Once upon a time…

Nugget 2

I happened upon a vendor, at the flea market, this weekend. She was selling old beaten, yet still useful, metal trucks. My heart was happy at the memories stirred by these relics. Days spent riding them over the grass hills of my backyard with my brother. Tumbling and laughing …oblivious of their sharp edges and lead paint…we used them in the unintended ways kids do with toys.
Out of nowhere, I remembered Halloween and the fun we had roaming our neighborhood until 10:00 pm! I reminisced for a moment with the vendor. We shared a happy talk of pillowcases filled with candy and the knowing we were safe because we knew our neighbors.
“Now, Halloween is limited to an hour and a half .” I sighed. “Oh well, the kids won’t miss what they never had, I guess.”  I walked away with a heavy heart.

The next vendor had a metal Popgun for sale. He wanted $20.00 for memory’s sake and I held the toy, not daring to buy, but allowing myself the memories of me, as Annie Oakley once again. Jamming the barrel with dirt that would go off, with a pop and a puff, was not the intended use, of course. Such happy times…

I’d just had a birthday so reminiscing was near, anyway. The rest of the morning held flashbacks to the happiest times riding in the back of pick-up trucks and on top of hay wagons, with the breeze and treetops at my cheek.
Building campfires on an old dirt road and learning to swim without life vests in the ponds and creeks, came back. Using a wood-burning set without incident and at an “inappropriate” age and the “Thing Maker” with molten goop producing plastic bugs. Riding an, at least 1000 lb horse, bareback at the age of 6 and wandering about the cows, who weighed the same, without fear nor injury because I had been taught about caution. Oh yes, and building bows with arrows of sharpened sticks with the Barlow pocketknife grandpa bought for me. Building jumps for my spider bike and riding with no hands…feet upon the handles…producing some scrapes and bruises, but what a ride! Climbing to the tops of trees and silos and getting scared but holding tight and cheering “like a gold medalist” when I, once again, found the ground.
These things are dangerous and won’t happen any more…why? Because no modern child would attempt them. They haven’t any way to test themselves…to learn caution as they grow by “uping” the ante of self-reliance. All they know is “You mustn’t try. You mustn’t risk. Your judgement is flawed.Don’t get hurt.”
Kids are taught to fear, now.  A fine beginning to taming them…self-reliance is dangerous, you know.
Wild colts can turn into sheep.

Kids won’t miss, what they never had…

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Monkey Finds His Way

Monkey in Bali, Indonesia

Monkey in Bali, Indonesia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A little monkey got up one morning and decided to only look down from the trees.
It was wonderful!
He noticed that other monkeys lived in his neighborhood, he found a banana that had been overlooked, and he discovered his own shadow. Suddenly, he almost fell. His mother caught him and smiled gently.
The next day, the little monkey decided to only look upward.
It was wonderful!
He saw the clouds and the bluest sky. A flock of birds passed over and his heart felt as though it would burst from the beauty of it all. Suddenly, he almost fell. His mother caught him and smiled gently.
On the very next day, a bit more cautious little monkey, decided to look only behind himself.
It was wonderful!
All the while he walked, he could still see his soft leafy nest. Now, he was sure this was his best decision, yet. It made him feel warm and safe. Suddenly, he almost fell. His mother caught him, once again, and smiled gently.

This time, his mother warned him that he must look around to best prevent himself from falling. Little monkey had fun looking around until he noticed ugly, fearful things were in the forest.
This was not so wonderful!
“Mother? I was happier when I looked down and looked back and looked upward. How can you look around and still smile?”
“I have an eye for beauty, a mind that knows discovery and warm memories of safe places, all those things make me smile.”

“I just don’t understand why I must look around when I don’t want to see ugly, fearful things?”

“Because, my dear little monkey, I will not always be near enough to catch you.”

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I have no doubt that this story has already been told, in some form or fashion. I am alarmed by what I consider over-protectiveness on the part of  many young parents who want only happy, dreamy feelings filling everything in their children’s environment. Because of that opinion, I wrote this story today, and my words came to me separately from any other sources. 😉

Number Worthy

As we get further from human contact with busy lives and social media, how will we get the valuable “first impressions” of people? Whether we like the idea or not, it is essential to have some kind of filter. Certainly, everyone doesn’t qualify for friendship, to be a trusted tenant or employee. It has become politically incorrect to judge other human beings on appearance, behavior, or even skills( Affirmative Action), but we have always needed to judge each other for many things. We do it and it is valuable.

