Oregon Dune

So this summer I’ve decided to try to read as many of Frank Herbert’s Dune novels as I can (there are six, the first three of which are regarded as classics, plus around a billion written by his son, Brian Herbert, from notes he found in his dad’s garage). I’ve been trying to get through the first book since I was in fifth grade and the bizarre and not too successful movie adaptation came out. A couple years ago, I made it halfway through on Kindle (on my phone, which is pretty impressive). This time I’m ready.

Why am I telling you this, other than the fact that I haven’t talked about painfully nerdy stuff for several weeks now? Well, Dune was published in 1965 and was critically and commercially successful enough to have turned a lot of people on to its (at the time) radical concepts of planetary ecology; the idea that we need to pull back and pay attention to the world as a whole, because everything is connected. On the desert planet of Arrakis, the survival of its inhabitants–and by extension, the galaxy, because plot points–depends on their ability to take this holistic view.

Clearly this is something we need to do here, now. As on Arrakis, the summer on Earth is again displaying record temperatures, along with drought, wildfires and unprecedented heat-related deaths. The macro is coming back to haunt the micro (which is us. We’re the micro).

As I read about the characters in Dune trying to survive the alien desert with its extreme lack of moisture, I keep seeing warnings about the heat wave coming to us here in the Willamette Valley this week. I wanted to reiterate the warning and share some tips on how to prepare for the coming heat.

According to the highly diverting Department of Homeland Security website Ready.gov (which also contains helpful hints about tsunamis, shooters, pandemics and nuclear explosions but not, sadly, zombies), here are the basics:

  • If your home is not air conditioned, find places to go that are. Work in a state office, like me! Or, go to the public library, the mall, anywhere you can spend some time safely during the hottest hours.
  • Drink lots of water. Like seriously. You know you don’t drink enough as it is. Drink water before you feel you need to, because in this kind of weather you are already dehydrated if you feel thirsty.
  • DO NOT leave pets or children in an enclosed car. We know that, right? It goes triple this week. Check frequently on children and elderly. Make sure your neighbors are prepared.
  • Eat popsicles. Not on the website, but that’s because I think it was scrubbed by the incoming administration.

Be safe, folks. See you next week. And watch for wormsign!

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Parenting in the Bubble

It’s science time at the Parenting Success Network blog. That’s right: that means it’s time to take to the internet and google (it’s what we used to do before we started talking to Siri, but after we went to the library and pulled out the Reader’s Guide to Periodical Literature) “parenting.”

Somewhat disappointingly, this blog is not the first thing to come up in the search results, even in my own google bubble.  Although, here’s what does come up for me: “NPR readers share their best parenting advice,” and “Kim Kardashian West asks Kylie Jenner for baby advice.” I don’t really know what to say. Anyway, the heavy hitters are all on page one here. Parenting.com, good job with the brand management.

Wikipedia, just below it, defines “parenting” according to the democratic will of the (internet-abled) human race: “Parenting or child rearing is the process of promoting and supporting the physicalemotionalsocial, and intellectual development of a child from infancy to adulthood. Parenting refers to the intricacies of raising a child aside from the biological relationship.” This is an accurate and utterly uninteresting encapsulation. More intriguingly, however, it goes on to say:

“Parenting styles vary by historical time period, race/ethnicity, social class, and other social features. Additionally, research has supported that parental history both in terms of attachments of varying quality as well as parental psychopathology, particularly in the wake of adverse experiences, can strongly influence parental sensitivity and child outcomes.”

Okay. So in other words, the quality of parenting depends on a lot of different things. What were we born with? What have we lived through, and what did we take with us? How many other things get our attention, energy, concentrated will? No wonder there are so many parenting blogs. Sheesh.

Most interesting, though, are the questions that those who come before us have asked; the search engine equivalent to the stones cast at the feet of the Omphalos of Delphi (a situation I may have just completely made up). Here are some of the top questions:

“What is a bad parent?”

