Saturday, December 15, 2012

One Mother's Response to School Shootings


Friday, December 14, 2012 was my son’s first birthday. My husband and I were so excited to celebrate the life of our child. We stayed up late the night before to decorate the house and assemble his new tricycle. My husband went to work a little early so that he could come home at lunch and then we would all go to my son’s favorite place; the aquarium. In the morning everything went to plan. We woke up, had breakfast and I made a call to the pre-school I have been researching for my son. We made an appointment to go in for a tour and to start attending a toddler program they offer once a week. Then I turned on the television and saw the news of the tragedy in Newtown, CT. I was instantly heartbroken. The loss of my child at any age is unimaginable. I simply wanted to hold my child and regretted my decision to send him to pre-school. Instantly thoughts of homeschooling came to mind. In that moment I had what I call “a holy spirit” moment; a scripture popped into my mind: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you goJoshua 1:9 (NIV). I realized my reaction to the shooting was natural but also fueled by emotion.
           Over the course of the morning I checked in on Facebook to update the world on the events of my son’s birthday. I use this social media outlet often now as a scrapbook for my family but also for myself. I really don’t care if my friends are paying attention to my latest and greatest announcement but I find in useful for my own personal reflections. Since I have been involved in church most of my life I happen to have many friends who are pastors and although I am rather conservative I tend to have many liberal friends. I enjoy hearing other perspectives and sometimes I learn why others feel the way they do on certain topics. On this day I found myself frustrated with many of my liberal friends. There were many postings crying for “gun control”, “the end of the citizens owning guns”, and “when is enough, enough”. These calls were all in the name of making our children safer, which I am absolutely in support of, however I felt as if these cries were fueled only by emotion and without any critical thought. I felt they were using this tragedy as a platform for social reform which requires a little more critical thinking. It is too much for one person, let alone one child, to die because of selfishness and carelessness. It is also inappropriate to use the death of children to call for reform on something that doesn’t require any more reform and is not the real reason for their deaths.
          I was in high school when the shooting occurred in Columbine, CO. I have a vivid memory of the event. These were students my own age doing exactly what I was doing; going to school. I remember being worried about my safety at school but I was also reassured of my safety by the armed Sheriff my school hired. He was there every day at the front gates to the student parking lot. You passed him as you walked onto the school campus. You couldn’t miss him in his bright yellow shirt and intimidating fire arm at his side. If you broke the law at my high school you were going to be arrested by him and I had heard he had handcuffs- many pairs. I remember 9-11 vividly because I was teaching pre-school that day and I was setting up my class room when my boss called me into her office and said I had to see what was on TV. After that day we put safety measures into place for terrorist attacks. A few years later I started working on my teaching credential and started working at a gang ridden high school. My first day teaching I was shocked to see two police cars parked in front of the gates and when I entered campus the police greeted me and searched my briefcase and confiscated my school scissors. I was slightly terrified when the officer asked me if I wanted to get stabbed or see someone else stabbed. While I taught at that high school I attended gang awareness and prevention training. I also began mentoring at the housing projects where my students lived. What my life experiences have taught me is that safety is an illusion. We can put all of the safety measures into place, we can make and rehearse our emergency plans, we can practice putting our school under lock down, and we can even avoid dangerous places but at the end of the day we cannot prevent evil and tragedy from striking when we least expect it. Bad things are going to happen no matter who you are or where you are. Should our schools be safe? Yes! Can we prevent bad things from ever happening at our schools? Unfortunately, No. Bad things are going to happen and when they do we will be heartbroken and ask ourselves if there is anything we could have done to prevent it. Evaluation and introspection are valuable tools if they are used to identify the root cause of the problem.
