Hohokam Shell Etching

overview-iiIndigenous Peoples’ Day approacheth–and that’s not the only reason I’ve been thinking about the native peoples of the United States recently. The Dakota pipeline controversy erupting through the midwest is a reminder that a long and bitter legacy of disrespect continues.

I chose this particular activity because it was from the Hohokam people–of whom I’ve never heard, not even once. Since the Hohokam lived in what is now central and southern Arizona from around 200 to 1400, let’s hope I would have studied them had I grown up in the Southwest. Note: I include a pathetically brief overview at the end of this activity.

Hohokam people gathered shells from the nearby Gulf of California, and were highly skilled shell artisans. In particular, they are known for etching shells, and are probably the first people to ever etch objects of any sort, despite Wikipedia’s apparent ignorance on the matter. Traditionally, they would cover a shell with a protective substance—sap or pitch from the trees—and use a tool to scratch off the design they wished to create: animals such as lizards and frogs, or geometric patterns, for example. These shells were then soaked in an acidic liquid (probably fermented cactus juice) to eat away the exposed areas. Finally, the pitch was scraped off. The shells might be painted as a finishing touch. You can read more here.

 

From Ancient Lost Treasures.

From Ancient Lost Treasures.

To recreate their craft, we will use supplies more readily available these days, and our process will actually work in the reverse. Instead of etching the design into the shell, our design will be in relief, while the rest of the shell is worn away by the acid.  Continue reading

Bullying: An ounce of prevention

posted by Beret

Just read Leslie Blanchard’s essay about her approach to the problem of bullying: making sure that her child sees outsiders as a human beings. I have pasted it here, but you can click here for the original link.

A note from Beret: In the comments section of the Ms. Blanchard’s article, I noticed that some folks interpreted the author’s intervention as “forcing a friendship.” By my reading, she was merely teaching her daughter the power of social capital, and insisting that she take the time to meet someone before deciding she didn’t like them. That seems reasonable and potentially life-changing for both sides of the bullying equation.

4th Grader Comes Home With Disturbing News—Then Mom Realizes Her “Worst Nightmare” Is Coming True

It wasn’t pretty, but I prevailed…

daughter

By Leslie Blanchard

I will never forget the day my daughter told me that Bethany, a girl in her 4th grade class, was annoying her.

“What is she doing to you?” I questioned, instinctively protective.

“She’s following me around on the playground and sitting by me at lunch!” she quipped, as if that would sum things right up and get me squarely on her side of the matter.

“You mean she’s trying to be friends with you?” I asked incredulously.

I realized immediately that I had a problem on my hands. I was raising my own worst nightmare. Smack dab in the middle of my brood of five kids, was a charismatic, sassy, leggy, blonde, dance-y, athletic girl oozing confidence … and apparently annoyance, directed toward another little girl that wasn’t lucky enough to be her. Inconveniently for my daughter, her own mother WAS Bethany in grade school. Freckled of face and frizzy of hair, I was an Army brat, always the new girl clamoring for a friend, drawn to the natural confidence of girls like my daughter. This conversation found me vacillating between heartache and fury, but one thing I knew for sure: Mama was about to put her money where her mouth had been all these years.

The battle of two very strong wills ensued at my home the next morning. It wasn’t pretty, but I prevailed. My daughter attended a private Catholic grade school, where on any given day, she and a handful of her cohorts ruled the roost. One quick phone call to Bethany’s mother that same evening confirmed my worst fears. My daughter and her posse were using everything short of a can of “Cling Free” to rid themselves of the annoying Bethany.

I’m sure there are parents out there who will say I overreacted. But, I firmly believe we’ve got to start to address our country’s bullying epidemic right at the heart; by re-defining bullying at its very core. To me, the rejection and complete lack of interest my daughter and her “clique” displayed toward Bethany was the beginning of a subtle type of bullying. It is true (confirmed to me by Bethany’s mom and teachers), that there was no overt unkindness or name-calling, etc., just rejection; a complete lack of interest in someone they wrongly concluded had nothing to offer them. After experiencing childhood myself and raising five of my own, I’ve been on every side of the bullying social dynamic, and I am convinced this is where it begins. A casual assessment and quick dismissal of an outsider.

