Tag Archives: Conscious Living

The Cat in the Garden – A Short Story

There once was a boy, who wasn’t really a boy. He was only 17 so he wasn’t a legal adult yet, but he was beyond boyhood. He never considered himself a teenager either. Being a teenager seemed to him to be a time of rebellious experimentation that he never got to experience. No, this boy, this man, had been living on his own since he was 15 years old.

His parents had died. Instead of going with the strangers from Social Services, he ran away. He didn’t run far, but they never found him. Maybe they never looked for him — there was no one around who would have checked in on the situation.

He’s been completely alone for over two years now. Two years may not seem like a long time to some people, but these years contained the growth of a new universe for this young man.

When he ran away, he didn’t go far. Just across town to the wooded area behind Public Works. He had grown up taking camping trips with his family and when he learned from Social Services that he wouldn’t be able to stay in his house, he figured the woods would be a good place to live.

He never stole anything, but he was still able to find everything he needed, even clothes. It was amazing what people just threw away. Especially people who lived in town homes. They had the most lucrative trash — he didn’t know why. Not only was he able to build a home for himself, he was able to provide his own food.

Picking old vegetables and fruits from the trash is dirty business, but he did what he needed to be done. The seeds stuck to the gooey flesh weren’t trash anyway. They had so much potential. He rinsed them off, gave them their own special plot in his wooded abode, and cared for them until he had a disorganized garden of tomatoes, berries, garlic, cucumbers, peppers, onions, and more, even corn.

He ate like a woodland king when the weather was warm enough. He ate like a city bum when the weather was cold, however. He frequented dumpsters much more often in the winter, especially those behind restaurants. He had no money and no way of earning any. But still he lived a life full of adventure.

One day in late spring, he came back to his home to see he had a visitor. As far as he knew, no person ever knew his plot existed, but this cat had come to find him.

“Hello there, furry little one,” the boy said, kneeling down.

The cat did not run away, but timidly approached and sniffed the boy’s outstretched hand. The cat then rubbed his head against the boy. It meowed and looked up, hopeful.

“If you’re hungry I’m sorry I don’t have much for you,” the boy said, opening the canvas bag of food he had just collected, mostly stale bread. “Definitely no cat food and no meat either.”

The cat stuck its head in the bag and pulled out a piece of bread that was soggy with some type of sauce. It then began chewing.

“Well, alright, if that suits you,” the boy said. He sat down and they ate their small meals together.

The cat stayed with him for almost a week. It stayed and napped for hours at a time. And sometimes it left for most of the day. The boy didn’t know where this domestic cat had come from, but he sure liked having it around. It had been such a long time since he had any sort of company, anyone to talk to. And the cat kept the squirrels and rabbits away from his crucial garden. On his “grocery runs” as he thought of them, he made sure to get something extra — fish or meat — for the cat, too.

On the sixth day, however, when the cat came back from one of its long outings, someone had followed it. The boy was napping in his hammock when he heard the rustle of footsteps approaching. They were too near before he could think of anything to do. He sat up, panicked and shocked, as a woman walked right into his secret garden.

“Oh!” The woman said, perhaps equally as shocked when she moved the branch from her vision and saw what, or rather who, was before her. “Oh! I didn’t expect to… Have you seen a big, grey cat? Oh, there you are!” She spotted the cat scratching its claws on a thick, rough tree.

“Come here, you.” She bent down and the cat immediately bounded over and leapt in her arms. “You’ve had us worried sick. Thank you so much for finding him,” she added, looking up at the boy. “He’s my daughter’s and she’s been so upset since he’s been missing. She’s on the spectrum and doesn’t have many friends…”

She trailed off as she took in the whole of her surroundings. The hammock, the old canvas tent stuffed with blankets, the fire pit, the handmade rain barrel propped up in a tree (so the boy could shower), the garden, the old pots and pans, everything that the boy had collected in the last two years. Her gaze lingered on an old blue speckled pot that looked very familiar.

“Do you… You don’t…” She kept looking between the things and the boy, searching his face for some kind of clue. “What is this place?”

The boy looked down and licked his lips. “It’s just a place I like to hang out. You know, to get away.”

“That’s a lot of food,” she said.

“Well your cat is good company, but can eat a whole lot,” the boy tried to joke.

The woman nodded, but didn’t look convinced. “This is Spaghetti,” she said, nodding to the cat. I’m glad he was able to keep you company.”

