Monday, September 23, 2013

That Toxic Phone!

One of of our biggest challenges as parents of teens, is controlling those darned mobile phones they have. Even before our older kids moved in with us, we had restrictions on their phones when they spent weekends, holidays, and summers with us. This might have been one of the reasons why their visits became shorter and less frequent as they began to navigate their teens. Time with us meant time away from their phones. The phones consumed them and screwed up their priorities. But now that they live with us full-time, they're facing a drastic change of habit here.

My husband and I are always amazed at how those kids' personalities slowly transform to a more natural and pleasant state of being within an hour of being away from their cell phones. They become more aware, more present, more grateful, more attentive, more respectful,  and the list goes on. They're just awesome kids,  really, but when they have their attention on their phones, they become "wild animals," as their dad would say. We believe that extreme phone usage (and online socialization!) really distort teens' perception of reality and they grow up numb and lose touch with their real emotions. Heck, mobile phones have the same negative effects on adult behaviors, but at least adults are done growing!

Louis C.K. says it perfectly in this clip (Thanks, Beeb) from last Friday's  Conan show. Must see.

Folks, we are facing just one more assault on young people's well-being by the reckless pushers of modern technology, bad medicine, and useless education. We've got to put an end to the madness. We've got to find a way to unplug our children from machines, and replug them to life--or they will completely miss out on life!

I find it so dangerous and frightening to see children as young as 10 walking around with cell phones. I find it equally scary to see babies playing with apps on their parent's devices. It's horrifying really. Most of us know that the science regarding the effects of cellphones on human health is inconclusive, at best--yet it skews to the negative.  We still have no proof that cell phones don't cause brain cancer in adults, yet we take even bigger risks with kids. Their delicate skull and brain tissues are still developing and more penetrable by wireless electronic signals.  Incidentally, we keep our kids and ourselves away from the TSA porn machines as well. We know for sure that harm comes from the constant human exposure to radiation, so we try to avoid or minimize our own.

Now that our teens have moved in, we've set the rules for cell phones tight, and they're NOT happy about this at all....yet. But the changes we are seeing are profound. They'll even admit it themselves. They are slowly, but surely, getting used to their new and abbreviated relationship with their phones.

The rules are fairly simple and reasonable.

For the teens:

1. No cell phones at school. They each got an Ipod for the "but I need my music" excuse.
2. Cell phone time is after school until 5pm, then after homework/dinner until bedtime.
3. Friday to Sunday, they have total access, unless there are special circumstances.

For the household:

1. No cell phones are charged or kept in the bedrooms at night.
2. When we all go out together, only one of us takes a phone. We rotate on this.

That's it.

Life is better this way.

As for our youngest son, the 4-year-old, my husband and I have vowed that he will only own a cell phone when he is able to pay for it himself. Even then, he'll have to follow those same simple rules.

Stay tuned...but unplug occasionally!

Friday, September 20, 2013

College Freakouts

What's a "college freakout?" It's a term I made up myself for teenagers who pack their bags and leave a loving and supportive home for the college experience, only to get there and freak out.  They drop out and return home before the first semester of their freshman year is over. I personally know at least two such kids, a male and a female. Both come from extremely loving, secure, and happy homes, and I can clearly see how in their heart of hearts, the trade-off for a hectic college life just wasn't worth the love they'd be missing. They both suffered homesickness, which in my observation, is natural and seems more common among the offspring of stay-at-home mothers. Somehow, these kids have a stronger-rooted tribal instinct to remain close to the core family and community, as humanity intended for thousands of years until the consequences of the Industrial Revolution dulled that gene out of our DNA. But that can't be the sole reason. The fact of the matter is, that the schools of today are failing to retain the new generation of students.

It's too early to tell what the girl will end up doing, but the young man who returned home set himself on a self-exploratory mission in the local college scene, and I believe he finally found his calling successfully in the healing arts, without having to do the "go away to college thing" at all.

