Free Range—It’s Not Just For Chickens Anymore

For the longest I believed that “free range” applied to the meat or eggs we bought at the grocery store. You know the concept don’t you? Chickens or cows allowed to roam free and eat naturally before they are turned into drumsticks and burgers. Sorry for the visual, but hey it is what it is. Now I’ve learned the label applies to kids to.

The term Free Range Kids was coined by writer Lenore Skenazy, a columnist who was dubbed “America’s Worst Mom” because of an article she wrote about letting her nine-year-old take the subway alone.

Skenazy chose not to buy into the 24 –hour news cycle that tells us not to let our kids out of our site, but to schedule and hover over their every waking moment. Instead Skenazy chose to listen to her child when he expressed a desire to take the subway. Perhaps like some of us who were raised in the 70’s and 80’s she remembered having to be home when the street lights came on or riding her bike unsupervised around the neighborhood and the sense of trust and self confidence she garnered from experience.

Her advice for raising Free Range Kids is simple:

  • Do they have the disposition?
  • Can they follow directions?
  • Have you prepared them adequately?
  • Do they know what to do in case there is a problem?
  • Do they know how to ask for help?

I’m influenced by the nightly news and being a single mom I’m hyper aware about my Tween-let, but I also remember what is was like to have that kind of freedom, and the maturity I felt when my parents trusted me to walk to the library or take the bus to the beach.

Time to dial down the parental paranoia? What do you think?

– Aunt B

EveryBody Deserves a Massage Week — Staying in Touch

Can you believe it? A week dedicated to massage? July 15-21 is EveryBody Deserves a Massage Week sponsored by the Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals (ABMP) the largest organization serving bodywork professionals.

Did you know there are 278,000 trained massage therapists in the United States? Quick! Do the math, that’s 556,000 hands ready to rub, soothe, knead, stroke and squeeze you into a happier place.

It’s been documented that massage is a safe and effective way to reduce pain associated with arthritis and migraines, back pain and symptoms of carpal tunnel. It’s also known to strengthen the immune system and reduce aggression in adolescents and to reduce stress and improve work performance.

I’ve massaged the Tween-let since she was born; I found it to be wonderful way to bond with her.

With the average price at $60 an hour Aunt B knows that massage is a luxury in these economic times, but it doesn’t have to be. We can touch each other. Remember in the last post, where I asked where you feel your stress? Your chest? Your stomach? Take a moment to touch that part of your body, breathe into that spot until feel a little give. Relax. Perhaps you might want to treat yourself to a massage, deep tissue and Swedish are the most popular techniques.

I think this quote by Robert Noah Calvert pulls it all together:

… the application of caring human touch is an inherently innate behavior for giving and receiving love, which all humankind wants and needs. The real purpose of giving massage is to foster more depth of feeling for one another in order to bring out the love that often lies buried beneath the pain of everyday suffering.

Stay in touch.

– Aunt B

Hot Fun In The Summertime

The first big weekend of summer is here. Memorial Day was just a dress rehearsal and Father’s Day was opening night. By now you should be operating the grill like Bobby Flay and chugging ice cold water as if there was no tomorrow. After the last sparkler has dimmed and the smell of gunpowder has faded, it’s vacation time.

What? The Recession? Oh yes, I understand, we might not be able to vacation like it’s 1999, but we sure can “staycation” like it’s 2009. Aunt B is doing it. You can too.

I honestly think the “staycation” was invented by a single-mom, we call it go-somewhere-local-and-make-it-seem-like-we’ve-been-somewhere, urban hipsters call it a “staycation.” Go figure.

It takes some planning, keeping in mind that you want to do something that you wouldn’t ordinarily do. That means you don’t use this time to clean the garage or put up shelves.

The Tween-let and I have done a few of these and she still talks about the experience. Remember it’s about quality time, and you also get to think about how good you’re being to the environment.

