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Sunday, October 19, 2014

Scenes With My Toddler

Anders is 2 years 9-11 months in these stories.

[We are at a hotel in Nicaragua.]

Mama: There's some leftover steak from last night if you want some.
Anders: No. I just want juice. My body says it needs all the juice in the lobby.

Anders sees football game on screen at restaurant. Says: "They're having a running party right there!"

Anders (to Mama): Give me water truck.
[Mama is confused. Anders appears to be pointing at the fire truck but he definitely knows it is called a fire truck.]
Mama (handing him the fire truck): You mean the fire truck?
Anders: No, water truck. Carries water? Oh! Carries fire?

Mama: Anders, next month you are going to turn 3. And that means that you will be old enough to take classes if you want to. Are there any classes you want to take, like in swimming or dancing or karate?
Anders: I want take a class in airplanes.
Mama: Oh. What do you want to learn about airplanes? Do you want to build them or fly them or look at them?
Anders: I want to fly them. Real airplanes. Not toy airplanes. Real ones. Yeah, that's my class. That's the class for me.

Anders: I have to pee!
[Anders runs to his little toilet and sits down. He is wearing only boxers but does not pull them down.]
Joe: Anders, don't you need to pull your boxers down?
Anders: No, it goes right through.
Joe: You are right... but then your boxers will get so dirty!
Anders: They're already dirty. See, I got ice cream all over them.
Joe: You are right... but...

[Anders picks a mushroom out of his scrambled eggs.]
Anders: This a worm.
Mama: Oh?
Anders: I looooove worms.
[Anders pops the mushroom into his mouth and then several more.]
Anders: Soooo yummy. Looooove worms. Thank you, Mama, making me worms.

Anders: Papa, look at all my ouchies! I have one on my knee and one here on my foot and one here on my toe. My body has a looooot of work to do!

Mama: Anders, we have two choices for this morning, either we can go to the farmers market or we can go to Erewhon. Which one do you want?
Anders: Nooooo. Those aren't my choices. My choice is to stay home.
Mama: Oh. Hmmmmm. Well... I wanted to make a nice dinner tonight, and in order to do that I need to buy some food. I want you to be happy, but I also want to make a nice dinner. What should we do?
Anders: What you want, Mama? I love you want you be happy.
Mama: I.... want to go to the farmers market.
Anders: Okay. I'm ready in five minutes.

[Papa has been very busy with a project at work for the last couple weeks, and Anders has seen very little of him.]
Papa: I'm going to leave for work early again tomorrow, Anders. Just one more week and then I will be done with this project, and we can spend more time together again.
Anders: You wanna go to work I might hit you! I hide your car keys you can't go!
Papa: Oh Anders, you feel so mad! Do you want to hit my hand?
[Anders makes a swing at Papa, misses his hand gets his wrist.]
Mama: Or do you want Papa to hold you? Sometimes when I am mad, what I really need is to cry and cry.
Anders begins to wail and runs to Mama.
Anders: I want Mama hold me!
Anders runs to Mama and buries his head in her lap.
Anders (while crying): I wanna hit him!
[Mama hugs Anders while he repeats this a few more times.]
Mama: You miss Papa.
[Anders cries a little more, then the feeling has passed and Anders raises his head with a smile.]
Anders: I wanna eat Papa cause I love him and I wanna be my friend!
[Anders runs to Papa.]
Anders: I'm gunna eat you!!!
Papa: Ahhhhhh!
Papa pretends to run away.

