“Hug Machine” by Scott Campbell

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Have you ever met the Hug Machine? He looks like an ordinary child, except, he is exceptional at hugging. Actually, if you are on his “to hug” list, and chances are quite high you are, you might experience it first hand. For the Hug Machine there is nothing too big or too small, too hard or too soft to be hugged. He is on the hugging mission.  From calming to uplifting, his hugs can do wonders. And if you wonder from where the Hug Machine gets his hugging powers, the answer is one word: pizza. Having said that, if you come across the Hug Machine in your area, let him give you a hug. And don’t forget, even the Hug Machine could use a hug from time to time. 

What a heart-warming story! You read it and you immediately want to hug someone. Especially your very own hug machines, to whom you are reading the story. With simple language and cartoonish pictures, Scott Campbell sends us a powerful message: hugging is so good for us. Or even better, the combo of reading and hugging. Let’s make both a habit.

My younger son, and our family hugging machine, knows the power of the hug all too well.  He never asks to be carried or held. He goes with “Hug me up, please.” Who can resist such a request! I tried it once, considering my son is almost 4 years old and weighs almost 40 lbs. His response came quickly and on top of his lungs. “Nobody wants to hug me!!!!” I just wonder what the people in the park must have been thinking…

 

 

 

 

 

“The Birthday Fish” by Dan Yaccarino

I don’t even want to know how long it’s been since the last post. I could start this entry with trying to explain my long absence, but why would I bother? Most of you are either parents or writers, so you know everything about parent’s block, writer’s block, or what happens when they both hit at the same time. Besides, starting with explaining myself, I would run a risk of running out of my blogging time. So, let’s just start with “Hello, Everyone!”

Today’s post and the book are about birthdays, expectations, and making lists.

Last month in our family was definitely about all of the above. As our son was waiting for his birthday, he was making and updating his I’d-like-to-get list. When he came up with the whole list idea a couple of years ago before Christmas, I was a bit skeptical. I was worried that it would lead to mutual frustration. Our family (friends and Santa) will have a hard time finding things from his list, and he might feel disappointed when getting something else. And what about surprises? But list by list, I was getting more and more convinced that his input was actually quite helpful. The things he wanted were mostly inexpensive, useful, and in line with his interests, from markers to ‘speedy’ clothes, and books about dragons. Instead of throwing money away on what we thought he would enjoy, we’ve found a golden compromise.

But of course, the whole list system begs a question: is it always good to give children what they want? No, it is not. (That’s why we don’t have a video game system in the house yet) Not getting what they (and ourselves) want and dealing with it is a crucial life lesson. Not only does it teach our children patience, humility and perseverance, but it also teaches them flexibility. It broadens their horizons, exposes them to new experiences.  As parents, we should feel good about disappointing our children from time to time, even if it sounds like a paradox. 

In “The Birthday Fish”, one thing Cynthia always wanted was a pony. She kept putting it on her Christmas lists but she kept getting everything but ponies. She was hoping to get one for her birthday, but no, her parents thought a goldfish would be a better gift. Cynthia was frustrated. She was about to dump the golden present down the drain, when her fish suddenly spoke. She offered to make Cynthia’s wish come true in exchange for freedom. Cynthia didn’t hesitate. She wished for a pony.  Off to the lake they went.  But as they walked, something miraculous happened… 

In order to know WHAT happened and WHAT came back home with Cynthia, you have to read the book. I can’t spill all the beans, but I can tell you that whatever it was called Marigold.

A smart story with a lot of humor. Typical Yaccarino-style illustrations. A great book to add to anybody’s reading list.

What is it Like to be a Mom?

The other day a young, single guy asked me what it is like to be a mom.  I found it odd that a young, single guy was curious. It’s not like he was interested in the position, right?  But his question made me think and re-think the meaning of motherhood.  Lots of thoughts were going through my head. Which ones describe it best:  lots of  multitasking and coffee, little sleep, little time for yourself and friends? Unless you are a super-mom that is. I’m not. But there are perks. Children bring out in us feelings that we would never experience otherwise. That unconditional love for another human being, who we gave birth to.  Or the better understanding for our own parents’ feelings.  What’s more, we get to see the world the way children discover it. We notice bugs on the sidewalk again.  We remember that puddles are for splashing.  And last but not least, little children are such wonderful snuggle-buddies.

But if I had to put  the meaning of motherhood in once sentence, I would simply say: Being a mom is like being in Heaven and Hell at the same time. 

Or, if I were to wrap it with metaphors, I would quote one of my poems, “Piece by Piece” (The Poet’s Place”)

“Like murky Van Gogh

And snazzy Matisse, 

In one frame

Agony and Bliss”

By the way, today someone else asked me how I stay so thin taking care of the kids all day. I told her that she basically answered her own question: Taking care of the kids all day.

The True Color of White Lies.

As many young people, my husband too got himself a tattoo back in college.  I’m not sure if he regrets having it done or not, but I know that he doesn’t want to encourage our boys to get one in the future.  As a result, when our five-year old asked him about the little picture on his skin, my quick-on-his-feet hubby responded that “a bad kid at school drew on him.” I found it hilarious. And clever.  A perfect white lie. On second thoughts, though, I started wondering if the creative excuses we feed our children with to cover up our own actions and mistakes are really worth it or will they backfire on us. If we don’t admit having done something silly or unreasonable, we draw a completely misleading picture of ourselves to our children. We make them believe that we are infallible. And if our children see that we are so flawless, they will  try to live up to our standards and will be afraid of making their own mistakes. And how are they suppose to learn vital life lessons if not by making mistakes and learning from them? As Joseph Conrad wisely said “It’s only those who do nothing that make no mistakes.” I don’t want my children to do nothing in fear of making mistakes. I tried it. It leads to even bigger mistakes.  And I don’t want our children to believe that we never did anything wrong or short-sighted. I just want them to understand that every mistake is a step forward if we learn from it. 

“Mom-to Be & Mom-I-Am” by Agnieszka Chapas

“week by week

rolling

strolling

on two hearts

my wheels”

No, no, not me this time. My turn is over.  But I have just heard the big news from a friend. And y brother and his girlfriend will become parents in a few months. Another friend has just become a mom. The Miracle of Motherhood happens all the time and everywhere! And this little book of poetic reflections is dedicated to everyone expecting or living it.

http://www.blurb.com/b/5612959-mom-to-be-mom-i-am

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

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.

“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?

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