This one kind of breaks my heart, not only because I don’t like to think about how bad my parenting is, but because I picture someone typing this question into the search field after having been accused of being one. A better question: “What is a good parent?” It goes back to that thing about the google bubble.

“What does it mean to be a parent?”

This is a good question, because it could be practical or purely philosophical. Clicking through brings up that pesky Wikipedia entry as well as one from, randomly, The Ministry of Education in Guyana.

“What are the parenting skills?”

No, really, what are the skills?

According to the Leelanau Children’s Center, which has been “serving families since 1976,” they are these:

  1. Love and affection.
  2. Stress Management.
  3. Relationship Skills.
  4. Autonomy and Independence.
  5. Education and Learning.
  6. Life Skills.
  7. Behavior Management.
  8. Health.
  9. Religion.
  10. Safety.

So, all the things, basically. It’s a lot to take in.

Kind of makes you want to google something, doesn’t it?

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Summer in Albany

This week’s post is by guest contributor Jessica Magnani, who compiled this information on free and low-cost Summer events for families in Albany. Last week she gave us activities in Corvallis. Thanks again, Jessica!

Concerts in the Park

Monteith RiverPark

489 Water Avenue NW
Albany, OR

July 9- Paul Revere’s Raiders (oldies rock)

July 16- Razzvio (electric string pop)

July 23- Eagle eyes (eagles tribute band)

July 30- The High Street Band (swing, funk)

 

Festival Latino

Sunday, July 29

12-4 PM

Monteith Riverpark

  • Food
  • Entertainment
  • Children’s Activities
  • Cultural performances
  • Health and resource fair

 

Fun in the Park!

Free! All ages. Wednesdays, 10 AM- 12 PM

Diggin with Dinos- 6/27- Doug Killin Park: Excavating dinosaurs, crafting your own puppets, and playing prehistoric games.

Trains, Trucks and Tires- 7/11- Kinder Park: Build your own mini ride and then compete in a racecar showdown!

The great outdoors- 7/18- Bryant Park: Digging for bugs, learning about poisonous plants and lots of water/forest activities. Come prepared!

Secrets of the sea- 7/25- Lexington Park: Learning about the high seas through crafts, games, and science experiments!

Passport to adventure- 8/1- Takena Park: International obstacle course, trivia, crafts, and interactive story time!

Everyday heroes- 8/8- Gibson Hill Park: Come meet local heroes and get to know how their jobs help our community. Crafts, obstacle courses, and games!

Movin’ Music- 8/15-Timber Linn Park: Celebrate the end of summer with a community BBQ. Instruments and dance battles!

 

Albany Farmer’s Market

Saturdays, 9 AM- 1 PM

SW Ellsworth St & Southwest 4th Avenue, Albany, OR 97321

Stretch your SNAP benefits by shopping for fresh foods at the Albany Farmers Market!

While most of Oregon Farmers’ markets accept SNAP benefits, many also offer a matching program, which doubles SNAP purchases dollar for dollar up to a certain amount — meaning you could get $10 worth of food for only $5 from your SNAP account.

 

Art & Air Festival

August 24-26, 2018

Timber Linn Park

Watch hot air balloons take off at 6:45 AM

and then enjoy a day of amazing art and food!

Each night has a different performance!

For the schedule of each day go to: http://nwartandair.org/schedule/

 

Carousel and Museum

Admission free. Ride tickets: $2

503 First Ave West

Albany, OR

Monday 10am-5pm
Tuesday Closed
Wednesday 10am-5pm
Thursday 10am-5pm
Friday 10am-5pm
Saturday 10am-7pm
Sunday 10am-5pm

 

Summer Book Sale

June 17, 2018: 11 AM- 3 PM

2450 14th Ave SE, Albany, OR

All kinds of books, DVDs and CDs:

$.50 to $3.00 each.

