Saturday, September 11, 2004

Remembering September 11, 2001

No one has forgetten the tragic events of September 11, 2001. Three years ago today, our country suffered an attack on American soil that rivaled the horror of Pearl Harbor. On this day, we honor the memories of those who died in the attacks in New York, at the Pentagon, and in Pennsylvania. We also salute our fallen heros in Afganistan and Iraq, as well as the brave service men and women still defending our country.

As I remember that day three years ago with deep sadness, I cannot help but ponder the real tragedy of September 11, 2001. Our great nation, founded on such high ideals, is once again engaged in an unjust war. How many more Americans must die because of that senseless attack on our country? For me, it is not so much the fact that we went to war with Iraq or with Afganistan. I see tragedy in the arrogance and ignorance with which the current administration has conducted its affairs. Indeed, I blame American foreign policy in the Middle East over the past several decades and American lust for Arab oil for the situation in which we now find ourselves. As long as there is no justice in the world, there will be no peace. As long as even one member of the human family suffers from poverty and oppression, we will find ourselves in conflict with one another.

On this September 11, let us all renew our efforts to bring more peace and more justice into our own lives and the lives of others.

Copyright © 2004 by Allyson Denise Walker-Lawrence. All rights reserved. No part of this piece may be reproduced in any form, written or electronic, without the permission of the author.

Monday, September 06, 2004

Sabine dressed for school

Sabine dressed for school, originally uploaded by DreamCrafters.

Here is Sabine, dressed for the last day of first grade. What new adventures await her in the second grade? Stay tuned...

Sunday, September 05, 2004

Hey, you woke me up!

Hey, you woke me up!, originally uploaded by DreamCrafters.

I was sleeping on my favorite pillow with one of my favorite toys, dreaming of eating up your breakfast, and you had to ruin it all by waking me with that blasted camera. Can't a girl get her beauty sleep around here?

Spoiled Sammy, Princess Diva Dog

We were just floating aimlessly through life, wondering about the meaning of our dull existence, when along came Sammy. Suddenly we were filled with a renewed sense of purpose, a feeling we had finally met our destiny. The moment we saw her the scales fell from our eyes and we knew we were meant to love and adore her, rub her belly, and give her treats. It's what we live for in the World According to Sammy.

Sabine with Connor

Sabine with Connor, originally uploaded by DreamCrafters.

Sabine and Connor were clowning around at the old house in Woodville. There's never a dull moment with Nana's grandchildren around.

Daddy cuddles a sleeping Ana

Ana seems so angelic when she's sleeping, you'd never believe she's the same child who shrieks at the dinner table, face and hands covered in black beans.

Understanding the Phases of the Moon

Monday 6 September 2004 Labor Day
Eastern Fairfax, Virginia
Last Quarter Moon
Sunrise 6:42 p.m. – Sunset 7:31 p.m.
Moonrise 11:44 p.m. – Moonset 2:35 p.m.

Understanding the Phases of the Moon

As I contemplated the fact that today is the last quarter moon, I began to wonder once again why the moon plays its monthly game of hide and seek with us. I know, of course, that the moon is the earth’s only natural satellite and that it circles our planet every month. However, I have always been curious as to the reason the flirtatious moon only shows part of her face at certain times of the month. I visited a site called Namaste CafĂ© ( which offered interesting information on ceremonies, rituals, spells, and intentions in addition to a cursory astronomical explanation. One glance at the information made all the puzzle pieces fall into place for me. Here’s what I figured out:

The moon orbits the earth during the course of one month, with its near side always facing us. We never see the moon’s far side.

During the new moon, the moon is directly between the sun and the earth. This is why the new moon would appear (if we could see it) to rise in the east and set in the west with the sun. We can’t see the new moon, however, because the sun is illuminating the moon’s far side and leaving its near side in darkness. To visualize this, imagine the sun, moon, and earth lined up single file with the sun shining on the side of the moon we can’t see.

