31 July 2007

The Darndest Things {07/07}

31 July 2007: Flower Power
As we drove yesterday morning to Trader Joe's, my son pointed out the window to a power plant we were passing. "What're all those houses for?" he asked. I explained that they weren't houses, but that they were all part of a power plant, which is where our electricity comes from. "A power plant?" he asked. I thought he was double-checking his pronunciation. "Yes," I affirmed.

Tonight, our son informed my husband that I taught him electricity comes from flowers.


31 July 2007: Getting Around
Baby Q. is perfecting her crawling. Unlike her sister A., she is not intimidated by The Place Where the Carpet Meets the Lineoleum. Because of this, she feels free to roam the house. I try not to let her, but sometimes she escapes my notice. Today, she had been playing with her siblings in the Playroom. I had left momentarily to take care of some things, and then suddenly I heard her behind me.

She came to find me!

My heart soared because here was an act of the will. She wanted me, and she came to find me. Once she could see me, she sat up, clapped her hands together, and smiled a delighted smile right at me. I felt such love. For the first time, I knew we were together because she wanted it rather than because I did.


31 July 2007: Falling Out of Bed
My daughter A. gets cold easily, and she does not like being cold. She likes everything warm. She likes her food warm, some of her drinks warm, her bath warm, and her self warm, especially when she is trying to sleep.

At almost 2:00 this morning, I awoke to the sound of my little girl whimpering. I went to check on her, but I didn't have my contacts on, so I couldn't see. I entered her room and heard her little voice crying, "My feet! My feet!" This is what she says when her feet are cold. I had thought this problem would go away in the Big Girl Bed because it was easier to keep covers on.

Because I couldn't see well, and had been in a deep sleep when she called, I had trouble finding her. I soon discovered that this was because she was on the floor. "Did you fall out of bed?" I asked. "Yes," she answered. "My feet!"

She is so funny to me. Our son would have been horrified that he fell. She would never have told us, would have slept all night right there on the floor, had she brought a blanket with her. Her only complaint was the cold.


28 July 2007: One Big Girl
It took less than two weeks, and A. is totally daytime potty trained. And then tonight, she is sleeping {for the first time} in her own big girl bed. I thought she would be bouncy and giggly due to the excitement, but she actually approached it all with much seriousness and concern. I brought her into her room and showed her how pretty I had made her bed. She jumped up and began to analyze the quilt. I might have picked a pattern that was too busy--she kept staring at it and pointing out how the different fabrics in different places matched each other.

And then it was bedtime. I took a couple pictures for the sake of posterity and then told her to hop in. She ran over to the crib {which will belong to Baby Q. in a couple weeks} and began to scale the side, softly saying, "No, Mommy. Crib." But I told her the Big Girl Bed was where she would sleep from now on. She jumped down, looking troubled, but said, "Okay."

I asked her if she wanted a pillow. "No." I reminded her she could still sleep on her tummy. "No." I handed her her little doll and that seemed to improve the situation. She was serious, and looked so small, and Daddy and I prayed with her. And then we left her there in that big bed.


15 July 2007: English Language Nuances
Si spent some time this morning singing hymns with E. and A. in his lap. On the way home from church, E. mentioned to Si that he would like to do that again sometime in the afternoon. Then he asked, "Do you have any hers, too?"

Get it? Hymns and hers.

Funny kid.


15 July 2007: Potty-Training Her Baby
After church this morning, as I was preparing a bottle for Q., I caught A. in her room, giving her doll a very severe look. Her doll was on its back in the area where I usually change A.'s diapers. A. was scolding Doll for not using the toilet {toy-yet}, and was frantically searching for her baby wipes {which are actually tiny washcloths}. I attempted to assist her by bringing her the "wipe" she had misplaced. She scowled at me, and went back to her business.

Later, while I was feeding Q., A. stomped into the room in frustration saying, "She pooped in toy-yet!" I didn't really understand her, so I asked her to repeat herself. "Pooped in toy-yet!"

"Oh," I answered, "Well, bring her here."

A. stomped off. I heard the clattering of the miniature potty chair we keep in the hall bathroom. A. returned, with her doll in hand. "See?" she shrieked, thrusting her baby's rear end into my face. "She no pooped in toy-yet!" She turned the baby over and scowled at her again.

"Well, go take her back and have her sit on it again. Maybe she will do better next time." I was trying not to laugh at this diaper-wearing potty-training tyrant.

"Okay." She furrowed her brow at the doll in warning, and returned to business. When she returned later, she was all smiles at her doll's apparent success.

We start Potty Training Week tomorrow morning, bright and early.


6 July 2007: My First Love Note
I have been teaching E. how to write. Also, we recently put a desk in his room so that he would have a space to do some Big Boy activities during our afternoon nap/quiet time. These two things converged today. I found a drawing of various shapes on the island in the kitchen. When I flipped it over, sprawled in capital letters on the back was: "I LUF MOM."

Does it get any better than this?


2 July 2007: The First of Many Injuries
I spent most all of this morning at our local Urgent Care facility. I figure this is a good a story as any to start off this month's Darndest Things List. A., our resident two-year-old, would follow her brother anywhere, even off a cliff. This weekend, she followed his lead while Mom was out of the room. He jumped off of the dining table to the floor. And then she tried to imitate him. Only he knows how to land correctly when jumping from great heights. She does not.

And she hasn't walked since.

Did I mention how embarrassing it is to tell this story to people? Why don't I just brand the words Negligent Mom onto my forehead?

It didn't swell up too badly, and it didn't turn an ugly black and blue, but since she was still refusing to walk this morning, I decided to call our doctor. Who turned out to be on vacation.

Urgent Care, then.

Fun fun fun. Check in. Take vitals. March to X-ray. Take X-ray. Sit in patient room. Wait for doctor.

Wait for doctor.

Wait for doctor.

Doctor says everything looks fine, but radiologist should examine X-ray, and this will take two days.

Why does this take two days? We do not know, but it will.

So. Spent all morning at doctor. Everything looks fine, but child is still not walking.

Did I mention I am carrying her everywhere? This is her dream-come-true. Perhaps it is all a ruse so that she can be held all day long the way she likes.

She is our dare devil child, taking unusual risks and such. And she really isn't smart about it, walking around with her hands over her eyes, and then acting offended that a wall jumped in front of her. If any of our children will have a childhood full of broken limbs, it will be her.

More Early Readers

Every time my son reaches the end of his personal book pile, I get nervous. What do early readers read, anyhow? And didn't I just buy him books? Why is he done already? Why is all the book money going to someone who isn't even four feet tall?

When I'm done with this internal minitantrum, I go straight to Amazon and start my hunt. I want books that aren't too hard, but aren't too easy, either. I want them to be an enjoyable read for him, but also a challenge. So far, we've bought some good books.

Amazon's 4-for-3 sale came just in time. Combined with the free shipping, our order was practically stealing. Here are the next eight books he will be reading, in particular order:


Frog and Toad Are Friends by Arnold Lobel


Days with Frog and Toad by Arnold Lobel


Nate the Great by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat


Nate the Great and the Musical Note by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat


Nate the Great and the Stolen Base by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat


Nate the Great and the Tardy Tortoise by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat


Nate the Great Saves the King of Sweden by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat


Doctor De Soto by William Steig


I am sure Kristie will appreciate the introduction of the Nate the Great books into our curriculum.

Lest you all think that we only buy brand new books around here, I feel compelled to explain that I am in the process of building a very long book list. When we are on our trip in September, there will be at least one used bookstore within walking distance of where we are staying. We plan to take our list and scour the bookstore for finds. My hope is that we can build a substantial library for the coming year while paying only pennies on the dollar.

27 July 2007

Adventures in Potty Training

I am getting a lot of hits on my potty training posts from last week, and I have reason to believe that people out there looking for potty training advice are ending up here. At Afterthoughts. Which is written by a Potty Training Amateur.

