Thursday, October 25, 2012

Eggs and Honey Soon to Come

            Something wonderful is about to happen! Or rather, it will be happening in a few months. Dej and I have decided that come spring, we will start raising our own colony of bees!
            Beekeeping has been a long repressed hobby of mine. My grandfather used to keep a large colony of bees beside his apple orchard and vineyard. They always supplied the family with delicious fresh honey and honeycomb, and we made sure to care for them. Combining the fresh honey in tea helped soothe many a vicious sore throat.
            I remember playing outside near the beehives. The bees never stung me. Not the honeybees at least. My sister and I never had a problem or a fear of them. Some of my friends have expressed concerns about this decision. They say that the children will be stung or harmed. But I respectfully disagree.
            Nature cannot be controlled. It cannot be shut down. And I don’t want to be one of those mothers who tries to child proof nature. I got my fair share of scrapes and bruises, and they did not harm me significantly. Now this does not mean that I will let my children frolic with the wolves that have been sighted up north or that I will send them out to play in the mountains with pork chops wrapped around their necks. But at the same time, this does not mean that I should keep my children away from all insects and other natural parts of the world.
            The benefits of raw honey are numerous and incredible. My own father, horrifically allergic to bees, has found a strong reversal of his symptoms as he has consumed raw honey.
            So, after a great deal of research, prayer, and consideration, Dej and I have decided to go ahead and start raising our own. Some details still have yet to be established. But I am delighted and can hardly wait.
            We will also be raising our own chickens soon. A friend of mine will have some chicks ready for us very soon, and we will soon have our own fresh eggs to boot. Jenevieve and Saja are particularly delighted with this idea, and I can’t blame them. Soon our little homestead will be flowing with eggs and honey!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Making Ethical Choices Even When It’s Not Cheap

Our Family Standards
            When the economy turned south, my family’s meager budget suddenly seemed a lot smaller. I had already cut most of the meat from our diet, and we developed an indoor garden to help us grow vegetables year round.
            Even before money was tight, we always grew our own vegetables, prepared, and froze or dried them to get us through the winter. We used cloth diapers and had our own well. With the fireplace in our kitchen and living room, we heat the house with wood during the cold months, and in the spring, we tend the trees on our back acreage to make sure that we are not overtapping our supply. Whatever can be recycled, we do. In fact, we even just recently learned how to make sandals out of recycled tires. Buying natural and fresh is not an option, and with this constant work, it has not been that much more expensive. 

Beginning a Business
            But things started to change once I started my own business. I’m an artist. I specialize in conceptual paintings and images that seek to capture the soul and heart of a person or a scene rather than what is just there. My business, though small, is in sketching pictures and combining photos to make gorgeous custom blankets. For the actual printing, I use Vision Bedding. I chose them because they complete their entire business within the United States, and the quality is excellent. Working with all American businesses and buying organic and American is very important to my husband and me.
            I wish I could say though that our conviction did not waver. But as prices continued to rise and I started finding it more difficult to earn with my blankets, I started looking for places that I could cut costs with my business. Was there a way that we could cut the costs? 

Looking to Cut Costs
            At first, I looked at printing stores aside from Vision Bedding. But, as I clicked through each one, I found either ethical or financial reasons not to change. My oldest daughter came to place financial accountant with me. As she sat next to me at the kitchen table, poring over the printed and handwritten receipts, she tilted her head. “It’s not the bedding store, Mommy,” she said. “It’s the paints. You can get these at Wal-Mart for $2.”
            Off the top of my head, I didn’t remember how much I spent on paints. But I knew she was right. You see, my work is highly personal. I don’t just pick up the phone, gather the pictures, and arrange them on the quilt template like a novice scrapbooker. When I receive an order, I sit down with my customer, and I talk in depth. I learn about the person the blanket is for. I come to understand who they are. We are all more than faces. We are souls and minds with memories, hopes, and dreams, concepts which make us far more than the mere sum of our parts. My goal is to reveal a little bit of the soul with each blanket I design.
            With that in mind, I always sketch out the initial portraits by hand before I scan them in along with the photographs. Sometimes I paint with watercolors. Other times I sketch with charcoals. A nine image quilt easily has six different pictures plus drafts. Often times, I include hand drawn and painted pictures with the blanket as a thank you to my customers. And for all this work, I use homemade paints and charcoals.

