Saturday, June 12, 2010

Rock Climbing Builds Family Togetherness & Fitness

My family and I have always enjoyed hiking and biking together but about a year ago, we discovered rock climbing as another great fun physical activity that we can do as a family.
Even though we all have different fitness levels, rock climbing allows us to climb together yet each be personally challenged.

Rock climbing can either be done in the form of bouldering or top roping. Bouldering involves scaling rocks up to 15' high without ropes, while top roping uses ropes to prevent falls. Top roping in done in two person teams, one person climbing while the other person belays. Both climber and belayer wear harnesses. The climber's harness is tied to one end of a rope, the belayer's is tied to the other end and the rope itself travels from climber to the top of the wall through a pulley and back down to the belayer.

This morning, my son Ryan belayed me while I climbed several routes up the rock walls. Even though Ryan weighs about 30 pounds less than me, a belay device attached to his harness which the rope flows through, allows him to lock off the rope attached to me with minimal effort. Entrusting my life to my son not only builds trust between the two of us but also allows my son to feel like he plays an important role in our climbing partnership.

Rock climbing physically and mentally pushes your limits and forces you to decide between pushing yourself to the top, or giving up when it gets tough. This morning I was able to climb several routes which made me feel great. Using my mind to figure out the best route to the top and expecting my body to follow through develops balance and builds the mind-body connection.

Ryan has been participating in a climbing club weekly for the past year and he has become our resident expert so to speak. He knows all the routes in the gym and can give suggestions on which routes would work well for each of us and also give us climbing tips and demos. This allows him, the youngest member of our family, to feel really good about himself and his abilities.

While Ryan and I climbed, my other son Jimmy and my husband worked on some bouldering routes and later on, my husband belayed me while the boys bouldered. Each of us taking on just what we needed and walking away from the experience feeling challenged and that we had spent some quality fun time with one another.

If you are interested in rock climbing, check out your local climbing gym. They should offer classes and rent equipment to get you started. Next time your kids say they are bored, consider rock climbing. You are never too young or too old to start.

Friday, June 11, 2010

How added salt allows the food industry to get rid of the damp dog hair taste of processed food.

In a recent article in the New York Times called "The Hard Sell on Salt" the food industry attempts to explain why added salt is an important ingredient in processed food. Salt adds flavor and the food industry is reluctant to reduce the amount of salt they add to processed food despite the government's attempt to do so for health reasons. The following quote from the Times article explains the industry's use of salt best:

Beyond its own taste, salt also masks bitter flavors and counters a side effect of processed food production called “warmed-over flavor,” which, the scientists said, can make meat taste like “cardboard” or “damp dog hair.”

I'm sorry, but my taste buds don't tend to lie. If something tastes like cardboard or damp dog hair, then what I am eating probably comes pretty close to being exactly that. I'm not saying that the processed food companies are selling unsuspecting consumers cardboard in place of food, but that the quality of the food they are selling is so very poor, it must be close in quality to damp dog hair.The article then goes on to explain how salt also enforces the fat and sugar grip on consumers:

Salt also works in tandem with fat and sugar to achieve flavors that grip the consumer and do not let go — an allure the industry has recognized for decades. “Once a preference is acquired,” a top scientist at Frito-Lay wrote in a 1979 internal memorandum, “most people do not change it, but simply obey it.”

Let me see if I have this right. The processed food industry produces food of such poor quality that they need to salt it to death to get people to eat it. Then they load it up with fat and sugar and use additional salt to create a constant desire for this quasi-food item. Basically they cause an addiction for salt, sugar and fat...all things that contribute to many different health problems in this country. This explains why those people whose diet is centered around processed food suffer from obesity, hypertension, and diabetes.

So, even though the government is trying to reduce salt in processed food and the food industry is resistant, this really is a non-issue. Reducing salt or fat or sugar in processed food will not make it any better for you. As I see it, processed food is not real food but instead something that has been created in a lab and flavored in such a way to get busy people to eat it. Any nutrients that may have once been in the food have been processed and preserved and heated out of it. Leaving us with a meal of fat, sugar, salt, and damp dog hair.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

School's out Forever...why I removed my son from public school again.

We started this year as homeschoolers and will end it as homeschoolers, with an experiment in public school squished in between. Bottom line is the public school experiment failed for my son Ryan. Doesn't mean it fails for all kids, just mine.

I am exhausted from trying to shove the round peg that is my son into the square hole that is the public school. We gave it our best shot, we really did. Ryan devoted 7 hours to the school day and 2 hours to the required homework each night. He sat through classes he had no interest in and forced himself to fill out endless senseless worksheets day after day. Trying to lessen the load, I did the silly crosswords for him and the stupid "find a word" sheets which was nothing more than busy work. Problem is, Ryan saw through it all and hated it. Having spent time as a homeschooler, he wondered how what he was doing in school was connected to "true" learning.

In math class, Ryan was told to show his work. He wondered how to show work he could do in his head. He told his teacher he didn't know how to show work for answers that simply appeared in his head, but she deducted points from him anyway, even though his answers were correct. My husband and I emailed the teacher and explained that Ryan was a right-brained visual learner and would show what work he could, but it may be less than what the school expected. Rather than replying to our email, the next day in class, the teacher told Ryan she didn't care what his parents said, but that he had to show his work.

In language arts, Ryan was expected to read assigned books and then fill out pages upon pages of worksheets asking mundane questions about the story. What was the author thinking? Who was the antagonist? How does this story relate to your life? Ryan rushed through these many questions, not caring about the quality, just wanting to be done with them. This sort of work amounts to nothing more than early training for the work world where people rush through things, not caring about the outcome. Sensing that Ryan was losing interest in reading and writing through this forced form of instruction, we asked the school if Ryan could take language arts as an independent study course so he could read what he wanted and work on the novel he is writing. The school denied the request.

Ryan hated social studies right from the start. He had to do projects outside of class that had strict rules to follow. His report on Muhammad required that the document be made to look old, there were to be no pictures on the cover, a certain number of symbols had to be on the first page, certain topics were to be covered and each topic required five talking points etc...For Ryan it was like learning in a straight jacket. With expectations like this, we wonder why our work force can't problem solve or offer up creative solutions.

To the school's credit, Ryan did enjoy his science class. This teacher was very involved with the kids and seemed to have a better understanding about how kids learned best. Maybe because this was an advanced science class, the teacher was allowed more freedom, thus allowing more freedom for the kids.

While Ryan struggled day after day with these problems and more, I hated the fact that he was spending 9 hours on school each day, but having little to show for it. Because of discipline problems at the school, the teachers spent more time responding to the trouble makers in class than they did teaching. This in turn resulted in more class work being sent home which made for less family time. During the 6 months Ryan spent at school this year, he actually slipped backward in his desire for learning. We lost ground as I saw it, not gained.

Another drawback to public schooling is that Ryan went from being a well rounded kid with lots of outside interests like archery, guitar, and rock climbing to all of a sudden being super concerned about what he looked like. His looks became more important than simply enjoying his life. The atmosphere at school was competitive and overly caught up in external looks over internal values, leading to worries over looks and clothing.

Ryan tried to finish out the school year but when spring storms resulted in the school year being extended to the end (yes end!) of June, we decided to bail. I didn't have the heart to send my kid to a place he hated during a month that would typically be considered summer. So we are homeschoolers again. Don't know what the fall will bring...just know we aren't going back to public middle school.

I can smell the breeze off the sound once again, maybe get my life back too, now that I don't have to deal with my son's struggles with public school.