Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A Family Field Trip to the Whole Children Whole Planet Expo - Part 3

Media's Influence on Children: Tools for Navigating a Commercial Culture

Ahhh yes!  This was the workshop I had been waiting for, longing for, dying for!  Ok maybe not dying for but it was definitely a topic that I was passionate about educating my family on.  When I had first glanced at the schedule of workshops the first time I viewed the Whole Children Whole Planet Expo website, I practically screamed with joy that this was going to be one of the topics at the expo!  And boy was I glad that I had signed my husband and myself up for it.  Actually several of the families also joined us in this workshop too so there was definitely a peaked interest within our village surrounding the topic of media's influence on our children.

I was already convinced when our son Andrik was born that I didn't want TV, video games, computers (basically anything electronic) to be the substitute for my actual presence in co-creating a healthy, happy and creative environment for our son.  And yes that meant not putting my son in front of a TV to "babysit" him while I do other things.  Yes, I know getting dinner ready is an important task that needs to be done but it truly can get done without involving electronics.  It is possible, trust me...when one of us isn't around to play with our son, we either have him in his play area (which is a gated area that my husband playfully likes to call the "Octagon") or we wear him in the baby carrier.  There have been many a day where we've carried him while doing dishes, preparing dinner or even vacuuming to name a few.

Before I go on a tangent and bore you with details of my daily chores at the homestead, let's continue onto the topic at hand, shall we?  Okay, where were we - ahh yes, the media's influence on children.  This well-informed workshop highlighted the following:

  • The benefits and risks associated with media's influence on children across the developmental spectrum 
  • How to navigate the challenges of parenting in a commercial culture 
  • How to make conscious choices for our children and family based on individual values rather than societal, cultural and peer pressure.
So what are the risks associated with media's influence on children across the developmental spectrum?  Not only does electronic media do harm to the physical effects with the developing child and the questionable content of much of the programming but it is also believed to seriously hamper the development of the child's imagination - which to some professionals, such as the Waldorf institute, believe that the imagination is central to the healthy development of the individual.  Waldorf teachers are not alone in this belief either.  Several books have been written in recent years expressing concern with the effect of television on young children.  For instance, Endangered Minds by Jane Healy, Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television by Jerry Mander and The Plug-In Drug by Marie Winn.

To back up this theory was one of the guest speakers, Mimi Devens.  As a Waldorf trained counselor and psychotherapist in private practice in Los Angeles, the issues Devens most commonly addresses are: overcoming anxiety and depression, developing compensatory strategies and improving cognitive functioning for those with attention issues, navigating life transitions and working in harmony with children's temperament.  

Mimi made a very valid point about children who watch shows with characters.  Most children when playing with certain dolls/toys tend to be stuck in the pre-programmed way that these dolls/toys are "supposed" to sound like and act vs. using their imagination and creating their own scenarios of how they prefer the doll/toy to sound like and act.  Have you ever heard a child when playing tell another child "No that's not how Elmo does it! Elmo does it this way!"  When Mimi pointed a similar analogy to us, it all made so much sense.  I mean I was already on board with protecting Andrik's precious brain from the media but this workshop just reiterated even further to stand strong with our decision.  

Even the infamous Albert Einstein knew the importance of the child's imagination.  When asked how to encourage intellectual development in our children, he responded with "Read them fairytales". 

Mimi went on to more or less say, that there is balance to everything and just like with everything else in life, if you feel yourself getting frustrated or overboard (especially with your parenting philosophies), to take a moment to re-center yourself and be more easeful about things.  She went on to say that the negative energy that you put into your home can be more toxic than what you're striving to achieve.  A good example of this as she described was when she had her first baby, she was so worried and stressed out about the bed mattress not being organic that it didn't dawn on her (until later) that what was really affecting the environment wasn't per se the toxins from her mattress, but the poisonous energy she herself was projecting outwards by her anxiety over the situation.  That right there resonated so clearly for me and I allowed that to really marinate in my brain and in my heart because sometimes I can be a stickler when it comes to certain things so I was really grateful to hear this.  Even with me writing this now helps me to relax and release any thoughts I'm holding onto.  

Another great message she relayed was "Don't Worry. Be Awake!" (singing to the melody of "Don't Worry.  Be Happy").  Hmmmmm that would be a great motto for everyone to sing!  If only more people were more conscious in the world.  Well that's where the Family Love Village comes in because as our motto says, we're all about connecting one conscious village at a time! 