The Watercolor Lady
            No, I don’t make them. I buy them from the Watercolor Lady, a sweet woman who visits her customers in person, bringing their orders in her little black basket. She rides a green bicycle with the basket mounted on the front and a turquoise and amethyst paisley cloth over the top. When the weather turns cold like it is now, she wears a large purple scarf over her head and a long wool coat, looking for all the world like a babushka. Compared to pens, pencils, and paints made in China or Mexico, her prices are extremely high.
            The Watercolor Lady makes her own dyes for her paints. She oversees every step of the process. And she relies on this side business of hers to supplement her own income. Whenever she comes to the house, I pick up an order of two to five different paint colors and perhaps a bit of charcoal. True, sometimes I don’t just buy what I need. I like to think of it as a luxury.
            But now at that kitchen table, the table where we seem to have so many conversations, my little Jenevieve and I were talking about perhaps changing our paint source. Source makes it sound far more impersonal. It’s all business. Not a big deal. But when you see the Watercolor Lady, you suddenly realize that nothing is just business.
            “Why do you think we should cut the paints?” I asked Jenevieve.
            “It would save us money.”
            “Is saving money the most important thing?” I asked.
            “No…” Jenevieve answered slowly, studying my face as if she was not sure which one was the right answer. “But it is a good thing.”
            That was true. I smiled and picked up the receipt. The Watercolor Lady always did calligraphic letters for her receipts, using her own ink and quill. “It’s good sometimes, but not if you give up something else you value.” 

Not Worth the Money
            When we choose to go into business, we have to make many decisions. A side or a hobby business is no different. I am raising my children to understand that we bear a certain responsibility for the money that we spend and where it goes. In some cases, we may not have a choice but to buy something manufactured overseas
            I could certainly save money by not purchasing my art supplies from the Watercolor Lady. But I choose to give my business to her. We are interconnected. Purchasing handmade or homemade goods does not come with the cheapness of mass manufactured, but it does come with connections. A human connection. When I buy from her, I am contributing to the economy on a level where I can actually make a difference and see it.  
            And I guess in a way, that I am treating the Watercolor Lady as I hope my customers will treat me. Any of them could go and buy a soft blanket from Singapore at half the cost. But I offer something in addition to the physical product.
            My father always used to tell me that our money shows us what our values are. It’s a small way to live by example. So I am still buying paints from the Watercolor Lady. It’s important, even in times of economic crisis, to not stop pursuing those things that matter. The bottom line and overall cost are important factors to consider, but it’s not worth it if we give up something far more valuable.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Recovering from Strep and the Flu

Our whole family managed to get a nasty bug that was going around. Personally, I fell to bloody strep throat and the flu. Over a week of sore throats, blood, fever, nausea, and diarrhea. It’s bad enough with one, but with each additional person, it seems to be multiplied by a factor of ten. Oh, and the kitty decided to have diarrhea too. So the house is a wreck right now. But I wanted to share some recipes that we found very helpful during this time. I have several posts that I was laboring over while I was sick and resting. I’m polishing them up, and I’ll start sharing soon.

 But first…. An old fashioned recipe from my great great grandmother to cure or lessen severe sore throats. Boil a pot of water, mix one cup with one tablespoon of sea salt, and gargle as hot as you can stand.

 I hate this process. It burns and tastes awful. I actually made the switch to sea salt since my mom, grandma, and great grandmas all used regular table salt. I think that it’s better for you this way. But as Dej can attest, it’s not a good idea to gargle with unsanitized salt water.

Another old home remedy that I could not keep down because of the nausea but that helped my sweetheart is to boil hot water, mix in two tablespoons of honey, and a tablespoon of unfiltered apple cider vinegar. It’s really important that the vinegar has the mother in it or else it’s not going to be as effective. But my all time favorite is the classic black tea boiled for ten minutes with a teaspoon of honey mixed in. It soothes the throat and calms the mind.

