TV & Kids: Radio show & book recommendation

December 31, 2007

I just finished listening to a Charlottesville Podcasting Network audio of Coy Barefoot interviewing Lisa Guernsey, author of Into the Minds of Babes: How Screen Time Affects Children from Birth to Age 5… really interesting. My husband is at home this morning with our daughter, and he thought from something I said that I was intimating that he not let her watch any TV today… I was not… but it brought up the issue of where we are in regards to how much and how often we’ll let her view media.

The interesting point I heard in this interview was that we often focus on limiting exposure time-wise, but Guernsey suggests we should, as parents, think more about:

– Content – make sure there is a straightforward storyline and some participation; young children can’t follow flashbacks and dream sequences, and too much complication can overwhelm their ability to filter and process language

– Context – is TV viewing a big part of the day? incidental? Apparently, the most harmful TV (and radio, even) exposure is when it’s left on as background noise – it affects how children play – and again, especially when very young, they don’t have the ability to filter media easily – their hearing isn’t even fully developed – putting the TV in focus and providing some commentary is better – letting the radio blast not helpful – so much for my thought that the BBC on in the car would somehow seep into J’s brain and make her witty!

– Child – the individual – always consider the needs to your particular kid.

I had to laugh because apparently the one show my husband really hates, Dora, does well in terms of its straight-up storytelling – very explicit point A to point B narrative – drives him nuts, but apparently that’s the right kind of show for a toddler.

Sigh. I’m glad I’m not the parent who put her kid in front of four hours daily of Baby Einstein – but I do worry that the fact I can get my child to eat more when she’s entranced with Blue’s Clues reveals major flaws in my personal character…


Medical Myths Undone

December 31, 2007

Did you see this info that the whole 8 glasses of water a day is bunk? (From the British Medical Journal website, which is actually a fascinating place to visit, fyi).

I’m terribly disturbed.

They tell us it’s bunk, but then don’t say how much one should drink…

Have I been dutifully waddling to the bathroom every five minutes for a myth? (I guess others have done worse…)

Me vs. Wii

December 30, 2007

It became clear over the holidays that I am the Most Stodgy Fuddy-Duddy Member of My Family. I am the only one who does not have or itchily crave a Wii.

My young niece and nephew having an affinity for it (and owning one, which they brought with them to Christmas) is something of a given. But grandad wants one now, too, and so does my husband, and my daughter liked it, and my mom – my quilting, baking, farm-fetishizing mother – wants one, too!

I have no desire for one, and I even have a certain philosophical contention against it. But to make sure I wasn’t dismissing the thing out of hand, I played “tennis.” I swung my arm around in the air with the control and watched the little animated figure on the screen huff around the screen acting out my movements. I tried to stay open-minded.

But I remain unconvinced.

1) Objection #1: It’s a dumb name. Seriously, “Wii” was the best they could come up with? All I can think is “wee-wee” or “weee!” – I don’t like saying it out loud because I sound silly. “Want to play with my Wii?” sounds vaguely disgusting. Yuck.

2) Objection #2: The pretense of exercise. Whatever you call it, it’s still virtual reality, not actual reality, and I have problems with that. Yeah yeah, so you wave your arm around instead of just wiggling your thumb on a joystick – virtual tennis is still a long way off from real tennis. I’ve tried both, and the latter was harder, more physically challenging, and, ultimately, more rewarding when I hit something because it was actually me doing it, not some representative of me.

3) Objection #3: The pretense is not your own. So, I’ve read arguments for virtual reality that say that fictional texts are a virtual reality so any objection to a visual medium is just a knee-jerk reaction. I don’t agree. I don’t have a problem with using one’s imagination – with pretending to play tennis, or reading about a tennis player, or dreaming about tennis, or drawing pictures of tennis rackets swishing in the sunlight – all, you could argue, versions of reality that are invented, virtual, but not real-real. But the thing is, these all require my mind to supplement and interact and create.

If I read a book about tennis, even a highly descriptive one, I am still using my imagination to piece together the writer’s words. I am still looking at words, not images, and using those to create the virtual reality. I am a co-creator in the experience.

