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Abstract: There is an inverse relationship between the amount of peace and quiet required for bathroom time and the amount provided, depending on the lengths to which one goes to secure said “peace and quiet.”

If you want total solitude while going to the bathroom with young children in the house, leave the bathroom door wide open. If possible, use the most central bathroom in the house, such as the main floor WC where, if the door is left open, people standing on the front steps could peer in and catch a glimpse of you.

If you would like to be interrupted while on the toilet with an occasional and relatively brief series non sequitur questions, such as where last year’s Halloween costume may presently be located (in April), what makes play-doh play-doh, why corners are so sharp or what are the numbers on the car’s license plates, be sure to shut the bathroom door.

If you would like your children to become bloodied, or at least emit sounds of dying elephants ad nauseum, while you aspire to the sanctity of a quiet moment to oneself in the bathroom, by all means, both shut AND lock the bathroom door.

Please Note: If seeking respite and privacy for a worthy and time consuming bowel movement and the door is shut but not locked, expect young children to enter with their querulous faces at the exact moment maximum privacy is desired. If door is locked, expect children who had previously been quietly playing by themselves to suddenly attempt an uprising throughout the household involving much ruckus, potential injury to themselves and the dog, and general mayhem. It is wise to hide all tubes of glue, glitter tubs and steak knives before proceeding with such a risky proposition.

Read more of Mamá Leche’s Parental Axioms

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Uncle Sam Wants YOU to be Internet Literate!

Uncle Sam Wants YOU to be Internet Literate!

I write a fair amount about media literacy on this blog. It’s a topic I consider myself to be fairly knowledgeable about. I also have a professional background in SEO (search engine optimization), which means that I have a solid enough grasp of how the Internet works and how pieces of information make it to each person’s browser. That being said, after watching this nine minute TED talk, I realized I’ve had my head in the sand about some critical shifts in the ways information is delivered to each net denizen. This is disconcerting both as a consumer of Internet information and as a parent striving to teach media literacy to my young children. I’m grateful to now be aware of the ways in which people are getting dramatically different information on the Internet and how the algorithmic calculation of information distribution is totally invisible to the end user. As my children get older and begin to use the Internet as the incredible information gathering tool it is, I will be able to help them be more critical consumers of what they discover.

I feel like I’m gumming up the message and importance of understanding filters, personalization and Internet literacy. Fortunately, TED presenter Eli Pariser does a far better job, explaining it very simply and compellingly. Take nine minutes to watch this video. I promise you will be grateful you did. It will probably be the best thing you’ve ever experienced on the Internet. Well, except maybe the insanity test.

TED Talk on YouTube (posted by WikiLeaks… I’m still not sure how I feel about them)

Here’s the link to the video on the TED site:

http://www.ted.com/talks/eli_pariser_beware_online_filter_bubbles.html

And here’s Eli’s website, where you can find loads more information about the Filter:

http://www.thefilterbubble.com/

Finally, if you are looking for resources to learn more about media literacy, check out the unbranding section here.

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If you don't get the cultural reference, go watch the movie "Austin Powers." This is the character, Dr. Evil, telling his son to "zip it."

I’ve already posted about how my daughter is a super-talker, but have I mentioned how draining this can be at times? It seems that especially in the afternoons, as she’s getting tired, instead of becoming more placid, my daughter gets even more amped up. Her chatter shifts into warp-speed mode and her ability to rapid-fire questions (rarely pausing to listen to the answer, mind you) simply sets my head spinning. I can’t even think of responses, much less form words in my mouth before she’s pounced onto the next thing. It would seem that that best strategy to handle this would be to simply ignore her, but that just makes her double her efforts.

I’m assuming this is a phase and from others’ posts I’ve read around the Internets, by the time she’s fifteen I’ll wonder if she even knows how to speak at all. We’ll see about that!

In the meantime, I’m looking for ways to settle down the jabber, as the more she spins up, the faster she seems to go. This lead me to a great article on dealing with backtalk. My daughter isn’t quite five, so even when she does talk back, I don’t think it’s genuine “backtalk” in the sense of the sassy, disillusioned teenager. All the same, I can’t help but interpret her responses as being sassy, much as I tell myself they are not intended that way – she genuinely seems to be trying to convey her understanding of things, not questioning my statements.

I found the article on backtalk to be pretty refreshing because it got me thinking about the subtext of these exchanges. It doesn’t matter that I’m dealing with a preschooler instead of middle schooler. Her intentions may be pure, but my interpretations of her interruptions and questioning are what lead to my agitation. The article helped me recognize that I don’t have to convince my children I’m “right” or why my judgment is sound (“No, you may not have cookies right before dinner”). When my daughter lobs a counter point to something I’ve just said, I get annoyed because I feel like she’s constantly questioning my authority. It turns out that if I don’t engage in feeling like my judgment is being questioned – I don’t need to prove a point, I just need to state it – things will go more smoothly.

What do you think? How do you handle back talk and constant chatter from your five year old (or under)?