My sweetheart was kind enough to keep the little ones occupied when I was under weather and they were all getting better. It was nice to be able to relax. I hope that you all are staying health in this time. It’s not fun living with bad germs, but it’s hard to avoid it. Even with good clean green living.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Don't You Love Me, Mommy: Instilling Self Esteem in Young Children After New Siblings Arrive

Welcome to the October 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Instilling a Healthy Self-Image
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared confessions, wisdom, and goals for helping children love who they are. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

            Things went beautifully for Jenevieve and me when she was my only little girl. She was always with me. I carried her around in a handmade baby sling, snuggled her whenever I could, and let her watch as I made bread from scratch. Though only five years old, she knew a great deal about cooking and cleaning just from watching and asking questions.
            Then I got pregnant. Pregnancy delighted Jenevieve at first. She rubbed my tummy and made plans for her new baby brother and sister. Dej and I even let her help pick out the baby’s name. She liked Saja (pronounced like Sasha) and Kja (pronounced KI). And as the due date neared, I made some baby slings with her and gave her the baby sling I carried her in. I slipped her baby doll in the sling and fastened it over her shoulders. “See, now you look like Mommy,” I said.
            Jenevieve grinned and pranced around the room. Everything seemed to be going well. Dej and I even started transitioning her from our bed at night to her own little wood bed in the next room. She seemed to love it, and if she had a nightmare, she just came to wake us up but wanted to return to her “big girl bed.” I thought it was going to be easy.

The Birth
            Then little Saja was born. And amidst all the beautiful memories and pictures, Jenevieve grinned until she saw me holding Saja in the baby sling. When I looked up from my bed, I saw her just staring, her eyes somber and her smile gone. In that moment, I knew that my darling little girl thought she had been replaced.
            Everything went downhill after that. Suddenly Jenevieve wanted to sleep in our double bed again. Nightmares kept her from resting each night, and she brought me her old sling and asked me to carry her. She even suggested that we return Saja because she was so small she obviously wasn’t done. Dej and I gently talked to her. We taught her to hold Saja and we told her how much we loved her, but that was not enough.
            Everyone, of course, seemed to have an opinion on the matter. “It’s normal.” “Just let her cry it out.” “Don’t coddle her.” The suggestions ranged from buying her an exotic kitten to sending her to bed without dinner. None of these recommendations seemed to actually address the heart of Jenevieve’s pain.
 But one dear friend, Dana, actually hit the issue dead on. She came by the house with a delicious zucchini and cheddar casserole, complete with sweet potato rolls and loving motherly advice. “This is the perfect time for you to teach Jenevieve about how she sees herself. All this time she’s been the center of your attention, and she’s attached her worth to that. Now she has to share that love and attention with Saja.” 

The Eureka Moment
            Dana’s words sunk in almost at once. For all of her growing up, I had called Jenevieve “Momma’s little baby.” I had held her, sung to her, reaffirmed her, and loved her, but I had always drawn the focus back to the fact that she was my beloved daughter. Now I was also singing the same lullabies to Saja, carrying her in a baby sling of Jenevieve, and calling her “Momma’s little baby.” It didn’t matter that I told Jenevieve that she was “still Momma’s little girl.” It just wasn’t the same.
            Guilt wracked me. As the child of a child psychologist and a psychology major myself, I should have understood the implications. It is not enough to make a child feel special or appreciated. It has to go deeper into that. I had to find ways to help Jenevieve see herself as an individual. A young woman in the making, unique from every other girl. Her identity could not be wrapped up in being Momma’s baby. 

The Conversation
            Dej was much calmer about the realization than I. He always is. Together we came up with a plan to not only remind Jenevieve how much we loved her but to show her the wonderful little girl she was and that she was entering into an exciting new phase.
            When Jenevieve got up from her nap, Dej took Saja for a walk, and I picked her up. “What makes you special, sweetheart?”
            She couldn’t think of anything. She just fiddled with the wooden buttons on her cornflower blue cardigan.
            “Why do you think Mommy loves you?”
            Still no answer.
            I waited then, and when she still refused to answer me, I began to tell her all the wonderful things I had seen. I reminded her how gentle she was when she held baby Saja. I told her how hard she had worked to learn her letters and how she always did so well at trying again if she forgot which letter came next. Jenevieve smiled a little with each reminder, even looking up at me when I told her how I noticed the way she always separated the spoons from the forks when she helped me clear the table.
            I was choking up by the time Dej came back. But I kissed Jenevieve on the head and whispered, “You will always be my little girl, but that’s not the only reason you’re special. Nothing is ever going to change how much your daddy and I love you.” 