We would serve our children well, in my opinion, if we had a frank conversation with them about Social Darwinism and what motivates human beings to accept and reject others. It happens at every age and stage of life, race, creed and religion. It has its roots in our own fears of rejection and lack of confidence. Everyone is jockeying for their own spot on the Social Food Chain. I feel like I have experienced demonstrable success with my children by tabling this dynamic right out in the open. Parents need to call it by name, speak it out loud, shine a bright light in its ugly face. We need to admit to our children that we too experience this, even as adults. Of course it’s tempting to ‘curry favor’ and ‘suck-up’ to the individual a rung of two above you on the Social Ladder, but every single human being deserves our attention and utmost respect. In spite of this, we have to constantly remind our children and ourselves that everyone can bring unexpected and unanticipated value to our lives. But we have to let them.

It’s simply not enough to instruct your children to “Be Nice!” You’ve got to be more specific than that. Kids think if they aren’t being outright unkind, they are being nice. We know better. Connect the ugly dots. Explain the Darwinistic social survival instinct that’s often motivating and guiding their impulses. I promise you, they can handle it. They already see it on some level anyway. They just need YOU to give it a voice and re-direction.

As for my girl, I instructed her that she was going to invest some time and energy getting to know Bethany. I assigned her to come home from school the next day and report three cool things she found out about Bethany, that she didn’t previously know. My strong-willed child dug in. She did not want to do that. I dug in deeper. I refused to drive her to school the next morning, until she agreed. It seemed that, at least until now, I had the car keys and the power. Her resistance gave us time to have the Social Darwinism conversation. I walked her through my “ATM Machine Analogy.” I explained to her that she had social bank to spare. She could easily make a withdrawal on behalf of this little girl, risking very little.

“Let’s invest!” I enthused and encouraged.

She got dressed reluctantly and I drove her to school. She had a good day—what was left of it. But, she was still buggy with me when I picked her up, telling me that her friends’ mothers “stay out of such matters” and let their daughters “choose their own friends!” (Such wise women.) And then she told me three cool things about Bethany that she didn’t previously know.

I checked back in with Bethany’s mother by phone two weeks later. It’s called follow through. (I don’t think enough of us are doing that. We “helicopter” over our kids’ wardrobes, nutrition, sleep schedules, hygiene, science fair projects and then pride ourselves on how “hands off” we are on social issues. If I had a dollar for every time I wanted to say, “Seriously? You micro-manage the literal crap out of every thing your child does from his gluten intake to his soccer cleats, but THIS you stay out of?” No wonder there’s zero accountability and a bullying culture!) Bethany’s mother assured me that she had been welcomed into the fold of friendship and was doing well.

Bethany’s family moved to another state a few years later. My daughter cried when they parted ways. They still keep in touch through all their social media channels. She was and is a really cool girl, with a lot to offer her peers. But the real value was to my daughter, obviously. She gained so much through that experience. She is now a 20-year-old college sophomore, with a widely diverse group of friends. She is kind, inclusive and open to all types of people. When she was malleable, impressionable and mine to guide:

—She learned her initial instinct about people isn’t always correctly motivated.

—She learned you can be friends with the least likely people; the best friendships aren’t people that are your “type!” In the world of friendship, contrast is a plus.

—She learned that there are times, within a given social framework, that you are in a position to make a withdrawal on behalf of someone else. Be generous, invest! It pays dividends.But, most importantly, she learned that, while I may not be overly-interested in what she gets on her Science Fair project, couldn’t care less if she’s Lactose Intolerant or whether her long blonde hair is snarled, she’s going to damn well treat people right.

Parents—your kids are going to eventually develop the good sense to wear a jacket and eat vegetables, invest your energy in how they interact within society. If we insist on being the hovering Helicopter Parent Generation, let’s at least hover over the right areas.

