Two, apparently unrelated, stories shook my complacency this morning, particularly in their juxtaposition.

First (h/t MMG), this disturbing TED talk by Hanna Rosin:  New data on the rise of women.

Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, January 12, 2011 at 4:03 pm | Edit
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Perhaps the worker at Babies R Us had noticed me walking up and down the aisles, examining the toys, sighing, and putting them back.  Or perhaps she was just doing her job.  But when she asked, in a friendly manner, "Are you finding what you're looking for?" I hesitated, then replied, "No."

"What are you looking for?"

"A toy not made in China."

alt

(Today's Mallard Fillmore comic strip.)

She was certain she could help me, but as she checked toy after toy her astonishment grew.  She discovered one item—alas, for a much older child than our six-month-old grandson—made in North America, and I pointed out the one toy I had found that was made in Thailand.*  Other than those two, everything was from China.  Every.  Single.  Toy.  Clothes are made all over the world, judging from my label-reading experience:  Honduras, India, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Domincan Republic....  But not toys.

I was not surprised, having been through this drill before, but the helpful salesperson was astonished, and even called a supervisor for help.  Perhaps that's one reason China has a virtual monopoly on children's toys, and agri-business rules our food supply:  we don't know where things come from.  I left empty-handed; our grandson will have to make do with something more creative.

 


*Alas, my sources in Thailand tell me that as far as the safety of children's toys goes, this is no more reassuring than "Made in China." But at least it broke the monotony.

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, December 18, 2010 at 9:42 am | Edit
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Blackberry = Crackberry?  The iPhone is more addictive and targeting children!  Well, maybe that wasn't Apple's intention, but they did make their phone so easy even tiny kids can use it.  My brother tipped me to a New York Times article on parents who use their iPhones to pacify whining offspring, and the toddlers who consider the phone to be the best toy in the toybox.

Instead of writing about how impressed I am with the tiny kids' abilities (and I am), or how depressed I am about yet another video addiction in chidren's lives (ditto), I'll use the context to mention our own toddler/computer story.

One day Heather discovered two-year-old Faith sitting at the computer, typing away in their Open Office word processing program.  She assumed Jon had set it up for her, but that was not the case.

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No one knows how she did it.  This is no consumer-friendly iPhone, nor even Windows, but a Linux-based system only a geek could love.  Go, little geeklet!

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, December 11, 2010 at 6:13 am | Edit
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Don't you just love it when an otherwise obscure reference clicks in your mind?

First, one of my favorite non-family blogs, The Occasional CEO, has a post entitled Steampunk in Pictures.  Steampunk, Wikipedia tells me, is a subgenre of science fiction.  Wait—I cut my teeth on science fiction, and I'd never heard of it?  Turns out steampunk came of age during the 1980's and 90's, when our kids were cutting their teeth and I was too busy to keep up with that part of my former life. (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, December 5, 2010 at 3:12 pm | Edit
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In case you haven't seen it, check out the 12 Composers of Christmas.  (H/T musician friend Sarah D.)

Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, December 3, 2010 at 9:10 am | Edit
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You’re surprised I waited so long for this one, right?  I value home education so highly that my gratitude for that privilege almost goes without saying.  (But gratitude should never go without saying.)   Because my joyous thanksgiving for the legal protection that homeschoolers now enjoy cannot be overstated, I will understate it here.

Educational opportunities have expanded for everyone, not just homeschoolers, over the last 50 years. (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, November 21, 2010 at 6:07 am | Edit
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By now you’re tired of hearing me say this, but you won’t believe…

…the things one couldn’t do without a Y chromosome when I was growing up.

My own parents were great—and a bit ahead of their time—at encouraging me not to be fenced in by my sex.  I had backhoes and construction sets as well as dolls for toys.  I was encouraged to climb trees—and mountains.   But society at large was still severely restrictive.

In sixth grade I expressed the wish to be an astronaut, and was emphatically told by my (male) teacher that girls could never be astronauts, because all astronauts had to be test pilots, and test pilots were only men.  (Take that, Sally Ride!) (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, November 19, 2010 at 6:32 am | Edit
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Think “reproductive freedom” and what comes to mind?  Birth control?  Abortion-on-demand?  The freedom, in short, not to reproduce while indulging in the activity specifically designed for reproduction?

What I’m thankful for is the inverse.