However, I am starting to feel obligated to give some sort of advice because, after all, here you are and it's something I've done twice now. So here is what I've learned about it so far. If you really want advice, go ask a mother of six or ten.

Wait Until the Child is Ready
I began training my son shortly after his second birthday. He was not fully daytime trained until six months later. It was a long six months, and I pretty much had to let him run around bare because otherwise he would have an accident. My daughter is almost two-and-a-half and I trained her in a week. Some say it is the difference between boys and girls, but I think the bigger difference might be between training a child who is ready and pushing a child who is not.

Wait Until Mom is Ready
Though the child can't wait for Mom forever, putting something off until Mom really has the time is, in my opinion, more than okay. I waited until after the baby could handle it. Little Q. went through a stage where she would scream whenever a feeding was interrupted. Potty training requires that Mom drop everything whenever the trainee needs to visit the potty. Waiting until Q. could handle the potty training lifestyle allowed me to focus.

Begin With a Formal Conversation
I had been warning A. for months that The Day was coming. I constantly pointed out that E. did not wear diapers, Dad did not wear diapers, and I most certainly did not wear diapers. I told her that one day she would not wear diapers, either.

The night before we began potty training, I sat her down and explained it all to her. I told her that, from now on, diapers are for sleeping. I handed her some new undies, which she thought were pretty, and explained that she got to wear them first thing in the morning, but she must not use them like a diaper. They are not a diaper. And I told her about the toilet, which she pretty much understood already since there are a few people older than her around here.

Sequester, Sequester, Sequester
Don't go anywhere. Don't do anything. Plan to train, and perhaps feed the children when they are really hungry. It is only a week or two of life, and it is much more successful when it is focused on the goal rather than distracted by errands to run and visits to make.

Also, I found (this time) that spending the first day (or three days) in the kitchen was beneficial. The Whole Day. We colored in the kitchen, played games in the kitchen, chased each other around the island in the kitchen. The potty chair was right there at a moment's notice. Kitchen floors, incidentally, are much easier to clean up than the carpet.

Use a Timer
After a few days, I began to listen to the Old Ladies in my life and I set a timer. A. was commanded to sit on the potty every so many minutes. I figured out about how long she could hold it, and that was how long I set the timer for. She happened to learn how to hold it longer a few days later because she didn't like stopping her play so often. It wasn't until about day six or seven that she was able to know when she needed to go and communicate that to me before an accident happened.

Discipline
When I trained E., I had been heavily influenced by certain popular parenting magazines. Not that there is anything wrong with them in general, but a reader needs to understand the particular bias of what is being read. I did not, at the time, realize that the reason the magazines I read explicitly forbade any form of discipline during potty training was due to the theories of Freud. They were fearful that a parent using discipline during toilet training might cause permanent damage to the child's psyche.

However, rebellion must always be disciplined, regardless of the context in which it occurs. I was not confident in this fact with my first child, and it showed. Please note that I am not saying a parent should discipline a child for an accident. I am saying that if the parent tells the child to sit on the potty chair and the child refuses to sit on the potty chair, then discipline is in order.

This is why it is easier to potty train a child that is already under control.

By the way, I would be careful commanding a child to "go on the potty" as, when they are first learning, they do not have that kind of control over their bodies. It is better to simply tell them to sit there. They don't have to go, but they do have to sit.

Use Treats
With my son, I used dried cranberries for small successes and chocolate covered raisins for big ones. With A., I used yogurt covered raisins instead of cranberries because cranberries seem to upset her tummy. Each success is rewarded with a small treat {one or two cranberries were fine}. They do not need big rewards as they will be earning them constantly throughout the day.

Do not give rewards that are constipating, or it will quite literally backfire.

If you don't like the idea of using food, use a sticker chart.

Add Water
Keep the child drinking so that there are plenty of opportunities to practice the new skill. Also, if the child is constipating himself because he is holding it too long, add in prune juice. I actually started a tiny bit of prune juice {an ounce or two} the night before we began.

Require the Child to Clean Up Their Own Mess
Obviously, this requires wisdom because certain messes can actually pose a health hazard to the child. But a child who is training can help Mom clean up an accident, even if this means fetching a rag or a dry pair of undies. Urine is sterile and children can safely dry a floor themselves under Mom's supervision. This is part of helping them take responsibility for their own bodies. Do not shame them, but require them to help.

Get Help
I had noticed, weeks before we began training, that A. took advantage of the times I was feeding Baby Q. Obviously, I had to continue to feed Q. during training week. So I called in the reserves. Two Great Grandmas and one Granmama took turns, one lady per day, coming to my home to help. Sometimes, all they did was hold Q. while I spent time helping A. learn the ropes. I am completely spoiled in this area, and I admit this. However, I must say that it was helpful to be able to continue feeding the baby or reviewing Catechism with E. during training week.

Once Daytime Trained, Throw a Party
This is in the works for us, but we will be throwing a party in the next week or so. A handful of close relatives will come over, have some cake with us, and congratulate A. on doing such a good job. When we did this with E., many of them also brought him new undies to add to his collection, but obviously the congratulations are sufficient.

Let Nighttime Training Happen on Its Own
Eventually, the child's brain will turn on and he will begin to hold it overnight. I have found that it helps to get the child up one last time before the parents go to bed, approximately 10:15pm or so. If the child is still in a crib like A., now would be the time to graduate to a Big Bed.

Listen to the Expert
Nanny Y. just started potty training her charge. She is a paid professional. Listen to her.

26 July 2007

Christian Liberty

Mrs. MPL and I have, over the last few months, discussed the issue of Christian liberty. When we were growing up, it was common to meet folks who were quite legalistic: no drinking, no smoking, no dancing, and definitely no coed swimming. Then there were folks like my husband and I. We think that drink is fine {in moderation, since the Bible specifically calls drunkenness a sin}, but we never aquired a taste for it and don't partake with much frequency. Usually, when I met people who drank a lot, smoked a lot, etc., the case was an issue of sin.

These days, there seems to be something interesting {and by interesting, I mean bad} going on in some of the Christian subcultures. There is this defense of drunkenness or addictions to nicotine that are defended on the basis of Christian liberty.

I am currently reading Future Men by Douglas Wilson. This book has an entire chapter devoted to the issue of Christian liberty. I thought I'd snip a couple quotes to share. The context is the raising of boys, and yet the application is much wider than that. He begins with the definition of terms, and then moves on from there:
[L]iberty in Christ means freedom from guilt, God's judgment, and the condemnation of moral law. It also means we are delivered from the wickedness of the world, the hatred of Satan, and the dominion of sin. We are also freed from the consequences of such things--afflictions, fear of death, the dominion of death, and Hell. We are also freed to certain things--we are free to approach God, and free to obey Him from love, not from fear.

[snip]

The end or purpose of Christian liberty is not to smoke or drink; liberty is given for the pursuit of holiness. Those who wave the banner of Christian liberty so that they might do whatever they might want to do have not understood the doctrine at all. The point is not to drink or smoke or dance according to our own whims, in the light of our own wisdom, but to do whatever we do before the Lord, with increase of joy and holiness obvious to all. Our guide on how this is to be done is the Bible, and not our pet evangelical traditions. And this is why the mature may drink wine to the glory of God, and the same cannot be applied to young men who may be more concerned about looking cool than being holy.

25 July 2007

On Illegitimate Children

Once upon a time, a comment was left on this blog concerning illegitimate children. This comment has haunted me off and on for almost half a year because the commenter asserted that there are no illegitimate children, only illegitimate parents. I never really addressed this comment because it was a bit off-topic at the time.

But I have decided that I need to consider this comment a bit, or it will continue to bother me.

