“In the Shadow of the Axe”, by Carol Krueger. A Book Review by Kirsteen McLay-Knopp

Carol Krueger’s latest children’s novel, “In the Shadow of the Axe”, makes history come alive… and all “through the eyes of a child”.   Through the narrator, 13 year old Bessie, we are taken back in time to the reign of King Henry VIII of England during his divorce from his fourth wife, the German Anne of Cleves, then his marriage to his fifth wife, Katherine Howard, both during the month of July 1540.

Bessie is asked to be a “Lady in Waiting” to the new Queen Katherine.  This is historically accurate, as girls this young, from “noble” families were often invited to “serve” in the royal household. Indeed, this was regarded as an honour and even made these young women more of a “catch” for future husbands… most were married between 14 and 18 years of age.  Bessie is a rounded, believable character and we can empathise with the terrible pull she feels when asked to testify against Queen Katherine to whom she has sworn an oath of allegiance.

Portrait of Agnes Tilney, a Lady in Waiting to Anne Boleyn, who came to court at age 15 and carried the Queen’s train during her marriage. She was later God Mother to Anne’s daughter, Elizabeth.

When these women joined the queen’s office they had to swear the ceremonial oath. This oath was used to form a bond of allegiance between the ladies and their queen.

Furthermore, Katherine was only 17, close in age to Bessie, and, of course, had formed a strong bond with her.  Refusing to testify, or being accused of lying, would result in being accused of treason… the crime which was punished with the harshest penalty of all.

In “The Shadow of the Axe” Krueger shows us not only life at court, but also the harsh realities of the times… the plague (households were “shut down” for 40 days to be sure there was no risk of contamination); high infant death rates (Bessie’s mother has a stillborn baby during her daughter’s time at court); how marriages were arranged, particularly among the upper classes… daughters in particular had very little say in who they were to marry… and the gruesome reality of what happened to those who incurred the King’s wrath and were “sent to the tower”– as Katherine Howard was in November 1541, until the time of her execution in February 1542 at the age of 19.

Colourful characters such as Lady Rochford, who goes completely insane, or the intimidating Archbishop Cramer, who is tasked with questioning all the Queen’s staff about her behaviour and loyalty to the King, are even more interesting when readers learn that these were indeed real people and Krueger tells the story of Katherine Howard’s downfall and eventual execution realistically and accurately.  There are also interesting historical notes at the end of the novel.

A word of warning to the squeamish: accounts of torture and execution are not spared… the description of the death of Frances Dereham is particularly gruesome and Bessie’s sense of horror at what has happened is palpable.  I know some people strongly disagree with children learning about such things as Medieval torture and execution.   Personally, I believe that “knowledge is power”, particularly when it comes to history and the mistakes of the past.  The harsh reality of King Henry’s subjects (including his courtiers and even his wives) being at the mercy of his temper and power to snuff out life also pervades the book.

My ten year old son (who loves history) and I read this book together and we both really enjoyed it.  Despite knowing the historical outcomes, the book has another layer of interest, as we wonder how all these things came about and what happens to our narrator, Bessie.  Krueger has a talent for crafting time, place, character and scene, so that events which took place over 500 years ago come alive.

 

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20 Adorable And Easy DIY Valentine’s Day Projects For Kids, by Vanessa Beaty

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Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. If you have kids – or grandkids – and are looking for projects to keep them busy and help spread the love, I’ve found a great collection of adorable crafts that you can make together. All of these are so easy that even toddlers can help with them, and they are all so cute your kids will love them.

I love Valentine’s Day. From the candy and flowers to the wide array of crafts, there’s just so many ways that you can show someone how much they mean to you. I also love DIY, which is why this collection of Valentine’s Day projects is perfect. Whether you want to make cards for teachers or grandparents or you and your little ones love baking together, I promise there’s something in this collection that will thrill you and your kids.

From marshmallow pops to homemade heart ornaments that you can display all year long, these projects are as lovely as they are simple to complete. Looking to dress up your little one for the holiday? There’s a great homemade heart barrette, or you could do her nails with these gorgeous Valentine’s nail art designs.

Whatever you and your littles are planning for the day, you don’t want to miss these projects. Let your little one make a Valentine box to hold her special treasures or help them create butterflies from doilies. There is something in here for kids of all ages, and several that we parents will love, too.

1. Bee My Valentine Mailbox

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Remember making those great Valentine’s boxes when you were in school? This project is very in keeping with that tradition, and is really easy for kids of all ages. Kids will love putting their Valentines in their own little “Bee My Valentine” mailbox, and you can customize the cards that they pass out at school to match this great little box. I love the bee theme, and you only need a small handful of supplies to make it.Tutorial: momendeavors

2. Valentine’s Day Countdown

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I simply love this idea! It’s 14 small hearts that you use to countdown to Valentine’s Day. Just create the hearts with little messages of love on the backs and they look great displayed in a vase or mason jar atop lollipop sticks or straws. This gives kids a way to spread the love for two entire weeks before the big day, and they will adore decorating their hearts and choosing their messages

Tutorial: makeandtakes

To read more of this post, please follow the link below…

http://www.diyncrafts.com/22787/crafts/20-adorable-easy-diy-valentines-day-projects-kids

Also, check out this Valentine’s Day Post, which also has ways to teach kids about the history behind Valentine’s Day…

https://theforeveryears.wordpress.com/2015/02/13/valentines-day-celebrating-love-with-our-kids/

“The Cellar’s Echo,” by Huberta Hellendoorn: A Child’s Experience of War: Link to a short story broadcast on Radio NZ

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“The child on the staircase imagines a secret place with walls so thick she cannot hear the guns and no windows through which she can see the dead bodies.”

Imagine if you will, a seven year-old girl sheltering with her family in the cellar of their house as war rages in the streets outside. What does she feel?

Huberta Hellendoorn’s The Cellar’s Echo vividly recounts her own childhood experience in Holland during the last days of World War II. And who could have imagined that 50 years later she would make a remarkable re-connection with that fearful past?

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Huberta at kindergarten (“We started school at 6 years old but because my birthday was in October I had to wait until August of the next year before I could start school.”) Photo: Supplied

The first Palm Sunday celebration after the war, which was held on a Saturday). Evidence of war damage still to be seen. (Huberta says this photo may have been taken by a newspaper.)

A photo taken by Huberta’s family GP, Dr JB Thate, whose sons Henk was her classmate.Photo: Supplied

Fear, dread, horror? These are powerful and primitive human emotions all children experience. We all fear the dark, the unknown thing under the bed, scary pirates from a movie. But these are products of our imagination, however real they may seem.

(To read more, and listen to the short story, please follow the link below…)

http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/standing-room-only/audio/201822985/the-cellar’s-echo

Part of her “Forever Years” spent in a Nazi Death Camp: Miracle that saved a girl from Auschwitz gas chamber, by Paul Ewart

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Yvonne Engelmann was just 15 when she was rounded up with her family and sent to Auschwitz concentration camp, one of the network of German Nazi extermination camps operated by the Third Reich in Poland in World War II from 1940-1945.

But it was an unlikely miracle that saw her survive to tell the disturbing tale.

After arriving at the camp, Yvonne was immediately sent to the gas chamber. Thanks to some strange twist of fate, it malfunctioned and she was left naked in the chamber overnight before being freed.

By some miracle, the Nazis kept her alive, and she was sent to sort through the clothes of newly arrived Jews to find any gold or valuables they’d hidden.

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The infamous German inscription that reads ‘Work Makes Free’ at the main gate of the Auschwitz I extermination camp on November 15, 2014 in Oswiecim, Poland. Photo / AP

Her “job” saw her stationed in between the crematorium (which burnt 24-hours daily) and the gas chambers. She ended up being the sole survivor from her entire family, and made a new life for herself in Australia.

“I was 14 and a half when war broke out,” Yvonne tells news.com.au.

“I wasn’t allowed to go to school, I couldn’t walk on the street, I had to wear the yellow Star of David and couldn’t mix with any non-Jewish people. Friends I’d grown up with now totally ignored me, solely because I was born a Jew.

“My father was taken to the police station many times and we never knew if he would come back. One day he returned and his front teeth had been knocked out. We lived in fear constantly – we had no idea what would happen to us in the next hour, let alone in the next day.”

Born in Czechoslovakia to shopkeeper parents, Yvonne was an only child.

“I had the most wonderful childhood that anyone could wish for, but unfortunately it was short-lived.”

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Yvonne Engelman says as a survivor of Auschwitz it is important to perpetuate the memory of those lost and volunteers her time to teach and “tell the world what really happened”. (Photo Source: Sydney Jewish Museum)

In the limbo of uncertainty, things went from bad to worse. Her parents’ shop was taken away and the family was forcibly removed from their home to a cramped Jewish ghetto.

At the approach of her 15th birthday, she and her family were taken from the ghetto – along with hundreds of others – to the railway station where they were piled into dozens of cattle wagons.

“Men, women, children, screaming babies – the journey was too horrific to even describe,” she recalls.

“There was no ventilation, it was hot, an overflowing tin bucket was the only toilet … we were stripped of our humanity.”

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A wedding photo of holocaust survivors Yvonne (nee Engel) and John Engelman, 1949, Australia

(To read more of this article, please follow the link below…)

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/world/news/article.cfm?c_id=2&objectid=11721357

See also related post:

https://theforeveryears.wordpress.com/2015/04/15/born-in-auschwitz-how-one-woman-delivered-3000-babies-during-the-holocaust/

Acknowledging Past Institutional Child Sexual Abuse In Aotearoa/ New Zealand and Ensuring the Protection of Vulnerable Children in the Future, by Grant West and Kirsteen McLay-Knopp

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My name is Grant West I am a survivor of child sexual abuse in New Zealand. My abuse was by many different people in government-run institutions.

I am now travelling New Zealand collecting signatures on a petition calling for a Royal Commission Inquiry into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. I started in Dunedin and have travelled the South Island. I will be in Wellington on the 14th August 2016 to start to collect signatures on the petition from the 15th 16th 17th and 18th in the Cuba Mall.

I will be traveling the North Island to Lake Taupo and Rotorua from the 20th until the 23rd and then on to Hamilton from the 23rd until the 26th. From there I will be heading for Auckland, staying there until the 14th of September when I will fly back to Wellington too hand over the petition to three MPs on the steps of Parliament on the 15th of September at 1:15 pm.

I am asking for changes to the Australian and New Zealand Royal Commission.   As I am funding this out of my own money. I need help to be able to pay for things like the car hire and accommodation and petrol. So please if you can help me out and give a little bit that would help. New Zealanders: ANZ 06-0909-0439736-00   And Australians: Westpac BSB 033-607 ACC 000796  Even If anyone concerned out there gave a dollar or two, It would add up and help the cause.

With everyone signing the petition your signature is taking back the power from the government of New Zealand and putting it back in the hands of the people. Thank you for your support. My Facebook webpage is Silence No More NZ please go there and have a look.

I am here to stop the sexual abuse of New Zealand children and to give all victims and survivors, including and those that are no longer with us, a voice.

 

The following is from an interview Grant West recently gave to the Australian newspaper The Courier.

r52_143_3280_4227_w1200_h678_fmaxWhen Grant West was eight he was placed in juvenile detention after he was caught by police attempting to burn down a Presbyterian Church. 

It would be the first of many desperate attempts Mr West would make to end a cycle of horrific sexual abuse inflicted on him from the age of four. 

Mr West told The Courier he was the victim of intrafamilial sexual abuse before he was raped by a church minister at the age of six.

He become a ward of the state until the age eight and were abused up until the age 16.

He spoke of systematic beatings, sadistic sexual abuse and culture of fear at the boys home which was run by the former Department of Social Welfare from the 1960s through to the 1980s.

“I was shoved into a cell and beaten to a pulp,” Mr West said.

“The first night I was made to stand naked in the shower while they turned a high pressure fire hose on me. It wasn’t long after that the night-watchmen started sexually abusing me.” 

Mr West, has lived in Ballarat for more than a decade.

He suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and has made multiple attempts to end his life. 

While one of his perpetrators is in jail in New Zealand, others have died without ever being prosecuted. 

Mr West has made it his mission to protect future generations of children and get justice for scores of child sexual abuse victims in New Zealand. 

He is calling for the New Zealand federal government to roll-out an independent royal commission mirroring Australia’s child sex abuse inquiry.

He plans on travelling around New Zealand to get more than 200,000 signatures for petition which will be lodged in parliament.

He has returned to New Zealand because he wants to see changes to the system in his home country.

“We are asking for all institutions who care for children to have mandatory reporting of sexual abuse cases,” he said. “This is about changing the way we deal with children.”

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Grant West, right and supporter Pete Chapman are collecting signatures calling for a Royal Commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse. Source: http://www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/news/83075972/kiwi-expat-calling-for-royal-commission-inquiry-into-child-sex-abuse

Related You-tube Video…

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“The Dunedin Longitudinal Study”…one of the most amazing and detailed studies EVER of how important “The Forever Years” of childhood are in shaping the adults we become. By Kirsteen McLay-Knopp

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“The Dunedin Longitudinal Study” or the “Dunedin Multidisciplinary Study” (now also known just as “The Dunedin Study”) can fairly be described as one of the most amazing and detailed studies EVER of how important “The Forever Years” of childhood are in shaping the adults we become.   Recently a four part TV series was screened about the study. Entitled “Why am I?”, the series looks at the different areas examined in “The Dunedin Study”.  Findings from the study illuminate adult problematic issues, many of which can now be identified within the first five years of life.  For those who have not seen “Why am I?”, it is available at the link below, although friends overseas tell me that they cannot get TVNZ On Demand outside of NZ.  (Give it a go anyway).  For those here in Aotearoa/ NZ, you have to sign up to TVNZ On Demand, but it is free to do so.

