Tuesday, September 30, 2008

(Unofficial) Baby Sign Language

Okay, so Simone isn't a verbal processor like Sadia, her partner in crime. However, she is constantly using hand signals to communicate. While sign language is not my preferred method of communication, Simone does manage to get her point across. Essentially, more parents should recognize the value of Sign Language as a corner stone for speech development. Of late, Simone has mastered a few go-to signs that I would like to emphasize.

Take the matter that occured just this afternoon during the commute home form preschool/ work for instance: Sadia kept moving her face across the invisible plane which separates Simone's car seat from Sadia's booster, bringing Sadia's face within inches of Simone's. Now clearly, this was a breach of Simone's personal space. At one point I think I even heard the cartoonish bonk sound of head's knocking together as Sadia violated Simone's no fly zone, resulting in a head-on collision (literally) with Simone's forehead. Obviously, this maneuver was a risky one, as Sadia had received no clearance to enter Simone's air space. You could see how a basic head nod from Simone, indicating her disapproval, simply would not have sufficed. No. A more sophisticated cue was in order.

Enter Unofficial Baby Sign Numero Uno, also known as the open-handed slap across the face:
    Hold up dominant hand with palm facing out as if to initiate a high-five. With some force, extend the palm in the direction of the purveyor's face. Trace an invisible path across the cheek in one motion, making contact with the cheek, and follow through. Finish by snapping the palm back to the high-five position.
Contrary to popular belief physical contact is not characteristic of all Baby Signs. Though forceful, other signs often require no physical contact whatsoever.

Consider the incident which occurred during this evening's meal as an example: After suckling the last drop of milk from her bottle, Simone sought an immediate way to tell me that she was finished. Apparently, her desperate slurping of air did not solicit the response that she was looking for. A more direct approach for communicating the completion of her meal was needed.

Enter Unofficial Baby Sign Numero dos, also known as the bottle-put:*
    Rest the bottle close to the neck using the throwing (or dominant) hand. Thrust the throwing arm straight from the neck, keeping it tight to the neck while throwing, and push the bottle off of the fingertips. This motion should result in the bottle landing in a desired position on the floor, which will inevitably require that Mommy bend over to pick said bottle up off of the ground.
So, remember when your toddler uses Sign Language, it provides her with an amazing tool to establish fundamental building blocks for early communication. Frustration and tantrums are lessened, because your toddler can immediately communicate her demands until she can communicate verbally.**

*The bottle-put is a decisive gesture involving "putting" an object (usually unwanted) as far out of Mommy's reach as possible. It is common to use the term "bottle-put" in reference to both the bottle itself and the throwing motion.

**One reported draw-back resulting from (Unofficial) Baby Sign Language is that some parents reported a boost in sibling tantrums, as well as an increase in doctor visits for back related problems.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Violent Dreams

I am deeply disturbed by a series of violent dreams that I've been having over the course of this past week. I'm not even sure what triggered them, and what they say about me, but I'm going out on a limb in blogging about my experience.

I'm not a violent person, and I would never consider acting out the violence in my dreams. It is completely out of character for me, which makes the dreams all the more upsetting.

In the dreams, my violent behavior is directed towards someone else. More specifically, I'm beating a man's head to a pulp. What's most disturbing about the whole ordeal, is the graphic nature of the violence in my dream. I can remember every gory detail, and yet there is neither blood, nor signs of a struggle. Mechanically, I pound in a man's face over and over again, until all that's left is mush.

I was scared even to mention these dreams to my husband, fearing some criticism or judgement. Not that he's insensitive; I guess I was just shifting my need to feel safe and guarded onto him. Blogging about it is a huge leap, because for the first time in a while I feel as though I'm letting my guard down a bit-which is scary.

I have this incredible sense that these dreams are symbolic, but I feel so ill equipped in trying to interpret their meanings. :(

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Maybe E-Harmony should upgrade their services to include a genetic screening.

After reading this article in "Science News", you might not consider this such a bad idea.

