Set the alarm twenty minutes early to avoid the morning rush.  With luck, you'll spend less time hustling your kids out the door and more time checking in with them about the day ahead.  Connecting leads to caring.

So true!  I have come to the same conclusion - when I rush in the morning, I get impatient.  When I am impatient, I am not the kind of mom I want to be, and it sets me up for a less-than-ideal day.

However, I've taken a different route to achieving harmony in the mornings.  I don't mind getting up early - in fact, I often set my alarm for an hour before I really need to be moving - but I don't like to get the kids up even one minute earlier than I have to.  I find that squeezing every minute of rest out of them that I possibly can is in everyone's best interest.  So, instead, I've decided to do as much preparation for the coming day as I can the night before.

After baths, when the kids are in their pj's and winding down with a book or some other quiet play (or loud, running play!) I try to accomplish the following:

1.  Shower.  I know this doesn't work for everyone - my husband can't start his day without a shower in the morning - but for me it has made all the difference.

2.  Set out my clothes for the next day.  This way, I get out of bed, brush my hair, get dressed, and - voila! - I'm ready to rock and roll in less than five minutes!  I also get Harry's clothes ready the night before.  As for Bess' clothes...

3.  Have Bess set out her clothes for the next day.  We set up a little morning task station in her room with a mirror, a few hooks for her clothes, and a list of things she needs to do (see photo above).  This has eliminated quite a bit of morning conflict since any arguing negotiating about wardrobe has already been done.

4.  Make lunch.  I know a lot of moms like to send their kids to school with a warm lunch, but for me, that's just too much trouble in the morning.  Instead, when I'm putting away dinner, I make the next day's lunch at the same time, which often includes leftovers.  I also often try to set up some snacks for Harry's morning while I'm at it.

5.  Crock pot breakfasts!  This one has been a new addition to the repertoire, and is my favorite tip for making the mornings run more smoothly.  I like to give my kids a hearty, warm breakfast, but even something as simple as instant oatmeal can take more time than I'm willing to spare.  So now, I set up a simple crock pot breakfast the night before and either turn it on last thing before bed or have John turn it on when he's turning in for the night (he works nights so this is convenient for us), but really, even if you set an alarm to get up and flip the switch at 2 am, I think it still saves you sleep and energy in the long run.

What are your tips for making the morning a prelude to a great day?

I am a scholar-turned-mother/activist who is interested in sustainable living and social justice. I have published a number of articles and given presentations internationally on the topics of voluntary simplicity and humane parenting. Learn more at my website www.beautifulfriendships.net.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Safety at What Cost?

This past weekend we attended a Scandinavian Festival at a local park. The playground was unlike most of the other (plastic, ultra-safe) playgrounds in our area. This one had things like swings with chains, metal monkey bars, and seesaws, none of which can be found at many, if any, parks these days, at least around here, though when we've traveled I've noticed that they are more common in other areas. I guess the risk of lawsuits and intolerance for any level of risk whatsoever are pretty extreme here.

I must say, I felt a little uneasy with my kids playing around the seesaws, afraid that they would get "cherry bombed" or whacked in the face as they tried to maneuver on and off. As I tried to assure myself that I managed to survive my childhood despite many hours spent seesawing with my sister and neighborhood friends, I watched with interest as the kids tried to figure the whole thing out. As pretty young children, we were able to negotiate the physics of levers pretty easily, figuring out who needed to sit where to make the whole thing work.

These kids did not have this fundamental understanding of the physical world. I watched as parents tried to explain it - but it isn't something that can be explained, at least not easily. It needs to be experienced. And when we strip down our kids' experiences to include only that are without risk, we also deprive them of so many opportunities to learn about themselves and about the world.

So, I'm certainly not advocating that we throw all caution to the wind. I'm all for airbags and carseats and seatbelts and all that kind of thing - but I think some sort of cost/benefit analysis is in order. What are we willing to sacrifice in order to protect our kids from some bumps and bruises?

I am a scholar-turned-mother/activist who is interested in sustainable living and social justice. I have published a number of articles and given presentations internationally on the topics of voluntary simplicity and humane parenting. Learn more at my website www.beautifulfriendships.net.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

I know I'm a couple days early for my photo post, but this is just too precious not to share:















I am breaking my promise to myself to never become one of those mommy bloggers who just gushes about how cute her kids are - but seriously? Bess reading bedtime stories to Harry? Does it get any better than this?

