Sunday, November 21, 2010


Once you become a new parent there are two pretty weird things that happen simultaneously. The first is you start pushing your child-free friends to make a baby. It starts with a fun a and light-hearted little comment within some other conversation: "oh- you guys should totally have a baby! What are you waiting for?" or something. But then you find yourself bringing it up again. "Seriously. If you guys had a baby now, your baby would be friends with OUR baby! Are you thinking about it? At all?" And then it slides into conversations with your single girlfriends. "You could TOTALLY have a baby on your own! Then they could play with MY baby! ha ha!"
You don't know why it is you're doing this. You talk about it with your mate: "So and So should have a baby soon. Wouldn't that be great?"

Which brings us the second weird thing. When your friends have this baby- (or if they already have a baby, or they are friends you made because of your baby) -you start setting them up together. It wasn't about "they could be friends!!" Oh no. It's about they could be boyfriend/girlfriends. It happens so naturally that you almost don't catch how strange it really is.

So now I have to confess. Akiva has a girlfriend named Fia. And he also has a fiancee named Loe. They don't know about each other. Loe's mom even saw the picture of Akiva surfing with another girl and asked me about it. I told her the truth: he was young! He needed to see what was out there! He was a boy! And to be fair, Akiva and his girlfriend Fia really did have some bizarre moments as babies where we'd be pushing them side by side in strollers and they'd reach out and hold hands. They'd stare into each other's eyes and Akiva talked about Fia all the time. He still does. They're still together.

But why do we do this? Why are we creating these fictitious romantic lives for our infants? Is it some weird sort of way of complimenting your friend's baby?- that they are cute enough to want to set your own baby up with? I guess it's a cute way of saying you like their baby. But it's something more than that that I've yet to put my finger on exactly. Maybe it's a way of saying you like your friends? Often within these baby set-ups are some jokes about where the wedding will be and who's paying, so maybe it's some subconscious desire to create a family with your friends? And while I'm talking about it, although I have a funny little desire that Akiva turns out to be gay, (we can shop together!) it's a statement that we assume our children are straight. I haven't yet set Akiva up with a boyfriend, although maybe I should? I wonder what kind of harm I'm doing with Akiva hearing all this girlfriend stuff if he is gay? He did say to me yesterday that "Brady" (our 4 year old next door neighbor) "is cute".

I suppose for all of those cultures that practice arranged marriage, I have to give them a little credit- I suppose there really is something deep inside of us - even in the most liberal artsy fartsy households in America, that ultimately just wants to play old fashioned offspring matchmaker. Let's hope when Akiva starts bringing home girlfriends and/or boyfriends I can refrain from mentioning that he's already engaged.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Books to ban

I remember hearing about how, in the old days, groups of misguided people were known to "ban books". From print in certain countries, from school libraries. Making them very hard to acquire. Some very great books have notoriously and stupidly been banned. My opinion is that no book should ever be banned, and that censorship of ideas is very destructive.

I don't feel differently at all now, but there is a blog called "PhD in Parenting" that brought to my attention a very disturbing book that has, until today, been selling. They even defended selling it last week when this was brought into the media's attention. Apparently it's been all over the news, but I just found out about this today. The name of the book is "The Pedophile’s Guide to Love and Pleasure: A Child-Lover’s Code of Conduct."

As a mother of a young boy I am completely sickened that something like this exists, and even more upset that sold it, and even more upset that they defended selling it, saying:

"Amazon believes it is censorship not to sell certain books simply because we or others believe their message is objectionable. Amazon does not support or promote hatred or criminal acts, however, we do support the right of every individual to make their own purchasing decisions."

But the issue is not book censorship. is not our government. Their not selling a book doesn't mean it has been censored or banned. This is so completely not comparable to book banning. They are not required to sell all books, and there are many many books that they choose not to sell. Why did they choose, until today, TO sell this one? And the LA Times reports they are still selling another pedophilia guide.

I am not someone who thinks boycotts work, but this really makes me want to never ever buy anything from them.

My apologies for an upsetting post- things got serious on this blog recently!- but I learned about this earlier today and haven't been able shake it. I thought this holiday season as we all think about where we are spending our money on gifts that this might be valuable information for some people.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

will Akiva ever want a dollhouse?