It comes as a relief to know that scientists have finally come up with an explanation for women who are tired of cheating men: That's right girlfriend, his two-timing, tendencies are genetic!

Apparently, there is a link between a hormone responsible for the bonding activity in prairie voles and a male's inability to commit to one partner. Scientists chose prairie voles for this study because these mouselike creatures are famous for maintaining long-lasting relationships.

Besides the intriguing comparison that scientist make between men and rodents, this study concludes that prairie vole bonding has much to do with a hormone called vasopressin present in the brains of males. Since scientists were able to manipulate these hormone levels in the voles, making them more or less faithful, then it would stand to reason that perhaps some men just can't help but be unfaithful in relationships given the possibility of limited copies of vasopressin and ill equipped receptors on nerve cells in their brains. Well, duh!

And here I was blaming men for their commitment problems, when clearly it's a matter of genetics. ***

I was so excited to share this discovery with my blog readers, as I am sure that the results of years of scientific study will resonate with many of you.

So it's not bad enough to have their lives and self esteem shattered by infidelity, now women have contributions from science to thank for the rationalization of some men's asinine aptitudes.

For more on this article Click Here.

***Of note, scientists also commented on the link between prairie voles and their inherently unfaithful first cousins, the prairie DOGS, shedding some light on the strange behavior of men after they cheat: they lick themselves, scratch behind their ears, and then spin around in a circle before falling asleep (wink).

Prairie Vole

Prairie Dog

Two-Timing Dog

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Take "This One" Back!

I absolutely love my three-year old. Especially the candid moments we share together. Since Teddy's been out of town on business, Sadia and I have had some real bonding time. The kinds of conversations that come out of these moments of intimacy are priceless. I'll share the heart-to-heart that she and I exchanged during this morning's commute to pre-school as an example:

As I glanced at Sadia in my rear-view, I noticed a peculiar silence. She wasn't her usual chatter box this morning. She wasn't singing along to the gospel CD blaring form the player. Her eyes weren't glossed over as though she were a few winks short of a good night's sleep. Something was on her mind, and I wanted to get to the bottom of what it was.

    Me: Sadia, whatcha thinking about?
    Sadia: Babies.
    Me: What about them?
    Sadia: This one hits me (thumbing with her left hand at Simone who is sitting in the car seat next to Sadia's booster). And that makes me mad (placing her thumbing-left-hand under her right arm pit to complete the "I'm mad" folded-arm gesture).
    Me: (trying to keep a straight face) Well, what do you think we should do about that?
    Sadia: Take this one back (referring to Simone)!
    Me: (confused) Back? Back where?
    Sadia: Take this one back to the hospital, and get another one. Get one that doesn't hit me (pouting).
    Me: That's one solution. Would that make you feel better?
    Sadia: YES (gesturing emphatically with her folded arms)!
    Me: How might Simone feel being left at the hospital all by herself?
    Sadia: Sad, (arms still folded) but we can bring her back when we're done with the other one (new baby).
Wouldn't it be nice if we could just swop out one disagreeable person for a more pleasant one (wink).

On a more redeeming note, I thought I'd share this video that Sadia and I made this summer. Enjoy!


video

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Revolution Summit

That's right! I'm calling my own Summit.

Okay, so maybe this revolution is not riveting as revolutions go, but essentially, I want to invoke a collaboration--pool our collective minds together in a think-tank for social reform (of sorts). I don't want to argue partisan politics or candidate platforms (leave these on cutting-room floor), I want to tap into your creative minds in an effort to brainstorm possible solutions to some of the ailments of our country.

It's time for a some new ideas in politics, and it's painfully obvious that these new ideas must come from unexpected sources--average citizens like you and me. Because isn't it always the case where those of us who are impacted by social policies, or work in professions with direct connections to the populous, formulate our own theories about platforms.

