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When I posted my list of May events, I should have included this one, which I am leading at The Growing Center tomorrow at 4 p.m.:

Wheel of the Year Festival: Beltaine
A series of family-friendly festivals celebrating the turning of the wheel of the year. Through song, story, art and play we will explore the changing seasons and our changing selves. You are encouraged to bring a potluck contribution and, if you are able, a small donation to help cover costs. Sponsored by Viriditas, a Boston-area Reclaiming group.

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I am a little late to the party in blogging about this, but in case anyone missed it, Consumer Reports took a broad swing at attachment parents this week with an article entitled Five Products Not to Buy For Your Baby.

The article asserts that because there are no safety standards or good research studies on cosleepers or baby slings, one should avoid these products in favor of more traditional options.

I’ve never used a cosleeper, personally, so I can’t vouch for their safety. My babes just slept in my bed. Under a mountain of soft blankets. Yeah, I’m a safety rebel. They are happy healthy kids. There you go.

My baby sling remains the one prized baby item I’m not willing to pass on to friends or Goodwill. Probably my most joyful hours with my babies were spent wearing them in their little wrap carriers.

I feel sad that Consumer Reports biased article might dissuade some parents from experiencing the joy and ease I had as a new mom wearing my baby, and angry that it might impact some of the small businesses that make slings and wraps for babies. Apparently the author of the article is a dad himself, and professed shock at the uproar his article caused. Dude. You wrote an article called “Five Products Not To Buy For Your Baby” and included several popular items with nothing but hearsay and cultural bias to suggest they are unsafe. What did you think would happen?

I bet I’m not the only with an opinion. If you follow the link above, you can let them know how you feel, too.

The prize of my May schedule is a fermentation workshop with Sandor Katz. It’s next Friday at 2:30 at BU. His book, Wild Fermentation, changed my life. You need to pre-register for this event. If the admission fee is a too high and you’re a homeschooling family, let me know. The workshop was organized by another homeschooler who may be able to arrange a fee reduction.

Some other May activities my kids and I will likely be at:

Somerville Open Studios – This weekend, all over town. My plans to host a Kid’s Art Show fell through, which is a bummer but also frees up the kids and I to prowl the neighborhood and check out other artists work. There will be some lovely and amazing photography on display right in our very own house.

Fun With Logical Puzzles at the Somerville Central Library. This is a series of math and puzzle sessions geared to 6-13 year olds. It’s happening May 7th, 14th, 21st, and 28th at 4 p.m.

And of course, being outdoors. We’ll probably be at the Growing Center playgroup on Friday mornings more often than not.

Most of my energy this month will be going into personal activities: a long-planned solo mama trip, my eldest’s 5th birthday, and the wedding of a dear friend. Hope to see you all out and about in the sunshine!

The ALA has published their annual list of most challenged books for this year.

Sadly for me, Tango Makes Three still tops the list. We bough this book a few years ago on the strength of it’s being listed here, and it’s been a bedtime favorite ever since.

Somebody write a compelling, cute, offensive to closed-minded bigots children’s book again, please?

Dear Concerned Citizens,

Please do not shout insults or parenting advice at me as I am biking past your car on a city street with my kids in tow. Your fear for my children’s safety is truly touching. However, if you pause for a moment, you may realize that taking your own attention away from the vehicle you are driving to startle, alarm and anger the rider of the bicycle does not make my kids safer.

In fact, were you to cause an accident with this behavior, you can be fairly sure I would not be blaming myself for the harm that befell my babies. I would blame you, and your self-righteous idiocy.

Perhaps next time, instead of screaming, “You’re going to die!” or “That is so dangerous!!!” out your car window, you might want to focus on taking special care that you’d don’t became the agent of our apparently inevitable destruction.

A very good way to do this is to get on a bike yourself. If more people tried that, my kids and I would be a lot safer on the roads.

Love,

Your friendly neighborhood cyclist

Rio: Mama, I think you are going to forget my name.

Me: I would never forget your name. I named you.

Rio: What if I went away from you forever? For…for TWENTY YEARS?

Me: I would still remember you.

