The Price of Kindness

On Saturday morning, I took my granddaughter to the grocery store. As we were putting our groceries in the car, a man stepped into view who was talking on a cell phone in an agitated voice.

The gist of his “conversation” was that he’d run out of gas in an unfamiliar town, that his gas gauge must be broken and he had only two dollar to get gas which wouldn’t be enough to get back to Springfield.

His performance was very good. He added that he was afraid and pleaded with the “person” on the other end to help him and he was also trembling. Oh yeah, he added that he had been visiting his mother before he had gotten lost.

Katherine was buckled in and as I put the last bag in the car, I interrupted him asking,” Would ten dollars help?” He said some thing like, ” So much for you guys, some nice lady is offering me help! Thanks for nothing.” and he closed his phone. I could hear Katherine saying, “Oh grandma, that’s so nice!”

At this point, my instincts said that I was falling into a scam but my heart was unsure. What I did know, was my granddaughter was witnessing human kindness.

I needed change, and since Kat was buckled in, I locked her into the car to go to the desk for ten dollars.

When I came out, I handed the grateful, still teary-eyed, man the ten saying,”Please pass this kindness on to someone else one day.” His answer was, “I sure will. Karma is a good thing.” He walked away.

If I had been a man, my next step would have been to say, “Hey, I’ll give you a lift to your car.” This would have cleared up the scam or not, but inviting a stranger into my car would have turned a kindness into a reckless act.

On top of it all, I had decided that the lesson for my granddaughter was worth ten dollars and no longer cared if I had been fooled. I had spent ten dollars on more foolish things, for sure.

Katherine and I talked while we rode¬†home. I explained that this man may have been lying in a very practiced scam but, since I wasn’t sure, thought it was a good thing to help. Also, that it is never a child’s job to help an adult. Dealing with strangers is never good for kids.

And now, two days later, I am convinced that I had been scammed as I replay the events. I would have still done what I did, though. And karma may have the last laugh, if that man was taking advantage of the kindness of others.

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Build an Artist

BeFunky_003katpaintingMy 7-year-old granddaughter presented me with this wonderful watercolor painting. Her mother told me that Kat had labored over it for a long time.

According to the artist, it is a self-portrait in a green field on a sunny day. She added a flock of crows for her bird-loving grandmother. As she explored the watercolor medium, her smile “bled” downward. Kat’s mom told me that she was not at all discouraged by that event. As all artists do, she embraced the “accident” and exclaimed, “I like that. Now, my clothes look brighter.”

Katherine had originally planned to give her masterpiece to me for my birthday but April would be just too long to wait. I will be buying a frame for my Kat Original this weekend and have already reserved a spot to display it above our TV. Of course, I insisted that she sign and date her work.

The sparkle in her eyes is something that I’ll never forget. She gasped when I showed her where her work would hang. This reminded me of how important it is to marvel at the artwork kids produce. First, it’s just plain beautiful. Secondly, it is the building of an artist … our way of showing them how wonderfully unique and precious artistic expression is.

The TV show Everybody Loves Raymond was a comedy that drew its humor from poking fun at a family’s “dysfunctional” moments. I noticed one thing, that I hope you will look for, if you had not already noticed. Children’s drawings were framed and displayed on the walls of their home. I loved seeing that and this blog post seemed a good place to bring that up. ūüôā

Birding with My Granddaughter

2651594282_ef987cc879_bThe human brain is a fascinating subject. I can’t get too much information about what scientists are finding to be “the way we learn and remember”. As an early childhood educator, the little “sponges” around me have me in awe.

I remember showing my daughter her first glimpse of a butterfly in the wild. She was about 18 months old and quite a chatterbox. She returned to the same spot…same flower, the next day and asked, “Butterfly?”. My first parental reaction was, “Wow! I have a genius on my hands!” Then the truth grabbed me. Of course she’d think about butterflies in that spot. That’s the only place her brain has ever witnessed one.

Adults have so many more experiences and, therefore, filter and connect images and ideas in a “wasteful” way. We have to cast off some of our information in order to keep a tidy collection. Kids are that wonderful “clean slate” that we adore. It’s no wonder that kids can learn multiple languages far more easily than adults. They have no competing categories or files in their brains to interfere with their memorization efforts.

Keeping this in mind, I have tried to make up little games with my granddaughter in order to teach her to notice and identify birds by their songs. I must have done this instinctively with my day care babies because I was stopped in the grocery store by a few parents and grandparents who pointed the “blame” for their nature walk interruptions on me.

“He just froze and said, Hear that Grandma? That’s Mr. Blue Jay singing.”

“She kept shushing me as we walked so she could listen for the birds.”

I just love hearing such “complaints”!

