Sunday, October 25, 2009

TV-Free Month

After a summer of moving and letting the light box run for way too long so I could make food or unpack something or wait on hold on my cellphone trying to get our phone and internet connected, I was really hoping to cut the cord to the TV once school started. For crying out loud, the kid is at a Waldorf school where media is strongly discouraged, the idea being that it as stifles rather than inspires kids' imaginations. I was not looking forward to being outed by my son singing "Bob the Builder!" in the school sandbox when he's supposed to be decorating mud pies with leaves.

But more importantly, I just like him better when he's not been a couch potato. And I think he likes himself better, too. If he's going to be gone 8:30-3:00 for three days in a row, can't I fill the rest of the time with wholesome activities?

Indeed, I could, and I did. After a calming afternoon in the small aftercare program, my little boy has mostly been a dream in the afternoon. At first I planned things for the afternoon to keep us away from the living room. Now I know it will go okay, and I don't fear lacking the willpower to keep the TV off. I've usually had a good bit of productivity and can wait until he's in bed to do anything besides cook (which I often start before he gets home anyway).

Some days, when I'm behind on dinner or it's raining and we decide to bake, we just hang out in the kitchen. He finds all sorts of stuff to play with on his own and enjoys helping me for real, too.

Other days we do an errand or go meet a friend or just walk down to the park. As long as I get food on the table by 5:30 (not always easier, but I'm improving), my son generally stays happy doing whatever and is asleep by 7:15. So I'm trying to just be present most of those four hours together.

As for the mornings, he wanted to watch TV before breakfast the first few days of the school routine, but I managed to weasel out of that, and now it just doesn't come up. We also had the luck -- and the misfortune -- to lose a library DVD. When we returned that last yellow "Bob," we fessed up to the missing "Cuentos Y Mas" bilingual librarian program and were told, "It's a max $10 fine if you return it and $20 if you lose it. Why don't you just keep looking?" We have, to no avail, but now I have my reason for not getting any more library DVDs. And if he remembered a week or two that we actually turned on the television and watched PBS, he's since forgotten that was an option.

I am not a purist, though. The TV is still in the house, and it has football on over the weekends. And last week, I really needed to edit a piece of writing, so he watched an episode of "Martha Speaks" on the computer, on my lap. Keep the connection, I thought. Don't let him zone out of the human world. A few days later we put on Yoga Kids (an old favorite) so that I could get a practice in. He did a few poses but mostly watched me and the screen from the couch. And the other day, when I had a slew of emails to read, he watched part of a that dry British "Kipper" that a friend had lent to us.

So I'm hoping that something like moderation does exist. I'm thrilled we made it a full month with no kid programming (outside of seeing Steve Songs at the National Book Festival, which is live and fun, and the guy is super nice). I really think my boy is a more grounded kid without the media. We still have our episodes of whining, but they are all about irrational things that seem life-shattering to a three-year-old, like there being no more grapefruit. That's just how it is for him at this stage, I think; life has to feel like it sucks one minute and is peachy the next.

The rollercoaster of emotions is annoying, but I can handle that better than I can tolerate whining about watching more of something when the boy ought to be experiencing real life.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Fabulous birth symposium!

I was blown away at this week's symposium at George Mason University: "Perinatal: A Symposium on Birth Practices and Reproductive Rights" organized by MFA candidate and mother of two, Jessica Clements. There were so many great panels and talks, I hardly know where to begin. In fact, I may leave summary to a print writing venue but for now feel compelled to share a link to the story of Joy Szabo from The Unnecesarean. Szabo is a woman who has already had a VBAC and has been told by her Page Hospital in Arizona that if she refuses a c-section for her current pregnancy, the hospital will pursue a court order to force her to have a surgical delivery.

Henci Goer reported on this issue in her fabulous talk, "Cruelty in the Maternity Wards: Fifty Years Later." She had just added the info about Szabo to her talk, which detailed other incidents of abuse and an overall culture of abuse in mainstream maternity care. The news about Szabo broke October 1, and the The Unnecesarean has updates about conversations with the hospital, but I don't see that Szabo has had the baby yet. I've followed the discussion onto Facebook and am going to see if I can learn more that way. (Too many different logins so I can't do it now. Must streamline!)

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Staying healthy

My head is swimming with all the info it has to process from the NVIC conference. It was great to see Dr. Joseph Mercola live and in person. The title of his talk was the same as his recent book: "Take Control of Your Health." I wrote the other day about Gardasil on DC Metro Moms, and, contrary to what some folks might think about people who speak at NVIC -- that they are there to scare people with stories of vaccine injury and take advantage of the human weakness to respond to anecdote -- the speakers generally want people to be in charge of their own health. It shouldn't be government mandates or doctors pushing drugs who tell us what to do, but our own bodies. It's just that it takes time on our part to learn and pay attention.

Mercola has a ton of info on his website,, but I want to run down a few of his most important points.