I've got a few novel thoughts, which may sound extremely naive, idyllic, or lofty, but humor me, because the real nuggets are mired in ideas; they must be panned and agitated in dialogue so that the heavy content rises to the surface :
    • What if politicians had to agree to freeze all of their assets (so that he neither earns nor loses money on investments) during his Presidential term? I know this sounds unAmerican, but just go with the logic for a second. The only money that they could earn would be their salaries. Would anyone even bother running for office? Would this help to eliminate the abuse of power where politicians make political decisions based on personal gain? Would politicians have to think twice about their motives for running for office, before throwing their hats in the political ring? Would candidates be challenged more by the needs of the people they govern and less by special interest groups?
    • What if we payed politicians based on merit? What if their raises were tied in to whether or not they could produce and sustain a balanced budget, and their percent of pay increase was directly linked to the percent of decrease in the nations unemployment rate? Would we still be operating on deficit based spending?
    • What if politicians asked campaign contributors to donate their funds towards buying health insurance for uninsured Americans?
    • What if common blogs like yours' and mines' sparked a new error in think-tanks?
    • What if the change that we're looking for in our nations politics began one blog at a time?

    Your ideas don't have to be comprehensive, just a bit off of the beaten path--something to stimulate thought. You might not have your thumb on the political pulse of our nation, and darn it, you don't have to. Politics belongs to you and me; we are the government.

    You've got opinions, and --dare I say-- you've flirted with some of your own streams of logic to sustain them! Lets flirt with ideas and feel our muscles flex collectively!
  • Thursday, September 18, 2008

    A Prayer from the Heart

    We've been trying to teach Sadia the discipline of prayer. We began this endeavor with your basics: blessing food, and before bed. Once Sadia understood these basic prayers (as measured by her initiation of these prayers before eating and going to bed), I thought I'd introduce a different kind of praying to her. Since praying over food and the bed time prayer tend to be more common and self- centered, I wanted her gained exposure to others-centered prayers as well.

    To illustrate my point, Sadia and I began reflecting on prayers that we'd heard over the week. I hoped she would notice that the subjects of the prayers were unrelated to the person doing the praying. For example: Pastor Carrington prayed for all of the people who were sick, though he was not sick himself; Ms. Pam prayed for the people who didn't have a place to sleep; and so on...

    At some point, I got this novel idea that Sadia understood the principle of praying for others, so I decided to put it to the test. One morning while listening to the news on the car radio during our morning commute to work and preschool, I listened to a journalist describe the destruction that was left behind in the wake of hurricane Ike. Wanting to capitalize on the teachable moment, I quickly turned down the radio and explained the catastrophe that hit Texas in words that my 3 year old could understand. Basically, I told her that there were people who didn't have a place to sleep, or food to eat, because of some really bad rain. I figured she would connect to the power outages, since she is sometimes afraid of the dark, so I told her that in some places the lights are not working. There was an immediate connection.

    Moments later I suggested that we should pray for these people. She nodded her head in agreement, and then I asked her to lead the prayer. I could tell that she had a genuine concern for the people because she was careful to mention all of the details that she had heard me describe, right down to the lights not working. She even prayed empathically when she mentioned how scared the people might be because the lights were out. I was extremely proud of her little prayer. Clearly, she had understood what I had been working so hard to instill in her: the importance of praying for others. But, perhaps my celebration was a bit premature, as it most certainly was short lived.

    Not long after her prayer, that's when it all went awry.

    "Mommy?" Sadia said while staring out the backseat window, her eyes glazed as she attempted to put her thoughts into words.

    "My prayer was long, huh?"

    "Well.., yes. I guess it was." I replied uncertain of the exact length of the prayer. "Why do you ask?"

    "Because," she said ecstatically, "the good prayers are the long ones!"

    Immediately, my discernment was taken down a few pegs. The reality is that Sadia understood one thing about those prayers I had dutifully pointed out: they were toooooooo loooong.

    While the people prayed, she stood listening to the prayer for what must have seemed to her an eternity. With her curious tiny toddler head tettering and her nosey 3 year old eyes closed, busy bee mischief mounted. She hadn't connected to the concept of praying for others, because she had keenly recognize what so many of us have separately observed about communal church prayers ourselves--they go on forever.

