The word mine. After mama and dada, it is probably one the first word a child learns.
Especially if he has other siblings.
This is a photo of my son way before he grew to the almost 14-year-old guitar-playin’, fedora wearin’ teen boy he is now.
Back then, a little over two years old, he was the boy who did not want to give up his crib. And would only do so unless it was absolutely guaranteed that he could sleep in his new big boy bed with ALL his friends.
So there he is, and there he was.
Mine is a very important word to a toddler. But if you ever parented a toddler, you already knew that.
These are the last days of school. I’m trying to make the most of them with my youngest by having our morning one-on-one time while waiting for his bus. We did just that today, just talking and waiting as the rain fell.
All I was trying to do was play a little math problem solving game with him, and lo and behold, it turned into the beginnings of THE talk.
I was not going to write about this funny conversation with my youngest child, my eight-year-old boy who is a bit worldly thanks to big brother and sister.
However, Blogher and Venus Embrace are putting bloggers up to the challenge of writing about tips of how to have a talk about sexuality with your kids for a $50 Visa Card giveaway, I would take them up on their opportunity.
So, there we were waiting for the bus when my son asks how old his grandparents, my parents, were when they got married, and how old they were when I was born.
Perfect. Time for a little math while waiting for the bus.
Me: Grandpa was born in 1940 and he got married in 1965.
Son: So… he was 25.
Me: Right. Okay, Grandma was born in 1943-
Son: So Grandma was 22.
Me: That’s right. And I was born in 1968.
Son: Didn’t grandma and grandpa want to have kids right away?
Me: Ummm….maybe, but it takes some time to have a baby.
Son: Why? I mean, why didn’t they, right after the wedding, drive up to a hospital and say “We want a baby, please?”
Me: It doesn’t work like that….
Now, I have to say, I had these conversations a little earlier with my oldest two, who watched my belly grow when I was pregnant with my middle and youngest children.
My youngest, however, never had the opportunity to be around a pregnant woman on a daily basis, so these questions had yet to come up.
The conversation continued:
Son: So just HOW does it work? Does a mommy one day look down at her belly and say, “C’mon, belly, give me all you’ve got!” and then the belly grows and then POP! A baby comes out?
Me: No, um. It takes longer than that. It takes nine months for a baby to be born. You see, a mom and a dad have to lay very close…..
Son: Oh, they have S-E-X??
Me: Yes. (Just what does he know? I wondered. But I didn’t prod.)
Me: You see, a woman has an egg inside of her and a man has a seed, and if the seed goes into the egg, in nine months a baby is born.
Son: AN EGG? Like a Chicken?
Me: No, not like a chicken.
Son: Was I Born this way?
Me: Everyone was born this way. And every thing.
Son: Were trees born this way?
Me: No, but most mammals are born this same way.
….. and so on.
After having three kids, my best advice about THE talk is:
- Be calm. Be matter-of-fact. Don’t brush off any questions.
- You don’t have to have THE talk all at once, but take it up gradually
- Only give them just the right amount of information they need and don’t expand. I didn’t get into the complications of birth control, sex before marriage, having babies between same-sex couples, in-vitro-fertilization. WHY? An eight year old just needs the basic facts.
- When they stop asking, it means they’ve had enough information for now.
One thing’s for sure: I will take out a few books for him on the topic at the library. One good source I found was a blog post by Story Pockets, a blog written by the Children’s Department of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, Pa.
Every day, my kids leave me things. Things that are not exactly presents, but that are always present in my presence that I need to take care of while they are in school and expanding their minds.
My dear children,
Must you leave your socks on your bedroom floor?
Can’t you throw away your rinsing cup after you brush your teeth and not leave it for me to throw away?
Kids, I really appreciate that you make your own lunch, but must you leave me your crumbs on the cutting board, the opened peanut butter and jelly jars lingering on the counter?
Must you leave me at my wit’s end and make me say things that I SWORE I would never say when I became a mother???!
