Friday, January 29, 2010

No Impact Man

Last night we finished this documentary. My husband saw it last year at a film festival.
He has been counting down the months to the release of this film so that we could watch it together. I highly recommend this film to all. While going off the grid, not using toilet paper, and hand washing our cloths might seem extreme to most people, it is interesting to watch a family try this for a whole year. I think that is what makes this project so interesting, that a family has to do it together. For an individual to pull it off it might be easier, but for an entire family to pull it off, it is quite an accomplishment. I don't think very many of us with kids could imagine doing what they did, with child in-tow.

Watching this movie made me think about the book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, A year in the life of food, by Barbara Kingsolver. Her family commits to only eating locally for a whole year. I think one of the biggest differences that Kingsolver and her family do is that each family member gets to choose one item that is not local to keep in their diet. They choose; olive oil, chocolate and coffee (both must be fair trade and organic) and dried fruits (I don't remember what the rules were for this food). Either way they each got to choose their "vice" in No Impact Man they have no "vice", its a clean cut, over a period of 5 months they "phase out" all the different things in their lives that have impact on the environment. Lastly they go off the grid, meaning they turn off the electricity. For 6 months they have no lights, fridge, heater (in NYC!). And they do it! There is of course some tension between the husband (who's project this is) and his wife (who love fast food, and her daily Starbucks). But its great to see them work together, watch them communicate through the year and take each hurdle one at a time.

I would encourage you to rent this film and watch it. It does not make you feel like you have to go off the grid for life to save the world. But it does make you think about "what can I do to help". Most of all like the Kingsolver book it shows us what is valuable, what is necessary, what has improved our quality of life, and all the other crap we can live without, even if we think we can't. It might be worth a try to give something up just to see if we can manage without it. Ohhh yeah and Lent is coming soon! Great timing for this film.


Thursday, January 21, 2010

Give Away at the Cottage.

Some people are so creative. This is a fun blog I came across and she's having a give away from Anthropologie. Which I love, but who can really afford anything from there so its a nice give away.

A Beach Cottage, check her out. What a bunch of great ideas.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Sturdy Child

I got a new book for Christmas from my husband. High Tide in Tucson, by Barbara Kingsolver. I love and read anything I can get my hands on by Kingsolver. There are a few novels I have not yet read because I know that once I read them I will be twiddling my thumbs until her next book comes out. The book I got is a collection of essays she once published in magazines or newspapers and has revamped them for this book. She also has written 7 more essays just to fit into this book.

Whenever I read her essays I feel like she's one of my best friends who has come over for tea and is sitting on my couch telling me a story. I wish she was one of my friends.

High Tide in Tucson is probably the first book I have read of hers where she talks so much about her personal life, meaning her kids, husband, house, parents, her yard and housekeeping skills, and other such things I would find hard telling all of my readers about, were I a famous author. But on the other hand, as a mother myself I have found many of the things she says about her children or parenting very encouraging, or at least I have had one of those "aaa ha!" moments... several times.

In the essay How Mr. Dewey Decimal Saved My Life, she talks about the literature she was exposed to thanks to her high school librarian asking her to help reorganize books in the school library. It was through this process that she came across, Gone With the Wind, and got the impression that her mother thought the book was a bit too "risque" and this encouraged her teen-self to read it all the more. Although reflecting on the reality of this she now sees that her mom only acted that way to get her to read the book. The point of this essay is that through her reorganizing of the library she came across many books that introduced her to; civil rights, different environmental theories, social justice and other non-discussed issues in her community or school. She feels that being exposed to these topics helped her become a better person and showed her the meanness that humans can present to one another. The harm that comes about because of fundamental beliefs and a lack of willingness to reach out to other humans.

This leads her to of course reflect on parenting and education. This part of the essay was particularly encouraging for me. She gives the argument that parents have every right to teach their children their beliefs, she uses the example of Special Creation and parents who want their kids to believe that the world was designed in one fell swoop. "I don't expect her [Barbara's daughter] school to forgo teaching Western history or capitalist economics on my account. Likewise it should be the job of Special Creationist parents to make their story convincing to their children... It cannot be any teacher's duty to tiptoe around religion, hiding objects that might raise questions at home." She continues, "There is a fatal notion on this earth, its the notion that wider horizons will be fatal. Difficult, troublesome, scary--yes, all that. But the wounds for a sturdy child, will not be mortal."