About the Author: Leslie Blanchard is a wife and mother of five, who tattles on her husband, her own mother and her children by chronicling the insane and mundane in all of their lives in a fairly public way. Collectively, her family more or less rues the day they purchased her an iPad. Now that she’s officially a blogger, Leslie lies in the tub, neglecting her considerable responsibilities and muses about marriage, motherhood, friendship and other matters of life outside the bubbles. Read more from Leslie on her blog A Ginger Snapped: Facing the Music of Marriage & Motherhood.

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On Barbies and Bodies and Beauty

Posted by Beret.

Puberty is a wild ride; I must have forgotten. Or maybe–despite the hideously awkward classroom discussions and cheesy pamphlets–I just experienced puberty as my own ridiculously crazy life, rather than as a period of adjustment and development that everyone experiences.

Most even survive.

As the parent of two tweens, I get to relive plenty of adolescent drama and excitement, and this time around, I’m hyper-conscious about what I do and say that might impact the way my girls are thinking about their own health, beauty, and developing bodies. I want them to know that they are growing and changing in just the right way; that human beings are beautiful, and that each and every one deserves respect and kindness no matter what they look like.

Well, almost everyone.

I want to set my girls firmly on a path away from self-doubt and—I’ll be honest here, though it’s terrifying to do so–as far from self-loathing, eating disorders, cutting, binge drinking, and drug use as possible. I thought I’d start my campaign by addressing the issue of healthy body image. But how to tackle it? And am I far too late?

A former colleague once said to me, “I always felt confident and beautiful. My mother did a great job of convincing me.” At the time, I just marveled, feeling a little jealous. These days I feel a little desperate. What did she say and do to make her daughter feel so good about herself? Because that’s what I want to be saying and doing.

Recently, Mattel launched a whole host of new Barbies, including a rainbow of colors and sizes: petite, tall, and curvy. That should help get the conversation started. Now everyone understands that beauty can take any shape or form. Right?

Image credit Mattel, via Vox.com.

Image credit Mattel, via Vox.com.

Yet when left alone with curvy Barbie, even very young girls typically take off her clothes and laugh. “Hello, I’m a fat person. Fat, fat, fat,” a six-year-old had Barbie say in the testing rooms (From Time Magazine, Jan 28, 2016). Though kids were more diplomatic when adults were present–“Barbie is chubby”–I found this revelation profoundly depressing. Doing more research did not make me feel any better. According to the National Eating Disorders Association website, 42% of first grade girls wish they were thinner. And in an article entitled, “Why Do Women Hate Their Bodies?” I learned that “35 percent of girls ages 6 to 12 have been on at least one diet, and 50 to 70 percent of normal-weight girls think they are overweight.” Dissatisfaction with one’s body starts early and leads nowhere good. If you diet frequently, for example, you’re much more likely to binge eat (12 times!) and eventually progress to a full-blown eating disorder, which has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness (NEDA).

Despite Sarah Koppelkam’s Huffington Post a while back, I don’t believe silence is the answer. In her words: “How to talk to your daughter about her body, step one: Don’t talk to your daughter about her body, except to teach her how it works. Don’t say anything if she’s lost weight. Don’t say anything if she’s gained weight. If you think your daughter’s body looks amazing, don’t say that.” I just don’t see how silence can work. It’s not like parents function in a vacuum. Every day, we’re swimming against a tide of an average of 3,000 advertising images–and all the messages hidden therein: what is beautiful, what is valued, what is not.

When I was an adolescent, Maybelline launched a campaign with the tagline: “Maybe she’s born with it; maybe it’s Maybelline.” Rough translation: either you’re born with it, or you buy it. Even back then I thought the tagline was laughable. But despite that fact, I still have a cupboard full of cosmetic crap because deep down, I internalized the message that making myself sexually desirable was a big part of my job. Girls dye, pluck, diet, and take laxatives. Seemingly reasonable women I know have used botox, broken their ankles trying to hurry in high heels, and gotten their eyes done. Why do we continually try to look “better”–a.k.a., align more closely with the propaganda?