At approximately 7:30 this morning, I had received no less than three text and voice mail messages both on my cell phone and land line from my daughter whilst I was in the shower and getting my youngest ready for school.
“Mom, I left my lunch home and I have no money and I have track practice and I’m going to be hungry so can you pleeeeaaase bring my lunch to school?”
One more present left behind for me, the mom.
Okay, I bring the lunch to my high schooler, because that’s what moms are for.
But then, for all the world to see in the high school’s main display case.. what’s this?
My daughter, my sloppy, beautiful brilliant, talented daughter, is featured artist of the week in her high school: I shot the following on my iTouch through the display glass so forgive me for the amateurish glare:
Today, the hallways of high school, tomorrow… SoHo?
Thank you, daughter, for being my present. I can almost excuse the dirty socks, and the pencil shavings, on your bedroom floor.
Every now and again, I get a story idea in my inbox that just cannot wait a week until it is published in my column. In our age of overtesting our children to the point of desparation where they even cheat on college entrance examinations, here is a story of Melissa Gertner.
Melissa is a mom who was inspired by her son’s curiosity to solve problems by tinkering with old machine parts in his basement to start an after school club called FIRST LEGO® League that lights the spark of science and technology in tween and teen-aged kids in Victor, NY.
She is competing for a scholarship to win $10,000 for the Victor school district to continue and grow the LEGO program for years to come in Victor.
Here is her story. Vote for her at this link
A Mom and a STEM Advocate
I never liked science. Or math. Technology scares me. So, you must wonder, how could I have helped connect others to science, technology, engineering and math? I am not a teacher. Or an engineer. I can barely balance my checkbook. Still you wonder…
The answer is simple. I am a mom and an advocate. My son is endlessly curious and creative. He is always inventing things in the basement, taking machines apart to see how they work, reading about the way our world works, drawing his plans, bringing them to life, making a mess, starting all over again. Every day. All day. And he inspires me. To provide opportunities for him and others like him to find their very special and immensely valuable place our world.
So, two and a half years ago, with the guidance of the Victor Intermediate School, another devoted mom and I started the Victor Intermediate School FIRST LEGO League (VIS FLL) Club, a 3 year after-school pilot program designed to capture students’ interest in science, technology and engineering. The program offers hands-on real–world learning experiences that reach beyond the traditional classroom.
In our first year, we served 26 4th graders in a non-competitive format. In 2010, we took six teams of 43 4th and 5th graders to qualifiers. Three of those teams advanced to the Regional Championship. This year we will serve 80 students, including six teams of 5th and 6th graders attending the qualifiers in November and six teams of 4th and 5th graders participating in a non-competitive season starting in January 2012.
How did I find my way to this program you ask. Well, three years ago, I had the privilege of coaching my son’s Jr. FIRST LEGO® League team. Little did I know, I had embarked upon the journey of a lifetime. Somewhere along the way, perhaps when I saw the pride in the faces of my son and his teammates at their show and share event or the incredible ideas they generated or the solutions these 8 year olds developed, I was hooked and committed to providing a continuum of science and engineering opportunities to as many students as I could possibly embrace.
Since that time, I have coached his FLL team for two more consecutive years, been a co-coordinator for the club in the off-season and am currently the coordinator of the VIS FLL Club. I have also actively helped other teams get started in our region by sharing information, resources and encouragement.
I continue to be inspired by the imagination, ideas, teamwork and passion these kids generate. Not only do our students participate in community events and competitions, they also mentor local students and others throughout our region, and spread the word about how exciting science and engineering can be. As much as I am helping to connect all these kids with science, technology and engineering experiences, they are the true connectors, connecting me with the best of myself and the best of themselves with our world.
Post a day came up with a challenge to come up with a story in six words. I don’t think I’ve used so few words since I wrote a haiku in grammar school. Here goes:
Council Rock Primary School in Brighton is shaped like a hug. It has one main hallway flanked on each side by two other hallways that stretch out like two arms. These arms hold about 800 happy kids from Kindergarten through second grade. These arms are adorned with the colors and words that these children write, draw and sculpt. You’ve never seen happier hallways.
