31 August 2012

Culture Shock at Home

If you visit a different country, especially one in which you are also immersed in a different language, or just attend an immersion program, there are unmistakeable stages to the experience.  The first is the shock of the different culture and/or language.  Often this elicits a negative reaction, a feeling of dislike and homesickness and confusion.  As time progresses and there is more exposure, the feeling shifts to one of understanding, and then to appreciation for the different culture and/or language.

In thinking about this, it struck me that my first experiences of the Mass directly corresponded to these stages.  I suppose that shouldn't be surprising, for I was raised in a completely different religious culture.  I had never experienced liturgy, for example, and certainly didn't understand the doctrines and dogmas expressed in the liturgy.  Instead, I only knew the paradigm of Southern Baptist theological ideas, and so experiencing something so different was quite a shock.

Because of this, my first few experiences of Mass, spread out over a number of years, were a shock to my senses and intellect.  I reacted by disliking the Mass and determining that I hated it and therefore needn't go again or learn more about it.  Since I wasn't immersed in a foreign culture, I had the freedom to choose to simply not go again, where in the case of going to a different country, that isn't an option. Consequently, I didn't allow myself to continue long enough to gain understanding or appreciation - at that time.  Instead, it took being confronted with it again years later and deciding to learn more for me to come to the end of the culture shock stages: appreciation, understanding, and love.  Of course, I am not Catholic solely because I learned to appreciate the Mass, but because I came to believe the Church teachings, which of course are expressed in the liturgy.  I would encourage those who have been to a Mass and disliked it to go again, though.  The missal is a good guide if one feels lost, too. 

28 August 2012

Book Nook

I know I'm a day late on this. Oops.

I honestly have no idea where my children found this book, but recently they brought Rabbit's Gift: a Fable from China, by George Shannon to us to read.  I wasn't sure what to expect, but what I found is a very sweet tale of friends who want to help each other.  Each animal is worried his neighbor might not have found enough food since it's snowy, and so tries to help out.  In the end, they all celebrate together, sharing the extra food.  My children love the story, and we enjoy reading it to them, too.

24 August 2012

Monarch (caterpillar) Watch!

Well, the caterpillars shown before disappeared, and we were sad.  There was a heavier rain one day, and I was afraid they'd be gone afterwards, which is what happened.

Thankfully, though, the Monarch butterflies really love the milkweed my father keeps on the deck, and so soon there were baby caterpillars again.  Determined not to lose more to weather or predators, my father got a terrarium and two glass salt shakers.  The salt shakers he filled with water and put the milkweed branches, with the caterpillars on them, in the water.  My mother grabbed one of these covers which is ironically designed to keep insects out of picnic dishes, instead of keeping them in a terrarium (and keeping the cats out!).  I replace the branches in the evenings usually, and this photo was taken in the afternoon, so they were starting to wilt.  There are two caterpillars, though only one seems to be growing as it should.  Meal times are very exciting, though, since the terrarium is on the dining table.  Kieran especially loves watching them.  Now we just need to find a good library book about them so we can learn even more.

23 August 2012

Crafty Thursday

Whew - the end is in sight with this sweater!  Finally!  I've been putting it off and putting it off, in part because I just wasn't sure I really liked how it was turning out.  So yesterday, bored with my other project (shown below), I decided to run some waste yarn through the stitches and try it on, knowing it wouldn't quite fit over my pregnant belly, to get a better idea of how it looks.  Well, I liked it, and I also realised that I only needed to do two more pattern repeats before the garter hem.  I'm now about halfway through the first pattern repeat, since I've been out of the house a bit today and haven't been able to knit as much.  Once I finish the body of the sweater, I just need to bind off the stitches for the sleeves, as I also discovered that I like them the length they are when I tried it on.  Then I'll need to pick up the stitches to finish the neck, but that won't take too long.  Then it'll be finished!

From Your Knitting Life
The other project?  A robot backpack.  Kieran's been wanting a backpack, and I decided a backpack filled with books and/or small toys would be a good birthday present.  I did a search on Ravelry out of curiosity and found this cute robot backpack.  At first I thought it was an online pattern, and then I was temporarily discouraged when I learnt that it wasn't.  I say temporarily because when I mentioned to my mother that it was in print, not online, she asked which magazine it's in and it turns out that she has it!  Crisis averted.  I'm making the one shown as blue, but Kieran chose a green yarn for it, so it'll be bright green.  So far I've completed the front and back, shown in the photo, and am working on one of the side pieces.  Since it's just stockinette, I get bored, thus why I needed the break.