The boy only nodded.

“Look…” she started, looking nervous. “Thank you for looking out for him. Do you… Would you like to have dinner with us tonight? As a thank you. I’m sure Juliet, my daughter, would like to thank you, too. She’s 14. Maybe you two would get along. After all, Spaghetti seems to quite like you both.”

“I…” The boy started, but then the words got lost in his throat with a croak.

“No pressure,” the woman said. And she finally smiled.

The boy looked up and saw another entire universe in that one smile, one filled with love.

“Okay,” he managed. “I’ll come.”

“Do you have to ask your parents? I can talk to them if you want,” she said.

The boy looked down again. “No.”

The woman nodded to herself and left it at that. “You can follow me. It’s not a far walk,” she turned and gestured kindly, still holding Spaghetti firmly in her arms. “What’s your name?”

“My name’s Romeo,” the boy answered.

The woman almost stopped and asked “Really?”, but checked herself just in time. Instead she said, “I’m Emily. It’s nice to meet you Romeo.”

Romeo nodded again and tried out his own smile.

 

The End

Capsule Makeup Update

I wrote about my simple makeup collection before, but I wanted to do an update.

First, a picture! Here is a photo of my current makeup collection (minus the lipstick on the left):

Pictured:

  • Lipstick (from left to right)
    • Smashbox, Pout – I was unsure about this color after I bought it. I was stupid enough not to use the tester at the store (because I didn’t know how and was too stupid to ask) and so tried it out a few times at my house. It turns out I really don’t like it. I decided to let it go shortly after taking this photo.
    • Kate by Rimmel, 28 – A light, warm pink.
    • 100% Pure, Cactus Bloom – I love this color. I get so many compliments on it. Possibly because of its orange tone complimenting the orange-y-ness of my hair or something.
    • Kate by Rimmel, 104 – This is a good everyday color for me; it’s not too bold. It’s running low, though, which is why I got…
    • Lipstick Queen, Jean Queen – I wear a lot of denim and this color was formulated specifically to compliment jeans. So it seemed like a good choice for me. It is very similar to Kate’s 104, but perhaps a bit darker.
    • 100% Pure, Poppy – This is the bold “red” lipstick of my collection. It is fruit-dyed so it isn’t so synthetically fire-engine-y. Oh, this poppy pops, but it’s a natural kind of brightness. (And it has blue undertones which make my teeth look really white, as opposed to other reds I’ve tried that seemed to make my teeth look more yellow.)
  • Mascara
    • 100% Pure, Maracuja Dark Chocolate – Love it. Defo have to abide by the expiration dates for this eye makeup since it’s made with all natural ingredients; the shelf-life just isn’t as long as other mainstream formulas.
  • Eyebrow Powder Gel
    • 100% Pure, Taupe – I love this product. It fills in my brows in a very natural way. A very nice fit even for my red hair which doesn’t fall on the blond-to-brown-to-black spectrum.
  • Tools
    • atomizer – I use this for my current scent, which is now unavailable. I hope to make my own essential oil perfume in this one day.
    • 100% Pure, angled brush #8 – I use this to apply the eyebrow powder gel to my eyebrows. Fits the shape of my brows nicely.
    • compact mirror – with standard and magnified mirrors. I only use the standard mirror because magnified mirrors are bizarre.

You’ll notice there are a few more lipsticks in my collection since the last time I wrote. I am both happy and unhappy about this.

I’m happy about it because I like lipsticks. I find them to be beautiful and fun and a nice way to jazz up my simple wardrobe.

I am unhappy about it because even though I now have 5 shades (well, kinda 4 because the Jean Queen will be replacing the 104), I want more. Because I’ve given myself more options and I like it, I want even more options. It could be a slippery slope and I’m trying to stay on top of it. To help with that, I have “favorited” 4 more shades on the 100% Pure website, but I won’t buy them until I need to replace some.

One of the shades I have favorited is in anticipation of replacing Jean Queen (when it runs out of course) — I really like having that everyday shade and I also love the makeup brand 100% Pure — It is the only brand I want to buy.  (I really like how their products are transparently all natural, literally 100% pure.) Another shade I picked close to Kate’s 28, for future replacement. The other 2 I just think are pretty.