  • Behind the scenes tours – We’ve visited a police station, a fire station, The LA Times and the local 9-1-1 dispatch center. All for free.
  • Local museums – Museums often have one day they let the public in for free.
  • The Zoo
  • Fruit Picking
  • Train Ride
  • Aquariums
  • Beach/Swimming
  • Backyard Camping
  • Game Night/Potluck

July is National Parks and Recreation Month, now is a good time to explore you local parks, there’s something very soothing about being in nature. There are lots of parks that offer nature hikes too. Also, I think picnics turn ordinary meals into something special, so grab a blanket and some friends and head out to the park.

Let me know how your “staycation” works out. I’d love to hear from you!

– Aunt B

When We Are Not The Brightest Bulb

The Tween-let is sprawled in front of the television. She’s ‘in the position’ lying on her stomach, her hands holding her head, her legs crossed at the knees, staring into a Sony Trinitron that’s older than her, as a drug commercial takes up another 30-seconds of our life.

“No one needs that. It’s all in your head,” her tone is strangely authoritative, she turns to glance at me. I say nothing, wondering what she’s going to say next. “Mom what kind of virus or bacteria causes de-pres-sion?” She says the word depression slowly, mimicking the sing-songy voice-over that accompanies the ad.

“First of all, it’s not all in their head,” I say slowly wondering where her first comment came from. “Secondly, there are two types of illnesses, physical illnesses and mental illnesses, both are very real. We wouldn’t tell Nana that her diabetes was ‘all in her head’ so we don’t say that about mental illness either okay?”

Depression affects about 14.8 million people here in the U.S. Usually more women than men and 1 out of every 33 children. It sometimes occurs in tandem with other diseases and depression, just like any other chronic illness, needs to be managed.

I’ve had family members who have suffered from depression and have gotten through it with therapy or medication or a combination of both. It’s real, it’s not ‘just in our head’. Life is challenging and sometimes we are overwhelmed and it is difficult to cope… we all need a bit of help sometimes, Aunt B is saying it’s okay to reach out and take it.

– Aunt B

America’s Next Top Model? That Would Be You.

If I’ve read it once, I’ve read it a thousand times, how important it is for parents to model the behaviors they want their children to emulate. Now research is saying that when it comes to food, that this ‘ain’t necessarily so’.

A recent study done by this group tells us that as children grow older their eating habits are more likely to be influenced by their friends. And, when it comes to parents, the children tend to copy their mom’s eating habits, rather than their father’s. Social and economic status didn’t seem to matter either. The study sampled 2,291 parents aged 20-65 and 2,692 children aged 2-18.

Here in the land of Silicon and Honey I’ve made a conscious effort to model good eating habits and to voice my alternative views about beauty, health, and weight. It’s difficult to say to my daughter that people come in all sizes, when I drop her off at school all you hear are the Mom’s greeting each other with is, “Hey, you look like you’ve lost weight,” or “Hey skinny!” followed by whatever else about the weather, PTA or politics.

While I think the scientists are right when it comes to peer influence, food is also about tradition and culture. While the fluffer-nutter sandwich has lost most of its appeal, I still crave one every now and then just for the memory. As a single-mom I can’t stop modeling what I think is best for the Tween-let’s health. And after the Tween-let has gone through all the fries, pizza, and pop, one day instead of reaching for something processed and sugary, she’ll remember the Farmer’s Market, us walking hand in hand tasting fruit and how good a fresh peach tastes, and she’ll reach for that instead.

– Aunt B

Take Two Beethoven’s and Call Me In The Morning

“Simply put, music can heal people.” Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.)

Relaxing in jacuzzi According to my iTunes counter, I played Natasha Bedingfield’s “Happy” 51 times the first month of my unemployment. The words reminded me to be grateful for the simple things, my dreams, my life, my friends and each time I began to feel myself spiral, I’d let Bedingfield’s voice and the upbeat tempo of the music take me to another space.

