Monday, December 16, 2013
Ever since I started graduate school in 2006, I have tracked the development of health information (HI) technology. At that time, the top story in the field of HI was about the rapid and effective response of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to Hurricane Katrina. Unlike other citizens, veterans were able to maintain their health records, prescriptions, and test results, despite having to evacuate the Gulf Coast for surrounding areas, often even to other states.
Seven years later, health informatics is a changing field, and most of us are now familiar with the concept of pharmacy and laboratory computerization for our prescriptions and test results to sync with our charts at doctors’ offices. Now there are many stories of advancement, from local health departments around the country attempting to sync data with hospitals and the CDC to help epidemiologists track disease development, to advancements in the rest of the country’s electronic medical records (EMR) such as those in the Hurricane Katrina story.
With the many improvements in health care technology comes a responsibility for updated education if you aim to work in the field, as I do. I took a health informatics course in graduate school and was fascinated with the field and all that is required to be knowledgeable in the subject. While I maintained general knowledge on the subject during my time in the field of public health, I am interested in increasing that knowledge upon my return to the field from my time as a mother and birth doula.
Friday, September 13, 2013
|Our big kinniegahdena
This is my third year summarizing the first week of school. To reminisce along with us, check out Vivi’s first week of pre-k and preschool. When I look back at those pictures, I see a little punkin who used to let me dress her without a fuss. Someone I could pick friends for based on whose mothers I got along with best. How unruly her hair used to be. What a happy little peanut.
Now I have a kid who is still happy but is full of opinions and stories. She’s out in the world, navigating the ups and downs and making her own friends. We couldn’t be more pleased. The school is great, the teacher is bright and energetic, and the kids are friendly. When I ask her every day to pick her favorite part, she tells me that she loves everything except the time when they have to sit still and listen. I chuckle at how easily I predicted that assessment by her.
Getting to this peaceful place in my mind hasn’t always been easy, but today I’m genuinely glad about leaving her in the morning in good hands. It helps that the school recently switched to a Vygotsky-based curriculum I love, called Tools of the Mind, that is focused on play and building self-regulation skills and confidence. Honestly, I’m just happy they haven’t mentioned the word “test” yet. Perhaps that’s coming. Curriculum night is in a few weeks, so I’ll check back in.
One way I helped myself get comfortable with the notion of public school was to make an internal pact to supplement her learning with subjects I think are important, like geography, science, and foreign language. It also helped me to become familiar with the general subjects kindergartners are expected to learn about universally, which I did by getting a book called What Your Kindergartner Needs to Know. I flip through it again occasionally to remind myself of the big picture. Another way I became more comfortable with school was to ask lots of questions. I pestered many people; perhaps my favorite example of the grilling was the time I interviewed a good friend and teacher for the blog.
|Kid #2 officially started preschool!
I can’t forget to mention little sister too! She started as a new preschooler at Vivi’s old school (here’s the post last year about her starting “stay-n-play,” which was like a mom’s morning out). However, Charlie has been going there for other programs and to pick up Vivi since she was born, so I was confident she would feel comfortable. And she does! She barely turned around to give me a goodbye hug on her second day. Winning! Must be all that tiger blood.
Tuesday, May 21, 2013
I know that as parents, we all love our children to pieces. I’m not talking about just the two of us in our parenting unit but all parents collectively. We think our children hung the moon and are the most special, bright beings ever created. Each of our children is the absolute best, and we are unwilling or unable to hear otherwise. My mind tells me that my bias blinds me against our children’s faults and weaknesses, yet still in my heart I know that my children ARE the best.
Genevieve had her well child visit, and the doc gushed over her as usual. She said something to the effect of “You are my absolute favorite kids today, and I’m so glad you came to see me!” which could have been just fluff but who cares? Loving her bedside manner. I ate it up as much as my kids did, since I still have my fervent desire to please all who can be considered teachers in this life. And our pediatrician is most certainly my #1 teacher at the present time. It was she, you might remember, who told us that we should ignore rather than acknowledge our kids’ protests when they don’t want the meal we are serving. Pure genius, that woman.
Meanwhile, Vivi strutted her stuff during her appointment, as per her usual diva standards. She walked back and forth on command and answered all questions enthusiastically. Her favorite fruit is mango, and her favorite veggie is edamame (at least it’s green). After the visit, I treated the girls to ice cream and then a bus ride home, which sounds like no fun to you or me but is high on their list of amazing feats.
|Hey y’all. I’m on instagram now! You can see this photo there too…and follow me.
Nate and I were conversing last night about her appointment, and I started in again about not being sure I am enjoying her enough. Rather than griping about it, I am more resigned to the situation as it is and have moved on to explaining the possible reasons I’m feeling this way. Looking at Vivi’s preschool photo, I am caught imagining what her senior picture will look like. Then I think about how it’s not so many years from now, and then I have to sit on my hands to prevent launching myself upstairs to wake her up and give her a hug.
