Thursday, December 17, 2009
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
Sunday, September 13, 2009
Masha Hamilton is an accomplished author, spent years as a foreign correspondent, and is a major advocate for world literacy programs. (Check out her Afghan Women's Writing Project!)
One of her books, The Camel Bookmobile, had been on my to-read list for quite some time and I was just able to read it last week. It's a beautiful work of fiction, inspired by time Hamilton and her daughter spent in Kenya observing the workings and challenges of a mobile library.
Hamilton's newest book was just released last Tuesday, 9/8/09. Entitled 31 Hours, it looks to be a tense and heart-wrenching tale.
In the middle of the night in New York City, a woman jolts awake, realizing she hasn’t heard from her 21-year-old son in weeks, and knowing beyond doubt that something is wrong.
What we know is that the young man, Jonas, is isolated in the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge, pondering his recent conversion to Islam and the training he received last year in Pakistan. Alone now, cut off from all dissuasion, Jonas is listening to the passing subways and preparing himself for the once unthinkable action he has been instructed to undertake in exactly 31 hours…
The following essay is the perfect introduction to the novel and one of its central themes. I hope you'll join me in reading it and discussing it here. To further entice you, I'm planning a giveaway related to this post later in the week!
Parenting the Nearly-Grown
by Masha Hamilton
“Times are bad. Children no longer obey their parents, and everyone is writing a book.” Roman philosopher and orator Marcus Tullius Cicero, 106-43 B.C.
Not long after the second of my three children was born, I sat at the kitchen table late one evening talking to my dad about parental responsibility. It’s a big topic and we were covering lots of philosophical ground, but what I remember most is my pronouncement that my primary job could be boiled down quite simply and starkly: I had to keep safe these beings released into my charge. I needed to keep them alive.
These were the musings of a new parent, of course. The circumstances, too, should be considered; the first child had been born in Jerusalem during the intefadeh, and the second was born as I was reporting from Moscow during the collapse of Communism. In both situations, I repeatedly came face-to-face with life’s fragility.
But even in calmer times, even after the birth of my third child, I never lost the feeling that my main duty was to pass them on into adulthood as unscathed as possible, as healthy in every way as they could be.
It sounds pretty simple, on the face of it. We perform many jobs as parents: nurturers, playmates, cheerleaders, short-order cooks, nurses, disciplinarians, detectives, spiritual leaders. Keeping them safe should not be the hardest, not with the help of baby monitors, plastic devices to cover electrical outlets, pads for sharp corners, child-proof medicine bottles, the list goes on.
And in fact, we passed through well, with just the usual rounds of stitches, one violent dog attack, a rabies scare and a few months when my youngest fell so often and got so many bumps on his forehead that my husband and I joked someone was surely going to call child services on us.
Now, though, my youngest is 14, and as they’ve grown, I recognize my job has been transformed. It is to give them trust and space so they can develop confidence in their ability to make their own lives. And yet the two oldest, at ages 19 and 20, are in a period of time that seems almost like a parentheses in their lives. They are certainly not children, but nor are they quite adults. Meanwhile, I say and think all the usual things parents have been saying and thinking since—well, perhaps ever since Cicero, whose words I keep taped to my office wall: it’s rougher out there than it was in my time. More chaotic. More violent. More dangerous.
And everyone is writing a book.
It was, in fact, into my latest novel, 31 Hours, that I channeled my fears. Among other things, the novel offered a chance to explore what it means to be the parent of someone on the cusp of adulthood but not yet there. The mother in 31 Hours, Carol, is strong and independent, free of empty nest syndrome, but her maternal intuition is strong and she’s concerned about her 21-year-old son’s growing emotional distance, the way he seems tense and depressed. Her fears are amorphous and hard to convey; nevertheless, as she lies awake in the dark, she decides to trust the hunch that something is wrong, and to spend the next day trying to track her son Jonas down and “mother him until he shrugs her off.”
There are many themes in the novel, but one question it asks—one pertinent to all parents and one I’m still trying to answer for myself—is this: after years of being vigilant and protecting our kids, what should we do—and what are we allowed to do—to keep them safe once they are nearly, but not quite, grown?
photo credit: Briana Orr
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
But, then the "RIGHT NOW" mindset of young kids sometimes gets us frazzled and we snap, "Would you just be patient and wait a minute?!!"