SCENE 10, OCT 16
Mama: I'm so excited for your birthday coming up!
Anders: I want to have a digging party for my birthday.
Mama: That sounds great. We could go to Home Depot and buy some extra sand, so we can all dig.
Anders: Lowe's has sand.
Mama: Yeah, we could go to Home Depot or Lowe's.
Anders: No, go to the brick store. They have looooots of sand.
Mama: What's the brick store?
Anders: I go there with Papa buy bricks.
Mama: And it's not Home Depot?
Anders: No. It's on Ventura Boulevard.
Mama: And they sell sand?
Anders: Yeah, they have big bags. Suuuuuper cheap.
[Mama goes to find Papa to verify this story.]
Mama: Anders says you guys went to a brick store that sells bags of sand?
Papa: Yeah, Lowes?
Mama: Oh.
Mama: Do they sell sand?
Papa: Yes.
Mama: Is it cheap?
Papa: I think so.
Mama: Huh.
[Mama returns to Anders.]
Mama: Anders is Lowes the brick store and I just wasn't listening?
Anders: Mama, you have vaginas?
Mama: Oh, I just wanted to make sure--
Anders: Excuse me, Mama, I'm talking. You have vaginas?

SCENE 11, OCT 18
[Anders and Mama work in the back yard. Anders digs holes and Mama picks up leaves.]
Anders: Thanks for doing all that haaaaard work, Mama. Here, let me pay you.
[Anders reaches into his pocket and pulls out... a real five dollar bill, which he hands to Mama.]
Mama: Um... Thank you.
Anders: When I was a kid, I worked reeeeeally hard at my job made a looooot of money. In Oxnard. I built Kendra a house.
Mama: Ahhhhh... So Anders, I noticed that you gave me real money, and I am wondering where you got it from?
Anders: From your purse.
Mama: Hmmm... I don't want you to take money from my purse.
Anders: I'll give it back when I'm done. Oh look, there's Joe, I need to pay him too!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Finding the Best Nanny or Babysitter

A reader emailed me recently asking for any advice I might have regarding the hiring of nannies and babysitters. Here is what I said:

What I do is post an add looking for someone willing to learn (i.e. read). Qualifications and current knowledge are often cumbersome--I have found that training a blank slate is usually easier than retraining someone who thinks they know what they are doing. My only qualification is that the person is interested in learning and growth.

The first thing I have my potentials do is watch the 4-DVD set on caring for infants at I find the attitude of respect in those DVD's helpful even though my child is no longer an infant. Then I have my prospective nanny watch my 2 lectures on YouTube. After that we can have a real discussion about whether or not she/he would enjoy relating to children in the way I describe.

If the potential nanny or babysitter likes what (I will use "she" but it could be either) she has learned thus far and talks about being inspired, I continue with her. If she comments on the ideas being weird, I let her go and find someone else.

Then I begin training which involves her just coming to hang out and watch how I interact with my son. Then I watch her interact with him and give feedback. At the end of the first day, I pull out a stack of 5-10 books (most likely the ones from my recommended reading list) and show them to her and ask her which one she would like to read first. I loan her that book and tell her that when my son is busy, she can read. This is a double bonus: she is being "paid" for the time she spends reading and she ends up not "helicoptering" over my son all the time. Many of the girls I have trained have taken the books home and continued to read them in their free time. Some say they hate reading and never get through the first book--what I have found is that those people won't last long. It's a sign that the proper care of children is not interesting to them--and none of us will last that long or do that well at a job we are not interested in.

Recommended Reading List Link:

UPDATE: a reader wrote to me the following in regards to the above advice about how to hire a great nanny--

I wanted to thank you for your insight; we hired a nanny! I spoke with her on the phone and got the feeling that she was definitely open to finding out more about what I was talking about. Then when we met in person, SHE asked ME if I had any books or resources she could read. I gave her Baby Knows Best, as my MIL is currently borrowing my RIE DVD's. She's currently coming to shadow about once a week or so for the next month so she can see us interact with him, and she's very inquisitive.
I felt a lot more confident looking for someone who was willing to learn instead of scouring for someone who already knew what I was looking for. It's almost embarrassing that I hadn't considered the idea myself, haha. I saw that I prompted a blog post, so hopefully others find your ideas helpful as well.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Book Review - The Nature of Order, Book 1 by Christopher Alexander

All artists, designers, builders, landscapers, and Objectivists interested in art would likely benefit tremendously and most likely enjoy reading this book! Though it is really long.

