20 November 2007

Book Review (Genre:Horror)

'Round here, we don't watch horror flicks. Even disregarding any possible theological, moral, or aesthetic objections, there's the simple fact that I'd be a basket case for months if ever I were to watch one. We do watch movies, though our wild Friday nights are more often spent catching up on some reading (seems safe enough, right?).

But after reading Boys adrift: The five factors driving the growing epidemic of unmotivated boys and underachieving young men, by Dr. Leonard Sax, I'm starting to think that nonfiction books might be close to slasher films on my taboo list. (And the fact that I'm pregnant with our 3rd boy has, of course, no relevance to any possible accusations of overreaction.)

Briefly, the 5 factors Sax identifies:

1)Changes at School (shift away from sensory learning experience, push for earlier reading/curriculum, emphasis on feelings rather than appropriate competition)

2)Video games (which provide a medium--unfortunately not a real one!--for the frustrated competitive urges)

3)ADHD Medications (as he sees it, overprescribed in order to compensate for the educational situations identified in factor 1. Some really scary research cited here.)

4)Endocrine Disruptors (particularly anything in a boy's environment that functions as an estrogen, like the phthalates in plastic. More on this in a minute)

5)Lack of clear, transitional manhood rituals in American culture (i.e. prolonged adolescence).

So these are all scary. But you can DO something about most of them. #1--Try homeschooling, changing schools/being a very involved parent, delaying your boys' start for a year or more. #2--Well, duh. Don't let them play so much (or at all). #3--Be sure the meds are absolutely necessary for your son. Try everything else first (Sax offers a lot of suggestions on this.) #5--Surround your boys with solid male role models (historical as well as present) and make expectations clear.

But #4--now, that's Really Scary.

"...evidence that some characteristics of modern life--factors found literally in the food we eat and the water we drink--may have the net effect of emasculating boys."

"...the average young man today has a sperm count less than half of what his grandfather had at the same age."

"...a young boy today has bones that are significantly more brittle than a boy of the same age thirty years ago."

"Mothers with high levels of phthalates in their system were roughly ten times more likely to give birth to boys whose genitals showed subtle anomalies."

Now, we could go on about the excess hormones from birth control pills, patches, etc. being flushed into our water system. And that's a problem. But even scarier were the parts about pregnant women drinking bottled water or soft drinks and babies using pacifiers and bottles. I freaked since Boy #2 still sleeps with his pacifier (I know, I know...chastise me later) and tried to do a bit more research, finding that pacifiers and many teething toys are now PVC free. But some of Sax's solutions seem a bit impractical for a growing family, for a variety of reasons. Um, glass baby bottles? What about sippy cups? And would it really be a good idea for Mom's emergency water bottle in the diaper bag to be made of glass?

So here I am, in sleepless suspense. But instead of an ax murderer or vampire around every corner, it's an emasculating endocrine disruptor--and I don't think garlic can do much against those.

Anyone else heard about the evils of plastic? Any solutions?

(N.B.--Girls aren't off the hook either. Sax briefly referenced some really disturbing studies about the effect of these environmental estrogens on early puberty, etc.)


elephantschild said...

"...a young boy today has bones that are significantly more brittle than a boy of the same age thirty years ago."

I wonder if this is due to the fact that thirty years ago boys didn't sit in school all day until they were 6 or 7 and after the school day was done, their lives were significantly more rough-and-tumble than boys today. Weight-bearing exercise strengthens bone structure.

Also, kids years ago were allowed to eat real food - eggs for breakfast, whole milk, red meat. Is it any wonder they were stronger?

I've heard the phthalates warning, too. Plastics containing phthalates have been outlawed in the EU and Canada for years.

The Gauntlets said...

I've been hearing about those pesky endocrine disruptors for a bit now, but haven't done much looking into it. We don't use much plastic around here (as in water bottles) just because it's so darned expensive and I have this "thing" about prepackaged food . . .

But here's the thing: We're all doing our best, eh? We stay home with our babies, cook for them with real (and in some cases, newly dead) ingredients, let them (prefer them to) romp outside, allow them to make a terrible mess of the house, etc. Our country has changed a great deal in the past 75 years, and from what I read of the past I'd rather be there. But I'm here. The babies have got to eat and on a budget at that. We just can't afford raw milk, I haven't the lawn space to raise a beef steer, and as it isn't my lawn in the first place I can't control what evil schmuck they dump on the grass.

Someday our farms will come. :)

But what choice have we? We muddle. And we pray that the God who sees each tiny sparrow fall and clothes the flowers in splendor will see to our sons, too.

Awesome life, what?

