Thursday, September 29, 2011

Fall garden update

Well, my fall garden is doing pretty well, considering how little attention I've been giving it! I've decided my 2011 garden is an experiment: How Little Can I Do in my Garden and Still Get a Harvest?

Pretty little. Since I planted some lettuce around the first of September, I have done nothing but harvest green beans and basil and water the lettuce a couple of times, as I remembered it. And things are actually growing!

The tomatoes look sad. I was going to pull them out but didn't get around to it. Then they miraculously came back to life ... but only at the ends. The stems still look completely dead, but some life must be passing through them, because green leaves appeared at the ends of the branches. These then flopped over on the ground, because they were way too high for the tomato cages. (Note: those cages aren't going to cut it next year. They fell over in every high wind and weren't close to big enough. I have a trellis idea in mind ....)

Now, they are actually bearing fruit. One is just beginning to turn red. I've heard that late tomatoes aren't as good as summer ones, but -- tomatoes! I miss eating fresh tomatoes ... especially because I can't stand buying them anymore. Not when they cost three bucks for a little container, taste like nothing, and come from unethical farms (probably).

Those flopped-over tomato plants do get in the way of mowing, though.

The green beans are doing great! That is, considering I planted them two months late, and then all their flimsy string trellises broke, and then half of them got eaten by a groundhog. I'm not sure why he didn't come back for the other half -- maybe letting the dog dig around in them helped leave a threatening scent. But my four remaining plants are overproducing. Every time I'm out there, I see more beans -- and heave a heavy sigh, because I am tired of them fresh and have no time to blanch and freeze them. But I pick them anyway, and have managed to put up a few bags in the freezer. I know I'll want them later, even though they're the last thing I want right now.

I need to remember to wear long sleeves while picking them, though. They make my arms all itchy with their prickly leaves, and sometimes I break out in a rash. Also, next year I am definitely staking them differently. Not only was this method flimsy, but I can't get behind the plants to get the beans. I didn't realize beans like to fruit on the back, non-sun side. So you have to reach past all those prickly leaves to get the beans. Another tip is to pick them at the right time. Over-mature green beans are just not worth eating. I've started just leaving them in the hopes of maybe getting some dry beans, but I think they're just going to rot on the vines at this rate, as we've had a lot of rain.

The peas that I planted in early August aren't looking too promising. I'm not sure when, if at all, would have been a good time to plant them in the fall. They just grow slowly, plus they suffered a bout of some disease ... to say nothing of occasionally getting romped all over by the dog and kid. Mostly dog. He likes to pull out the stakes and chew on them. It's not helping those poor sugar snaps. I doubt we get a harvest before frost.

I am inordinately proud of my lettuce, though. I planted that patch several times. Once in early August, of which a few plants did sprout, but grew very slowly and then got eaten by grasshoppers and/or trampled by the baby and/or puppy. Once in mid-August, of which nothing sprouted. (I think I let them dry out?) And once in early September, of which four plants sprouted (out of my very heavy sowing) and are STILL ALIVE. They're growing much faster than the August bunch, too. I think they like the cooler weather and the frequent rain. Don't they look delicious?

At our house, we mainly have iceberg, which I think is blah. This is a butterhead variety called "Mignonette," described as both delicious and heat-resistant. I think we'll stick with it.

I also did plant some spinach along with the lettuce. Not a single seedling came up. I wonder what happened? I also wonder if it would be worthwhile to try planting more now. We don't really have much growing time left, so I'm thinking not ... but I really should have tried planting it again when I replanted the lettuce. Ah well.

My head is so full of plans for next spring! And for the winter, to keep me entertained, I'm doing an herb pot. It's just a big pot divided into quarters: 1/4 basil, 1/4 oregano, 1/4 thyme, and 1/4 cilantro. My first attempt died (I took it outside for a few hours and grasshoppers ate all the tiny sprouts), so I have to try again. Luckily you can't run out of growing time for an indoor plant!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Pregnancy insomnia

Totally exhausted? Check! Morning sickness? Check! But now the kidney-bean-sized terror has a new delight for me: insomnia.

