Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Get Out the Vote-- and your Voters' Pamphlet

“Once again, it’s time for Oregon voters to make good on the bargain we made for living in a free country. It’s time to vote.”
- Bill Bradbury, Introduction to the Voters’ Pamphlet

Alright, ladies and gents: for months we have been fixated on the race for the White House and now it’s time to look closer to home. Don’t you have some state and local issues to think about? It’s easy to get swept up in the charisma and hero-worship of the presidential elections, but the less glamorous home state politicians and measures will be the choices that most directly affect you. So get your head out of the clouds and pick up that two-volume tome called The Voters’ Pamphlet.

Reason Number One why you should read it: Because your taxes paid for the Pamphlet’s publication and distribution. It’s good to have a look every now and then at what you paid for. No, really, Reason Number One is simply this—you should really know what’s what before deciding to vote. Or at least, have some idea of what you think is what.

Reason Number Two is a well-kept secret, but here it is: The Voters’ Pamphlet is funny. Not all-the-way-through funny, but parts of it certainly are, depending on your sense of humor. Over two nights I put aside my book of Haruki Murakami short stories and sacrificed a few extra hours of sleep so that I could get my ballot all inked in. And I have to say, I was not disappointed; there are some gems in those newsprint-paper pages.

Take for example the candidates statements. Only in a free society can some of these people actually stand up and take themselves seriously. Some candidates run on the platform of “I’m not him (or her)”, said pointing at the corrupt, scurrilous incumbent or shoo-in. Who knew so many nice looking people were really the villains they are being made out to be? Awesome inflammatory statements concerning Federal Real ID and our ability to buy groceries can be found on page 24 of Book Two. New World Order here we come!

The Voters’ Pamphlet also offers us a rare opportunity to laugh at ourselves. I like the homemaker who decided to pursue a job as a Congressional Representative because “I’m fed up”. That takes a lot of initiative. Most fed-up Oregonians I know grab a microbrew and turn on the Daily Show to laugh at all the crap they’re fed up with. So when someone gets pissed off enough to get off the couch, we have to admire her chutzpah and say “thank goodness it’s not me” and feel a little lazy and selfish and sane.

You can also find some rich one-liners. “My policy is: slavery bad – liberty good.” Notice that all of this is printed sans commas, which makes me want to say: “Grammar, bad—Grammar-check, good.” But it mostly reminds me of that whole “Me Tarzan – You Jane” thing. At least the guy has the good humor to look smug in his picture. While I agree that slavery is bad, reading further, human trafficking is not mentioned, nor is reparations for African Americans. Hmmm…and he wants to be State Attorney General? Of what, 1852? The guy has some—albeit, , not so humorous—good points, but the policy statement at the beginning left me scratching my head, waiting for some connecting dots. Perhaps a better statement would have been “My policy is: frivolous lawsuits and relying entirely on government to bail your ass out: bad – liberty and personal responsibility: awesome, dude!”

Not to be forgotten is the candidate for the Bureau of Labor and Industry, whose statement includes a rather lengthy plug for his fitness business, including a phone number and website. His platform is full of ideals, ideas, and vitriol against the incumbent. This makes for interesting reading, in a catty US Magazine sort of way.

Head into the Measures, which will simultaneously intrigue and give you a headache by the time you are done, most especially those introduced by that wily Bill Sizemore. Like so much bad writing, Sizemore’s measures lack precision and nuance, which puts him on my list for Most Reviled Authors for making me wade through this crap. If you detect a bit of disgust, let me just make clear that Measures 58, 59, 60, 63, and 64 are unpleasant reading, filled with vague descriptions and lots of doubletalk. I don’t like having hazy writing to pick apart election after election, especially 64, which we have voted on again and again and repeatedly said “no” to. While some of his measures do address problems that need better solutions than what’s been implemented so far, a bad solution is not necessarily a better solution. Change for the sake of change is not better.

But the arguments that follow his measures are too good to be true. Take, for example, the arguments in support of Measure 58. Most use the outdated acronym “ESL” (English as a Second Language). “ESL” has actually been replaced with “ELL”, an acronym for English Language Learners, an acknowledgement that many students are learning English as a third or fourth language. This makes me think that the writers of these arguments don’t actually have much knowledge of the teaching of English language learners. My very favorite argument in support of 58 can be found by page 46, authored by M. Dennis Moore, a pamphlet prankster who’s been subversively supporting asinine measures for nearly 20 years. Following the pages of dry, hard reading that are indicative of a Sizemore measure, Moore is a delight.