There was another guest speaker, Alessandra "Lisa" Profumo M.A.  A mother of three and an Educational Psychologist with thirty years experience. She has taught in both Waldorf and mainstream institutions and has given workshops and lectures locally and nationally on a wide range of topics including children in crisis, how to nurture the bridge from home to school and curriculum studies for teachers.  Lisa has worked as a mentor, consultant, and advisor for both schools and families alike. She is currently a Teacher at Highland Hall, as well as at the Waldorf Institute of Southern California.  Unfortunately by that time it was already past 2pm and my family hadn't eaten lunch yet so we couldn't stay for Lisa's presentation. 

For further resources on media's influences on our children, I found the following resources very interesting and helpful:
  1. Quol Kids (a very thorough explanation of TV and child development)
  2. Shaping Youth
  3. Free Range Kids
  4. Mommy Festo (a thought-provoking post from a mother's point of view)
  5. Can I Have Your Attention Please (an interesting read on children and media multi-tasking)
While some of us were picnicking, a few of the other villagers attended another well-informed workshop on "Vaccines - Risks & Benefits" - which also had a stellar panel that included Dr. Bob Sears, Dr. Jay Gordon, and Dr. Lauren Feder.  My family however didn't go to this one because we have done alot of our own research through books, dvds, seminars and the internet and had already decided to opt out of vaccinating our son due to the harmful chemicals that are in the vaccines (i.e.thimerosal/mercury, formaldehyde, aluminum, and MSG to name a few) and the effects it can cause.  Plus, it was already 2pm and the alien noises coming from my family's tummies meant it was way overdue for lunchtime!  

To learn more about your choices with vaccinating, here are several links to review (please note, there are alot of great books & resources out there, these were just a few websites readily avilable that I found quite helpful): 
  1. Holistic Med (an excellent website with a plentitude of vaccine resources)
  2. Doctors Hide Vaccination Side Effects
  3. Dr Tenpenny
  4. HPA - The Alliance for Holistic Family Health and Wellness
  5. Swine Flu Vaccination As Hot as Tickle Me Elmo
  6. Shirley's Wellness Cafe (For those who have furry babies, this is a great resource on the effects with pet vaccinations)
So while some of the villagers went to this workshop, the rest of us setup a picnic underneath a couple of shady trees and enjoyed the beautiful day, shared food, stories and laughter.  

Phew...so this is it.  The end to my Whole Children Whole Planet Expo Trilogy.  It took a little time getting this out to you but as you can see, there was ALOT of information to download on my end so that I could give you the best information that the Family Love Village received that day.  This was indeed a great experience with a plethora of knowledge and amazing resources for our village (and now for you and your family, as well)!  I can't wait to attend next year.  Heck, maybe the Family Love Village we'll even have our own booth by that time!  Who knows - the possibilities are endless!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A Family Field Trip to the Whole Children Whole Planet Expo - Part 2

So here we are again - reflecting back on a beautiful April sunny day at the Whole Children Whole Planet Expo.  It was the perfect day spent with a community of like-minded human beings, making a difference in our lives, for our children’s lives and for Mother Earth.   

Not only were the grassy knolls and the gymnasium of Highland Hall Waldorf School packed with wonderful booths but the classrooms were filled with amazing topics and workshops.  The workshops ranged from Kids vs. Global Warming to Plastic Marine Pollution (Problem, Research, Solutions) to Creating Healthy Eating Habits (Preventing Childhood Obesity) to Voices for Conscious Parenting and Birthing to an interview with Rachelle Carson Begley from the show "Living With Ed" on the Planet Green channel and the list goes on and on.  

Of course I wanted to do practically every workshop that was on that list - thinking that we could make it to at least five of them.  But that would be in a perfect world where we arrive on time, skip lunch and involves a catheter attached to my body!  So I settled with my top two choices and I have to say that they were the most beneficial two that Dalmacio and I chose to take - and one that me and my son's bladders were definitely thankful for!

The first workshop we attended was "Creating a Safe Environment - Live, Learn, Work and Play in a Toxic-Free Environment".  The panel of speakers included, Robina Suwol, Mary Cordaro, Jennifer Taggert, and a representative from Safe Cosmetics (unfortunately I didn't get a chance to write her name down in my notes and she wasn't listed in the list of workshops).