Equivocation
Obviously, this comment is a classic case of equivocation. The definition of the word illegitimate is "born of parents who are not married to each other; born out of wedlock." To argue that there are "no illegitimate children" is to assert that the word illegitimate does not exist. And since this person used the word to deny the word's existence, I can rightly suggest she is a bit confused.

However, comma...

This is not why I object to the comment.

Denying the Disadvantages
It is my firm belief that erasing the term illegitimate is not useful. There is a desire to do this on the societal level. I think it began with a wish to even the playing field, to offer some sort of encouragement to children born out of wedlock. It was an I'm-okay-you're-okay sort of statement.

In seeking to eliminate words utilized when describing the ugliness involved in the consequences of immoral behavior, one is simply covering it up. However, the Lord commands that the Christian shine light into the darkness, not take out the broom and sweep that darkness under the rug.

It is a disadvantage to a child to be illegitimate. It is a disadvantage to be raised in a single-parent home. These two issues tend to go hand-in-hand, though {obviously} there are many legitimate children that have been made illegitimate {in the sense that they are being raised out of wedlock} through the process of divorce. And some illegitimate children are raised in two-parent families for a time due to cohabitation. Of course, one must keep in mind that cohabitation is one of the main routes into lone parenthood.

Illegitimate children are often raised by single moms. Single moms are poorer; more likely to suffer from stress, depression, and other emotional and psychological problems; have more health problems; and may have more problems interacting with their children {source}. Illegitimate children can be at a disadvantage simply because their mother is at a disadvantage.

The "non-resident fathers" of these poor children are at risk of losing contact with their children and are more likely to have health problems and engage in high-risk behavior {source}. Illegitimate children can be at a disadvantage simply because their chance for relationship with a loving and responsible male is greatly diminished.

And children raised without their fathers are more likely to live in poverty and deprivation; more likely to have emotional or mental problems; have more trouble in school; tend to have more trouble getting along with others; have higher risk of health problems; are at greater risk of suffering physical, emotional, or sexual abuse; and are more likely to run away from home {source}.

The Problem Lies With the Parents, But...
It is true that the sin lies in the hearts of the parents. It is true that the child is not to blame for who his parents are and what they have done. It is true that, as a Christian, I am to have compassion on the fatherless and orphans. I am to extend grace to the headless households.

However, the sin of the parents causes major problems for the children. Trying to lessen the seriousness of illegitimacy by using terminology that sounds "prettier" doesn't ease the children's situation as much as it eases the consciences of the parents. And one certainly does not want the parents feeling good about refusing to do right by their children.

Illegitimacy is a serious problem, and no amount of finagling with words will make it better. If one reads the source I quoted throughout this post, one will learn that children raised by single moms grow up to be very troubled teens with a laundry list of sins of their own. And these teens grow up to be adults with a long list of sins and troubles and who--surprise, surprise--are more likely to cohabitate.

And so the cycle continues. The illegitimate children grow up and beget their own illegitimate children, never realizing that there is a better way.

Fight the Battle Rather Than Deny It
There are not other alternatives to God's design for the family. There are simply very sad, very disadvantaged substitutes for the real thing. The sooner society admits this, the better. Once one understands the advantage one has as a legitimate child in a loving, Christian family, one must admit the antithesis. Namely, that the alternative is a very dark picture.

And then one can extend the grace to which I alluded earlier. Offering the hand of help. Correcting and rebuking sin. Perhaps opening a home to foster care or adoption. The options are many.

It's the workers that are few.

24 July 2007

A Catechism to Hang Things On

We've been working through the catechism for about fifteen weeks now. I feel ready for a bit of reflection on the process. I think the biggest challenge is what I anticipated in the beginning: making sure that this is truly a hiding in the heart process, as opposed to rote learning. The key is to keep explaining the words until the lightbulb turns on.

Well, for the five-year-old. The two-year-old has memorized some of it, and I guarantee this is rote learning for her.

I often think of early learning as a form of putting up hooks. I don't remember where I got this imagery; it was in something I read somewhere once. The basic concept was that ideas need a place to hang in the brain. This doesn't just go for kids, but for adults as well. {This is why the Trivium method of learning works so well, I think, because it begins by giving later ideas a place to hang.}

This catechism is like a big hook festival for us. Kids will ask questions about God that often stump parents, not because the parents don't know the answer, but because the parents do not have an appropriate vocabulary in common with the kids to employ for the discussion. And so parents find themselves confused about how to answer a child's questions.

I used to feel this way, but it has lessened since we began catechism.

Now, we have defined some important terms. We have learned the answer to the basic question of life: Who am I and why am I here? This alone is foundational, a place to begin when answering a child's solemn spiritual questions.

A Few Hints When Using the Catechism
I do want to caution my readers. Do not assume that buying a book based on the Westminster catechism, or any other catechism, will exactly represent your family's beliefs. The book I am using, for instance, defined a covenant as a contract, when the two are quite distinct. I had my son call Dad at his office for clarification.

This is just one example. The catechim is a tool for passing on the family's legacy as faith, not something that must be clung to legalistically.

We are also thinking of skipping a couple questions {dealing with adultery} until our kids are older.

And, finally, don't be afraid to spend more than one week on a question. If it is difficult to learn the newest question and answer, repeat it two weeks in a row. You can even cover the exact same verses again. Repetition is the way of it for memory work. It is more important to know the material than to stick to the schedule.

23 July 2007

Potty Training Day 7 Score Sheet

I do believe that this is the last Score Sheet I will keep. I see no need to continue. Accidents are now rare enough. Through tracking our progress, I have been able to see our successes and determine the best ways to prevent our failures.

In the near future, I will need to organize the standard Underwear Party. This is a cake-and-punch gathering of our relatives to celebrate a new level of maturity. If I can pull off a cake that resembles a toilet, I'll be sure and post photos.

Also, we will need to graduate her to a Big Girl Bed. If she's learned to visit the restroom on her own, she will need to be able to get there without the obstacle of a crib's fastened side.

Sunday's scores were as follows:
Successes +8
Failures -1
Major Failures 0
Overnight Bonus 0
Naptime Bonus +2
Didn't-Wet-Mommy's-Lap-During-Worship-Service Bonus +1

Final total score: +10. A perfect ten. That's a good score to end with.

21 July 2007

Potty Training Day 6 Score Sheet

There were a number of great victories today. If we keep it up, I do believe I will be able to declare our little girl "fully potty-trained" by this time next week! Among our great triumphs were being able to swim without a diaper {and proven trustworthy in that regard!} and also asking to go to the restroom rather than being told that it was time.

That's right. After three grandmas {well, two great grandmas and one grandma} telling me that I should figure out how long she can wait between bathroom breaks and then set a timer for that amount, I finally gave in. A couple days ago, I began setting a timer for twenty-five minutes. This is when the number of failures declined significantly.

It's been much less stressful ever since.

And tonight, we made a trip to Great Gran's house. She survived the ride without incident, and the lack of timer was of no consequence because she became self-aware enough to ask to go.

It was great.

So here are the scores:
Successes +12
Failures -1
Major Failures 0
Naptime Bonus +2
Overnight Bonus 0

Today's total is +13.

She will not be going to Sunday School tomorrow {just the main service as a family}, so this gives me one more week to perfect her new skill.

20 July 2007

Potty Training Day 5 Score Sheet

Today was monumental for a few reasons. First, A. woke up with a nice, crisp, dry, clean, insert-adjective-here diaper. We were so proud! Next, we had no failures of any kind today. And, lastly and most importantly, I had to take Baby Q. to the pediatrician, so Granmama took the big kids for the day and that means I took the day off.

I even took a nap.

Before I give today's scores, I was thinking that this whole scoring idea isn't based on the right theory. Though I definitely want to see the negative points {failures} eliminated, I also want to see the positive points decrease in number because that means she is spending less time on the Potty Chair in general. We really can't spend our whole lives visiting the restroom every twenty-five minutes.