    Despite this shared observation, I eagerly sought to curtail her association between "long" and "good" prayers to a more honest tie-in, such as the connection between "good" prayers and prayers that come from the heart.

    "Ya-yia," I said endearingly. God doesn't care whether our prayers are long or short. What matter most is that you pray from your heart. Prayers from your heart are good because you are talking to God about whatever you're thinking about.***

    After my feeble explanation, I was unsure of whether Sadia understood. I was convinced that I would need to hear another prayer to set my mind at ease. However, I knew this next prayer would have to emerge naturally, and not out of a manufactured case. So, I kept my eyes peeled and my ear to the ground to seize the next teachable moment. Little did I know that this unique chance came just one day later.

    Around 8:15 the following evening, Sadia was asked to lead her fellow choir members in a word of corporate prayer. She anxiously accepted the invitation, and walked quite confidently up to the front of the room, took the microphone in her hand and asked the children to bow their heads and close their eyes. I wondered whether she would apply her new understanding.

    At that moment, the needs of various family members and friends--each having a prayer request that I shared with Sadia at one point or another--synced to my brain like an ipod to the iTunes library. I was sure that she would recall these conversations as she took advantage of an opportunity to pray from her heart. I couldn't have created a more candid climate if I had manufactured the moment myself.

    "Dear Lord, we thank you for today. We ask that you touch the people who are sick and the people who are in the hospital who are sick. It's going to be my birthday tomorrow on October 22nd, and we're going to have a lot of fun, and i hope that a lot of people come to my birthday, and we're going to have a lot of fun..."

    As you can imagine, the children--the whole lot of them-- came unglued, and despite their best efforts composure gave way to an irruption of giggles and guffaws. Sadia was immediately caught off guard by the sudden burst. However, the chorus of laughter was abruptly curtailed with an attempt to refocus their attention.

    "Be quiet! I'm praying!" Sadia said, and with the utmost seriousness. Then, as if she had never missed a bit, she continued her fervent prayer"

    "So, it's going to be my birthday, and in Jesus' Name, Amen."

    Here's the bean: There is a thin line between ritualistic prayers, and prayers form the heart. The painfully simple truth of it all is that one must earnestly search one's own heart.

    In my efforts to be "Christian" I sometimes manufacture the prayer that I think God wants to hear, rather than what really consumes my heart. When I empty my heart before God, then He can fill me up with His will, His views, His perspectives, those things which matter most to Him.

    Sadia's prayer was a undoubtedly a matter of the heart. She pulled from her heart what was most important to her, and at that moment, her birthday was all she could think about. It consumed her. Those who would, and those would not attend saturated her thoughts, such that all that spilled out during her prayer were her concerns about her birthday.

    I often look back on that night and wonder if in fact her prayer was "good", since it was basically a self-centered one? However, I take comfort in knowing that Sadia is loved by God in heaven. Her understanding of what it means to genuinely seek God is growing everyday, and of one thing I am certain: She will know how to go to God uninhibited by whatever is on her mind. Her's is a freedom that is all too rare.

    *** (The nickname Ya-yia is derived from Simone's failed attempts at pronouncing Sadia's name. Where the "S" and "d" morph into the "yuh" sound.)

    Thursday, September 11, 2008

    9 11

    I forgot. Wrapped in anticipation of the chaos awaiting me at work, I zoned out. The significance of the day escaped me. It was the seven year anniversary of 9 11. Yet, all I could think about was the outdated plumbing, which unleashed a surge of water that covered two thirds of my classroom carpet just days ago.

    Not long before I got to work, I snapped out of my self wallowing. I noticed a parade of American flags zooming past me on the freeway. So many questions popped into my head: “Is today a holiday? I’m pretty sure it isn’t July. Is there some special election going on?”

    Some guy even had a flag mounted on the back end of his Harley just above the tail pipe. Picture this image: the stars and stripes waving perilously in trails of pollution as he motored down the highway. How patriotic. Doubtless this was his intended objective. Yet, there it was in all of its glory, our nation’s flag choking on second-hand engine smoke.

