“The Very Inappropriate Word” by Jim Tobin

Even though I don’t own a pair of yoga pants yet, I already feel like I belong to the Bay Area. I’ve found my favorite morning radio program. Fernando and Greg are my second cup of coffee, a perfect blend of wit and sarcasm to wake me up during the school drop-off ride. Unfortunately, I don’t think I will be able to listen to them anymore. It turns out that while I enjoy the humorous chat, my five-year old turns on his listening ears for the songs played during the music breaks. The music is groovy and upbeat, so naturally he wants to sing along. He tries hard to memorize the lyrics, which, to say the least, are not the most appropriate for a little boy. It was time we sat down and talked about words worth and not worth using, repeating and singing.  I came across “The Very Inappropriate Word” by Jim Tobin at the right time.

Michael was a word collector. He kept finding words everywhere.  He discovered “slugger” at baseball practice,  and “spokes” at school. He loved huge words for little things, like “smithereens” or tiny words for large things, like “vast”. One time Michael picked up a new, strange word on the bus. According to his sister it was a very bad word. But Michael  kept hearing it around and finally started using it and even sharing it with friends at school. It was time for the teacher to act. And Mrs. Dixon knew just what to do. She sent Michael to the library to dig up some new words for his collection. It couldn’t be more effective a solution. Now that Michael’s word pile contained such treasures like chortle, vibrato or shenanigans, it was hard to remember where the strange “!&*^#” word was. 

In other words, the art of distraction at work. It’s certainly a trick worth trying. Children like learning new words… so why not to give them lots of opportunities to learn those things. The appropriate-for-their-age things, that is. As a result, there will be no room in their young brains for the “!#%^*” words.

And if we do happen to hear a  little swear word coming out of our innocent child’s mouth, let’s not overdramatize it. It will only make the child want to use it more. In my opinion, acting like nothing has happened works best with the little children. They will forget the unfortunate expression as quickly as they have picked it up. With bigger children, though, I think it is worth clarifying the appropriate/inappropriate difference and suggesting better word choices. And last but not least, it only works if we lead by example.

Bye-bye the morning radio programs. Hello “The Wheels on the Bus” song.

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The Fall

One thing I sure miss in the Bay Area is the colorful Fall. Yes, some trees turn red and yellow, but it is not as I have seen it in Poland, Belgium or Ohio, for example. The California Fall would have never inspired me to writing this poem. Enjoy your Indian Summer and the September palette of colors!

 

the fall

you come like a queen

dressed in gold and ruby-red

but your perfume’s so a-royal

cinnamon- apple blend

 

come simple girl or queen-

you’re never unannounced

but it is you to choose your time,

you always surprise

like a broadway show,

a parade of dance and light

as if hypnotized

the world chants for you and sings

to the wildest music

by Maestro Wind,

and trees, for their summer-lover bright green clad,

keep dropping leaf by leaf,

(like strip-tease, quite sad)

till naked, ‘you’ve betrayed the summer!’-

November rains

(or cries)

“Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” by Judi Barett

I’ve seen this book many times in bookstores and libraries but somehow I never felt like even browsing through the pages. I judged it by the cover and decided that the title and the illustrations (by Ronald Barett) seemed too weird-kind-of-absurd to me. But now that my son is in Kindergarten and this book was a part of his weekly reading assignment, I had no choice but read it through with him. I’m glad I did.

It truly is an amusing story.

In a town called Chewandswallow, it was raining food. Orange juice and eggs for breakfast, salads for lunches and spaghetti for dinner. Who wouldn’t be content with such convenient and delicious weather? Until the climate changed and the town was getting hit by most unpredictable menu and long spells of storms, floods, fog and hail of huge and undesirable portions. The people of Chewandswallow had no choice but to flee the town (on boats made of stale bread). And that’s how they discovered that in other places food came from stores. 