But Moore is outdone by a couple ironic “Arguments in Favor” that follow many of Sizemore’s measures, including one by Sizemore himself. In the pages of both Measures 60 and 64, you can find the almost tabloid question that asks “Was Bill Sizemore Railroaded?” and lays out a blow by blow account of the injustices done to Sizemore’s reputation via the viciously biased and corrupt justice system. This ad—I call it an ad because it not actually an argument in favor of anything but Bill Sizemore—was bought by Sizemore and appears twice. Way to use up the taxpayers money to make it all about you, Bill. Kind of antithetical to your supposed principals of putting measures on the ballot to save us money used for those wasteful educational and public services. A mass mailing would have been a far more upright measure to take to make Sizemore look like less of a jerk.

Add to that my Very Favorite Ironic “Argument in Favor” that appears in the pages of Measures 58, 59, and 63 that begins “Burying You in Voter’s Pamphlet Arguments” and denounces the opposition strictly because they obviously have “tons of money to spend” and are going to brainwash us with their variety of people saying the same things. Almost like it’s a conspiracy! I love it when people who actually think voters are stupid pretend to be informing them for their own good. “Please do not be impressed with their multitude of words or their emotional pleas”. Wow! This is my favorite for so many reasons. But the best line of all, what really makes me rock with laughter, is this: “You might want to consider this simple fact: Every argument in the voters’ pamphlet cost the state several thousand dollars to print and distribute than the ones making the arguments actually pay to have their statement included. Taxpayers are hugely subsidizing every argument, including this one.” And it’s signed by Tim Rohrer, Oregon Tax Payers United. Three times this appears, my friends. Three times. What’s not to love?

The Voters’ Pamphlet also has moments where it pays to read, read, and read some more. Being an independent voter and having signed the ballot initiative to Measure 65, I’m a bit wary and very disappointed. It looks good, really, but read the fine print. It’s going to cost the state a whole lot more, and destroys the chances of third party candidates actually getting on the ballot. The idea of an open primary is appealing, but to have our vote subsequently limited to a non-choice of “Top Two” is not the answer for so many of us and risks alienating rural Oregonians, who often vote for Republican or independent candidates. The inclusion of all Oregonians in the political process is vital to the well-being of the state as a whole and sends a message to those areas beyond Multnomah County and Salem that we can all move into the future together. Every voice in Oregon deserves to be heard. Let’s hold off until they are willing to put forth legislation that would allow open primaries and the inclusion of all parties and their chosen candidates in the general election.

But of all the measures, there’s nothing more interesting than a measure that resonates with one personally, as do the opposing measures, 57 and 61. I’ve been watching this one for a while. As a person who has had to clean up the mess, both financially and legally, of identity theft, I am interested in what steps would be taken to prevent this sort of crime. Like fraternal twins, at first glance the measures look like siblings. But really, they are more like cousins. 61 takes a “tough on crime” stance, while 57 is tough on getting people out of the penal system through rehab and imposes sanctions against those who refuse to take the help. Drug addiction is a primary cause of the property crimes that lead to incarceration, and solving the problem at its root is the best possible answer.

If you are interested in the money matters, here’s a little quick math: Measure 57 will cost a total of $268 million to implement for the first four years and $143+ million each year afterward. The new prison space will cost a total of $517 million, which includes both the principal and the interest, which is to be paid over 25 years. In contrast, the implementation of Measure 61 has a predicted totals of $361 million as the low cost and $532 million as the high for the first four years, and projects that yearly costs afterward will run between $161 million and $274 million for each year afterward. The cost of new prisons under this measure will be between $1.1 BILLION and 1.3 BILLION, before the interest of $709 million to $844 million, not to mention that the state will be required to pay local governments up to $19 million each year. In a nutshell, just in the first four years, Measure 61 will cost taxpayers $2,170,000,000 (yep, that’s TWO BILLION PLUS) and Measure 57 will cost us $775 million. Just to summarize, since I’m doing the math for you, Measure 61 will end up costing at least 2.8 times as much and doesn’t actually solve anything. Sorry to put the BILLIONS in all caps, but I find them exciting as I will never have even a million dollars, ever. In this economy, it’s worth asking ourselves the question of how much we want to spend on punishing people who commit non-violent crimes.

