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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Going Wild

51gpiNPzMPL._SY344_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_BO1,204,203,200_ (1)As I’ve stated before, this blog is meant to be a journal for my grandchildren. I wish I could have one from my grandparents. I would love to see their inner thoughts and principles documented to be shared with future generations. I was lucky. I spent a great deal of time with my grandparents. Their memories and principles are a part of who I am.

Even though I spend an enormous amount of time (by today’s standards) with my granddaughters, I still enjoy accumulating thoughts for their pleasure and reflection one day.

I am currently reading a book which touches something very dear to me. It is The Nature Principle by Richard Louv. I suspect there will be a greater need for the wisdom, presented between these covers, in the future and want to document my first impression of this book.

The connection between human beings and “Mother Nature” is fading. I believe that we must not allow our kids to grow up in, what I believe, is a two-dimensional environment. When we are out-of-doors and surrounded by natural things, we absorb an appreciation of our worth and rejuvenate our sense of well-being. Just the other day, my granddaughter (age 8) was feeling ultra-emotional about being left behind by her mother. I said, “Why don’t you go outside for awhile?” She did. The transformation was immediate. She calmed and came back indoors wearing a smile. This method, of adding balance, works for me everyday. I sometimes just step outside for a few moments yet find my mood benefits very much.

I’ve hardly dipped into the book but already know what, I believe, the author knows about our integral connection to the natural world and its importance to human health. I have described my feelings in the forest as “comfortably insignificant”. Somehow, the realization of forces and life struggles outside of one’s own “bubble” put things in a wonderful perspective.

The first evidence this book cited, was the “instinctive intuition” available to those who have had a nature connection in their lives, as opposed to, those who have not. A study of soldiers who have avoided roadside bombs simply from their “whole view” of their surroundings is quite revealing. Those soldiers who came from rural settings, and/or had hunted or hiked the wilds, somehow noticed the “something’s wrong with this picture” element. Their success in identifying “trouble”, well out weighed, those who had spent their youthful time in front of TV and video realities. I call the latter, a “two-dimensional” view. These people are not accustom to using ALL of their senses in order to navigate the world. They have never felt fully vulnerable like one does in the wild. Total safety, allows us not to need the details and detective work of survival. Interestingly, the other group who was “in tune” with danger, and had highly developed instincts, were those from rough neighborhoods in the cities. Feeling vulnerable, obviously, makes us wise and sharp.

My time in the woods has offered me the view, of a deer approaching, from my sense of smell alone. On a few occasions, I have smelled the wet fur (somewhat like a wet dog) before I have heard or seen the animal. We humans have many amazing abilities that our indoor existence has atrophied. These instincts are not simply meant to be kept alive but, may be crucial, in keeping us alive.

As far as detective work, I use it all of the time. Until now, I thought everyone did. For instance, this may seem weird, but I have a bird feeder within view of my bathroom window. It is very close to my parking area behind the house. In the morning, I am often in the bathroom when my day care friends arrive. If I believe I hear a car in my driveway, I look to my bird feeder. If the birds are still boldly feeding, I know a car really did not enter the area. If the birds scatter, then I expect a door slam to follow.

Everyday, I tell my kids to be detectives. Just last week, I was changing a diaper, right after the “drop off” time. I turned to one kid and said,” Your mom left the diaper bag in the car last night, didn’t she?” The 6-year-old was surprised and said, “Yes…she did!”

Then I asked her, how did I know that fact? She shrugged.
“It’s in the clues. Your brother’s diaper wipes are very cold. If she had just put them into the car, they would be warm.”

We use the “detective method” all day long. I believe it is very much a part of keeping kids really engaged with their environment. The skills for logical deduction are very important.

So, I will post other enlightening finds from this exceptional book. In the meantime, make time to be “wild”. 😉

War on Punks

English: Suspect in a possible hate crime in V...

English: Suspect in a possible hate crime in Vancouver . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

http://www.foxnews.com/us/2013/08/21/police-say-teen-shot-australian-student-in-oklahoma-for-fun-it/

The link above is to the recent news article about the tragic killing of an Australian young man by some “punks” who were reportedly bored. The news media has offered many reasons for this atrocity. To name a few:

  • The US gun culture…
  • A racial hate crime…
  • Violence inspired by game playing…

I believe that I stumbled upon the real deeper cause when I commented in a reaction to this horror … “We need a “war on punks”!”
A punk, in my mind, is a young male who is striving for manhood by means of intimidation and violence.
Sadly, and dangerously, our society has lost the traditional definition of manhood.
Some of the reasons are economic but many stem from a “watering down” of the roles men play. Confused? So are our sons.
Back in the day, men were the providers of protection and the essentials for family survival. Since caveman times, the males had a clear role and spent (testosterone inspired) energy to fill that position.
Enter the women’s movement, government assistance, modern conveniences, absentee fathers and unemployment and you have idle time in the hands of males without direction.
Remember, to every action comes an equal and opposite reaction?
The women’s movement was a GOOD thing. This is not a puritanical conservative documentary, in the least. It is, however, a thoughtful wondering about the male experience in an attempt to shed light on a grave predicament in our culture.
“What makes a man?”
Punks seem to believe it is an adrenaline rush inspired by a dangerous act.
How did that happen?