I guess pretty much everyone has this. And any time you mention it, somebody's gotta say, "Hey, it's gonna be worse once the baby's born!"

In my experience, that's not actually true, thank goodness. I can wake up to feed a baby and be asleep four seconds after the baby is, if not before. My born child is no longer keeping me up much at all. My unborn one, though ... Let me elaborate. Let's take last night.

9:00 p.m. Marko is asleep. Yay!
9:15 - Gosh, my head is killing me. I wonder if I'm just dehydrated? Only I know I shouldn't drink water right before bed.
9:30 - Well, I'm gonna do it anyway. Hope it helps. Drink a tall glass of water.
9:45 - Also have a snack and a prenatal vitamin.

10:00 - Go to the bathroom one last time (haha).
10:05 - In bed. So tired. Thank goodness I will soon be asleep.
10:15 - Man, my head still hurts. If I lie on my back, it feels a little better, though I can't sleep like this. I'll just lie like this till I'm tired, and then roll over to sleep.
10:30 - Oh, I really have to go to the bathroom. But I'm almost asleep. Surely I will still be able to fall asleep.
10:45 - Fat chance. Hello again, bathroom.

11:00 - Now I'm wide awake. My head really hurts. I'll lie on my back awhile longer and stare at the ceiling.
11:15 - Getting sleepy. I'll roll onto my right side (my preferred sleeping position).
11:30 - Oh no, that made me really queasy! Let's try my left side.
11:45 - Didn't help. Am I hungry, or too full?

12:00 - I vote hungry. Drag myself out of bed to eat a few nuts. They're salty, so I have three tiny sips of water.
12:15 - Wide awake. But at least now I'm comfortable.
12:30 - Sooooo sleepy. But now I have to go to the bathroom again.
12:45 - Sweet relief. Kind of curious how three sips of water turned into a gallon on the way out. Aaaaand I'm wide awake.
1:00 - I guess I finally fell asleep?

* * *

3:45 - I have no idea why I am awake.
3:50 - I also have no idea why Marko is in the living room. Return him to bed.

4:00 - Return to my room, after eating a couple more peanuts and going to the bathroom AGAIN.
4:00-5:00 - Sort of snooze, but keep coughing. Was it the peanuts, or am I sick?

5:00 - John's alarm goes off. My throat really hurts. Like strep-throat hurts. Uh-oh.
5:10 - I tell John that I am sick, though I don't know what I expect him to do about it.
5:15 - He kindly brings me a glass of water. I moisten my lips with it regretfully. But I would like to get more sleep now, NOT visit the bathroom a million more times. It does seem to stop the coughing though.

6:00 - Is that the dog whining?
7:00 - He's definitely whining. I should get up. I should wake Marko up, or he'll mess up his whole schedule.
7:15 - Lift my head up. Owwwwww. Hurts even worse. Lay it back down.
7:30 - Haul myself out of bed, take the dog out, go to the bathroom, drink a gallon of water, eat nuts. Decide I hates nuts forever. Two days ago they were the dream morning-sickness food. Also, water makes me queasy.
7:45 - Marko makes sad noises. I let the dog into his room. Sad noises turn into pure joy. WIN! The day has officially started.

The really weird part? The really messed-up part? There is no way at all that I go to the bathroom that much in the daytime. Why do I always have to go at night?! Also, why am I always so thirsty at night? (Blame the nuts I guess. But I am always thirsty at night. It's just usually my iron bladder can take me chugging a glass before bed and another if I should happen to wake up. That is NO LONGER THE CASE.)