To tell you the truth, I thought I knew alot about creating an eco-friendly and toxic-free environment for my family.  We had been using biodegradable products that are planet and animal friendly for a very long time. All labels for cleaning products, bathroom toiletries, cosmetics, no VOC paint, supporting an organic lifestyle, even down to our pet food are all closely inspected through a magnifying glass.  So I thought I was doing a pretty darn good job of keeping my home and my family toxic-free.  But ya know, there's always room to learn more. 

Did You Know:

1). That the state of California allowed workers to spray pesticides on school grounds DURING school hours, just FEET away from children!  Picture this scenario: you're dropping your child off at school and waving goodbye to your son.  Then your son has a disgruntled face and says "Mommy it tastes funny!"  Then you notice a man in a hazmat uniform spraying the shrubbery.  Later that evening your son starts experiencing a chronic allergy attack from the chemicals.  You begin to wonder what was in the stuff which begins the journey and research to find out through the LA school district just what was in that container the employee was spraying.  Well this is exactly what happened to Robina Suwol's son.  To learn more about Robina and her quest to stop the dangerous pesticides in the schools, go to her Bio Page.  Another website to check out is The World According To Monsanto.

2). 90% of chemicals in cosmetics have not been tested on products sold throughout the US.  And that only 2.9% of products are regulated by the FDA!  And that the documents that the FDA use for regulating were enacted about 70 years ago and haven't even been updated??!!  

3). That any products that say "fragrance" or "inerts" are "trade secrets" (a.k.a. chemicals).  Unfortunately, this is their loophole where they don't have to list their "other" ingredients.  Fortunately for us who care about what are in the products our families use, there is the Campaign for Safe Products that provides a list of companies that make unsafe products for our awareness.  They have also created the Compact for Safe Products for companies not only to pledge to make safer products but also to provide greater transparency to consumers about their products. 

4). Another great website that gives information about unsuspecting household products that are hazardous and effecting our health is The Smart Mama.

5). That your sleep can be effected by the electromagnetic fields in your home.  This means that whatever electronics may be powered on in your room (i.e. cell phones being charged, alarm clocks, computers, power strips, etc) could potentially be creating your insomnia or restless sleep throughout the night.  It is suggested to power everything off in your room before going to sleep and charge your phones in another room.  Of course it's unrealistic to not have at least an alarm clock in the bedroom - unless you're so trained that you wake up the same time every morning no matter what or own a rooster in your backyard.  Unfortunately most people don't have a natural alarm clock that cock-a-doodle doos when the sun comes up.  In my household, we don't even own an alarm clock, we use our cell phones instead.  So perhaps it's time to get an alarm clock or look into buying a rooster as a pet.  I think the first choice will work better for our lifestyle, at least for now.  Either way, I do want to test it out and see if less EMF's help my husband sleep better at night.

6). That there is a 20 foot range of EMF's in electronic products.  Just a thought for us parents to perhaps be mindful when we're on our cell phones near our children.  This has definitely made me more aware of my choice to not be on the phone when I'm with my son. Unless it's an emergency, I can always talk to family and friends when my son is taking a nap.  Ok let's face it, sometimes that just isn't realistic but I do my best to not be on the phone when I'm with my son.  Plus, the less I'm on the phone and the more I'm present for my son not only ensures his safety against EMF's but creates more bonding time and that is more important than talking on the phone that's for sure!

7). For more information on EMF's, go to Less EMF for products that help to detect EMF's.  You can also do a search the Mercola website to find information on products that decrease EMF radiation from cell phones.

So there you have it.  Just a few tidbits that I learned from this workshop that I didn't know previously.  Yes I have to say I love to learn.  In fact, I'm a down right nerd when it comes to researching and learning, especially when it comes to things I'm passionate about - for instance, holistic and green living.  It's amazing what you discover when you make the shift to live a conscious healthy lifestyle.  It's not just about changing your diet, it's about a way of being.  And it doesn't have to happen overnight for those nervous to take the plunge.  It can be done in baby steps.  Perhaps choosing not to buy products that test on animals or choosing to only eat organic, free-range meat...this is exactly how I got started on my path over 10 years ago.  Nowadays my household is alot more toxic-free, organic, eco-friendly, vegetarian-friendly and holistic but it took me wanting to know more about what was going into my body or around it, whether it was food, skincare or cleaning products.  And of course now having a child, the yearn to learn more is a high priority in our household and yep, I am proud to be a nerd! Especially if it means a healthier, happier and safer home!