21 August 2012

Mixed Messages

When it comes to breastfeeding, there are many mixed messages given by society as a whole, and even by doctors. Some examples:

-Breastfeed, but oh one bottle of formula won't hurt! (instead of giving actual support and information)
-Breastfeed, but you aren't going to do that here, are you?! Go in another room or cover up! Better yet, give a bottle in public!
-Breastfeed, but aren't you going to stop now?! The child has teeth/can talk/is too old for it now! (this can be said at any arbitrary age)
-Breastfeeding is best for babe, but don't breastfeed past some arbitrary age because then the milk is somehow magically diminished and surely the mum is just doing it for herself by then.

With all the mixed messages out there, is it any wonder breastfeeding rates are so abysmal? Many women say they want to breastfeed and even start out breastfeeding, but is it so shocking when they stop before they planned, either from lack of support, misinformation, or societal pressure? There is no one solution to this, though the UNICEF Baby-Friendly initiative can surely help, if more hospitals adopt it.  Seeing women openly, unashamedly breastfeed in public can slowly help to change societal perceptions.  Since learning to breastfeed is greatly helped by seeing other women breastfeed, this would also help women overcome misconceptions or just realise that it can be done. Educating medical professionals will also go a long way towards changing breastfeeding rates for the better, since some mums end up stopping after being given poor advice from nurses or doctors. Perhaps another thing is for all of us to examine our preconceptions so we aren't the ones undermining mothers.

20 August 2012

Book Nook: Poetry Edition

Yes, poetry. While we usually stick with prose when reading to our children, every now and then I like to read poetry to them. I find that they enjoy the rhythm, even if the storyline isn't readily apparent to them.  When Kieran was quite small, I read various Shakespeare and Coleridge to him, in fact.

More recently, I decided to read Poe's "The Raven" to Charlotte. She loved it and even asked me to read "the chamber door" to her for a few days after I initially read it.  Far from being inaccessible, poetry can be quite a hit with children, with the alliteration and rhythm and imagery.  If you've not read any poems to your child, why not start?

19 August 2012

Sunday Snippets - a Catholic Carnival

Check out the full carnival at RAnn's. :-)

I've blogged more this week, starting with my usual Book Nook. I finished looking at various reasons one might choose not to vaccinate, as well. I linked to a friend's post for the Assumption, and finished up the week with Crafty Thursday and a post on all the Monarch caterpillars we have.

16 August 2012

Monarch (Caterpillar) Watch!

A week or so ago, Kieran kept going out on the deck, staring at one of the plants.  As it turns out, there was a Monarch caterpillar eating the milkweed, and he was very excited to watch it.  In fact, he reminded me of myself at that age, as I was forever bringing in caterpillars and such.  To Kieran's dismay, though, the caterpillar was gone when we returned from Mass that day.

But just a couple of days ago, there were more caterpillars!  My father had gotten more milkweed, a favourite for Monarchs, and it attracted more caterpillars.  Now there are three rapidly growing caterpillars.  We check on them multiple times a day to see if we need to switch out the milkweed (we have at least one more in case they eat all the leaves on the current one).  I'm hoping that at least one will remain to make its cocoon there so the kids can see.  Until then, we're on Monarch (caterpillar) watch! 

Crafty Thursday

The fairy skirt is (almost) finished!  I had to take out the beaded portion from last week because I didn't think the skirt was quite long enough, and because I didn't like how the points were shaping up.  The pattern called for decreases on every row, but I thought that made the points too short.  I switched to decreasing on only the knit rows, and I like the result much better.  I also decided to sew the flower beads on at the very end instead of having them dangle from the points.  All that's left now is to finish the waistband.  The pattern calls for making an I-cord, but I really hate doing that; I think I'll sew on some elastic instead.

15 August 2012

Feast of the Assumption

I was going to write something for this feast, but a friend posted something better than what I would write. I will therefore encourage you to look at her post.

14 August 2012

Why Wouldn't a Person Vaccinate (part 3)

You can check out part 1 and part 2 here.  I will repeat my disclaimer: Please note that I am neither pro- nor anti- vaccine, but instead believe in researching and deciding what is best for that person in that situation.  I feel that people should have the right to decline or choose any medical procedure or medicine, though I feel all such decisions should be undertaken after looking at all the pros and cons using reliable information.  I am not a medical professional and would never presume to give medical advice; I am merely exploring the various reasons one might have for refusing some or all vaccines.

