I’m Old. So Old. So What?

I was planning to write about the new school year, and how my son had already gotten in trouble, but instead I’m going to deal with my midlife crisis. It hit me on my birthday, imagine that! Instead of enjoying the beaches of Maui, I was bathing in a pool of sunscreen to save whatever was left from my long-gone youth. Not sure what has triggered this sudden shift from feeling a young mom to an old woman, but it’s hard to deny that I’m more and more willing to spend more and more money on a tiny jar of face cream. What’s wrong with me? That’s not my philosophy, is it? I’d rather seize the day than try to stop the time. I badly need a proper brainwash.  Any ideas?

In the meantime, I keep repeating to myself what, ironically, I, myself,  have written. Hopefully, it will reset my confused brains. And yours, in case you too struggle to embrace a new wrinkle and another grey hair. Happy Birthday to all of us!

 

I’m thirty something

and quite all right.

If only could I erase

those wrinkles around my eyes…

I wouldn’t even bother, for why

and how would I know

which ones came from laughing

to tears and which were born in pain

when I cried. Besides,

if I were to die tomorrow

wouldn’t it be quite a lie

to lie in my coffin

with my skin so impeccably

suave, as if I have never lived?

But I am, aren’t I?

Say Thank You!

I admit, some of my posts might seem harsh. Okay, many of my posts. I’m not shy to criticize other people’s practices. Don’t let me started on bad services! I would be even more open about my dissatisfaction with a poor business, if the bad business allowed me to complain. But try to complain to Comcast, for example. We all know that they are notorious for bad service. But if you’re unhappy, all you will let you do is a tricky phone survey, consisting of even trickier yes or no questions, which will basically lead you to praising them for their performance. Go figure! The same was with my son’s preschool, which badly needs an overhaul. I was hoping to give the owner some constructive feedback, since I genuinely cared about her business and I wanted to keep my son there. But do you think I was given an option?

Anyways, what I’m trying to say is that nagging, venting  and badmouthing is not what I really enjoy writing about. My favorite thing to write is actually a “thank you” note. Not the customary one, but the one that is unrequested and unexpected.

Last week my boys finished their swimming boot camp. It was an amazing experience. My toddler basically learned to swim by himself and my kindergartener has enhanced his strokes. I’m thrilled with the results, but, even more, with the whole vibe of the classes. The instructors were not only competent teachers, but also most friendly people. I just had to let them and their bosses know what a great job they had done and I was thrilled to hear that they really appreciated it.

In a few minutes I’m going to thank another crew of great instructors at my son’s TaeKwonDo club. My son is having such a great time at their camps that this morning he was seriously debating whether he should continue the camp or go to Maui with us.

To conclude, if you appreciate what other people do, let them know about it! It makes their day and their happiness will make your day. Besides,  our kids will see first hand the magic of gratitude.

 

Let them be bored!

The other day I was leaving  Junior Gym (a fun and safe place for kids to run the energy out) with my toddler, I overheard a mom talk to her son. “Do you want to have a camp here this week? You’ve had camps all summer so I think that if you stay home this week you will be bored.”

Hmm. Really? He will be bored? Three questions here:

Firstly, is he really going to be bored, or perhaps enjoying a little downtime, without socializing, instructions and schedule?

Secondly,  even if he were to be bored, would it be such a horrible thing to happen for him? Kids need to be bored from time to time. Just like necessity is the mother of invention, boredom is the mother of creativity. Depriving a child of occasional boredom means basically depriving them of an opportunity to think creatively and to learn to play by themselves or with a sibling. (This boy had a younger brother.)

Thirdly, mom, were you really worried about your son’s lack of stimulation or were you rather concerned about your own over-stimulation?  Don’t take me wrong, I don’t blame you. I’ve spent lots of time with my boys this summer and I must say, I’m grateful we are leaving for Maui tomorrow. Otherwise I would need either some therapy or yoga. Or both. But I know that sending my kids to camps for the whole summer would have not been a healthy compromise either. Unless I worked full-time, of course. We ALL have enjoyed lazy mornings, late breakfasts and spontaneous activities. I can’t say that I had a time of my life with all the sword fights, races and play dough stuck to the carpet, but one thing I can say for sure: I don’t remember my boys complain about being bored.

“You’re Finally Here!” by Mélanie Watt

Mélanie Watt, a Canadian author and illustrator has a talent for creating  memorable picture books with even more memorable characters. You must be familiar with the resourceful, yet a bit cautious, Scaredy Squirrel, or the sassy and arrogant Chester the cat.  Today, I’d like you to meet the bunny, a bit needy, emotionally unbalanced and at the same time quite hilarious creature.