          I realize many people are knee jerking right now and calling for stronger gun control or even the repel of our constitutional right to bear arms. Their hearts are hurting and it seems guns are what killed those innocent children and adults. A gun may have been the weapon but it was a person who was consumed by evil who killed those people. From what I understand he was mentally ill, why am I hearing so few calls for improved mental health services? Let us put blame where it should be, on the person who did the action and the system that failed him. It is useless to blame an inanimate object like a gun. I realize it is much harder for some to recognize evil in our fellow human beings. It is hard to blame mental illness because we may not truly understand what it is and it is so hard to recognize. However, the only kind of anger that is appropriate is righteous anger our anger is not righteous if it is not appropriate. If you are angry at guns and gun ownership than I do not feel your anger is appropriately placed.
I have seen many postings online asking the question “why does anyone need to own a gun anyway?”  The right to own a gun was so important to our founding fathers that they made it the second amendment in the constitution “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed”. If weapons were not owned by individuals the colonist would not have had the weapons they needed to fight against the British to gain our freedom. We would never have had an American Revolution. If citizens had not been able to own guns we may very well still live in a country that condones slavery. In Germany, when Hitler was elected he instituted a gun registry stating that it would make catching criminals easier. Shortly after that the Nazi party told all of the citizens of Germany to hand over their guns to make the country safer. In the name of safety the people handed over their guns, if they didn’t the Nazi’s tracked them down and punished them. By the time the German people realized that people were being taken and never seen again, that something was really wrong with their country they had no means of revolt, they could no longer protect themselves. Our founding fathers saw the need for citizens to own weapons to protect themselves and their families against tyranny. We may think that we will never see a Hitler type leader again however; the German people didn’t see Hitler coming either. We have become spoiled American’s who think we are untouchable and safe. However, events like today should remind us that safety is only an illusion. The best thing we can do is be prepared for when the worst happens.
          When I hear the cry for gun control I wonder if these same people really understand what they asking for. Legal gun ownership is well regulated. Many people who own guns legally do so safely and with great awareness and consciousness for safety. I personally know many people who own guns and many who have a permit to carry a concealed weapon. I have lived in home with more than one gun. I know how to load a gun, set and release the safety, how to fire a gun and I how to conduct myself safely around a gun. Thanks to my gang training I know how to conduct myself with some who is pointing a gun at me as well. I have seen many people ask the question, “Why does anyone need to own an assault weapon?” but a little gun education answers this question. I also understand the difference between a hunting a rifle and a semi-automatic assault rifle. I was educated about guns by a military sniper instructor. I understand a rifle is good for distance shooting (i.e. deer and turkeys) but doesn’t do much good against an assailant who is close to you and is not always good for multiple shoots. Why does anyone need to own an assault weapon, for the same reasons law enforcement wear assault rifles as their side arm. Assault rifles are relatively easy to use at a close range and they are quick and effective in disarming an assailant. They are also the number one weapon used by criminals and are easily purchased illegally. If you own a gun for protection this is the kind of gun that you want to have in your home or on your person. The double edged sword is that criminals use assault weapons in drive by shootings and in situations school shootings.     
I have attended biker events with Hell’s Angels and other biker groups and have always understood that any one of the people I was around could and probably did have concealed weapons. I have sat in teacher- parent conferences in which I have told a gang-banging parent that their student was failing my class, that their child’s behavior was unacceptable, and that I was concerned their child was going down a path that would led them to crime and imprisonment. I was always aware in these situations that I could be putting myself in danger. I once had a very powerful gang-banger tell me that I was a “very brave gringa with cajones”. I almost peed my pants but his son started doing his homework and after serving his detentions he didn’t earn anymore in my class. I have comforted students who have lost friends and family in drive by shootings. I have read, graded and prayed over essays written by students who have seen and experienced great violence. My experience with bikers and teaching in gang infested areas has taught me that it is not the law abiding citizens with guns that I should be concerned about, it is the citizens who function outside the law that are a much greater concern.