So the update on my capsule makeup collection is, in a nutshell, that it is still pretty small, even though I’m expanding on my lipsticks a bit. (I do generally tend to favor warmer lipstick shades in summer and cooler in winter, so my decision fatigue is still low day to day.) I still only do brows, lashes, and lips — or less — so my makeup routine is quick, yet still effective.

Beauty, I think, is best done simply.

When Are Clothes “Worn Out”?

I understand that I’m supposed to replace things when they get worn out. But when, exactly, is that? When it is no longer “like new”? When it breaks completely? When I’m no longer comfortable using it?

I’ve been thinking about this relating to clothes lately, since I replaced those shoes. They weren’t totally worn out, but I replaced them anyway because they stopped serving their function for me.

But let’s take a shirt, say, that has stains on it. It still functions as a shirt. It could still be soft and comfortable and a nice style and fit well and be loved. Should the shirt be replaced only if the stain bothers the wearer? Or because it has a certain societal connotations to wear stained clothes? Like, that person is dirty or that person can’t afford new clothes or what a slob that person is.

I guess even then it comes down to whether those connotations bother the wearer or not. Do they give a hoot about what other people think of them? Or are they confident to wear a stained shirt because they know they’re not dirty or broke or a slob? Just that, maybe, they were in the wrong place at the wrong time in a restaurant or something.

In some situations, it may not even be up to the wearer to decide to replace a stained shirt or not. A boss may say, “You can’t wear that here – you need to look presentable”, i.e. more put together, i.e. not like a dirty, poor, slob. Definitely different jobs have different standards. Someone working retail in a fancy purse store would be required to dress very differently than someone who works in the kitchen at a local restaurant.

It may not always be a job that tries to dictate what someone wears, either. It may be a small group of peers, the culture at large, or someone’s own internal beliefs about how they think others are pressuring them, even if no one really is.

Anyway, so what I’m trying to figure out, is when clothes are too worn out for me. I wouldn’t wear a stained shirt to work, but I’m fine wearing them at home. I know I’m not a slob, but I do feel a bit slobby when I wear them. But honestly, my infant could spit up on me at any moment, so why bother dressing nicely? Except, from my experience, dressing nicely can improve mood and self-confidence. Even if no one else sees me.

Okay, I’m going around and around here. Wearing slightly worn clothes is still different from deciding when to get rid of items that are worn out. My sneakers: not totally worn out, but I got rid of them anyway. My sandals: really showing wear now. The bottom soles have been re-glued, the color is faded, the inner soles are worn down, the stitching is frayed, the straps are a bit stretched out. But they are still serving their function as sandals for me.

How can I tell the difference between when something is worn in and loved and comfortable and a staple, distinctive piece for me or when it is worn out and just looks bad? Oh jeez, I just realized that answer is probably different for everybody. So I have to make up my own rules. Or just go with my gut for when it’s time to let go of each item? Whew! So much pressure. Life is so hard!

Just kidding.

Deciding when clothes are too worn is an individual decision based on personal comfort levels, job requirements, style expression, and also budget. For me, it is also a balance between getting the most use out of a purchase (the most bang for my buck, as they say) while also not feeling like I’m wearing dirty rags.

I suppose like many things in life, this decision is a complicated mix of rational thought and gut feeling. Making decisions that way can be scary because what if… x 1,000, but the more I make decisions this way, the better I get at it. So, you know, leveling up at life in general.

Anyway. I guess that’s all I’ve got to ramble on about this subject for now. Stay tuned for a detailed list of my complete capsule wardrobe! (I’m scared it’s going to be even bigger than I think it is…)

When to Be Serious and Silly

I gave birth to my baby 3 1/2 weeks early. There were some complications. He, nicknamed Dozer, was swept away from Andrew and me to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) within 30 minutes of being born. We had never experienced anything like this before and were inundated with emotions.

We were shocked – he had arrived and left so quickly. We were upset – we didn’t know very much, only that something was wrong. We were nervous – could it get worse? We were happy – he was alive! We were confused – what exactly was happening? We were relieved – they could take care of him and make him better. And I was in pain, but okay.

Our new baby’s condition was a serious thing, but we had each other.

Once we found out more, we knew that Dozer would be okay, it would just take some time – about a week in the NICU. We did not like this… well, we did because it meant that he was getting the care he needed by capable and caring doctors and nurses, but our instincts were telling us otherwise. It should only be a week… but at the same time, it’s a whole week!