I went away to college myself, leaving home in Greece and coming to the US in 1984 to study at a state university. It was a little different then, but the beginnings of the commercialization of higher education were already starting to show. At the age of seventeen, I was lost for a couple of years until I settled on a degree I never applied to a career. But I did get that college graduate "status" I needed. It wasn't until my twenties that I figured out that what I really wanted to do in life was to work with kids and to teach. So I went back to graduate school and got an MEd. Only then, did my education finally become meaningful, because it was completely self-driven. I honestly find the current college experience to be nothing more than a social extension of high school. The average college degree holder these days is a shallow knuckle-head.  I won't deny either that I have huge deficits in my own academic and general knowledge.  And frankly, I feel that most of what I have learned and all the truths that I've arrived at in life and work, I've gotten there in spite of my formal education.

College is gradually becoming an unpopular choice for young people. The college dropout rate is at crisis levels nationally. Today, one in three freshmen drop out of university in the first year. Of course, the Harvard Study which is monitoring these rates lists the main reasons for dropping out as the rigors of academic work, inability to cope with the demands of study, family,  jobs, and cost. What the reporters of the Harvard Study fail to mention, is the un-talked-about shift away from campus college enrollment towards distance learning because for those who are truly interested in educating themselves, the high cost of a fancy college campus is not justified by the return on investment in learning! It's just not worth it anymore. One writer, James Altucher, makes a great case about this in his article " The Ultimate College Challenge To Fool My Kids Into Not Going to School."  His alternative ideas for self-education range from interning, to starting a serious Youtube channel, to living in an ashram in India.

I've mentioned in a previous post (about Google overlooking college degrees to hire), that if I was a young person today, I'd completely skip the B.S. and MEd degrees and instead study and get certified in midwifery and/or yoga, and save a heck of a lot of money. I've also written about how so many of the world's richest people seem to be college dropouts. But if I really HAD to do the "go away for college" thing, I'd choose something more holistic for my education. An example came to me just today from my lovely college junior niece, who brought it to my attention. The Maharishi University is a "consciousness-based" education school, not just an information-based one. At this university, students are immersed in a certain way of living and take only one course per month, enabling them to deeply focus on each subject. Almost makes me wish I was 18 again and had these options.

In Ron Paul's just released book, The School Revolution,"  he also argues that with the birth of the internet, the playing field for getting a quality education and a more equal shot at life has been completely leveled. With all the new online options, one can get an equivalent of a Harvard degree and more, at a tiny fraction of the cost without leaving home. This is also true for all the online primary and high school curricula that are popping up all over the internet, which are empowering more parents to home-school their kids. One such program is the Ron Paul Curriculum, which is discussed in further detail in the book. This is a complete online home-school curriculum offered for free to students in grades k-5, and costs only $50 per course for students in grades 6-12. What a deal!!

Just yesterday I was delighted to find out that one of my favorite blogging authors never went to college either. In fact she said she even purposely flunked out her last two years of high school. The fact is, today she writes like a double PhD graduate and she can out-write 95% of all the western journalists and writers out there, even though English is not even her first language. RESPECT!

Stay tuned to...

Thursday, September 12, 2013

From Russia With Love, Vladimir.

If you're an American citizen, this letter is addressed to you. It's from Russia's president Vladmir Putin (joined in message by Pope Francis).- to you. Make what you want of if, but I hope you don't rely on the corrupt US media to tell you what it's all about. I suspect the mud-slinging will begin shortly, followed by a quick media burial of any discussion about this letter by the next sensationalized piece of "news" which will saturate our national newspapers and airwaves until...well, you know the pattern by now.

Stay tuned...

A Plea for Caution From Russia

MOSCOW — RECENT events surrounding Syria have prompted me to speak directly to the American people and their political leaders. It is important to do so at a time of insufficient communication between our societies.

Relations between us have passed through different stages. We stood against each other during the cold war. But we were also allies once, and defeated the Nazis together. The universal international organization — the United Nations — was then established to prevent such devastation from ever happening again.

