The Crooked House NEEDS this tissue paper house. In fact, we need several of them.
Back when Luke was tiny, I came across these thudguard helmets online, designed for little kids just learning to walk. The first time Luke fell from a standing position, he absolutely smashed his head on the hardwood floor. He had yet to learn that you must protect your head by blocking yourself with your arms as you fall, or by holding your head upright as best you can. So I thought these helmets were a great idea. I never got as far as ordering one, though, because everyone I mentioned it to scoffed at the notion and told me I was an overprotective mother. (Which I was.)
Turns out, though, the idea isn't a new one. Witness the pudding cap:
According to Colonial Williamsburg, the pudding cap "protected the child's brain when it
fell and hit its head. There was a belief that if the head was hit it would be permanently soft, and
falling frequently could lead to the brain turning mushy like pudding. Toddlers were often and lovingly
referred to as "little pudding heads.'" (Which they are.)
We seem to be talking about breastfeeding and birthing here all the time lately, weirdly, since we are done with that phase. But the kids are still very interested in the subject and clear information and a healthy attitude about the whole thing will help to prepare them for their own future families. I just happened upon these Mamamor Dolls and I think they are hilarious, adorable, and informative. The babies have little snaps for mouths that attach to nipples, also made out of snaps, on the moms. (The designer should consider using pink, red, and brown snaps instead of silver ones, though.)
Some of the dolls also show how the babies are carried in the moms' bellies and how they come out. Some of the babies come complete with detachable umbilical cords and placentas.
There are even VBAC dolls, which also have a slot in the stomach through which the baby can emerge. Which reminds me of a conversation Luke and I had on the weekend. It was the kind of conversation that should have been an exchange of information expressed in a matter-of-fact, healthy manner, but it got away from me.
Steph (witnessing Luke putting shreds of a red balloon that has burst into his mouth): Luke! Never ever ever put pieces of balloon in your mouth! They can get stuck in your stomach and KILL you. And especially not red ones! A surgeon won't be able to find the red pieces in your stomach because they look just like blood and all the other stuff inside you.
Luke: How about if I chew this yellow one? Yellow wouldn't be hard for the surgeon to see...
Steph: Absolutely not! I don't care if yellow is an easier colour for the surgeon to see. It is NEVER a good thing if you have to be cut open.
Luke: All girls have to be cut open when they have their babies.
Steph: No they don't. Just sometimes, when the babies won't come out their vaginas. And it is NOT a good thing.
Luke: Ewww. They come out their vaginas?! Ewww. I came out your VAGINA? (starts laughing)
Steph: No, you did not. You wouldn't come out properly so they had to cut my stomach open and take you out that way.
Luke (still laughing): I came out your vagina! Ewww!
Steph (laughing too, but getting annoying and starting to shout): No! You DID NOT COME OUT MY VAGINA!
David (entering the room, says mildly): Well, now the whole neighbourhood has that clear.
Luke (continuing to snort and giggle): Did you come out of your mother's vagina?
Steph: Yes. Yes, I did. (muttering) Everyone comes out of their mothers' vaginas and it is natural and beautiful. That is what the vagina is for.
Luke: But you just said that I didn't come out of your vagina.
This Life Is in Your Hands: One Dream, Sixty Acres, and a Family Undone is a memoir by Melissa Coleman that got a lot of attention last year when it first came out. Coleman's parents, Eliot and Sue, were among the first back-to-the-landers of the late 60s and 70s. They moved to a plot of land in rural Maine that adjoined the farm of Helen and Scott Nearing, the couple who wrote Living the Good Life: How to Live Sanely and Simply in a Troubled World, which is the book credited with inspiring the movement. Eliot and Sue built their own home, grew their own food, and Sue gave birth to two little girls while they did it. It sounds Edenic, particularly for children, and partly, it was. (This NYT review of the book does a good job of describing the basic events of This Life is In Your Hands and also the sort of see-sawing the book does between the poetry of the family's life, rooted as it was in nature, and an increasing sense of ominousness.)