However, today does receive a new high score:
Successes +13
Failures 0
Major Failures 0
Naptime Bonus 0
Nighttime Bonus +3

This makes today's total score a whopping +16.

19 July 2007

Potty Training Day 4 Score Sheet

I promise to quit keeping score by the time she's twenty. Scout's honor. {Of course, I wasn't actually a Scout.} Today was the best of times as well as the worst of times. We had a great success at naptime, only to be followed by a major failure.

But we did take a full twelve minute walk without disaster. I can envision myself leaving my house again in about three weeks.

Until then, I must say that there were more highs than lows today, and that is all that I can ask of someone who, after a particularly major failure, patted me compassionately on my shoulder and said, "Sowwy, Mommy." {And I melted.}

Today's scores:
Successes +10
Failures -1
Major failures -2
Naptime bonus +2
Nighttime bonus 0

This makes today's total a whopping +9.

18 July 2007

Potty Training Day 3 Score Sheet

Well, I had hoped that by Day Three I would be able to report that it was getting easier. However, today felt about the same. We remained confined to the kitchen, which is challenging, but sometimes a smaller world is best when learning to use a new skill.

Here are today's scores:

Successes +7
Failures -2
Major failures -2
Naptime bonus +2
Overnight bonus 0

As you can see, this makes an all-time high score of +5. However, the failures proved there is still much improvement needed.

Review Ending Note: The Organic God

So here I am, having come full circle. My journey through this book has been different than I expected, and yet good. I began by explaining that reading the book is a struggle for me, because it is difficult to separate the ideas from the person. However, after spending much more time on all of this than I ever planned to, including creating a detailed outline of one of the chapters, I think I have discovered the key to my angst.

The difference between current, popular methods of thinking and the classical method of thinking and learning is distinct. Even though I never attended a classical school, never received a classical education, and never intensely studied formal logic or reasoning, I have recently, through preparing for the new school year, realized that this is how I think and process information. Even though I tend to make many connections while reading, I still read and write in a linear manner.

The Organic God does otherwise. I will use the chapter entitled amazingly wise as an example. Various true statements about God's wisdom, or man's ability to aquire wisdom are sprinkled throughout the chapter. These little gems are held together by the story of the author's college experience. The chapter begins with Feinberg's applying for college, and includes anecdotes from her freshman, sophmore, and even senior years. It is the story that holds it all together, not the reasoning.

I have created a graphic to help explain this idea, based on the first half of the chapter:

If one approaches the graphic as a clock, twelve-noon would be the beginning of the chapter, and then the various truisms would be approached clockwise. The general idea of the chapter is God's wisdom, and all of the little truths reinforce that general idea. But one travels around the circle through the narrative, not through any force of argument.

By argument, I mean a process of reasoning. This is not to be confused with a desire for contention.

Because the story causes movement rather than argument, one learns much more about the author than one does The Author.

Now, allow me to reorder the boxes in a linear, logical progression according to the classical method of learning {the Trivium}:

{Yes, I left out the Maya Angelou box. I just couldn't figure out where it would fit.} Here I have, as an intent to study God's attribute of wisdom, a progression that begins with grammar and ends with rhetoric. Grammar {meaning the basic facts one must know before beginning the discussion} would start it off. This is important since the prevalence of poor education means one should never assume a high level of prior knowledge. The first two boxes are grammar level. The definition of wisdom is given, along with an explanation of what the absence of wisdom looks like. Finding wisdom in Scripture brings about the transition from grammar to logic.

Scripture is where one can learn more than just the basic facts. The logic level involves understanding the dynamics of the subject. God's giving Feinberg what is best rather than what she prefers, God answering prayers, all of the bits learned about wisdom here fall into the logic category. Then, one can move on to rhetoric, skillfully applying what has been learned and understood. Falling into this category would be the last two boxes, containing one positive and one negative. The negative is what would not be done and the positive is what will be done {living the best possible life}.

Most of the same stories could be told. But the reordering into a linear model seeking to understand God and His wisdom does a most important thing: it places God in the center. If the force of the narrative of Feinberg's life is what moves the reader through the pages, then she herself is subject of the book, regardless of the thesis statement. Only when the paragraphs are reordered can it be said that one will really come away understanding more about God.

If this were a memoirs, I would not be making these statements. After all, the point of reading a memoirs is to learn about a person's life, and anything that person learned about God is somewhat incidental. But this book seeks to help a reader understand, and therefore love God. I would say that, with its current memoirs-styled approach, it is much more likely to inspire admiration and affection for Feinberg herself.

I am sure this was not deliberate. I found Feinberg to be intriguing and very likeable. I am sure that a cup of coffee with her in my living room would be a fabulous way to spend the afternoon. The unfortunate fact about the postmodern writing style is that it is ultimately man-centered, despite the author's best intentions. This is why I believe logical, linear argument to be of the utmost importance when addressing this sort of subject.

17 July 2007

Potty Training Day 2 Score Sheet

Today was packed with kitchen duty. The Potty Chair became a permanent fixture in a place where I could see her while still performing all of my required duties as wife of the Birthday Guy.

Happy twenty-ninth birthday, Dear.

Here's today's score sheet:

Successes: +6
Failures: 0
Major Failures: -2
Bonuses: 0
Today's total: +4

As long as we keep it in the positive, I think we will be fine!

The Beautiful: The Organic God

For those of you joining me for the first time today, this is part of a series-style book review. Previous posts include an Introduction, The Good, and The True. This post really should be the last one, but it isn't. I suppose I just can't help myself.

As a reminder, this is my criteria for the beautiful category:
Here, I mean well-written. In the negative, a reader would expect a "beautiful" book to be free of glaring typographical errors and poorly structured phrases that detract from the reader's ability to think through and enjoy the work. In the positive, a gloriously "beautiful" book would create a sense of awe and wonder, even if it is a work of nonfiction. Anyone who has read Chesterton knows that this is not only possible, but expected of a truly great author. Beautiful writing is not trite, nor is it pedestrian. It makes the craft look easy, all the while revealing the efforts of a hard-working mind.


Graphic Design
I love that this book is a hardback. It is paper-over-board {no dust jackets}, which I appreciate. I'm a mom who often shoves a book in the diaper bag. This book holds its own, remaining beautiful on the outside even when abused by a toddler. {I like the cover design, by the way.}

I do not think that the internal formatting is very beautiful at all. I think it is supposed to resemble a CD rather than a book, but it is, after all, not a CD. Instead of titling the Chapters as "1", "2", and so on, they are given strange numbers like ".000" and ".001". Also, the entire table of contents is in lower case, with no respect for grammar rules or etiquette. This is symptomatic of the postmodern tendency to dispose of any and all tradition, so please don't take this lightly. {As an aside, I have a hunch that most of the strange aspects of this book are not displaying an actual postmodern belief system, but rather a desire to seem "cool" and "with it." Postmodern language liberties are trendy right now, and this book is all about following fashion. Also, I am almost positive that Feinberg herself is not responsible for typesetting.}

By far, the most unbeautiful aspect is that the entire book is typeset in a font without hats. I'm not positive that it's Arial, but it is rounded. There is no differentiation, for instance, between an upper-case "I" and a lower-case "l". I think all letters in books should wear hats.

At the end, there is a "soundtrack." This is a list of songs that matches up with the various chapters. This might reclassify the book as a multimedia experience. I tend to enjoy reading in silence, so this doesn't make the experience more beautiful for me, but I suppose it might for some types of people.

Writing Distractions
Overall, I think that Feinberg's simple {yet slightly gushy} writing style is fitting for the genre. However, there are certain words that stick out in a way that I find distracting or irritating or simply used in excess. Take, for example, the words bioluminescence, illuminat{e/ed/ing}, and luminous. The book begins with a beautiful depiction of bioluminescence. But then the word illuminate enters the pages. Next I know, numerous aspects of God are declared "luminous." By the end, I have the idea that God is simply illuminatingly luminous! This is a major case of overusing a beautiful word {or root of a word} to the point that it loses its charm.