We knew he needed to be incubated with tubes in his noses and throat and wires stuck all over and IVs in his veins, but our instincts were telling us to hold him skin-to-skin, smell him, feed him, hug and kiss him, love him, take him home. Our other two sons still haven’t meant their new baby brother. We want the family together. But we must be patient, stay calm, and do what we know is best.

Andrew and I are taking our baby’s health seriously. We listen to the hospital staff and follow rules. We participate in whatever care we can. We even go home without him to eat and shower and spend time with Wingnut and Pigpen because we need that self-care and our other children still need our time and attention. We do what we can, when we can, even if it never feels like enough.

And we joke while we do it.

We keep ourselves occupied instead of needlessly worrying – watching a movie, playing games, reading, talking. We make silly comments. We laugh when Dozer farts. We make fun of his squishy faces. We make fun of each other. We connect with each other and other people. They are there to help us. We are helping each other – supporting each other – being silly to keep each other sane.

Being serious and silly are equally important, and most times should be practiced simultaneously.

Do what needs to be done… with a light heart.
Accept things as they are… while doing whatever you can to make it better.
Be wise… by finding a way to laugh.
Trust… and brighten when possible.

Be serious… and silly.

Andrew and I are bummed we need to wait to bring our baby home and our family together. But we are so, so happy that he is here at all and getting stronger every day. We are able to get through this difficult and serious time with slight sillies – by lightening the situation up for each other so it’s never too heavy for either of us to bear.

Capsule Wardrobe – Maternity Edition

I am currently pregnant with my third child. I’m due in less than 3 months. The following list of clothing has gotten (/is getting) me through all 3 pregnancies. I was due at a different time of the year for each pregnancy (March, December, and July) and this group of clothing got me comfortably through all weather.

Maternity clothes can be hella expensive so it can be comforting to know we can get by with few pieces, supplemented with a few strategic non-maternity pieces. Note that these pieces worked for my casual job/lifestyle and the temperate New Jersey weather; always be mindful of your own lifestyle, location, and climate.

Without further ado, the list of my maternity wardrobe, keeping me warm and covered for 3 pregnancies and postpartum.

Maternity Pieces

  • 2 pairs jeans or trousers
  • 1 maxi-skirt
  • 1 knee-length skirt
  • 2 pairs shorts — I didn’t need/want shorts until my July due date pregnancy
  • 2 t-shirts — I only needed 2 at a time, but since t-shirts are generally made of thinner material for warmer weather, just 2 didn’t last for all 3 pregnancies and I needed to replace them when they wore out. So for 3 pregnancies, I’ve had a total of 4 t-shirts
  • 2 long-sleeve shirts
  • 2 long sweaters or short sweater dresses — I like them long enough to feel comfortable wearing with leggings, but short enough that they’ll still look good with jeans or trousers
  • 1 pair leggings — these can be maternity or not depending on your body, comfort level, and style of legging
  • 1 pair yoga pants — for sleeping, yoga, and lounging
  • winter coat — again, this depends on your due date. I needed one for my March and December due dates, but not this one. And I was actually able to wear a loose-ish flared non-maternity coat that I already had.
  • 2-3 nursing bras — during my first pregnancy, a saleswoman convinced me I would need 4. Now I know that I could easily get by with 2 or 3
  • 2 nursing sleep bras

Supplemental/Non-Maternity Pieces

  • 1 or 2 maxi-dresses — I found the type with a loose cross-over bodice to be quite convenient for breast-feeding, but racerbacks to be the most comfortable
  • 1 cardigan or light jacket — I didn’t need maternity because I just didn’t button them up
  • 2-3 loose shirts — long sleeve or short sleeve; for sleeping, yoga, and lounging
  • 2-3 more sweaters or t-shirts — I used these because I already had these looser items in my closet and they still fit during my pregnancy
  • wrap dress — will at least fit during most of a pregnancy
  • 10 pairs underwear — I find non-bikini briefs to be the most comfortable, but you be you

So that’s 25 pieces (not counting bras or underwear) to get you started for a capsule maternity wardrobe for any time of year. As always, quality pieces will last longer and thus through more pregnancies, but since pregnancy is such a short period of time, it’s pretty easy to make due with whatever quality you can find/afford.