Kelly said...

Hi ladies,

Great blog! I stumbled upon it a couple of days ago and am enjoying it immensely.

Dr. Mercola's website (www.mercola.com) has really great information about endocrine disruptors and xenoestrogens. If you use the search feature there I'm sure you will get many returns. Rachel Carson's Silent Spring is another classic source for theories and information regarding estrogen pollution, but the overtly liberal political thrust of the whole thing made it a bit unpalatable.

I have as much as possible tried to eliminate plastic food storage containers, and a few years ago changed out most of my petrochemical based cleaners for vinegar/borax/essential oil based ones.

I went through a phase where I tried to be an organic purist, but have since come to the same conclusion as The Gauntlets.

With regards to perpetual adolescence, Diana West has recently published an excellent book on the subject titled The Death of the Grownup.

Now I will have to head to the library to see if I can find Sax's book there. : )

Reb. Mary said...

Gauntlets and elephantschild--Yes, we muddle through indeed. (And I guess it's another plug for breastfeeding, letting them romp outdoors, feeding them more "real food," etc.) That's much the reaction I had to Rod Dreher's book Crunchy Cons, which I will have to blog on sometime, unless someone else gets to it first. Everything organic and as close to source as possible is a great ideal, but then here we each are, where God has placed us, with finite resources. Do the best we can with what we got!

Reb. Mary said...

Thanks for stopping in and for the resource recommendations! Will have to check those out. If you're looking up Sax's book he has another one, Why Gender Matters, that I haven't read yet but is on my list.
Yes, it's too bad about Carson, especially about how Silent Spring has been indirectly responsible for the malaria deaths of thousands of Africans due to the banning of DDT (one of those things that seemed like a great idea at the time!).
If you've got any other good sites/books to recommend, I'd love to hear about them. And you might check your library for Dreher's Crunchy Cons too--don't know where you are politically, but I think he's got something to interest/challenge anyone who's concerned about the enviroment and our country (I know he did me).
Meanwhile, we each keep doing what we can where we are, I guess!

p.s. Do you mix your own cleaners? I've been experimenting lately with using just vinegar and water; also have borax on hand. If you have any good "recipes," please share.

Rebekah said...

I read about the low sperm counts and such in Everything Conceivable by Liza Mundy and also got freaked out. I'm told that it's the plastics with the recycle number 3 that are the really bad ones; does anyone know if this is right? I've also seen stuff in parenting magazines lately about which plastic baby accouterments are safe (and RM, we went for "shock and awe" on the pacifier front when the one addict we've had turned 2. She's now 4 and still hasn't hit puberty so I don't think you should worry too much).

A nutritionist (and CSPP) friend of mine helped me to get over most of my coveting of organic stuff. She says this is one of the reasons that food poisonings are up so much lately--if you don't use chemical fertilizers, you have to use manure and of course the food is covered with e. coli. The industry also isn't very well regulated so quality is inconsistent. My plan is just to get as much out of our garden as possible and spend my summer freezing and canning. It's very gratifying to know that we'll be eating homegrown veggies and tomato sauce well into the winter.

Kelly said...

Reb. Mary - With the exception of having made my own fabric softener (an experiment that I was none too pleased with) I haven't made my own cleaners. I use the Simple.Pure.Clean products (www.simplepureclean.com) and I love them. Their all-purpose cleaner has a fantastic combination of essential oils that literally gives you a good natural high from cleaning. I also use the glass cleaner (based on vodka so I understand!) and the lavender linen water instead of Febreeze.

Nevertheless, some other natural living enthusiasts I know have had success with the following:

All-purpose Cleanser:
Mix 1/4 cup baking soda (or 2 teaspoons of Borax) with 1/2 cup white vinegar. The baking soda deodorizes, cleans and scours. It also softens hard water. The white vinegar cuts grease, stains and wax buildup and cleans mildew (see below). Note: this solution works great for water deposit stains. You can also use straight Borax instead of the baking soda and white vinegar. In addition to cleaning, scouring and deodorizing, Borax disinfects.

Bathroom Mold Cleanser:
To eradicate mold, mix one part hydrogen peroxide with two parts water in a spray bottle. Use the 3 percent hydrogen peroxide that is available for a few dollars at any drug store or supermarket. Spray the bathroom areas and leave to dry for an hour. Rinse the areas off.

I've been wanting to give the mold cleanser a try, as I think I've tried every chemical cleanser known to man and I still can't win.

I haven't read Dreher's book, but from different reviews and such that I've seen, I think I could aptly be named a "Crunchy Con." Chalk another one up to my list too : )