The United Nations’ founders understood that decisions affecting war and peace should happen only by consensus, and with America’s consent the veto by Security Council permanent members was enshrined in the United Nations Charter. The profound wisdom of this has underpinned the stability of international relations for decades.

No one wants the United Nations to suffer the fate of the League of Nations, which collapsed because it lacked real leverage. This is possible if influential countries bypass the United Nations and take military action without Security Council authorization.

The potential strike by the United States against Syria, despite strong opposition from many countries and major political and religious leaders, including the pope, will result in more innocent victims and escalation, potentially spreading the conflict far beyond Syria’s borders. A strike would increase violence and unleash a new wave of terrorism. It could undermine multilateral efforts to resolve the Iranian nuclear problem and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and further destabilize the Middle East and North Africa. It could throw the entire system of international law and order out of balance.

Syria is not witnessing a battle for democracy, but an armed conflict between government and opposition in a multireligious country. There are few champions of democracy in Syria. But there are more than enough Qaeda fighters and extremists of all stripes battling the government. The United States State Department has designated Al Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, fighting with the opposition, as terrorist organizations. This internal conflict, fueled by foreign weapons supplied to the opposition, is one of the bloodiest in the world.

Mercenaries from Arab countries fighting there, and hundreds of militants from Western countries and even Russia, are an issue of our deep concern. Might they not return to our countries with experience acquired in Syria? After all, after fighting in Libya, extremists moved on to Mali. This threatens us all.

From the outset, Russia has advocated peaceful dialogue enabling Syrians to develop a compromise plan for their own future. We are not protecting the Syrian government, but international law. We need to use the United Nations Security Council and believe that preserving law and order in today’s complex and turbulent world is one of the few ways to keep international relations from sliding into chaos. The law is still the law, and we must follow it whether we like it or not. Under current international law, force is permitted only in self-defense or by the decision of the Security Council. Anything else is unacceptable under the United Nations Charter and would constitute an act of aggression.

No one doubts that poison gas was used in Syria. But there is every reason to believe it was used not by the Syrian Army, but by opposition forces, to provoke intervention by their powerful foreign patrons, who would be siding with the fundamentalists. Reports that militants are preparing another attack — this time against Israel — cannot be ignored.

It is alarming that military intervention in internal conflicts in foreign countries has become commonplace for the United States. Is it in America’s long-term interest? I doubt it. Millions around the world increasingly see America not as a model of democracy but as relying solely on brute force, cobbling coalitions together under the slogan “you’re either with us or against us.”

But force has proved ineffective and pointless. Afghanistan is reeling, and no one can say what will happen after international forces withdraw. Libya is divided into tribes and clans. In Iraq the civil war continues, with dozens killed each day. In the United States, many draw an analogy between Iraq and Syria, and ask why their government would want to repeat recent mistakes.

No matter how targeted the strikes or how sophisticated the weapons, civilian casualties are inevitable, including the elderly and children, whom the strikes are meant to protect.

The world reacts by asking: if you cannot count on international law, then you must find other ways to ensure your security. Thus a growing number of countries seek to acquire weapons of mass destruction. This is logical: if you have the bomb, no one will touch you. We are left with talk of the need to strengthen nonproliferation, when in reality this is being eroded.

We must stop using the language of force and return to the path of civilized diplomatic and political settlement.

A new opportunity to avoid military action has emerged in the past few days. The United States, Russia and all members of the international community must take advantage of the Syrian government’s willingness to place its chemical arsenal under international control for subsequent destruction. Judging by the statements of President Obama, the United States sees this as an alternative to military action.

I welcome the president’s interest in continuing the dialogue with Russia on Syria. We must work together to keep this hope alive, as we agreed to at the Group of 8 meeting in Lough Erne in Northern Ireland in June, and steer the discussion back toward negotiations.

If we can avoid force against Syria, this will improve the atmosphere in international affairs and strengthen mutual trust. It will be our shared success and open the door to cooperation on other critical issues.