Playing a video game, on the other hand, my task is to manipulate objects imagined and completely created by the game designers. I can pick my avatar, but I don’t draw her, dress her, give her speech. I make her walk, jump, climb, shoot – but only in the ways proscribed by the designers. Playing a video game does not require creativity – it requires mental agility. Which is not a bad thing to practice – and I’m a fan of video games (though I’m not very good at them). But we can’t pretend they supplement the physical experience of actual doing or the verbal/textual experience of reading – the Wii would have us do both.

The Wii argues that it delivers the world to us safely developed and packaged, delivered to our living rooms, no fuss no muss, no stress no mess, that we can engage in adventures and challenges with all the benefits but none of the dangers or downsides of the real thing.

The problem is, without having to move the major muscles of our bodies or minds, the “benefits” of this kind of enjoyment and pretend are comparatively pale, diluted, weak.

But you wouldn’t necessarily know that if you never have the real thing…

4) Objection #4: That thing is so darn expensive!  

Go get a real tennis racket and a ball, hop in the backyard, and play. (Or try badminton – it’s easier and more fun.)

Yeah, I know. It’s a losing battle. The Wii is “cool.” I and my books and my tennis racket are not. This little piggy goes weee weee weee all the way home…

My Mother, Mice, and Me

December 28, 2007

So, of course, they waited until my mother came to visit to show up.

4 a.m. and I hear her screaming bloody murder.  And then again at 7. Apparently a flock of mice were traipsing around her room (the one where the baby is supposed to go).

So, what to do? We’d get a cat – but the last time we had a cat, well, we had to get rid of the cat. He was ten years old and drooling and whining constantly, and with a tiny newborn I was going nuts. But a cat would do the trick. I know it.

So mom is visiting, we’re stressing over the mice, and then my two-year-old daughter has a blowout diaper and tells my mother very matter of factly that she has s-h-i-t.

WHAT??? I have NEVER heard my daughter say that, but she, too, just like the mice, has perfect timing.

So my mother, a Methodist minister whose standards for cleanliness, both physical and spiritual, would make Mr. Clean look like Pig Pen and Mr. Rogers seem derelict, is now contending with a dirty mouth, dirty mice, my dirty house, and I’m sure she’s still annoyed by all the buddha statues around the house.

She also told me last night that she found it horrendous that some mother she knew let her daughter climb into bed with her in the middle of the night and didn’t take the child back to bed because “she said she was too lazy and tired to do so. Can you believe it!!?? And then it screwed up the kid… somehow… can’t remember…”

Of course I can believe it. SHE’S TALKING ABOUT ME!  I’m the one who’s too lazy to take J back to her bed in the middle of the night. Good Grief.

It’s only fair. If I expect wayward men to be castrated to keep them from raping and abusing, I should have a sex change done on me at age 50 if I start to become the kind of old lady who nags and criticizes and picks and insults and damages her children. Seriously. I’m not saying my mother is completely like that, but a lot of mothers I know are, and I don’t want to be that. If medical science has to intervene, I am all for it.

But I will try meditating first… as the little mice prance around the buddhas…

Tooting My Horn

December 28, 2007

The next mayor Charlottesville read one of my blog entries and called it the “Best Blog Post of 2007 Hands Down” – did you see??

Husband told me this on Christmas Day, and it felt like such a sweet present from the universe.

I was impressed that a dude took my castration suggestion so well. Sounds like the perfect kind of mayor to me! I’m a loyalist, now…

Reciprocity: A Hard Habit to Make

December 21, 2007

Sidenote: First of all, I have to admit this: My favorite band when I was in 5th grade was Chicago. “You’re the Inspiration” and “Hard Habit to Break” were dedicated to Jason Marlow and Bobby Duran, two of my long-term crushes, as detailed in my journal from that time. I don’t dedicate songs to people anymore in my diary, but maybe I should start?
Okay, enough of the Old Days.

So, gift-giving can be a real pain in the joints, can it not?