During the waxing crescent phase, the moon moves out of line to begin its monthly orbit around the earth. Sunlight falls on a tiny sliver of the near side, leaving the rest in the earth’s shadow. The inner curve of the crescent is the shadow of the curve of the earth.

As the earth turns on its axis at dawn, we see the sun first, then the moon. The moon appears to rise later and later each night, as more and more of its surface is illuminated by the sun. The thin crescent grows fatter and fatter until it becomes the half-circle known as the first quarter moon.

During the first quarter phase, the moon has completed the first quarter of its orbit around the earth. Half of its near side is reflecting the light of the sun and half is still in shadow. The first quarter moon usually appears to rise midday and set in the middle of the night.

The moon then continues toward the half way point in its orbit during the waxing gibbous phase. With more than half of the near side lit by the sun, it appears to grow rounder and rise later in the afternoon.

When the moon has progressed in its orbit to the other side of the earth, we see what is known as the full moon. As the earth turns away from the sun at dusk, it turns toward the moon, all of the moon’s near side reflecting the light of the sun. Hence, the moon appears to rise in the east at dusk and set in the west at dawn. If you are lucky enough to be awake at dawn on a clear morning, you’ll be able to see the sunrise and the moonset at the same time.

Next comes the waning gibbous phase, during which the moon appears to be rising later in the evening and growing smaller. Now that the moon is traveling around the other side of the earth in its orbit, less of its surface is reflecting the sun’s rays.

At the last or third quarter phase, the moon has traveled three quarters of the way around the earth. Again, only half of the near side is lit by the sun. It looks much the same as the first quarter, only it is visible during the opposite time of day, from the middle of the night to midday.

The waning crescent moon can be seen rising in the small hours before dawn. Once again, the sun shines on only a fraction of the near side. The moon has nearly completed its monthly journey around the earth.

For a delightfully down to earth demonstration of our view of the moon’s journey, you can try a moon dance. Light one lamp in a dim room. One person can be the earth and the other, the moon. The “earth” stands in the center of the room with lamp (the sun) on one side and the “moon” standing between the earth and the sun and facing the earth. The moon then begins to step around the earth, taking sideways steps and always facing the earth. The moon steps in a complete circle, always facing the earth, until coming back to the original spot between the earth and sun. The “moon” should be able to feel the increasing and decreasing amounts of lamp light (sunlight) on her face as she steps through the dance.

Copyright © 2004 by Allyson Denise Walker-Lawrence. All rights reserved. No part of this piece may be reproduced in any form, written or electronic, without the permission of the author.