First, we have taken the pointed scissors away from kids. That’s right. This cushioned, ultra-safety oriented, society has had a hand in making boys into sissies. Their confidence and male bravado has no inspiration.
I asked a 10-year-old to help me with lawn mowing, the other day. He said he’d never been asked. There must be a warning label, somewhere, which claims that my suggestion was illegal! (ATVs have labels too. “No one under twelve can operate them.” Funny though, the youth-sized ones are generally too small for most twelve-year-olds.)

Secondly, fatherhood is a duty not a choice. Modern society has lost sight of that in a nutshell. Boys need quality men to show them how to become men of quality.

Thirdly, Idle time and video game playing are not allowing for physical exertion. Scientifically, the lack of physical exertion MUST have an adverse effect upon testosterone fueled adolescents! I’m sure there is a study somewhere which would verify that adrenaline is a necessary drug in a young man’s life.

There must be a way to counteract the poisonous conditions of our sons’ environments.
Sports teams are one way. But many have not the means, nor interest, to take part in sports.
May I suggest, that in dealing with boys who have been expelled from or have dropped out of school, who have had scrapes with the police or are members of gangs, that we seriously entertain a type of boot camp. (Yes, those who have no pre-existing  disability, only.)
Of course, the boot camp would be the bottom line but they could be exempt from going if they entered a mentor program or volunteered in community service opportunities.

NOW, the race card would be thrown at this idea. The chances are, the black community would be in high attendance. (Unemployment and absentee fathers the catalyst.) BUT, instead of thinking this was an effort to marginalize minorities…why wouldn’t we consider it helping where the help is most needed?

These are just infant ideas for a possible cause and solution for a deep problem that just won’t be going away. What do you think?

Kid Book Review-Loopy

I had mixed feelings about this story upon the first reading. The illustrations are wonderful but I thought the story was a little scary. Then I kid tested it. My three year old “guinea pig” listened with wide-eyed interest. Of all the books recently borrowed from the library, this one was her favorite.

I’m usually against lying to kids and using monsters and giants in order to scare them away from dangers but there ARE dangers that they cannot comprehend. This story made a big impression upon my little friend. It told about a child who forgets her favorite cuddle toy, Loopy, at the doctor’s office. The child goes through the shock of being without her toy and the worry about getting Loopy back. This journey through the child’s mind even visits the possibility of her making her own way, out of the house, to rescue poor Loopy. The author then places a few scary scenarios into play. The storybook child imagines Giants and spiders along with the danger of getting lost if she were unsupervised in the world. Finally, the story ends happily with Loopy being returned by the doctor who brings the toy home after hours.

My little friend talked about the story, and particularly the danger of going outside without permission, throughout the day. This is one fine lesson for a three year old. That age group is notorious for feeling as though they can do almost anything.

So, I have child tested and enjoyed this story and recommend it!

Loopy by Aurore Jesset …Illustrated by Barbara Korthues

Survival: A Balancing Act

The Olympics made me consider the age old formula of having balance in our lives. Even our food choices are best when there is balance. The Olympians were outstanding! Yet, I always wonder about their “inner” health when I realize how much of their existence is focused upon a few days, sometimes seconds, of time.

So, I created a chart of what, I believe, is true of life for human beings. As I was creating the chart, I couldn’t help but think of examples of extremes. As for Olympians, they are dedicated people who make sacrifices that I do not understand but who make me endlessly proud.

First, and foremost, our need is for survival. Whatever we do, survival comes first because everything else simply counts upon it.

There is wealth. I define wealth as anything tangible in excess of what we need to just survive. We all want comforts and wealth is not a bad thing at all. Wealth makes for prosperity and, often, longevity. You may call wealth, “comforts and currency”. Greed is at the center of those who lopsidedly surround themselves in wealth but no one should be ashamed of pursuing wealth. Wealth inspires innovation and progress which, most often, benefit humankind. We can easily name world leaders and professionals who specialize entirely in the pursuit of wealth and they are, in my mind, detrimental to us all.

There is discovery. It could be subtitled adventure. Ah, what would science be without the hunger to discover. Many of our forefathers came to this country from the need to discover. And we continue to question and learn everyday of our lives from the engrained human impulse for discovery. The Olympians fall primarily into the “overindulging in discovery” crowd. Their mission is to discover the limits of the human body and to test its endurance. Although many of them become wealthy, I believe that their excessive commitment belongs to a zeal for personal discovery. On the down side, scientists who ignore the ethics of scientific study are guilty of placing way too many “eggs” in the discovery “basket” and are my example of a dangerous group. I think arrogance is their primary motivation but greed also plays a role.