I am considering moments like these to be my reward for my attachment-style parenting. ;)

I am a scholar-turned-mother/activist who is interested in sustainable living and social justice. I have published a number of articles and given presentations internationally on the topics of voluntary simplicity and humane parenting. Learn more at my website www.beautifulfriendships.net.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

First Day of School

Today was Bess' first day of Primary 1, which is the first step of Kindergarten at Wellspring Community School. To hear her tell it, today was not, in fact, the first day of school because they only spent an hour there. But during that hour they selected their symbols (which are used to identify the students to pre-readers - Bess selected a ladybug in honor of her friend Claire who is not attending Wellspring this year) and examined the new and improved layout of the classroom. Not only that, but they identified things that were the same as last year with an S and things that were different, which was almost everything, with a D. So they worked on some phonics and letter recognition in addition to reacclimating themselves to the environment.

It is not a short trip to overstimulated for Bess, but today she was just out of control excited. She LOVES school, and could not wait to see her teacher Anne and her friends, and to meet some new friends too. We constantly have the discussion in our home whether private school is worth the money when we live in such a "good, high-achieving" school district. That was, in fact, one of the reasons we chose to move to this particular town when we moved almost six years ago. Since then, though, my thinking about school and its goals (actual and ideal) has changed quite a bit. For me, right now, yes - it is worth every penny. It is worth it for my daughter to learn in a close-knit community where they learn about cooperation and responsibility to a group in addition to the academics, for her to be excited to go to school and excited to learn new things, to be excited to show her friends a beautiful spider web on the fence complete with a meal-in-waiting for the architect of the web.

Would she gain these things in public school. Maybe. But then I would have lot less control over who she spends so much of her time with, and her experience would be much more variable from year to year. In some ways that could be good, I guess, but for a child who does not deal with transition and direction that well I think it would probably do more harm than good. For now, I'm so, so happy to be where we are.

I am a scholar-turned-mother/activist who is interested in sustainable living and social justice. I have published a number of articles and given presentations internationally on the topics of voluntary simplicity and humane parenting. Learn more at my website www.beautifulfriendships.net.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Lookie Here!

Here's our family photo for the upcoming school year!
I'm scrambling trying to get ready for the first day of school tomorrow, but if you're looking for some Ahimsa Mama reading, check this out on the Education Revolution blog - a plug for my thesis, which can now be found on the Institute for Humane Education's website!

Most parents have a shared interest in nurturing a just, compassionate, peaceful, sustainable world for their children, and raising children who are kind, conscientious, happy and healthy can be a special challenge in today’s world. Passionate about humane parenting and seeking shared support and connection, IHE M.Ed. graduate Kelly Coyle DiNorcia dedicated her Independent Learning Project (ILP) to creating a handbook for parents of young children (ages 18-36 months) to help them raise children with a humane ethic toward other people, other animals, and the earth.
According to Kelly, her handbook “guides parents, other family members, and other caregivers through the five elements of Humane Parenting….Specific techniques for dealing with common parenting concerns such as food choices, gift-giving occasions, literature and media selections, and teaching children about diversity are given.  The handbook concludes with a list of suggested books, periodicals, weblogs and organizations that parents are encouraged to consult for more information.”
Click the link below to download (The handbook begins on page 27 of the PDF file.).
http://humaneeducation.org/documents/view/279

Swing on over and give it a look!

I am a scholar-turned-mother/activist who is interested in sustainable living and social justice. I have published a number of articles and given presentations internationally on the topics of voluntary simplicity and humane parenting. Learn more at my website www.beautifulfriendships.net.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Sunday Link Love

Some of my favorites from around the web these past couple of weeks

I am a scholar-turned-mother/activist who is interested in sustainable living and social justice. I have published a number of articles and given presentations internationally on the topics of voluntary simplicity and humane parenting. Learn more at my website www.beautifulfriendships.net.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

It was the best of outings, it was the worst of outings...

We spent last weekend in Rochester, New York, and while John worked I planned fun and exciting things to do with the kids. I feel like it isn't fair to drag them along on these trips unless I make it about them, at least a little bit.





On Friday we visited the Strong National Museum of Play, which I've been looking forward to since we missed it on our last trip.


It was everything I hoped it would be - in fact, I'd say it is worth a trip to Rochester in and of itself if you're a children's museum addict like I am!







