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Thursday, January 29, 2015

White privilege starts with the kids

I'm currently writing a piece on a course being taught at a local university, and off the record, one of the professors relayed to me this story, which I will now relay to you, here. (It's okay, no names).

This week, a woman professor had her 300-student lecture hall stand up. She read statements from cards, and the students were instructed to take a step forward or back as the statements applied to them.

Examples would be:
"If you've ever had to explain your hair, take a step back."
"If you've never been afraid of a police officer, take a step forward."
"If you've ever had someone ask you where you're really from, take a step back."
"If you've ever had someone react positively to you because they knew your parents or a family member, step forward."

At the end of the exercise, the white men were at the front, the white women behind them, next the black men, and in the back, the black women. The professor did not relay to me where other minorities ended up in the line.

To me, this is the obvious conclusion, but to most of these 18 year olds, it was a surprise, regardless of their race. Many of the less advantage felt validated, one saying, "You know, you never think of these little things, they're just your life, but they add up over time until they become back-breaking."

At the end of the class, a young white man made his way to the front, to speak with the professor after class.

He had suggestions for the professor as to what was wrong with the exercise and how she could achieve better results.

I'll just let the meta of the situation sink in for a moment.


Ready to unpack?

Okay, so here is a young white man, who after this whole exercise on privilege, didn't like being told he was lucky. Out of everyone in there, he decides without a second's hesitation, to question the woman professor, assuming he knew better, because his whole life, he's assumed he's known better.

The professor calmly recounted her history teaching the course, and her credentials to do so (which is what women have to do all the time to be taken seriously), in order for her exercise to maybe kind of hold muster against the ingrained beliefs of this young man. It probably didn't matter a bit. He probably has no idea that he just questioned a woman in a position of power. He probably thinks (and maybe actually would have) he'd have questioned a white man professor. He's entitled to, after all. He has ideas and merit. He knows this. And people listen to him. He's used to that.

That is the privilege.

Anyway, his suggestion? He wanted the professor to have the students close their eyes as they went through the cards. It was his belief that the people of color in the room were taking cues from each other to move backward as a group to make the difference seem more extreme.

I'm serious. That is what he thought.

And that is the same exact thought we come up against on the internet and in real life each and every day as we deal with trying to educate people about their privilege. Only they're not 18 anymore, and they're not nearly as easy to teach or as willing to learn.

This is the problem. And it starts with the kids.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

5 Ways to Get Your Kids to Eat Healthier -- S post

If there is one thing that parents can agree on, it’s finding ways to get their kids to eat healthier isn’t easy. Starting healthy habits at a young age is becoming easier with better snack options on the market, but it’s still important to know that there will always be battles because sometimes kids just want chicken nuggets.

A healthy eating lifestyle can be a challenge, even for adults, but it can be done, and yes, even be enjoyable! Here are five ways to get your kids started on the road to healthier eating.

#1: Sneak in some veggies without sacrificing the taste.

How do we get our kids to eat vegetables without facing a fight every meal? Kids love smoothies. Between the vivid colors and fresh flavors, smoothies are a sweet treat that make kids feel like they’re getting dessert when really they’re getting pumped full of vitamins and other healthy nutrients. Green smoothies can have as many as 3 or 4 servings of fruits and vegetables and your kids will never know that their drink contained spinach, kale, or other kinds of leafy greens.

The secret is that if you put in enough fruit, the taste will be sweet. Peaches, pineapple, and mango are good fruits to combine with your greens. Their sweetness is enough that you won’t need to add extra sugar, although you could add a splash of apple juice if you’d like to help things blend better.

#2: Invite them into the kitchen to cook with you.

Making kids part of the process gives them the chance to see what’s going into their meals and makes them more interested in eating what they’ve made. At the store, let them help you choose what produce you’ll be eating for the week. Help them plan a couple of recipes with you. Buy them their own apron.

Cooking at home is an activity you can do together and it avoids the chance of eating processed food when you pick up food on-the go, which is full of fat, sodium, and sugar.

#3: Keep plenty of healthy (and tasty) snacks on hand.

First of all, make sure you read labels because products can trick you into thinking you’re eating something healthy when really it’s full of sugar and empty calories. Fresh fruit, pretzels, or pita chips and hummus are much healthier than potato chips, candy, or fruit chews. Keep cut up carrot sticks, apples, and grapes in individual portions in the fridge, so that when you or the kids need to grab a snack, they’re reaching for a healthy option. There are also subscription services like NatureBox that deliver healthy snacks every month.

#4: Set a good example.

Introducing your kids to healthier eating means there needs to be a healthier lifestyle in place for your whole family. After all, it doesn’t quite make sense for you to encourage your kids to drink water, if all you drink is Diet Coke. Think of inventive ways to turn their favorite recipes into healthier options. For example, if they love spaghetti, use whole wheat pasta and ground turkey for a healthy swap.

#5. Let them learn visually.

Make eating healthy fun by creating a food pyramid. For one meal a week, let your kids choose what foods they want from each food group. You can make your own chart or order one online at a website like to help educate your kids and let them see what foods are good for them and what they need to grow up strong and healthy.

Cooking for kids can definitely be a challenge, especially if you are faced with pickier eaters, but remember it takes trial and error. Learn what foods your kids like and introduce them to new foods and flavors slowly. Make your meals tasty. As with anything, the more consistently it’s done the better chance you have for long-term success. There will most likely be meltdowns and setbacks, but taking those first steps is always what’s the hardest.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Fail Kitchen -- S'more Cones

"I am disappointing, in all things."