I love how Alexander’s books are beautiful. It made me happy every time I picked up this book because I was holding something so lovely in my hands. And it annoyed me that other books written about beauty don't try to be beautiful. Also, this book reads as if it is written in NVC. The author writes so respectfully and so compassionately. So not only does the book look lovely and wholesome, it feels lovely and wholesome to read it.

This book is a study of how architecture enriches our lives or diminishes our lives, it is a study in how we can feel more alive, how we can feel more free in our daily lives, and how we can feel more awe when we look at the world.

Alexander argues for an objective rather than a subjective worldview and especially for an objective defintion of beauty. (WOO HOO!) He laments the loss of objective definitions that happened about a hundred years ago. He understands the history and ramifications of the subjective “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” philosophy that took over, but he does not argue against them from a philosophical standpoint but rather a physics/mathematical/biological standpoint and sometimes a psychological one. “Not all nature is equally beautiful. Not all of it is equally deep in its wholeness. Some of nature may be “better” than other parts of nature.”

He argues that there is no dichotomy between head and heart, just people not trained in consciousness, that there is no difference between form and function (the moral is the practical...) but there are people who can see beauty and people who can’t. But seeing beauty is a skill anyone can learn. It is also a skill we are all born with that is taken from us due to our schooling or socialization. He makes the claim that children are better at seeing beauty, so I did a test on Anders, age 3, who I have always thought has very good taste. Anders he did well, choosing what Alexander would have called the objectively beautiful picture 80% of the time.

From a child psyc point of view: what Alexander refers to as their ability "to see beauty," and his art students' ability "to blur in order to see beauty," is perhaps what has been studied in children and is called “lantern consciousness” versus “spotlight consciousness.” This is the skill many Western adults lose that prevents them from "seeing" beauty in its wholeness as opposed to its pieces. And yes, this is one of the goals of education.

His essay, “The personal nature of order” is his version of Ayn Rand’s "The Romantic Manifesto." Her’s is better though because: he argues that we all feel the same about a given work of art (or building or whatever) whereas she argues that we will all feel the same about a given work of art BUT that we will all feel differently about that feeling, so our response to the art will be different. So whereas he insists that beauty would make everyone feel at peace, she would argue that beauty would make everyone feel at peace, but there is a secondary emotion and that is how we feel about feeling at peace. When some people feel at peace they feel deeply happy and content. When others feel at peace they are troubled, like something is wrong, and seek a stimulant. So whereas Rand recognizes this psychological issue of secondary (and tertiary emotions--that can hopefully be fixed with consciousness), Alexander doesn’t. Though both would agree, “If you are properly educated you will feel the correct thing." Alexander calls this “real liking” as if to say: "You may think you know what you like, but I really know." All that being said, to a certain extent Rand writes arrogantly and Alexander writes compassionately, making Alexander much more accessible.

Alexander argues that freedom is the most important thing for human happiness, that freedom IS happiness, the freedom to act and pursue our goals. He says, “True freedom lies in the ability a person has to react appropriately to any given circumstance… A person actively solving problems is more alive.” Anything that gets in the way of your pursuit (like the government) hampers life. Rand and Branden agree when they say: "It is not the pursuit of happiness, but the happiness of pursuit. The freedom to pursue the achievement of our values is happiness." Alexander reminds me of Schopenhaur in his Freedom of the Spirt chapter—happiness can only be experienced when we are free from pain--and oh how rare that is!

Being surrounded by life (energy centers) increases our life because the outside world is our mirror. Our outer world creates our inner world and vice versa. You can know all about a person’s psychology by seeing their home—how cluttered, how bogged down, how dusty. The space you create IS your inner life as represented by you. This is why people, clear people, energetic people, are those people we all want to be around. Because of the mirror neurons. Happiness, peace, joy--they ARE literally contagious. As are misery, sadness, anger.

Our mirror neurons work not only with people, but with the outer world.

He marries Objectivism to the hippie "we-are-one" philosophy quite well as he doesn’t believe seeing the world as individual entities is helpful, so so much as seeing the world as “life centers.” He argues that for something to be beautiful all energy centers which are not absolutely required must be avoided—form and function are one. Which means--goodbye government!