So, I wanted to introduce you to a scintillating little read and have ended up doing your grade 5 long division. You’ll find the chicken scratch on my pamphlet pages. But the point in all this is, as they say on Reading Rainbow, “Don’t take my word for it…” – read it yourself. Think for yourself. And get out there and vote. It’s your civic duty.

And if you don’t vote, don’t you dare let me hear you complain.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Autumn Nights...

...smell like wood fires and crisp cold, the kind that just grazes your nose, but let's it know it's a nose, that it's smelling the temperature of the air in the way only an autumn night can feel.

I walked to Belmont Station tonight, laptop slung over my shoulder, and spent some time writing comments for Nora, one of the midwives I worked with during my pregnancy. She is writing a book based on the teachings of her prenatal classes and asked for comments. I had comments aplenty.

Just in case you didn't know, my dear son Joaquin was born at home. I've mentioned it before, but not in great detail. After this evening's writing, however, I realize that I haven't ever really hammered out the birth story before. But mine is a great, non-traumatic one. There's no screaming or critical pivotal moment. (Unless you count transition, but I digress...)

I should tell you up front that I thought I'd have one of those long labors, where you putter about and make soup and paint the rocking chair and all that good stuff. I envisioned putting my son's clothes away during the labor, having those "bonding" tasks to do because first babies take so long to come out. Needless to say, like so many things in my life, my vision of the blessed event and the actual reality of it were two entirely different animals.

For weeks (like, since week 32...) I kept thinking I was going to go into labor early. It was a huge anxiety. One night I had such anxiety about it that Joe and I went to the store to get absolutely everything we'd possibly need and he took a half day off work to finish painting Joaquin's room. This was at Week 36.

Imagine my chagrin at week 41, and counting.

Joaquin was taking his time. His "due date" was April 7th. It came and went. No baby.

We did everything we could, besides castor oil. Joe and I walked up and down Mount Tabor (dubbed Mount Labor by the midwives) countless times. I walked and walked and walked. I ate curry.


I took a non-stress test. Baby J in utero was fine, and we made an appointment with an acupuncturist to induce in few days, so we decided to chill.

Nine days after the charts had predicted his arrival, I went in to see Mary Beth, the acupuncturist. She's also a midwife, and consequently, is more effective for inducing than the average acu. On April 16th, at 5pm, she checked me. 2 centimeters dilated, 75% effaced. Okay. She stuck the needles in me, and by the time she sent us on our way, I was having some light cramping. I asked her what I should eat to help the chi do it's work best. She said to avoid hot, spicy foods, which would move the energy up, and suggested beets, which would pull the energy down. We bought some beets on the way home.

At eight o'clock, I started having some light contractions. I'd eaten my beets and headed up to bed. I should mention, too, that our house had been prepped for birth for days. The tub was set up, waiting to be filled. The box of medical supplies was unloaded onto a card table in my son's very-ready room. His clothes were all ready to go. Both our brand-new pillow-top mattress upstairs and the futon in Joaquin's room had the shower curtain under the fitted sheet to protect the mattresses.
Everything was ready but the baby.

Joe came to bed at 9:30 and went to sleep immediately, which is one of the Amazing Abilities of Joe. At ten I woke up and thought the contractions were slacking off. So I woke him up and demanded we go for a walk.

It was surreal, a walk through the still night air. My contractions intensified and I decided to go back to sleep around 10:45. It was a good move.

I woke up at near midnight, feeling a pop! of sorts from within. I knew instantly what it was. "Grab my legs!" I yelled at Joe, who was groggy and uncomprehending. I'm unreasonably proud to say that despite his stupor, I managed to swing myself, pregnant belly and all, off the bed and let my water break onto the floor, thus saving the protected but very precious new mattress. "Grab a towel and get the papers!" I told Joe. Poor Joe, still half-asleep (hey, he wasn't in labor, I was) brought up a towel and the paper upon which we'd been timing contractions earlier. Nice thought, but I had meant the pH paper that the midwives had given me, to test the water to make sure it was amniotic fluid, and not that I'd peed myself. Yep. It was the right stuff.

Call the midwife. Contractions coming on. I remember rocking in the glider, chanting "More, more" and rubbing my belly. It was another world...

At 2 or so, Regina, the assistant midwife, arrived. I loved Regina. That serene face. That sense of calm as she said "You're still in early labor. Practice relaxing into it." And then she examined me. You moms know what an exam during labor feels like: it's akin to shoving an orange traffic cone up your nose. How is a baby supposed to come out of something that feels so teeny teeny teeny? Then those calm words--

"You're about 2 centimeters dialated and 75% effaced."


