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Friday, June 24, 2011

My love/hate relationship with Disney-Pixar

I love to watch Disney/Pixar movies. I hate to let my kids watch them.

When it comes to television, I am highly AR (that's short for anally retentive) about what my kids watch. Little things get me and I start to notice how much of what is considered "appropriate" viewing for young kids, especially the 3-5 year old set, is really not that appropriate.

(Really, when you go back through the extensive catalog of Disney material, you'll find that this idea is nothing new - which means they've been pushing the envelope for decades and families have been unknowingly eating it up ever since.)

This conversation came up on a friend's Facebook page, as she had read some reviews about Cars 2 and wasn't sure if she wanted to let her 5-year-old see it. I say, if you have reservations about something, listen to your gut: there is probably a reason why you feel that way. When it comes to raising children, it seems that many times we parents fall prey to peer pressure to let our children do things that we might otherwise question. And the court of public opinion these days says one thing but does another, when it comes to kids: We're all troubled with how "fast our kids are growing up." Then, in the same breath, our culture seems to condone padded bikinis for 8-year-olds, thinks Katy Perry's bizarre choice of wardrobe on Sesame Street is totally okay, and thinks high heels for 4 1/2 year olds is "cute." You can't have it both ways.

A few years ago we visited a friend's house and they put "Finding Nemo" on for our oldest, who was probably three then. I was in and out of the room (figuring that if it's a Disney cartoon, surely it must be safe, right?) and heard bits and pieces of the dialogue. The scary lantern fish that looks more like Jaws was a bit much, and the fart jokes were annoying. Did I want my preschooler repeating this stuff? Not exactly.

It's nice to know there are some people out there who agree with me on this one. As one blogger put it,
This might be the most fundamental confusion about Pixar movies. These are not kids movies that parents can sit through. Pixar makes grown-up movies that parents don't feel guilty about letting their kids watch.
I think the reason so many adults like Pixar movies is because it magically transforms us back to childhood and a time of fun innocence, only through the eyes of adulthood, if that makes sense. For the kids, obviously, it's different because they don't know what we know. Although there are some who agree with me, they don't take much of a stance on it or, like everyone else, get defensive and think you're nuts.

Some of the humor, I've noticed, is more geared towards adults with the expectation that families will watch it together, so there must be "something for everyone." Maybe, but I'm sure we all know that many kids are just set in front of the TV while mom washes dishes, talks on the phone, does laundry, etc. We've probably all done it, some more than others, and I don't think there's really anything wrong with that, as long as it's not all the time. But I think too many people assume that because it's animated, it's "safe." Much of the humor of Pixar movies, I've noticed, is totally not kid-related but rather aimed towards adults, as if kids are too young to pick up on it and won't "get it." I don't believe that, either. At some point, you may just be forced to go there much sooner than you think because yes, your kid does "get it."

Kids are obviously smarter than we think, and pick up on even subtle nuances in behavior quite easily. And when they see it on television, in commercials, on the sidewalk when walking past a window display, or at the mall, it's everywhere, and it's in their faces all the time. It's quite tempting sometimes to just put a paper bag over my kids' heads when we go out in public.

One thing that especially annoys me are those who think I have some kind of problem because I don't let my kids watch shows like Spongebob, etc. As if to say, "What's your problem? Every kid watches that stuff." Those who agree with me seem to be in the silent minority, and it's difficult when you're on the fence about something. Someone expressed near amazement when I said my kids didn't like Toy Story 3, and I responded, "Something about flames and the baby doll getting punched in the stomach were a bit over the top."

Before I had seen the movie, I heard people talking about the ending. I thought to myself, What could be so bad about it? When I did see it, I definitely thought it was a bit too much, and characters like the cymbal-crashing monkey bothered me because of their diabolical facial expression and behavior. There is pressure from everyone to let your kids watch shows like that, just get over it, blah blah blah. Or you hear, "Well, compared to XYZ they see every day, this is nothing."

But what about that? Why is that okay and how have we come to this point? I heard that a lot during the big Katy Perry Sesame Street blow up. Parents who were offended and thought it was too much went head to head with those who saw nothing wrong with it and compared it to a Victoria's Secret display in the mall.