The concept and development of self-image is a complex web of interconnected issues with roots that run deep and touch on topics of gender, power, race, and equality. I realize I am merely scratching the surface in this discussion…and I’m not ready to take on the world at the moment. I just want to help my two kids negotiate it and feel good about themselves.

Here are my immediate goals as a parent in the arena of body and self-image. I want my girls to be comfortable with who they are–size, shape, skin, clothing, intellect, abilities, choices. I want them to stand tall and enter the world ready to take aim.

Plus, it wouldn’t hurt if they showered now and then.

In the absence of any profound wisdom to share at the moment, I present a lovely set of interactions brought to you by a student at the Chicago High School for the Arts, who captured what happens when you tell people they are beautiful. It’s a start.

Got any suggestions? Feel free to join the conversation in the comments.

On a Mission to Appease the Candy Hound

Banana Soft Serve and Yogurt Pops

Growing up, I got dessert now and then, but candy was a rare commodity. All we had was a value pack of Trident in the kitchen cupboard, tucked between the mixing bowls and the vitamins. I had to hoard my Halloween stash and divvy it out slowly, making it last until Easter, which was the only other time of year that candy was prevalent.

Now I’ve got two kids of my own. For a while, both seemed equipped with the same level of restraint–despite the fact that I don’t mind having a little candy around the house–but once the oldest hit puberty, she went nuts. She’s become a maniacal candy hound, the likes of which I haven’t seen since The Great Cornholio. I don’t even know where she gets most of it. Now I find wrappers stuffed in the car door, on the bookshelf, in her pockets, bags, and between the cushions of the couch. “Why do you put the gummy bears in the cupboard where I can find them?” she asked one day, when I walked in and found her holding an empty bag.

It was time to find a way to satisfy her cravings for sweets without her sneaking around, binging on corn syrup and food dye.

Here’s what I have so far: two unbelievably easy, tasty, and reasonably healthy sweet snacks.

They’re too simple to call recipes.

First up:

Banana Soft Serve

What you need:

soft serve materials

Yep. That’s it. No kiwi? No problem. It’s also amazing without it.

What to do:

  1. Peel and slice the banana.

soft serve chop

2. Pop the sliced banana into the freezer for a few hours–or a few days, if you forget.

soft serve storage

3. When the bananas are frozen, cut the ends off the kiwi, and slice it in half the long way. Then, carefully scoop the fruit from the peel with a spoon.

soft serve peels

4. Throw the kiwi and frozen bananas into a food processor or some sort. Blend the fruit for what feels like EONS, until it is completely smooth, like soft serve. If your contraption has a hard time with the bananas, you can add a tablespoon or two of milk, juice, or water. With a Cuisinart, I didn’t need to do so, but the Magic Bullet had a tough time.

Please do NOT tell my kid that I borrowed her Magic Bullet without permission.

Please do NOT tell my kid that I borrowed her Magic Bullet without permission. I may never be forgiven.

5. Voilá. Sooooooo tasty. Even Miss Twelve likes it, despite the fact that she hates bananas. I swear. In fact, she likes it best without the kiwi.

soft serve!

Next up: Yogurt Pops

What you need:

popsicle materials

Yogurt and popsicle molds. I’m showing the Yo-Baby sized yogurt because a) it’s delicious, and b) one container fits well in each popsicle. But you might want to be more environmentally conscious and buy in bulk. We have tried blueberry, vanilla, mango, peach, and strawberry, and they are all delicious.

What to do:

  1. Pour the yogurt into the molds. Duh.

popsicle air bubbles

2.  This leaves all kinds of air pockets. The best way to get them out is to tap the molds gently on the counter until they go away. Do NOT tap vigorously. I made that mistake, so you don’t have to.

popsicle done

3. Put on the covers, and freeze for several hours.

4. Enjoy! Miss Ten and I love eating these for breakfast.

Got some suggestions to add to our repertoire? Feel free to leave them in the comments.