Posts That Relate to This Topic:

The Butterfly Song

Shut Up and Parent Better

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Aaah yes, this is the message I want to send our daughters. Reminds me of the “Polite as a Princess” book… only so much worse.

JC Penney CEO Mike Ullman is too pretty to do homework

JC Penney CEO Mike Ullman is too pretty to do homework

JC Penney is selling a jersey shirt that reads “I’m too pretty to do homework so my brother has to do it for me.” The description reads “Who has time for homework when there’s a new Justin Bieber album out? She’ll love this tee that’s just as cute and sassy as she is.” I suspect that the item will be yanked from the site within hours***, as news of the offensive shirt is hopping across the internet – mostly thanks to a great catch by Pigtail PalsMelissa Wardy. The sweatshirt, which comes in sizes 7-16, is on sale for only $9.99, so if you act now, you too can own this fabulous piece of evidence of culturally condoned misogyny.

***as of 9:08 AM, 8/31/11, the shirt was no longer showing up for sale on the US version of the site. It was still available in the UK and Ireland and probably elsewhere.

Where JC Penney can shove that "I'm too pretty for homework" shirt.

JC Penney can shove it.

If, on the other hand, you’d like to let JC Penney know where it’s at and where they can shove this shirt (see example above), feel free to call 972-431-8200 to speak to a person at  JC Penney’s “Customer Concerns” line. When I called at 8:21 AM PST on 8/31/11, the woman I spoke to stated that the company was aware of the issue with the shirt and was preparing to pull it down off the site. If you’d like to go further up the food chain, I’m encourage you to drop a line on over to CEO and Chairman of the Board Myron E. (Mike) Ullman, III. I called the corporate headquarters and asked for Mike Ullman. I was put through to the customer concerns line again, but I know that the company has now gotten two calls at two different lines to voice my issue. Mike, who has four sons and two daughters and whose significant work with Mercy Ships should make him far more culturally aware than this serious misstep by his company indicates, can be found at:

Mike Ullman, III
Chief Executive Officer
J.C. Penney, Inc.
6501 Legacy Drive
Plano, TX 54024

(972) 431-1000

I'm too pretty to do homework so my brother has to do it for me

I'm too pretty to do homework so my brother has to do it for me

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The Corporate Babysitter blog has a great round up of recent news stories about unethical marketing to children. If you’d like to get familiar with the problem of childhood branding, this is a great place to start: http://www.parentsforethicalmarketing.org/blog/2011/06/06/concerns-over-unethical-marketing-to-kids-grow/

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If you’d like more information about why Disney is evil, check out the documentary, Mickey Mouse Monopoly.

For more information on media awareness, look at the resources in the Unbranding section of this blog.

This is for all y’all who might think I’m a potential tinfoil hat society member for my thoughts on protecting my children from marketing ploys. According to this New York Times article, representatives of Disney’s new “DisneyBaby” line have been making the rounds at maternity wards. Here are some choice quotes and snippets:

“This is taking advantage of families at an extremely vulnerable time,” said Jeff McIntyre, director of national policy for the advocacy group Children Now.

“If ever there was an opportunity for a trusted brand to enter a market and provide a better product and experience, it’s this,” said Robert A. Iger, chief executive of Disney. “I’m extremely excited about it.”

How do you spell evil? I say I-G-E-R.

…the company gains access to the maternity hospitals through a company called Our365, a business that sells bedside baby pictures. Our365 pays hospitals for exclusive access, and companies like Disney pay Our365 to promote their own products. Our365 also has Fisher-Price and Procter & Gamble as clients. It is unclear whether mothers know of Our365’s financial ties to these companies.

No – they don’t – I know this for a fact because both times while I’ve been in hospital having babies, this junk has been passed off to me under the premise that it’s related to healthy baby raising.

A representative visits a new mother and offers a free Disney Cuddly Bodysuit, a variation of the classic Onesie. In bedside demonstrations, the bilingual representatives extol the product’s bells and whistles — extra soft! durable! better sizing! — and ask mothers to sign up for e-mail alerts from DisneyBaby (link removed ~ Mamá Leche).

Apparel is only a beachhead,” said Andy Mooney, chairman of Disney Consumer Products. Also planned are bath items, strollers, baby food and an abundance of other products — all pushed with so much marketing muscle that Disney Baby may actually dent operating margins in Mr. Mooney’s division in the near term. But this is a long-term play, and it could have its greatest value far beyond the crib.

To get that mom thinking about her family’s first park experience before her baby is even born is a home run,” Mr. Mooney said, adding that a surprisingly large number of families do not become consumers of Disney products until their children reach preschool age, when they start to watch Disney Channel programs like “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.”

Really? A surprisingly large number? We are well into preschool age with our children and have seen hide nor hair of Disney in our house. Sadly, even Winnie the Pooh has been compromised. I really like that f-ing bear.

How do you spell evil? I also spell it M-O-O-N-E-Y.

