Monday, March 24, 2014

35 Weeks

"The baby likes to watch T.V. inside you, Mommy. I watched it when I was in you, and I left the T.V. there for the baby." ~Ezra

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Star stuff: Our spring equinox

All of the rocky and metallic material we stand on, the iron in our blood, the calcium in our teeth, the carbon in our genes were produced billions of years ago in the interior of a red giant star. We are made of star stuff.              
Carl Sagan, 1973 

Thankfully, after a long, bitterly cold, and snowy winter, tomorrow is the first day of spring. We started celebrating the vernal equinox the first spring after Ezra’s birth, and I felt like we were celebrating a true holiday. Garry and I were adopting new traditions that year, and rather than feeling forced, it felt sincere and special.

Spring, 2011

Our spring celebrations have been fairly low key involving hikes and picnics, egg hunts and baskets, a few decorations and dinner. Over the past three years my diligence in preparing for spring has waxed and waned. Last year, in particular, we neglected hiking, dyeing eggs, and dinner. We prepared a scavenger hunt for Ezra’s spring basket, which he enjoyed immensely, and we’ll do again this year. While I enjoy Ezra’s delight in receiving gifts, this year I want to pay more attention to spring through traditions that remind us of our emotional connection to nature and of our physical connection to the Earth and the cosmos. I also want his gifts to reflect the arrival of spring.

Over the next few days, we’re reading books about spring and the spring equinox, and I’ve planned a few, simple activities to return our focus to nature, our planet and sky.
  • This evening, we are germinating sprouting seeds in a jar allowing us to see up close what will be happening in nature and our garden
  • Tomorrow evening, we are dyeing eggs
  • Friday evening, we will examine the night sky for spring constellations and make our own paper constellations
  • Saturday, we are starting seedlings for our vegetable garden and potting indoor plants and violets for our front stoop
  • Sunday will start with a scavenger hunt followed by a hike, picnic, and hunt for spring ephemerals (wildflowers)
We’ll conclude with a holiday dinner. We’re trying a new recipe for pasta primavera and, with a nod to the Persian spring holiday, Nowruz, we’re making rosewater cupcakes for dessert.

It is my hope that our celebrations this year will set the tone and traditions for years to come.

(Sagan, Carl. 1973. The Cosmic Connection: an Extraterrestrial Perspective. Anchor Press/Doubleday, Garden City, New York.)

Sunday, March 16, 2014

34 Weeks

"Your belly is getting very big, mommy."
"Yes, it is getting big, isn't it?"
"No, it is not getting big. It is getting VERY big." ~Ezra

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Superheroes, princesses and preschoolers

Welcome to the March 2014 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Everyday Superheroes
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have talked about the remarkable people and characteristics that have touched their lives. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

“N. likes Batman, but I like Spider-Man better. Spider-Man is soooo cool.”

In a long, unprompted monologue, Ezra shared this preference as we drove home from preschool. Amanda and I didn’t add anything to the conversation, but listened to his passionate opinion about which was the best superhero.

I found this conversation fascinating for several reasons. I’m kind of a geek. I love comic books and superheroes. Amanda and I rarely go to the movies, and when we do I am most likely convincing her to see the latest superhero brought to the big screen. So, I was really interested in listening to Ezra’s thoughts on why he preferred one superhero over another. I was proud that, like his dad, he favored Marvel Comics’ characters over DC - “Make mine Marvel!” - but mostly I was confused.

Where did this sudden love of Spider-Man come from? Though I enjoy the superhero genre this is not something I have shared with Ezra. We do not pretend to be the Avengers, he does not wear shirts with Superman’s insignia, and he has never seen a superhero cartoon or movie - unless you count PBS’s Super Why!

Amanda and I agreed to avoid superhero culture during Ezra’s first several years of life. We knew, as a male child, superheroes would be the default characters he would be bombarded with by marketers, peers, and well-meaning friends and family, but wished to delay his exposure as long as possible.

Though comic book superheroes are associated with children’s entertainment, many of their storylines, personalities, and actions are not really age appropriate for young kids. This issue has become more prevalent as the genre has transitioned to more mainstream and adult audiences. The Batman I loved watching as a child in the 1960s television series, the SuperFriends cartoon, and guest starring on Scooby Doo, cannot be found in The Dark Knight movie. Yet, the Batman in this PG-13 movie still has a toy line. Though more child-friendly versions of that character still exist, explaining to a four-year-old why he cannot watch a movie starring his favorite cartoon character because it is for grown-ups seems like an argument I should and can avoid for now.

We also do not want Ezra’s early play experiences to have strong gendered messaging. Sure, there are female superheroes, but I do not think anyone denies that superheroes are heavily targeted to a male audience. The characters are designed for young boys to imagine themselves in the superheroes role.