There was so much to do for kids of all ages, and things were very reasonably priced. There was an area with all sorts of cooperative games, which kids of all ages could participate in.










There is a fairy tale room, a Sesame Street room, a butterfly garden, a superhero room, a Berenstain Bears room, a classic toy museum upstairs, a train ride and a carousel, cozy reading nooks and books all over the place...I could go on and on, but better you go see it for yourself! Bess describes it as "the coolest place ever!" and I am inclined to agree with her.



Then, instead of following my instincts to go back there on Saturday, I decided to take the kids to Seneca Park Zoo.

I've written before about my zoo ambivalence, but yet I still find myself going back - sort of like taking both kids into Manhattan or eating deep fried Oreos, I need to do it every once in awhile to remind myself why I don't like to do it.


First of all, the setup was really weird. It was long and narrow, so it was a long walk out to see the furthest (and coolest) animals, and a loooooong walk back. Harry chose that day to express his terrible two-ness, and let me assure you, dragging a screaming toddler outside in the heat around is not so much fun. In fact, I'm noticing a pattern here - Harry was miserable the last time we went to a zoo, too. Hmmmmm...



Anyway, the zoo is not one of the better ones around. The enclosures are small and the animals are alone or in small groups, smaller than they would normally be found in were they living in the wild. There are a lot of primates there, which I find especially painful to see.




I get the whole education/preservation thing, and I believe that zoos can be done in a relatively humane way with respect for the animals who live there. I can't exactly say I don't support that, though I also can't exactly say that I do. I believe that the people who work in zoos love the animals and the environment, and work very hard. Some places are sanctuaries that rescue and rehabilitate animals who could not live in the wild, and I think that can be pretty cool. However, I also think that putting money into maintaining these populations, and their habitats, in the wild where they belong would be a better use of our resources. That, and I simply can't get past the lives of the individual animals who live their lives in isolation and captivity in the name of education.

What do you think?

I am a scholar-turned-mother/activist who is interested in sustainable living and social justice. I have published a number of articles and given presentations internationally on the topics of voluntary simplicity and humane parenting. Learn more at my website www.beautifulfriendships.net.

Friday, September 3, 2010

{this moment} - Strong National Museum of Play

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see. Hosted by
soulemama

















From the Dancing Wings Butterfly Garden

I am a scholar-turned-mother/activist who is interested in sustainable living and social justice. I have published a number of articles and given presentations internationally on the topics of voluntary simplicity and humane parenting. Learn more at my websitewww.beautifulfriendships.net.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

10 Great Books for Kinesthetic Kiddos

Okay...confession time.

My daughter does not like to read.

There, I've said it.

She likes to be read to at bed time while she teeters on the edge of sleep, and she loves looking at pictures in books and going to the library (more to do puppet shows and puzzles than to look at books, to be sure). I am told that she enjoys story time at school, too. But since she was very, very small she simply will not sit through an entire story.

Long before entering motherhood, I collected children's books. I loved going through the children's section in used book stores and garage sales, finding volumes that had a "good message". I imagined that my future children would sit at my knee, listening to these stories and absorbing the humane messages they presented. Reality proved to be much different, with Bess refusing to sit through even the first page of any book, and Harry only interested in books about things with wheels.

Over time, I've started to change my ideas about the purpose of children's literature. No longer did I see it as yet another opportunity to immerse my children in my values. Now I see it is a chance to expose them to the written word, to different ideas, and to visual aesthetics. Note that I do still take pains to ensure that the books we choose at least do not contain unwanted images, and I do try to find books with diverse characters - I haven't completely abandoned my ideals!

For my little kinesthetic learner I have started looking for books that encourage movement, which have been surprisingly hard to come by. Here are ten of my favorites, though:

I Ain't Gonna Paint No More by Karen Beaumont, Illustrated by David Catrow

This is a really cute story/song about a child who loves to paint anything and everything. Children can sing along with the book and point to the different body parts as they get painted by the mischievous little artist.






Ballerina Flying by Alexa Brandenberg

Anything ballerina is a sure winner in my house. This one is great because kids can practice the various ballet postures and steps along with the ballerina in the story. The opportunity to dress in pink frills while doing it is a plus.





Clap Your Hands by Lorinda Bryan Cauley

This is a fun book with lots of movements for children to follow along with. The text of the book is very lyrical and easy to read.