A Long Slow Process of Teaching and Rewarding Decision Making
            The next part of the process came in  reaffirming how proud we were of Jenevieve and how much we loved her. And more than that, we decided to let her make more decisions for herself. When she made a decision, we both praised her for the attributes she showed, not for the fact that she made them. The decisions started out small. Letting her pick out which baby sling I carried Saja in, what Jenevieve wore for the day, which vegetables we put in the salad, and the like.
            At night when she tried to come join us in bed, we gently refused. Instead, we started teaching her how to keep the nightmares away. I would get up and bring her a glass of water while Dej showed her that there was nothing under the bed.
My mother came up with the great idea of creating a sister blanket for Jenevieve to show Jenevieve the new and exciting relationship developing. Jenevieve picked out pictures of herself as a baby, Saja as a baby, and Saja and Jenevieve together. We then put them together in a photo collage, and I even had Jenevieve make some pictures. She painted them with watercolors, and I scanned them into the computer. The company my mother recommended, Vision Bedding, allowed us to organize the pictures and the painted sketches into a duvet cover for Jenevieve’s twin bed.
            When the package arrived, I told Jenevieve that it was to say thank you for her being such a good big sister. “You’re a role model for Saja, you know,” I said. “You show her how to be a good girl.” 

            My conversation with Dana made me realize how early I should have started teaching Jenevieve about who she was. While in her young mind, it likely seemed that she was just a little girl whose identity was a daughter, Jenevieve was far more than that.
            Experts tells us that cultivating positive self esteem and identity start when children are young and should focus on the child’s attributes rather than on physical beauty or role. Jenevieve turned out to be a very resilient child, fortunately. She knew that we loved her, and she soon learned that we were not replacing her.


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be updated by afternoon October 9 with all the carnival links.)

