Tag Archives: children

I am &%$#’ing terrified!

I’ve never been one of those women who falls instantly in love when she sees a baby. I’ve never run up to a child to ooh and aaah over chubby cheeks and long lashes. During my teenage years, I was more concerned with hitting softballs or perfecting my fielding ability than I was with getting my Red Cross certification so that I could earn a few measly dollars babysitting someone else’s child.  To me, sitting at home with a child who refused to go to bed while his parents were out enjoying a lavish dinner or a concert seemed a punishment of sorts as opposed to an opportunity to make a few extra bucks. In my twenties, the thought of actually carrying a child terrified me.  Not so much just the pregnancy and delivery; it was the eighteen or so years afterwards that really had me concerned.  Not only did I not know anything about raising a child, but come to find out, no one teaches you anything at the hospital either!   They let you give birth to his tiny, defenseless human and without showing you what to do, send you home with the boy or girl where you are, for the most part, left on your own.  Keep in mind that I am someone that regularly walks from one room to another and then, in the mere seconds in took me to do so, forgets why it is that I entered the room in the first place!  And these people thought I could care for a child?

Still, when I was nearly thirty, I got pregnant with my first child.  I had a picture perfect pregnancy and after only twenty- two hours of labor, a human being was pulled out of me. (And I do mean “pulled.”  There was no way a baby was passing through my hips.  Apparently, I am skinny on the inside.  Who knew?) And the moment that little girl was pulled out of me, so was my heart.  My baby was placed on my belly for a few moments and my heart?   Well, that was left outside of me as well where every cry, tear, and wail was sure to strike it, causing me pain unlike anything I’d ever known.  Like most women, I fell instantly in love and spent the bulk of my maternity leave cradling her in my arms and staring at her.  Over and over I whispered in awe, “I made this.”  Nothing. No magazine article, love story, or advice from a friend could have prepared me for the overwhelming love I felt whenever I gazed upon my precious daughter.

Two weeks ago, this bundle of love took a test and the state of North Carolina gave her a piece of paper that said she could now drive a motor vehicle as long as I was sitting beside her…. