Behind the library lies a serene, wide lake circled by a walking path and weeping willow trees. I like to walk the path, enjoy the breeze and the shady trees, and check out the metal sculptures like this blue flower and this bizarre bird.
My favorite sculpture is labeled "Sprout" and depicts the circular seed just beginning to unfurl. I love the spiraling expansion and swirling lines. Looking at Sprout makes me think about what it means to live and grow.
- Growth follows seasons. Our lives move through times and phases, planting and harvest, dark and light. We all experience times of great movement and change, but also times of great quiet and rest. Both phases are necessary and valuable. In times of quiet we learn and prepare to move forward. In times of action we leap ahead to new achievements and experiences.
- Growth produces fruit. The seed's only goal is to blossom and create. To produce the harvest, the seed first has to die, shatter its shell, and spread roots into the soil. The seed leaves its old state behind and presses forward toward its new and improved form.
- Growth requires struggle. Challenges and obstacles build strength and endurance. The green shoot forces its way upward, pushing through rocky soil, creeping around massive stones, and straining through narrow pavement cracks. The growing plant knows which way to turn, always reaching upward toward light and life.
God gives us all this instinct to grow, to look ahead, and move forward. We have to honor that drive, welcome the struggle, and give thanks for every opportunity to learn and change. To encourage growth in ourselves and others, we have to be willing to:
- Explore. To grow we have to seek new sights, pursue new experiences, and accept new challenges. We have to have open minds, expansive hearts, and willingness to walk an unfamiliar path around a deep, mysterious lake.
- Question. To grow we have to think about our place in life, our future, and our destination. We have to consider where we came from, ask ourselves where we are going, and wonder what we will find around the bend and beyond the trees.
- Believe. To grow we have to know that we all have a purpose, whether or not it is always apparent. We have to trust that we each have a reason to exist, and with persistence and faith we will grow into all that we were meant to be.
This season there are so many places I want to investigate and explore. I am looking forward to a quiet time of rest this fall and winter before an explosion of growth and change in the spring.
How do you encourage growth in yourself and others? How do you expect to change in the coming season?
Because I had some minor surgery yesterday, I've planned a few days off to focus on activities that are comforting and relaxing. It's nice to be reminded sometimes that life is about more than work and recognition. My plans for the coming week include:
- Sleep til 6 every morning and take a nap every afternoon.
- Take a long walk with someone who is very special to me.
- Eat ice cream with chocolate sauce and whipped cream.
- Reread Jane Eyre, the story of a poor nanny who marries her wealthy boss.
- Rewatch Pride & Prejudice, the story of a poor farmgirl who marries a wealthy aristocrat. (I see a pattern in my entertainment choices.)
- Enjoy unhurried conversation with my daughter and friends who stop by.
- Call my old mentor, Vivian, to catch up.
- Organize my closet and get some warm, cozy sweaters out of storage.
- Start sewing the quilt I'm making from old pajama pants.
- Watch the History Channel specials remembering 9/11 and be reminded that life is fragile. I will be grateful for every moment, value the people who are special to me, and recommit to helping others when I can. I will pray for God's peace, grace, and mercy for our world.
How do you spend any time you have for relaxing? What are your thoughts as we remember 9/11 this weekend?
My teenage daughter told me the dentist numbed her mouth, then left her sitting in the chair alone for nearly an hour. When the dental assistant finally returned to the room, she told my daughter the office was double booked for the day, and they would have to reschedule her filling.
"I took the day off school to do this," my daughter mumbled through her numbed mouth. "I can't reschedule for another day."
The dentist and his assistant came back to the room and filled my daughter's tooth -- without speaking to her. Actually, she said they sat on opposite sides of the chair and argued with each other the entire time they worked.
"I don't want to go back to that dentist again," she told me when she got home.
"Don't worry. We won't," I answered.
For many people, few events cause as much worry as a visit to the dentist's office. Fortunately, introducing your child to a good dentist early can help avoid much of the anxiety associated with the dentist's chair.