In “You’re Finally Here!” the bunny, gives the reader a hard time for showing up late. Apparently the reader has kept him waiting long enough to learn “accordion solo”. It’s so unfair to keep the bunny waiting. It’s just like “being too short to go on a ride” . And as annoying as “an itchy sweater”. Not to mention how rude it is. Just like “sticking gum under the sofa”. Finally the bunny starts feeling bad about the whole emotional meltdown and appears very happy to see the reader, if they promise to stay with him forever, that is. And then Vernie calls and the reader basically stops existing. Who is rude now, right?

However obnoxious the bunny is, I must say that he is quite a character. My son got some good laughs from this self-centered carrot lover, with most expressive eyebrows.  Next to the laughs, though, I wouldn’t mind if my son learned a thing or two about being less self-centered, more understanding, more patient, more forgiving, more accountable for his words… I know it’s a lot to ask and it’s not going to happen overnight but I think it’s always good to talk about it.

To sum up, “You’re Finally Here!” is a an amusing read with lot os wit in the text and tons of humor in the cartoonish illustration. The book reminds me of the Pigeon series by Mo Willems. It’s written in the same format, in which the character speaks with the reader. What do you call it, by the way? A silent dialogue? Whatever it is, it makes a good book even more engaging and memorable.

 

“Lost for Words” by Natalie Russell

“Lost for Words” by Natalie Russell was a quick pick at the library, that turned out to be both inspiring and sharing-worthy.

Tapir (what an original choice for the main character) and his friends had new notebooks. Giraffe felt inspired and wrote a little poem about her favorite tree. Hippo was more into short stories and wrote one with a perfect beginning and ending. Flamingo wrote song lyrics. Only Tapir could not think of anything to write about. He decided to walk away. Suddenly, as he was  watching his friends from a distance, he got an idea. He took out his pencils and started drawing. Page by page, the notebook was filling up with colors. Tapir rushed to show the drawings to his friends. They all liked what Tapir told them without using a word.

What an uplifting story and what a powerful message!

We all have talents, just not the same ones. We all have something to say, but perhaps not in the same way. Perhaps using a different medium. John has a gift of the gab, but Mike can dance his story out and Chloe will do it with a piano.  I personally love words, but I realize that others might be more expressive, touching and to the point when speaking the language of art, music or even science.

It’s a great responsibility of a parent, and even a greater privilege, to help our children discover their own ways of expressing themselves. Children have so much to say. In so many ways. We just need to activate all of our senses.

I guess I couldn’t avoid talking about parenting after all. Just like all roads lead to Rome, all picture books bring us to parenting, don’t they?

I’m Lost for Words. Parent’s Block.

As much as I like writing about parenting, this week I need a break. It might be parent’s block. I’m lost for words. And solutions. My sassy kindergartener takes every opportunity to negotiate with me basically anything. When I asked him why he never tries making deals with his dad, he said  it’s because I’m nicer. Go figure!  And then there is my cute as a bug and gross as a booger toddler, who needs to try, touch or taste anything from poop, to rocks, to any, edible or otherwise, garbage he can find in the street. I was hoping that a mild version of germ-phobia runs in our family but apparently I was wrong. How am supposed to keep my little raccoon safe now?

Before I figure that out, I have a picture book review for you. Just check my next post. Someone else was lost for words too.  

Take it easy. It’s summer for everyone.

There is nothing like a good book in the summer. I have recently devoured “Heads in Beds” by Jacob Tomsky. An unorthodox guide to hotels for any hotel guest, plus a hilarious read for anyone who likes a well written story.  But what has really turned my summer around was an article in the latest issue of my favorite weekly, “The Economist”.

The article was about the impact of our childhood on our later success in life. Scientists looked at twins adopted by families with a different social status. The study showed that whether a twin was brought up in a fell-off family and attended good schools or was raised by parents with more modest financial means and less education, they both would bring home a similar pay-check in the future. In other words, our upbringing is not all that matters in life. The genetic predispositions pay a great role as well, which means that the more we put on our children is NOT necessarily the better.  The more art classes, the more homework, the more sports… it all means only more stress for a child and more wasted money for the parent, if the child doesn’t have a drive for it. On the other hand, if they have it in them, they will make use of it. What we, as parents, need to provide is love and support.

The other morning I woke up with a raging headache. The coffee wasn’t helping and neither were my rambunctious boys. I needed some peace and quiet. And a long relaxing shower. But what to do with the boys? They can’t be punished for my headache and crankiness with a boring morning at home.  I weighed my options and…  “How about a movie, boys?” The Kids were confused. “What? Really?” Butut they were glued to TV in no time. And so was my head to the pillow.  Peace and quiet it was, with zero guilt. Following the findings of the above study I decided that taking it easy (or even slacking) on some less-easy days is not going to affect my sons career. They are smart enough and have decent genes.  And I believe in them.

Besides, it’s summer, both for the kids and the moms.

The Kids Will Be All Right, Won’t They?