Link…

https://www.tvnz.co.nz/ondemand/why-am-i/episode-1-6474579#

History

The author (far right) with her parents, brother, an aunt and two cousins in Dunedin, 1981

The author (far right) with her parents, brother, an aunt and two cousins in Dunedin, 1981

I have a strong personal interest in this study, because my brother and two of my cousins are/ were participants and it began, and is still based in, my home town, Dunedin/ Ōtepoti, New Zealand/ Aotearoa.  Many memories of my own “Forever Years” are similar to those of study participants.

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Map showing location of Dunedin, New Zealand.

“The Dunedin Study” was started in 1972 by Phil Silva, a teacher and psychologist.

ALDEN WILLIAMS/FAIRFAX NZ Psychologist Phil Silva is emeritus director of the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study, which has tracked around 1000 people from infancy to middle age.

Psychologist Phil Silva is emeritus director of the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study, which has tracked around 1000 people from infancy to middle age. Source: ALDEN WILLIAMS/FAIRFAX NZ

Silva was a teacher first, then a psychologist working with young people with learning and behaviour problems. He helped paediatricians from the Otago University medical school on a neonatology survey of around 250 children. It became the basis of his PhD and opened his eyes to a staggering number of undiagnosed childhood problems. 

A child participant, late 1970s

A child participant, late 1970s

“Kids who couldn’t hear, kids who couldn’t see, kids who had language problems, kids who had language delay. Let’s say that one in 10 had a pretty important problem that had not been identified and dealt with.”

He realised they needed a bigger study of a larger sample group. So they identified the 1037 children born at Dunedin’s Queen Mary Hospital between April 1972 and March 1973. They tested and assessed them at age 3, then 5, 7 and so on.   [Source:  http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/81109052/national-portrait-phil-silva-psychology-pioneer]

Luckily for Silva and his team, and for all of us, funding for the study has continued and the testing was able to continue as the “babies” grew into children, teenagers and then adults. Dr. Silva retired from his position as director of the study in 1999 and the role was taken over by Dr. Richie Poulton, who continues “The Dunedin Study” today.

The study is unique in that researchers have gone out of their way to retain participants.  Many are now scattered around New Zealand and the world, but, every six years, the study pays for them to be flown, from wherever they are, to Dunedin for testing.  This has resulted in a world record longitudinal study retention rate of 96% of participants (compared with a 30% rate of retention in other studies).  Current director, Dr. Richie Poulton, says,

“…our advantage is that we keep them in. …  We have kept [participants] whether they are transient, incarcerated or on the run from the law.”

The high retention rate of participants, Poulton says, as well as the wide and extremely varied lives they have led, gives weight to the data collected.

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NZ Tourism Poster

“In the early days there was a reluctance to take the study seriously.  Some thought results from 1000 people in New Zealand couldn’t possibly apply to people in other parts of the world.  This was in part due to the 1970s New Zealand Tourism Board, which promoted Aotearoa as a tropical Polynesian destination.” [Source: Why am I?, Episode 1].

As time went by however, it became apparent that results of “The Dunedin Study” were comparable with similar studies in other developed countries around the globe.  Over the past 40 years there has been an average on one academic paper published every 13 days, relating to the findings of “The Dunedin Study”.

We at the “Forever Years” believe these study findings should be available to all people everywhere, and will have a huge impact on our perception of childhood, particularly the early years.    Some of the areas of major findings in children which have continued into their adulthoods are summarised below.

"The Octagon" (Centre of town, Dunedhttp://www.stuff.co.nz/southland-times/76867478/Dunedin-study-is-the-gift-that-keeps-givingn, NZ, c. 1972

“The Octagon” (Centre of town), Dunedin NZ, c. 1972

For the next few posts, “The Forever Years” will be writing short articles on these topics, the results discovered in “The Dunedin Study” and how these can be used to help children… and people in general.  We will create links on the following topics, so readers can click on them (in the list below) and read about a particular aspect investigated by “The Dunedin Study”.   These will be useful to members of the general public, anywhere in the world, who are unable to access the documentary.  We hope they will also help to summarise and clarify some of the main points made in the documentary and through the research undertaken by “The Dunedin Study”, with a focus on identifying particular issues in early childhood.

Dr. Poulton says the experience of being director of “The Dunedin Study” has changed him and given him a deeper understanding of altruism, trust and courage.  Among participants, he says, are people who have had very hard lives, including those who have trusted researchers with personal information they have never told anyone else, such as having been sexually abused.  “We have to honour their trust,” Poulton says, “…we are the guardians of a reservoir of extraordinary good will.”  He says it is important that the results of the study (and continuing results as the participants move into middle and then old age) move “outside the ivory tower of academia”, so they can be implemented in general society.