Then, there is the potty talk. Feinberg uses the word "poopy" a couple times, and once mentions magazines and a bathroom in the same sentence! I freely admit that I am very girly when it comes to toilet conversation. These little slips in etiquette are not to my liking. Objectively, discussing such things is not beautiful.

Surprisingly, what I find most distracting are the words that Feinberg uses to title her chapters. These descriptions of God are always combination adjectives: breathtakingly beautiful, amazingly wise, surprisingly talkative, wildly infallible, outrageously generous, unbelievable stubborn, abundantly kind, deeply mysterious. Honestly, I don't find this beautiful. To me, it feels contrived, or perhaps a bit forceful. Remember, the chapter title is the first I see when I am transitioning from one idea to the next {since the various ideas about God are separated by chapter}. Before I read the chapter, or even know what it is really about, I am slapped with these double-adjectives. It reminds me of going to a family reunion and having to hug people I don't really know. I prefer to slowly gain familiarity with the new concept, not have it shoved in my face.

For the record, I do not consider "wildly" to be a beautiful word. And I would never apply it to Our Lord. The Bible often uses the word "wild" for the likes of the rebellious.

Personal Favorites
If there is one thing that is really revealed within the pages of The Organic God, it is Feinberg's love for God's creation. She records some truly refreshing descriptions of nature. My two favorites are her description of living on a boat with her parents, and then also her vivid portrayal of a glacier.

Perhaps what I find most beautiful in this book is Feinberg's story of how her heart softened toward marriage. Apparently, she had friends who had troubles adjusting to marriage, even some who had divorced. It left a bitter taste in her mouth. However, God softened her heart, and she married in her early thirties. She writes:
Looking back, all I can think is, why didn't I do this sooner? Somehow I missed the memo that marriage is better than Godiva. When I finally said "I do," I was actually bracing for a crash landing--helmet in hand--but ill-prepared for the incredible heights that accompany the holy metamorphosis of two becoming one.
There is nothing that saddens me more than the state of marriages in our culture. It warmed me to witness God redeeming marriage for this woman.

Looking Forward
Tomorrow, I am going to talk about Order v. Chaos. Technically, this discussion will still take place within the Beautiful framework. Maybe I will call it "The Beautiful, Part II."

16 July 2007

Potty Training Day 1 Score Sheet

Before I begin, I suppose I should share my scoring basics. A success {defined as making it to Potty Chair without requiring any cleanup work on the part of Mom} earns one point. A failure {defined as requiring some amount of cleanup and usually a change of underwear} subtracts one point. A major failure {defined as requiring much cleanup as well as conscious effort to keep from vomiting} subtracts two points. Two bonus points can be earned for staying clean and dry during the afternoon nap, and I suppose I would allow for three bonus points should a person stay clean and dry through out the entire night.

Not that I expect anyone to stay clean and dry all night after their first real day of Potty Training Boot Camp.

Today's scores were as follows:

Successes +8 points
Failures -3 points
Major Failures -2 points
Naptime Bonus +2 points
Overnight Bonus 0 points

This makes the Day One Potty Training Boot Camp Score a total of +5 points. Not bad for your first day, Little Girl.

15 July 2007

The True: The Organic God

Much of what is said in most devotional literature is true. Because of this, I am not going to go through, line by line, and tally up each propositional statement. Rather, I will use this post to discuss what I found to be profoundly true, and also the one statement I found that was absolutely not true. Being profoundly true is, by nature, subjective. All this means is that it was a truth I hadn't thought about before, or needed to be reminded of, and so it seemed profound when I read it.

As a reminder, when checking a book for truth:
There are a couple ways of looking at this category. The first would be a matter of history. Are the facts presented true accounts of something that really happened? A good starting question, except that a lot of nonfiction these days consists of so much personal introspection and bravado, that I think a better question to ask is whether the work is true in the sense of eternity. Does the author's assertion match up with God's assertions as maintained by Scripture? As the ultimate holder of Truth, Scripture is a great place to start {and end} when analyzing anything.


Astute Observations
I thought I'd start out with the positive comments. After retelling the story of the five loaves and two fish, Feinberg follows up with a good {and true!} discussion of generosity:
Jesus asked them to consider what they had, not what they didn't. He asked them to take inventory, and with the five loaves and two fish donated by a child, everyone was fed.

[snip]

Yet in spite of the evidence of God's provision, we still ask, How much is this going to cost us? Such thinking reveals that we have forgotten a very simple but powerful principle: everything comes from God, including the ability to produce wealth. There's a tendency to chalk up financial success to hard work, creativity, ingenuity, and timing--and while all are essential ingredients, the real source is God.


After sharing Ezekiel's commentary on Sodom in Ezekiel 16:48-50, Feinberg observes,
Sodom is synonymous with sexual sin. Every message, illustration, or reference I heard while growing up made it clear that the twin cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed because of sodomy. More than one spiritual leader had used the Genesis account as a hallmark against sexual sin. But it's no accident that Ezekiel highlights the lack of care for the poor before he ever mentions any sexual activities...[T]he sexual acts were merely outward behaviors of inward attitudes. The heart issues ran deeper: the people had become prideful, self-satisfied, and apathetic.


I appreciated that Feinberg reminded her readers that "God is not a spectator; he is actively engaged."

And, lastly, I loved her discussion of mystery:
While mystery often refers to knowledge withheld, the mystery described in the New Testament refers to knowledge that has been revealed. Yet even with such disclosures, so much about God remains unknown, and for me, that is part of the intrigue.


Feinberg Gets Fuzzy
I am trying not to get distracted by the fact that Feinberg is obviously egalitarian and I, obviously, am not. I don't want to spend a book review explaining why I think her views on women are "not true," even though this is the perfect category for it. Why? Because the book isn't really about the fact that she is egalitarian. And I really don't have the mental energy for such a discussion right now.

So, what else was not true, or not truly true? {That was a shout out to Francis Schaeffer.}

For the purpose of time, I will deal only with the most glaring error. This is when Feinberg writes,
Staring at the various scenes in Jesus's life, we are exposed to his enormous heart for us. One of my favorites is the sliver in time when Jesus touched the hemorrhaging woman. In a fraction of a moment, he crossed both cultural and religious minefields with grace and tender care. He touched a woman--an act which in itself was scandalous--and even went so far as to touch a woman who was permanently classified as unclean because of her infirmity.


The Bible, however, doesn't say that Jesus touched her. It says that she touched Him, which brings about different conclusions that the idea that Jesus touched her. See Mark 5:25-34 and Luke 8:43-48. Feinberg should have used the story of Jesus' interaction with the Samaritan woman if she wanted to talk about crossing barriers.

And Finally...
Read The Good. And tomorrow {or the next day...we are potty training around here} watch for the beginning of The Beautiful. I had thought that most of my qualms with The Organic God would be truth issues, but, after much analysis {including a full outline of one of the chapters}, I have decided that the biggest issues I have with this book are in the area of Beauty.

13 July 2007

The Good: The Organic God

Before I begin, I feel the need {again} to remind readers that there is an official Book Review Formula for my book reviews here on the blog. Book Reviews {capital-B, capital-R} are not to be confused with my chattering away about what I have been reading.  The Book Reviews category is reserved for books that I have received for free for the purpose of writing up a review and publishing it here.

My purpose today is to review The Organic God by Margaret Feinberg through the lense of moral goodness:
Is the book good? Does it discusss a topic that is good in a way that is good? Does the work promote goodness in the reader?...In nonfiction, a truly true fact, or unnecessary gory details about something not good {doubleplus ungood for those 1984 fans} can be discussed, making the work true, but not necessarily good.