What a model of patience. And, of course, it's not all the time. There are many times, numerous times every hour, that I am very patient. But, maybe when they say that patience is a virtue, they mean that your patience shouldn't come and go. It should be constant, and in that, lies the virtue. There's an aspiring challenge, right?
Tonight we were running errands as a family and J was cranky at being dragged across the city with the setting sun shining into his eyes. I'll sum it up by saying there was whining involved, a few tears, a high speed chase through a furniture store, and then the paramount patience-tester:
Why? Why Mama? Why Daddy? Why?
Oh, the whys! Not the whys! Or, if the whys, then why not just one why? Why a series of whys with no end in sight? Why do whys build on each other the way a mouse's requests do if you give a mouse a cookie?
So, during the stressed out drive home, C asks me if it's our patience we need to work on or if this is all just normal. He sheepishly asked if it's terrible to use an exasperated tone with a two year-old. Yikes! I don't know!! It can't be, can it? It would be unrealistic to think otherwise, wouldn't it? I mean, sure we shouldn't expect a mountain of patience out of the little guy. But, does that mean that the burden falls completely on us, or is this one of those gray areas... a phase that we have to endure for the time being (as best and as patiently as we can)?
I read somewhere recently that the phrase "multi-tasking" was only just born in the last 10-15 years. It seems that concept, just that word, is sabotaging people's patience levels. We don't have the patience to work on one thing at a time. And, when you stop and think about it, isn't it during those multi-tasking times that you become such an easy target to crack? One too many whys and you flip. (Check out this NPR story that says you just might not be as good a multi-tasker as you think you are.)
So, not only is it my goal to work on my patience level, but to also unmulti-task as much as I can, especially when I'm playing with or caring for J. Having my mind and attention cluttered with one less thing might just give me the energy and insight to deal with one more round of whys. And that's something I'm not even going to question!
Monday, September 7, 2009
And, C's creation:
Saturday, September 5, 2009
The only thing that could make reading either of these stories even more enjoyable is having the option to read while lounging in a forgotten or secret garden of your discovery.
Monday, August 31, 2009
This summer I put together a mix CD for our vacation drive up to Presque Isle. I used to be absolutely crazy for mix tapes, and I guess I'm not completely over them yet. In high school, my friends and I made them for each other all the time.
This CD was mostly current stuff that C and I are into right now: Adele, Beck, Feist, Kings of Leon, to name a few. (By the way, if you've not heard Adele, she's got an incredible voice and sings with such a sense of worldliness and experience for only being 19... my favorite track is "Cold Shoulder".)
So, for old times sake, I decided to throw in a couple favorite classics of ours, and wouldn't you know, J completely dug them and requests them every time we're in the car!
The first throwback on our vacation mix was Michael Penn's "No Myth". It was so cool when C and I randomly figured out that it was one of both of our favorites from the 80s/early 90s. Now I think we like it even more because of J's big grin when it comes on as he says, "Is this 'No Miff'?"
The other one is a little embarrassing. One that my dad used to sing a lot when we were kids and we just thought it was crazy nonsense. As a teen, I realized it was a real song when a friend had it on a mix tape. Harry Nilsson's "Coconut". I know, it's crazy!! But, let me tell ya, what's really crazy is when J is playing independently and he thinks no one is watching and he starts to sing:
put the lime in the coconut...
drink it all up...
then say, Doc-tah!!! (and he mimes holding a phone up to his ear)
Needless to say, my dad is mighty proud. I told him the other day that J got his funny genes from him. "Fine by me", he said with a wink.
Over the last year, we've really noticed that J seems particularly drawn to music. He'll stop what he's doing if he hears an interesting song on the radio or a tv commercial. He loves all instruments. He sings constantly as he plays, and also turns just about anything into an instrument.
I think we'd be crazy not to foster J's musical inclinations. No pressure or anything, but just get him exposed to lots of types and encourage him to be creative and have fun with it. I registered the two of us for Music Together, and I'm really excited to start classes in a couple of weeks. Their premise is right up our alley:
Music Together classes are based on the recognition that all children are musical. All children can learn to sing in tune, keep a beat, and participate with confidence in the music of our culture, provided that their early environment supports such learning.