  • Why I Walk Around Naked — Meegs at A New Day talks about how she embraces her own body so that her daughter might embrace hers.
  • What I Am Is Not Who I Am — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama discusses her views on the importance of modeling WHO she is for her daughter and not WHAT she sees in the mirror.
  • Carnival of Natural Parenting: Verbs vs. Adjectives — Alisha at Cinnamon & Sassafras tries hard to compliment what her son does, not who he is.
  • The Naked Family — Sam at Love Parenting talks about how nudity and bodily functions are approached in her home.
  • How She'll See Herself — Rosemary at Rosmarinus Officinalis discusses some of the challenges of raising a daughter in our culture and how she's hoping to overcome them.
  • Self Esteem and all it's pretty analogies — Musings from Laura at Pug in the Kitchen on what she learned about self-esteem in her own life and how it applies to her parenting.
  • Beautiful — Tree at Mom Grooves writes about giving her daughter the wisdom to appreciate her body and how trying to be a role model taught Tree how to appreciate her own.
  • Do As I Say, Not As I Do: Nurturing A Healthy Body Image — Christy at Eco Journey in the Burbs is changing perceptions about her body so that she may model living life with a positive, healthy body image for her three young daughters.
  • Some{BODY} to LoveKate Wicker has faced her own inner demons when it comes to a poor body image and even a clinical eating disorder, and now she wants to help her daughters to be strong in a world that constantly puts girls at risk for losing their true selves. This is Kate's love letter to her daughters reminding them to not only accept their bodies but to accept themselves as well in every changing season of life.
  • They Make Creams For That, You Know — Destany at They Are All of Me writes about celebrating her natural beauty traits, especially the ones she passed onto her children.
  • New Shoes for Mama — Kellie of Our Mindful Life, guest posting at Natural Parents Network, is getting some new shoes, even though she is all grown up…
  • Raising boys with bodily integrity — Lauren at Hobo Mama wants her boys to understand their own bodily autonomy — so they'll respect their own and others'.
  • Sowing seeds of self-love in our children — After struggling to love herself despite growing up in a loving family, Shonnie at Heart-Led Parenting has suggestions for parents who truly want to nurture their children's self-esteem.
  • Subtle Ways to Build a Healthy Self-Image — Emily at S.A.H.M i AM discusses the little things she and her husband do every day to help their daughter cultivate a healthy self-image.
  • On Barbie and Baby Bikinis: The Sexualization of Young Girls — Justine at The Lone Home Ranger finds it difficult to keep out the influx of messages aimed at her young daughters that being sexy is important.
  • Undistorted — Focusing on the beauty and goodness that her children hold, Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children watches them grow, loved and undistorted.
  • Off The Hook — Arpita at Up, Down and Natural sheds light on the journey of infertility, and how the inability to get pregnant and stay pregnant takes a toll on self image…only if you let it. And that sometimes, it feels fantastic to just let yourself off the hook.
  • Going Beyond Being An Example — Becky at Old New Legacy discusses three suggestions on instilling healthy body image: positivity, family dinners, and productivity.
  • Raising a Confident Kid — aNonymous at Radical Ramblings describes the ways she's trying to raise a confident daughter and to instil a healthy attitude to appearance and self-image.
  • Instilling a Healthy Self Image — Laura at This Mama's Madness hopes to promote a healthy self-image in her kids by treating herself and others with respect, honesty, and grace.
  • Stories of our Uniqueness — Casey at Sesame Seed Designs looks for a connection to the past and celebrates the stories our bodies can tell about the present.
  • Helping My Boy Build a Healthy Body Image — Lyndsay at ourfeminist{play}school offers readers a collection of tips and activities that she uses in her journey to helping her 3-year-old son shape a healthy body image.
  • Eat with Joy and Thankfulness: A Letter to my Daughters about Food — Megan at The Boho Mama writes a letter to her daughters about body image and healthy attitudes towards food.
  • Helping Our Children Have Healthy Body Images — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares information about body image, and her now-adult daughter tells how she kept a healthy body image through years of ballet and competitive figure skating.
  • Namaste — Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment shares how at barely 6 years old, her daughter has begun to say, "I'm not beautiful." And while it's hard to listen to, she also sees it as a sign her daughter is building her self-image in a grassroots kind of way.
  • 3 Activities to Help Instill a Healthy Self-Image in Your Child — Explore the changing ideals of beauty, create positive affirmations, and design a self-image awareness collage. Dionna at Code Name: Mama shares these 3 ideas + a pretty affirmation graphic you can print and slip in your child's lunchbox.
  • Beautiful, Inside and Out — It took a case of adult-onset acne for Kat of MomeeeZen to find out her parenting efforts have resulted in a daughter that is truly beautiful, inside and out.
  • Mirroring Positive Self Image for Toddlers — Shannon at GrowingSlower reflects on encouraging positive self image in even the youngest members of the family.
  • How I hope to instill a healthy body image in my two girls — Raising daughters with healthy body image in today's society is no small task, but Xela at The Happy Hippie Homemaker shares how choosing our words carefully and being an example can help our children learn to love their bodies.
  • Self Image has to Come from WithinMomma Jorje shares all of the little things she does to encourage healthy attitudes in her children, but realizes she can't give them their self images.
  • Protecting the Gift — JW from True Confessions of a Real Mommy wants you to stop thinking you need to boost your child up: they think they are wonderful all on their own.
  • Learning to Love Myself, for my Daughter — Michelle at Ramblings of Mitzy addresses her own poor self-image.
  • Nurturing An Innate Sense of Self — Marisa at Deliberate Parenting shares her efforts to preserve the confidence and healthy sense of self they were born with.
  • Don't You Love Me, Mommy?: Instilling Self-Esteem in Young Children After New Siblings Arrive — Jade at Seeing Through Jade Glass But Dimly hopes that her daughter will learn to value herself as an individual rather than just Momma's baby
  • Exercising is FUN — Amy W. at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work talks about modeling for her children that exercising is FUN and good for body and soul.
  • Poor Little Chicken — Kenna at A Million Tiny Things gets her feathers ruffled over her daughter's clothing anxiety.
  • Loving the skin she's in — Mama Pie at Downside Up and Outside In struggles with her little berry's choice not to celebrate herself and her heritage.
  • Perfect the Way I Am — Erika at Cinco de Mommy struggles — along with her seven-year-old daughter — at telling herself she's perfect just the way she is.