Richie Poulton, talking with a child in an early learning centre.

Richie Poulton, talking with a child in an early learning centre.

Childhood is a time of hope and possibility for both children and parents.  “The Dunedin Study” has identified that many adult problems begin much earlier in life than we’d previously imagined.  But it has also found overwhelming evidence of the benefits to children of a good start in life… and that a good start can avert what may initially appear to be negative personality traits (positive nurture can overcome negative nature, if you like).  Overall, then, we at “The Forever Years” believe the message presented in data collected is one of hope for our children, if the results are then acted upon.  Acting upon them will mean early intervention for “at risk” children and a greater investment in our children’s early years, including in supporting parents and in quality early childhood education.  A “good childhood” with a balanced and predictable environment and parenting which is warm, stimulating, sensitive and consistent sets people up for the best life trajectory.

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Related Links…

http://dunedinstudy.otago.ac.nz/

http://dunedinstudy.otago.ac.nz/about-us

http://www.stuff.co.nz/entertainment/tv-radio/80402120/Dunedin-providing-the-data-that-could-shape-humanitys-future

http://www.stuff.co.nz/southland-times/76867478/Dunedin-study-is-the-gift-that-keeps-giving

The Remarkable Power of Play – Why Play is so Important for Children, by Karen Young

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Childhood was different in the ‘60s. Children spent their days in the sunshine, playing backyard cricket or riding bikes around the neighbourhood – often in a motley crew but never in a helmet or sunscreen. Sunscreen was what happened during a lunar eclipse and protective head gear generally took the form of a cap. Worn backwards. And seatbelts? They were a sweet idea, but quite useless if there were a tribe of kids in the back.

We’ve learnt a lot since then and we’ve moved forward in a lot of ways, but we’ve been getting something wrong.

Since the 1960’s, time children spend playing has decreased.

It’s a different world today and it is no longer as safe for kids cruise to through the streets by themselves. There are different challenges and different pulls on our time. Families are busy, mums and dads are busy, kids are busy. One thing that hasn’t changed since the 60s is the critical role of play in developing little people into healthy, vibrant, thriving, healthy bigger ones. It’s up there with education, love and sleep.

How free play builds healthy, vibrant humans.

Free play is critical for children to learn the skills that are essential to life – skills that cannot be taught in a more formal, structured setting.

In every way, play is practice for the life. A lot of play involves imitating grown-ups – their work, their roles, the way they interact.

Learning how to play is as important as anything that can come from play. It’s no accident that children will often spend as much time establishing what the play will look like, or the rules of the game, as they do actually playing it. They learn vital social and emotional skills that they could not learn anywhere else – how to get on with others, how to be empathic, nurturing, kind, strong, generous, how to deal with difficult people, how to be a part of something bigger than themselves, how to get their own needs met without crashing the needs of others. Learning how to play is as important as anything that can come from play. We want them to know that life can be fun and a happy, healthy life means being able to tap into that, even as grown-ups. As a part of play, they can’t help but learn.

Play is instinctive and not just for human children – all young mammals play. This shows how important it is to development.

Research has shown that the reason children grow so slowly and are dependent for so long is because the brain is taking so much of the body’s resources, leaving little available for physical growth. At mid-childhood, around the age of 4, the brain is at its busiest, maxing out synapses (connections) and developing more intensely and quickly than it will at any other age. This is when we learn an abundance of skills needed to be successful humans – social skills, curiosity, creativity, problem-solving. The world of a toddler is a busy one – so much to do! There’s a lot to learn at and it’s no accident that this is the age when the need for play is at its peak.

Children are naturally playful. If they have the opportunities to follow the curiosity, do what they enjoy, and discover and experiment with the world around them, they will thrive. Without it, parts of their development will struggle.

Let them play and they’ll thrive. Here’s how.

Children were born to play. Their development depends on it. Provide the opportunities and the development will happen:

  1. Their creativity will flourish.

    An extensive body of research has found that over the past few decades the amount of free play for children has reduced. In a study published in the Creativity Learning Journal, respected Professor of Education, Kyung Hee Kim wrote,

    ‘Since 1990, even as IQ scores have risen, creative thinking scores have significantly decreased. The decrease for kindergartners through third graders was the most significant … children have become less emotionally expressive, less energetic, less talkative and verbally expressive, less humorous, less imaginative, less unconventional, less lively and passionate, less perceptive, less apt to connect seemingly irrelevant things, less synthesizing, and less likely to see things from a different angle.’

    Across the board – in business, academia, the arts – creativity has been long been lauded as a critical asset. In an IBM poll, 1500 CEOs were asked to name the best predictor of future success. Their answer? Creativity.