What songs are stuck in your heads these days?
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
> handle them with gloves so as not to leave your scent on them (mothers may reject babies that pick up scents other than their own);
> do not relocate the nest (we debated on moving it to a less conspicuous spot, but decided not to, so that mama would be able to find it);
> nestle them back down under their nest and keep pets away.
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
Sunday, July 26, 2009
- and Frustration, oh my!
"No" has been present in his vocabulary for over a year now, but the volume at which it is said is really cranked up these days. If what we want to hear is "Yeah, I want to", instead the response we get is "But, I don't want to".
Shoes and socks are now dangerous projectiles. Warnings are ignored; and, time-outs are less effective now--they almost seem to rev up his anger, causing further outbursts and stress.
Turning to books for advice, tactics, and insight into this behavior has reminded me to:
~take extra note of his good behavior
~focus on being compassionate and calm even as the shoes are flying into the front seat of the car on our way home from a playdate
~spend less time and energy enforcing time-outs, instead focusing on modeling "cool-down" tactics and teaching words to express frustration
Here's a handful of books I've found helpful without being preachy. J enjoys them too, just as any other "regular" story about trucks or trains or animals.
Mouse Was Mad by Linda Urban
This one's great because it isn't corny, it gets J to laugh at Mouse's situation, it shows how NOT to deal with anger, and then it models a fantastic cool-down technique--taking deep breaths.
So simple! Now, when I see J revving up, I go straight to "Remember Mouse? When he was mad, he took some deep breaths and then felt much better. Why don't you try?" I do it with him and then when he's calmed a bit, I jokingly remind him of how Mouse got so hopping mad that he fell into a "mucky mud puddle". He thinks that phrase is hilarious.
Feet Are Not for Kicking by Elizabeth Verdick
While I'm happy to say that kicking isn't an issue in our house, I know it can be an outlet for frustration and anger. This book is cute because it's a simple board book that reminds you of all the fun stuff you can do with your feet: running, jumping, kicking a pile of leaves. If you have a younger toddler struggling with hitting and kicking, I think this would be helpful.
When Sophie Gets Angry--Really, Really Angry by Molly Bang
When Sophie gets really angry, you can see it in her eyes! The illustrations make sure of that--there's a two-page spread of just Sophie's angry face!
Instead of lashing out, Sophie takes off running to vent her frustration and clear her head. Obviously an older child, Sophie and her particular situation and solution don't resonate all that well with J. But, I like this Caldecott Honor book because of the color and vibrancy with which it depicts anger, frustration, and eventually: THE CALM.
Lastly, I'll leave you with some lyrics from the great Jim Gill. (Give him a guitar and a room full of kids and he'll have them laughing, singing, dancing and doing whatever he tells them to in no time!) He has a cute song called Hands Are for Clapping, which J likes to dance along to. Besides being fun, this song gives me ammunition when I need to remind J that hands are not for hitting!
Hands are for clapping
Clapping to this song
Hands are for clapping
Let's all clap along
Toes are for tapping...
Knees are for slapping...
Fingers are for snapping...
Teeth are for brushing....
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
a certain toddler's tantrums (new Read Your Way Through post coming soon)
How can a child be so loveable and melt-your-heart-sweet one moment and then so utterly rotten the next? I mean, he can literally turn on a dime! Take today, for example. We had a nice brunch out with a friend. J climbed into the booster seat of his own accord and then proceeded to sit still while I buckled him in. He colored before his food came, he drank his milk without blowing bubbles, and ate his meal without throwing anything on the floor. Of course, he used his shirt as a napkin and interrupted us constantly, but, hey, I can deal. At one point, he even stopped my friend mid-sentence and said sweetly, "Am I being patient?"
Yes, yes he WAS.