So, she left at 2:20 or so, and I decided I would suck it up and try that relaxing thing. But I really, really had to use the bathroom. This would be the focal point of my birth story, the part that my friend Alisha will always remember as "she almost gave birth on the toilet".

Because nothing ever goes the way it's supposed to. Paint the rocking chair? I couldn't have written my name to save my life. I stayed in the bathroom. Couldn't leave. It was like my own personal safe haven. I'm not ashamed to say it: sitting on the toilet felt good. Really good. I didn't want to leave. These days, I'm not surprised when I hear that women have their babies in the toilet. Truly, I'm not.

Before long, I was doing that thing Ina May Gaskin calls "Horse Lips"...making my lips loose and blowing raspberries through them. I wiggled my head and loosened my jaw and made low, bovine sounds. This all sounds kinda weird unless you've read the appendices of Ina May Gaskin's "Guide To Midwifery". I don't want to be crass here, but that animal stuff is what it's all about. Being loose on top means staying loose on the bottom, so to speak.

At one point, I realized that one of bags of waters (there are three layers!) had fallen out and was pressing painfully on my cervix. I reached up with my fingers and tweaked it hard. It ruptured and I felt better. But then, suddenly, I knew I was pushing.

"Call Catherine." I told Joe. He was trying to time my contractions and I was beyond communicating with him. They were constant. I'd stopped bossing him around, telling him to stir the defrosted soup I'd made for the midwives and his attempts to fill the birthing pool. I guess I should have told him what I had realized. "Oh, shit, I'm in transition. I'm pushing!" Probably would have been helpful information, huh?

He went to the living room to call Catherine around 3:20. I felt lost and confused without him, and so reassured when he came back. I told him I wanted to push. He said "Don't push yet, babe." I responded "I'!" Trying not to push is like trying to stop a truck coming at you 60 miles an hour. Impossible and incredibly stupid. And painful.

But Joe, Mr. Cool and Collected, walked me through a guided meditation which helped center me. And when Regina arrived, all I could think of saying was "I don't want to have my baby on the toilet!" But all that came out was "Uhhhhhh....".

Blessed Regina. She knew where I needed to be. She and Joe each wrapped an arm around me and helped me to my son's room, to the bed where he would be born.

I don't remember the pushing, the rest of it. I really don't. I don't remember it hurting or the "ring of fire" some women experience. I birthed on my side, Joe holding my leg up, Regina supporting my body, and Catherine arriving just in time, having run all the red lights. First babies don't usually come this fast.

Joaquin was born at 4:16 a.m. We could have fudged it and claimed 4:17 on 4/17. The midwives were cutely game, but I just couldn't do it. I'd always know it wasn't true.

My son's first act was to poop on me. I so didn't care. I was in love.

And as you might have guessed, I still am. Joe's upstairs with our boy right now, having put him to bed. Today, like many days, Joaquin went down for a nap on the futon he was born on, and then woke up and walked out of his room, came to find us, and smiled. 18 months this Friday, and I still remember his birth so vividly. What a wonderful gift.

And his smile says it all.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Apples, Beer and Few Good Books

Yesterday was one of those perfect autumn days~ sunny in that golden way that only autumn sunlight is, the air cool and crisp. The cold snaps over the last few days have left the leaves tie-dye trippy amazing. And it's Apple Festival season, so we scooted over the fete in the early afternoon. The line was long, but we brought our list of favorites from last year and stocked up. We now have 7 lbs of apples and pears to munch. I see a crisp in our near future.

In the afternoon, Joaquin was tired, cranky and wouldn't sleep. Oh, woe to us! We let him run around for a while to tire him out then popped him in the stroller where (finally) he fell asleep. At this point, Joe and I headed to Belmont Station to celebrate a little peace. Golden Valley's Tannenbomb 2007 was one of those absolutely delicious winter warmer holiday beers, but sadly, we kicked the keg at half a pour. Other pints were procured, namely the Bend Outback Ale for myself, a nice pleasant ale perfect for fall with yummy raisin notes and a smooth finish, not too hoppy. Joe enjoyed New Belguim's Giddy-Up espresso ale which will put a little pep in your step, very yummy and rich without being syrupy or cloying. I think Joe walked home a little faster, but I can't say for sure.