You don't need a recipe for this one. Just throw shit in a cone and put it in the oven. Only, of course, I couldn't manage that.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Early Childhood Education -- S post

A well-educated population is essential for a country to be successful economically, socially and culturally. This can be best achieved through early-childhood education because when children start learning at an early age, they are statistically more inclined to continue to higher education. According to Cecilia Ibru, the Montessori Method is an example of one way to encourage children’s intellectual growth.

The Montessori Method

The Montessori Method, developed by Dr. Maria Montessori, is a child-centered educational approach that is based on scientific observations of the development of children from infancy to adulthood. Children are naturally eager to learn and absorb a huge amount of knowledge especially if they are in a supportive environment. The Montessori Method provides them with an environment that is specifically prepared and organized for learning. 

The main components of the Montessori Method program include:

• Multi-age groups of children that encourages peer learning
• Large blocks of learning time that is not interrupted
• A guided choice of activities
• The use of specially-designed Montessori learning materials properly arranged
• An attractive and comfortable environment

In early childhood, the Method provides activities designed to give the child direct experiences with the world around them to help develop their cognitive powers. Young children naturally learn through touching, smelling, hearing, seeing, movement and tasting. The Montessori Method makes use of these faculties for directed learning. As the child develops, he or she adds abstract thinking skills to the concrete experience and learn to apply this knowledge to the world in which they live. As they move to adulthood, their thoughts and emotional development help them understand universal concepts such as justice, equality and freedom. This is how the child’s intellectual growth is encouraged. 

The Teacher

Montessori Method teachers are trained to allow the child to pursue his or her own interests. They do not impose or force rote learning. The teacher is trained to help the child use the specially designed educational materials and observe the child’s sensitive periods. Concepts and lessons are matched to the periods when a child is most open to absorb and internalize. 

Benefits of the Montessori Method

The aim of this Method is to help children develop their potential and become competent, respectful and responsible citizens. They learn to love learning and understand that learning continues throughout life. Some of the main benefits are:

• Each child is valued as a unique person because children learn in different ways. This Method accommodates all learning styles, and the teacher guides the child in their individualized learning plan. 

• Children learn order, concentration, coordination and independence at an early age. The materials are designed for self-regulation, and children are encouraged to think for themselves throughout their childhood. 

• The multi-age classroom is a caring community. The older children enjoy helping the younger ones, and the young one look up to the older children. The teachers are role models of kindness and help with peaceful conflict resolution. 

• Within certain limits, the children enjoy freedom as they are able to choose their areas of learning. The teachers help the students seek answers to their own questions. 

• When the students mature, they learn how to self-correct and self-assess, so they have a realistic and critical eye on their own work. 

The Montessori Method helps children all over the world become better citizens and develop their intellectual curiosity for the betterment of society in general.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Adventures in a "safe" neighborhood

Earlier in the week, I sent my kids out to play in the neighborhood as I sometimes allow them to do. The roads are small here, good sidewalks, speed limit 20, everyone knows everyone. Basically it's as safe a place as we could get without my constant parental eye overseeing every possible action.

Usually, the kids come to me and tell me each and every time they are about to start a new activity or go to a new location. This can get annoying if they are in a bout of indecision and come running to me every two minutes with new plans that are hardly different from each other, but at the end of the day, the annoyance is worth it because I know where my kids are and I can go check on them whenever I need to.

Until, of course, earlier this week, when unbeknownst to me, the girls thought it would be a great idea to ditch their scooters on one side of a field, trek across to the other side, go through some bushes, and climb a fence into a farm area that was most definitely not part of the neighborhood.

Once there, apparently, they decided to explore a little; at least enough so that they became totally turned around. Half an hour later, I had two young girls burst into my house yelling MOMMY, MOMMY, at the top of their lungs.

They were so happy to see me, they said. They didn't even care if they got punished, they said. They were just glad to be home and safe, they said.

(I'm thinking it's one too many after-school live-action Disney shows that told them the appropriate way to react in this situation.)

They were scratched up from thorns when they couldn't find their easy-access route back to the field and decided to Rambo it under the fence through the thick shrubbery. Heck, one of them had her pants torn open, from a thorn or something. Thankfully there was no blood (which means no emergency room. Yay!)

Their delight at being back home and their willingness to be punished diminished quickly however, when they discovered that real life concern and redirection take longer than the end-credit roll of a sit-com. As they were doing dishes and cleaning the living room with me, their gratefulness to be back home ebbed away and they longed to go back outside and play. I allowed them the fenced-in backyard, which drew complaints, but they knew everything had to calm down before I'd let them out on their own again.

We went over the "tell me every single time you change places" spiel again, and they seemed to renew their loyalty to it.

So, today, for the first time since the incident, I let them out again, this time armed with walkie-talkies so that they could contact me at any moment. I thought it would be a safety precaution, in case they ended up turned around again, or, at the very least, the weight of the contraption on their waistline would remind them to stick to known areas lest they get themselves in trouble.

What it was instead?

A constant, every-30-second barrage. "Mom. MOM. Mom, can you hear me?"

"Mom, I love you."

"Mom, what time is it?"

"Mom, Dulce is teasing me."

"Mom, can we knock on our friend's door?"


"Mom. Hello? Mom?"


It's nice to be loved and needed, but I think next time we'll forego the walkie-talkies. If my kids know how to do anything, it's how to overdo it.


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