 

Jessica Magnani is an intern at Family Tree Relief Nursery and is completing a degree program at Oregon State University.

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On Chores: The Revenge

Howdy all! It’s time for my semi-annual update on chores.

I would like to remind you that this is only my family’s experience with trying out a system for chores, and that what worked (or didn’t work) for us may not apply to you. It’s a process.

If you look back at the earlier entries (which, by the way, automatically multiplies the value of this post!), you will see that my wife and I had decided to abandon the large whiteboard, with magnets representing each child that moved around the chores in age-appropriate fashion. We discovered that they liked to keep their own stable chores, so the next iteration was as follows:

“Instead of rotating chores, each child now had their own laminated sheet with a list of duties. They could mark them off as they went with a pen, or draw pictures around them, or pull them down and lose them under the sofa. Their choice!”

That was last year. Here’s how it has panned out.

They still like having their own lists. After choosing to lose them under the sofa several times, all four of my daughters have asked us to affix their list on a wall or door where they can see and/or notate it: the seven year-old has added “hug Mama.” I don’t know how that wasn’t in the first draft.

The seven year-old also can’t remember what’s on the list from day to day. Part of this, I think is the literacy bias, which posits that what is on the page is more important than what she perfectly well has in her motor memory by now (given that fully half of her chores consist of getting dressed and brushing her teeth and hair). Part of it is that she can’t actually read yet, so she has to check with someone every time she undertakes her chores.

Next time: pictures instead of words? That she can move from one side to the other with velcro? That sounds like a fabulous idea, but I will leave it to you crafty parents that I know are out there.

Anyway, there has been some revision of chores, and some elimination of redundancy. But for the most part, I think this system is working.

What works for you?

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Danger Little Stranger

 

Last week I presented a lightly “humorous” take on the products that babies and toddlers absolutely need (spoiler: not really many of them).  This week it’s serious. If quoting Iggy Pop lyrics doesn’t raise alarms for you, I don’t know what to do. So I’ll just tell you.

I wanted to follow up with a survey of products for infants and small children that are not only unnecessary, but downright dangerous.

Before we get into it, I just want to admit that researching this topic online was both disturbing and highly entertaining. If you would like to know about some of the specific products considered too ludicrously deadly to exist, help yourself. I won’t be mentioning them.

Having made a tally of the toys and accessories for babies that have drawn the most ire from pediatricians and safety experts, I give you the following:

Things in cribs. Really, there shouldn’t be anything in there with them. No pillows, nor blankets, nor Grandma’s handmade quilt. No plush toys, no soft bumper pads. All of these things can asphyxiate or strangle.

Also, any vintage cribs. The slats are too far apart. As someone who once watched a toddler (not my own) get his head stuck in a dollhouse, you can imagine the concern with this.

Magnets. Because they stick together. If they can be swallowed…again, use your imagination.

Anything with small parts or pieces that can be removed or broken. This is where the minimum age labels come in handy. Look, we all love Legos, even after we step on them with bare feet. But if anyone in the house is still inclined to stick things in their mouth (aka the toddler research lab), please save them for later.

Walkers. These things a.) don’t help babies develop walking muscles sooner; in fact, they’ve been found to do the opposite, and b.) have a tendency to go down stairs and/or trap children under or against other dangerous things (hot stoves, wolves). Canada banned them 14 years ago, and we know Canada is smart. And good looking.

Bumbo seats. I have a personal vendetta against these multiply-recalled baby tippers. Putting a belt on it isn’t going to make it any safer if they fall off a table or simply tumble over backward, pinning babies underneath.

Really, if you feel the urge to just pick up a baby and carry it around, sniffing its head, that’s probably the way to go. Trust your instincts.

 

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Parenting Made Easy

Why, hello! I wanted to take the opportunity this week to share one of the most valuable resources out there for families in the Valley. The wonderful Community Services Consortium has put together a handbook of information on services for folks in Linn, Benton and Lincoln Counties, and it has been my secret weapon in working with local families.