Some parents are neglectful and don't give a rat's butt what's on TV when their kids are there, or swear like a truck driver within ear shot of their children. That's their business. But then I think there are those who don't even realize the magnitude of a childhood that's exposed needlessly to things that are otherwise totally inappropriate. I reconnected on Facebook with a friend from childhood who grew up in a very modest, Christian home and am amazed (and not in a good way) at the stuff her two young sons do that she thinks is "cute." They talk like little men, about things they should know nothing about at their age. There is some profound loss of innocence there that while it's bound to happen eventually, seems like it's just happening way too soon.

We complain about all that stuff, but essentially we let it happen, little by little. To the point now where yeah, we think it's wrong or whatever, but we accept it as natural and move on, or look away and just throw up our hands in an "What can you do?" expression. I'm sorry, but I refuse to do that, and I'm going to be the pain in the butt mom who objects because it just doesn't seem right in my brain not to.

More reading:
Disturbing Disney movies - Mental Floss
Adult humor in Pixar movies - Pixar Wiki

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Deflating the "Save the boobies!" campaign

The other day my oldest sat next to a kid wearing a "Save the Boobies" bracelet for Breast Cancer Awareness. Aside from the fact that yeah, I kind of want to keep my beloved child as pure as possible for as long as I can LOL (I know, a daunting task) it struck me how sexualized the very nature of this campaign is.

Sure, it grabs attention. But attention to what?

I've passed those cars on the freeway with a cartooned version of two breasts on the back or whatever it is. All in the name of breast cancer awareness. But I think they have missed their mark, in a big way, and it is to the detriment of those who want to also promote breastfeeding awareness and how important it is (for several reasons!).

While there is already ongoing battle over the "proper" use of breasts in our society, this one seems to be a virtual tug of war between two advocacy groups, and one is definitely gaining more traction than the other - and trampling on the others' ideals at the same time.

Raising awareness about breast cancer is certainly important, but two things bother me: how most awareness sites mention nothing about how breastfeeding can lower risk among certain groups, and how sexualized some campaigns to raise awareness is.

It's perfectly okay to make off-the-cuff remarks about "boobies," but the minute you are seen nursing your child in public you are the target of public scrutiny. You can sit next to someone on an airplane wearing a tight t-shirt emblazoned with "Save the Boobies!" in huge letters and people might smirk, but won't take issue with it because "it's for a good cause, after all. I guess I can live with that." But if you're nursing a child on that plane, giving your little one the best milk nature can make, as well as reducing your chances of breast cancer all at the same time, you're virtually vilified and treated like an outcast.

As if that wasn't bad enough, now in some areas nursing a child past the age of two is considered a "crime." In a suburb of Atlanta, the city has passed an ordinance that makes publicly nursing a two-year-old fall under the umbrella of "public nudity." 
Forest Park's attorney said the law isn't about breastfeeding. He said it's about stopping the crime that surrounds other forms of public indecency.
Because I'm sure you know that so many women are so willing to get naked in public that they just grab up any old toddler they can and nurse them as a way of legitimizing showing their breasts off. Right? Sounds perfectly reasonable.

The ordinance, however, states that exceptions to the rule include:
children under the age of ten, legitimate live performances like plays, and breastfeeding any child under age two. 

Legitimate live performances, huh? I'm sure the debate over what's "legitimate" is questionable, and because of everyone's differing opinions on what's acceptable, they won't touch that one with a ten-foot pole.

With the eye-catching shock value of "save the boobies!" it only furthers the sexualized nature of breasts and completely illegitimizes what their primary focus should be: to feed a baby (or toddler).

Interestingly, another site (that I think is affiliated with the Save the Boobies crap but can't really tell) is telling you to "bare all for breast cancer." I will never know for sure, though, because guess what: my internet filter blocks it as "nudity."

When I went to the Save the Boobies FaceBook fan page, the first thing that came up were women in bikinis, a woman with very large, probably very fake, breasts giving herself an "exam" (which looked more like soft porn than anything else), and some close-ups of women with large chests. One person even commented,
"All of the boobies in this album are fake, saving boobies is about the real ones. How about some love for those?"
I agree. (Apparently two other people did, too.)

