July 27, 2008

Trip to the Wasatch Mountains

We've posted a bunch of pictures from our trip to Utah on our flickr page.

The mountains were green, the weather was clear and warm but not too warm, the lake was not really too cold (it is snowmelt remember), and it was so nice to get to spend time with both sets of Elliot's fine young grandparents -- we are fortunate to spring from such folks. He also checked in with Honorary Aunt Rusti and Course Marshal Uncle Ken, Sloan and Lucas (see them being as cute as humanly possible in this hammock), etc.

And of course, he loved meeting and discussing his "Aunty Pammmm-uh." Unfortunately, we didn't manage to take any pictures of them TOGETHER, but maybe someone else has that on their camera?

July 24, 2008

In Passing: "5 Dangerous Things You Should Let Your Kids Do"

So, this isn't the promised wealth of pictures, but it's interesting. It's a 10-minute TED talk about how our particular culture of "safety" can actually make life more dangerous for children, and also considerably less interesting.

This grabbed my attention immediately because I had just been talking about how my parents were very successful at doing something similar--that is, introducing me to "dangerous" things in a way that made me convinced that being "safe" with them was a cool and worthwhile, rather than boring and irritating (as safety rules often seem to be).

Some of my earliest memories are of going off the diving board with my Dad. I felt completely secure and excited and proud to be able to swim in the deep end, dive down to touch the drain twelve feet deep, do flips and handstands, and looked with complete scorn on kids who would run at the pool, which was a surefire way, I knew even then, to fall on wet concrete and whack your head, and thus was dangerous--unlike what I was doing, which was exploring something powerful--water--in a way that made me respect that powerful things become dangerous when they they are not treated safely.

I had similar experiences watching kids exhibit what I considered to be completely stupid behavior with fireworks--which I set off in great and terrific abundance every summer, always being careful to fulfill a whole series of safety precautions. For me, these precautions weren't about fear, they were about power, the power of fire, which I only was able to harness because I knew what it meant to be safe. Those kids running around with tiny firecrackers, set off wily-nily--I knew they felt cool, because they held them recklessly in their hands, too close and too long--but to me, they seemed powerless. They were stuck with boring fireworks completely out of their control, while I, who took the time to erect a safe platform, water bucket near by, and a safety plan desivised in (what felt like) collaboration with my folks, was allowed to use my long careful matches to send great blooming explosions high into the night sky.

I guess the point is that sometimes safety means removal--taking away a potentially dangerous thing. Certainly that's often true. But sometimes the safer route is actually exposure, and experimentation, and opportunity. Sometimes the safer route is, as the speaker cited says, playing with the fire rather than pretending there's no flame.

July 20, 2008

Well, we've been gone for oodles

And soon we'll post some pictures here of Elliot at the cabin, in the lake, in the hammock, on a boat, on his "bike," running up an down the hill, using his dump truck from Rusti sometimes as a dump truck, sometimes as a vacuum cleaner. Sometimes doing a finger-wagging dance to "The More We Get Together" and sometimes to "Don't Worry, Be Happy." Sometimes he announces "Mama's Hard Core!" though, I admit, usually only with proding. More often he announces, of his own accord, "Everybody's okay!" and he's right, everybody is, and then some.

July 10, 2008

Preservatives and Food Colorings

On the food beat, there was a significant study that came out last fall about a link between preservatives (& food colorings) and hyperactivity in kids. This was reported in the British medical journal Lancet, which also means something. As someone who at least moonlights as a professional scientist, I can tell you that there's a big difference between studies that show a clear cause and effect relationship -- which this one does -- and studies like this one on kids who go to day care. That's a study that doesn't show much of anything at all: no clear cause, only a small effect. Journalists, unfortunately, generally report all studies on the same level.

Sodium benzoate in particular was tested in the Lancet study, and found to cause clear hyperactivity effects. Eat chemical ==> get hyper. So today while Elliot was helping himself to gobs of hummus with a tiny fork, I checked the ingredient list, and sure enough, there was sodium benzoate. Not all the hummus at the supermarket has preservatives in it, but this kind did.

It's not that I stopped the boy in mid-bite, but I did make a mental note. There are lots of kinds of hummus on the shelf. Just get the one with none of the weird chemicals in it.

We got in the habit of looking at ingredient lists when Whit and Jen were around last year, and Jen was saying, "Why the hell are there so many ingredients in Cheerios?" And we were like, Dude, don't worry about it. It will be fine.

And it probably will be fine, either way. But they have a good point. There just don't have to be that many ingredients in any food product -- food is not that complicated. But the point is also not to become superstitious or frightened. I'm just going to buy different hummus from now on.

July 01, 2008

Making yogurt . . .

. . . is really easy. And fun. And cheap. (I've shared this via email Sheree, but why hide your light under a bushel?)
  1. Nearly-boil a bunch of good whole milk. Let it cool down (or put the pan in a sink with some ice water if you want to get on with it) until it's 105 degrees or so. (Using a thermometer is the only part of this that requires supervision.)
  2. Mix in maybe a half-cup of existing plain yogurt. Put the milky mixture in some various small tupperwares.
  3. Find a heating pad or electric blanket. Put it in the bottom of the oven. Turn it on the lowest setting. Put the tupperwares on a rack above this. Close the oven.
  4. Leave. Let it sit for 6 or 8 or 10 hours -- until it seems firm enough to you. Yogurt!


Any yogurt can be used as the starter (incl. Activia), as long as it's plain and unsweetened. If you need honey, jam, etc., put it in after the yogurt is made.