So why don’t I just sit around hugging her all day? The truth is that while the two-dimensional girl in the photo is easy to put on a pedestal and adore, the walking/talking version of the girl is a whirling dervish who hardly sits still all day. She is a chatterbox with the ideas and energy of three children together. I find that the best way to enjoy her is to set her loose and watch the Tasmanian devil in action. Any attempt to pin her down winds up frustrating all of us.
Actually, if I had to pick one concern I have for her next year, it’s that I think kindergarten is probably the time when she will be asked to sit still and complete tasks more, and I know she will clash with her teacher over this requirement. At the kindergarten parents’ night, the teachers suggested we start giving her responsibility to complete tasks on her own. While I am happy to oblige, my tasks are certain to be less challenging to her since I don’t accompany them with a room full of peers for her to befriend. Her pre-k teachers have told me that when Vivi is chatting with friends, there is little they can do to encourage her to stay on task. She is super duper excited about kindergarten beginning in the fall, and I know she’ll do great. I guess what I’m saying is that I hope they don’t change her too much. I enjoy her unbridled innocent joie de vivre!
She is still a music-lover, and her current favorite is the Icona Pop song, “I Love It (I Don’t Care).” Nate and I wince when she gets to the lyrics “You’re so damn hard to please, we gotta kill this switch. You’re from the 70’s, but I’m a 90’s bitch.” I’ve mostly decided to let it happen, figuring if she says these words in her normal conversations, I will address it then. It’s not like she has any clue of what the singer means, so it seems harmless enough. Right? RIGHT?
Just a few more days until SUMMER OFFICIALLY BEGINS!!!!1!
~Jat4:46 PM4 comments: Email ThisBlogThis!Share to TwitterShare to FacebookShare to PinterestLabels:Joie de Vivre,Kids,Parenting,School,Vivism
Saturday, May 18, 2013
|Eating lunch with Charlie in the playhouse
I finally got some glorious sleep last night after three days of back-and-forthing to that marathon labor. It’s hard to explain sleep deprivation to someone who’s never missed the majority of three nights of sleep in a row, but anyone with kids knows what it is like. It’s kind of like being drunk, or maybe punch-drunk is a better way to explain it. You are walking and talking, but the higher functions of your brain have receded into the depths, leaving you to utter bookoo unfiltered sentences.
Take, for example, when I met the husband of a mutual friend yesterday. After the couple walked off, I turned to my other friend and said “I didn’t like his face.” I meant more his expression at the time, but whatevs. Same diff.
Functioning on a low amount of sleep also reminds me of what its like to have the winter blues, or Seasonal Affective Disorder, as it’s known to people who like to give stuff names. Unlike the time I cried when it snowed again, SAD is a more deceptive condition. I am depressed, but I couldn’t completely articulate why. I might cry, but rather than cry over the weather, I cry over completely unrelated and unimportant issues. Or I might laugh, but instead of laughing at jokes, I laugh at the shriveled piece of corn under the refrigerator. But mostly I experience an absence of feeling. For a person who is normally irrationally exuberant, the lack of emotions is an unsettling experience. But what were we talking about again?
ANYHOO, today promises to bring with it some good wholesome American fun. We are headed out to the town fair, and then in the afternoon I’m off to tea again with a lady friend. I’ll report back with pictures taken of both…probably with my new obsession, the iPhone.
We only have a week left here before the big month-long southbound excursion. I went ahead and scheduled our trip to start Memorial Day weekend, figuring the kids up here get out of school at the same time we did down South. I was forgetting that they don’t go back to school here until AFTER Labor Day–something about snow, the details escape me–so their school ends a whole week into June. Yikes! This little scheduling error means we are pulling Vivi out of pre-K a full two weeks early and missing graduation. I am not sure whether to count this as a missed opportunity or a big win. What are your thoughts on celebrating small milestones like that?at9:27 AM4 comments: Email ThisBlogThis!Share to TwitterShare to FacebookShare to PinterestLabels:Doula,Parenting,School,Summer
Thursday, April 11, 2013
Alternate title: But I still refuse to eat snails.
Have you read French Kids Eat Everything yet? I’m not finished with it, but it’s already a game-changer for us. A lovestruck Nate turned to me at dinner last night and wistfully said, a hint of a glistening tear in his eye, “This is just how I wanted dinner to be.” Okay, I’m kidding about that. That kind of husbandly praise is the stuff of dreams…
With how much I talk (read: gloat) about feeding my kids real food, it might surprise you I have a lot to learn about teaching kids to eat well. Yes, I usually manage to get my kids to eat healthy food, BUT I have come to dread meal time due to their whininess, messiness, disregard for normal decibel levels and decent personal space, and sibling rivalry that accompany every meal. I was becoming a cross between a hair-raising psycho and a punch-drunk lunatic at dinner, getting into immature discussions with my kids about who was going to get the purple plate and which child would be allowed to sing the third verse of the rainbow song.