Later in the day I tried to nap. Ha. It would help if the cat didn't insist on napping with me. Actually, I don't mind her napping with me. I mind her getting up and sauntering away, and then, when she finds there's nothing going on anywhere else either, she comes back and pokes her nose into my back, sending me ten feet in the air every time. The dog doesn't help either. If I put him in his kennel, he whines. If I put him in the backyard, he digs and thumps around right outside my bedroom window. This didn't use to bother me. The past two days, it's ensured that my two hours of available napping time results in 15 minutes of actual sleep.

Please commiserate with me here. Also, lie to me and say insomnia disappears after week ... say ... nine. That's in two days; I can survive that long. Though my memory reminds me that it generally gets worse until delivery. But I am going to pretend that isn't true, for the sake of my own sanity. I am so tired.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Why I don't want another hospital birth

I've told you all about Marko's hospital birth. And I've mentioned that I didn't much like it. So I bet no one will be too surprised when I tell you I don't want to do it like that again. Luckily, there's another option: home birth.

What a lot of people will tell you about home birth goes like this: "The hospital is the safe place, so if you don't care about your health and the health of your baby, go ahead and stay home just so you can get some 'positive vibes.' While you're at it, why don't you have a shaman catch your baby in a mud hut?"

The fact is that in many cases, home can be safer than the hospital.

Think about it this way: our bodies were designed/evolved to give birth. You are descended from a long line of women who were capable of giving birth. Every one of your ancestors, up to the past hundred years or so, survived birth without medical intervention.

Of course some mothers and babies did die before modern medicine. So why not use modern medicine to improve the situation so not only most, but all mothers and babies survive?

Because our bodies have not had time to catch up to all these changes, that's why. Birth is a very delicate physiological process which, under normal circumstances, unfolds perfectly with no interference. Routinely interfering in birth might cause more problems than it solves.

In fact, this seems to be the case. Fifty years ago, it was pretty standard to knock out all the mothers with chloroform and pull their babies out with forceps. Most survived. But some children had broken skulls, some had mental disabilities from being born blue (from the chloroform), and nearly all the mothers had some injury or other from those forceps. We know more now, so things are better. But even so, the perinatal mortality rate (death of babies shortly before, during, and after birth) in the US is fairly poor, and it has shown no improvement in the past 25 years. There are still many things hospitals do that are not backed by any evidence and which are actually harmful!

For instance:

*Episiotomy. Some doctors routinely cut the perineum of every laboring woman. Others do it for various indications, such as "the baby isn't coming out fast enough" or "you'll surely tear otherwise." But there are few or no real reasons to give one, and the side effects are pretty severe -- such as pain and sexual problems for a year or longer! Why make women suffer something like this if it's not necessary?

*The lithotomy position -- delivering the baby while lying flat on one's back, with feet in stirrups. This is pretty much the worst position you could give birth in (except maybe hanging by your ankles from the ceiling -- and I hear that's been tried). There is only one person it benefits -- the doctor. It's much more convenient for the birth attendant. It can cause a lot of problems for the actual labor, though -- such as restricted blood flow to the baby and stuck shoulders. But at least the doctor got to sit on his swiveling stool, right?

*Immediate clamping of the umbilical cord. There's no particular reason why doctors do this, except force of habit. Throughout history, doctors have decried "premature cutting of the navel-string" as "very injurious," but somehow it became a fad. This way you can easily zip the baby off to the nursery in a hurry. However, that leaves almost a third of the baby's blood still sitting in the placenta! Study after study has showed delayed clamping to be better, but hospitals are slow to catch on. Instead, we are told that anemia in babies is a result of breastfeeding.

*And, of course, a c-section rate at 32% and still rising. It's not just because women prefer them (for the most part, they don't). But doctors prefer them. They get a good deal more money, and none of this pesky waiting around! Not to mention, since it's the "most cautious" choice, you're unlikely to get sued for doing one. They happen all the time for all kinds of silly reasons, but it's telling that the rate surges at about five o'clock when the doctors like to go home.