I don’t know who did all the work to put this thing together, but I would like to thank her/him/them for making my job so much easier. The handbook covers resources like housing, financial assistance, medical and dental, parenting education, pre- and postnatal services, clothing and food boxes, childcare, and just about anything else you can think of.

So, print it out and staple it, keep it on your phone, share it with friends. It’s too good to keep secret.

Now what are you waiting for? Go out there and keep on parenting!

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On Chores, Revisited

A couple years ago I wrote about our first attempt to institute chores for the family. In that article, I described how my wife and I had decided to approach chores and how they aligned with the values of our family. I wrote, “In my house chores are presented simply as expectations: they are what need to happen in order for the home to run smoothly. There is a place for everyone to chip in, and we emphasize the importance of each chore in our day-to-day home life.”

Reading back on this, I see that this theory still holds up. In the article, I also detailed the chores chart I had made, with chores listed on a whiteboard and movable magnets for each child, to be rotated according to age level and need. This means that each child would have different chores from day to day. I can only imagine, when designing this system, what I was thinking: that the variety would keep them from being bored, or the novelty would be exciting, or something.

Well, that just didn’t work.

It wasn’t a disaster or anything. It was just too complicated for the kids (the little ones especially), and too much homework for the adults (ie: me). We gave it a go. But soon the kids were complaining about their own assigned chores or coveting those of their sisters (or just refusing to participate in my rigged game). At the same time, the magnets started falling apart and wouldn’t, you know, magnetize anymore. So after a few weeks, my brilliant chores chart fell by the wayside. Okay, it actually just fell off.

I don’t remember how much time went by in the interim, but eventually my wife struck upon a way to make the chores list work within the structure of her homeschooling day. Instead of rotating chores, each child now had their own laminated sheet with a list of duties. They could mark them off as they went with a pen, or draw pictures around them, or pull them down and lose them under the sofa. Their choice!

Anyway, having a stable and routine set of chores turned out to be just the ticket. My wife divided them into two sections: morning, before school, and after lunch, before “rest time” (that period of one to two hours where the kids can have downtime with an audiobook, a DVD, or some reading). It took a while to get it going, but by now it is almost in their muscle memory. They know the expectations and, though they sometimes just don’t want to do it (who doesn’t), it had made chores into what we intended: they’re just what we do to help the household work.

My favorite part is that the list makes it easy to succeed: “wake up” is an item; as is “eat breakfast.” Amazing how the points add up.

 

 

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All the Answers

mom&daughter

One thing that all parents share is that, no matter what we’re doing, there will be people who think what we’re doing is wrong. If we’re lucky, those people won’t bother to tell us about it. If they do, and we’re still lucky, those people won’t be members of our family. If they are, then we’re probably out of luck, but we hope to have the fortitude to ignore them. Or at least to take it in stride.

I sometimes go online to research the trending topics in parenting. This research consists of typing “parenting topics” into the search engine and hitting the return button. There are the inevitable lists of “hottest parenting controversies” and “parenting topics that draw the most heat” (actual headlines that I won’t bother to link to). I can place these topics into one of a few categories.

One category involves practices that simply go against the research about what is effective. An example, about which I’ve posted before, is the question “Should I spank my children?” If you’re asking, my answer will be “Not if you can do something else.” And there are a lot of other things to do, many of which can be found in this blog and elsewhere on the Parenting Success Network. I would encourage you to check it out.

Another category involves practices about which it is easy to find research, and strong expert opinions, that go either way. Examples of this are “Should I breastfeed after the age of two?” and “Should I cosleep with my children?” and “Should I find out the sex of my baby beforehand?” These are things which as parents we just kind of have to figure out for ourselves. We have done all three of these in our family: two of our kids continued to nurse into toddlerhood and two did not. Circumstances were different for each. Cosleeping worked for us, but we had to get used to not having a bed to ourselves. And we happened to learn the gender of each but it wasn’t something we sought out; it was just right there in the ultrasound. So, I can’t really tell you one is better than the other.