I love this! This is so true. As someone who grew up in an Evangelical-Midwest home, I remember the day my parents found out evolution was going to be part of the mainstream public school curriculum. At this time I was being taught at home, and this news only brought about a pat on the back for my parents. My parents and many other's I knew were washing their hands with the public system and putting in their order for the next 5 years of homeschool curriculum, "because we don't want our kids being brain washed!" Sadly this form of thinking goes both ways, I know many parents now who will not allow their kids to be a part of anything religious, particularly Christian. I find it funny that our neighborhood school while having a "Holiday" musical included songs about, Chanukkah, Kwanaza and of course snow, and somehow a Jewish holiday is not offensive but a Christian one is. Heaven (no pun intended) forbid those non-religious children get exposed to something their parents are not capable of refuting. Or to put it another way, heaven forbid those religious kids get exposed to something their parents are not capable of refuting.

Barbara makes such a wonderful point, our children who are allowed to see "the other side" and then have long conversations and ask questions at home are going to be the "sturdy" children who will not take fatal blows to their mind or spirit. I grew up with many other home-schooled, religious children who have turned their backs on their family's faith because it was not allowed to question (in our homes or churches). When they faced a challenge, or came across an issue that was not so black and white as they were taught they caved in, they faltered, and they lost hope in their parents words. Because that's all it is, words, if we don't give our children room to ask us questions and have the chance to take it to heart.

This also puts a lot of pressure on parents to "know what you believe". We can't just tell our kids, "capitalism is best, end of story" we as parents have to know and believe in our hearts and minds whatever it is you believe, and allow our beliefs to be challenged by our children. My guess is that my parents must have had doubts in their belief of Creation if they were so angry that it was being taught in school. I would guess someone who doesn't mind their beliefs being challenged would at least have a conversation with the opposing side. There is an amount of protecting our children's innocence that is necessary as parents. No parent would argue that we should let our kids hang out with an abusive person to see if they could survive, or teach them a destructive behavior, for sake of "exposure." But learning about Creation, Evolution, Socialism, capitalism, class segregation, and other topics that might challenge our personal beliefs or make us uncomfortable might in the end make both our children and ourselves sturdier persons.

I want to be the kind of parent that allows our dinner table conversation to be about whatever our children have on their minds. I also want to be the kind of parent that allows my beliefs to be challenged and that those challenges will make me a stronger person, have stronger faith, and be a habitat for my child to always come back to if that is what they want or need. I want my children to see that my faith is consistent and sturdy. I have to admit I do want my children to have the same faith that my husband and I share. But if they choose another route, they are their own persons and I hope I am sturdy enough to love them no matter what route they take. And I hope in the process of growing, I grow too. Above all I want my child to be "sturdy". I want her to know that I am sturdy, and that when we encounter a storm of challenge to our faith or values, it only makes us stronger. These life challenges will not be mortal to a sturdy family.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Mommy Tip

If you like to read, and you like to use your local library, but you have kids in tow and finding anything other than something in the children's department is difficult, than this post is for you. A few years back I was taking are of a little guy who was just six week older than my daughter and about once a month we would visit the library. We loved our trips to the library, picking out new books, reading on the big ABC rug, sitting in the little red chairs, it was lots of fun. But one of the things I could never do was find specific books I wanted to read to the kids. Not because the library was unorganized or because it was not checked in. But because my two little toddlers didn't have the patience to stand quietly and watch me sift through shelves of books looking for the right one! When ever I tried to attempt to find a specific book I spent more time chasing kids down the isle.

Let me pause here and say, if you have never read Honey for a Child's Heart by G. Hunt you need to add this book to your reading list and then you will understand why I had such a long reading list for my kiddies. After reading this book I got very particular about reading literature to children. In the words of Charlotte Mason, I was cutting out the "twaddle" and going only for the high quality books. I really do believe this is important for children to have in their lives. I do not like books that do not tell a good story, advertise (such as Nickelodeon cartoons), or have propaganda (environmental guilt is just not necessary for toddlers!). So all of this led me to have a specific book list.

OK finally to the tip. Most libraries have an online "hold" system. You can find your books, and then put them on hold. This is a really really nice service because you can do the whole, read on the ABC rug and sit in the little red chairs. BUT when you are done you walk up front and just pick up your books. The nice thing about this option is that you can also put books on hold for yourself. This was the nicest treat for me, I love to read a novel once in a while and with child in arms I cannot stand in the adult fiction section just looking at all the books. One of the things I do is visit the NPR book lists and read the reviews on different books and then put the ones that look good to me on hold. Using the library has become a whole new pleasure in our lives.

Another suggestion is that if you have long distance grandparents you can put the same childrens' books on hold at their library and then once you both have them in hand let Grandma or Grandpa read the same book to your kids over the phone. This give kids and grandparents something to "do" together. Especially for little children who don't have a lot to say or get shy on the phone.

Happy Reading!