Religious reasons and adverse/allergic reactions are not the only reasons an educated person might choose to forgo vaccines.  For some, it is a matter of examining the risk/benefit ratio and determining that, for them, the risk of the disease does not warrant vaccination.  While some are criticised for coming to that conclusion when it comes to childhood vaccination, I'd wager that many have come to the same conclusion themselves for certain vaccines, such as the flu jab, even though influenza has the potential to be serious.  

Some may point to studies showing that alternatives to certain vaccines provide as much as or more protection than the vaccine.  For example, a breastfeeding mum, especially one who breastfeeds full-term, and whose child is generally well might choose to forgo the Hib vaccine for her child given that there is research showing that breastfeeding is quite effective at protecting against Hib. (side note: breastfeeding confers passive immunity from the mother, and so breastfeeding often helps a child have a less severe case of a disease; the significance with Hib is that the protective effect from breastfeeding continues after breastfeeding has stopped).  She might choose to get the vaccine if the child seems prone to illness or if she simply decides she prefers the vaccine.  I see nothing wrong with any of these informed decisions.  

One may also decide that a particular illness isn't generally severe enough to warrant vaccination for that child.  While varicella (chicken pox) and rubella can be severe in some cases, especially to a fetus if the mother contracts these diseases during pregnancy, these diseases are generally mild in children.  That fact may lead some to skip those jabs altogether, or delay them until later if the child hasn't contracted the diseases by that time.  This might especially be the case if the child is unlikely to encounter a non-immune pregnant woman early in her pregnancy, though others may feel this to be an unacceptable risk.  Again, I have no problem with either decision and I fully recognise that the right medical decision for one family might not be the right medical decision for another, thus why I support researching and making the best decision for that person at that time. 

A combination of these reasons might cause one to forgo the flu jab, either for himself or his child.  While influenza can be miserable, most people recover from this seasonal annoyance without a problem.  One who is otherwise healthy might therefore decide that the flu jab isn't indicated, and this may also go for a child, especially a breastfed child (I know from my experience that Kieran contracted a much milder case of influenza when we both caught it while he was still breastfeeding).  Knowing that vitamin D supplementation bolsters immunity against influenza might help influence this decision.  

Finally, some may simply feel that certain vaccines aren't necessary because the diseases aren't likely to affect them/their children.  For example, in the US the Hep B vaccine is routinely given to all infants shortly after birth, regardless of the likelihood of the child contracting this disease.  In the UK, it is not routinely given, due to the fact that the child is unlikely to contract it unless the parents/carers have Hep B.  I always find it interesting to compare the vaccination schedules of different countries, seeing what is considered routine in one country versus another.  Of course, one should also look at the circumstances in the different countries to assess why they might differ, as some diseases are more prevalent in some countries than in others.  

These are just some of the reasons a person might choose not to vaccinate: reasons that are not often included when those who forgo vaccines are criticised.  I should note here, too, that vaccine refusers do not seem to be at fault for the current pertussis outbreak.  I respect the rights of the individuals to make their own medical decisions, or the medical decisions for their minor children, in this and every other medical area, and I encourage everyone to research whatever decision and choose what is best in your situation.  It can be daunting looking through studies and evaluating them, but I like doing so just so I know what information is there.

13 August 2012

Book Nook

It can be daunting trying to find new books for the children to read when at the library.  I have some go-to authors, such as Julia Donaldson, but I also like to try to find new authors to expand our reading selection.  So on this particular excursion, I purposefully veered away from the normal sections and looked in a different area to see if we could find a book that intrigued us.  I'd peruse a book and give it to Kieran to examine, or vice versa, until we found one that seemed perfect.

What we found was The Wild Wombat by Udo Weigelt, illustrated by Anne-Katrin Piepenbrink.  We always enjoy learning about animals, and this book seemed fun from our quick perusal of it.  Indeed, we've all enjoyed this book.  All the animals at the zoo are nervous when they hear that the wombat is coming to live at the zoo, for they don't know who the wombat is and mistakenly believe him to be monstrous.  Each animal embellishes the description more and more in this game of telephone, until finally the wombat arrives at the zoo and is completely unlike any of their expectations.

12 August 2012

Sunday Snippets - a Catholic Carnival

Head over to RAnn's to see the whole carnival.

This week I plugged an activity book and wrote about my daughter's skirt I'm knitting. I looked at more reasons for why one wouldn't vaccinate, lamented my daughter's current nap strike, and mused about how to instill a proper idea of body image.  I hope everyone has a wonderful week!