This school has hugged my kids – and well, me - for eight years. Now it’s over. Cradling a folder full of Crayola art and essays about butterflies and tadpoles, I walked out of this little school for the last time today.
My youngest, the second grade graduate, was born on the first day of school in 2003. My husband left the hospital for home a few hours after he was born, showered, and then woke up our two big kids for the school bus.
The first time Toby went Council Rock Primary School, he was under 20 days old. We carried him in the infant car seat for my daughter’s first grade curriculum night. As the school year progressed, Toby visited the school with me about twice a week while big brother got occupational and physical therapy. Sometimes he would be in his car seat, other times I would hold him in the rocking chairs that are in the lobby. The school aides would ask me how old my baby was and I would proudly proclaim, “He is as old as the school year!”
And in a flash, he is nearly eight years old. He will still kiss me and let me hug him in front of his friends, but not really. My baby is growing up.
How dare he!
He already has the wisdom to know that time flies when you are having fun. He already senses how fast a school year can go.
Tomorrow, I’ll go through all the worksheets about math. I’ll look over how many ways my youngest got to 100 and the worksheets on how to write his ABCS. Then these will go in the recycling bin.
But what I’ll treasure most is his journal on his day-to-day life. His poetry on what it would be like to be an inanimate object such as a tape dispenser. And his self-portrait. And if I only look at them on rainy days when I am looking to clean out my closets, to make room for the stuff from school years to come, it will be just enough.
Third grade, (and, for my daughter, High School) here we come!
As I write this, the curse of the Philadelphia International Airport has struck my family once again. I last saw my husband through half-asleep eyes as he kissed me goodbye at 4 a.m. last Sunday. A conference out in California was taking him away during our February “vacation.” My vacation home with the three children. He is now stuck in Philadelphia. I’ve shoveled nine inches of snow off our driveway. I really don’t know when he will be home.
I am sure that the curse of delayed or canceled flights due to the weather is not reserved just for those in the Philadelphia airport. No, with this winter, and this winter vacation coming to a close at the same time another snowstorm rattles our air traffic patterns, our story is not unique.
So this blog post is dedicated to all of you out there who have been stuck at an airport with children.
I really think that going away to get a few days of sunshine over February break is just not worth it in our age of “Welcome to the Hellish Skies.” Indeed, we did a few years ago make an attempt at a Florida getaway. But due to storms, we instead had a 13-hour destination vacation to the Philadelphia International Airport!
My son, an avid New York Mets fan, was dressed head to toe in Orange and Blue Mets paraphernalia. He cowered the whole time in his jacket, hood pulled up all the way. He actually believed that because he loved the Mets and hated the Phillies, someone in the airport of the City of Brotherly Love was going to kill him.
Our efforts to escape the cold of Rochester for just one week had failed. We missed our connecting flight from Philadelphia to West Palm Beach. Every flight to southern Florida was booked and overbooked for the next three days.
As we looked at the flight board, we slowly came to the harsh realization that the palm trees of our vacation dreams had been yanked out by the roots. We could stay in the airport as standby refugees, or head back to cold icy Rochester. We were not going anywhere.
But then I had an epiphany. I realized, Hey! We are still on vacation! Vacation can be a state of mind, even if you did not make it to the Sunshine State.
So here are my hard-earned tips of what to do you if you are on a 13-hour standby hoping in vain to get your flight to paradise:
- Immediately go to the “customer service” line and demand you get a pillow. Take two or three and don’t feel guilty. The airline has ruined your original vacation destination and they owe it to you to make you as comfortable as possible.
- Forget the food court. You are on vacation and deserve the best of airport dining. In our case, it was Applebees. Any frugalities of ordering from a restaurant menu with children- like sharing – should be lifted. We were on vacation. Kids, if you want a beverage other than water, go for it! That naturally blue-colored smoothie? Go for it!
- As far as the adults in your party, order an alcoholic beverage. You are going to need it.