I've been thinking that I wanted to share some of the titles of books that Joaquin's been interested in. This kid is quite hooked on the books. I like to read a bit above his age when I can, and there are some more advanced (preschool-age) picture books he enjoys. But here's a general list of toddler-friendly books.

"Panda Cake" by Rosalie Seidler

"Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel" (board book version) by Virginia Lee Burton

"Caps for Sale" by Esphyr Slobodka

"Mama Cat Has Three Kittens" by Denise Fleming

"Harry the Dirty Dog" by Gene Zion, illustrated by Margaret Bloy Graham

"Skyfire" (and other Bear books) by Frank Asch

"Annie and the Wild Animals" and "Berlioz the Bear" by Jan Bret

"Are You My Mother?" by PD Eastman

The "Small" books by Lois Lenski (Cowboy Small, Engineer Small, Fireman Small, etc)

It's not an extensive list, but for those of you who are looking for something new at the library, these have been toddler tested and approved.

Happy Reading!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Gi-hugic Pumpkin

Just finished making a loaf of banana bread with chocolate chips and walnuts. Yum.

Shoutout to the homeschoolin' mamas~Here's a link to a video about a 1,000 lb pumpkin. I haven't watched it yet, as I have dialup and don't have all afternoon, so be sure to preview before amazing the brains of your wunnerful kiddos. Oh, and it looks like they have a lot of other cool, brainy vids too. Check'em out!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

From Our Legs to Theirs...

oh, the ideas we women come up with. Baby Legs legwarmers are all the rage, and as cute as they are, the styles are a bit limited. (Not everyone wants pirates or other trendy motifs on their little boy.) And the price? Choke. Oh, and my son's chubby legs barely fit in them...the tight elastic left red marks on his thighs which made me feel so guilty.

But, thanks to one of the smart mamas I know, Naomi, I now have free baby legwarmers. And feel good about not buying more baby clothes. And I get to recycle something that normally would have had a shorter life. Namely, socks.

See, Naomi came to our mom's group one day with the neatest little legwarmers on her daughter, Violet. When I asked her about them, she confessed that she'd just cut off the foot part of a pair of socks. The Genius!

I, too, wear holes in the toes of my socks. I hate darning, and those socks never feel the same afterward. So a few months ago, I caught myself getting ready to pitch a pair of comfy burgundy socks into the garbage and stopped short. Got the scissors instead. Excellent! My supersoft black cotton socks were just converted a few days ago. Now as the weather changes, I can still keep my son in his comfy linen pants. His legs stay warm and best, covered from ankle on up.

In the interest of keen ideas, here are a couple I've thought of that also involve socks:

When you're out walking kiddo around in the stroller and he really needs to wear his shoes, but keeps kicking them off, pull an old pair of snug tube socks (any long sock will do) on over the shoe and up his leg. You have to gather the up at the toe first, but it's better than losing shoes and having to walk back for them.

Same goes for mittens. If your kid pulls off their mittens, cut a big and little hole, (one on each side)in the toe end of a pair of socks, tube socks working best for this also. Then slip them over your kid's mittened hands, letting the fingers part of the mitten go through the big hole and the thumb part through the small hole.Pull the sock up their arm, over the sleeve of their shirt or sweater. Then, put their coat on over the sock-covered arms. Works like a charm and they can't get those mitten off. Eliminates lost mittens.

Or there's always the "ribbon sewn to the mittens" trick. Take a piece of ribbon long enough to run the length of their arms and back, plus six+ inches or so (so they can get them on, esp. good for older kids) and sew each end of the ribbon to the opening of a mitten. Then, thread mittens and ribbon through the arms of the winter coat. Perfect. Very old-school, but my mom did it with us and while I lost a lot of stuff, I never lost those mitts!

Please share your crafty ideas in the comments!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Good, The Bad and the Utterly Ridiculous

The Good

I'm diggin' on the harvest. Our raspberries that Joaquin can't seem to stop eating all of. He sees, he wants. There is no keeping these to ourselves. The plums are ripe and just perfect. Our grapes turned out wonderfully-- well, okay, one vine did, but they were delicious. Honeycrisp apples are in at the store, so juicy and tart, and the fresh red bell peppers dipped in hummus are the best. I can't believe how wonderful everything is tasting.