Because if so, check this out:

Too Santa Monica beach-side PCH? Then how about this?

...and how about this for a kitchen!:

...or will children still prefer the classic Victorian? Who knows, but I thought these were adorable. I stumbled across these from a company called "brinca dada" here, (researching prefab contemporary playhouses- I was looking for full-sized since this one isn't gonna work) and since I have a boy not a girl, I felt I had to share them. I don't mean to be sexist, but the dolls and little bed the dolls sleep in that I bought for Akiva have never been touched except for him throwing all the dolls out and jumping in the little bed himself and doing something that looks like a bucking bronco.

What do you think?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

RIE in the news

Recently the NY Times magazine published this article about RIE. RIE, or Resources for Infant Educarers, (although unfortunately named), has given me so much as a new parent that I hate to see it written up as a celebrity trend or compared to a cult. The fact is that the founder of RIE, Magda Gerber, came to Los Angeles and set up teaching here, and so yes, many celebrities who live here have found RIE. And many people can understandably feel a little questioning about even the notion of a parenting philosophy- aren't we just supposed to know what to do- instinctively? Hmm, well, when you're raised in a less than perfect culture, you're bound to emulate some pretty weird stuff I think unless you put a lot of thought and consideration into what you're doing. In other words, sure I have positive and nurturing instincts but toddlers fighting over a toy? Help? Right?

So what is RIE? When I expressed interest in RIE to a TV director I was working with who had a daughter who had been through RIE, his reaction was to nod and smile and say "oh you're a hippy too."

RIE, as I remember reading in one of Gerber's books, has the motto "do less, enjoy more" - not "do less observe more" (although observation is a huge part of RIE) and that's really it. Enjoy more. For me, I can remember the first few RIE classes I went to with Akiva, and the beginning of the class was just simply observing another baby. And as my eyes wandered back to Akiva, it felt like it was some of the first moments where I really saw him. I wasn't hurrying through something, or catching my breath, or planning a feeding or a nap or looking for a burp cloth, or answering the phone or any number of things that filled my day as a frazzled new mom. I was given the opportunity to see him, and see that what he was up to- even as a very young baby-was some pretty serious and beautiful work of learning and experiencing and teaching himself in his own amazing little way. I didn't need to do anything. I needed to stay out of his way! He was busy. That made such a huge impact on me.

RIE basically encourages parents to provide simple toys that invite active interaction (not battery powered plastic passive interaction toys), to treat your baby with respect the same way you would a grown up (tell your baby what you are going to do to him before you do it, don't pick up a child roughly when you can do it gently, don't pick them up at all when you can ask them to move, and wait for an appropriate moment to step in and interrupt play) and encourage your children to do as much for themselves as they are able which helps them develop self esteem and authentic behavior.

One of the things people seem to think is strange about RIE is that I don't force sharing on Akiva and I don't run to him when he's fallen and swoop him up and tell him he's OK. It is hard to be at a playground and do things differently than most of the moms around you. I feel terrible in front of other parents sometimes when Akiva has a toy and another child comes along and grabs it and a struggle ensues and I don't demand that Akiva give the toy over.

I feel there is an unfair expectation that our children must be little extensions of ourselves and what our behavior would be. I'd like to think that if the child's mom came along and said to me "Hi, I like your shovel, can I use it?" That I'd hand it over knowing that it feels good to share things and make friends. But Akiva is not me, and he doesn't feel this way yet. He could not possibly grasp those reasons for "sharing", and he can learn those things when he is developmentally ready.

At his age- he's not even 2-, little scuffles over toys often solve themselves, and through that, children learn to deal with each other and have self reliance in social situations. If the scuffle escalates, the RIE thing to do, I think, would be to just say what you see going on. If some physical altercation seems inevitable, I'd gently put a hand between the children as I talked to them. If someone is left crying, those feelings are valid feelings about the situation and I always let Akiva know I see that he's crying and I am right there if he decides he needs me to hold him for comfort.

Its similar if he falls. If Akiva has a tumble and cries and I walk towards him, I tell him I saw what happened and wait to see what he needs. I never tell him "you're okay" because how do I know? Even if he has no physical harm he might feel scared or embarrassed, and thats not being okay. Who am I to say he is or he isn't?