Apparently this is
someone's idea of
a breast exam.
From the Save the
Boobies FaceBook
fan page. 
Just based on the content of this page, I think their motives are anything but altruistic and appear self-serving, at best. Many of the photos posted on the page feature close-ups of cleavage and women in suggestive poses. And I'm sure if I commented on her page, I'd get lambasted by the tons of people who comment on the site that are only there to see one thing. And it's clear that FaceBook, and society in general, have no problem with seeing naked breasts plastered all over the place, but if you attach a baby to that breast, it's "public nudity."

Isn't this the very thing breastfeeding women and advocates are trying to avoid, and educate others about?!

A few months ago I was shopping at Jo-Ann Fabrics and noticed one of those Nurture Nest nursing pillows that you can cover yourself. At the bottom, in tiny print, was something like, "All proceeds benefit Breast Cancer research." I thought, "Are you kidding me?!"

When I did a search on the National Breast Cancer Foundation's website for "breastfeeding" I got this answer: "Your search did not return any results." So why is the maker of a breastfeeding pillow willing to send money to an organization that clearly wants to distance itself completely from breastfeeding? I'm not sure who manufactures it, but it seems clear that really they're only donating money because it's the cool, "in" thing to do.

According to some studies, women who have a family history of breast cancer can lower their risk substantially just by breastfeeding. How is it that popular breast cancer advocacy groups don't know this, or won't mention it?

In my opinion, I believe they dance around the topic because of one thing: they don't want to offend those women who either "can't," won't or have trouble breastfeeding. Women who work, have difficulty or whatever the reason constantly beat themselves up over it, and sometimes pro-nursing advocates tend to be a little harsh in their approach. That said, no one here seems to be telling women one thing they should know: that your risk can be greatly reduced.

Perhaps those women who feel scrutinized should grow thicker skin; I don't know. Perhaps they should be more educated from nurses, doctors and lactation consultants just how important it is, but that it doesn't make you a "bad mother" if you tried and it didn't work. While I can't understand those who just don't want to and never really made an effort, I can't help but wonder if our totally messed up view of nursing is largely contributing to their reasons for not wanting to, and I find that unacceptable. All I know is, people like the Susan G. Komen Foundation and others don't want to get involved in a mommy wars battle, doing us all a great disservice.

Approaching it in a loving but educated way is probably the best solution, but ignoring the benefits - or making them seem dirty and sensual - might send more at-risk women to the grave than they realize.

More reading:
It takes nerve to breastfeed in public. Time to get out the mummy-guns
Susan G. Komen for the Cure isn't curing anything - Just West of Crunchy, one of my favorite blogs
Best for Babes

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Kids Crafts: Pine cone bird feeder

For awhile now I've wanted to shift my focus somewhat - stop blathering on about my medical issues or birth for just a second and do something new. I originally wanted to do a series of posts on fun kids' projects, for a few reasons: namely, to get me off my butt and do something extra-specially fun with my daughter on her days off from school, and as a way to share ideas on my blog. Neither happened, sadly. LOL Series posts are great, but I am extremely ADD when it comes to sticking with a blog subject, it seems. But it did make me think - while we do spend fun time together, what else could I be doing with her and my other children?

I came across this idea a few weeks ago when I was looking for Sunday School crafts. I thought to myself, doing this stuff with the church kids rocks - why the heck aren't I doing it with my own?! While I have no idea now where I got it from, a simple Google search will probably come up with a lot.

So. Here we go.

If you have a pine tree, have one of the kids go out and collect the pine cones. While I haven't seen any in craft stores lately, (I haven't exactly looked, since we have plenty of pine trees) I'm sure they have great ones. (I do have some nice ones, but they're heavily cinnamon-scented, and I wasn't sure if the birds would dig that.) Also, some varieties produce bigger ones than others - my in-laws have some Chinese/Japanese pine something or other that produces awesome cones, but of course we forgot to collect them when we visited.

I don't know about yours, but mine got quite a sense of accomplishment during this part of the project.

Wrap a length of twine around the bottom of the pine cone and tie a double knot. Then make another slipknot to hang on to it by.

Next, take some peanut butter - I bought generic store brand - and really slather it on there. It's going to get messy, so maybe wear old clothes. It's been my experience that, at least with fabric like carpeting and sofas, peanut butter stains. Really lay it on pretty thick, and smoosh the peanut butter into the nooks and crannies.