          Even if we make legislation that limits the sales of guns further, it will not take guns out of the hands of criminals. Short of building a Berlin style wall between us and Mexico, it would still take us generations to gather up all of the illegal fire arms in this country and even then we would not be able to wrangle them all. The boarder is only part of the problem, we have two very vast coastlines that are difficult to police. If criminals still have guns, gun crimes will still be committed. It was from my students that I learned crime pays better than minimum wage, the risks may be high but the monetary reward is greater than spending the day flipping burgers. If criminals still have guns, gun crimes will still be committed. Guns are still only one facet of the problems with violence we face as a country. We cannot prevent someone from going crazy or being consumed by evil. We also know that it is not recognizing the signs of mental illness are difficult at best and in many cases it is hard to predict their actions.
I saw an article that stated the incident in CT raised some serious questions about guns in our country. In asking some big questions about guns and who carries them too. Why do so many states prevent citizens from carrying concealed weapons? What if the teachers at the school or even the security guard had been carrying a concealed weapon, would the outcome have been different? Would one life have been saved? What if one of the trained military personal at Aurora, CO had been carrying a concealed weapon? Would the outcome have been different? It seems there is a connection to when armed police officers arrive and the end of the shooting. A criminal will always have the element of surprise on their side but would a concealed weapon in the hands of one of the good guys turn the tables of a tragic situation? The idea that a teacher might have a gun may be shocking but if a person intent on doing harm to children has a gun, does it even the odds even a little? After 9-11 every flight has an Air Marshall dressed in plain clothes is carrying a concealed weapon and I know I feel safer knowing he is there because I know we all have a fighting chance against a flight take-over.
The last teaching assignment that I had before my son was born was eye opening to me in many ways. My last day in a public class room I was physically tackled by a female student. She shoved me in to my closed classroom door and screamed in my face. I would have returned to the classroom however it was determined that the school was an unsafe environment when the principal refused to remove the student from my classroom. The principal did not want to expel the student because it would affect the attendance of the school and thus our funding. It was shocking to me that the bad student who was a terror on campus was allowed to stay at the school while a good teacher was asked to stay home because Workman's Compensation knew she was a liability to my safety. If she was a danger to me than she was a danger to others as well. To be fair while I was on leave and the situation was being investigated I became pregnant which made my safety and the safety of my unborn child tantamount.  In this situation and in many I have seen at the schools I have taught at, it is often the bad children who have all the rights and not the good children or teachers. If we want school violence to end we need to change this dynamic. We need to let the innocent protect themselves, especially if we are going to give the aggressor the advantage of our protection. 
          My husband and I don’t own a gun and I would not call myself a gun enthusiast. We don’t feel the need, but that doesn’t mean that I want to lose my constitutional right to own one. I am not concerned about people who go out and legally purchase guns. I am far more concerned about guns that make it into criminal hands illegally. I consider those people my enemies and I should always have the right to defend myself against my enemies.
          As a teacher, a mother, and as a Christian my heart is broken over the deaths in Newtown, CT. I extend my deepest condolences to everyone who has lost a loved one due to gun violence. I will not blame guns for their death; I will blame the people who use the guns. I will not blame my government; I will blame the people who break the laws. There is no way to make sense of violent acts however we can definitely make a situation worse with our ignorance. I pray we will continue to grow as a country and that we learn to lay blame in the appropriate place rather than look for a scapegoat. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Taking Pictures with Your Kids