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Morality of Hermit Crabs and the Treatment of Animals

“Mommy, Mommy, look what I won!” Jenevieve ran up to me, clutching a little plastic container in both hands. Inside the container skittered a small hermit crab. It had dark but bright eyes on thin stalks, and a thick hand painted shell. Three flowers intertwined over the top, one pink, one blue, one lavender.
“You won?” I repeated, looking at my niece. I had entrusted Jenevieve to her cousin’s care so that I could keep an eye on the boys. When I gave the girls $5, I had not expected them to come back with something living. I peered down the street and saw the booths. Typical “get a ball in the cup” games which offered a variety of prizes from rodents to crustaceans to fish. Concern for the poor creatures flooded me. It was a cold October evening, and the weather only promised to get colder. Though the workers all bundled about in jackets and hats, the animals had nothing but plastic containers to shield them.
“I won! I’m going to name her Amethyst,” Jenevieve said. She tilted the container so that she could see the little crab better and then smiled up at me. “Isn’t she pretty?”
I nodded that she was, but my heart sank. This was one of those areas in which I am very passionate. Though I am not vegan, I do not believe that animals should be treated this way. How could these workers know that a child who won would actually take care of the pet, let alone not abuse it? Not to mention the condition the poor creatures had to be in. I knew a great deal about hermit crabs. My roommate in college had specialized in their care. Her favorite baby, a coconut sized hermit crab named Millicent, spent a great deal of time in our bathtub and on our kitchen table, participating in our lives like a mute member of the family.
Jenevieve pulled me from my thoughts with a swift tug to my tartan scarf. “Look at her curling up in her shell, Mommy,” she said.
“She’s probably cold,” I answered. Readjusting the sling with baby Corrim inside, I beckoned my children closer. “We need to get home now. That hermit crab needs to be some place warm and humid.” My own personal issues aside, we had a little crab to take care of, and from the way the evening temperature was dropping, we needed to get home quickly.

An Awkward Conversation
Had we not had the hermit crab, leaving the carnival so early would have cause a great ruckus. But all of the children, including baby Corrim, were fascinated by the tiny crab and her curious tappings. Hustling everyone into the car, I drove us home, taking time to drop my niece off at her mother’s and thanking her for coming. When we returned home, the warm fragrant scent of white and red bean chili greeted us.
“I’ve got to feed Amethyst!” Jenevieve yelled.
“I’ll make her a house!” Ishtan shouted.
“I want a crab too!” Saja wailed.
Amidst all the chaos, I closed the doors, hung up jackets, and went to pop the cornbread in the oven. I had mixed everything up ahead of time so that it could start baking as soon as we got home. The noise all around me seemed to fade away though as I considered the conversation I needed to have with my daughter. She was a smart little girl, and she needed to understand the morality of such events. That just because something was fun did not mean it was harmless. With such a tender heart for animals, she needed to recognize that not all those who sold animals loved them. That’s why we never bought anything from pet stores.
Jenevieve brought her little container to the table and sat down. She had a bottle of crab food left over from the three hermit crabs we had had when she was a toddler. As she sprinkled some of the food into the container, she looked at me intently. “Why aren’t you happy, Mommy? Don’t you like Amethyst?”
            Ahhhhh. Yes. If my daughter was smart enough to recognize that her mother wasn’t happy, then surely she was old enough to understand the implications of morality in an issue such as this. At least, that’s the hope I latched onto and hoped for.
            “No, honey,” I said. “It’s not that at all. I like Amethyst a lot. I just…” Taking a deep breath, I pulled the chair out and sat down beside her. “It’s just that we don’t play games where they give animals away as prizes because it isn’t right.”
            “I won though.”
            “I know you did. But you see, the people who buy these animals don’t take care of them like they should. Look at Amethyst. She needs a warm humid environment, and they had her out tonight with nothing but the plastic to keep her warm. That’s not good for a hermit crab. It isn’t kind. And we don’t know how they take care of them when we aren’t there.”
            “The man seemed nice.”
            “I’m sure he did. People can always seem nice, and they may even think they are, but they don’t always do nice things to animals.” I then tried to explain to her the morality of humane choices and choosing to frequent organizations and stores which followed such practices rather than those that disregarded them. Though I tried to keep my words understandable, I knew I was losing her. So I had her restate it to me. She did, the troubled expression on her face growing.
            “You didn’t do anything wrong, sweetheart, because you didn’t know. But we don’t want to encourage them to keep treating animals that way.” 