At least, in the past, a sparkle in someone’s eyes and clean appearance gave them a chance. Nowadays, our society has chosen numerical scores to apply values to people.

It wasn’t very long ago that grading and testing were considered unfair and unclear. We have forgotten that many of our greatest entrepreneurs and inventors, dropped out of school, and off of that grid, yet we continue to weigh numbers so heavily. Why?

When it comes down to it, numbers cannot ever measure human value to each other and society. We all know, as well, how often numbers can be manipulated. Most of us, forget that fact, and wave them around as “proofs”.

The urban legends of “Numbers don’t lie” and “Everything in print is true.” are alive and well, my friends. Try making a “tongue in cheek” remark on Facebook if you doubt me.

My most recent pet peeve is the BMI (body mass index) applied to people in an effort, for some, to calculate health risks. The greater hidden agenda is about health care costs, period. In a doctor’s office these stats may be useful. In the public domain, they will discriminate and foster feelings of inadequacies rather than help. Our schools are about to apply a value (their explanation is , to teach.) on our kids. It’s surprising that in our modern information age, anyone who cares, could possibly remain uninformed about diet and exercise but the schools believe we are not informed. I think they consider us dumb. Furthermore, I believe the healthcare industry is scrambling to get health care stats out in the open. One way would be to allow schools to start collecting data. Hmmmm…tricky?

With my argument voiced, I could not help but find some humor in the revolution of numerical stats as a measure of human worth. I have a few ads we may see soon:

“You could be my sweetie-pie if not for your BMI.”
“I think that I would love you more, if you improved your credit score.”
“You may think outside the box but I hate your choice in stocks.”
“Popularity begins and ends, with your number of Facebook friends.”

Numbers are no way to measure the worth of anyone, yet, we are beginning to use them that way. Let’s not allow them to carry too much “weight”.

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Example Rules

Al Sharpton

Al Sharpton (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was remembering one of my first triumphs at school. It was an aptitude test on English grammar. In second grade, we were asked to choose the correct form of a word to plug into a sentence. Since we had no formal grammatical training before the test, I was very pleased to “ace” it.
Why did I have those skills at age eight? Simply because proper grammar was spoken in my home.
The English language has rules… not the kind meant to restrict our behavior, but those which apply in order to keep us on “the same page” and in the “same game”.
When I consider the modern distaste for rules, in general, and the emphasis on diversity, I realize many young parents are throwing an obstacle into their children’s education (and success) when they refuse to use proper grammar.
I understand that bilingual households are at a disadvantage automatically. All the more reason, in my opinion, for parents to school themselves in proper English.
Language has little to do with culture, so the clinging to slang and the blocking of the kids’ understanding of the rules of English grammar in the home, make no sense.
Al Sharpton is an intelligent man…Yet, he talks in a “street” dialect that, I assume, is an attempt to be “common” and endearing to the African American community. He “ain’t” helping anyone by confusing folks about English enunciation and grammar. Especially those people who have never lived in an environment where the rules of English were followed. Leading by example would be more helpful and honorable, in my opinion. Breaking other rules may gain a person attention and bravado but the rules of English language, once ignored, are terribly difficult to reclaim.
So, when parents consider helping their children’s efforts for a good education, the most important edge they can offer is the example of good grammar spoken at home.

It’s up to you.

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I was watching my 10 month old granddaughter, a few days ago, as she bounced in one of those baby slings that attach to a doorway. When it came time for lunch, she was already seated in the sling, so I got down on my knees and fed her right where she was seated. I had attempted to feed her from the bouncy sling, a few months before, but it had proven too difficult to get the spoon to her mouth while she bounced. It was very comical though.

This time was very different. She bounced with the delightful anticipation of her meal then stopped to greet the spoon. She bounced between each offering then stopped as I brought the spoon to her mouth.

You might think this is a charming little anecdote but might be wondering what it has to do with the picture and message above?
Little Evelyn had learned a valuable lesson. Even at 10 months old, she was aware that she had the power to get what she wanted. She had taken the initiative to stop bouncing in order to get something tasty.