Great quote: “I am more likely to succeed in creating a thing that a Japanese person truly likes by making a thing that I truly like than by following a handbook of modern regulations and Japanese style.” But remember he is a qualified "liker". Most people are not.

A few times in this book Alexander makes cutting, uneducated remarks about money and businessmen, and how they have destroyed architecture. Sigh. He would really benefit from studying Austrian economics. He has no idea how perfectly his worldview fits with theirs.

Therefore: Alexander is like an Objectivist-Anarchist who thinks he is a Hippie.

I want someone to create a Pattern Language line of jewelry and clothes SO BAD.

On his efforts to explain what he wants to explain I think studying psychology would help. For example:
-I would use the word “energy” instead of “life” as I think “energy” more easily conveys what Alexander means. He says, "There is a certain amount of life in every rock," but it may be more accurate to say, "There is a certain amount of energy in every rock, e.g. emanating from every rock, every center, has an energy field that has more or less energy, everything has different energy frequencies emanating from it." That was "life" can define organisms that live and "energy" can describe that feeling we get about everything being alive.
-He also uses the word “feel” when I think using “feel connected to” or “relate to” would make his message more clear.
-He talks about people who “radiate life,” but I would call it "presence" and "vibrance."
-He talks about art trying too hard and ending up feeling fake. I would use the word "authentic" and "inauthentic."
-He uses the word “personal” when “beautiful” or even “peaceful” would work better.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

A Trauma-Free Halloween - A Non-Fiction Update

Halloween was always my least favorite holiday when I worked with small children. There was always some costumed person the child saw while trick-or-treating that scared him or her to death. For years I spent every Halloween comforting traumatized, crying children. One little boy had nightmares for over a week following the holiday. 

I have long wondered if Anders would find costumed people scary. He has no concept for the scary things people dress as on Halloween i.e. would seeing a person dressed as wicked witch scare you, if you had no concept in your mind of evil witches using magic to ruin your life? Would a person dressed as a witch be scary if you had no concept of magic? Some of the costumes in the windows around Los Angeles are pretty evil looking, but Anders has no real concept of evil, so I have been curious to know how he will think about these things. Will he find evil faces scary or will he just think they look weird?

I have told Anders about the holiday coming up, Halloween in which people wear costumes, and recently I took him to a costume store. He knows about the concept of wearing costumes from the Renaissance Fair (which he loves) so costumes are a pretty positive thing for him. He has shown no interest thus far in the role-play costumes that kids his age often get into. For example, he loves construction and pretends to do it every day, but when I offered to buy him a construction outfit on three different occasions he said, "No,"

At the costume store (Cinema Secrets if you know it) there were some pretty fantastic and gruesome costumes on display, one in particular, a witch, was pretty horrifying. Anders pointed to it and said, "What's that?" I said, "That's a costume for someone who wants to pretend to be a very ugly, old lady. Some people call ugly, old ladies 'witches,' and when they are pretending to be a witch they laugh like this, 'He he he he he!'" I said, "Do you think this costume is scary or or ugly or just weird?" He said, "Not scary." I said, "Do you think it's ugly?" He said, "No." I said, "Weird then?" But he had already walked off, which means his answer was, "Boring." We looked at other things. He was most interested in the makeup that made people look like they had huge wounds, but he did not think that was scary either.

Anders does not want to dress up on Halloween, though I imagine if his father or I were going to dress up he would possibly change his mind, but we have no plans to. The only costume Anders showed any interest in was a bear costume, but he didn't want to wear it and in the end just wanted a little bear figurine to play with. (He is very interested in bears right now thanks to the Disney Nature Bear documentary I bought for our plane rides over the summer.) 

A side note: Anders is not afraid of the dark. He is afraid of falling when there are no lights on, but perhaps since he has never heard of ghosts or monsters and we have spend a lot of time playing with shadows, he has always been comfortable with the dark, inside and out, and has never needed a nightlight or anything like that.

Anyway, just a development update for those of you who are interested in knowing what happens when you raise your kids without fantasy fiction!