Finally, there is enlightenment. Religion and philosophy are the tools in this search for answers. Most often religion and philosophy are at the center of what separates us from our id of savagery. Generosity, forgiveness, and introspect all come from our search for enlightenment. When enlightenment outweighs the two previously mentioned needs, we have the jihad. Holy wars even misplace the human need to survive. Suicide bombers seem the best current example of the danger to humankind from weighing too heavily upon enlightenment.

So balance is still the key to the “good life”, and in my estimation, the spread of imbalance is a direct danger to our survival.

My Thoughts… My Sympathies

English: the picture consist of articles on bu...

English: the picture consist of articles on bullying, I obtained it from public domain. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Since this blog is primarily a journal of my thoughts, I’m exploring my internal philosopher again and you are invited to listen and comment.

I had an energized discussion yesterday (on Facebook) over my previous post. Bullying is an emotionally charged subject that brought many varying opinions and experiences to light. While considering what I learned yesterday, I kept returning to my own life experiences. I’ve been very blessed by having positive role models in my life.

 There were many times that “bad” things happened to me, though. My reaction to them, seems to me, the only power I had then and to this day. It is a power we all have.
First, I do not believe in a pre-written design to anyone’s life.

Second, I have not had “troubles” any greater than others,in fact, I’ve been fortunate and my troubles have been lesser than most, so far.

My questions remain the same:

Do any of a person’s troubles come from their own attitude? Does any of their good fortune come from their own attitude?

I’d like to believe it does, otherwise, why bother to try? We would be without any responsibility in the direction of our journey. People would be like balls in a pinball arcade game, subject to only outside forces.

When I see a family of underprivileged kids and witness some of them “do well” and others get hopelessly lost, I ask myself, was it only because the forces of luck favored the successful ones or was it, in part, their own doing?

 Success is defined, in this context, as leading lives of good citizenship, harming no one and pursuing happiness. We discussed that bullies often come from bad environments. Why don’t all kids from “bad environments” become bullies? My search for these answers is often mistaken as an insensitivity to the problem. I am looking for answers because I believe there are solutions to discover and we are capable of affecting changes. I also believe we (people) can only control our own actions and reactions in any situation. Sorry, making laws, rules, regulations don’t cure problems…murders are illegal, ya know.

Yes, I do have sympathy for bullies, as well as, victims of bullies. Once I state that bullies are created not born (sociopaths excluded), don’t they deserve my sympathy? I don’t understand why my sympathy for the abuser takes away from my wishes to protect the victims?

There is an extraordinary effort to reduce bullying in schools. Victims of bullies become scarred for life and there is not one moment that it should be tolerated!
My cause is to make victims harder for bullies to locate and maintain. One way, is to arm kids with skills to ward off bullies.I will call these skills “social”.

“To behaviorists, social skills are learned behavior that allow people to achieve social reinforcement.”

Labeling every kid who hits, or says something cruel, or takes part in a group motivated unkindness, as a bully, is as detrimental to the effort as ignoring that bullies DO exist. I think the “over labeling” is a real, imminent, threat in schools. Over-crowded and understaffed, schools have little time to investigate every report and will have to err in favor of the “victims”. It’s the only choice.

I’m convinced that the gusto and emotion this problem invokes will cause another problem if we aren’t careful. I’ll call it “free-range victimship”.

What do all kids want…attention. They learn very early that attention is most swiftly attained when they are wronged or believe to have been wronged. I hope adults will weigh each and every complaint carefully. Wouldn’t want to end up like our court system which we all know is overflowing with “victims”.

The Weight of Parenthood

I came across and old photo of my son. It reminded me of some “heavy” criticism that I received while he was growing up. Parents are a particularly susceptible group when it comes to criticism , in general, but I had my reasons and here’s my story:

My son was a difficult child from the start.(Actually, three weeks before he was born, he kicked me hard enough to bruise me internally.) They call it ADD but I am aware that many folks use that diagnosis as a ball park term for naughty kids too. Anyway, he never seemed to foresee consequences and danger.

It started with a toddler who walked at 9 months old. That boy could literally get burned and go back for more. He’d walk off the end of a dock into a lake. He’d climb to the top of a playground slide and throw his hands up, drop his weight and holler, “Watch this Mommy!”

As he grew, his careless nature did not mature. I still think he may have other emotional disorders. But, in my day, that was considered bunk and he is now 30 years old and therefore was never diagnosed.

There was a time, that he became very “chunky”. Actually, he was quite overweight. This added to teasing at school and compounded every attempt to get his self-esteem lifted but he was alive.

