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”. 😉

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 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.

Less used to be More

Studless tire (スタッドレス・タイヤ)

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ah, I’ve been advancing in the modern world but it doesn’t fit well. We just purchased a newer truck with features we wanted and features that we were unaware of needing. There’s a tire pressure light warning on the dashboard. Really? Of course, the tires are more expensive since they have to have implanted sensors to read. Well, we’ll be by-passing THAT in the future, now won’t we?

Perfect tire pressure is hard to maintain in the Northeastern US. Here, temperatures can rise and fall 40-50 degrees in an afternoon and everyone knows what temps do to tires. I know, optimum tire wear, gas mileage and safety can be diminished with imperfect pressure. Seems that some study must say...while traveling at 55mph on wet or icy roads there can be a loss of traction if tire inflation is off.

Dumb ole consumer! Here’s a tip, when the roads aren’t optimal, slow down!!!! I can’t wait for the first “my tire pressure sensor failed” lawsuit. “That’s right, I would have been able to steer out of the 55mph skid if my car had warned me about the improper inflation.” Recall!

Now, we have an annoying light flashing on our dashboard as a distraction AND the tires cost more. Way to go fellas! I just love a new feature that can go haywire too! Mechanics smile as they charge $80.00 to reset stuff. At least someone is happy. Did I mention that the spare tire is also on the sensor grid? Yup, you need to check 5 tires before the light goes out. Half the cars on the road still have those 50 mile donuts though.

I remember when less was more…The innovators of progress have yet to convince me otherwise.

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!)

The Stocked-up Feeling

The roads are a little slick today and snow continues to sugar-coat the area.

When you live in New England, traveling at all in the winter is not a guarantee. This winter has been very easy on us. The series of alternating freezing and balmy temps have kept accumulating snow at bay. (I am worried about my perennial flowers though. Snow cover is much better for them.) Anyway, there is a feeling that most New England dwellers may identify with. I call it the “stocked-up feeling”.

This morning my husband dropped me at the supermarket as he ran banking errands. The slippery travel awakens a survival instinct to stock up just in case the weather worsens and you are housebound. Intellectually, I know we have provisions that could keep us easily for a month in our freezer but stocking the refrigerator and making sure pet food and toilet paper is abundant, makes me feel safe and cozy. There’s nothing quite as cozy as knowing you have enough coffee for a year.

So as I sit here at my keyboard, I am at peace…there’s bulk hamburger in my frig and 200 more q-tips in my bathroom. Mother nature can bring it on!

Homeless chptr 4

I was dreaming when the roaring beast came to rest…

My mother was combing my forehead with her tongue. I felt the familiar weightlessness that mother’s attention caused. When I opened my eyes I expected to see my siblings piled on top of  me , indeed, cats were above me but none were familiar. The smell of urine hung in the air. Often used to mark territories or signal fertility, this smell was fear. Oddly, there were no fights probably due to a temporary bond against an unknown enemy.

We had been placed in a small holding pen near a brick wall. Fifteen cats of all sizes and ages were inside the 4’x4′  cage. Anxious purring ran like waves through the crowd. There was one person outside. She talked calmly and her voice was gentle.

Missy crouched beside me. Her trembling had stopped when we were reunited. I hoped she wouldn’t notice mine.

Comfort comes in so many forms. For cats, all  that’s “familiar” is necessary for balance. Dogs romp happily, obediently at their owners’ heels but for cats, it’s territory first, human companionship, maybe. So when “gentle voiced” stranger opened the cage, I struck out with anger and such force as to offer an opportunity for Missy, a calico kitten and I to escape. We ran together through screeching tires,screams of anger and ,finally to a quiet refuge in a strange “barn”.

What an odd and terrifying world we had entered. How I wished we were still on the farm.

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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