(To read more of this article, please follow the link below…)

http://www.heysigmund.com/why-play-is-so-important-for-children/

The Ripple Effects of Kindness to Kids, A Wonderful Story!

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The incredible story of Hilde Back and Chris Mburu shows how even small acts of kindness can touch many lives in ways entirely unforeseen. When she was a girl, a stranger’s kindness saved Hilde Back’s life by helping her to escape to Sweden from Nazi Germany where both her parents died in concentration camps. Back eventually became a teacher and, remembering her days as a Jewish girl in Germany when she was denied the opportunity to attend school under the Nazi Nuremburg Laws, she decided to pay for the education of a child who would otherwise not have a chance to go to school. The child she sponsored was Chris Mburu.

Mburu grew up in a poor family in rural Kenya whose family could not afford to pay the small tuition fee required for children to continue their studies beyond elementary school. Due to his excellent grades, he was selected for participation in a Swedish sponsorship program and Hilde Back paid his way through secondary school. Mburu excelled in school and went on to earn degrees from the University of Nairobi and Harvard Law School.

In order to help other talented children from poor families continue their studies at secondary school, Mburu created a foundation in 2001. With the support of the Swedish Ambassador in Kenya, Mburu was able to track down the benefactor who had transformed his life and named the foundation in her honor: The Hilde Back Education Fund.

(To read more, including great links to documentaries etc related to this story, follow the link below…)

https://www.facebook.com/amightygirl/posts/932391220130525:0

Names, Dates and Places: Preserving our Heritage for Future Generations, by Kirsteen McLay-Knopp

Valda FY

Last night my husband and I went out to my mother-in-law’s place.  Valda, my mother-in-law, has recently lost a great deal of her sight and she had a large box of unlabeled photographs, spanning generations, which she wanted us to attach names, places and dates to, as much as she was able to tell us, before her sight deteriorates to a point where she is unable to see the pictures.  We managed to get through about a third of the photographs in the box, so there will have to be a couple more sessions.

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Dawn aged 3, Owen aged 7 and Valda (my mother-in-law) aged 5 years, Tuapeka Mouth, South Otago, Aoteraroa/ New Zealand, 1943

I really love the photograph above, it was one of the ones we labelled last night.  The girl on the right is Valda, my mother-in-law, and the other two children are her siblings.  This photo was unlabeled, but Valda’s sharp memory filled in the details.  I am going to frame this one and put it where our four children can regularly see it: children thrive on a sense of connection across generations, as well as an understanding that all adults, even grandparents, were once children, that a common point of humanity is that we all pass through “forever years,” our childhood years, which are so vital in shaping the men and women we become.  I love that Valda’s face, in this picture, is very recognisably her, we can see 76 year old Valda in 5 year old Valda and vice versa.  One of my sons (aged 8) recently asked me  why people all “have their own face?”.  I said that otherwise we’d get everyone mixed up, if we all looked the same.  This is true across generations too, just as it is also fascinating to observe family resemblances.

So I urge everyone out there to do the following things:

  1. If there’s an older relative in your whanau/ family who has lots of unlabelled photographs, team up with him or her and write down as much as you can of the stories behind the pictures.  It’s really worth the investment of time and you learn so much.
  2. Wherever possible, make NAMES, DATES and PLACES the priority.  Sometimes dates have to be “guesstimated” from the ages of children in the photographs… a guess at a date is far better than no date at all.  You can put, for example, c. 1943 if you’re not sure of the date exactly.    The “c” means “circa”, around.
  3. Don’t ever throw out photos, especially those with people in them, even if you’re unsure who the people are.  Once they’re gone that’s it.  If you don’t know who someone is, put a question mark or “unknown”.  Sometimes these things are discovered years later and in unexpected ways.
  4. If you find storing lots of old photographs or albums difficult (the biggest problem is usually space) take them to your local archives and records office (preferably once you have labelled them as much as possible).  This ensures that they will be kept safely in archive boxes (and avoids the risks of such things as fires or floods in private homes) and also, as the roots of the family tree spread out, it means anyone who wishes to can access their tipuna/ ancestors… so those who have particular interest in the family history are free to follow it.
  5. With photos from the pre-digital era, it’s often good to scan them or copy them or otherwise back them up.  There should never be only one copy of any picture.  This, again, also gives options to different branches of the family if people wish to display older family photographs, anyone who wishes to can.
  6. In the present:  time passes quickly and we always think we will remember things… and then don’t.  If you print out any photographs, label them with (again) names, dates and places.  If you have pictures stored on your computer, store them in files with dates and places, for example, “Christmas Holidays 2014,, South Otago”.  It’s always better to provide too much information, if you’re unsure, than to leave a blank.