Thesis Statement is Good
I would say that The Organic God has morally good intentions. The closest thing to a thesis statement is found on page nine:
This book is designed to take you on a journey and to illuminate the beauty of God in your life. It asks you to open your eyes to some of the things God has been doing all along that you may have missed or that no one has ever told you about. My hope and prayer is that through this book you'll fall in love with God again for the first time, and that a part of you will come alive as you dance in all the brilliance of his design.


Organic Intention is Good
I discussed my issues with Feinberg's usage of organic yesterday. Even though I think the word was chosen because it is trendy, and even though I disagreed with naming God Organic God, still I see her point, and think it is good:
Why describe God as organic? More and more I realize that my own understanding of God is largely polluted. I have preconceived notions, thoughts, and biases when it comes to God. I have a tendency to favor certain portions of Scripture over others. I have a bad habit of reading some stories with a been-there-done-that attitude, knowing the end of the story before it begins, and in the process denying God's ability to speak to me through it once again.

[snip]

The result is that my understanding and perception of God is clouded, much like the dingy haze of pollution that hangs over most cities.


I know I often have to deal with life's ability to cloud out God. All the time I spend trying to live it for Him, and yet all the doing {think Mary and Martha here, folks} can still cloud out learning and knowing and understanding.

Personal Illustrations Sometimes Not Good
{This is just a general observation, and it is based on personal preference.} I think that sometimes there was so much sharing of personal stories throughout the book that Feinberg herself began to cloud out God. Especially in chapter two, I began to wonder if her stories crossed the line and, rather than serving as an illustration of a larger truth, actually caused Feinberg to become the subject of the book.

Neutral Treatment of Che Guevara is Abhorrent
Feinberg uses the movie The Motorcycle Diaries to illustrate the idea of incarnational living. I admit that the scene from the movie {where Guevara touches a leper with his bare hands} is an appropriate example for her point, but what bothers me is the lack of a disclaimer of some sort. Instead, she intoduces her illustration by downplaying Guevara:
This independent subtitled film is based on a true story of Che Guevara before he became famous for his involvement in a little event known as the Cuban Revolution.
I'm sure that Feinberg found this to be a humorous statement. Paul Berman, however, would completely disagree. His response to the movie was to declare that the cult of Ernesto Che Guevara is an episode in the moral callousness of our time. Maybe Feinberg needs a lesson from Berman in who Guevara really was:
Che was a mainstay of the hardline pro-Soviet faction, and his faction won. Che presided over the Cuban Revolution's first firing squads. He founded Cuba's "labor camp" system—the system that was eventually employed to incarcerate gays, dissidents, and AIDS victims. To get himself killed, and to get a lot of other people killed, was central to Che's imagination. In the famous essay in which he issued his ringing call for "two, three, many Vietnams," he also spoke about martyrdom and managed to compose a number of chilling phrases: "Hatred as an element of struggle; unbending hatred for the enemy, which pushes a human being beyond his natural limitations, making him into an effective, violent, selective, and cold-blooded killing machine. This is what our soldiers must become …"— and so on. He was killed in Bolivia in 1967, leading a guerrilla movement that had failed to enlist a single Bolivian peasant. And yet he succeeded in inspiring tens of thousands of middle class Latin-Americans to exit the universities and organize guerrilla insurgencies of their own. And these insurgencies likewise accomplished nothing, except to bring about the death of hundreds of thousands, and to set back the cause of Latin-American democracy—a tragedy on the hugest scale.
Feinberg is considered an "expert" on twentysomethings. I am sure she is familiar with the early-twenties who walk around with Guevara proudly displayed on their T-shirts. These T-shirts are worn in ignorance of the Stalin-like nature of Guevara's Marxist influence and Feinberg, by her silence, only encourages such foolishness.

Author's Heart Seems Good
Perhaps Feinberg's simple embrace of Guevara is due to erring on the side of mercy. There are certain Christians who are like this, and I don't think that is a bad thing. Actually, I think it keeps people like me balanced. When she shares about a friend who lives a life "marked by heartache," Feinberg writes,
I see her not as she is in physical form, but as she's created to be. Instead of seeing her as a project, I see her as a projection of God's love. What I see cannot be detected by the human eye, only by eyes that have looked long and hard at God for answers. As I looked to him in prayer, I asked many questions, but he only provided one answer: love her. Somehow that has become enough.
Here, one sees Feinberg being nonjudgmental in a good way; she is magnanimous.

Playing Settlers is Good
Feinberg plays Settlers of Catan. This is very good. We could definitely be friends.

Foolishness is Bad
Feinberg, in her chapter on God's wisdom, quotes a 20/20 interview with Billy Graham:
"If you had a homosexual child, would you love him?"

The evangelist responded without missing a beat, "I would love that one even more."


Please tell me what that even means? Any parent knows that each child is loved equally but differently. However, seeing one's dear child involved in something that is deserving of death is cause for grief, prayer, much more than "loving that one more." This is akin to the Che Guevara situation above. Feinberg is allowing evil to be made light of. If this were 1984, I'd say Feinberg was much more likely to prefer the word ungood to the Scriptural terminology {evil, etc.}. God's created order is not neutral, and there is no wisdom in pretending otherwise.

Respect for the Bride is Good
This is the last one, folks, so stay with me until the end. Within my generation, there is a lot of disrespect for the Bride of Christ. It is said that the church is full of hypocrites. Feinberg stands her ground, explaining that the "church is still the bride of Christ." She explains that we should treat her "with the respect and care she deserves...[B]uilding her up to what she is meant to be instead of tearing her down."

Respecting God's Church is always Good.

Quick Review
Like most books, The Organic God is a mixed bag. There are some portions that are morally questionable and some that are quite noble. I did a bit of looking around out there, and I have yet to find a review that looks at the book seriously, attempting to read it in light of Scripture. I hope that this review offers a good balance, to the best of my limited ability.

Saturday or Monday, I will cover The True.

12 July 2007

Review Introduction: The Organic God

This is the first of a series of at least four posts {including this one} dedicated to discussing a book that was sent to me, free of charge, for the purpose of reviewing. I have created a format I try to follow when I do an "official" book review. If you are new around here, you might want to check out The Book Review Formula before you read this series.

The book in question is The Organic God by Margaret Feinberg. Feinberg is hailed as an expert on twentysomethings, for anyone who is interested in such things. Since I and most of my readers fall into this category, I figured this was pertinent information.

Before I begin this series, I want to get a couple things out of the way.

A Hard Book to Read
I have to admit that it has been a long time since I have read a book that was so difficult to read. I would have to say that it was a struggle, which is hard for me to say since struggle is one of my least favorite words. But, seriously, this is true.

I would classify Feinberg's writing style as postmodern. One of the things that is hard for me when reading Christian postmodern nonfiction {that was a mouthful} books is that the author is often personally tied up with the assertions made about God. The struggle comes in when I, with my critical eye, attempt to test for truth. I get this feeling that I am not just judging the assertions made by the author, but the author herself.

And I just don't want to hurt the author's feelings.

It's silly, I know, especially since the author {in this case, Feinberg} is highly unlikely to ever read my review. But still, I have this urge to overlook the flaws much in the manner one would overlook the flaws of a friend. But imagine sitting down with a friend for coffee and this friend begins to say things that are somewhat alarming. Imagine the tension that would build up inside while trying to decide how to respond. I felt that tension while reading this book.

Not that every page was full of heresy, but still I felt this.

God Gets a New Name
This is what is written on the back of book:
Imagine what it would look like to have an organic relationship with God--one that is stripped of all pollutants and additives of this world.

The Organic God removes the unhealthy fillers and purifies our relationship with the God of the Scriptures. Through personal stories and biblical insights, Margaret Feinberg shares glimpses of God's character--bighearted, kind, beautiful, mysterious--that point you to an authentic and naturally spiritual relationship with him, allowing you to truly discover God in a healthy, refreshing new way so that you can't help but fall in love all over again.