The CDC allocated $20 million for vaccine safety, but of that (if I understood correctly), $12 is going to media promotion of vaccines, including the use of Elmo to tell kids they should get their shots. The alternative to vaccines, Mercola explained, is to build your health and natural immunity. I know a lot of folks think anyone who questions vaccines is a kook. I wonder how many of those folks feed their kids refined sugar and flour and artificial colorings and flavorings regularly? What could possibly be good about those things? Why serve them if they compromise your kid's health? What about having days go by when kids don't eat any fresh (not to mention local or organic) vegetables?

According to Mercola, 90% of the food Americans purchase is processed. That's what I call kooky!

Mercola's biggest suggestions:

1) No sugar or artificial sweeteners
2) Adequate Vitamin D
  • Everyone should have their levels tested, and most folks need 5,000 IUs a day of D3 (not D2). An infant can get 1,000 IUs/day
  • Vitamin D is rare in food
  • Sunlight is not enough, especially in fall/winter, unless you're out 11am-1pm daily with lots of skin exposure.
  • High doses (up to 50,000 IUs/day for three days) can treat acute infections, including swine flu.
Dr. Mercola talked in general about nutrition, as well, including omega-3s. He prefers krill oil to fish oil because, he says, fish oil is not sustainable ecologically.

Dr. Mercola also stated that the primary influence on disease is emotional wounding as a child that has not been resolved. He referenced Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) or the broader term Meridian Tapping Techniques (MTT), which I've found to be really powerful.

When moderator and Mothering magazine editor Peggy O'Mara asked about sleep, Dr. Mercola said that you can do all of the above (and exercise), but if you're not getting good sleep, forget it. He said most people actually need 6-8 hours and that getting too much can actually have a negative impact. It was getting late, and he didn't say anything about why/how or about the best time for sleep, but I've heard that sleep before midnight is much more restorative than sleep after because the body really needs to be relaxed when the gall bladder and liver do their flushing around 2-4 a.m.

Dr. Mercola had also started out his lecture talking about how little sugar there really is in the blood and how important blood sugar regulation is. When I get inadequate sleep, it seems like my body compensates by needing a ton of calories. I don't know how I got by as a breastfeeding-all-night mom for two years never getting more than five hours of sleep at a time, but I sure do know I ate a lot of nut butter!

It's inspiring to be around people who talk about health and well-being and how to achieve it. Since I'm already doing a whole lot of this -- at no small expense of time or money -- it's nice to be reminded that the effort really is worth it. I know that because I feel good and am not dealing with depression or gut problems like I did all my life before changing my diet, but it's still nice to get validation.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Watching out for mom & baby - a Japanese approach

Today I had the privilege of attending the National Vaccine Information Center's Fourth International Public Conference on Vaccination. Peter Doshi presented an informative look into the way the Japanese deal with mother and child health. From the time a pregnancy is confirmed, a woman is issued a Mother-Child Health Handbook in which to record information about her and the baby's health and development.

Into this boshi techo also go recordings of vaccinations. In fact, doctors will not give shots without the booklet in which to record them and to check on recent illnesses that might be contraindicated with getting a vaccine. The handbooks (and other information issued from the government) detail cautions about vaccines. They tell parents to reschedule vaccinations if the child has been ill (even in the last month) or has a fever, to plan for no strenuous activity that day, to pay attention the child all day the day of a vaccine and to make sure that someone who knows the child well is the one to take him or her to the doctor. The suggestion to take a child's fever before coming to the doctor in Japan contrasts sharply with information from the Centers for Disease Control's Parents Guide to Children's Immunizations that says that fever is "not usually a reason" to delay a vaccination.

Doshi, a doctoral candidate at MIT and visiting researcher (faculty of medicine) at the University of Tokyo, explained that since 1994, the Japanese have had a completely volunteer vaccination program in which recommendations have children getting about half the doses of vaccinations by age one that children in the U.S. typically receive. And, he explained, vaccines are always given only one at a time.

There is no school waiver or enforcement, and yet there is a high rate of vaccination. With a high expectation for product safety, the Japanese value vaccines and trust authority figures, but they seem to just have the whole different approach, Doshi's research showed. It seems that the Japanese embrace the idea of "first do no harm" and also of parents being expected to take an active role in paying attention not just to getting doses on time but to the whole context of health.

Yay for looking at the whole picture! Can we get some of that?

Chores make the memories

As we drove through the neighborhood this evening, my son looked at all the trash cans ready to go out tomorrow and asked if it was going to be Friday, which is trash day around here. Then he asked, "Why did they take away the branches?"

He is so into the trash pick-up, it threw him off that he wasn't here last week for the truck drivers to wave to him or honk their horn, or to see the "leaf truck" come haul away all the brush he helped to clear. One weekend we had our first time working in the yard in our new house, and less than a week later we took our first family trip to the beach. And what he remembers is the branches that disappeared while he wasn't looking.

By some miracle, the world didn't melt into a puddle of "why?!"-laden tears when I explained the impossibility of being in two places at once:

"I guess we must have been at the beach."


That's what I call a good day.