My favorite category includes controversies that I really couldn’t care about one way or the other. “Should big kids ride in strollers?” Really? Do they want to? Will they break it if they do? Do you want to push them around all day? Personally, I always preferred to keep the stroller empty to leave more room for groceries.

As a parent I am full of opinions. And as a “parenting expert,” a position in which I am actually paid money (I know, it’s wild), I find little need or opportunity to share them. I have never told a family I work with whether or not they should nurse or cosleep or carry a baby in a sling instead of a car carrier, even though they were adamant choices in my family and we would not have done it any other way. The fact is, parents have been raising children for many thousands of years (millions, if they’re not mammals) and those children have tended to mostly survive to have their own.

Is it fun to argue about these things? Only you can answer that. That’s why there is social media. In the meantime, I advise you to just do what works, and avoid what doesn’t.

Not much of an answer, is it?

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Family Tripping, Part Two

img_3472

Frank Smith, in his classic book on education, The Book of Learning and Forgetting, writes:

“We are learning all the time–about the world and about ourselves. We learn without knowing that we are learning and we learn without effort every moment of the day.”

I was reminded of this premise while we were on our family vacation last week. We had rented a cabin at Silver Falls (in October, because it is our unanimously favorite month and because it was not likely to be crowded; and fortunately, we don’t mind rain). My four daughters took advantage of this time away from school and the routines of ordinary life to learn, vigorously. Here are some of the things they learned.

The five year-old learned to climb up, and eventually down, the ladder to a top bunk. From this vantage point she proceeded to conduct experiments with gravity and velocity using her stuffed animals.

The nine year-old discovered a new species of slug that is exactly the length of a pine needle (she checked) and dubbed it a “pine needle slug.” I think it is more commonly known as a “baby slug.”

She also demonstrated to her sisters that course silt and fine silt could be found in different depths of the stream and they speculated on why this was so.

They all learned the properties of various foods and other substances as they burned in the campfire. They kept “accidentally” depositing them in the fire and took advantage of this opportunity to observe them.

The seven year-old sampled rosehips and found, via droppings, that several different animals had done the same.

Later she found the jawbones of a mouse and declared this to be the coolest thing ever.

Various field sketches were made of the leaves, ferns and rocks along the trail.

Also on the trail they discovered that the mud was actually a fabulous sort of clay, and they brought samples back to the campsite. They fired their sculptures on the grill.

The nice thing about homeschooling is that, depending on how you look at it, you are never really in school and are always in school, whatever you are doing and wherever you go.

And yes, as I had written earlier, vacations are rarely relaxing.

 

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ABCs of Parenting

 

Baldhill kids

A is for Affection, with hugs extra tight,

B is for Bedtime, same way every night.

C is for Consistency, a rule that’ll guide us through the thick,

D is for Discipline, best when intrinsic.

E is for Even, in portions of fours,

F is for Fun, even when doing chores.

G is for Games, bringing families together,

H is for Happy in all kinds of weather.

I is for Ice Cream, for dinner, or part of it,

J is for Justice, no matter who started it.

K is for Kangaroos (they live in Australia),

L is for Laughter, for with jokes they’ll regale ya.

M is for Meter, never my forte,

N is for Nature, at least an hour every day.

O is for Outside, where everything’s better,

P is for Playing, all day if you let her.

Q is for Questions, of which they are full,

R is for Reason, ineffective as a rule.

S is for Stories, the currency of kids,

T is for Trust: if rules are jars, these are lids.

U is for Under, remembering they’re younger,

V is for Vittles, every two hours when they hunger.

W is for Water, always better than Juice,

X is for I Don’t Know, but it has to rhyme with Juice.

Y is for Yarn: sweaters knit by my wife,

Z is for Zest, which fills kids with life.

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