Children (and people generally) are interested in their ancestors and history at different times in their lives and some will always have more interest than others.  It is important to leave a clear legacy: often it only takes a moment to scribble down a date. It’s all part of providing our children with the rich tapestry of how they came to be here, now.

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“Babywearing”: Through History and Today, by Anna Hughes, Co-director of “Wearing Your Baby”

1909 Maori Women FY

Babywearing is the act of carrying your baby hands free using a fabric carrier. Dr William Sears coined the phrase in the 80’s when his wife started carrying one of their eight children in a sling she’d made out of a bed sheet. She commented that she really enjoyed ‘wearing’ him, hence came the term ‘babywearing’.

baby-in-a-basket-3-624x569

“Baby in a basket”: a traditional Chinese baby carrier.

It’s a growing trend here in New Zealand and many other Western countries, but for many of the world’s people babywearing is what they have always done and continue to do. On arrival in New Zealand the British observed Māori carrying their babies on their backs, “…an old man (if not a chief) might be seen toiling all day at his work with his little grandchild strapped on his back.” (Tregear, E. 1904). Carriers were made from muka of the harakeke (flax). It would have taken weeks to make enough muka strong enough for a baby carrier. When the old army issue blankets became readily available to Māori they mostly used these as baby carriers. From the 50’s the practice of babywearing was rare in Māori society. Dr Fredrick Truby King’s Mothercare book and nurses who worked for the newly formed Plunket society discouraged the practice of even holding your baby more than necessary for fear of spoiling them or passing on germs that might cause sickness or death.

It wasn’t until the 70’s that babywearing started to reappear in New Zealand and La Leche League played at integral part in the resurgence. LLL has always been a strong supporter of holding your baby close. With your baby secured against you in a carrier you are hands free to continue with jobs while still being able respond to your baby’s needs in the present moment, particularly that of breastfeeding.

yac FY

The Yequana people of the Venezuelan jungle: a mother wearing her baby.

A pattern for the traditional Chinese Mei tai carrier was published in a NZ, LLL magazine in the 70’s. Along with the increased ease and decreasing cost of international travel, LLL being an international organization, provided information about how other cultures managed and treated their babies. Jean Leidloff’s book ‘The Continuum Concept’ was first published in 1975. After living with the Yequana people of the Venezuelan jungle for two years she questioned the way in which our Western culture was treating it’s newest members. She developed the idea of the ‘in-arms’ phase of a baby’s life. A time from birth to 9 months or more, when the ‘rightful’ place of a baby is in the arms of another human being. She believed a baby has an innate biological expectation to be held, “…just as our waterproof skin has the expectation of rain.” (Leidloff, J. 1975). Leidloff’s controversial book, still read by many expectant parents today, contributed to the return of babywearing in the West.

The practicality of babywearing for parents is just one of many benefits. A study of Canadian mothers and their infants showed that babies who were carried more, (4.4 hours per day compared to 2.7 hours per day), cried for a significantly shorter amount of time “- a 43 percent difference.” (Barr, R.G. 1991). The frequency of crying was similar but the duration far less at the peak crying age of 8 weeks. A follow on study looked at whether increased carrying for babies labeled colicky at 8 weeks of age decreased the amount of crying for these babies.It was found that it did not. It might be concluded that increased carrying from birth may have a preventative effect when it comes to crying or colic.

A recent study by Ken Blaiklock of Unitec Institute of Technology in Auckland showed that there is minimal interaction between a baby and parent when they are placed in a forward facing pushchair. Interaction and vocalizing increased slightly when the baby was orientated towards the parent but not many of these prams were observed. The conclusion was that interaction between parent and baby was at its highest when the baby was facing and at a similar height to the parent, notably when in a supermarket trolley. Although Blaiklock observed babies being carried there was no discussion of the levels of interaction occurring. Suzanne Zeedyk published similarfindings from her 2008 research in the UK. She stressed the importance of being able to see your baby to respond to their needs and to facilitate verbal interaction essential for language acquisition.

Source for this photo: "Yummy Mummy".

Source for this photo: “Yummy Mummy”.

Like everything you do or use with your baby there are some safety considerations you must know. The FITS acronym covers the main points. Your baby must be Firm against you, particularly through the upper spine with the base of the newborn or sleeping baby’s head supported by the carrier. This ensures the chin is lifted off the chest allowing for an unrestricted airway. Your baby needs to be In sight, sound or feel. The carrier or clothing should not cover your baby’s face. The Top of your baby’s head needs to be up at your neck height. This allows for easy monitoring and a more ergonomic carrying position for you. You must ensure your baby’s hips and spine are well Supported by the carrier. You can read more about this last point below.