Rise and set information calculated by the Clear Sky Institute, available on

Thursday, September 02, 2004

On Breastfeeding

Congratulations on your baby and on your decision to breastfeed. Nursing is an excellent way to feed your baby for many reasons. Your milk provides the precise nutrition your infant needs to grow, and it also has antibodies that help protect your baby from illness. Your milk is availlable. If you have a baby then you have milk, and you have to put forth an effort to make it dry up if you decide not to breastfeed. Your milk is free. Well, sort of. Its costs money to feed you, pay for the lactation nurse (if you end up needing one) and the breast pump and other nursing accessories. But you have to eat anyway and formula is much more expensive on an on-going basis for the entire first year of your baby’s life.
Breastfeeding is easy, once you get the hang of it. When your baby is hungry, you simply open up your shirt for feeding. You don’t have to run to the kitchen to heat a bottle (a most undesirable prospect in the middle of the night). You have no bottles to wash, sterilize, and fill with formula. You and your baby will quickly develop a symbiotic relationship in which your breasts will fill up right around the time your baby gets hungry.
Nursing your baby is a built in opportunity to bond with your baby and to take a much needed break. You need those rest periods throughout the day since your sleep is broken at night. If you find a safe, comfortable position you and the baby can both fall asleep after feeding. For a new mother, it doesn’t get much better than that.
Nothing is life is perfect, however. If you want to successfully nurse your baby for the first six weeks, you must be extremely determined. It takes the same kind of courage and tenacity that got you through labor and delivery to survive the temptation to gtive your baby a bottle of formula during that first month and a half.
Getting started is the most difficult part. Although nursing shouldn’t hurt as a general rule, you will probably experience sore nipples in the beginning. Applying ice and cold tea bags should bring relief. Don’t rub anything on your nipples except a few drops of expressed milk. The exception to this rule is a wonderful product called Lansinoh™. The best thing you can do for sore nipples is get a couple of breast cups to wear inside your bra. They create small pockets of air around your nipples and prevent irritation from rubbing against your clothing. They won’t create a seamless bustline, but let’s face it, you won’t be wearing clingy knit tops for a while anyway. If you can’t get relief from sore nipples after a week or so, get help. You don’t get any mommy brownie points for suffering in silence.
Another great challenge is making sure your baby is getting enough to eat. Believing breastfeeding is sort of like believing in God. You cannot actually see the milk going in to your baby’s mouth. You have no way to measure how much he’s eating since your breasts are not clear and calibrated like a bottle. You only have that mysterious internal tug known as letdown to assure you that your milk is flowing. You watch your baby’s jaws moving, your head falls back as you feel that blessed lethargy steal over you, and that’s how you know all is well.
Then some idiotic baby nurse or doctor ask you briskly how many ounces the baby’s taking—after you told her you’re breastfeeding. You stand there, eyes and mouth wide open, your mind a blank. You’re nursing, how are you supposed to answer that? You can pump out one feeding to measure it, but rest assured the baby is more efficient than the pump. There are only two ways you can really tell whether your baby is getting enough—counting diapers and weighing her frequently. If your baby is producing X wet diapers and Y poopy diapers within a 24 hour period and is gaining enough to suit the pediatrician, you’re doing fine.
Another drawback is that breastfed babies need to eat more frequently that formula fed babies. This is because formula has the stick-to-your-ribs quality of a hearty steak and potatoes dinner. No wonder babies are supposed to sleep for four hours after a bottle of formula. Your breastfed baby will need to eat about every two hours, and you are the only one who can feed her. To your sleep starved brain, a bottle of formula begins to look more and more like a four hour nap. Don’t be fooled. The bottle feeding mothers aren’t getting any much sleep either.
What if you have to give your baby a supplement? If you have to supplement your nursing, it isn’t the end of the world. You can try to increase your milk supply by pumping between feedings. Nurse as often as possible during the baby’s first few weeks. You can use a nursing supplementer that hangs around your neck and allows the formula to flow through a tube taped to your breast. This is a good idea if you plan to nurse for at least several months.
If you decide to give bottle supplements, try to wait until you and the baby are comfortable with breastfeeding. The supplementer will help you feed the baby while you both adjust to nursing. Once you’re comfortable with it, give the baby one or two ounces of formula after you’ve nursed. Remember, you are supplementing your nursing with formula and not the other way around.
If you plan to take your baby to daycare when you go back to work, this is a good way to introduce the bottle. You’ll want to pump and fill the bottle with your own milk so as not to compromise your milk supply. Just give the bottle of your own milk after nursing to help with the adjustment.
When you decide to wean your baby from the breast is completely up to you. Some mother wean their babies from the breast right after their postpartum check ups and others wait until their toddlers are ready to start potty training and preschool. Some babies go straight from breast to cup without ever taking a bottle. Whether you breastfeed for six weeks or sixteen months, you’ve given your baby a wonderful start on a lifetime of good nutrition.
On La Leche League. If you are still pregnant, start attending La Leche League meetings. These wonderful women will provide the support and encouragement you need when everyone else in your world (including your husband and the baby’s pediatrician) is howling for you to start with the bottle.
Just keep in mind that La Leche League leaders are extremely zealous about not giving your baby any formula at all. This is a good thing—they had to be zealous in order to change the entire medical establishment from pro-formula to pro-breastfeeding. Maybe it will work for you not to allow a drop of formula in your house (just leave those free samples on the doorstep). On the other hand, maybe a half ounce of formula is just what your newborn needs at four in the morning.
The bottom line is to go with your intuition (that famous mother’s intuition). As long as you feel comfortable with La Leche League’s advice, by all means follow it. Just don’t feel remorse about a tiny bit of formula is an infant feeding cup or about weaning your baby from the breast when you go back to work. Just do what you feel is best for you and your baby.
Copyright © 2004 by Allyson Denise Walker-Lawrence. All rights reserved. No part of this piece may be reproduced in any form, written or electronic, without the permission of the author.