It's easy for people who have never attempted to be self-sufficient through farming to romanticize the idea (witness the current resurgence of what Emily Matchar calls the New Domesticity, which admittedly doesn't seem as hard-core a movement) but the fact is that it makes for a very hard life. (I am guilty of romanticizing it myself -- in high school I gave a speech on my version of "the good life" in which I would retreat with my little family to a cabin in the woods, where I would homeschool my children and we would all survive, I guess, on nuts and berries.) Coleman, who is now a nationally recognized expert on organic gardening, actually had a thyroid disorder, largely untreated, that spurred him on to ceaseless physical labour. And if I were going to try to accomplish what he did, I think I'd want one, too. From Melissa Coleman's descriptions of her mother, Sue, it seems to me that she suffered terribly from post-partum depression and that this was horribly compounded by the relentless, back-breaking work that homesteading actually entailed, not to mention possible malnutrition.
Now here is where the spoiler comes in. Consider yourself warned. One day, busy preparing a feast for some visitors (as if she doesn't have enough to do), Sue shoos Melissa's little sister Heidi, who is around three at the time I think, out of the cabin, telling her to go float her toy boat on the pond. Heidi actually comes back once or twice, begging for attention, and Sue turns her away. You can guess what happened to Heidi down at the pond. She drowned.
Melissa Coleman doesn't blame her mother for this in the book, but she doesn't exactly absolve her, either. After reading it I was left feeling absolutely bereft for the poor woman, whom I was unable to track down via google, hoping to learn she has found some sort of peace. And I must admit I was also left feeling a bit pissed off about Eliot Coleman's (and the Nearings') subsequent success as folk heroes.
Now of course children die. They die in car accidents in suburbia and of childhood cancers and all kinds of things. But all it takes is a short stroll through a pioneer-era graveyard to see how many children died when there was no choice for anyone but a "lifestyle" of relentless physical labour in order to put food on the table. A lot of those deaths were from childhood diseases we can now vaccinate against (if we aren't against vaccinating) but many of them were from accidents that happened when parents didn't have the time and the energy to hover over their kids.
Posted by Stephany Aulenback on March 16, 2012 at 01:27 PM in Books, Childhood, Compendium of Terrible Parenting Advice, Culture, Family, Food and Drink, Gardening, Health, History, Memoirs and Biography, Nature, Nesting, Parenting, Parents in Literature | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
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Apparently Campbell's has announced that it is moving forward with plans for packaging free of Bisphenol-A, "regardless of [the] U.S. Food and Drug Administration's decision on the chemical, due later this month." At first I was pleased by this announcement -- maybe my kids have actually started to bankrupt them -- but after further thought, I am left wondering if the move is some kind of ploy to avoid having the FDA regulate the use of BPA. If industry regulates itself, so the thinking might go, the FDA might not bother. Or perhaps it is simply a preliminary PR move -- to avoid having to spin the fact that Campbell's, a company that constantly evokes healthiness as part of its marketing, waited until ordered by the government to remove a dangerous chemical from its products.
Campbell’s Soup spokesman Anthony Sanzio indicated to the Milwaukee Sentinel Journal that the company has been working on an alternative for their can linings, and plans to switch to the alternative when “feasible alternatives are available.” He did not, however, provide a date to indicate just when that might be accomplished.
That last line is most telling. We need a date, Campbell's. My distrust of the company may seem paranoid but they've been known to be deliberately misleading about their health claims before. For instance, in a highly publicized move -- remember those commercials featuring a Campbell's factory worker standing in a room full of salt? -- they reduced the sodium in their soups in order to make it healthier and then, after sales were affected, they quietly put it back in.
If you want to let the FDA know you want a ruling prohibiting the use of BPA in food packaging NOW, please go here.
You can purchase these boobie beanie baby hats -- or the pattern to make one yourself -- on etsy. You know, so you can protect the delicate sensibilities of those who are offended by public breastfeeding. God forbid anyone should happen to glimpse a bit of breast as it nourishes an infant.