I could go on and on: continuous fetal monitoring, routine use of pitocin, artificial rupture of membranes, and many, many more. The standard policies in hospitals are based mainly on convenience, avoiding lawsuits, and what was considered safe twenty years ago. Doctors don't have much time to read all the latest studies, and why should they? Their patients are all healthy, so even if you mess up quite a bit, things are still likely to be more or less okay. And if they're not, just tell the mom that she and her baby would have both died without your help!

Okay, so not all doctors are like that. Imagine your ideal doctor. He (or, better yet, she) is up-to-date on the newest studies. She carefully reads your ten-page birth plan and agrees with every point. She won't interfere with the natural process unless there's a need. Great!

But even then, there is a slight problem. Birth is hormonally driven and responds to psychological triggers. If the mother is afraid, it will halt or even reverse. Why? Well, think about it -- if there's a danger around, it's a bad idea to have a baby right now. Even when it's too late to give up on labor and come back tomorrow, it can stall, leaving the baby stuck.

Imagine this scenario. You're at a party. You suddenly realize you have to go to the bathroom. So you unobtrusively make your way over to the hostess and quietly ask where the bathroom is. She directs you to a table in the middle of the room. After stripping off your clothes and putting you in a skimpy hospital gown, she has you lie down on the table and gets two of the guests to hold your legs in the air. All the guests, who are strangers to you, gather around. All of them are yelling "PUSH! PUSH!"

Could you go to the bathroom under these circumstances? I couldn't! And people who tell you, "Just suck it up, it's no fun, but you have to deal with it because it's what's best for your baby," don't really understand. There may be a psychological basis, but you can't make yourself relax, stop releasing adrenaline, and believe that you are in your own home surrounded only by those you trust. There are many methods of meditation and hypnosis that are supposed to help you do that, but it's hit or miss when you're already in an unsupportive environment.

It seems much safer to me to give birth at home, where the natural birth process will be interfered with as little as possible. Rather than being told "relax, relax, it won't work unless you relax!" I will actually be able to relax easily, in my own environment. And I will have the freedom to do things my way -- move around, choose comfortable and safe positions, and avoid interference. As an added bonus, most midwives are experts in normal birth and do study up on the latest scientific knowledge. They know what normal birth looks like -- and what a problem looks like. And since they stay with you throughout the birth (unlike doctors, who might check on you every couple of hours), they will recognize a problem immediately and can take appropriate action.

All I have to do now is figure out how to pay the midwife!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Marko has some news for you...

... a new brother or sister is on the way!

How's the for the ultimate no-blogging excuse? Sorry I haven't been blogging, I've been too busy gestating a small person.

So, for the details:

Due date: May 4th

Symptoms: Up to this past week I've been cheerfully telling everyone that I'm much less sick this time. But it's catching up to me, and I really haven't been feeling so great. There's two different kinds of queasiness: morning sickness and "afternoon sickness," though either one could happen whenever, depending on conditions. When I haven't eaten, usually in the morning, I feel all queasy and not at all like having breakfast. And when I have eaten, usually in the afternoon or evening, I feel over-full, with heartburn and indigestion. Eating the right things (whole wheat bread, dairy products, eggs, and raw vegetables) and avoiding the wrong things (meat, anything spicy, or anything greasy) seems to help. It helps that I remember what things were good and bad last time, and it seems to be the same this time.

I'm also exhausted. So I've been napping during the baby's nap almost every day. Unfortunately, that means I have no time to get anything done, because when Marko is awake, he has so many demands. To make things worse, he was going through a really cranky stage for a bit there, and then got a cold! But he's been feeling better the past few days, thank goodness.

Marko: He doesn't have a good idea what's going on, though we have told him. The other day, he pulled up his shirt, pointed to his belly, and said, "Baby?" I said, "No, the baby is inside Mama's tummy," and pointed to mine. He said, "Outside?" I think he was kind of confused why I would keep a baby in there, and thought I should take it out so he could see it. No such luck.