10 August 2012

Body Image

I've been aware of the distorted image of the human body (men and women, though it seems more prevalent for women) in the media for ages.  Mostly I've tuned it out or wrinkled my nose at it and walked on.  Now that my children are more aware of images, though, I'm paying more attention to what these images show and wondering how to address these things with them.  I welcome any suggestions.

 Really, though, is it any wonder that so many people of all ages have issues with body image?! Not only are there the airbrushed photos in the check-out lines of groceries and such, but open up the paper and you have loads of ads for how to reduce belly fat, remove unwanted hair, grow wanted hair, improve your bust, etc.  Never are we told that we are beautiful the way we are or that we needn't conform to a certain image to be beautiful or sexy.  I admit that I am not always comfortable with my own body, but I'm working on it.  Sites like this help.  Hopefully my children will see me be comfortable with my body so they will know they can be comfortable in theirs.

9 August 2012

Crafty Thursday

I've been plugging away on Charlotte's skirt, and I'm now to the points!  This means I've strung beads and am starting to place them in the knitting.  This is actually the first time I've knit with beads, but it's going well.  I got some pretty flower beads for the very bottom, but I'm just using these along the points.

8 August 2012

Nap Strike!

It would seem that Charlotte is on a nap strike.  Ever since we returned from our holiday, Charlotte has fought naps.  The thing is, she could still use a nap, at least most days.  She will be obviously tired and cranky, but most of the time if I then try to get her to nap, she will fight sleep and stay awake.

Right now, I just go with it and don't push it too much.  If she actually manages to stay awake all day, bedtime is actually easier and she's more likely to sleep in her bed.  She's also more likely to stay there for a longer amount of time before she crawls in with us.  However, what often happens is that she will crash late in the afternoon, throwing off bedtime completely.  Oh well, it's just a phase.  I will be glad when she either settles into giving up the nap completely or goes back to an earlier nap.

7 August 2012

Why Wouldn't a Person Vaccinate? (part 2)

In part 1 I briefly looked at the reason for writing the series and one possible reason that someone might choose to forgo vaccines for himself or his children.  Please note that I am neither pro- nor anti- vaccine, but instead believe in researching and deciding what is best for that person in that situation.  I feel that people should have the right to decline or choose any medical procedure or medicine, though I feel all such decisions should be undertaken after looking at all the pros and cons using reliable information.  I am not a medical professional and would never presume to give medical advice; I am merely exploring the various reasons one might have for refusing some or all vaccines.

I'd think a major reason would be if the parent or child has had a serious adverse reaction to a vaccine.  As with any medicine, adverse reactions of varying severity are possible, even if not common.  Obviously if it is serious, then the vaccine insert itself states that the vaccine shouldn't be repeated, or at least that is the case for the DTaP vaccine (note that this is actually the one given in the UK, so it may be different for the ones given in the US; a more complete listing for reactions to the vaccines in the US is found on the CDC website), which is the one I've looked at most.  For reactions that aren't quite as serious, then the risks and benefits should be weighed very carefully (the risks and benefits should be weighed regardless, in my opinion, but the analysis does change once an adverse reaction has been observed).  The majority of adverse reactions are milder, though as with any medicine or disease, the possibility exists for a more serious reaction in some cases.  Nothing is risk-free, though: whether one vaccinates or not, there are risks.  Some may find the risk of vaccination unacceptable at any time, some may find it unacceptable after a more serious adverse reaction, and some may find the risk of the disease outweighs the risk of the vaccine at any time.  I do not think any of those decisions is wrong, nor are any necessarily uneducated decisions.

On a similar note, some may forgo vaccines based on allergies or intolerances to other ingredients in the vaccine.  The most common warning is given to those who have severe egg allergies, as some vaccines, such as the one for influenza, are created using eggs.  For many, this doesn't present a problem, but for some this would warrant skipping the vaccine.  Less discussed is that some vaccines contain bovine proteins, which can present a problem for those who have an intolerance to such proteins.  I've no idea how often that would present a problem, so the person in question would have to evaluate whether the risk of reaction was high enough to warrant avoiding the vaccine.  I would imagine such reactions are rarer, just as an infant with a dairy intolerance can often tolerate the mother consuming dairy; I do know from personal experience with Charlotte, though, that there are at least some infants who cannot tolerate that and have the same reaction to a vaccine with those bovine proteins.  In the case of an intolerance, which may sometimes be outgrown, some may choose to simply delay the vaccine until the intolerance is no longer an issue, as well.  Again, I don't see any of these options as wrong, and I cannot presume to say what a particular person should or should not do medically-speaking.