Another good thing here in Portland is KMHD, our local jazz station. Sure, there are a few programs I can take or leave-- for instance, the trad jazz show on weekends over breakfast? NO BANJOS IN THE MORNING!!! One standout is "Divaville with Christa Wessel" on Wednesday nights from 6-9: all vocal jazz standards from the 20's to the 60's and always a stellar show. If you are like me and love the "American Songbook" type stuff (think Mercer, Gershin, Porter and so many more) this is a must-listen. On Sunday nights, "Something Different with DJ Santo" is smokin' hot. I never know what I'm listening to, but it's amazing. Very up-to-date, groovy funky stuff that makes you wiggle your butt. Good to do dishes to. He's on from 7pm-9pm on Sunday nights, right after that great show from Lincoln Center with Wynton Marsalis, featuring their house jazz band. Last week Marsalis paid tribute to Art Blakey; like a good conductor, his shows edify and entertain. If you haven't checked out KMHD, give it a whirl, over on 98.1. There's something for everyone. Even Joaquin bounces along, which is why "Be-Bop" is one of his nicknames.

The Bad

I'm not going to mention anything really truly bad. Heck, there's a lot of bad out there, and I'm sure I don't need to point it out. But it does make a nice title.

The Utterly Ridiculous

So there we were last night, watching atrocious-stupid tv-- yes, Joaquin was sleeping-- and an atrocious-stupid commercial came on. Fisher-Price has a new offering : The Bounce and Spin Pony. Not only do I take issue with the idea that children will need a computer to teach them, I'm upset my the insidious nature of products like these, which imply that parents aren't doing a good enough job of teaching their children.

Over the past several years, parents have been the targets of unbelievable pressure by the toy companies to make sure their children are constantly learning. If you don't think so, consider the names of some of these products: Baby Einstein? Leapfrog? (Isn't the game of leapfrog played by jumping over someone else? Hmmm.. interesting social aspect there...) There's even a book out there for expectant parents called Superbabies. All of these send as silently implied message: "Your baby is potentially the smartest thing going and you musn't do anything to ruin that potential. You are a clueless parent, but these products will teach your child in ways you cannont." The Leapfrog products promise to help teach your child to read. Are we incapable of doing this ourselves? And if we need to do other things, say, go make dinner or tend to other things besides our children right at that very moment, do we need to decide what they should be learning? Can't we put a book on disc, or let them have a little down-time with some independent play? Blocks or playdough or some markers and paper? Children really need time to be alone, to form their own thoughts and play their own way, to figure out things all on their own. They actually learn pretty well that way.

What's more, why on earth would we want our toddler children to play something dubbed a 'video game'? More video than game, this toy does teach how to manipulate an object on the screen or make a choice with two sets of thumb-operated arrows. However, we have to ask ourselves, is this a "skill" that is worth the price video games exact on our children? With either/or choices and the rote drilling of basic information, children are not given space to use their imagination or experiment. A video game for one also deprives children of the opportunity to practice taking turns, a very important part of old-school game playing. Games are traditionally good moments in which social develop and executive function take place, we can't (and shouldn't) expect a toddler to be a good sport, much less understand the concepts of cooperative work, winning or losing. But taking turns stacking blocks or passing a ball back around a circle of children or playing hide and seek with a lighthearted adult who looks everywhere except on the chair in the middle of the room where the toddler is "hiding", then surprisedly "discovers" the child-- these are the moments that children relish. Their time with others, their time with us. Time with a television? They might like it, but I'm not sure that those reasons balance out the problems that are associated with the early exposure to media.

Do we want our kids to learn things from a game on the television, or from us? We can incorporate teaching into everything we do. Plunking our children down in front of the tv in the hopes that something educational will sink in robs them of the opportunity to learn what they themselves are curious about and interested in. By being "taught" by a nonhuman, 2-dimensional entity, there is none of the interaction that is so valuable in teaching: the ability to ask a question for clarification or to explore an object, color or shape with all of our senses. How will our children find a sense of personal satisfaction in having information presented to them that someone, who doesn't even know them, chose? Do we want our children to be emotionally responsive when they do the one correct thing and an excited kid voice doles out a rote "Good Job!"? The absence of the human element may save us time, but our children's learning is so much richer when we are involoved right there with them.

In upcoming posts, I'll focus on some fun ways to explore color, shapes and math concepts. You don't need a certificate or a bunch of college courses to do this. Just patience, a smile for their enthusiasm, and the willingness to play. Remember, we are our children's first, and often, best, teachers.

Gotta go teach my kid how to get ready for bed.