Needless to say, I entered my reading relationship with this book expecting to have a lot of cultural issues dealt with. It is true that every Christian has areas where cultural or personal issues cloud out the view of God. My expectation was that Feinberg would teach how to clear that cultural dust away so that the reader's view of God was through the clear lense of Scripture alone.

And some of this was done.

Ahem.

However, Feinberg also renamed God. I don't really know what else to call it, so I'm telling it like it is. Midway through the book, and then on until the end, she beging to use capital-O, capital-G Organic God as a proper noun. Sentences will start with, "The Organic God does this." Or, "The Organic God does that."

This made me extremely uncomfortable.

I do not gather from the book that Feinberg is an irreverant person, and yet renaming God, or at least giving Him a new title, seems exactly that. Naming something, in the Biblical sense, always implies an authority by the naming party over what {or who} is being named. Think about it. In the Garden of Eden, God creates a man and names him Adam. He commands Adam to have dominion. As an exercise of his dominion, God brings the animals to Adam, and Adam names them. After all of this has taken place, God creates woman and brings her to Adam, and Adam names her. Adam, as head of his household, names woman as a display of his authority over, and also responsibility for, Eve.

Throughout the Bible, parents always name children {unless God directly tells the parents exactly what the child's name is to be}, but children never name parents. It would be disrespectful to name one's parents. And sometimes, God changes a man's name {like when God named Israel}, as a sign of an encounter with Him.

In my opinion, even daring to rename the Lord of Hosts is shaky ground, regardless of whether or not there was any real ill intent involved. I am much more comfortable with sticking to the exact titles and names of God that have been revealed in the Bible, especially when calling God "Organic" seems to be more connected to the fact that organic anything is cool right now, rather than trying to communicate something that is actually true about God.

On to the Review
Now that I have those two issues out in the open, I feel I am ready to begin my reviews. Lord willing, the category of "Good" will post tomorrow.

11 July 2007

The Tantrum: A PG-13 Commercial



This commerical was drawn to my attention by my father over the weekend, hence my Tantrum Tales over the last two days. I must confess that I was grieved when I saw it. As I watched the boy, obviously older than my own son, put on such a display, I expected some sort of comic relief to follow. But the tag at the end {Use condoms.} was not at all what I would have predicted.

I've already discussed my opinions on tantrums, that they are to be dealt with and gotten over {and should be in the past at the age of the child in the commercial}. I've already mentioned that sometimes tantrums just happen {and even Mommy feels like throwing one}.

But now, here we are, with a tantrum being used to advertise a form of birth control. This commercial aired in Europe, but America is never far behind Europe, so I can only assume this sort of mentality is coming our way, if it hasn't already arrived.

The "mentality" I speak of is two-fold. First, we have the child-hating issue. The commerical implies through the explicit message at the end and also the father's body language that the child should not exist, that perhaps, in that very moment, the father is thinking back to when he created that child and wishes he had taken the time to prevent the child's existence.

Let's let that one settle into our brains for a minute.

The father is wishing the child was not exactly dead, but at least never given life.

It is an interesting observation to note that such a simple commercial can reveal that birth control is, in some senses, an act of passive violence. It is an act of the will that stands in opposition to life. You and I both know there are some exceptions, but let's just think about this in terms of what is normative.

The second aspect of this mentality is utter selfishness. I know that most of the world considers children an inconvenience, but now instead of sending them to daycare, Sunday School, and a zillion after-school activities in order to get rid of them temporarily, it is apparently superior to have enough foresight to prevent their existence in the first place.

The Bible calls childlessness a curse on a culture.
Ephraim's glory shall fly away like a bird--
no birth, no pregnancy, no conception!
Even if they bring up children,
I will bereave them till none is left.

Woe to them
when I depart from them!
Ephraim, as I have seen, was like a young palm planted in a meadow;
but Ephraim must lead his children out to slaughter.
Give them, O LORD--
what will you give?
Give them a miscarrying womb
and dry breasts.
{Hosea 9:11-14}


Apparently, Europe wishes God would curse her in this way. A mere glance at the birthrate reveals this to be true.

I have faith that, one day, the hearts of the fathers will turn toward their children, and the hearts of the children will turn toward their fathers. In the meantime, it is my earnest prayer that my family, no matter how many children we have or how bad of a day we have experienced, is never ever a walking advertisement for birth control.

10 July 2007

Tale of the Terrible Tantrum

My friends, beware of judging the parent whose child throws a terrible tantrum in public. It could happen to you. It did happen to me, once upon a time. I was the mother of one, and pregnant with A. My then-two-year-old and I ran into the grocery store to grab a couple items. I didn't even get a cart because we were going to be in and out of the store so quickly. But I didn't see the milk spilled on the floor of the aisle {because I am not very observant and my tummy was a bit large}. I fell. Hard. It hurt. And it scared the two-year-old, who I had accidently pulled down with me during the fall.

I wasn't broken, but I was shaken, and I decided that I just wanted to go home {and cry once I got there}. So I grabbed our items and headed for the express lane. An old friend of mine who helped manage the store heard what had happened to us from other customers and apologized profusely, asking over and over if we were okay. We weren't, but I said we were so he would leave me alone.

He asked one of the girls there to carry my bag to the car for me. I felt I couldn't refuse, so I accepted the help. As we crossed the street, the two-year-old decided he had had enough, and he decided to stop walking. Right there. In the middle of the street. No amount of coaxing could persuade him to change his irrational mind, and I was unable to carry him, having only recently been released from bedrest due to pregnancy complications. I was mortified, especially since I was near tears myself.

Somehow, we got into the car and got home, where we both collapsed in a pile of tears.

I wasn't a very merciful person before I had children. Experiences like these taught me not to judge so quickly. You never know what preceded the tantrum. I learned to give a family the benefit of the doubt.

09 July 2007

Taming the Twos

On Saturday evening, my husband and I had a rare opportunity to spend extended time alone. We were about to order our food at a local pizza parlor when the couple in front of us began a stand-off with their two-year-old. I realize now that the kids who land those "acting" jobs where they throw a gigantic tantrum for a movie or a commercial or something are real children. Someone out there is dealing with a child that is capable of the biggest fit imaginable.

This child was one of those children.

Her face was visibly strained with anger. She yelled, "NO!" at her daddy. She stamped her foot. She screamed the stereotypical high-pitched scream. She demanded what she wanted.

And my response now is so much different from what it would have been before I had children. I used to think that the mere fact that the child threw a fit reflected negatively on the parents. Now I know that children throw fits. They all do. Some throw more than others, for a variety of reasons.

The fit, I repeat, says nothing about the parents. The way the parents respond to the fit, however, says everything about the parents.

This family in the pizza parlor had some interesting responses to the tantrum, and when we were snuggled into our corner booth, Si and I discussed their responses. We have long had the habit of discussing the people we encounter, not for the purpose of passing judgment, but simply to learn from what we observe.

We noticed that this family used empty threats and bribes to try and persuade a child to behave. We also noticed that Mom was most definitely on the side of the child rather than standing firm with Dad.

Yesterday came a test of my mothering strength when my own two-year-old decided, right in the church foyer, that a tantrum was in order. Her daddy told her to hold her brother's hand as we walked to the car, and she refused. She gave excuses, and when that didn't work, she was outright defiant. There were people there, people we know, staring at us. I felt like they were waiting to see how we handled her little power play.

But all of that didn't matter when I remembered what I had learned this weekend: stay on Dad's side and expect--don't bribe--good behavior. I wanted so badly to repeated the mistake of the Pizza Parlor Parents and coddle my daughter into submission. But I had to take my stand, especially since Daddy was trying to finish a conversation. "Hold E.'s hand," I instructed her.

"No!" She was beside herself.