I've decided to try to wean him, as gently as possible. On the one hand, I think he's close to ready, and on the other hand, nursing him has become excruciatingly painful. It was one of my first symptoms and is still getting worse. So he's down to about 0-3 times a day, and I try in particular to get him to sleep in other ways.

Sometimes I wimp out on this, though. He likes to go to sleep by being pushed around the neighborhood in the stroller, and will always accept that option over nursing. But when I consider hauling my exhausted self off the couch and walking around and around and around the block for twenty minutes, versus nursing him and getting him out in ten, without getting up -- well, sometimes I do pick the easy way out. I will take pain over physical activity eight times out of ten, all other things being equal. But I've been trying to bite the bullet and get my exercise and get him to sleep at the same time.

Plans: Still working on that. I want, more than anything, to have a homebirth with a midwife. But that costs money. Less money than a hospital birth, but insurance covers the hospital birth. And yet, if John doesn't have a job at the time (he's set to lose his at the end of the year), I don't know how we'd handle the insurance, either. We're just going to have to make some phone calls and figure out what we can manage.

Feelings: We are very excited. Especially me. I'm thrilled and dream about the baby often. Usually it's a girl, but last night was a very vivid one where it was a boy. I would like a girl, but maybe it would be better to have another boy first to be Marko's sidekick. (We all know that's what would happen!) But the thought of having two boys as energetic as the one I have is pretty scary. I'll take whichever!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Kids at church

On the average Sunday, our family goes to the Spanish Mass in the afternoon. The time works out better for us, the place is less crowded (read: room for Marko to squirm and us to take him out as needed without being boxed in) and the service is usually a bit shorter. It's funny how "a good Mass" has stopped being one with a a good homily, good music, and few distractions, and has turned into a Mass with awful music, a homily in a language we aren't fluent in, and a baby who actually behaves!

Anyway, yesterday was not an average Sunday. We had afternoon plans, so we went to the 8:30 Mass instead. This is not the super-formal, super-crowded, Latin Novus Ordo (that's the 10:30), but a fairly standard English Sunday Mass.

Our church is pretty well-populated, though, and we were running a little late (we woke up at 8 a.m. and had a toddler to get ready!), so when we arrived right before Mass started, I couldn't find a seat. There were a few teeny spaces in the middle of the pews, but people WILL NOT scoot into the row for families to sit on the aisle, and I had no wish to be boxed in. (Coming early doesn't help though -- when we do, and take the aisle seats, invariably some old guy comes along and shoves us down to the middle. I have no idea what the secret is that allows people to get those coveted aisle seats!)

I thought of standing in the back, along the wall, but that area was packed with parents with babies. So I went back out into the vestibule (there is no cry room) and stood with about 30 other parents and their assorted babies and toddlers, and John joined me there.

Personally, I think it's okay to let your toddlers run around and play if you're in the vestibule. Ideally I like to keep Marko on my lap in the pew, and then when he gets antsy, take him out for five minutes of running around in the vestibule, then back in (with his sitting-still ability recharged) as long as he can handle it. But I couldn't do that here. It was really crowded, and the doors to the outside were wide open. That meant it was very cold, and also that Marko would head right for those doors the second his feet touched the ground. I took a deep breath and resigned myself to the fate of trading off a 25-pound child for an hour-long Mass ... a child who has no desire whatsoever to be held.

It was at that moment that I heard the announcement. "Good morning and welcome to St. X. We would like to remind those families with young children to please help to preserve our reverential silence by taking them out when they become disruptive. Please stand and sing," etc.

I was ticked off. First of all, who needs an announcement like that? Everyone knows that if your baby is screaming, you take them out. I've never seen anyone at that parish do otherwise (except maybe that the Spanish Mass ... people are way more laid back about noise there, hence our faithful attendance). However, there is always a short moment between the moment the child starts to scream (which can be quite sudden) and the moment you are breathing a sigh of relief outside the sanctuary. But everyone at this parish knows that this moment must be avoided at all costs, because Father (and everyone else) will stop everything and glare at you until your child has been removed.