Last year, I gave one of my coworkers a whole basket of items of significance and meaning, including a $20 chocolate martini mixer.

She gave me some post-it notes that don’t even have sticky on the backs.

So, I wasn’t mad, but I felt like I’d definitely Overdone It. This year, I resolved to be as minimal as I could, so I bought her a silly magnet and a box of silly political candy.

She gave me a maraca-esque instrument from Ghana. I mean, it wasn’t an outrageous step up from post-it notes – but it definitely seemed more thoughtful and tasteful than what I’d been expecting. So now I look like the dolt.

It’s treacherous, I tell you!

I love giving presents, and I hate giving them. I start really thinking hard about what someone might like and it practically sends me over the edge.  Am I giving too much? Too little? Should I give something at all? Should I give something meaningful or tasteful? What about the people who don’t want any “things”?

Despite the nerve-wrackingness of it, though, I am COMPLETELY against the options of:

1) no presents,

2) presents that are purely do-gooder for the third world symbols,

3) buy your own and wrap them yourself presents,

4) or presents completely dictated by wish lists that are really just order forms.

That’s just crap. If you find gift exchanges so awful that you have resorted to one of the above, well, just stick with #1 and go shop for yourself or the third world whenever. Don’t even pretend Christmas. Just give it up.
I may be bad at it, but gift giving is an art, a gesture, a laying bare of the soul, and when it works, when you really cause someone delight and pleasure – well, all the disappointed faces matter not as your heart wells.

Happy Merry Cheer and Castration Proposal

December 21, 2007

The Real Story of Christmas

My husband asked me last night, what if the real story is just the very simple, human birth story? What if all babies are miraculous and special?

Certainly, the new baby being born in winter, all the lights and greenery we bring into our homes during darkness and leafless trees, all of it is about how we can find and create warmth and hope and love even in the darkest and coldest of times. Life goes on, even when it seems it will not. This is the lesson of nature, of our seasons, of our bodies, of our souls.

Meanwhile, I am super pregnant and wondering how the heck I’m going to make it to February. THAT will be the miracle for me.

I’ve been a fan of Barbara E since her piece about her personal experience as a Merry Maid. But when she dissed my enthusiasm at a book signing, I was annoyed. Now, I’ve decided to let go of my affrontedness and enjoy this take on the whole Princess Cult for little girls that’s trying so hard to take over my daughter’s imagination…

Which is something I’ve been really thinking hard about the past few days. Recently, J’s reinventing of drums into birthday cakes and of herself into a swimming mermaid and bells into candles has made me think that some of my exuberant purchases for her Christmas gifts are completely unnecessary. She doesn’t need play food – she can take a shoe and turn it into a rocket ship! What was I thinking?

Reverse Sacrifice
This story about a 7-year-old girl who jumped in front of an ex-boyfriend firing gunshots at her mother (took several bullets, lost an eye, saved her mother) is enough to make me believe strongly in two things:

1) Despite all our evils, the human capacity for love is amazing and should never ever be poo-pooed

2) We need to start lopping off balls.

Seriously, folks. I am sick of our testosterone-induced nightmare of domestic violence, rape, murder, war, and other egotistical antler-bashings that dominate the headlines and our personal lives because the men in our society don’t know what to do with their hormones. I’m done. Just done.

I know – there’s a few good guys out there we should keep around for studs. Okay, fine. But the rest? Sorry. You’ll be much kindler and gentler castrated. Make the world truly a better place. Pony up.

The Nice Guys on the Side of the Road

The other day, I thought my car was jumpy and rumbly because I hadn’t let it warm up enough. Turned out, as the construction workers on the side of the road told me after they flagged me over, I had a flat tire. They insisted on changing it for me, right then and there. It was cold and they were spunky. I am thinking they are definitely candidates to keep their balls in my new world order.

To all of you who read this, and especially those who take the time to comment, I hope you have a lovely holiday time, whatever it means to you, however you celebrate it. Your engagement on this blog means a lot to me – gifts you’ve given throughout the year. Thank you.

Peace Out.