It is Christmas and it is time for family photos. I am taking my son to the east coast to spend Christmas with my family, many of whom he has not met yet. We have a tradition in my family of going out to a Christmas tree farm and spending the day. This year is the first year in 30 years that we have had a baby in the family. My son will not be little forever and I posed the idea that we should get family photos done. I was really surprised by the response I received from my family. No one jumped at the chance to have photos done. Everyone is self-conscious about having their picture taken. They have gained weight or they are not has young as they used to be. They are all worried about how they look in the picture and don't want evidence of this time in their life. This made me really sad because this is such and exciting time in my son's life. Memories fade but pictures capture a moment forever. I have made an effort to get a picture of everyone who has held him or come to visit him so that when he grows up he has evidence of how many people love him.

While watching an old episode of the Katie show on my DVR I was introduced to the article The Mom Stays in the Picture by Allison Tate on Huffington Post. I shared it with my mom in hopes that we can convey the message that my son deserves to have photos with the people who love him. He deserves to see how they looked at him, how they hugged him, how they played with him; how they were present for him.

I know many moms feel uncomfortable in photos just as Allison Tate did. They are uncomfortable with the way their bodies have changed and self-conscious about their lack of grooming. One thing that I keep in mind when I am reluctant to take a picture on one of these days, is that my husbands mother died when he was 15 from breast cancer. One thing he has to remind him of how much his mother loved him are the pictures he has of the two of them together. We need to learn how to embrace the moment and that includes embracing who we are.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Time for the Pacifier to Go!

When I first became a parent I was intent on not using a pacifier. When we ended up using a pacifier for bed time, naps and car rides. Now at a year old I am ready for us to end the habit. After an ear infection scare I found this article and thought that I would share it. Thankfully, my son has attached to a Snoopy plushy and we will work on making the Pacifier to Snoopy transition. I know it will be rough for a while but I think it is for the best.

I hope this article helps you too.

Dr. Green: Ear Infections and Pacifiers : he cites to medical studies done on the link between ear infections and pacifiers.


Monday, November 12, 2012

Aggression in Children

At the park the other my son pushed another little boy. The little boy was playing with my sons favorite toy and my son became impatient when the other little boy wouldn't leave it alone...

I know he didn't learn this behavior from me, my husband, or his babysitter...there was only one place he could learn it and that is the nursery at the church... Although, I do not think that my son was being aggressive, I believe this was a failed attempt to initiate play with a peer, it is always good to read up and learn about behaviors before they become problems. We have found a Mommy and Me group to join so we can learn how to meet and play with children our age.

I found this article about children and aggressive behavior and I think it is awesome. I hope it is helpful. It is put together by N.C. State University.
http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/fcs/pdfs/fcs_504.pdf

Monday, October 8, 2012

Finger Foods for Babies: 9 months plus



  

Our new adventure has been finger foods! While eating dinner a couple of weeks ago my son seemed very interested in what I was eating. Terrified of him choking I was very nervous about giving him table foods. The doctor confirmed that my son was ready, and with 4 teeth able, to start eating finger foods. After much research here are some finger foods that my son has had success with.

Cereals

       


Proteins

  • Sargento Cheese sticks (real cheese verse processed cheese product)
  • Mac n' Cheese
  • Cooked Ground Turkey or Beef (beef can be fatty though)
  • Canned White meat Chicken makes a quick and healthy protein that is easy to chew
  • Scrambled eggs (add a little cheese too if you like)

Carbs

  • White Rice or Pasta well cooked with Carrot Juice
  • Cereals (pictures above)
  • Cream of Wheat or Rice and Grits (add a little breast milk or formula or 100% Juice)
  • Reduced Sodium Saltines and Goldfish crackers 
  • Animal crackers and graham crackers 
  • Wheat toast (make sure it doesn't have any seeds or big grains) with apple sauce on top
  


Fruits & Veggies

  • Steamed Broccoli and Cauliflower florets
  • Stewed Carrots, Potatoes, Sweet Potatoes, Tomatoes and Apples
  • Ripe Strawberries and Blue Berries (or the kind in the freeze section that you thaw or put in one of those teething mesh things)
  • Fruit Cups with natural Juices: Peaches, Pears, and oranges
  • Mott's Natural Apple Sauce: (be sure to read the package, I recently discovered that some apple sauces have a lot of additives and some of them are not even the fruit they claim to be)

  
Meal Creation Ideas

Every couple of weeks I try to make some small meals for my son and freeze them. This is mainly for my husband or the babysitter but occasionally I make a meal that my son just isn't ready to eat because it is too spicy or had to eat. I bought a bunch of the Gladware Small sized containers when they were on sale to store my mini-meals in. I also find that snack size baggies are great for storing a portion about of fruits, veggies, or cereals.

I will cook a package of ground turkey or beef or a couple breasts of chicken. I will make a pot of rice, potatoes or pasta and then stew a veggie. It takes about 30-45 mins to prep and cook. I will let everything cool down and then portion the food out into the Gladware containers and baggies. I then put it all in the freezer and I am stocked up for a week or so. They are handy to grab and re-heat in the microwave. 