Princess culture and its effect on young girls is a common source of discussion and stress among parents. I have wondered why there is not a similar dialog about superheroes. Though superheroes lack some of the issues that bother people about princesses – the characters are more developed and show more initiative than princesses – their influence on gender perceptions warrants some discussion. We do not want princesses teaching girls that to have a happy ending a woman needs to be passive, co-dependent, and obsessed with beauty. Are we not as concerned that boys are being told that real men are hyper-masculine, with physiques as unrealistic as any princess, and that they must solve all problems themselves, primarily through violence?

The roles of princess and superhero are dependent upon each other to exist, yet we only complain about one half of the equation. Superman needs his princess, Lois Lane, to save, and Sleeping Beauty needs her prince with superpowers nobody else possesses (the power of true love?) to wake her. Society seems to acknowledge that girls should be convinced that being the princess in distress is not something to strive for, but being the person who must always save the day also seems exhausting. Shouldn’t we encourage our children to possess the good traits found in both of these characters: to be self-reliant, but not to be ashamed of needing help from others; to be romantic, but not to link your happiness entirely to relationships; to be confident in how you look, but also finding your particular strengths?

Though Amanda and I do not actively encourage superhero play and entertainment, we realize its importance in pop culture. We know Ezra is exposed to both superheroes and princesses outside our home, and want to encourage him to relate to his peer groups. The older he becomes the more influence his friends will have on his interests, but before Ezra becomes too acquainted with superheroes we want him to have a more grounded idea at what makes someone a hero and a good person.

You do not need to be super to be a hero. A hero is someone who helps society or someone in need. A hero's deeds are often small and do not need to save the world to be important. You do not need super-strength, magic rings, or technology only available to a billionaire to help people. A high dose of gamma radiation would not make you a stronger person, it would just give you cancer. Violence is rarely if ever helpful. Heroes sometimes need to ask for help.

Most importantly, we want Ezra to understand that he can be a hero in real life before he becomes a superhero in play. Once he is capable of understanding this he will be ready to enter the fictional, comic book world of superheroes, and I will be excited to share that world with him. Eventually, Amanda might tire of watching comic book movies with me. I will be glad to have Ezra step in and save the day.


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be updated by afternoon March 11 with all the carnival links.)

  • I Am A Super Hero — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama shares how she learned the hard way exactly what it means to be a real super hero and not a burned out shell of a human simply pretending to be one.
  • Quiet Heroics — Heroism doesn't have to be big and bold. Read how Jorje of Momma Jorje is a quiet hero…and how you probably are, too.
  • Not a Bang, but a Whisper {Carnival of Natural Parenting} — Meegs at A New Day talks about the different types of "superheroes," ones that come in with a bang and ones that come in with a whisper.
  • Silent courage of motherhood in rural Cambodia — Nathalie at Kampuchea Crossings marvels at how rural Khmer women defy the odds in childbirth.
  • Super PappyMother Goutte's little boy met a superhero in checked slippers and Volkswagen Polo, his grand dad: Super Pappy!
  • An Open Letter to Batman — Kati at The Best Things challenges Batman to hold up his end of the deal, in the name of social justice, civic duty, and a little boy named Babe-O!
  • My Village — Kellie at Our Mindful Life reflects on the people who helped her to become her best self.
  • 5 Lessons My Kids Taught Me — Children are amazing teachers, when we only stop to listen. They remind us to choose happiness, to delight in the small things, to let go and forgive. There is so much we can learn from our children. Justine at The Lone Home Ranger shares a few of the lessons she's learned.
  • Could you use some superpowers? — Tat at Mum in search shares a fun activity to help you connect with your own superpowers.
  • Like Fire Engines — Tam at tinsenpup tells the story of the day she saw a surprising superhero lurking in the guise of her not entirely mild-mannered four-year-old daughter.
  • Everyday Superheroes — Erica at ChildOrganics shares her list of Walker Warburg Syndrome Superheroes that have touched her life forever.
  • My Superhero of the Week: Nancy GallagherTribal Mama muses about the transcendent things her superhero mom has done.
  • My choice in natural birth does not make me a super hero — Bianca, The Pierogie Mama, discusses her thoughts on her experience with the perception of natural birth and putting those mamas on a different level. Does giving birth naturally give cause for an extra pat on the back? No! All mamas, no matter how they birth, are superheroes.
  • Someone's Hero — Sometimes being a parent means pretending to be a grown-up, but it always means you are someone's hero. Read Mandy's lament at Living Peacefully with Children.
  • Growing into a Super Hero — Casey at Joyful Courage shares how owning our behavior and choosing to be a better parent, a better person, is an act of courage.
  • A Math Superhero — Kerry at City Kids Homeschooling writes that her 7-year-old daughter's superhero is an MIT-trained mathematician.
  • It Starts With Truffula Trees And Tulips — Luschka of Diary of a First Child takes a hard look at the realities of her relationship with her mother, and through this post goes on a journey of discovery that ends in a surprise realisation for her.
  • We Don't Need an Excuse — Maria Kang (aka "Hot Mom") asks women #WhatsYourExcuse for not being in shape? Dionna at Code Name: Mama asks Hot Mom what her excuse is for not devoting her life to charity work, or fostering dozens of stray dogs each year, or advocating for the needs of others. Better yet, Code Name: Mama says, how about we realize that every woman has her own priorities. Focus on your own, and stop judging others for theirs.
  • It's not heroic when you're living it — Lauren at Hobo Mama knows from the inside that homeschooling does not take a hero, and that much of what we choose as parents is simply what works best for us.
  • Superheroes, princesses and preschoolers — Garry at Postilius discusses why his preschool-age son is not ready for comic book superheroes.
  • The Loving Parents of Children with Special Needs – Everyday Superheroes — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares posts with resources for parents of children with special needs along with posts to help others know how to support parents of children with special needs.
  • Everyday Empathy — Mommy Giraffe of Little Green Giraffe shares why her secret superpower is everyday empathy.
  • The Simplicity of Being a Superhero — Ana at Panda & Ananaso explains what superheroes mean to her wise three-year-old.
  • My Father, The Hero — Fathers are pretty amazing; find out why Christine at The Erudite Mom thinks hers is the bees knees.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Our week: "P" is for Pippi