Rachel Bernstein, an obstetrician-gynecologist in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., who is pregnant herself, said she was concerned about marketers using hospitals as customer hunting grounds. “But Disney is a nice company,” she said, “and I think my patients would actually be thrilled to get free Disney stuff.”

Can you say “Stockholm Syndrome?” Hello Patty Hearst! You are completely inculcated into the cult of Disney. The mass media assault works.

Elizabeth Carter gave birth to her daughter Olivia on Jan. 19 in Piedmont, Calif., and was given a Disney Cuddly Bodysuit as part of an Our365 photo package. “It surprised me that Disney was in there promoting something right as the baby was born, but we figured as new parents we weren’t in a position to turn free things down,” she said.

Mrs. Carter put the garment on her hours-old baby immediately. “And I have to say Olivia looked fabulous, much better than the rough, bulky thing the hospital had her wearing,” she said.

Piedmont, for those of you not in the know, is an extremely affluent area. Perhaps I’m wrong, but I equate affluence with education and education with awareness. Shame on the parent with no excuse to be so blind to this blight.

As for me, I’m happy to wear a tin foil hat, if that means keeping my family away from this stuff.

For more info, check out the section on Unbranding.

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When I was in my twenties, I spent a stint of time as a dog walker. I loved the job, since it gave me a reasonable excuse to be outside in every type of weather and I really like the company of dogs. One day, it was storming like crazy in San Francisco, where I worked. I was concerned about the wind whipping branches out of trees and killing me or the dogs, so we went to the beach for our outing. We were at Chrissy Field, just inside the bay from the Golden Gate bridge. Almost as soon as we hit the beach, I heard this incredible rumbling out on the bay. The storm was so thick that you couldn’t see more than 30 feet out into the water – it was just a whitewash of gusting rain. At first I thought the rumbling was a distressed tanker in the bay and suddenly I realized it was a gale force wind — literally a wall of wind flying from the ocean, under the Golden Gate Bridge and slamming across the surface of the water towards us. The dogs were all standing a bit in front of me and I knew I had to protect them. I squatted down and screamed out to them over the storm while unzipping my raincoat, my back to the bridge where the wind was coming from. I opened my jacket just in time to create a pocket of still space in front of me. The dogs, lowering their heads facing the wind, inched into the pocket just as the gale rushed over us. One of the smaller dogs got picked up in the wind and tossed a few times along the sand. We, meaning the other dogs and I, moved like a phalanx in the wind, keeping the cover of the jacket spread wide like wings, until we could catch up with Charlie. We stayed like that for a good fifteen minutes until the gusts stopped and everything got quiet again. The sun broke out over a still, grey air and we looked at each other, stunned and thrilled at the same time that we’d managed through that experience together.

I recount that story because it makes me think of the way in which I want to spread my wings over my children, creating a sheltering pocket for them from all the speed and racing, media and technology that waits with bated breath just outside the door. I don’t think all technology and media are evil, but that there’s a time and place for them. In the same way that it takes an adult to appreciate a wine, so too does it take a fully mature mind to be able to handle the speed of common life today. I’d rather under-expose my children to technology and media than over-expose them. They way I see it, I have always figured that if they want to be media savvy and live a fast-paced life, they can always catch up as young adults. It’s not like you can’t pick up technology and adaptively use it in your life — that’s the very nature of technology — it’s meant to make your life faster and easier.

Parenting for a Slow Childhood

I recently read a fantastic guest post by Esa Helttula at the “Moms with Apps” blog. It’s entitled “Let the Children Play.” It’s ironic that a techno-focused blog would post something this profound in justification of unplugging your life and your children.

Esa illuminates some of the outcomes that result from a deficiency in play, especially unstructured, outdoor play, in our children. Apparently it’s a global phenomenon. I instinctively strive to give my children what I call a “Slow Childhood.” This means minimizing obligations to a hyper-scheduled life and providing lots of unstructured play time, focusing on toys that require imagination and interaction to make them function (ie, generally not things that light up and go “whiz-bang!”). One of Esa’s points that struck home with me was the need for children to create games that are based on their rules. This isn’t about being in power, but in play-acting the structures that they encounter every day which are rarely explicitly declared, but upon which we base most of our society. It must be very confusing for children to comprehend the norms of introduction between adults, or the art of navigating the rules of traffic! By being able to play-act and create games that fluidly shift rules and dynamics, children can experiment with the social structures they encounter and come to master them through play.

Another aspect that jumped out was that which relates to elaboration:

The most striking decline was in Elaboration (ability to develop and elaborate upon ideas and detailed and reflective thinking and motivation to be creative). Scores in Elaboration decreased by over 36 % from 1984 to 2008.

I started wondering who else is thinking about the idea of a Slow Childhood and came across this beautiful post on “A Wild and Precious Life.” This homeschooling mom commends Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv. I think I’ll add it to the list and start looking for more ways to build on this idea of spreading my wings to create the space, protecting my children from the gale force winds of technology and the pace of modern life so I may give them the gift of a Slow Childhood.

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