Some combinations I have put together are:
  • Rice with carrot juice, stewed carrots and ground turkey or chicken. 
  • Pasta with stewed tomatoes, ground beef/turkey and a little Parmesan cheese. 
  • Potatoes with carrot & beat juice, chicken/turkey and broccoli florets.
photo.JPG         photo.JPG


On the Go:
Around 9.5 months my son learned how to suck from a straw. This was a great discovery! One day I ordered a kids meal for him and it came with an apple sauce pouch. It turns out to be a no mess food delivery system! I keep these pouches in the car and the diaper bag, they are easier to transport than baby-food jars and I don't need a spoon or bib. When we are out running around he can still have a quick no mess snack that does not require a table! 

This happens to be my favorite brand and my son's favorite flavor! 
  
*As a side note, I have heard from several of my high school students that they take these pouches with them to school and eat them for snack. They told me  they like them because they are healthy, they taste yummy, and they don't have to taste the veggies...I say whatever works!

Since it takes a while for the little ones to start eating with a spoon or fork and bowls become objects to throw or dump the contents out...When we would go out to eat I found myself putting his food on the table at the restaurants and I didn't like this at all. At first I contemplated buying those disposable place mats for when we dined out but I just didn't like the cost and it seemed so wasteful. That is when I found these two items.

Summer Infant Tiny Diner Placemat

This placemat it awesome! It is easy to clean, light weight and compact. It has a little cup that hangs off the edge of the table that we call the "recycle bin" because it catches the bits that would be wiped off the table. It is great at the restaurant or even at home. You can wipe if down with a baby wipe or you can carry Clorox Wipes in the diaper bag. When we were on vacation the Clorox wipes were very helpful.

top view
 
It rolls up nicely

It Suction cups to the table


Tommy Tippee Explora Roll-Up Bibs
These bibs are great because they have a built in "recycle bin" and they save me a load of laundry a week. They fit perfectly in the diaper bag and because they are easy to clean they don't leave a mess in my diaper bag either. I have one at home and one in the diaper bag for travel. I love the "recycle bin" because it catches the food that doesn't make it into the mouth. This also means I don't have to change my sons clothes after every meal...


Tommy Tippee Explora Esi-Mat with Weaning Bowl

This is very convenient at home. It allows me to put food in a bowl and not on the table but the mat suction cups the bowl down so that it cannot be thrown or dumped. I call this genius!

The Bowls

The Mat
Munchkin Snack Catcher

These were suggested to me by a mommy friend. They are really awesome because they encourage problem/solution skills, fine motor skills and they reduce mess! They also help keep the dog away from the babies snack! You put their snack in the cup and they have to stick their hand through the soft plastic lid to get the snack out. They have keep holding to pull it through the lid which helps them practice holding small objects!

They are also cool for traveling and safer than a Ziploc bag.



Sunday, October 7, 2012

Educational & Entertaining Activities for Infants & Toddlers

I have been blessed with an active child. He loves to explore and discover. It has become a challenge to find new ways of entertaining him and keeping him challenged. During nap time one day I turned to the Internet for help and found some really great sights that offer lots of ideas. Many of the activities are made with materials you can find around the house or are easy enough to collect cheaply at the dollar store. Some of the ideas only require your time and intentional behavior or speech on your part.

There are some really great ideas out there. It also reminded me that moms have been creating ways to keep kids busy and out of trouble for a long time! I am not the first mom to ask myself "Now what do I do with him?!"

I enjoy exploring the ideas and at times creating my own new activities. As a stay at home mom I have to admit that at times trying these activities simply breaks up the boredom too...

Family Education offers Age Appropriate Play ideas.

Baby Center offers Games & Activities. You can click on your child's age to find a list of activities and play ideas.

Productive Parenting is one of my favorite sites. I do wish that they had pictures posted the activities. In their Activities Library you can find a ton of ideas for you and your child based on their age/development. What I like about this sight is that it tells you what to do, variations on the activity, what skills are being learned, and the learning category for the activity.

When I get the chance I will post some pictures of activities and sensory toys that my son likes...I will have to find the time though because I am busy playing...hehe!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Babysitter Scheduling Help

So I heard about this free website called SitterScout and I think it is so awesome that I have to share it! On this website you can load all of the sitters you use and their contact information. You then put in the dates and times need a sitter. You can send the notice to the sitters in rounds. The first round you decide who you want to get the notice first, second, and then third. Your sitters accept or decline the job as they are available.