Yes, it was THAT simple. His snacking and sedentary habits were, in my mind, a trade-off for his life.

We lived on a busy street next to a river and railroad tracks. To encourage my son to “go out and play” was too big a risk because I understood his inability to sense danger. Video games kept him happily occupied and he felt successful and proud of his gaming prowess. He had so little to feel proud of himself for. At school, he’d sought negative attention because he was unable to accomplish normal goals in a classroom. He became a chronic “bad boy” and hated school which hated him back. One foot note from a teacher described him as a good kid, at heart, but a trouble maker, just enough, to be disruptive.

Childhood obesity is a real problem in our country. I’m “on board” with kids becoming more active and taking in fewer calories. But I want folks to realize that letting kids go out and play isn’t like it used to be. Child predators and dangers are out there. Parents are busier trying to make ends meet and not available for supervision in many cases. Even healthy foods in large quantities can add weight when kids sit around. My son visited the refrigerator as an activity. We had yogurt. grapes, whole wheat bread and he ate them all. To this day, he will not eat a fatty piece of meat and chicken is his favorite meat.

Well, there I go explaining again. I heard many comments, secondhand sometimes, they all came down to,”Why did she allow him to get fat?”. (BTW-He is a trim and fit adult now.)

My answer…because I loved him, that’s why.

Next time you feel like criticizing an obviously attentive parent. Remember this post, and, please, keep it to yourself. They just may have their own reasons. 🙂

Racing with Babies

Think you’re fast? I once held the Jr. High girls record for the 50 yard dash. I am 55 years old now but inside, I haven’t aged. My outside, doesn’t care though.

Toddlers are faster than racehorses out of the starting gate. A hard thing  for we adults, with an athletic inner self, to believe. Try this experiment before you supervise toddlers. In the middle of a playground, kick a ball away from a 20 month old and then try to get your hands on him as he pursues the ball. Of course, allow them two steps for the normal delay when distracted.  Repeat this experiment until you can grab them in under one second.

Ha! It’s impossible!

I wouldn’t have bet against myself. How hard could that be?

Yikes!  Several seconds too many to save them in a parking lot or driveway. Yup, don’t ever underestimate a toddler’s power to evade capture especially in a “high octane” situation.

You want to know a pet peeve of mine? Parents who think the “I’m gonna get you game.” is funny.

Some of my day care toddlers think that diaper changing is an invitation to a foot race. Even in the house, it takes a long time to corner them.
THAT is something I won’t allow. Voice control can save a child’s life. My “racers” are given no second chance to come. I pick them up in an unfriendly manner and make them mind when I ask them to come. I offer no tolerance and always enforce that one rule. Their life may likely depend on it.

So take this as a warning. Especially Dads and Grandparents who are more likely to underestimate toddlers, try my experiment and pretend that you are in a parking lot. It just may scare the “bejeezus” out of you!

(I believe that my experiment should be a MUST for teens in babysitting training!)

Stranger Danger

You are wiser than you’ve ever been.

Your brain knows right from wrong.

There’s a story I must tell,

Because I know you’re strong.

*

A stranger shouted out my name.

I didn’t know his face.

He said he needed help from me,

Which COULDN’T be the case.

I  ran away as he approached,

Keeping lots of space!

NO adult needs help from kids.

So I kept that speedy pace.

If a person’s strange, that IS the rule.

Away from them you race!

Even if they shout or cry,

Quickly leave that place!

*

Remember manners don’t even count,

When there comes up a  stranger.

You won’t get at all  in trouble, friend,

You’ll get right out of  danger!

Safety and Caring

It’s a wonder how some people make it to old age with their reckless behavior.

I come from a long line…a safety conscious family. I find myself warning my “kids” constantly of possible danger. During the infamous October 4th snowstorm, my mom called me. She had thought about the danger of my chain link fence becoming electrified if a downed power line touched it. That remained on my mind since and I told my daughter about it during hurricane Irene.

My grandfather rode with me shortly after I had received my driver’s license. I still remember his comment about my driving being very good. “You stay near the center line. That’s good. It keeps the other drivers on their own side and gives you room to get out-of-the-way if needed.”

When Katherine started riding her 4-wheeler, we told her what to do IF her brakes failed. The advice was; “Run into a tree, ditch, car or building as quickly as you can before your quad picks up speed.” The worst case scenario is always not knowing what to do in a bad case scenario.

When I used to go to day care meetings, after dark, I’d ask another person to walk with me to my car. There was no lighting in that parking lot and it was in the middle of downtown. I was teased a few times for asking but I was safe and teasing is NOT a reason to let your guard down. I hope the folks who teased me are still OK. They really did not have good sense.

I have mentioned before that I have “safety bees” with all my kids. They love it. Next time that you get together with a group of kids, try throwing out some worst case scenarios and see how they might handle them. Fore warned IS forearmed!
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