- After your meal, order dessert. Those desserts that stare at you all throughout your meal from those triangular placards placed strategically on the table. Remember, this may be your only vacation meal!
- After your meal, don’t bother checking on your flight status. You know you are not boarding any time soon, if you board at all.
- Find out if the airport you are stranded in has a Sharper Image or a Brookstones. Loiter there for an hour or so. Spend most of this time on one of their massage chairs. Ignore looks from salesperson.
- Is the hot stuffy airport getting to your children? Do what my kids did and let them pretend that the bathroom is their own personal water park. Cool off by dunking your child’s head in the sink. Just like dunking into the pool at grandma and grandpa’s condo. How refreshing!
- Around 10:00 p.m., entire sections of the airport should be clear enough to let your kids run completely wild. Make sure you pack a jumprope and maybe some in-line skates in addition to some healthy and sugary snacks.
- At 11 p.m or later, if you are still waiting on standby in a nearly empty airport, abandon the rule about indoor voices. And the no running rule. And the no climbing and jumping on furniture rule. Moms, that glass of wine at Applebees must have worn off by now. Use the extra space to do a little yoga stretching to relieve the stress.
Airport authorities, if you cannot tolerate the wildness of unruly children, who have spent over 10 hours cooped up in your airport, you should have done more to get good, hardworking parents to their original vacation destinations. Airlines, you should have done the decent thing and not have overbooked your flights. So go ahead kids and parents, make all the outdoor voices, and screams, and wild laughter you can conjure up. This is family time!
YOU ARE ON VACATION, REMEMBER?
So here we go again. Another week, another snow storm.
And this time, Rochester isn’t going to get off Scott-free like we have so far this winter. As we await the next deluge of snow, I know you are all sick of it. But up here in Rochester, we’ve only had 77 inches fall this winter. Only. But only in terms of “lake effect” showers and flurries. Never a mention of a storm. Just enough snow to fall each day to cover the ugly grey snow. And not enough to justify a snow day.
But our day may be coming this week. Finally!
This is a piece I wrote a few years back that I figure would be very timely right about now. I know it’s tough, but do try to enjoy and appreciate the quiet and beauty of the snow. Because in a few months, we’ll be wishing for some cool weather.
We actually do have a snow blower. A Toro Powerlite snow blower that our relatives gave to us as a housewarming gift when my husband and I moved to Rochester from New Jersey with our two small children nearly a decade ago. It is nestled on the left side of our Tudor’s tiny one-car garage – a garage that was built to fit 1920’s model cars, not today’s SUVs or minivans. Over the years, it has certainly served us well. My husband uses the snow blower on mornings when he has to get out early On early winter mornings I often wake to the sound of him repeatedly pulling on its cord to get it whirring to a shuddering start, the smell of the gasoline seeping upward from the garage directly overhead to our bedroom.
But I left the snow blower in the garage today and opted for my ergonomic snow shovel. If I used the snow blower, I wouldn’t have delighted in the soundlessness that a snowstorm creates, the snow’s ability to absorb noise in our motorized world. I wouldn’t have had the chance to watch the snow change from white to the slightest tinge of blue when it is pushed aside by the shovel’s blade. Or hear the chickadees chirping in the backyard and think about how I may at some point want to train them to feed out of my hand.
The snowy weather does get a bit old here in Rochester, here at January’s end when at least two more months of snow await us and with the knowledge that we could not afford plane tickets to Florida for this year’s February break.
You can’t stir a sleepy child out of bed at January’s end with the exclamation of
“Look! It snowed last night”.
Maybe you can get away with that in November, or even mid-December, when snow is still a novelty. But when one’s alarm has been buzzing before dawn since November, and grass and brick and garden beds have not been seen for over a month, the child looks at you as if to say “big freaking deal, MOM” and rolls over in a vain attempt for one more minute of sleep.
We are not bears. And we cannot sleep all winter. So out we go into it. Whether it is to school, work, food shopping, we must.