If there was one thing I did right in preparation for this summer,  it was getting a membership at http://www.care.com. I knew that regardless of how much fun I would have with my boys I would need to hand them over to a fun nanny for a couple of hours here and there. Not everyone could do so, though. You must have heard about the S. C. mom, who left her 9-year-old daughter at the park, while she was at work.  Since leaving a child this age unattended is illegal in S. C., the police was notified and the mother arrested. Apparently if you live in Illinois, you need to provide childcare even for a 13-year-old according to the law. Ironically, I know of many parents whose babysitters are this age.

I understand that it’s all about our children’s safety, but I also know that at that age I and all of my friends used to walk to school, stay at home, or play outside alone and nothing happened. Nothing happened to the S. C. girl either. Aren’t we all trying to over-supervise our children these days?

I was thinking about it the other day while at the park. My older son was busy on the play structure and my toddler was playing in the sand box with other children. I, just  the other moms or nannies, was sitting idly nearby watching the scene. Our only job was to monitor the kids that were doing perfectly fine without us staring at them non-stop. To be honest, I felt a bit silly. I could have brought a magazine or a book, but I didn’t, because I was supposed to watch the boys. I did have my phone though. The moment I took my eyes off of my boys,  my safely playing toddler was heading towards the street holding in his hand a “ball”, a.k.a. old dog poop.

I put my phone away and resumed my watching duty. I kept thinking though. Would my son have rushed into the street or come back to the sandbox without my intervention? What would he have done with his new “ball”?  As much as I’m curious, I’m glad I didn’t have to find out.

Boo to Taboo?

We all know how hard it is to explain certain things to little children. War, cancer, divorce…  Ideally, we should wait with bridging those issues until the right age. But since we don’t have a full control over when our kids see and hear things, they  tend to ask before they are ready to understand our answer.  Even more, they ask before we have our answer ready. We have to say something though. Something simplified. But what?

I still remember my own “difficult” questions. Once I was watching news with my grandpa and I heard the word rape. Of course I asked what it meant. My poor grandpa tried hard to be as simplistic as accurate, but all I gathered from it was that it was some kind of forced surgery. I felt so well-informed that I gladly shared my knowledge with my girlfriends.

Now that I am the one to give answers to my children, I see how hard it is to find the right words.  When my husband’s grandfather passed away, our older son challenged us with lots of questions about death. Whatever we tried to say seemed to come across wrong and scary. In my son’s eyes, if one person can stop living NOW, everyone else can stop living NOW, including us. Even if we promised him to live until a 100, it wasn’t making him feel any better. 100 years is too abstract to grasp for a five-year old. As a result, we avoid talking about death in our house altogether and I can’t even mention that flowers in the vase died. I threw them away because they were no longer pretty.

Another word that has recently turned out taboo was, surprise, surprise, college. We mentioned it when our son wanted to have his room painted red. We  told him he could do it in college, when he would live by himself. What was supposed to be a thing to look forward to for our self-minded and independent boy turned out to be a serious threat. All he heard was that at some point he wouldn’t live with us anymore and why wouldn’t he?! Now he doesn’t even want to be a sport footwear designer anymore because he doesn’t want to go to college, because he doesn’t want to live by himself.

He still has 13 years to change his mind so I don’t worry about his education, but I do wonder what other words are going to disappear from our current conversations.  Divorce is one, for example. The other day my son pondered about our divorced neighbors, “Where is Sofia’s mom?”, I explained matter-of-factly that sometimes parents don’t get along and start living separately. I thought I handled it pretty well, until my son asked if me and his dad were going to live apart too. Obviously, planting a seed of doubt about the future of our family was not my goal.  Neither do I want to paint a perfect picture of the world, without death, homeless people and colleges. It’s misleading. But so is Santa Claus. What do I do? What do YOU do?

 

 

The More Books The Merrier!

Mission accomplished! Yesterday my boys marked the last spots in their reading logs. The 30 days of learning and reading was over. During that month we attended various interesting events at the library. It’s not everyday that you can see a raccoon or a circus there. We got to read and re-read many fun stories. My toddler enjoyed books about trains and trucks. My five-year old preferred wit and humor of Mo Willems or Oliver Jeffers and revisited lots of books which I used to read to him when he was younger. Now it was his turn to read to his brother and he did great!  It was time to rush to our library to get prizes. Yes, I must admit, the prizes were a great motivator in this wonderful summer literacy initiative. A simple raffle ticket or a pencil is likecarrot on the stick for young children. You can’t go without it.  Many thanks to the Peninsula Library System and  San Mateo County for organizing it and adding more books to our summer!

Summer Learning Program is truly a great thing to add your family summer activities. It’s more opportunity to do something together. Even if you read books at home day in an out as we do, the summer is usually when it’s hard to stick to routine. Between travels and camps, pools and parks, there are days when we devour a pile of reading treats and there are days when we starve the readers in us and fulfill other cravings. The reading program helps to keep reading a part of our daily routine. We all know what one book per day can do. Especially when read together.

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