Friday, September 27, 2013

Kids, Chocolate, & Recommended Reading: 7 Quick Takes (Volume IV)

Today's Quick Takes are kind of random. Interesting, yes, but lacking entirely in a unifying theme.  


Before getting into the serious stuff, I should show you a picture of the toys I made for baby. You can find the pattern HERE.

(My hand included for scale)

I followed the directions and was surprised to see that my first effort was shaped more like a football than a beach ball. I tried again and cut the pieces into shorter shapes, which resulted in a sort of squished pastry. It’s still cute, though, and baby can throw it without breaking the windows.


I mentioned my happy relationship with chocolate in a previous post. However, I have new evidence support it. Read this ARTICLE about the benefits of chocolate as observed by a fantastic Finnish study (the Finns make good chocolate, so they know what they are talking about). 

Focus on the cheerful Finnish part, which says,

“The scientists found that women who regularly ate chocolate while they were pregnant were more likely to say their babies smiled and laughed a lot. They were also more likely to say they were active…. Stressed women who ate chocolate were more likely to say their babies were less fearful in new situations. Stressed women who didn't eat chocolate said their babies were quite fearful in new situations.”

NOT on the gloomy British expert who counters,

"Chocolate is very high in calories and eating too much could lead to unsatisfactory weight gain. I wouldn't advocate supplementing the diet during pregnancy with chocolate."

Bleh. Well, the same to you, Mr. Nigel-Nochocolate.


Now for the serious stuff: I wanted to share several fascinating posts and articles. Click on the titles to read them. 

Luke Epplin points out the relentless, (selfish?) message that pervades modern kids’ movies, and contrasts it with the realism of A Boy Named Charlie Brown (perhaps these movies have contributed to the Generation Y unhappiness so aptly described HERE in the Huffington Post). Epplin says:

"The restless protagonists of these films never have to wake up to the reality that crop-dusters simply can't fly faster than sleek racing aircraft. Instead, it's the naysaying authority figures who need to be enlightened about the importance of never giving up on your dreams, no matter how irrational, improbable, or disruptive to the larger community. As Jean Twenge, the controversial cultural critic of America's supposed narcissism epidemic, argues in her bestselling book Generation Me, younger generations 'simply take it for granted that we should all feel good about ourselves, we are all special, and we all deserve to follow our dreams.' 

"Following one's dreams necessarily entails the pursuit of the extraordinary in these films. The protagonists sneer at the mundane, repetitive work performed by their unimaginative peers. Dusty abhors the smell of fertilizer and whines to his flying coach that he's "been flying day after day over these same fields for years." Similarly, Turbo performs his duties in the garden poorly, and his insubordination eventually gets him and Chet fired. Their attitudes are all part of an ethos that privileges self-fulfillment over the communal good."


Meghan Cox Gurdon, a children’s book reviewer for the Wall Street Journal, has taken a lot of flak for her objections to dark YA literature. Yet she makes valuable points about what these stories say to youth:

"This is why good taste matters so much when it comes to books for children and young adults. Books tell children what to expect, what life is, what culture is, how we are expected to behave—what the spectrum is. Books don’t just cater to tastes. They form tastes. They create norms—and as the examples above show, the norms young people take away are not necessarily the norms adults intend. This is why I am skeptical of the social utility of so-called “problem novels”—books that have a troubled main character, such as a girl with a father who started raping her when she was a toddler and anonymously provides her with knives when she is a teenager hoping that she will cut herself to death. (This scenario is from Cheryl Rainfield’s 2010 Young Adult novel, Scars, which School Library Journal hailed as “one heck of a good book.”) The argument in favor of such books is that they validate the real and terrible experiences of teenagers who have been abused, addicted, or raped—among other things. The problem is that the very act of detailing these pathologies, not just in one book but in many, normalizes them. And teenagers are all about identifying norms and adhering to them."


Stephen Richard Turley questions our definition of private vs. public schools, and the role of the Church in the “public” sphere:

"It is claimed that a secular society is one that neither favors not discriminates against any particular religion. Religion and politics simply do not mix in a modern secular society…. By privatizing faith, it is suggested that all peoples are able to participate equally in economic, political, and sociological life without religious discrimination. And tax-funded schools, as an extension of this vision of the public, have carved out neutral space so as to allow people of all religions to come together and learn facts and data common to everyone.