It is easy and you don't have to spend a bunch of time calling your different sitters! I even put in my pet sitting  job for a wedding weekend we will be gone. I can't say enough good things about this site!!!

This is the Sitter Scout Logo so you know you are at the correct website!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Feeding Baby: Introducing Solid Foods

At six months the doctor told me that it was time to start introducing solid food to our son. Since I have exclusively breastfed I wasn't prepared for the emotions that giving my son food would invoke. The doctor sent us on our way with one basic bit of advice: follow the American Pediatrics Academy's guidelines for introducing food. There are a lot of people out their that will scare you about allergies and making your baby obese. Although I feed myself several times a day and I am healthy. I am a first time mom who hasn't introduced a child to food before...I didn't want to mess it up!  

So I did what I usually do when I am about to do something new...I got a book..! 

Getting Started 

Food Fights: Winning the Nutritional Challenges of Parenthood Armed with Insight, Humor, and a Bottle of Ketchup Laura A. Jana MD FAAP (Author), Jennifer Shu MD FAAP (Author)


  

This book is the American Academy of Pediatrics book on how to feed your child and create good eating habits. It is filled with lots of practical knowledge that was very comforting and helpful. The book does go into detail cautioning parents not to over-feed or force feed their child. However, it does not give you information about frequency of feeding solid food or appropriate amount to feed; especially when you are first starting off. Overall, I thought that this was a great book that cleared up so misconceptions and fears I had about introducing food to my baby. 

Picking Your Baby Food

After reading the book I went to the store to make my baby food purchases. I knew that I wanted to find baby cereal that didn't have fillers and was a single grain. I was a little shocked when I started reading labels. I first reached for the box of Gerber Rice Cereal. It was familiar and what my mom fed me when I was a baby. I was shocked when I read the label and found that it was filled with soy and lots of other ingredients. After reading every box of rice cereal I settled on the only cereal that was simply rice and iron. 


This cereal is a little pricier than the other cereals but it was the purest cereal that I could find. Earth's Best also offers lots of variety in their cereal products. My son also likes their Oatmeal cereal. When we were ready for fruits and veggies I also read the labels carefully. I did not find the same amount fillers in fruits and veggies as I did in the cereals. When it comes to fruits and veggies I check the label but go for the sale! 

At about 7 months he was ready to chew. A friend of ours recommended rices cakes for our teething son. This was also an eye opening experience for me. There is indeed junk food for babies!!! When I began reading the label I was surprised to see that a lot of "Puffs" and rice cakes had a lot of ingredients including sugar. After reading the labels and considering what my son has already been introduced to we settled on a rice cake that was healthy and simple. 


He really enjoys them. We give them to him when we sit down to eat dinner. He caught on rather quickly to feeding himself. Although, they get rather squishy and gross he enjoys trying to grab the little pieces that crumble away during the eating process. These also come in many different varieties.  

The Right Tools for the Job

We already had a chair and bibs but there were a few things missing for this new eating endeavour. There are a few tools that we needed in our house to feed our son. These are the items that we added to our kitchen in honor of our son growing up. 

Nuk Rubber Tipped Spoons: They are practical for the tiny mouth and they are safe for sensitive gums. 
 

Tommee Tippee Explora 4oz Food Pots & Lids: These bowls were the perfect size for tiny portions and they make it easy to travel with food for the baby. They will work great when he is older for finger foods on the go.


Personal Reflections

It was rather emotional to give my son solid foods. Giving him food means that he doesn't need as much breast milk and that he nurses less. It is a bit of an adjustment to not be "needed" by him as much. Realistically, he still needs me 100% of the time but I couldn't help but feel like I was losing a little of my usefulness. It also stung a little that he enjoyed eating cereal and baby food so much. In the end, I am happy that he is ready to start eating food and that we don't have to fight with him. He is doing exactly what he should be doing. What mom can't be happy about that..?