Little Girls' Natural Hair Care

The soft, loopy baby curls are gone. So are the days of a quick shampoo and comb out in the bathtub safety seat. Now you have a toddler with a head full of thick, coily—all right, nappy—hair, who runs from the sight of you holding a comb and cries at the mention of the word “shampoo.” Hair grooming has become a nightmare for you and your little girl, and friends and relatives have been dropping hints about having her hair done. Maybe you’ve been wearing straight styles or a short natural for so long you’ve forgotten how to care for any length of natural hair. Or maybe this is your first experience dealing with kinky hair and you’re tired of the superior looks you get from your husband’s family just because you didn’t grow up getting your ears burned by the hot comb. The idea of applying dangerous chemicals or heat to your precious baby’s hair makes you nervious, but what else can you do?
Plenty. Kiddie perms and pressing combs can damage a child’s self-esteem as well as her hair. Your little girl needs to know that her hair is beautiful just the way it is. She doesn’t need to be made to feel that her curls and coils are an embarrassment that needs to be pressed or relaxed into respectability. She doesn’t need to be endangered by overzealous stylists working tirelessly to make her hair bone straight. She doesn’t need a phobia about getting her hair wet and her pressed hair “going back.” So how do you care for—and teach her how to care for—her hair?
First, you need the right tools. Proper tools make all the difference, as I found out when I exchanged a fine tooth comb for one more appropriate for thick, super curly hair. You need a sturdy plastic wide tooth comb for detangling, plastic hair clips, and cloth wrapped scrunchies. Don’t put barrettes with metal clips or plain, uncoated rubber bands on your child’s hair—these stress the hair and cause breakage.
You don’t need any special shampoos—baby shampoos with conditioners are fine. You can dilute any shampoo by half with water and it works just as well. Better even because the water makes the shampoo lather more easily. Leave in conditioners and natural oils are good for detangling and keeping the hair supple. Avoid hair styling products with petroleum jelly like VO5. They won’t hurt the hair but they don’t condition either. The just coat the hair with a layer of grease and make it difficult to style. If you use natural oils like almond oil or jojoba oil, you’ll need to shampoo every other week. The oil goes rancid otherwise, and that is definitely not attractive.
Now that you have the your tools, you need to find a place to shampoo. The kitchen and the bathroom are the obvious choices. A small child can lay on the kitchen counter as you hold her head in the sink. I shampooed my daughter’s hair in the kitchen for about three years and was highly amused to find her “shampooing” her teddy bear’s head in the play kitchen sink.
A child can sit in the bathtub for a shampoo (a visor can help here). Use a tall drinking up to rinse—it’s just as good as a spray nozzle. An older child can bend over the bathtub or kitchen sink for a shampoo.
After you wet the hair thoroughly, apply the shampoo liberally throughout the hair (you’ve diluted it, remember?) and massage it gently on the scalp with the pads of your fingers. Use an in-an-out motion because rubbing in circles will tangle the hair. Clean the scalp, then work the shampoo through the hair. Use your sense of touch to determine your progress at getting out the sand that inevitably finds its way into your child’s hair. (Most of the sand can be brushed out with your hands on the playground.)
Rinse gently and thoroughly with a tall drinking cup or spray nozzle. Lift the hair to rinse underneath. The last thing you want after settling down for the comb out is to find a soapy patch behind the ear that you neglected to rinse.
If you’ve done a thorough job of shampooing and rinsing you may proceed to the comb out. Personally, I think that the instructions to lather, rinse, and repeat are designed more to sell more shampoo than to get your hair clean. Unless your child’s report that little Brianna really did dump a bucket of sand on her (your child’s) head at the playground turns out to be true judging from the amount of sand going down your drain or your child was the victim of a cake and ice cream incident at a birthday party gone bad, once is enough. Especially if your child is wailing as though you’re cutting off her head instead of merely applying shampoo and water.
