25 July 2008

Review--Sensational Meditation for Children


Last week Charlie and I had the pleasure of attending a party at our friend Sarah's home to celebrate the release of her book. It was a well-attended, family friendly event, with a fun castle-shaped bounce house, and fantastic food. I met Sarah when she gave a presentation on meditation at Stroller Club last summer, and a few months later I saw her work with a group of young children at a children's health event hosted by my chiropractor friend. Remembering how engaged the children were, I was eager to read her book to learn more.

Sarah's writing reflects her years of experience, solid background knowledge and her love for working with children. There's plenty of information here to develop a good understanding of the various purposes and benefits of meditation for anyone, and children in particular. With your appetite whetted, she then presents detailed, easy to follow, step-by-step instructions for a variety of child-friendly meditation exercises. These sound like a lot of fun, with titles like 'Fudge Swirl," "Inside Friends," and "The Happy Tree." I especially liked the way the meditations are grouped thematically in chapters titled Clearing My Mind, Healing My Body, Renewing Spirit, and Finding Out Who I Am. Woven throughout are specific suggestions and exercises to connect with your child and ways to make the most of the meditation experience through art and writing, among other ideas. The final chapter offers guidelines and inspiration for creating your own meditations.

This book is a great tool for parents, educators and anyone working to connect with children, to help them open their minds and souls to possibility and higher self-awareness, and not least of all, their imaginations! Please go to Sara's website to purchase her book and to learn more: http://www.sarahwood.com/

19 July 2008

Review--The Breastfeeding Cafe

May be enjoyed by nursing moms, moms-to-be and anyone interested in cultural issues surrounding breastfeeding and motherhood.

This is one title I picked up with birthday money (thanks Gram!), and it was hard to choose, with dozens of books on my "save for later" space in my Amazon.com checkout cart. What an enjoyable read! With a structure intended to reflect a conversation among mothers, Behrmann skillfully weaves together a myriad of voices from a wide range of cultural, economic and educational backgrounds, from women who have nursed children through age five and beyond and others who were unable to breastfeed due to medical issues or lack of information and support. She describes her intention with this format: "Telling our stories is an act of power, of taking control of our own life, of helping other women in theirs. It is, above all, a starting point. My hope is that the stories in The Breastfeeding Cafe will give women the courage and permission to dispel myths, reveal secrets, and be honest." (292) There is both vibrant emotional connection and thought-provoking academic perspective. Pretty much every conceivable aspect of the topic is touched upon. The last chapter, "Where Do We Go From Here?" will rouse your inner lactivist: she clearly outlines specific societal changes needed to improve breastfeeding success in America--things like mother/baby friendly care for birth and the postpartum, better education for health care providers (whose ignorance is frequently responsible for sabotaging nursing relationships), truly family-friendly labor policies, including an actual paid maternity leave, and other actions the need for which is well documented within her collection of narratives. Inspiring.

09 July 2008

In Breast We Trust

Recently, I had one of those uneasy conversations which played over and over again in my mind afterward, and I wish I could go back and edit my response. A well meaning person asked, in genuine curiousity and without intended criticism, if my son would be able to develop self-soothing behaviors and coping mechanisms as long as he was "placated" at the breast whenever he was upset. I stumbled through a defensive response, citing arguments for the psychological soundness of breastfeeding past infancy, how by age five most children will have a variety of internal coping mechanisms, and how children I know who were breastfed responsively have grown into very secure, indepentent individuals, etc.

It was the word placate which shook me. Sure, it was used innocently enough, but the connotation is one which in my mind evoked the image of me thrusting my breast into my son's mouth whenever he gets disagreeable. Here's something that will stop your whining--pop! There's also the suggestion of the s-word: spoiling. That by placating him with the breast I am allowing myself to be manipulated, or that I'm reinforcing my son's neediness by giving in to his demands by nursing him, as they say--on demand. Again, I don't suspect these notions were suggested by the questioner, but they are common assumptions in our bottle feeding, baby scheduling culture.

A more fitting response would have been to clarify that my son is not placated at my breast, he is nurtured. Nursing provides him not only optimal physical nourishment, but emotional sustenance. It is a safe haven for him, a place where he comes to center himself, to process his experiences and recharge his batteries. Unlike the child who may smirk with self-satisfaction once his manipulations have been rewarded with a formerly taboo object (the sweets he was whined for, as an example), the child soothed by nursing returns to his activity like one rising from meditation--calm, with focus and once again able to act from the better part of his nature.

Unlike anything I've ever experienced in my life, breastfeeding my son feels intenseley and inexpressively right. The urge to meet his needs this way is prompted from deep within and acted upon peacefully, without question, with no trace of hesitation or internal conflict. I imagine many moms who have responsively breastfed their little ones well into infancy and beyond touch upon this deep feeling of inherent rightness. This may be one inspiration behind lactivism and breastfeeding support efforts, just as I imagine a similar feeling inspires the natural birth movement. It's something which is extremely difficult to convey to those who have not experienced it.

Of course, I intended the title of this post as a little joke. It is not in the breast but our children in whom we need to place our trust. I have complete faith that in time Charlie will find other sources of emotional nourishment, other ways to center himself and cope with life's challenges. He learned to walk and talk. He wants to be able to do things for himself. He will wean. He will sleep through the night and someday he will even prefer his own space. Our time spent nursing may serve as a bedrock within him--evoking that place of safety, a deep well of comfort and love which he can always draw upon as needed.

Review--Wild About Books

WILD ABOUT BOOKS by Judy Sierra, Illustrated by Marc Brown
May be enjoyed by children ages 18 months-- about 9 years

In the first major compromise of my parenting ideals, I bought a DVD for Charlie to watch: Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Scholastic. What began as a cute infatuation with The Simpsons (Charlie would point to our DVDs of the series and shout, "Dooh!" his approximation of Homer's ubiquitous "D'oh!") sparked concern as Charlie grew more imitative. Not eager to see him grab a stuffed animal by the throat and growl, "Why you little..." I found an appropriate distraction with "Boom Boom." We both enjoyed the animated version of Wild About Books (one of seven stories on the disc), so I found a copy of the book.

Book lovers will especially appreciate this story, which involves a librarian bringing her bookmobile into a zoo and igniting a passion for reading and writing among the inhabitants. There is a dedication to Dr. Seuss on the last page, and the rhyme and meter evoke his style without being overly derivative. The writing and illustrations are playful in a way which makes you feel the artist and author found much pleasure in their work; there are little jokes and allusions peppered throughout which may be appreciated on various levels, such as waterproof Harry Potter books for the otters and a penguin scribbling, "The Iceman Cometh." My favorite part is when the insects write haiku, with the scorpion giving out "stinging" reviews: the dung beetle writes, "Roll a ball of dung--/Any kind of poo will do--/Baby beetle bed," to which the scorpion responds, "Stinks."

The illustrations are whimsical and engaging. Charlie loves the hippo who has a big grin from being awarded the "Zoolitzer Prize"--he will turn back to that page and look up at me with the silliest, squinty-eyed smile. This is one we will enjoy for quite a while.