That is, until moments later when we went into Target for 4 things. Just 4 desperately-needed things. A quick errand for Mama and then it was on to the park. But, no. The patient toddler was suddenly replaced by the angry, LOUD toddler. The toddler who hits his mama as she races down the aisle for the 4 things on her list. The toddler who, at odd random intervals, removes a shoe or a sock and hurls them out of the cart and into the aisles or on top of the shelves of diapers that his mama is scouring while trying to figure out unit price in her head amidst the screaming of said toddler. The toddler whose behavior elicits one of three reactions among the other shoppers:
The first, and any mother's favorite: sympathetic smiles. These are from parents or grandparents or just kind people who can see that I am hurrying on my way and doing my best to remain calm despite my embarrassment.
The second: glares or eye-rolling. These people would probably like to stop me and say, "Maybe you should leave and come back another time when he is either calm or you can come without him." I do not get that option. It's totally unfair. Leaving Target during a temper tantrum doesn't reprimand or correct J's behavior. It just inconveniences me. And I'm already inconvenienced by having to deal with a tantrum while buying diapers and other items to care for the child who is throwing the tantrum!
The third and worst reaction: snickering. Yes, snickering! I've not experienced that one until today. I didn't know it was possible to pause in your shopping, observe a child hitting, kicking, screaming, and then audibly snicker and giggle. Did they think J's behavior was funny? Were they laughing at me, stuck in this crappy situation? "The nerve!", as my mom would say. Well, I shot that guy a glare, but then decided not to look at any of the other shoppers on the way to the checkout in case they were smirking too.
The other thing bogging me down lately is the hectic and completely opposite work schedule that C and I have. Let me tell ya, doing the Toddler Stop Drop and Roll day after day gets old. But, I hate to complain because it is what it is and it is what we chose. We are lucky--and we tell ourselves this often--that we each get quality time with J. We made smart decisions to make this lifestyle work for us. We have very accomodating jobs. Nevertheless, I guess I'm going through a little phase where I either want what I don't have or I want what isn't possible.
And, sometimes that's enough to make me want to have a tantrum. Thanks for bearing with me.
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
You've got to look closely at this next image, of these amazing whirligig lighthouse displays at the Tom Ridge Environmental Center (The TREC). Although it's free like all state park nature centers, that term just doesn't cut in when describing this facility. It's not dark and dingy and full of taxidermied wildlife. It's a LEED building; it harnesses wind power; and there's an IMAX theatre inside that holds a 4-story Big Green Screen.
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
WHAT IT MEANS: This proposal by the Governor cuts Columbus Metropolitan Library's state funding by 50%. These proposed 11 + million dollar cuts will be devastating: closing branches, halting new books and materials, and shutting down programs and services that are so vital to our community!
Please help! Tell the Ohio government to find another solution.
Email all your legislators at once by visiting CML's homepage.
Call the Governor's office at 614-466-3555.
For more information, please visit the Ohio Library Council website.
Tell everyone you know. WE ONLY HAVE DAYS TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE!
Here's what I had to say. I hope you'll participate and encourage others too.
I am writing to express my utmost concern about the Governor's proposed cuts to library funding. The news of it comes as quite a shock, as well as a disappointment from a Governor I had confidence in.
Of course, in tough economic times, we need to look for ways to cut back, but we expect that the Ohio government recognize the immense value and importance that our libraries hold for us. As you know, for many years Ohio has topped the Hennen Library Rankings, and was just recently named a 5 star library by Library Journal. What better way to live up to that ranking, and more importantly to the communities the libraries serve, than to conserve money and resources for Ohio libraries.
Libraries have already received a 20% cut in funding; a 50% cut will have drastic consequences to our libraries and our communities: branches will close and services will be cut.
These cuts would have devastating consequences to our libraries when our community needs them more than ever. Libraries are busier than ever. Children, teachers, parents, students, job-seekers flood Ohio libraries every day to take advantage of the information, resources, and sense of community that our libraries promote.
This is the time to rally around the truly exceptional and truly meaningful services available to Ohioans. Libraries are just that. There is an engraving above the door to the Columbus Metropolitan Library in downtown Columbus that simply reads: 'Open To All'. Please reject this proposal and keep that statement true; save our libraries from closing many of their doors.
Saturday, June 13, 2009
4 things i'm looking forward to
::finishing the book i'm currently reading (water for elephants--it is so good!)