This week we practiced the letter "P."
A local theatre company, Cardinal Stage, produces three children's productions a year, and this spring's play was Pippi Longstocking. We did not know much about Pippi other than she has red, braided pigtails so we began reading Astrid Lingren's book a few weeks ago. We became big fans of the world's strongest girl and her monkey, Mr. Nilsson.
We also baked Pippi's favorite cookies, pepparkakor.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

33 weeks

"Your back hurts? Maybe the baby is taking your bones and moving them around." ~Ezra

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

What we're reading: "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz"

In early December, Ezra began asking us to tell him the story of the mean witch and the plastic man. Stumped, we asked for more clues to help jog our memory. He added a lion, a tornado, and, most helpfully, that it was a movie we had watched at the park. We realized the plastic man was actually tin, and he wanted to hear The Wizard of Oz.

One of our city parks ends the summer with an outdoor movie series. From late July through August, Friday nights in the park are filled with couples, families, and friends spread out on blankets, sharing snacks, and enjoying the last of the year’s warm evenings while a classic film lights up the night. I have been longing for those nights as I struggle through this unusually long and frigid winter. Why Ezra was thinking about our night in the park, I am unsure.

I was surprised Ezra remembered the movie. The Wizard of Oz was not on last year’s summer movie schedule, but the previous year, and he hadn’t mentioned it for the last year and half. I was curious what suddenly sparked his memory. Maybe listening to Judy Garland singing, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” at Christmas triggered this interest? Whatever it was, like Dorothy’s cyclone, something transported Ezra back to the land of Oz, and he suddenly wanted to know every detail.

Amanda and I took turns trying to recount the movie each night before bed. We both would begin with strong starts, but our recollection waned by the time Dorothy meets the tin woodman. We decided we should probably let L. Frank Baum himself tell the story.

As a Christmas present, we gave Ezra the 100th anniversary edition of Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz with illustrations by W. W. Denslow. He immediately took the book into our kitchen, sat in the warmest spot of our house, and studied each of the illustrations.

We read The Wonderful Wizard of Oz every night before bedtime from Christmas until Dorothy returned to her Kansas farm. Oz was the first chapter book that we have finished with Ezra. We had started a few others, but the longer narrative and lack of illustrations would not hold his attention for more than a few days before he was ready to return to picture books.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz has brought us to an exciting new chapter in our bedtime stories routine. Oz was the perfect transitional book from picture to chapter books. There were just enough illustrations, every few pages or so, to renew his interest when he began to tire of words. Since we finished reading Oz, Ezra has compiled a list of other longer, narrative driven books to read including Peter Pan, Pippi Longstocking, and of course the other books in the Oz series.

As we endure another winter storm, I dream of once again lying in the warm park on a blanket immersed in the adventures over the rainbow. Only this time I am reading aloud, one of Baum’s wonderful books, to my family of four.

What else have we been reading? Check out more "What we're reading" posts:

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Our week: The letter "D"

We have started a "letter of the week" beginning with the letter D.
We listened to a few songs from our record collection including: Sesame Street's Ernie singing "Dee, Dee, Dee" and Mr. D's song from The Letter People; we rang a bell when someone said a D-word during dinner, and we labeled things in our house that started with D, like:
Amanda and Ezra also made baked yeast donuts.
Amanda complained while making them that the recipe seemed overly fussy. Then she ate one, and took back everything negative she had said. We all agreed. These were Delicious!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

32 Weeks

"When the baby is born, will it be wearing clothes?"
"You mean it will be naked!" ~ Ezra