THAT, in my opinion, is the most important thing she’ll ever learn.

Family Gathering

Deb and meMy mother organized a family gathering that we celebrated on June 1st. A collection of cousins, and their kids, some I had never met, came. Afterward, there was an unexpected let down. So many people and so little time to interact beyond small talk.

For the next few days , following the event, I’ve had a “woulda/shoulda/coulda” feeling. You see, if a person is presenting a party, they are busy with meeting the needs of guests instead of enjoying the people. Certainly, watching our children, and grandchildren, making brand new family friends was a joy. I was overwhelmed though, with people whom I was unable to fully appreciate and subjects I was unable (because of limited time) to talk about. My cousin, Debbie (pictured with me above), made a 5 hour trip and spent 5 hours returning home after our mingle.

For those an hour or less away, I had little time and I have a heavy heart about that fact. Although we live relatively close, we do not gather for years on end. A smaller, more intimate gathering would do us but to “make time” for those many smaller gatherings doesn’t seem doable. Work, and family duties are many and it’s a burden to ask too often. My sister suggested a catered event in the future which would lighten the load upon the party organizers to afford more real “visiting”.  I believe, with a family so large, there will be the inevitable regrets, even still. Some folks are going to be “left out” whenever there are so many. Having the duty (a wonderfully fun one) of photographing the event, also sadly, puts the “photographer” outside of the mingle. Next time, I believe buying disposable cameras for each family, might be a better way to get a more varied and complete “picture”.

I would love to hear suggestions about how to make a large party work without the extravagance of a wedding reception.

It was a fun day and, those who could not come, were missed.

Ha! If you had come, I probably would have ignored you guys too!  At least, the no-shows kept my regrets fewer. 😉

Broader Horizons: Brain Development in Kids

Early virtual world: Ultima Online

Early virtual world: Ultima Online (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It occurred to me, as I watched my day care friend (age 10) navigating through Minecraft this morning, that our kids are guinea pigs. For those of you who aren’t aware of Minecraft, it is an interactive, online world of adventure which is very popular with kids. My granddaughter (age 7) also plays this game.

As I watched, the 3-D images twisted and turned in a fascinating array of viewpoints in a virtual world. The 10-year-old was able to follow the images with amazing speed. I felt slightly dizzy. This made me wonder how this generation may bring new tools to viewing the real world from this early 3-D training. I am neither qualified, nor interested, in making a pro or con judgement.

I’m willing to bet, though, that the visual art world will definitely have some amazingly fresh, new expressions in the near future that will come from this early exposure.

My generation was the first group of kids who spent Saturday mornings watching TV. We experienced a new kind of visual stimulation and I believe it gave us a new way of processing our world. For better or worse, we learned a new perspective.

I frequently hear grandparents, and great-grandparents, exclaiming, “Kids are so much smarter today.” I don’t, for a second, accept that statement as true. What kids DO have is an earlier exposure to more information in unique formats. This does ultimately offer real “mind altering” potential.

Anyone who studies brain functions has this current generation of guinea pigs to study. There will be discoveries, both positive, and some negative, specifically pertaining to modern ways that children’s brains are wired from technological exposures during brain development.

Gosh, I find this a very interesting scientific field of study. I believe our newest generation will definitely, “Go where no man has gone before.”

You CAN be TOO Careful

Safety first and “You can’t be too careful.” are two common phrases in our language, especially, pertaining to kids.

I believe keeping a keen eye on safety is very important but also know that parents can be careful to the point of causing more danger to their kids.

The first area where ultra-cautious parents endanger their kids is by being “chokeaphobics”.

Baby’s first solid foods can drive, some parents, crazy. There are lists of foods that I would never feed children under four.

  • whole hot dogs
  • whole grapes

    Young couple with baby.

    Young couple with baby. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  • peanuts (most nuts) but walnut meats are softer than most.
  • sticky, chewy candy like gummy bears
  • hard candies
  • popcorn (sometimes okay)

You see, at about a year old, kids have their first exposure to chewing food for swallowing. Gagging can be an alarming sound but it is a noise from a reflex which alerts the child to chew. The sound also lets us know that his/her airway is not obstructed. Up to the time of the first solids, babies are gulpers. Parents who “cream” everything and avoid approved baby “munchies” just because gagging frightens them, are encouraging their baby to continue gulping. Chewing must be learned and the earlier, the better. An over-protected eater will have more gagging and choking episodes in later years when other kids are chewing things, like popcorn, without incident.