    Then it hit me. The last time I witnessed the paradox of a flag hovering over debris, the act leading up to the image was deliberate. Video replaying the planes crashing into the sides of the Twin Towers littered every news station on every television screen in every home, office, and building in 2001. It hung over a quandary of mangled steel, dirt, rubble, and debris at Ground Zero.

    Maybe it's the 3,000 miles which separates me from the devastation, or the fact that I've never been to New York. I've never experienced its immense skyline. I don't have family or friends who live there. Whatever it is, I don't think that I completely understand the magnitude of September 11th, otherwise I would have focused my attention on the greater loss rather than my temporary discomfort.

    I’ve never had the misfortune of returning to the rubble in the aftermath of a terrorist attack, trying to salvage the pieces after hitting rock bottom. I don’t know what it means to survive something so monumentally grave. Yet, there I was sulking in the mild disappointment of a renovated classroom thinking that the bottom wasn't too far a leap for me. How self absorbed is that.

    Then, as though a lightbulb was switched on in my brain, I had a moment of clarity. I caught a glimpse of perspective. There I was feeling that my loss was so devastating, yet clearlymy temporary discomfort is nothing compared to the calamity that rocked New York.

    The water damage to my carpet will fade away in a couple of days, but their stains permeate a lifetime. The musty smell of mildew will disappear, but 9 11 dust remains like dark matter clouding memory's skyline. I need only to spend time in reflection on the gravity of it all. Eventually, I will pick up the pieces and move on, but their pain is immortalized; permanently etched on the hearts of millions.

    I think and feel differently about of 9 11 now. I'm not sure that I've completely grasped the depravity of it all, but of this I am sure... 9 11 isn't about dwelling on my dealings with faulty pipes; it's about a cooperative mourning over the destruction that robbed hundreds of thousands. My thinking has got to change. All things considered-- my oblivion is a building, and the desolation of 911 is a 747 rocking oblivion's foundation.

    Tuesday, September 09, 2008

    World's Largest Particle Smasher

    Scientists, in an effort to recreate the Big Bang on a smaller scale, have created a super-machine, which lies 300 ft below the Earth's surface, and spans 17 miles. More impressive is the fact that it was designed to split atoms (spellbinding). Driving this experiment is a quest to answer the question, "What happened at the creation of matter?" (Sound vaguely familiar to anyone?)

    Essentially, scientists have theorized that there are more dimensions to the world (ie, heaven), yet to be discovered. The gravitational pull within these dimensions is thought to be tightly wrapped, like layers on a paper-towel roll.***

    Tomorrow, scientists will attempt to smash an atom using this machine.

    Hmmmm, let's do a little risk analysis, shall we?

    On the up-side:
    They could potentially create a miniscule piece of matter so infinitesimally small that it would be able to travel through those tightly wrapped dimensions. The scope of which has implications in the realm of time travel.

    They could also "resolve one of the biggest mysteries in physics, such as the existence of one long-hypothesized particle called the Higgs boson—or the God particle—thought to be responsible for giving all other particles their mass." (you say "God particle", I say GOD-- potato, potahto.)

    On the down-side:
    They could create a black hole that, though remarkably small, would only have the potential to SUCK UP THE EARTH!

    What's that you say.., no word on a black-hole-sucking-reversal-thing-a-ma-bobber.., no worries. Proceed with experimentation as scheduled.

    I know that this scientific post is a stretch for me (what with my uncouth thinking capacity as a Christian), so in lieu of drawing some empirical conclusion about the "Smasher", I've decided to leave you with an equally "smashing" insight, reputed by Doc, from Back to the Future (1985): "...if my calculations are correct, when this baby hits eighty-eight miles per hour, we're gonna see some serious $#!t."

    For more on this, pa-lease Click Here

    In other news, Christians have already discovered the existence of God, and the origins of Creation. All of this without sucking the Earth up into an abyss of nothingness (wink).