Then, the clouds parted, and this book fell into my lap. Or something like that.
But, seriously y’all, I was skeptical at first about whether the tricks in this book would work for us. I have employed some aspects of attachment parenting, and one of them that I associate with the trend is to offer children choices and let them articulate their preferences and control aspects of their food world. If I had to pick one thing I’ve learned in the last week, it’s that the science does not agree; in fact, it suggests children aren’t capable of deciding what they should eat, and these decisions actually stress them out.
But the proof is in the pudding: how did the experiment work for us? I am dumbfounded by the fact that not only did these fancy tricks work, but they have made ME enjoy food more. Who could have thought that was possible?
Here’s a nutshell about why I give this book two enthusiastic thumbs up, with a few caveats (so maybe, one enthusiastic thumb and another regular thumb):
Caveat first: I don’t have as many ingrained issues with food as the writer apparently does [Example: she is a self-professed lover of McDonald’s. Gag me with a spoon.], so I had trouble identifying with her tendency to whine about her great luck. She seemed to have begrudgingly taken on the challenge to feed her kids French food–WHILE LIVING IN FRANCE AND MARRIED TO A FRENCHMAN–whereas I look at these opportunities to mold and change my kids as fun experiments. To me, a person who doesn’t thank her lucky stars that she can benefit from the wisdom of the best foodies in the world has a bit of a chip on her shoulder. But then again, I try never to judge a woman for a reaction to her mother-in-law’s advice.
Having said that, I learned loads from this book. I’ve only been to France once and then only to Paris, but even after a few days there, I learned easily that the French have figured out how to make good food. They enjoy food so much and so well. What I didn’t know was that they have many rules about what, when, and how to eat. Being someone who likes to cook and eat–and someone who is sometimes painfully attempting to teach my kids good manners–I appreciate a culture that is willing to take time in crafting good, well-mannered eaters.
I also didn’t realize how many bad American eating habits I have–and even worse–that I’m passing down to my kids. I had become resigned to my fate, forgetting–or perhaps never knowing to begin with–that I have role in their meal-time education (Rule #1). Could it be as simple as they were misbehaving because they weren’t aware that there were meal-time rules?
French Food Rules
|Illustration by: Sarah Jane Wright for French Kids Eat Everything
Here are few of the rules she discusses in the book that I am most taken with (in my own words):
Up the formality!
The French lay a tablecloth (!!), even for small children; they forgo paper napkins and sippy cups, opting instead for glasses, cloth napkins, and real silverware; and they announce the beginning of the meal with a quick phrase, “To the table!” When everyone is seated, they say “Bon appetit!” to signify that everyone may begin eating. My kids love rituals so took to these improvements like buttah. Vivi sets the table with a purpose, as though she has been lying in wait for the chance to be given this task. We’ve always said a blessing, which is now like icing on the cake instead of the only ritual.
|Documentation of our first foray into tableclothing. It’s a Kenyan wrap skirt. Cute, huh?
Respect each other…and the food!
Imagine a meal with small children in which you don’t have to endure loud interruptions and whining. Wonderful, right? How is this magic accomplished??
Actually, it isn’t that hard. Once I got started, I figured out quickly that the rules I was implementing were exactly what they were already doing at school. Duh. If they say “But I wanted the purple plate!,” I say “You get what you get, and you don’t get upset.” If they say “I don’t want tabbouleh!,” then I say “You don’t have to like it, you just have to taste it.” And after both of those phrases, they pipe in with “That’s what my teachers say!” Oh, right.
I can’t believe I didn’t use these rules sooner. I always imagined that if I stopped them from jumping around and yelling, I would somehow be stifling their joy. But while I previously would have used my “Let kids be kids!” go-to parenting rule, I now realize that what I was doing was robbing everyone, including myself, of a chance to eat a peaceful meal. By stopping the chaos, I offer respect to my dinner guests and myself–and to the food we are eating, for that matter.
Plus, I’ve added an element of fun by asking them a few questions about their day, like their favorite thing, something they didn’t like, a funny part of the day, and a time they helped someone. Both of the girls relish this time to shine with everyone listening. And I relish the opportunity to start new Mom catchphrases.
No food bribes or rewards (Rule #2).