Also, as with any capsule wardrobe, try to keep a simple color scheme in mind — such as 2-3 neutrals with 2-3 colors. You can also create a personal uniform with maternity pieces to make things super simple. Pick your favorite colors and fabrics and at least your clothing will be comfortable and pleasant, even if you don’t feel that way yourself. 🙂

Cooking

I don’t think cooking more in itself will simplify my life. Buying prepared food is easy and fast, but it’s expensive (and spending more money than I have complicates my life). It would be even more expensive to have a personal chef to prepare all of my meals for me, so that’s not happening any time soon. Therefore, knowing how to cook is a very useful skill.

Cooking simplifies food in the way that we know everything that went into our meals. Our diet is simplified. Cooking from scratch reduces the ingredients so we’re eating basic elements of life grown from the earth, not “edible food-like substances” concocted in labs or extra ingredients to lengthen shelf time. (Michael Pollan’s books and documentaries are great resources for getting back to the roots of our food and how humans eat.)

I did not learn how to cook growing up. I could prepare myself some food — like boil pasta, make myself an English muffin pizza, pour cereal, chop up a salad, etc. I could survive, but my repertoire was not very balanced or interesting. I didn’t know what a roux was, how to reduce a sauce, how to make pancakes from scratch, what causes food to rise or be sticky or caramelize, or what happens when you whip in some air. I’ve learned a lot and I continue to learn new things all the time. (I still don’t really know the difference between boiling and braising.)

I’m not taking a kitchen 101 class or a cooking course or anything. I’m just going in the kitchen and trying my hand at cooking different recipes. Sometimes they work — most of the time they work — but sometimes they flop. I learn from both outcomes. And I’m having a lot of fun doing it.

I put “cook new recipe” on my weekly to-do list for a month before I finally got around to doing it, but now I’m on a roll. I don’t even have to put it on my list anymore. Every Saturday morning before work, I drink my coffee and flip through a cookbook (usually The French Women Don’t Get Fat Cookbook) and pick out 2 or 3 recipes to try to that week. Then I go to the grocery store after my shift and get everything I need to cook those recipes. This has been the best form of meal planning for me so far.

Cooking is more than a hobby for me. I wouldn’t really call it a passion either. It’s a way of life, I guess? It’s a way to life? We cannot survive without eating and being able to provide for ourselves will make ourselves better — more independent and more sustainable. And, above all, I enjoy cooking. I think it’s fun and interesting and sexy and delicious.

Cooking, I believe, is love — that we give to ourselves and share with others.

9 Easy Ways to Watch Less TV

I don’t like everything about tv (as you can see here), but I think watching some is okay. In addition to making sure we watch “good” tv, we would probably benefit from watching a little less of it, too. So here are a few changes we can make to our lives or homes to make tv-watching a mindful event instead of a mindless habit.

  • No televisions in the bedrooms – here are 18 good reasons why.
  • No televisions in the kitchen – cooking shows are impossibly fast to follow along with IRL anyway. Plan the meal first, cook following written reminders if needed, and eat together if possible. Even if we need to eat alone, we can be more aware of tastes, flavors, and textures, thus enjoying the meal better than if we were distracted by a screen.
  • Better still, have only 1 television in the house – even if you have room for more televisions in your home, consider keeping only 1, and don’t make it the focal point of the room. Living rooms and family rooms are for living and family. Design a room around social interaction and it’s more likely that memorable social interaction will happen. And then, even when we’re watching tv, we will be doing it together, cooperating about what to watch, and sharing the experience.
  • Turn the television off when you’re done – just makes sense, doesn’t it?
  • No televisions in the car – long drives are great opportunities for conversations, listening to music, enjoying silence, or letting the mind (and imagination) wander. Traveling is an experience — enjoy the unique surroundings.
  • Go to restaurants that don’t have televisions hanging everywhere – I really don’t like televisions in restaurants. Nobody’s really watching them (there’s too much noise), but their flashiness can be huge distractions, even to someone who is trying to ignore them. Restaurants without televisions are getting harder and harder to find where I live (especially without paying $20+ per plate) and I think it’s a shame.
  • Don’t stream videos to distract children – children need to learn how to occupy themselves, be patient, be pleasant around others, and be present. The only way they will learn to do all that is by practicing. We need to let them have lots of opportunities to practice.
  • Limit the amount of time spent watching – the other options are more decide-and-be-done, whereas this one takes some self-discipline. If you have the willpower, create guidelines for yourself, such as: only 2 movies per week, only 2 hours tv per day, only 3 episodes per day, or whatever.
  • Cancel your cable or streaming subscription – You don’t have to cancel all of them of course, but if you have less to watch, you will watch less. Getting rid of cable also gets rid of commercials (win!). And having less subscriptions means you’ll save money.