Label warning: Peanut butter
contains peanuts, just so you know. 
Dip your pine cones into a Zip-loc container full of bird seed. When I was planning for this craft, I called up my fellow Sunday School teacher in a panic, because I didn't want to buy 800 pounds of expensive bird seed. Her solution: go to the grocery store and buy it in bulk. Duh. Much cheaper, and you only get what you need for the project. Unless you have a feeder and want that much, that is.

I mixed several kinds to get a nice variety - sort of like granola for birds. It was awesome.

After coating the pine cones with seeds, you are ready to hang it up or put it some place and watch the birds to see if they take notice. Of course, my husband asked, "How are they going to get to it?" when he saw how my daughter hung one up from an old post we have in our back yard.

I don't know - I'll let them figure that out.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Celebrity Baby Watch!

I don't know what it is about "celebrity baby bumps" lately that I find so incredibly annoying. Perhaps it follows on the heels of my earlier post awhile back about unnecessary inductions and our obsession with babies arriving "right on schedule," whatever that means. (You mean, our schedule, surely.)

No, I do NOT have a headache, and
no, I am not due "any day now." 
I've written a post about this before - how absolutely retarded the tabloids (and very frequently, the "real" media) sound when they're talking about pregnancy and childbirth issues. Natalie Portman, seen out and about (oh my God, someone call an ambulance! Get a stretcher, she's gonna blow!) in the 'last days of freedom,' as the Daily Mail put it, before her baby is due to arrive. Yeah, she looks like she's in an absolute panic that that kid hasn't popped out right now, there on the sidewalk as we speak, I'm sure. What the photo doesn't show are those invisible shackles growing around her ankles, because surely, facing the impending birth of your first child is likened to a prison sentence.

As far as I've heard, Natalie is due in June. When the photo (at left) was taken, it was still May - and that due date was probably weeks away. Although it's perhaps a trivial pet peeve of mine, it does underscore how completely dysfunctional our society is when it comes to understanding the process of pregnancy and birth.

(Reader comments were unavailable at this time. Probably because they were all totally stupid.)

"It looks like she could go into labor any second."
Yeah, or maybe two (or three or four) weeks from now. 
Another celebrity to meet the unfortunate gaze of the camera lens lately was Pink. Looking equally large as Natalie, she was also labeled as "due any day." (Note: when I originally wrote this post, like more than three weeks ago, it was "any day now," and apparently Pink has only just now checked herself in to deliver her child. Any month now, you mean?) "Incredibly Pregnant Pink Keeps on Shopping" is the headline of this dazzling photo, with the singer holding a bag from a Michaels craft store (hey, she has good taste!). (Doesn't it look like she's shopping with Britney Spears?)

Poor "incredibly pregnant Pink," whom the press are amazed can still walk around under her own volition even at this late stage in her "condition." You mean, women this pregnant actually go out? And socialize with people and eat real food and - gasp! - go shopping? I am making a mental note of when they start saying these celebrities are 'ready to pop' versus when they really deliver.

With my first, I had the audacity to eat at Red Lobster only hours before going into labor and having a cesarean (that made my anesthesiologist really happy, I'm sure). And with my second - I had just gone out the night before for Wendy's (the horror!) and sat eating it at a nasty old picnic table while reading Ina May's Guide to Childbirth just twelve hours before delivering my daughter.

And now, nearly a month later, Pink is just now delivering her child via cesarean because of breech presentation. On the eve of the impending surgery, one article read:
It is not usual for a breech baby to turn within the last three weeks of pregnancy, so it is assumed that Pink will be undergoing the surgical procedure to have their little one removed.
Removed? Excuse me?! Apparently Pink isn't pregnant, but rather is suffering from a seven-pound ingrown toenail. What a terrible way to describe the birth of your baby. And who says "it is not usual" for babies to turn within the last three weeks, anyway? I bet the author (a guy) leaned over his cubicle wall and consulted his office colleague, who probably gets all her information on pregnancy from bad shows on cable TV.

The media and tabloids are even obsessed with women who aren't pregnant but just look it. What a compliment. I can't remember who it was - Eva Longoria, maybe? who admitted she must have needed to lose some weight when everyone suggested she was pregnant (which she wasn't). How nice.