Before we brought Luke home from the hospital, we were instructed to make sure he drank enough. "He must pee four to five times a day!" the nurse said. "If he is not, he is dehydrated and must come back to the hospital! Also, there is a risk that the scabs at the back of the throat will rip open and he will start bleeding! Bleeding requiring an emergency trip to the closest hospital!" She also told us not to let him shout or move around too much for two weeks, which could also result in excessive bleeding. The risk is greatest, she told us, during days four to ten.
Have you ever tried to keep a six-year-old boy from shouting or moving around? If not, imagine trying to keep the wind from blowing or the sun from making its way through the sky. You might as well try to keep Kim Kardashion out of the news.
However, we managed, through great effort, also bribery, to keep him mostly quiet and mostly still until yesterday afternoon. Day seven, for those who are counting. (Like me. I am not only counting the days, I am counting the hours and the minutes until I can safely send the child back to school.) Yesterday afternoon, Luke was standing on the landing at the top of the stairs, chatting to me as I was changing Vivi's diaper on the living room floor below -- I am always changing a diaper at these moments -- when suddenly a squirrel leaped toward him from the banister above his head.
We are having a problem with squirrels getting into the attic from some holes we cannot find in our admittedly decrepit roof. Theo, one of our cats, had chased this one down the attic stairs. Luke is afraid of the squirrels because we have made quite a fuss about our distaste for them being in the attic. And because, let's face it, they are freaky little buck-toothed rats with long bushy tales. And this was a big one. When this squirrel leaped toward him, the poor boy screamed more loudlyand for a longer period of time than I have ever heard anyone scream. He stopped only to take a breath and then screamed again and again and again and again to similar full-throated effect. While he was screaming he leapt bodily down the full flight of twelve stairs.
So far, luckily, there hasn't been any bleeding, at least not as far as Luke is concerned. I am afraid a blood vessel may have popped in my brain, however, as I am not feeling at all well today. Fee free to send flowers and chocolates.
Vivi likes kasha!
When I was little, my mom used to do a Slovak finger play that involved "kasha" or porridge. I can't remember the exact words and I certainly can't read Slovak but I think it might have been this one -- it was a bit like "This Little Piggy," in that it involved the adult lightly gripping, with her forefinger and thumb, each of the fingers of the child's hand as each line was recited. After the last line, during which the littlest finger was gripped, the adult's fingers ran up the child's arm and tickled him or her under the chin:
The mother mouse was cooking porridge,
In that colourful pot,
To this one she gave a little on his spoon,
To this one she gave a little in his bowl,
To this one she gave a little on his plate,
And to that one she gave some on his wooden spoon.
But she did not give any to the small one,
Cause there was none left.
So she sent him to the pantry to eat some jam.
Apparently the word kasha, in Eastern European cultures, refers to any type of porridge, which is a dietary staple there at least a thousand years old. In American English, the word kasha usually refers to buckwheat groats and buckwheat was certainly one of the oldest kinds of cereals used to make porridge in Eastern Europe.
As a result of trying to eat much more healthily here in the crooked house, we've been shopping more often in the organic section of the grocery store, which is where I came across a packet of organic kasha, the roasted buckwheat kernel kind. Although we ate a number of Slovak dishes when I was growing up, I'd never tried this. Vivi and I whipped up a pot this morning, and ate it with a spoonful of honey and some milk. It was, suprisingly, delicious! (As the very healthy-looking, slightly strange-smelling grain boiled away in the pot I was already mentally going through the list of words I expected to use to describe its taste -- they included "terrible," "awful," "no good," "very bad," and, of course, "yuck." I was astonished to be wrong.) We will have to try some of the many, many, many other recipes for kasha -- sweet or savoury; breakfast, lunch, or dinner; main or side -- found here.
Pretty word, too, isn't it? Kasha. I expect a celebrity will use it as a name for a baby any day now.