Just imagine all of the other things we will be able to do now that we aren’t spending so much time watching tv.

Children and TV | Minimalist Kids

I limit the amount of tv that my children watch. With my firstborn, Wingnut, we waited until he was 2 years old before letting him watch any tv. With my second, Pigpen, it’s been harder. If Wingnut wants to watch some tv and it’s a good time, I don’t want to deny him just because Pigpen is around. If our tv was in a different location where I could keep them separated, that would help, but that’s just not the situation in our house right now.

At first I was worried about Pigpen being exposed to tv before he was 2. After all, that was the recommendation by the American Academy of Pediatrics (now you can see that it is 18 months). But in reality, Pigpen really didn’t end up watching that much. I would set up the tv for Wingnut with some “high-quality programming” and Pigpen would sometimes hang around and watch. But he usually only watched for about 10-15 minutes before wandering off to hang out with me or play somewhere else.

I understand the purpose to limit time spent watching tv. There needs to be time for family interaction, for quiet, to be alone, for creative play, music, reading, etc. But the more I think about it, the less I agree with forbidding it altogether.

As I’ve said before, I am not an expert on children and I am not an expert on television. But I do think that it’s hard to prove that tv is totally detrimental. There are studies that conclude that children under 2 years old should not watch tv because it may inhibit their learning and development. But by the nature of this activity, we could only compare children to other children. We could never compare how a child turned out after watching tv to how he would have turned out if he didn’t.

No two children grow, learn, and develop at the same rate. Add in the millions of external factors that could influence a child at any moment during their day to day life and extrapolating the effect that something like tv watching could have seems impossible. I’m not saying that these studies are completely invalid. I’m saying we should watch and monitor our own children and how tv effects them, be mindful, and decide how extreme to be with the regulations we place on them.

Some researchers have even found that watching tv can be good for toddlers. Even accepting that children may learn less from tv than from live interaction, it doesn’t mean that that learning isn’t worth it. The stories children hear and see from tv can enhance their lives, just as much as books I would say, depending on what is understood and how the rest of their life experiences grow and build on them. Hearing stories and seeing different parts of the world expands the mind, opening it up to more curiosity and acceptance of differences.

Perhaps that is where the idea of “high-quality programing” comes in. What is high-quality programing and who decides what does or doesn’t fit the bill? I have a few of my favorites (that I will list below) and I have a few that I really don’t like (here’s one example). This is a totally personal choice I have made, though, and the views you may have for your children may be different. As parents, we need to pay attention and be involved with our own children, deciding what tv — if any — is best for them just like we decide what is the best for them out of everything else.

Too much tv, like too much of anything, is not a good thing. But balanced well into a week full of diverse, stimulating, and restful activities, I think tv is okay for children.

Also, I must add here, that I benefit from the hour Wingnut is engaged watching tv. It gives me a much-needed break (2 year olds can be very attention-demanding) where I can rest and recharge or be productive, where I can concentrate completely on something for a whole hour. This is very important for my sanity — a stressed-out mama is not pleasant for anyone. When I am able to receive the self-care that I need, I am better equipped to provide the care my family needs, and that is better for everyone.

 

Some of my favorite “high-quality programming” on tv:

  • Puffin Rock -A young puffin and her ever-curious little brother explore an island off the coast of Ireland – Netflix
  • Mouk – Young Mouk and Chavpa discover the world on their bicycles, making friends along the way – Netflix
  • Kazoops – A imaginative young boy and his pet pig explore home life and encourage children to challenge the workings of the world – Netflix
  • Stella and Sam – Sister and brother have many adventures, mostly outside, because they know they have more fun when they’re together – Family Channel and Netflix
  • Wild Kratts – Follows the adventures of animated versions of brothers Chris and Martin Kratt as they encounter wild animals during stories of adventure and mystery – PBS Kids 
  • Sesame Street – Bridges many cultural and educational gaps with Muppets teaching children numbers, colors and the alphabet, set on a city street full of valuable learning opportunities PBS Kids
  • Peg + Cat -Inspires preschoolers’ natural curiosity about math and helps them develop new skills and strategies for solving problems creatively in their daily lives – PBS Kids
  • The Muppet Show – A medley of sweet and mischievous, a weekly variety show with songs, dances, and comedy featuring a range of famous guests – DVD

What Happens When Our Children Watch Certain TV Shows?