Wiggle by Doreen Cronin, Illustrated by Scott Menchin

Love Doreen Cronin! Doesn't that cover kind of say it all? Also look for Bounce and Stretch by this author/illustrator team.







Handsigns: A Sign Language Alphabet by Kathleen Fain

This book isn't a story, but the alphabet illustrations are lovely and each one is accompanied by the sign for that letter. This is a great book for introducing children to the American Sign Language alphabet.







Muncha! Muncha! Muncha! by Candace Fleming, Illustrated by G. Brian Karas

This is a fun story about a farmer who keeps building higher and higher walls to keep the bunnies out of his garden, but of course they outsmart him in the end. Children can hop and munch with the rabbits and build with the farmer.





In the Small, Small Pond by Denise Fleming

In this book, young readers can waddle like geese, doze like turtles, and twirl like whirligigs as they follow along with the story of the residents of a nearby pond. Also look for In the Tall, Tall Grass by the same author.





Shake My Sillies Out by Raffi, Illustrated by David Allender

How can you go wrong with a book that asks you to shake your sillies out and wiggle your waggles away?





How Can You Dance? by Rick Walton, Illustrated by Ana Lopez-Escriva

This book asks readers to use their bodies in unusual ways with questions such as: How can you dance if you can't move your knees? How can you dance when you're mad as a bee?





If You're Happy and You Know It (Jungle Edition) by James Warhola

This book by the nephew of Andy Warhol has colorful, friendly illustrations and a whole new repertoire for If You're Happy and You Know It, including stomp like and elephant, roar like a lion, and laugh like a hyena.



I am a scholar-turned-mother/activist who is interested in sustainable living and social justice. I have published a number of articles and given presentations internationally on the topics of voluntary simplicity and humane parenting. Learn more at my website www.beautifulfriendships.net.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Winners...and Losers

Photo courtesy of flickr user bitzi

I was watching the news this morning (Morning Joe on MSNBC, for the record) as a number of guests discussed last night's Presidential address. I did not see it so I cannot comment on what was said, but one of the pundits this morning was insisting that President Obama does not support our troops because he failed to say that we "won" the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Apparently he felt that one little word coming from the Commander in Chief would make all the difference for troop morale.

Try as I might, I am having a hard time understanding what exactly it would mean to win this conflict. There were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, so that is a moot point. Saddam Hussein was deposed and the Taliban is no longer in power (officially) in Afghanistan, so I guess that's good. We have not caught Osama bin Laden, and I have often heard the argument made that if anything, we have made more enemies and, presumably, terrorists than friends during the years that we've had troops in the area. We have not helped to build a particularly stable government in Iraq or Afghanistan, though from what I've read it sounds like we have helped to build the infrastructure there, and at least they have held elections. Whether those elections are legit, I'm not so sure.

If we have won, then who are the losers? The civilians - the children - who have lost their lives, or their limbs, or their homes, or their family members? Refugees who have had to move in order to avoid the conflict and unrest, the bombs and gunfire? Our own soldiers who have come home injured, or worse?

In war, is there ever, really, a winner?

I am a scholar-turned-mother/activist who is interested in sustainable living and social justice. I have published a number of articles and given presentations internationally on the topics of voluntary simplicity and humane parenting. Learn more at my website www.beautifulfriendships.net.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Shifting the Paradigm

I recently finished reading Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier. I'm not usually a novel reader, but I am trying to expand my literary horizons and it was recommended to me by a trusted friend, so I decided to give it a try.

It is the story of Mary Anning, a working-class girl from England who (true story, dramatized for the purposes of the novel) found the first complete fossil specimens that led scientists to begin to consider the idea of extinction and evolution in the nineteenth century. I had read a children's book about Mary Anning a couple of years ago, so it was interesting to read a more adult rendition of her life.

One of the things that struck me most about the book was the characters' understandings of the broad implications of Mary's finds. Up until that time, at least in Europe among Christian people, it was thought that the world was just two thousand years old and the Bible was a historical text describing the creation of the world in seven, twenty-four hour days. Finding the remains of creatures that no longer existed was a huge blow to the accepted order of things, because it implied that some creatures had become extinct - did God make a mistake when He created them? Why would he do that? It also implied that the world was much, much older than had previously been thought. Accepting these new ideas took a huge leap of faith and logic and did not come easily.