"Now, this certainly sounds reasonable. The public promoted and perpetuated by the secular state neither favors nor discriminates against any particular religion. But what if it turns out that it was in fact the secular state that redefined religion this way? What if our understanding of faith and religion as that which belongs in one’s private life rather than in the public square is itself the social invention of the secular state? What if religion has been redefined by the very institution that claims to “protect” it?

"In contrast to our modern religious sensibilities, classical Christianity understood the church as offering to the world an alternative public distinct from that offered by the Jewish and Greco-Roman worlds."
Plenty of people have decried the negative side of safety-obsession, but Mollie Hemingway connects these arguments in a way that I had not heard before. I am a somewhat timid risk-taker myself, and her article is a good reminder that my kids should sometimes be allowed to fall off of monkey bars.

“When everything is a safety crisis, nothing is. So it should be little surprise that older children are less likely to heed warnings against smoking, drinking and having, in the parlance of modern educators, ‘unsafe’ sex.”

“But the signs of this crushing of America’s spirit of risk-taking are everywhere. I see it every time I take my children to a suburban playground. The dangerous metal slides, rickety merry-go-rounds and tall monkey bars are a thing of the past, a casualty of federal regulations and rapacious lawyers. The benefit is supposed to be fewer injuries, although the evidence of that is surprisingly thin. Those old playgrounds had a progressive danger to them that taught kids how to assess risk. When you grow up thinking that every fall will be cushioned by safety mulch or fall height-rated rubber flooring, turns out you have trouble when it comes to real world rock-climbing.”

“…. a parenting style that abjures risk at all costs may be at least partially responsible for the country’s economic doldrums. In June, the Wall Street Journal pointed out four trends, observable since the 1980s, that showed a marked declined in risk-taking psychology.”


One last thing: My husband and I have been attending choir practice, and boy, does choir practice stir up the baby. Baby basically spends the entire subsequent church service making my stomach change shape. This does not increase my pious focus on the sermon. All well, I guess baby will only get more distracting once he/she is born! I'll have to practice my listening-while-watching-baby skills.  

I’d enjoy hearing your thoughts on these articles. Happy Reading!

Linking up to Conversion Diary!


  1. First, I love your "Mr. Nigel Nochocolate." I ate dark chocolate as often as I could while pregnant. :) Stay active, be healthy, and stop obsessing about the weight gain, that's my motto.

    As for the articles, I really only want to comment on the safety one. I think safety has become the pre-eminent god of our modern world, and even after four kids I can be made to feel guilt for giving my kids more latitude to take risks than most people. I live my life under safety regulations because I'm AFRAID that if I skirt them some do-gooder will come in and take my kids away, thinking I'm a poor mother. I really resent having to live my life that way, but I don't know what the solution is.

  2. Hoorah for dark chocolate! It's the best. Especially if combined with sea salt or coconut.

    Yeah, it can be tough to reasonably evaluate risks for one's children when one is also operating under the risk that should anything go wrong, someone (in the eyes of modern America) is to blame. Someone will pay for it. I do realize that the "idyllic past" wasn't actually idyllic, and I am grateful for some of the results of safety legislation (we can buy and eat pretty much any food in America without fear of anything beyond weight gain), but our current approach is not balanced.

  3. Ha, my babies were always super-active while I was singing - it got a little awkward sometimes because I'm a choir director, so my students would get distracted watching my undulating belly while I was conducting!

    1. That's really funny! I'm sure the students found it highly interesting.

  4. Ooh. Thank you for linking the Meghan Cox Gurdon piece. I remember the screams and the pitchforks and torches when she wrote that original article, and it's great to hear her respond. She has some important points; it's bewildering to me that the response to her thoughts is such radical and unmitigated hatred.

    Haven't read the other articles yet--too much to do tonight--but the quotes suggest they are SO on the right track. Thanks for sharing. :)

    1. Isn't it funny how criticizing YA literature can bring out the worst in adults?! Perhaps because the discussion touches too closely on the development of young minds, and thus is really about vying for control of the future of the world.... or something.

  5. Wow - great links you have served us. That article by MCG is excellent. I used to read her regularly when she wrote for National Review - probably still have a dozen articles in my files - but I haven't kept up with her.

    This whole topic of how children are affected by the movies, books, and attitudes they are exposed to seems to be so little understood! I'm very thankful for your passing on true wisdom on the subject. And we must pray for all the dear children who are growing up eating such rotten soul food.

    1. It is a fascinating topic! On the one hand, we need to be cognizant and aware of how our children are being influenced, and on the other hand, we don't want to act as if God's truth is powerless in the face of error and must be protected by our human efforts.


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