Childlike Logic
            Jenevieve pursed her lips. She had thin lips just like her father, and she could pull the same contemplative look as her dad too. “So what they’re doing isn’t good and we shouldn’t do it,” she said, looking at me.
            “That’s right, honey.”
            “But the animals aren’t going to be very happy or healthy there, are they?” she asked.
            “No, probably not.”
            “So I saved Amethyst.” Jenevieve began stroking the top of Amethyst’s shell, a satisfied smile spreading on her face. “I want to go back tomorrow and save all the rest of the crabs too!”
            “Honey, we can’t do that. If we keep playing the game, then they’re going to keep making money and they’re going to keep on doing it.”
            “But if we don’t, then they’re going to be sad. I don’t want them to be sad. I don’t like it.” Jenevieve looked at me, very puzzled and troubled.
            “I know. There’s nothing we can do for them.” I thought about trying to explain to her reporting such matters, but it would only confuse the issue.
            “Isn’t that mean though? If we could help and we don’t?”
            This was one battle of many battles I was losing. My dear child’s conviction rivaled mine, but it drove her in a different direction. She could not understand how participating in the games would only fuel the business. All she saw was that immediate need: to rescue the hermit crabs, goldfish, mice, and rabbits. All of them. And I was at a loss for words. 

Too Heavy a Topic or an Unavoidable Issue
            The night did not pass as cheerfully as any of us hoped. When Dej arrived from work, he was startled to find that we were not nearly as chipper as he anticipated. He did not help matters much by assuring Jenevieve that this whole situation wasn’t a big deal.
            “You can’t go and save them all,” he said. “Besides, they don’t need to be saved. Mommy’s right that it isn’t the best place for them, but it’s better than where they might be. At least they don’t have to worry about being eaten alive. That wouldn’t be fun, now would it?”
            Somehow, even with that macabre description, he managed to pull a smile out of Jenevieve. She ran off to her room with Amethyst in hand. All of the pressure of the last conversation seemed to have vanished from her shoulders.
            “Well…I guess that settles that,” I said to Dej.
            “Don’t look so annoyed,” he grinned. He came up behind me and slipped his arms around me, hugging me close. “She’s too young to be thinking about this right now. They aren’t torturing the animals. They keep them clean. They’re just not as thoughtful as they should be. And if you don’t wait until she’s older, she’s going to bankrupt us trying to save them all.”
            “To not talk about it would have been hypocritical,” I said.
            “She’s just a kid, Jade.”

A Sticky Question of Morality I Still Haven’t Solved
            I wasn’t convinced. It still bothered me. The truth of the matter was that there was very little that any one could do about this matter. And Jenevieve’s questions had struck at a nerve within my own heart. Should I ignore the suffering or discomfort of a small group by boycotting the provider so that I could achieve a greater good?
            I have always abhorred concepts such as “the ends justify the means” and “just required for the greater good.” A lot of people can be hurt in that. Animals too. So what was I to do? It wasn’t feasible to save every one of those creatures. But to save some…was that worth it even it continued something I thought immoral?
            If any of you have wisdom, please feel free to share it. I don’t pretend to have the answers to this one. Life seems to be very much about learning truth and its nuances and then learning how to apply it. I did, of course, call the carnival manager. The booth vendors were all from the same company in that arena, and he listened to my concerns but ultimately assured me that they treated all of the animals humanely and there was nothing to worry about.
            These matters are difficult to think about, but sometimes I think that it is important to start with thinking and not let it pass by. Perhaps then I will know the best course to take.