6 August 2012

Book Nook

Klutz website
When we returned from our holiday, there was a parcel waiting for the kids from my brother and sister-in-law.  Inside were various goodies for the children, including the activity book Fun with Felt by Klutz.

Excited to see what it was, I had the children sit at the table while we opened it up and discovered various pages with loads of ideas of felt creations to make on the miniature felt boards inside.  At first I helped them with their creations, but then Kieran took over.  It turns out that he's really great at looking at the picture and reproducing it with the shapes.  He even helps Charlotte with it (he's really a wonderful big brother, I have to say).  Even though Charlotte's below the age recommendation on it, she does well with it, too, with a bit of supervision.  I highly recommend this activity book, as I think all children will have fun with it.

5 August 2012

Sunday Snippets - a Catholic Carnival

Happy Sunday! I'm posting again in this Catholic carnival, hosted by RAnn, after a hiatus due in part because of our travels.  This week I've blogged about our holiday and limiting television.  I've resumed my usual Crafty Thursday post and have started a series to look at the various reasons one might choose to skip or delay all or some vaccines, as I'm getting tired of the mischaracterisations of those who do not vaccinate.  I hope everyone has a blessed week!

4 August 2012

Why Wouldn't a Person Vaccinate? (part 1)

As we are in the midst of a larger outbreak of pertussis (whooping cough), I've heard quite a few people vilifying those who choose to forgo vaccinations for themselves and/or their children.  In most cases, those who don't vaccinate are characterized as uneducated people who skip vaccines solely because of a supposed link between certain vaccines and autism and/or just listened to Jenny McCarthy and never researched more than that. Now, it's entirely possible that some who forgo vaccines do so out of it ignorance or misinformation or lack of education, but then there are also uneducated people who do vaccinate without knowing any of the pros and cons or any information about the diseases.  That being said, I can't think of anyone I personally know who doesn't vaccinate  who made that decision based on an autism link or by listening to a celebrity.

Before I get into the reasons one might choose not to vaccinate, I'd like to quickly point out that at least part of the problem behind this outbreak is with the efficacy of the accident itself.  During the 2010 outbreak in California, it was hypothesized that the pertussis virus had perhaps mutated.  During the current outbreak, though, it is being pointed out that the acellular vaccine isn't as effective as once believed, a fact that might have been exacerbated by improper storage of the vaccine, which the CDC is investigating.  This is important information for everyone, whether you vaccinate or not, I think.

So why do people choose not to vaccinate? There are myriad reasons, and some people might have multiple reasons.  For some, the reason stems from a moral or ethical dilemma due to the fact that some vaccines are created using aborted foetal cells.  Some of these, such as the polio vaccine, have alternatives that are not derived from the use of aborted foetal cells, while others, such a rubella and varicella, do not.  While Catholics are not the only ones who object to abortion, I am most familiar with that position, since I am Catholic.  The Pontifical Academy for Life has said that, if an alternative exists, that is the one that should be used; if not, the vaccine can still be used provided the threat of the disease warrants it and we should write to the manufacturer urging them to create an alternative vaccine.  Some may very well decide to skip at least the vaccines with aborted foetal cells after researching this.

I'll look at more reasons in another post.

2 August 2012

Crafty Thursday

Now that I'm back from our holiday, it's time to get cracking on Christmas and birthday presents for the kids.  While Charlotte loves her green fairy skirt I made, she has still been asking for a red one.  I found this pattern and thought it would be a good one for her.  There was a very dark pink in the yarn stash that is the correct weight, though I could've just done some math to change the pattern if needed.  Thankfully, Charlotte likes the yarn, and so I've started working on it. I will wait to get the beads until I get more done. I've only just finished the ribbing and will now work on the main skirt.

1 August 2012


I'll admit it - my children watch some TV. I personally never let them watch live television, but I do allow some DVDs or Netflix or Amazon videos.  I limit it, but I allow it.  For some time now, I've thought about limiting it more, but just hadn't done it.  On our recent trip, we allowed more than normal, both from the DVD player for the car and from staying with various people and at hotels.  By the time we returned home, I was feeling more and more adamant about limiting the television.

As it turns out, when we returned, the television no longer worked!  It's been the perfect answer for our TV detox.  The children asked a few times to watch something, and we're upset for a very short time when I explained that we couldn't, but then they just played.  Even better, they were more creative in their playing.  For example, Kieran just declared that they could listen to music instead. He has a book that plays a son, so he found that and then they sang.  Later they played with their new felt book, and they've also played with their trains.  I've enjoyed listening to them and am quite happy with no television.