Music therapy is a fusion of art and science and has grown in popularity, with over 5000 music therapists practicing in United States. Music changes our mood, helps us express our feelings, we relax to music and we share our memories with it as well. Music connects us emotionally and socially. Music therapy has been proven to stimulate the immune system, and helps with the physical rehabilitation of those who have suffered from stroke or live with Parkinson’s disease.

Here are some ways to add more music to your life:

  1. Wake up to music – find what soothes you or gets you going in the morning. The right music can set your mood for the rest of the day.
  2. Use music to meditate – yes, close your laptop, turn off your cell phone and spend twenty minutes just listening to music.
  3. Sample some new music – you don’t have to go out and buy it, try the library, they rent music CD’s. Like I told the Tween-let, Beethoven was the Jonas Brothers of his day.
  4. Use music to distract you – Had a bad day? Rock out, rap out, or let the blues carry you through; sometimes music can put into words or melody what you can’t.

Recently I made a musical self-portrait, a soundtrack of my life. I thought about the music I would play at various points in my life, falling in love, breaking up, life’s okay, the battle scenes, and final credits. How about you? What’s the soundtrack to your life?

– Aunt B

My Achy Breaky Head

It’s National Headache Awareness Week and I have a headache. Oh! If your Aunt B had a nickel for every time she used that excuse.

My headaches come in screeching reds and oranges, piercing yellows and fuchsias. They cluster around my ear and siren out to the edges of my head. They make me grouchy and short-tempered with the Tween-let and anyone else who crosses my path. Thank goodness for those around me that this only happens once a month.

Headaches are the most common health complaint and according to research, of those people that go to the emergency with headache complaints, only 1% of them actually have a serious illness. This is NOT to say that headaches are not a sign of something serious. Sudden onset of pain, or headaches that are accompanied by a stiff neck, eye or ear pain, fever, convulsions, loss of consciousness or a blow to the head require urgent medical attention.

What causes headaches? Well for me, doing laundry, LA traffic, a phone call from any one of my exes. Truthfully, what triggers my headaches is usually caffeine. Do you know what triggers yours? Sometimes you can be dehydrated (too much alcohol will do this) and there are certain foods as well, aged cheese, red wine and MSG are known culprits.

The best way for me to deal with headache pain is to ride it out. Aspirin and other pain relievers do very little to alleviate the symptoms. Deep breathing and relaxation techniques help the most. Research findings tell us that acupuncture has been successful way to treat chronic headaches. I’ve never tried it, but if any of you know of, or have tried alternative treatments I’d love to hear from you.

Has all of this given you a headache? There are resources and tools here, at the American Headache Association website, in both English and Spanish.

Time for laundry! Somebody pass me an aspirin.

– Aunt B

Walkability

Have you ever been motivated by pure laziness? I have. Yes, I know it sounds like an oxymoron. I’m lazy about taking my car out of the garage (one has to pay for a permit to park on the street where I live). So, instead of lifting the door, pulling the car out every time I wanted to run an errand, I put my feet to the concrete and started walking.

No one walked where I grew up. My neighborhood was a constant cautionary tale. When you walked, you did it with a look and pace that said that you were simultaneously bored, angry and in a hurry (Check out any model on the catwalk for a visual). Where I lived, strolling was for folks looking for trouble.

A move to a suburb of Los Angeles changed all of that, as did the recession and a growing awareness about the environment. The Tween-let and I live next to a freeway that’s a vein between downtown and the ‘burbs. The constant course of vehicles makes me hyper aware of the noise and air pollution and so whenever we can, we walk. Oh! The screams of protest from the Tween-let when we first embarked on this lifestyle change.

We didn’t begin all at once. We began by walking to school, and began to include other errands on the way to and from. Here’s how you can do it. Make a list of the businesses that you use most, such as the bank, the drugstore, you get the picture, then assess the walkability of where you live by using Walkscore, a website that helps you determine the walkability of your neighborhood and locates the businesses you use most that are in a one-mile-radius of where you live.

Feet to the concrete people!

– Aunt B

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