Their current obsession is Katie Holmes, who was spotted out shoe shopping and is apparently guilty of just "looking pregnant." She insisted that she isn't, and I suspect it's just her seriously ugly jeans that emphasize whatever belly she has while making her look square-shaped to boot. Either way, I'd take her stomach in a heartbeat.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

You're your own best advocate

With everything I've learned as a birth nerd, I've come to realize that no one advocates for my health better than I do. Or, at least that should be the case. In getting my thyroid issues diagnosed, I was preparing to face hurdles and roadblocks based on what I've heard and read from other patients: that doctors are often unprepared or unknowledgeable when it comes to diagnosing thyroid disorders, and this was my biggest fear. Knowing something was totally not normal here, I was afraid - especially of having to fight tooth and nail to figure out what was wrong with me.

I had my primary doctor order blood work and called back to get the results. The very nice secretary told me politely over the phone that all my levels looked fine, and the Pretend Doctor interpreted my results as "normal" and perhaps the result of a virus. I was skeptical, considering I hadn't been sick. I cringed when I heard that Pretend Doctor, a physician's assistant, had read my labwork and deemed me healthy and perhaps we should just monitor things and be on our merry way.

Now, normally I'm sure physicians' assistants are perfectly fine people. I do not have a problem with them, per se; just this one. On a professional level, I think she's a total moron.

About two years ago I saw her for a mysteriously swelled neck. My throat hurt, but not like a sore throat, turning my head was painful, and since I'm a side sleeper, it hurt just to rest my head on the pillow. I was scared and had no clue what was going on. She did a blood test for mono (which later came up negative), but in the meantime, prescribed me antibiotics. I was exclusively breastfeeding Tater Tot at the time, who was three months old.

Being the sleep-deprived mom that I was at the time, the brain wheels were turning about those antibiotics; I should have said something right then and there that taking them for mono, if that's what I had, was perhaps the stupidest idea ever. However, I think that rational thought process was perhaps eclipsed by the fact that she told me to stop breastfeeding temporarily because I might transmit whatever it was to the baby. I panicked inside, because my baby was still very small and I knew I wanted to nurse him as long as possible. While I was concerned that I could possibly be quite sick, the chances of me giving him whatever I had probably would have happened by now, since we were in immediate contact with each other basically 24 hours a day. My BS detector went into overdrive and in my head, I pronounced her an idiot.

After the test came back negative, no one followed up and nothing more was done. It eventually went away and I returned to my normal crazy mom self, whatever that is.

So when the very polite secretary told me that Pretend Doctor had read my results, I was like, "Oh nooooo...!" I kindly said to her, "Then what about the symptoms that I'm having?" I rattled off another endless set and she politely told me she'd call me back after speaking to the Real Doctor. I was nervous and not sure what to do, other than collapse into a sobbing heap once I hung up the phone.

In the meantime I had her fax me the results of the blood work because I wanted to see them for myself. I waited for them to call back, and when they did, Polite Secretary informed me that Real Doctor thought my levels were quite high. How we go from "your levels are fine and don't warrant treatment" to "You need to be treated" is a mystery to me, but all I know is I won't be setting foot within 30 feet of Pretend Doctor ever again.

I also requested last year's blood work so I could compare. I knew then that my antibodies were elevated but had no idea what that meant, or what was considered "normal." Further research told me that with the presence of a normal TSH and hormone levels, but elevated antibodies, I probably had Hashimoto's thyroiditis, which meant I could swing from low to high and back again. I also realized it would continue to slowly destroy my thyroid gland if I didn't do anything about it.

I was able to compare my levels (which are currently at 111, and normal is 35 and under) from last August - then they were around 88. While it's higher than it should be (and obviously continuing to climb), I've heard that some people's levels are in the thousands - signifying that clear destruction of the gland is probably well underway. Looking back to two years ago, I probably had a freaking goiter and Pretend Doctor totally missed it.

Real Doctor decided to order me Synthroid (at my request, knowing the track record of name brand versus generic) and I started on it about a week ago. Within the first three days of taking it, I had more energy all day than I have in as long as I can remember. I don't know if it's the meds alone or what, or perhaps I'm just on the upswing - but for now, I'll take what I can get.