Also, it can be hard in front of other adults sometimes because I don't tell Akiva what to say. RIE philosophy believes that children learn through observing and imitating what they see. (For good and bad right?) I never tell Akiva to say bye bye or to hug or kiss anybody. I say bye in front of him, I kiss people I feel like kissing, and hug to say hello and goodbye. He sees me do this all the time. Sometimes he feels like kissing and hugging our friends and relatives and it's so amazingly wonderful to know that he feels like doing it! The first time I sneezed in the car and Akiva said "bless you" from his car seat in the back is one of my all time favorite moments of being a mama.

So yes, I can see other people might think what I'm doing looks weird and that can be tough. We are all doing what we think is best. So I hope the next time you hear or read about RIE or see someone like me and Akiva in the sandbox, that some of these ideas make sense to you, too.

Friday, November 5, 2010


I just received and email from an organization I came in contact with over a year ago after Akiva was born. I was invited to a store opening, and the author of the book "Healthy Child Healthy World" was also at the opening. There is a "Healthy Child Healthy World" organization and website, and their mission is to help educate parents about using non toxic products so kids can grow up healthier. I think it s a pretty fantastic resource. Anyways, the email happened to contain a link to a documentary called "Toxic Baby" and the trailer scared the bejeezus out of me. It reminded me how thankful I am that we have a made a a small amount of changes in our home. I thought I'd share what we've done. Even if you don't have kids, these changes will help your health, and if you might one day have kids, making changes now will make a big difference. I hope sharing this list is helpful. When I was pregnant, it took so long and so much research to figure all this out. Much of this is also on the Healthy Child Healthy World website.

1. Open your windows! There are so many toxic chemicals in the home, a little fresh air helps. Seriously.

2. Use natural or non toxic cleaners from health food stores. Some cleaners trick you. Read ingredients. Never use "antibacterial" hand soaps, there are chemicals in them to make the "antibacterial" that are far worse for you then the germs they kill.

3. Use sulfate free shampoos and conditioners on yourself and your baby.

4. Get rid of your vinyl shower curtains. The vinyl off-gasses some pretty bad chemicals, especially when combined with hot steamy water. You can install glass, or buy hemp or even polyester shower curtains.

5. Buy 100% wool rugs and keep your floors hardwood. Many flooring products are full of chemicals that continually off-gas. And small children spend lots of time of the floor.

6. Get an organic crib mattress, and use organic cotton and wool bedding and pajamas. The flame retardants in regular mattresses stay in your body for years and years.

7. Get a water filter for your shower, and bathe your baby in this filtered water. Unfortunately, our water supplies are full of chlorine and other crazy bad chemicals.

8. Buy a really good air filter for your child's room. Get the most expensive one you can afford. Especially in LA, with all the freeways, there are these tiny particles in the air and when we breathe them in they are so small they will lodge themselves in our lungs. Forever.

9. On the same note, use a HEPA filtered vacuum.

10. Get a good water filter for your drinking water and avoid bottled water. There are many misleading claims about bottled water, but at the very least, the plastic leaches into the water, so filtered tap water is much healthier.

11. Don't use weed killers on your lawn. Again, children roll around on grass and (should) spend lots of time playing on it. And if you have a gardener, ask them to use only organic products. They will. If not find a new gardener.

12. Try not to buy toys made of plastic or made in China when your child is still at the age when things go in their mouths. I personally think there have been way to many news articles about China using really toxic ingredients in children's toys to even risk it. We can't completely help it, but I have a rule with certain toys with Akiva now- if they go in his mouth, I take it away and give him something that can go in his mouth.

13. Eat organic, and avoid canned foods. (Cans still contain BPA) There are too many studies linking pesticides to developmental problems in children.

How about you? Any suggestions to add to this list?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


We aren't sure Akiva actually enjoyed being an airplane for Halloween. That's the thing about Halloween costumes for very small children. It's complete guesswork. We thought we knew what he'd like. I asked him what airline he wanted to be and he quickly replied "Air Kotrea" (Korean Air). He likes the yin yang on the tail. In fact, the most enjoyment he got out of my handmade costume was picking the yin yangs off. Oh well. Happy belated Halloween!