My generation grew up in the days of Ehrlich’s The Population Bomb and fears that the world would outgrow its food supply by the mid-1980s.  It was seriously suggested that giving aid to distressed peoples was morally wrong, on the grounds that helping them now would only enable them to reproduce and then more people would starve to death later. (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, November 16, 2010 at 6:22 am | Edit
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There’s no doubt the sociological upheavals caused by the so-called Women’s Liberation Movement have done much harm, but one great thing to come out of that time is a greater closeness between fathers and their children. 

My father was always actively involved with his children—unusually so for that generation, I believe—even before my mother’s early death forced him to take on double parenting duty.  And yet in his journals of our early years he always refers to the times my mother was not at home as times when he was “babysitting the children.”  No one I know with young children in this century would even think such a thought, much less express it.  How can one “babysit” one’s own child? (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, November 13, 2010 at 6:18 am | Edit
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A couple of generations ago, overseas travel for pleasure was only for the rich.  Even business travel was uncommon, unless one was a missionary or in the military.  Today we visit our family in Switzerland more frequently, with less effort, and possibly even with less relative expense than my family travelled from New York to Florida to visit my grandparents when I was young.

Telephone service was once so expensive that long distance calls (remember long distance?) had to be kept brief—as in just a few minutes.  Overseas calls were out of the question most of the time.  Today our grandchildren have long conversations with us on the phone, and we can call Switzerland at six cents a minute.  Skype costs even less (less as in free); the quality may not be as good as I'd like, but it allows us to see each other.  The long-dreamed-of video phone is here! (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, November 10, 2010 at 6:37 am | Edit
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Nobody likes to be sick, and especially nobody likes children to be sick.  But if you are a child, today is a much better time than 50 years ago to face a mild illness.  I don’t mean because of all the new vaccines—I actually look back with some fondness on the days of chicken pox, measles, and German measles.  (I missed out on that other great disease of early childhood, mumps, despite repeated visits to my friend when she was afflicted.)  Nor do I mean the obvious improvements in the treatment of many diseases, and in emergency medicine, not that I’m not grateful for them.

What I’m thankful for is that we have outgrown the sick-children-must-stay-in-bed philosophy.  Bed is fine when you’re too miserable to do anything else, but in the 50’s and 60’s bed rest was still considered an important part of the cure, and often imposed long after the child would have been much better off up and about. (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, November 9, 2010 at 7:36 am | Edit
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I am thankful for the baby formula that is available today.

I know.  Me, the Notorious Despiser of Artificial Baby Feeding, thankful for infant formula.  But it’s true. (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, November 4, 2010 at 6:43 am | Edit
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I don’t remember exactly when I started feeling uncomfortable about Hallowe’en; I think it was when adults wrenched the holiday away from the children.

As a child I loved Hallowe'en.  Costumes were by and large homemade:  by parents for the youngest, then by parents and children working together, then by the children themselves.  Our elementary school had a costume parade for parents and neighbors, with judging and prizes.  Creativity was high.  I was by no means the most inventive, but some of the costumes I remember making were a cuckoo clock, a salt shaker (my friend from across the street was the pepper), a parking meter, and a knight—complete with a wooden sword my father and I made together, and which was a favorite plaything for many years thereafter.  The hours of creative activity and of parent and child working together were priceless. (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, October 31, 2010 at 8:12 pm | Edit
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I haven't time for a long post this morning, so here's the story I alluded to yesterday.

There is one upside to allowing several months to elapse between visits with the grandchildren:  the thrill of realizing how much they have grown in the interim.  During my recent visit, all three of the young Daleys surprised me.  This is Jonathan's story.  (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, October 5, 2010 at 9:14 am | Edit
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altFree-Range Kids:  Giving Our Children the Freedom We Had Without Going Nuts with Worry, by Lenore Skenazy (Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, 2009)
Paperback subtitle: 
How to Raise Safe, Self-Reliant Children (Without Going Nuts with Worry)

I've been following (and blogging about) Free-Range Kids for quite a while now, so it's about time I finally read the book.  First off, in case you don't bother to read the rest of this post:  Get a hold of a copy of this book and read it.  If you are tempted to dismiss the free-range movement as crazy, irresponsible parenting, this will reassure you.  If you're already sold on this idea, it will open your eyes to how we got to the point of needing it.

Being so familiar with the Free-Range Kids blog, and even having made some contributions myself, I thought I knew what to expect from the book.  Boy was I wrong. (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, October 4, 2010 at 6:23 am | Edit
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