And you know something? If you are wearing enough layers, and there is no bitter wind to bite your face, shoveling snow by hand, and then taking a walk in it can be very invigorating, just about as invigorating as the Zumba class that I decided to blow off today. As I walk, I turn my feet outwards, and then in, just like that boy in Ezra Jack Keat’s beloved children’s book. (Need I tell you the name?) I think about diverting my children from the television and getting them into the snow to play as they get off the schoolbus. I feel the gentleness of the flakes hit against my hat. And when the one other person out walking today in my neighborhood passes me, we smile at each other knowingly, as if we are privy to a very well kept secret.
As I turn home, an enormous truck with an eight-foot high snowplow turns the corner and packs the snow bank blocking our driveway even higher. Okay, there is no romanticizing anymore, and I head to my garage to start up the noisy, smelly snow blower.
I will not go quiet into that Kindle light.
I don’t ever see myself curling up with a Kindle, or a Nook, or any other e-book for that matter.
I will not go quiet into that Kindle light.
I don’t ever see myself curling up with a Kindle, or a Nook, or any other e-book for that matter.
There has been so much news about books. The drop in the sale of physical books and the recent scanning of 5.2 billion books into digital form to study trends in culture and literature, as reported by the New York Times. According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, Barnes & Noble recently cited studies that suggest consumer spending on new physical books will fall to $19 billion in 2014 from $20.5 billion in 2009.
But books are more than carefully strung words. Books create communities and friendships. A book has physical attributes – the feel of its Tattered Cover, the texture of the dog-eared pages inside and the wonder about by whom the book has been previously held and read.
A few years ago, a friend of mine was making what she thought at the time a permanent move back to her home of Cape town South Africa. The trans-Atlantic container could only carry so much of her possessions, so she held a yard sale.
Among the precious things she agreed to part with was her vast collection of books. An avid reader, my friend always had a stack of books – from the library, finds at other yard sales or book sales – on her nightstand. From the pile of books that was spread on a blanket, I picked up “The Notebook” by Nicholas Sparks and offered her the asking price of a dollar. She refused to take money from me and instead, pressed the book into my hand, smiled, and just said “enjoy.”
So I took it home and read it. I’ll admit it wasn’t my favorite. But it was a book given to me by a friend, a friend I feared I would never see again short of a very long plane ride. So, the year she was away, I had her book on my shelf as a reminder of our friendship. I have given and received many previously enjoyed books, as a symbol of family and friendship. Before a family vacation, my doorbell rang and it was another friend, who, just because, wanted to give me a book to read on the beach. It was The Secret Life of Bees, by Sue Monk Kidd.
I have also given my books away to friends: like Sarah’s Key and Snow Flower and the Secret Fan to my mom, and A Thousand Splendid Suns to my dad.
Can you do that with a Kindle?
Now I know that e-books have their advantages: less trees are cut down to make and read books, less clutter in one’s home, ease of traveling with multiple books, instant gratification of downloading the latest book, and so on. But the clutter of books is legacies of family and friendships that our society will lose with the emerging popularity of the e-book. No, I fear that this next generation coming up, if predictions hold true and purchases of physical books will fall away to one more screen that we must stare at for information. Something will be lost.
Because of paper books, a multi-generation legacy of books rests in my house.
My grandparents lived in a tiny apartment in Bensonhurst Brooklyn for over 60 years. In the foyer, they had their treasured library. Into each book that was added to their collection – books like Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights, and fairy tales by Hans Christian Anderson- a seal was placed, saying that this book was part of the Library of Pauline and Milton Kasmere. Some of these books, with their spines embellished with fading gold lettering, are now propped on the bookshelves in my home. I hope that my kids will read these classics from the pages that their great-grandparents held, not an e-book.
In the future, what will we put on our bookshelves?
Now, call me a luddite, but I can go on about how much I like e-books, if only for sentimental reasons. I’d write more about my feelings and dislikes about e-books, but I am off to a book exchange at my son’s middle school – off to sort books that will be donated to a city Literacy project to share with inner city schools in Rochester.
Tell me, in the future, if physical books go away, will there be books to share and book exchanges to give away books?