I’m not an expert on children and I’m not an expert on television. But I do have this nagging thought about a certain type of children’s tv show.

I’m talking about the tv shows, targeted at children, that encourage them to interact with the characters by answering questions or doing certain actions. The characters will abandon their setting and look out the tv at your child and ask them a question or tell them to do something.

“Will you help us figure out blah blah blah?”

“Do you see the letter X?”

“Pull the lever with me by moving your arm up and down like this!”

“Jump up and down and clap your hands to scare away the evil owl!”

I’m pretty sure these shows are designed like this to get your children “active” so they aren’t just sedentary sponges. Shows want you to think that they are getting your children’s minds engaged in the story, making them cognitively superior, and their bodies in the action, making them more fit.

But I see it completely different.

Television is not the best interactive device. It’s design is completely one-way, transmitting images and sounds, with no interface for receiving feedback from the audience. So when our children watch these shows, they are not engaged with the story or the character. They are mimicking, performing, and obeying an “other” just because they were told to.

This is just a theory, but I feel like these tv shows, geared toward children in their most formative years, are priming viewers to follow the commands of advertisers. Advertising already preys on our psychological weaknesses (see below). If advertisers start with a group of people who are already willing to do what they ask without questioning, it will be all the better for those advertisers.

Now, I’ve done no studies and have no proof of this. Maybe the creators of these tv shows really do just want to improve our children’s cognition and fitness. Maybe our children will grow up to be just as skeptical as any other person in any other generation, regardless of the tv they watch or don’t watch. Maybe watching these shows doesn’t have any effect on how we consume advertisements at all.

I’m just saying, that to me, it feels a bit… odd. Those tv shows make me feel uncomfortable and I don’t want my children following along. Adults aren’t expected to talk to a television so why should children? Why teach them to behave in a way that won’t serve them as they get older? That would actually make them appear crazy if they continued to do it?

The way I see it, tv is meant to be seen and processed. Interactions should be reciprocal — that is their very definition. After all, isn’t respectful interactive discourse how the best communication happens in the real world anyway?

 

Resources:

Sweet Talk: Where I Am Now?

There’s a bit of a [huge, glaring] discrepancy between my post this past Wednesday and the post of my September-October sugar journal. As in, Wednesday I admitted I was still struggling with sugar, but I claimed to have given it up for good at the end of October.

I honestly don’t even remember making that decision. That obviously wasn’t very mindful of me. Now I’m thinking that it wasn’t a conscious decision at all, but one born out of my frustration at the difficulty of introducing moderate sugar back into my life. It was kind of like, this is hard! I give up! Instead of re-evaluating where I should make some changes to make things work better for me.

I doubt it was the next day that I started eating sugar with abandon, but once I stopped tracking what I ate, I just didn’t pay as much attention. I paid attention, just not as much. Not enough.

It was a gradual slide from the end of October to now. I still don’t feel addicted anymore, which is very good. But I’ve given in to cravings and I’ve had bad days where I felt like crap because I didn’t realize how much sugar I was consuming throughout the day.

I must be honest with myself and admit that I am not an all-or-nothing type of person when it comes to food. Cigarettes? Definitely. I’ve never had one and never will because they are proven bad, bad, bad. Alcohol? I have some. It can be harmful, but it has some benefits, too. So I drink in moderation. But I’ve never struggled with either of them like I struggle with sugar.

I like my original Rules and am going to follow them again. I won’t track everything I eat, because as long as I’m avoiding sugar that’s NOT

  1. part of a whole food or
  2. honey, maple syrup, brown rice syrup, or
  3. the occasional exception
    1. ice cream, when there is walking involved
    2. homemade desserts (i.e. dinner parties)
    3. restaurant desserts (rare)
    4. anything I want on my birthday

I will be fine. Those 3 sweetness circumstances are hard to come by in my suburban New Jersey area, believe it or not, unless I’m cooking at home. It allows sweetness in my life (fruit, honey, syrups, birthday treat) without the likelihood of extreme excess (half a box of cookies, cake icing, jars of candy, etc).

It’s an ongoing experiment. I will not allow perfection to be the enemy of the good here. I will be mindful, while still enjoying small pleasures. I will try to be better. I will do my best.