So everyone with kids just hangs in the vestibule the whole time. Usually one parent sits up front with the older kids, and one (usually the mom, it seems) wrangles the babies and toddlers in the back. Or they attend Mass separately so they don't have to bring the kids at all.

There's just such an emphasis placed on "reverential silence" that people are afraid to bring their kids into church at all. Considering that there are probably more kids under five in this parish than adults, I really don't get this. It's not like I was enjoying any reverential silence, sequestered in the back with all the other families. What if at some point the church is empty, while every single parishioner is in the back with a toddler? There will be plenty of reverential silence in the sanctuary, but if that's all you want, why invite people to come to Mass at all? The priest can say it by himself and we can all stay home.

I mean, it seems a little hypocritical for a church to forbid contraception and then be unwelcoming to children. I tend to expect a pro-child, pro-life church to be, well ... pro-child. Not just pro-unborn-child.

In the same spirit of anti-child "preservation of dignity," donut hour has been cancelled because the kids kept "running wild." Um, that's what kids do, I thought! Especially at donut hour. I have watched kids run wild at donut hour all my life, and no harm ever came of it. Likewise, the moms' group can't meet at the parish hall, because (in addition to a requirement that ALL the moms do child abuse prevention training, WHAT?!) the kids would mess up the hall.

And there are no family activities at the church. There is CCD for the kids, youth group for the teenagers, and various adult groups. I wanted to go to a discussion group one evening, but was warned, "You'll have to get a babysitter for him," with a significant nod toward my son. Sorry, it just isn't worth the trouble and expense. At the same Mass yesterday, there was an announcement toward the end about the parish women's group. It has gone inactive and the priest was bemoaning the fact that every church our size has a women's group, and we need to start it back up. I will tell you why the women's group isn't active anymore: kids aren't welcome. That's never been explicit, but I think if I go to the first meeting, I'll find it's true.

I know it's common in Protestant churches to have age-segregation for all activities: kids' church, nursery for the little ones, youth service for the teens, and so forth. But this really isn't part of the Catholic tradition. Since our services are about sacraments rather than simply instruction, that you attend is always more important than how much you get out of it. To attend Mass, all you have to do is show up. That's why going to a Mass in a language I don't understand still counts. And that's why Catholics throughout history have brought their babies and young children to Mass. Through observing the adults and watching the priest, week in and week out, by the time they're old enough to receive Communion, they have a fairly good idea what it's all about and how they should behave.

When I was in Italy, this was more or less the way it went. Families attended together and sat together. They were pretty noisy sometimes! Sometimes people would move around during the Mass, sitting in this side chapel during the Gospel and that one during the offertory. I even saw one lady bring her dog! I'm beginning to think "reverential silence" is an American invention. From what I hear about the middle ages, it wasn't quiet in their churches either.

When I hear "Don't bring your child to Church," what I understand is, "The ability of childless people to attend Mass undistracted is more important than your child's formation in his faith." When a baby is baptized, the whole congregation has to promise they will assist in the formation of the baby in the faith. Apparently people have forgotten this, and think, "That child is their responsibility; it has nothing to do with me. I don't want to have to be reminded that that child exists."

Mass is not just the possession of those who are capable of being quiet, sitting still, saying the responses, and singing with the choir. It's the possession of all of us: the deaf grandpa who is always a beat behind, the autistic child who is rocking back and forth or making an occasional yelp, the boy in a wheelchair with a muscle tic, the crying baby, the nursing mother, and, yes, the toddler who wants to read the missalette upside-down.