And so I took her to the ladies room and calmed her down. I offered her a drink of water. And then I told her we were going to go back out there and she was going to obey her daddy.

"Okay," she said.

And she did. They walked hand-in-hand all the way to the car. She actually cried when he dropped her hand to get into our vehicle.

Terrible twos, the father in the pizza parlor had said to us, as his wife demeaningly explained how all he needed to do was give their little girl what she wanted and then everything would be fine.

Two-year-olds don't have to be terrible. I wish I had known that when my oldest was two. Instead, I was listening to the secular parenting magazines that told me tantrums were a stage.

In one sense, they are a stage in that every child will throw a tantrum or two {or, with the case of the child in the pizza parlor, at least four before dinner is over}. In another sense, they are an area that requires training. Sinful and inappropriate behaviors do not go away without discipline and instruction. Tantrums tend to result from confusion or defiance or a combination of both, and this is something that we have learned to confront rather than ignore.

07 July 2007

Childhood Illnesses Up Close: Hib

I was debating about the title. The vaccine I want to highlight is the Hib, but most parents, when their child is sick, don't walk around saying that their child has Hib. They say, "My child has bacterial meningitis," or, "My child has pneumonia." But Childhood Illnesses Up Close: Bacterial Meningitis and Pneumonia and Quite Possibly Other Infections, Too is a very long title. So I'll stick to Hib.

What is Hib?
Hib stands for Haemophilus Influenzae Type B. This is a bacteria that was once the leading cause of bacterial meningitis in children under the age of five.
Other diseases caused by Hib include:

Sepsis {bloodstream infection}
Epiglottitis {severe swelling of the epiglottis, a tissue that closes off the windpipe during swallowing}
Arthritis {infection of the joints}
Osteomyelitis {infection of the bones}
Pneumonia {infection of the lungs}
(source)


Is Hib Treatable?
Hib disease is treated with antibiotics for 10 days. Most cases require hospitalization.

Even with antibiotic treatment, up to 5% of all children with Hib meningitis [author note: not all forms of Hib, just the mengitis] die from the disease. {source}

Antibiotics, such as ampicillin or chloramphenicol, are generally used to treat serious infections. Rifampin is used to treat people who might be carrying the bacterium. {source}


How to I avoid contracting Hib?
Hib disease can be transmitted through contact with mucus or droplets from the nose and throat of an infected person. Individuals can carry Hib and spread the disease without becoming ill themselves. {source}
I am sorry to keep repeating myself over and over, but I am constantly struck by how wise our parents really were. How many of you heard these statements growing up?

  • Keep your hands out of your mouth.
  • Don't pick your nose.
  • Don't touch your eye. Your hands are probably dirty.
  • Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze.
  • Use a tissue.
  • Wash your hands.
  • Go wash your hands again. That wasn't long enough.
  • Go wash your hands. This time use soap.

This common wisdom was part of basic sanitation principles that helped stop the spread of disease. I once read that the best way to prevent contagious diseases is to wash your hands at least three times a day and not to touch mucous membranes {your own, or someone else's}.

Also, Hib is the first illness I have researched where I came upon the idea that putting a child in daycare increases that child's risk of contracting the disease. This fits, however, with previous discussions of how close living quarters cause disease to spread. Usually, a daycare has more children per square foot, and especially more children under the age of five per square foot. This makes a difference when trying to contain a disease.

What are the possible side-effects of the vaccine?
Hib is a vaccine I have trouble finding studies on. This seems to be a trend with newer vaccines. They are, in my opinion, under tested. No long term studies are done. It is hard to know what possible side-effects there are when no one really cares enough to do a study.

The early versions of the Hib vaccine tended to cause Hib by suppressing the immune system for about a week's duration after the shot. Basically, children {used as guinea pigs} were given the shot, which weakened their immunity overall, and then these children were sent back into a germ-filled environment of public school or daycare, at which point they actually contracted Hib. {source}

There is also some evidence that children recently vaccinated with the Hib vaccine may put other, unvaccinated children at risk of contracting the disease, because some children contract Hib from the vaccine, and then pass it on to others. {source}
Because either no studies or too few studies have ever been conducted to investigate Hib vaccine reactions, the IOM [Institute of Medicine] could not make a determination about whether Hib vaccine causes transverse myelitis, Guillain-Barre syndrome, thrombocytopenia, anaphylaxis and sudden infant death syndrome.

A manufacturer of HIB vaccine states in the product insert that the vaccine "has not been evaluated for its carcinogenic, mutagenic potential or impairment of fertility" and "it is also not known whether [the vaccine] can cause fetal harm when administered to a pregnant woman or can affect reproduction capacity." {source}


I don't know if the Hib vaccine is ever given in isolation. I could only find three vaccines, and all three were conjugates {vaccinating for more than one disease at a time}. I decided to look at Comvax, which vaccinates against Hib as well as Hepatitis B:
The most frequently cited events were mild, transient signs and symptoms of inflammation at the injection site {i.e., pain/soreness, erythema, and swelling/induration}, somnolence, and irritability, all of which were prompted for on report cards filled out by parents of vaccinated children.

[snip]

These adverse experiences are grouped by case: viral infection; febrile seizure; asthma; diarrhea, vomiting, acidosis, dehydration, hypoglycemia, and seizure disorder; bacterial infection; bronchiolitis and reflux esophagitis; dehydration and fever; asthma, respiratory congestion, and tachypnea; asthma and upper respiratory infection; urinary tract infection and vomiting; pneumonia and asthma; apnea and reflux esophagitis; and vitreous hemorrhage. A causal relationship to the vaccine is unknown; however, these serious adverse events were judged not to be related to vaccination with COMVAX by the investigator.

[snip]

In addition, a variety of adverse effects have been reported with marketed use of either PedvaxHIB or RECOMBIVAX HB in infants and children through 71 months of age. These adverse effects are listed below.

PedvaxHIB

Hematologic/Lymphatic
Lymphadenopathy

Nervous System
Febrile seizures

Skin
Sterile injection-site abscess; pain at the injection site

RECOMBIVAX HB

Hypersensitivity
Anaphylaxis and symptoms of hypersensitivity including reports of rash, pruritus, urticaria, edema, arthralgia, dyspnea, hypotension, erythema multiforme, and ecchymoses

Cardiovascular System
Tachycardia; syncope

Digestive System
Elevation of liver enzymes

Hematologic
Increased erythrocyte sedimentation rate; thrombocytopenia

Musculoskeletal System
Arthritis

Nervous System
Bell's Palsy; Guillain-Barr© Syndrome

Psychiatric/Behavioral
Agitation; somnolence; irritability

Skin
Stevens-Johnson Syndrome; alopecia

Special Senses
Conjunctivitis; visual disturbances


Is the trade-off worth it?
I will tell you that we do not personally vaccinate our children for this disease any longer. I believe our second child received a shot for Hib, but I'm not even sure about that. There is a long list of side-effects and reactions and very little research regarding the vaccine.

We prefer, instead, to keep our children out of the church nursery until they are at least a year old. We teach our children basic sanitation, as I have mentioned before. We keep a close eye on our thumb suckers, who are at risk because they are constantly putting their hands in their mouths. We keep our children out of Sunday School during cold season. We encourage them to play outside when friends come over, knowing that the sunlight does much to kill bacteria, plus the Vitamin D is a great immune support.

If you are going to avoid the Hib vaccine for your own children, you need to be careful that you do not schedule playdates with children who have received the vaccine in recent days (within a week's time). And if you choose to have your children vaccinated, I would suggest keeping your children away from others for about five to seven days. This will benefit your children {who have been given a shot that suppresses immune response}, plus it will prevent any child who actually contracted Hib from the shot from spreading the disease to others who are unvaccinated or are otherwise not immune.

The Hib vaccine is an ethically acceptable vaccine {as far as I can tell}, for those of you who are wondering.