Rio: I think you would forget half of my name, and you would not know my last name or my middle name and you would only call me Rio.

Me (confused): I only call you Rio now.

Rio: No, you don’t. Sometimes you call me “Rio-or-Serena-or-whatever-your-name-is”. I want you to only call me Rio.

I have this parenting trick called The Hungry Bag. I got it from a STEP parenting class and while it’s not exactly my style, it’s stood me in good stead. The Hungry Bag comes out and eats toys that are left out on the floor after clean-up time.

How this works at my house is that I announce clean-up time, each day after lunch and before dinner, plus any other time there are so many toys out I can’t walk safely across the floor. I say, “We have five (or ten, depending on the size of the mess) minutes to clean, and then the Hungry Bag will come eat everything up.” In reality, of course, ‘five minutes’ lasts as long as the kids are actively cleaning with me; I never Hungry Bag their stuff while they’re picking it up.

It’s not a perfect system. But it saves me from being responsible for putting all the toys back on their shelves every time she takes them out. If I have to clean up, I am entitled to take the mess away where it won’t be back on the floor ten minutes later. In theory, the toys then get parceled back out gradually. In practice, my closet is full of Hungry Bags of clean-ups past, and I only occasionally open one up and return its contents, which are never missed. How did my kids get so many toys?

I digress. Toys grow like mushrooms in the dwellings of small people; it’s an act of magic and there’s nothing to be gained from questioning it.

The Hungry Bag is occasionally greeted with drama and remonstrations and pleading. Sometimes with defiance and indifference. Today, the Hungry Bag made it’s scheduled appearance and something new and interesting happened:

The Hungry Bag ate something of mine. My glittery blue cowboy hat.

I wore it to a party last weekend, and left it on the floor when I got home. Today during clean up, Rio picked up all her toys, and when the Hungry Bag came out, there was nothing left on the floor but a couple of beads, some ribbon scraps, and my hat.

The Hungry Bag has never eaten Mommy’s toys before. Let me tell you, this was a hit. Enough of a hit that certain little girls who shall remain nameless ran around behind me putting more of my stuff on the floor to be gobbled up, and gigglegigglegiggling.

They also cleaned up everything they took out for the rest of the day, almost without being asked. Apparently pride really is a greater motivator than fear, and being better than Mommy is some heady stuff in the Pride department.



IMG_3750.JPG, originally uploaded by MzMuze.

Rio is interested in learning to read a clock. I noticed at MotherMirth’s house the other day a clock with extra numbers on it to indicate what that long hand was up to. Hers was elegant; my imitation of it is obviously messy. This is typical of us.

This learning clock was created by Rio and one of her teenage homeschooling friends. In case the details are not clear in the photo, the out ring of stickers shows the number of minutes past the hour, so that you can simply read the inner circle of numbers for the short hand and the outer circle for the long hand.

Except that since Rio made the outer circle of numbers they are not particularly readable. Rio says this learning tool “DIDN’T WORK” because she was not magically turned into a clock-reader by the end of it. But she’s been looking at the clock and asking about the numbers ever since. I think it’s working fine.

Via the inestimable Ms. R, from whom I get much of my wacky parenting news: this story from the NYT tells about foreign parents losing their American-born children when they’re arrested for immigration violations.

Much of the article focuses on a woman who was arrested when her son was 6 months old. During her incarceration by the feds awaiting deportation, a state judge gave her now-two-year-old child away for adoption.

The article subtly displays the inherent racism and class prejudice of the case: a poor Latina woman gets inadequate legal representation and resources, and her child is adopted out to an upper-middle-class American family. The judge who gave her child away says, ““Her lifestyle, that of smuggling herself into the country illegally and committing crimes in this country, is not a lifestyle that can provide stability for a child.”

The message: being American is better than anything else, and to truly be American you must perform middle-class values.

It might be argued that the judge is right; the adopting couple can offer this little boy a “better” life than his biological mother. To believe that, you have to buy into the notion that middle-class is “better” than poor and a life here is “better” than a life in Guatemala. Ms. Bail, the boys mother, clearly does not. “My parents were poor, and they never gave me to anyone,” Ms. Bail recalled. “I was not going to give my son to anyone either.”