My working and personal relationship with President Obama is marked by growing trust. I appreciate this. I carefully studied his address to the nation on Tuesday. And I would rather disagree with a case he made on American exceptionalism, stating that the United States’ policy is “what makes America different. It’s what makes us exceptional.” It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation. There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy. Their policies differ, too. We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.

Vladimir V. Putin is the president of Russia.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013


Before the teenagers joined us to live in our condo, the term "co-sleeping" had a single meaning to me. My husband and I practiced it by sharing our bed and room with our son from the time he was born until he turned two. A lot of people might  frown upon our choice, citing the common warnings we hear in the mainstream media about sharing beds with children. These allegations are completely over-blown, though, and it usually turns out that in the rare incidents where child suffocation takes place, the co-sleeping adult is either drunk or drugged, or both. When I was co-sleeping with my son, my maternal instincts completely took over the nights, and I developed a miraculously constant subtle awareness to the position of my son, even as I slept deeply. It would have been impossible for me or my husband to roll over him. Though bed-sharing is still a highly controversial topic, we have found in our personal experiences with co-sleeping and other aspects of Attachment Parenting Theory, that the benefits far outweigh the (highly unlikely) risk.

I was easily convinced to practice co-sleeping because it made so much sense to my maternal instincts after childbirth. All mammals co-sleep. Humans did it for thousands of years until TV and propaganda were born. Most humans in the "third world" still do it without much incidence.  Why not sleep next to your child if this facilitates nighttime breastfeeding, shortens response time to distress,  and gives parents better quality sleep? Co-sleeping certainly made my adjustment to motherhood easier.

The short and long-term effects of co-sleeping on child development are widely-known and well published, But, in addition to the obvious, I've personally observed other positive effects with my son. For example, without a single night's interruption, he's made the transitions from bed sharing (0-2 months) to room-sharing (3 months - 2 years), to sleeping alone in a separate room (2 - 4 years) and now again sharing a room with two noisy teenage siblings in a whole new bed. He adjusted so instantly,  you'd think he'd been sleeping in this arrangement all his life.

My 4-year-old has been an excellent night-sleeper since he was born. He is able to sleep peacefully in a comfortable bed and without fear, anywhere-- even in hotel rooms in foreign countries in the opposite time zone. He also prefers to sleep in TOTAL darkness which is a rare and healthy practice for good quality sleep  and proper melatonin production. On some days when both his parents are tired, he'll even go to bed on his own. I really believe that this strong sleep security comes from co-sleeping practices.  His transition from womb to world was a natural progression through the consistent and familiar factors of the breath, scent, sight, and sound of his mother. Everything else is a strange new world for helpless and vulnerable infants, therefore, keeping the mother/caregiver close plays a significant role in giving children a sense of trust and security in their world which will carry through into adulthood.

Our son goes to bed each night without a fuss. Since he's been potty trained, he's never had a bed-wetting accident. He never wakes up in the middle of the night to come to his parents' room, and he always wakes up in a happy mood. What more can I ask for?

I hear many mothers complain that their young kids are difficult sleepers, especially working mothers. This is no surprise in today's world, where employed mothers are forced to be physically away from their children for long stretches in those critical infant months of bonding. Separation anxiety is known to affect several developmental aspects in children, however,  I've come to believe that one thing that new working mothers can do in order to reverse some of these otherwise inevitable consequences, is to share the night with their children. I don't have any statistics on this and I doubt they exist, but common sense and experience tell me that something positive must come out of a child's hearing the mother's breath and heartbeat through the night after her absence all day.

I have a friend who will readily attest to this.  She was quite reluctant to go back to work after the birth of her son, but she insisted on co-sleeping with him until at least the age of 6. Her son is now 16. The bond between them is intact, natural, and undeniable.  As a working mother, she strongly believes that co-sleeping was one of the best things she has done for him, and for herself, in those difficult tender days when she had to be separated from him to go to work. Giving him her nighttime presence was how she made up for the lost time together during the day. It worked beautifully!

To all you working moms out there, I encourage you to get the facts and consider co-sleeping. It's not just good for baby, it's good for parents, too. Besides, is there anything more beautiful and peaceful than to sleep and awaken to the sight, scent, and breath of a sleeping child? Nope.