From the perspective of this twenty-first century blogger, the paradigm shift that occurred as a result of these finds is obvious, and happened quite quickly. Very few people today still believe in the Bible as a literal text, and though some people still cling to creationism it is no longer a scientifically-accepted explanation for the beginnings of the Universe. However, from the perspective of a nineteenth-century English peasant who was picking up curiosities on the beach after a storm, these realizations must have completely rocked her world to the core. Everything she believed, everything she thought she knew to be true, completely upended.

It just makes you think how quickly paradigm shifts really take place, even though they don't seem to be quick when you're in the middle of them. I believe we are at that point now on our planet, where a shift is taking place from consumerism to sustainability. It seems to be frustratingly slow, but really, it is happening fast enough, faster than we think.

I am a scholar-turned-mother/activist who is interested in sustainable living and social justice. I have published a number of articles and given presentations internationally on the topics of voluntary simplicity and humane parenting. Learn more at my website www.beautifulfriendships.net.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Babywearing for Beginners

These last couple of weeks have been CRAZY around here! Bess has had camp for two weeks and so did John, so I've been trying to get her where she needs to be, manage Harry in the meantime, make sure everyone is fed, clean, and getting adequate sleep - and all with little help from the other parental unit while he's busy working very long days, leaving before we're up and coming home after we're asleep. We spent this past weekend in Rochester to end our whirlwind weeks, and now we have about ten days to recover before school starts.

In the meantime, I had a guest post over at Go Green Street on Babywearing Basics:

I don’t know how I would have gotten through my children’s early years without babywearing. My daughter was an extremely high-needs baby and demanded constant physical contact, and then when my son came along, I needed to keep with my then-high-needs toddler. I recall a trip I took with my kids to Washington D.C. where the baby spent the entire weekend in the sling, nursing, sleeping, and sightseeing. I never had to worry about dragging a stroller around and I had two free hands available for my daughter.

Visit here to read the entire post, and send the link to all your friends!

I am a scholar-turned-mother/activist who is interested in sustainable living and social justice. I have published a number of articles and given presentations internationally on the topics of voluntary simplicity and humane parenting. Learn more at my website www.beautifulfriendships.net.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Sunday Link Love

I am a scholar-turned-mother/activist who is interested in sustainable living and social justice. I have published a number of articles and given presentations internationally on the topics of voluntary simplicity and humane parenting. Learn more at my website www.beautifulfriendships.net.

Friday, August 13, 2010

{this moment} - Sussex County Fair

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see. Hosted by soulemama


I am a scholar-turned-mother/activist who is interested in sustainable living and social justice. I have published a number of articles and given presentations internationally on the topics of voluntary simplicity and humane parenting. Learn more at my website www.beautifulfriendships.net.


Thursday, August 12, 2010

Kids in the Oven

No...not a "bun" in the oven!

I am reading Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg, and here is a quote that I just love:

When you bake a cake, you have ingredients: sugar, flour, butter, baking soda, eggs, milk. You put them in a bowl and mix them up, but that does not make a cake. This makes goop. You have to put them in the oven and add heat or energy to transform it into a cake, and the cake looks nothing like its original ingredients. It's a lot like parent unable to claim their hippie kids as their own in the sixties. Milk and eggs look at their pound cake and say, "Not ours." Not egg, not milk, but Ph.D. daughter of refugee parents - a foreigner in her own home.

How often, as parents, do we feel like this with our kids? How often do we look at them and marvel at who they are becoming, but at the same time recognize that they in fact bear little resemblance to us, or who we thought they would be, or who we tried to make them?

I think this issue is especially difficult for humane parents. We are so committed to our values, and we so strongly want our children to grow up to share them, to fight for social justice and sustainability. Many of us struggle with the impact that simply having a child will have on the planet and our shared resources, and commit to raising our children to have as little impact as possible.

But the truth is, of course, that just as many of us rejected our parents' values and chose our own, so too can our children easily grow up and choose to become, say, the CEO of BP or a researcher for Monsanto. How do we reconcile ourselves with the fact that, in the end, we have no control over who our children will become as they grow?

I am a scholar-turned-mother/activist who is interested in sustainable living and social justice. I have published a number of articles and given presentations internationally on the topics of voluntary simplicity and humane parenting. Learn more at my website www.beautifulfriendships.net.