    For more on this breaking news, Click Here

    I shared the angle for this post with my husband who has been a great sounding board for past posts. He scoffed about my position, feeling that it minimized over 20 years of scientific research. In light of this, I want to make one thing clear regarding this post, I am in no way trying to disregard the overarching contributions of science. However, the irony in this article is striking. Historically, science has made.., well, a science out of discrediting fundamentally Christian beliefs such as the existence of God and Creation. Yet woven within the fibers of this cutting edge technology, are terms borrowed form the vary belief system which science has tried to debunk. Just a little food for thought (with a twist).

    *** Sidebar
    Maybe science is more progressive than I had originally thought, and --much like "undiscovered dimensions"--this faith-based cynic is just wrapped too tight (sarcasm).

    Monday, September 08, 2008

    Yes, but what he neglected to tell you is....

    Since I've resumed teaching, I'm noticing a very copious trend occurring. Over the course of the last two weeks, I seem to be repeating myself quite a bit. From anything related to rules and procedures to lessons and processes, if you've heard me say it once, then you've probably heard me say it a thousand times. I'm beginning to sound like a broken record.

    Now, granted repetition and teaching sort of go hand in hand. I understand this quite well. However, I've managed to pin-point the phrase which has been growing in popularity of late: Yes, but what he neglected to tell you is...

    Enter parent-teacher correspondence number one.

    I was summoned to the office one day last week. A parent decided to make a trip to school to address his concern personally. When I arrived at the office, our clerk translated the parent's question to me and my response vise versa. At one point in the conversation, the parent drug his daughter's backpack above the countertop and slumped it onto the clerk's desk. It was loaded with textbooks (approximately 6). I could tell by the expression on his face that he was unhappy. After a few seconds of waiting, the office clerk gave me her rendition of his worry.

    What he said:
    "I'm troubled that my daughter is having to carry so many books home from school. Do you require students to bear so many books?"

    What I said:
    "Yes. But what she neglected to tell you is that I gave the class one and a half weeks to get all six textbooks covered."

    What I wanted to say:
    "Her newly acquired back pain may have occurred as a result of her procrastination in completing an assignment."

    Enter parent-teacher correspondence number two.

    I received a phone call one day after school. The parent on the other end of the line was not interested in making small talk or exchanging pleasantries. She was brief and cut straight to the point.

    What she said:
    "My son came home yesterday upset. He said that he was on the playground kicking a soccer ball, when one of the playground attendants approached him and issued him a detention. Did you authorize this?"

    What I said:
    "Yes. But what he neglected to tell you is that after kicking the soccer ball into the air, he hit said playground attendant square in the face, and then proceed to laugh and joke around with his friend about the horrible ordeal.

    What I wanted to say:
    "His distress may have been caused by his tendency to perpetrate mischief."

    Enter parent-teacher correspondence number three.

    After her son received a detention for failing to turn in his homework, one mother sent me a curious note.

    What she wrote:
    "Mrs. Sincire, my son seems to think that he is being unfairly treated. He is extremely bright and doesn't feel like you are challenging him. He says that he is bored. Did you give him a detention?"

    What I wrote:
    Yes. But what he neglected to tell you is that for the past eight days your son has failed to turn in his homework.

    What I wanted to write:
    "His boredom may be a result of his chronic LAZINESS."

    This list would literally go on, and on. I have neither the patience, nor the battery life to publish them all, but I think you get the point. As a parent and a teacher, I now have the unique privilege of seeing both sides of the issue. I'm sure I've taken stands for my daughter in instances where what I really should have done is sit down. I get the inclination to defend your offspring. But the next time you storm into the Principal's office, pick up the telephone, or wield a pen in defense of your precious angel, consider--just for one moment-- that it is quite possible that there is something--some pertinent detail-- that he has neglected to tell you. ;)

    Friday, September 05, 2008

    BTW

    Um, you failed to mention that the rest of my life would descend into utter chaos if I devoted an entire day to reading, commenting on, and publishing blogs.

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