Book Review: Fish in a Tree

posted by Beret.

Reading level:  4-6 grade. The protagonist is in sixth grade, however, and she wouldn’t have been able to read it. In fact, that’s the point. This book is for anyone who has ever struggled in school or felt like they didn’t fit in.

One rainy day last July, I wandered into a bookshop and accidentally left with a stack of five new hardcovers. Just what I needed for my suitcase.

The clerk was lovely. She agreed enthusiastically with all of my opinions–which is terribly charming–and I bought Fish in a Tree based on her recommendation and its adorable cover. So much for judging books by their contents…although, I finished it last night, and that’s what I’m set to do now.

I loved it. Here’s why… Continue reading

Glowing Bubbles and the Great Black Light Smartphone Hack

_MG_3662

posted by Beret

A few weeks ago, I was on a plane watching an endless parade of Buzzfeed clips. My  hour of debauchery was made possible by Virgin Airlines, who gave my kids an entertainment IV, and gave me an adult beverage and my own remote. That doesn’t happen often at home.

In between raw eggs dancing on a speaker and men trying to walk in high heels, I learned about glow in the dark bubbles.

As some of you may have noticed, I like things that glow. Last fall’s obsession was glow-in-the-dark pumpkin bowling. Very festive.

But this time I was dubious. Glow in the dark bubbles sounded great, but the Buzzfeed hipsters made them using highlighters–which don’t glow in the dark. This wasn’t going to work without a black light. LobeStir to the rescue!     Continue reading

Misfit Lit: Counting by 7s

posted by Beret.

Age Range: Grades 5-8.

I’ve always had a soft spot for what I call “misfit lit.” Into this category I throw a few of the best books for young people I’ve read in the recent past: Loser, by Jerry Spinneli; Wonder, by R.J. Palacio; and A Mango-Shaped Space, by Wendy Mass. A major appeal of these books is that everyone feels like an alien at some point in their lives–often and particularly in middle school. Delving into the brain of an outsider and seeing how they experience and cope with difference can be both comforting and empowering. It could also encourage young people to look for what they might have in common with others, no matter how different they appear to be.

Counting by 7s is no exception. What is unique is that we spend a good deal of the book inside the head of Willow Chance–a girl with incredible intellectual gifts and a penchant for botany, medical texts, and the number seven. The author, Holly Goldberg Sloan, does not water down Willow’s vocabulary or personality in any way to make her character easier to swallow. In fact, it isn’t important for the reader to understand everything the main protagonist says or does throughout the novel in order to grasp her emotional turmoil and her desperate need to cope and connect. Continue reading

5th of July Fudgsicles

posted by Beret

On July 4th, it was ridiculously cold and foggy where I live. Too cold and foggy to see fireworks, or even to muster enthusiasm to watch the fog change colors. Instead, we went home and made hot chocolate.

July 5th dawned sunny and warm, and I found myself pouring the extra hot cocoa into a popsicle mold that had been sitting in the dish rack. Honestly, I just didn’t want to deal with the leftovers, because who wants hot cocoa on a warm day? A few hours in the freezer and voilà: I had accidentally made fudgsicles! Simple and tasty. In fact, waaaaay better than store-bought ones.

Here’s what you need: ten minutes and… Continue reading

Talking to Your Kids About Hate

posted by Gina

While today brought us a bright, shining, rainbow beacon of hope, we’ve been having a tough go of it. The world is proving a brutal place. How do we talk to our children about hatred? About violence? About racism? How do we answer their questions and how do we raise them to be a part of the solution?

I don’t know the answer. I wonder daily how to talk to my students. I’ve spent some time recently looking for advice and for resources, and thought I’d take this opportunity to share them with you.

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Ridiculously Simple Single-Sheet-of-Paper Books

opening

posted by Beret

Here’s a little book I loved to make with my students. We used them for quick book reports and biographies, for poems, and as tiny sketchbooks or journals. They were perfect for outdoor writing, for science class, and field trips. They’re small, portable, easy, and cheap.   Continue reading