A very imaginative story with numerous puns and humorous illustrations, that start black and white and get brighter and more colorful as the story unfolds. My favorite image was the jello sunset. My son laughed at most of the inventive images, like a tree covered with fried eggs and a man covered with noodles.

I know that the story is meant to entertain but somehow I can’t help thinking that it must contain some hidden message. Perhaps it warns us about the effects of the climate changes caused by our ignorant misuse of natural resources and our selfish lifestyles, and calls for action before the ozone layer vanishes and the glaciers melt. Or perhaps it insinuates that our food portions have expanded out of proportion. Anyone has eaten at The Cheesecake Factory for example? Hope you came very, very, very, very hungry.

 

The Team Spirit

When your kids turn six in the Bay Area, the chances are you will put them on a team. Soccer, baseball, gymnastics, martial arts… you-name-it team.  My friend’s daughter has recently started competitive gymnastics training, which means her (and her family) committing to practice for nine hours a week for the next ten years. Another friend, declined the same opportunity.  It would be too much after-school work for one little girl.  She will continue recreational gymnastics, though.  My son started talking about winning trophies in TKD tournaments. He is really motivated so we will let him go for it. Other parents drive their children to baseball practices regardless of their kids’ drive and potential, just because it is “good for them to try it out”

The whole commotion made me think about advantages and disadvantages of being on competitive teams since the young age.  This is what I’ve come up with.

Advantages of competing:

1. Children who like sports are often of competitive nature, even if they only try to outdo themselves and break their own records. (That’s the type of competitiveness I promote.) Competing is like testing oneself. They also give young athletes a great thrill and sense of fulfillment.

2. Competing in sports is a great introduction to competing in real life. A child learns to win AND lose. For an athlete, losing is motivational.

3. Training for a competition teaches a child to work towards a goal, which in turns teaches them the true value of various life skills. You can’t win unless you develop perseverance, self-discipline, focus, humility among others.

Disadvantages of competing:

1. Competing in sports shifts the focus from sports to competitions. Children become more “medal oriented” instead of simply enjoying the sport.

2. Intensive training carries a risk of burnout, injuries and additional stress, including the overbearing parents.

3. Failure in sport can lead to child’s lower confidence in life.

To conclude, I don’t think that there is a clear-cut answer to what’s better: recreational or competitive sports. But I do think that we should look at our children’s potential and interests before we project our dreams on our kids. They need time to dream their own dreams too.

The Right Time to Have a Good Time

It’s only Monday, and the school year has just started, but I already feel like I’m running out of gas. Too little sleep, too much coffee, too little time with friends, too many errands. Too much  “No!” and “Mine!” from my toddler and one too many pouty face from my kindergartener. Drop offs, pick-ups, cooking, cleaning… Not sure when but I got fully sucked into my daily grind. I guess I was afraid that too much ME time would take away from the MOMMY and WIFE time. I’m a lousy multi-tasker. I was putting off my own want-to-do-it list till the next year, when both boys are at school and I have more time to do MY things.  But I’m getting burnt out. I need to reset. I need more ME time. Now.  More workout, yoga, dance classes, maybe finally start working on my novel? Whatever it will be it, now is the right time to do it. 

Funny, but I have already been through a phase like this. In a different context but with the same symptoms. I even wrote a poem about it.  Time to reread it and live by my own words again.

By the way, I was planning to start my novel today but the babysitter canceled on me. At least I managed to work out during my toddler’s nap. One thing at a time, I guess.  

The Good Time

I lived 100m/h- chasing time

the good time, the one yet to come

addicting mirage, driving me insane

from A to B to C to A

driving in circles,

everyday, to stop too scared

I failed to see bad time was catching up

STOP!

the tank is empty

I live 10 m/h

far away from rush hour jams

racing on my tiptoes with snails

I’ve finally found a sense

in my journey and my senses

have found an essence in dance

in the rhythm of silence

in tune with my neural universe

no more chasing the good time

it is now and here