Before you comb out, you must first find an activity to occupy your child while you work. This is important. Boredom will cause your child to howl with pain more than any pulling on tangles. Think of it this way, your stylist leaves magazines for you to read while you’re getting your hair done. Why not offer toys, crayons, or videos for your child.
After you’ve sufficiently distracted your child with an activity and she’s sittiing in her chair happily watching Sesame Street, work in the leave-in conditioner or oil into the hair. Divide the hair into sections small enough to fit in your palm and begin detangling the ends of the hair. Grasp the hair firmly so that your child can’t feel the comb pulling. Pull the comb through the hair with quick, gentle strokes. Comb higher and higher as you work your way up the hair to the roots. Be the roots extremely gently until you comb far enough down to cushion the pulling with your grip. If you run into any stubborn tangles, stop combing and gently separate the strands with your fingers. Use the same technique you’d use to untangle yarn or shoelaces. After detangling a section, loosely twist the hair or secure with a scrunchie.
After you’re finished the comb out, it’s time to style the hair. Here’s where you can get creative. If your child will tolerate the blow dryer (my five-year-old won’t), you can blow the ahir dry. This makes the hair easier to comb and gives you a few more styling options.
Work with the blow dryer on its warm setting—never hot, especially on very young children. Use a sturdy comb attachment (I have comb eating ahir and have broken more than one tooth off my comb attachment), and gently comb through the hair. Always aim the drying away from your child’s scalp, face, ears, and neck. Once you see what a little heat and oil do to your child’s hair, you may be tempted to turn up the heat and blow dry the hair for all it’s worth. You may get results as good as a light press with the hot comb, but don’t push it. Heat is heat and is best used sparingly.
Once you’ve blown dry the hair, you can part it down the middle, ear to ear, or any other way you’re inspired, and make two to four braids. You may, if you choose, secure the braid near the scalp with coated rubber bands or ponytail holders. Don’t pull too tightly or you’ll end up with breakage or a receding hairline over time.
When it comes to hair baubles, less is often more. You can braid firmly and simply tie a ribbon at the base or the end of the braid. You can find inexpensive rolls of cloth ribbon at a craft or fabric store. If you make more than five or six braids, you only need a couple of ribbons and barrettes stylishly placed near the face. If you put too many barrettes or bows on the base of the braids you’ll create a visual distraction. If your child has long hair, you can get away with more baubles on the ends of the braids, but there’s no need to overdo it.
In addition to regular braids, you can make trail braids. Starting from the face, make plaits, braiding the top plait into the next. Continue until you’ve finished all the braids. You can also do a center part and make two cornrows, what I call the “Heidi look.”
If you don’t want to blow dry your child’s hair, you can do styles with many braids or twists. Divide the hair into half inch to one inch sections and braid or twist the hair. For many cornrows, divide hair into quarter inch to half inch rows. To create a pretty cornrow style, part the hair down the middle and angle the rows towards the shoulders.
Styles with many braids or twists can last up to two to three weeks. They require little or no maintenance between shampoos and are excellent styles for swimmers.
You may be wondering about creating a dreadlock style for your child. You can lock a child’s hair and it will look adorable, but keep one thing in mind. Locks are permanent and cannot be combed out. More often than we may like to think about it, children find themselves in need of a fine-tooth comb. Although children with straight hair are more likely to come home with a colony of critters setting up camp in their hair, it can happen to those with kinky hair as well. If your child comes home with head lice in her locks, you’ll have no choice but to cut them off. Take the chance if you like, but I recommend waiting until your child is a teenager before starting locks.
Once you learn to care for your child’s hair and create styles well-suited to ultra curly, coily hair, you’ll both gain an appreciation for this natural beauty.

Copyright © 2004 by Allyson Denise Walker-Lawrence. All rights reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced in any form, written or electronic, without the permission of the author.

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