Wearing your baby helps them to regulate their heart rate, tempperature and breathing and decreases their stress hormones. This is why skin-to-skin contact during Kangaroo Care is so beneficial for a premature baby. With all this regulation done for them by their parent their immature little bodies can put energy into growing and healing. The same is true for the full term baby. The security that babywearing provides decreases the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol levels of a baby increase during parent-child separation and intense crying. Contrary to historic belief, when a baby’s need to be ‘clingy’ is met they become more confident and independent in time. The bond and trust that is built up between parent and baby when a baby’s physical and emotional needs are met in the present moment helps the baby to validate themselves as an individual and gives them confidence that they are worthy. Babywearing allows the infant to be close to their parent who can continue with everyday chores. As baby grows babywearing allows them direct and active experience of the world from their parent’s perspective.

Bub & Dad

A father wearing his baby

Fathers find babywearing an empowering parenting tool. They have the ability to provide closeness, comfort and security from the time their child is born as well as having a way to give their partner a break and get their baby to sleep. Babywearing is a powerful bonding tool for fathers and their babies.

Carrying your baby in an upright position provides support to the immature digestive system. Gravity helps food move in the right direction. The upright position in a baby carrier is similar to the position a baby is in during biological nurturing; the main difference being that your baby is higher on your body in a carrier. In the Spring, 2012 edition of Midwifery Today, Suzanne Colson discusses Biological Nurturing, “..the approach in itself encourages mothers to keep the baby in the right place, what Nils Bergman (2008) calls the “mammalian habitat”.

It is therefore not surprising that many mothers say BN helps them get to know their baby sooner.” In a baby carrier baby’s chest is against yours, with as much skin-to-skin as you choose, knees are tucked up above the height of their hips and slightly spread. The ideal baby carrier will firmly and securely support a newborn baby in this position known as the straddle squat or M position.

Another benefit of this position is that it supports the correct development of the baby’s hips and spine. A baby’s spine is in a C shape when born. The upper spine develops its curve around 3 months when baby learns to control his head. The spine continues to develop as baby learns to crawl with the lower spine developing its curveas baby becomes a competent walker. A good baby carrier and carrying style supports the spine in the natural C shape, not forcing it straight, which may contribute to incorrect development.

In the straddle squat position the head of the baby’s femur (thigh bone) fits correctly into the socket of the hip joint. In the opposite position with the baby’s legs pushed straight together or hanging straight down the head of the femur is being pressured outwards which may cause damage to the outer lip of the hip socket. Baby’s are checked for signs of Developmental Dysplasia of the Hips (DDH) by midwives and Well Child nurses in order to pick up on this condition and correct it before it causes long term damage and effects physical development. The treatment is a harness that lifts the knee to hip height and out to the side (the straddle squat position). A baby diagnosed with DDH may have to wear the harness for 3-4 months and in severe cases may need surgery.

The upright position also takes the pressure of the baby’s soft skull. A baby who is always lying in the same position in ababywearingFTW car seat or bassinet is at risk of developing flat spots on his or her skull. As most babies sleep lying down at night having day sleeps and daytime upright in a carrier provides a break from pressure on the skull as well as providing cuddles, closeness and bonding for baby and parent.

In establishing breastfeeding babywearing provides the ideal situation of babyy being close and ideally in as much skin-to-skin contact as possible with mum. Initially it is best to remove your baby from your carrier when she wants to feed to ensure correct breastfeeding technique is established. When you are confident that you and your baby have breastfeeding sorted there are many ways you can feed your baby without removing them from the carrier.

Babywearing provides so many benefits for both parent and baby. There are now a multitude of carrier types available on the market at varying prices. This can be overwhelming for new parents. Wearing Your Baby DVD and Download is a resource created to inspire parents to wear their babies.  It has information on the safety aspectsof babywearing and includes step-by-step instructions on how to use the six most common carrier types in New Zealand. It also includes sections on wearing two babies and on improvising your own carrier, making babywearing affordable for all.

Anna Hughes

Co-director Wearing Your Baby

www.wearingyourbaby.co.nz

Past LLL member, babywearing, co-sleeping, ‘nappy free’ and breastfeeding mother of two boys.

References:

Barr, RG., Hunziker, UA. (1986) Increased carrying reduces infant crying: a randomized controlled trial. Pediatrics. May 1986. 77(5):641-8.

Blaiklock, K. (2013). Talking With Children When Using Prams While Shopping. In NZ Research in Early Childhood Education Journal. Vol. 16. Pp. 15-28.

Colson, S. (2012). Biological Nurturing: The Laid-back Breastfeeding Revolution. Midwifery Today. Spring edition.

Leidloff, J. (1975). The Continuum Concept.

Tregear, E. (1904). The Māori Race.