::taking pictures of J's feet as he walks in the sand on vacation
::taking J to his first baseball game tomorrow
::remodeling our bathroom (someday)
4 things i did yesterday
::went to the zoo
::took a nap
::ate a piece of pattycake vegan bakery's chocolate-raspberry cake
::laughed A LOT, especially when J and the two boys we were babysitting did this:
4 things i wish i could do
::travel more often
::get a weekly massage
::live near water
4 tv shows i watch
::i want to start watching 'a place of our own' on pbs
4 places i'd like to travel
::yellowstone national park
4 places i've lived
::columbus, ohio is actually the only place i've lived, so the next 3 are places i'd love to live
::santa fe, new mexico
OK, your turn! If you're reading this, you're tagged!
The lucky winner of Bear Feels Scared is Cheryl and the winner of Mama Always Comes Home is Stacy! Congrats mamas!
Sunday, May 31, 2009
The Twitter badge is from the very talented Julie Green of up up. Grab one for yourself--there are four adorable color palettes. Also, stop by her Etsy shop. She has all kinds of papery goodness.
Cathe Holden's blog, Just Something I Made, has gobs of free blog gadgets, like the Comments Make Me Smile one I just added.
Don't you love when crafty people are also generous people? :)
Now, don't ignore the gadgety cuteness! Follow me on Twitter, leave me a comment, grab yourself a gadget, and leave the other gals a comment too!
Gonna catch that train...
Early summer blooms:
Pretty sights from a morning walk on Memorial Day at Heritage Park , formerly the Rosedale Farm, home to the Everal family in the late 1800s :
The Everal Barn
Knock knock, anybody home at the Carriage House?
I liked the look of this old latched coal chute on the front of the chimney.
We weren't the only family out enjoying the lovely morning
Not the greatest gardeners, we spent a lot of time this week on our prettiest landscaping project yet -- still a work in progress.
Hope yours was a beautiful week, too, with another one to come!
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
A few of my personal favorites are: Baby Cakes--a great gift for babies or mamas-to-be; Beautiful Babies--a new touch-and-feel board book; Hilda Must be Dancing; Never, Ever Shout in a Zoo; and Sleepyhead--a very sweet bedtime rhyme.
This talented, generous author is offering two of my lucky readers an autographed, hardback book! I have one copy of:
of which, School Library Journal said:
A gentle and reassuring picture book... The consistently tender illustrations follow the text's well-crafted rhymes as different animal mothers leave their offspring for a brief period and then return. Mama Bird (in a flowered headscarf) feeds her babies, then tucks them beneath a quilt in their nest before digging up more worms; Mama Cat leaves her kittens in the barn to have a sip of cream in the house; Mama Dog runs out to play with her boy. Each example ends with the refrain: "Mama always comes home." Presented with a delicate and loving touch, this book embodies the power of thoughtful text supported by insightful pictures. A good choice for parents and children dealing with separation anxiety.
as well as one autographed copy of:
To be entered in this giveaway, please leave a comment on this post before Wednesday, June 10, 2009. If you'd like to earn a second entry into the drawing, mention this giveaway (with a link) on Twitter. Then, be sure to come back and leave a comment letting me know you tweeted it.
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
It's a somewhat older title (1991, I think), but really adorable and enjoyable. It's the perfect read for this time of year...with Mother's Day having just passed and all the new life springing from the flowers, plants, birds and bunnies surrounding us.
During J's naptimes this week, I've been heading out to our deck to sit in the breezy shade and read a sweet, gentle non-fiction book entitled Remember the Sweet Things by Ellen Greene.
Greene writes with candor and humor about her list of "sweet things"--the kind, loving, and goofy things her husband did for her during their 20 years of marriage. The book is much more than just a recounting of the list. It reads much like a memoir. Something about it--the setting, the tone, the characters-- reminds me of Richard Russo's Empire Falls. But, maybe it's just that Greene likens her husband to Paul Newman, who played the cantankerous Max Roby in the HBO film. Anyway, it's such a nice premise and a timely read, as C and just celebrated our wedding anniversary.
Well, speaking of sweet things, I'll leave you with the news that I've got another giveaway coming up! It was my hope to do it as an accompaniment to Children's Book Week but I didn't get my act together in time. Hopefully, I can launch it later this week, so stay tuned!!