"First tooth, first visit," advises Shannon, a dental hygienist. She explains that parents should take their children to the dentist as soon as the first baby tooth is on display.
At a first dental visit, the dentist will likely sit knee-to-knee with the parent with the baby lying across both adults' laps. The goal of the first visit is to help the child be comfortable with the bright lights and unfamiliar environment of the dentist's office. This time also allows the dentist to look for any developmental habits, like pacifier or thumb-sucking, that may affect tooth formation in the future and to advise parents on future dental care.
As children grow and teeth develop, Shannon recommends scheduling regular dental visits every six months. She also advises taking children to a family dentist, instead of one who specializes in pediatric dentistry, as soon as the child has all permanent teeth.
Your dentist may suggest several treatments to protect teeth as the child grows. Sealants are applied to 6 year molars and 12 year molars. These protective covers seal out bacteria and prevent decay from growing in the grooves of teeth. Fluoride treatments are brushed onto chewing surfaces of teeth once a year to protect teeth from decay.
If a cavity is diagnosed, it is best to get the decay taken care of while it is small and does not affect the pulp or healthy part of the tooth. Once decay goes into the dentin, the second layer of the tooth, the cavity will grow and possibly spread to surrounding teeth as well. If that happens, a child may need general anesthesia to allow the dentist to repair and fill several cavities at once. Extensive dental repairs are painful and can make children afraid to return to the dentist in the future.
However, many families don't have dental insurance. I had selected the angry dentist who argued across his dental chair because he was one who advertised "No insurance necessary" services.
"Call your dentist and ask the cost of services like cleaning and exams," suggests Shannon. "Then set money aside every month for the dental expenses of the family. It is more expensive in the long run to skip dental check-ups and have to pay for fillings later." As another alternative, Shannon recommends visiting dental hygienist schools and training programs for low-cost preventative care. Colleges that train dental assistants offer cleanings, X-rays, and sealants at reasonable prices.
The Healthy Smiles Project and the Healthy Teeth website offer games, activities, and coloring pages that help teach children to care for their own smiles. Verywell.com posts articles on dental care and other health issues for young children.
Shannon suggests that parents ask around when searching for the right dentist. "The experiences and word of mouth referrals of other people make great recommendations."
After my daughter's experience with the angry dentist, I refuse to go to any dentist who doesn't make me feel cared for and comfortable. I reserved money from each year's tax refund to pay for our cleanings and checkups. I found a dentist who told jokes across his dental chair and made his patients smile.
How have you helped your children feel more comfortable about going to the dentist?
I kept my daughter's baby shoes, receiving blankets with spit-up stains, and books with her name written in the cover. I preserved her handprints and coloring book pages. In a box at the bottom of my closet, are all her baby teeth, carefully sealed in individual envelopes and labeled for the Tooth Fairy: "MY TOOF."
"People don't think they have to take care of their kids' baby teeth, because they get new ones anyway," begins Shannon, a dental hygienist, "but baby teeth are important because they hold space for the adult teeth. The roots of baby teeth guide the permanent teeth into place. Good baby teeth are necessary to maintain face shape and smiling, and for chewing and eating."
Shannon offers parents numerous ideas on how to care for our children's teeth and preserve the health and beauty of their smiles. She says dental care has to begin with the smallest children, long before they have a mouthful of pearly whites.
Beware of Baby Bottle Tooth Decay
When liquids, including breast milk, pool in a child's mouth at night, the sugars in the milk or food combine with bacteria, and the decay process begins on teeth. It is important to wipe out the child's mouth before bedtime, and never put a baby to bed with a bottle, unless it contains only water.
Don't Share Spoons
Adults can experience Gingivitis, gum disease, or Periodontitis, which destroys the bones under teeth. The bacteria from an adult's teeth can be transferred to a child on shared spoons or utensils. Once that decay starts, the bacteria spread from tooth, to tooth, to tooth.