Then there are the “germaphobic” parents.

Germs are not all bad and even those which offer colds and stomach bugs, have value. Unless your child has a compromised immune system, let them mingle.

Babies are clean slates. Their immune systems are too. As much as we dislike a sick baby, the illness makes baby stronger. Children who rarely get to play and exchange germs with each other, will not only be in for a “plague” of illness when they go to school, they may really get sicker when they are older before they are exposed.

To me, the worst over protection is what I’ll call, the “bumpaphobic” parents.

You’ve seen them. The ones who interrupt “rough and tumble” play at every opportunity.

Kids are pretty sturdy creatures. Their bodies are developing many groups of muscles, and sadly, there is not manufactured child-safe equipment suitable for every need. Kids who aren’t challenged by uneven ground (they will fall)or jumping off of steps (they will fall) or climbing up things that cannot hold their weight (they will fall) are deprived of lessons in balance, depth perception and the physics of living with gravity. Too the extreme, “bumpaphobic” parents create clumsy, accident prone kids who won’t keep up with their peers.

These are my biggest over-protective peeves. I’ve witnessed every one in my day care experience of 38 years and thought I’d warn parents OR give a printable text to offer someone who is witnessing over-protection.

The Heart of Things

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When children don’t like green beans,

I ask them just to taste.

There are so many new things,

So little time to waste.

A new idea’s a wonder.

Embrace it, oh so, much.

The world is ours to play with,

We must reach out and touch.

“Seeing is believing”,

That’s how the saying goes.

Appreciate those pictures from

The part of life that shows.

Give everything a sniff test.

Aromas stir the mind.

 What’s good or may be rotten,

Applies to all you find.

Best of these, you listen.

Collect, then take apart.

Senses are your data bank,

but,

Actions need your heart.

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This is my 600th post in my blog.

I wanted it to be special…

Schools-what do we learn?

homeschooling afternoon

homeschooling afternoon (Photo credit: hbakkh)

There is an urban myth that public schooling is the best method by which we can teach children social skills. In fact, that is the primary argument against home-schooling. I beg to differ.

There’s a growing concern that public schools are failing our kids in a BIG way. There are many dedicated teachers, who do an excellent job, but the teachers’ unions protect not only the good teachers but the bad ones too.

When we are faced with the expensive and ,I believe, better alternative of home-schooling, there is the concern about the proper “socialization” of these kids.

We don’t do “sex education” before we feel a child is mature enough but we send kids off to school, at a tender age, for their first exposure to bullies, ridicule and peer pressure. They will be measured by grades and learning styles and will be kept in the classroom for the great majority of their learning experience. Hopefully, this classroom will have an orderly atmosphere and a small group but that is not guaranteed. Actually, it’s a “crap shoot” that your child’s classmates will be a “good” group. Sometimes, there is a larger number of “mis-behavers” and that is simply up to chance and timing. Teachers are not to blame,at all, but ask them and they will volunteer, readily, their memories of “good groups”.

A home-schooled child can visit real-life situations (grocery stores, parks, libraries etc.), as often as, Mom or Dad deems necessary. A “busy” child can be offered hands-on experiences and more breaks, as often as, he/she needs and the parent can correct bad manners as they present themselves in those real life situations.

There are youth sports and music organizations, available to the public, for the lessons needed in cooperation, and the taking of instruction from authority figures other than parents. The education is ongoing, year round, when the “teachers” are always present and fully aware of the curriculum.

It is so very sad that most parents haven’t the option of home-schooling. I do expect a growing trend of home-schooling, though. Families may re-evaluate the need and budget in a way to make it happen. Actually, the current stress on incomes causing grandparents to become household members, may offer them as home-school teachers or helpers with the family budget, affording parents the chance to teach.

The whole idea of home-schooling being a poor option is simply, not true, and cannot be supported by urban legends.

Those who have the ability and means to do it, have my thumbs up.