This rule is actually harder for me than I had thought. In my opinion, this rule exempts the once-a-year bribe of “If you do well at the doctor, you can have a lollipop!” But it also means that you can’t stuff your kid’s face with animal crackers every time you’re in line at the bank. You can’t jump into the car knowing you’re going to get stuck in traffic and bribe your kids with fruit snacks and chips to make it the duration. You can’t swoop in after your kid falls down or doesn’t get the purple plate and say “If you eat your peas, you will get a popsicle!” What I failed to realize is that I was teaching my kids to fill their voids with food, and by doing that, I was making their relationship with food emotional. Yikes.
No snacking (Rule #7).
This rule is tied with the rule above. “It’s okay for them to be hungry” has become my new internal mantra. Once I attempted to stop our constant snacking, it occurred to me I had been teaching Charlotte to be a snack monster (see: toddler terrorist post). Her hunger monster still rears its head on occasion; however, just as I wouldn’t back down when I tell her it’s time to brush her teeth, I feel confident that keeping her from simple carbs and sugary juice is going to pay off in the end when she learns to reward her patience with satiety instead of stifling it with empty calories.
Eat family meals together (Rule #4).
I always wanted to enact this rule, and I had done it sometimes, but I admit there were many occasions that I would spend their meal doing dishes or reading blogs in the kitchen instead of sitting with them. Now I look upon meal time as an important part of their education and sit at the table with them, even if I on rare occasion am not eating a meal myself (and I try to make sure I am eating with them). When they are finished with the meal, I let them have time to blow off steam and be silly (read: not at the dining room table), and I take that time to do my quiet recharging or cleaning.
I’ve been reciting a poem to the girls called “The Goops” that my parents recited to me as a child, and it has taken on a new meaning lately. Turns out that “The Goops” is actually a series of books written in the early 1900’s to teach children manners, so it’s no wonder it stands out now.
The Goops by Gelett Burgess (1900)
The Goops they lick their fingers,The Goops they lick their knives,They spill their broth on the tablecloth-Oh, they lead disgusting lives!
The Goops they talk while eating,And loud and fast they chew,And that is why that I
Am glad I’m not a Goop–are you?
|Image credit: Gutenburg.org
Thursday, March 28, 2013
I never embed videos in the blog two days in a row, but the exception is worthwhile because this film is itself so exceptional:
I saw it a few nights ago at our town’s tiny theater with girlfriends. Find a theater near you to see it for yourself. I recommend taking your daughters too, so long as they are 13 or older. There are stories of sexual violence and a child giving birth in the film, but they are handled with discretion for the sake of minors watching. A few moms and seventh graders were leaving the theater next to us, and I overheard one say to the other, “Oh thank goodness! I was worried about where we were headed for a moment, but I think it was just perfect.” I couldn’t have said it better myself. Powerful, inspiring, important.
If, like me, you leave the theater wondering how you can donate, check out this website. The issue of girls’ education is one that is dear to my heart. When I left Kenya the second time, I tried to assist in the creation of a Kenya girls’ education fund, and I learned much about the process of becoming a NGO, as well as other great life lessons. Now in my thirties, I’m happy to see there’s an organization doing good work in this needed area. I hope that some day, girls won’t have to live their lives on the street, selling their bodies to feed their hungry families.
|I wrote about this girl in a post last year
Thursday, January 24, 2013
Recently I’ve noticed the best-selling item I make when I’m on pre-k snack duty is muffins. This is a good thing because I love muffins. They are easy, versatile, and delicious. I make lots of muffins. Usually they are healthy, rarely but on occasion they are cupcakes disguised as muffins. Most have lots of ingredients. Often there is a sprinkling of bran involved.
Tuesday, September 25, 2012
Vivi marched in the door of her school yesterday proudly holding in two hands a sheet of homework–her very first, a page full of scribbled As–and gave it to her teacher, announcing “I get a prize now!” The prize would come at the end of class. I spent the three hours away from her occasionally pondering what the treat could be, and I found myself saying “Please let it not be candy.” Upon picking her up I learned the prize was, of course, a tootsie pop. Greaaaat.
Read more »at7:30 AM2 comments: Email ThisBlogThis!Share to TwitterShare to FacebookShare to PinterestLabels:Crunchy Mama,Education,Food,Halloween,Parenting,School
Monday, September 17, 2012
|Yup, this was as good as it got that day. Some days aren’t picture days.
Genevieve LOVES pre-k. I knew she would, we all did, but she enjoys herself even more than I could have imagined. The girl likes to keep on a schedule. Me thinks my little type-A go-getter was getting more than slightly antsy staying home with my “I dunno, what do you want to do today?” summer mommy routine. Even though I figured her attention-seeking behavior was partly to blame on our schedule-less summer, I couldn’t have predicted how quickly she would bounce back into normal behavior when offered a bit of structure. Duly noted for future school breaks.
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