Brush Your Child's Teeth
Good dental habits start early, so parents should start brushing even the smallest child's gums and erupting teeth. An infant finger toothbrush is a small plastic or cloth brush that looks like a finger-puppet and removes excess liquid from the baby's mouth. As children get older, parents should teach them how to brush their own teeth, but don't use fluoride toothpaste, and watch that children don't swallow toothpaste. Ingesting too much fluoride can cause fluorisis, which discolors teeth.
The Healthy Smiles Project and the Healthy Teeth website offer games, activities, and coloring pages that help teach children to care for their own smiles. In Saving Smiles, Part Two, Shannon will share how to introduce your child to the dentist's office and how to prevent costly and painful problems in the future.
Children grow fast. Baby teeth don't last. They end up under pillows or in envelopes labeled "MY TOOF." Children need to learn proper dental care and maintenance. The memories of their smiles will last forever.
How have you helped your children learn to take care of their teeth?
The dumpster lid creaked when I hefted it over my head. I started to throw in my plastic bag of garbage, but then I stopped. Under the dumpster lid, the cardboard box from a 24-can soda pack perched on a mound of bagged garbage. I snagged the cardboard from the dumpster and ripped the UPC bar code from the corner before tossing the box back into the dumpster and adding my garbage bag to the pile.
All that summer I saved soda-case UPC's. I bought boxes and boxes of soda cans and carefully clipped off the bar code squares. By the twisted logic of marketing campaigns, I was eager to spend money on soda just to collect the UPC codes and trade them for a free duffle bag bearing the soda company logo. It made sense at the time.
It also made sense to save calories by drinking the diet soda version, sweetened with the chemical aspartame. After drinking one can of diet soda, I usually had a headache. After drinking two cans, I experienced a buzzing dizziness and blurry vision. I kept drinking, rationalizing that I was enjoying calorie-free soda and earning a free duffle bag.
"Be aware of how food makes you feel," advises Meg, Health Coach for the Dr. Sears' LEAN Nutrition and Wellness Institute. "Explain to your children, 'I ate too much ice cream, and now I have a stomachache.' When we set an example of wanting to feel good, kids will learn that what they eat affects the way they feel."
Meg identifies three food additives we should avoid when making food choices.
High Fructose Corn Syrup is used to sweeten hundreds of foods we find in the grocery store. Corn syrup does not trigger the hormone leptin, which controls appetite; so when we eat foods containing corn syrup, we still feel hungry and will overeat. I found corn syrup lurking in several of the foods in my pantry, including "healthy" cereal, crackers, salad dressing, and even soup.
Hydrogenated Oils have a long shelf life, so are used in many processed and fast foods. Hydrogenated oils make our cell membranes rigid so our calls cannot grow and function properly. They can cause heart disease, diabetes, and cancers. Hydrogenated oils are often disguised on food labels as "trans fats" or "shortening."
Food Additives and Colors, like aspartame, MSG, food colorings and preservatives, are called "excitotoxins" because they alter brain chemistry. Ingesting chemical additives can lead to behavior and learning disorders and long-term neurological diseases. Chemical additives are common in prepared, boxed foods and my habitual diet soda.
The best way to avoid food additives is to avoid eating prepared, boxed foods. Choose foods with only a few, natural ingredients. Buy fresh fruits and vegetables, meats and dairy. Learn to cook from scratch and prepare your own homemade snacks and baked goods.
"The better you feel, the easier it is to make the financial sacrifice and buy real, natural foods," Meg advises. "You will see the benefits."
The Dr. Sears website features tips for smart grocery shopping and guidelines for avoiding food additives and chemicals.
My diet soda habit ended when I got tired of the headaches and weird side effects. The free duffle bag didn't last much longer, but ended up in the pile of another apartment dumpster.
How do you avoid foods with added ingredients and chemicals? How do you teach your children to eat healthful, nutritious meals?