As for my granddaughter and me, we make up our own little phrases for familiar bird songs. I don’t know if there are different bird dialects but sometimes the professional translations just don’t fit the sounds that we hear. The only one that seems universal is the Chickadee. “Chick-a-dee-dee-dee” is our translation too…but we also know there is a sound that Chickadees make other than their name. We think it says “JEAN-nee”.

Eastern Phoebes are our favorite. Their first part sounds something like “Phoebe…Phoebe” but it ends with “She DID it!”.¬† At least that is our own label and it always makes us laugh.

When we look through books, I will point out the birds and reminder her of our own game and the sounds. Recently, I pointed out a Nuthatch in a book and reminded her of that bird who’s always laughing at us from the trees.

I cannot emphasize enough what a wonderful world we can open up to kids when we teach them to listen and notice what too many adults have no time for.

The Game of Favorites

I just don’t like the word favorite. It is an exclusive term that means nothing to me. My favorite things are harder to pin down than an accurate weather forecast.

There are too many wonderful feelings, colors, people, and ideas to play favorites. Gosh, I enjoy the rummaging that takes place when I’m ask about my favorite. The flashes from one delightful image to another, makes me smile, but I never was good at decision-making and really don’t care to choose.

Favorite choosing is a waste of time and subject to time also. At any given moment your favorite can easily be “up for grabs”, don’t you think?

I dearly love my dog. He is one of many “dog loves” of my life. To say he is my all-time favorite diminishes the love I’ve had for others and the love I hope to have for others too.

I will be blessed with a new granddaughter in September. It’s hard for me to image any grandchild as precious as Katherine, yet I know there is room for more. Evelyn will be my favorite Evelyn. That is all I can proclaim. She may be Katherine’s favorite sister if her mom’s design of her being the “final” child holds true. Only exclusive things can really, truly, hold the title of favorite and, in my world and yours, so few life experiences are exclusive enough to qualify.

Next time someone asks for your favorite, hold up your hand and say, “There’s no such thing.”

Doesn’t this all sound picky?

I think labeling favorites is the more picky endeavor. Count me out, please.

Resisting Tidy Creates the Mighty

Over the weekend, I decided that my picnic table desperately¬†needed a paint job . I invited Katherine ( my 7-year-old granddaughter) to help me give the table its “face lift”. We needed to take extra precautions and allow more time (all day) for the estimated completion but the value of this project , as a learning experience, soon became clear.

It would have been VERY much faster, and more tidy,¬†to do it alone. I suspect that parents have a lot on their plate these days and easy/tidy options are a big temptation but, please consider, this list of the things that Katherine learned that day… Things that only doing can teach.

  • Supplying a project can be costly and must be planned.
  • Setting up is time-consuming but makes the job easier and better.
  • Our hardware store happens to have a candy counter!
  • Primer is a spray-on paint that makes the final paint last.
  • Dipping your brush in too far makes lots of drips.
  • Spreading the paint, too thinly, makes it start to dry and get sticky.
  • Waiting between coats, makes for a better cover.
  • Painting against the wood grain does not work, as well as, following it.
  • Painting is very tiring for your arms.
  • Always watch the edges for drips.
  • Work from the center outward or you’ll be leaning in wet paint.

People rarely are born with skills. They learn them.
Parents please resist that “tidy reflex”, as often as, possible. Include your kids in everyday tasks and you’ll take part in building mighty skilled people.

BTW-We both were scraping yellow from our ears, hair and arms for days after.

 

Grandma and Katherine's project completed.

Grandma and Katherine’s project completed.

 

Kids Book Review- Mrs. McTats and her Houseful of Cats

I had my granddaughter staying with me this weekend. We went to the local library and chose a few books for her to enjoy. We sat outdoors on a lovely Saturday and enjoyed the warm sun in the company of books.

My favorite of our choices was “Mrs.¬† Mc Tats and her Houseful of Cats”.

It had rhyming text. THAT always make reading fun. It was also very humorous. THAT also makes reading fun.

The artwork illustrations were very charming and gave the book a lot of character.

Mrs. Mc Tats has a ritual of leaving her cozy cottage each morning to go to market. After choosing  something to bring home for dinner, she repeatedly finds new cats scratching at her door. She welcomes them and names them. As the story develops, she ends up with twenty-five cats all with names starting with consecutive letters of the alphabet. The last letter begins the  name of a surprise 26th visitor at her door.

Katherine enjoyed the repeated sing-song rhyming and surprises. She especially enjoyed the illustrations. She read it almost all by herself, once she became familiar with the rhythm of the story.

As I read my own books, Kat read hers for much of our afternoon. I could tell that being a “reader” was giving her a lot of pleasure. I recommend Mrs. Mc Tats as a great” interest keeper” and a good beginning book for readers of 6 years old. I also recommend being a reader yourself and inspiring this joy in kids through example.