So now that the teens have moved in, the definition of co-sleeping has changed a little for me. It now translates to five persons sharing a two-bedroom apartment. But just like the old term, our current co-sleeping practices have also proven to have amazing benefits that far outweigh the inconvenience of limited space. With the exception of the rare wrinkle, everybody is adjusting beautifully here, and the teens have all but lost complete interest in moving into a bigger home...for now.

Any way you look at it, co-sleeping is a cozy and highly bonding experience.

Stay tuned..

Sunday, September 8, 2013

I Support The Troops.

The NSA probably doesn't care much to spy on people who talk about supporting the troops, so maybe they'll bypass this post.

Anyway, I mean it. I DO very much support the troops, but definitely not the psychotic blood-hungry types our military breeds with hatred, who rape, murder, and whimsically kill innocents from behind a drone-controlling computer screen, detached by oceans and thousands of miles from their innocent victims. There are also many military personnel who sincerely believe that they are "fighting for our freedom." I don't really support those troops, I just pity them and their families, because the fact is, we've never had less freedom and never had more taxes since Britain ruled us. And oh, there are more black men in America's prisons today than were enslaved in the 1850s. To those troops I just say, "thanks for the freedom."

The military men and women who I do support are veterans of war (like Ron Paul), who have seen the hell of it and know too well the costs and unbearable pains they bring. I support the troops who recognize unjust wars that are waged for the greedy, by the greedy, and against the will of  over-burdened citizenry which they pretend to defend.  I support the troops in the group Veterans for Peace, for example, and those like them. I support Chelsea Manning.  In Israel,  those who refuse to carry out human abuses against the Palestinian people, are jailed and punished. These conscientious objectors are called "Refuseniks," and I support those troops as well.

Today, as I witness the media absurdity that President Obama and the rest of the ruling elite need to "make the case to the American people" for a strike on Syria- again, completely ignoring our Constitution which says it should be exactly the other way around, stupid! As I see it, it is the role of the American people to make a case for war TO the president. This is the very reason why it is written that only through congressional representatives' approval can war be waged legally. The REPRESENTATIVES are theoretically supposed to REPRESENT. Therefore, the military is really intended to be the people's army, and war was never meant to be waged without the consent of the governed. 

Today, poll after poll shows that the American people are overwhelmingly opposed to a strike against Syria, and calling on our congresspersons doesn't seem to be helping. We have a deaf Senate and a "father" dictator who thinks he knows best. He knows better than God, even, and the good Pope Francis, who wrote to Russia's leader, Putin, personally urging him on behalf of the Catholics of the world, to help control America's rabid and destructive hunger for intervention and war!

I am utterly disgusted with what I hear coming out of the mouths of America's talking heads today, from Kerry to Pelosi, to Obama. Their round-the-clock performances of hypocrisy and lies - damn lies - are making me feel sick to the stomach.

The American people know better and are saying a loud and clear NO to a strike against Syria, but the higher ups don't seem to be listening.  So what can we do? What can one person do? This is the most frustrating question which makes constitutionally dis-empowered citizens like me, feel like a bunch of helpless spectators to a living nightmare.

Not in my name! I decided I'm going to start looking for and supporting American "refuseniks," soldiers of conscience who will refuse to fight an unconstitutional war. One organization I know a little about is "The Oath Keepers,"  a nonpartisan association of current and former military, reserves, National Guard, vets, police officers, and fire fighters, who take oath to support and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign or domestic. Maybe I'll donate some money there.  It's gotta feel more patriotic than paying taxes these days.

As far as I'm concerned, our government is at war with our Bill of Rights, folks. What is happening all over America is constitutionally illegal. From bank bailouts, to tax fraud and intimidation, to corrupt politics, politicians, and their blind foreign policies.

Heck, yeah! I support the troops-- especially those who take seriously the defense of our Constitution against domestic enemies who threaten our peace.

Stay tuned... to the Revolution.