I can see a difference in Marko's behavior when he is in church. He sees that everyone is relatively quiet and looking at the priest, so he settles down and looks at the priest too. He wants to sit when we're sitting and stand when we're standing. Outside in the vestibule, he just doesn't get it. We're in a fun place to play and not letting him play. Pretty soon he's so disruptive that we end up in the parking lot. On this particular Sunday, as the priest launched into yet another announcement and Marko showed that he was still unwilling to come back into the vestibule from outside (every time we carried him over the threshold, he became a thrashing, yelling monster), we just left. No blessing for us.

I just wish I felt welcome as a parent at our church. Or that my son was welcome. All the moms at our playgroup (which is not affiliated with the parish, even though most of us go there) agreed with me that it would be nice to have a "children's Mass" every Sunday. It would be at a good time to work around naptime. It would always run short instead of long. And we would all be allowed to sit in the pews with our disruptive children. It would be a bit loud and distracting, but that's par for the course for parents. At least we would be able to see and hear, to sit down, and to stay warm.

Or, you know, people could stop being so crotchety and start suffering the little children to come to Him. It's not exactly a new idea.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

To tide you over...

Things have been just crazy around here. We went camping, Marko is cutting all his canine teeth at once, there's a cold going around, and the amount of sleep our family has gotten has been a looooong way from what we need. Hence the no blogging. Also the no commenting on your blogs. I have 217 posts in my Google Reader and it's all I can do to catch up with them at all (if I ever do). But I'm going to try because I love reading everyone's stuff.

I also missed the Carnival of Natural Parenting this month, which is about parenting through play. Maybe I'll finally write that post and post it anyway -- I have it (and about ten other posts) written in my head. Meanwhile you can go here to read some carnival posts.

Here is some cuteness to tide you over until I manage to blog again. And then I must go to sleep because I only got three hours of sleep last night. Marko was SO happy and energetic that he wasn't sick anymore that he stayed up till 11:30. And then his nose congested right up again so that he slept very badly all night. Boy do I wish that kid were rational.

So, babies and puppies! Enjoy!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Attachment parenting a puppy

You know how there are all those child-training books comparing child raising to training a dog? I know Dr. Dobson's done it, and so have the Pearls, in their book. Generally speaking, I say that these comparisons are fallacious. Dogs and people are very different. Dogs are designed -- by us -- to be completely subservient and obedient. With proper training, they become so fairly easily. You just don't see a well-trained dog reaching adulthood and suddenly leaving home to become a Hare Krishna. But "well-trained" children do grow up to do such inexplicable things as that. They do it all the time. Children have a mind of their own, and they eventually crave independence. Dogs are bred and raised to be permanently dependent.

But lately I've been seeing a lot of parallels, as I learn how to train our new puppy, Gilbert. Of course, I would never advocate training a child with a Pavlovian "clicker" and a pocketful of liverwurst. But that doesn't mean there are no similarities.

For instance, you can't train a puppy. That's right: at our dog's tender age of nine weeks, it's impossible to train him. He's just too forgetful and distractible. Instead, we have to redirect him from the shoe he wants to chew on by giving him a bone, and separate him from the baby when he gets too rough.

That doesn't mean we should just let him go wild, though. We need to give him lots of attention to cultivate our relationship, so that he knows that we are his people, and so that later he will respond well to our praise.

As far as potty training goes, we do it by watching him and providing him with lots of opportunities to go in the right place. Apparently the "shove his nose in it" advice doesn't work so well.

Once he's old enough to train, beating him senseless with a belt won't be the way to go about it. That's the way to get an aggressive, fearful dog. Instead, positive reinforcement (treats and praise) are the way to get a dog who happily does amazing tricks -- like this one. (This is the baby's favorite video. We have watched it dozens of times.)

Sounds kind of like what we do to babies, isn't it? While they're young and unfocused, we just provide lots of attention, security, and love. It isn't time for training yet. And when they're older, we focus on the positive more than the negative as much as possible.

And harsh beatings with a belt? Sorry, I just don't see a place for it -- either in dog training or child raising. The way to a confident, eager-to-please adult, whether human or canine, starts with affection and gentleness. There's no easy shortcut.
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