Okay so it looks like I will have a Part 3 to this field trip on the 2nd workshop we took called Media's Influence on Children: Tools for Navigating a Commercial Culture".  Hey, what can I say - there was alot of information to download at this event and alot of information I want to share.  So look out for Part 3 coming to a screen near you! ;o)

Friday, June 11, 2010

A Family Field Trip to the Whole Children Whole Planet Expo - Part 1

What better way to celebrate Earth week by going on a Family Love Village field trip to the Whole Children Whole Planet Expo! It was held on Saturday April 24th, 2010 and was located at the Highland Hall Waldorf School. I had heard about this from a friend and thought it would be an awesome way for our village to connect with each other and Mama Gaia! Not only was I excited to go to the event but was excited to finally check out the Highland Hall Waldorf School (which my husband, Dalmacio and I were thinking of perhaps having our son go to later on).

So what is the Whole Children Whole Planet Expo? The Whole Children, Whole Planet Expo is the premier natural parenting and family expo that introduces and educates families, professionals and friends about the benefits of sustainable living practices, holistic medicine, non-toxic products, organic foods, better nutrition and enrichment learning programs. Their mission is to educate the community about important health and environmental issues and provide the resources and tools necessary to protect our families, and the planet. Well of course when I read that, I wanted to share and celebrate this day with the members of our village!

After much planning for our group to attend this event, the day had finally arrived. By the time Dalmacio, Andrik and myself made it (yes of course a little behind – okay an hour behind), we had little time to check out the vendors since our first workshop was about to begin within 30 minutes of our arrival.  But there was no need to fret because we had the whole day to experience the rest of the expo.  I have to say, we were pleasantly surprised to see how big the school campus was (not to mention a filtration system in their water fountains) and the plethora of vendors that were at this event!

Several exhibitors that I was happy and excited to visit and actually knew someone at each booth were:

1. Holistic Moms Network (HMN) – a global network of moms/families that believe in holistic and green living (very similar to the Family Love Village’s concept yet a different feel to its approach). One of our very own village members, Yvonne is the fearless leader for the San Fernando Valley chapter - which my family are proud members of.

2. Capitol Drugs - a local alternative drugstore where we've been buying all our homeopathic and natural remedies from for many years.

3. CA Naturopathic Doctors Association – is a professional association of California licensed Naturopathic Doctors. Naturopathic Doctors (NDs) practice truly integrated medicine. They are the only primary care doctors who are clinically trained in both natural and conventional medicine.  When I heard Andrik’s naturopathic pediatrician, Dr. Michelle Gerber was one of the doctors at this booth, I was extremely excited.

4. Doulas Assocation of Southern California (DASC) - is a non-profit professional community of doulas which recognizes the profundity of birth on the human experience and society at large, while respecting the individual needs of childbearing families. They provide a supportive forum for maintaining professional standards, continuing the education of birth and postpartum doulas, and informing the public of the benefits of doula care.  I was excited to connect with Ana Paula Markel, an amazing doula and childbirth educator whom we took birthing classes from when I was pregnant.

5. Green Diaper Store – one of the members of HMN, Lisa Carey’s online cloth diaper store. She has a variety of quality products for all your cloth diapering needs.  The best part is that Lisa lives locally to us, which is a huge plus in regards to no delivery charges and the carbon footprint!

6. Synthecore – another member of HMN, Michelle Starlin’s company that create workouts you can do at home which integrate your children into the activities and keep them where they should be, in your arms and close by. This is a very cool workout that I can’t wait to try with Andrik in his sling!

7. Sand Box Rebel - a very cool, hip clothing store for kids. Although sad to say I heard the store just recently closed but hopefully you can still purchase the clothes online! This is a very cool alternative clothing line that is made from organic and/or recycled materials. Andrik's nanny, Cindy has gotten several adorable punky style clothes for him that he always gets compliments on.

8. Agape – the amazing spiritual center that my family goes to.  Although I didn’t get to see their booth, I was happily surprised to see their name listed on the exhibitors page!

So these were just a few of the exhibitors that we visited. There were so many that day that it was hard to visit each and every booth (although trust me, I tried)!  What a good feeling though – to know that so many organizations, exhibitors and sponsors support such a wonderful expo. This is what the Familly Love Village is all about – creating the space to support each other, our children and our planet in the most conscious, gentle, natural and loving way.

Next up, the workshops! And you thought there was a plethora of exhibitors - wait till you see all the workshops the expo had in store for us that day!  We were definitely in for a treat!