Of course the things the judge wants for Ms. Bail’s son – stability, an education, a “good” home – are the things I want for my kids. In a perfect all children would be awarded an equal measure of love, education, and a happy home life. Quite possibly this judge’s decision gives the kid a statistically higher chance at getting the things many people want: a long healthy life, a college education, safety from violence and crime, etc.

I don’t think it’s right though, for the judge to simply reassign the kid to a “better” family. Bail is not accused of doing anything wrong as a mother; she’s accused of being in this country illegally, where she was working at a factory. One might even imagine that she risked her own life and left her home to come here and work in the hope of giving her own children a better future. It’s shocking to me that her parental rights were even on the table as a possible loss in these circumstances. We don’t normally empower our legal officials to go around scooping up children who are in adequate-but-poor homes and farming them out to richer families. This woman is being victimized because she’s not an American citizen.

Of course, the tragedy has already occurred. The kid is living now with his adoptive parents, the only family he’s ever known. It really would be wrong to wrench him from that home to deport him alongside his mother to a country who’s language he does not speak with a woman he does not know to parent him.

I’d like to hope the attention this case has gotten will spark some reform within the immigration system, to prevent future incidents. But I don’t imagine it will. It’s just another friendly reminder from the press that racism and classism are alive and well within our borders.

I am, by nature, a late person. My husband is worse. So it’s perhaps not surprising that our kids also have a hard time getting themselves organized and out the door when we need to be somewhere.

With Rio, this tends to express itself as anxiety about clothing. In Raising Your Spirited Child, Mary Kurcinka Sheedy talks about kid’s sensitivity to clothing textures as a sign of a spirited temperament. Rio fits the “spirited child” profile so well the book could be about her. Rio is particularly sensitive about her socks.

All this is backstory to the scene at our house a few weeks ago when we were running late for church and Rio was refusing to put her socks on. She’d tried just about every kid tactic there is: moving from room to room as the rest of the family got ready; putting socks on and then having a screaming tantrum because they were not the Right Socks; refusing; whining; pleading.

Finally, she was sitting on the floor in the middle of the living room, sobbing her little eyes out. “I CAAAAAAN’T! MAMA, I CAN’T! I JUST DON’T KNOW WHERE MY SOCKS ARE!!!!!!!!”

Around her on the floor were at least half a dozen pairs of her socks, all neatly folded, all her size. She was crying in a sea of socks.

I went a little crazy. I picked them up and started throwing them at her, shouting some incoherent babble about how much I wanted her to get dressed and stop making me late for everything I ever try to do ever in my life so help me god, etc…

This was not one of my shining moments as a mother. I must have had some good ones in the past though, because Rio stopped crying, looked at me, and said, “Mama, you are not allowed to throw things at me. That’s not what you do.”

I’d like to say that I immediately apologized to her, and she to me, and we happily left for church. In fact, I left the room and my husband finished dressing her and we made it to church 45 minutes late for an hour long service. Rio’s “consequence” (a parenting tactic I almost never stoop to) was to miss her fun Sunday School class and ride out the boring adult sermon with us. All in all, the morning was a disaster.

After a good lunch and a bike ride, Rio and I talked about our tantrum. She volunteered an apology for not getting dressed when I’d asked her to, and promised never to do it again (a promise she broke the next day, and nearly daily since, but we’re working on it). I apologized for getting angry, and especially for throwing socks.

And here’s the Important Thing: I told her I admired the way she was able to tell me I was crossing a boundary even when I was angry and scaring her. That I really like how she knows what’s right and stands up for herself.

I’m confident that won’t make her more obedient. I probably bought myself another round of the Sock Wars with that little speech. It’s also probably technically Bad Parenting; there are a ton of authorities out there that advocate not involving kids in one’s parenting dilemmas. In general, I’m a fan of that myself. I don’t want to make my problems her problems, or ask her to validate my parenting.

But in this case my desire to do the right thing as a person trumped my desire to do the right thing as a parent. I was proud of her, and I told her so.

What do you do when you make a mistake as a parent?

Flickr Photos

A little bird told me…

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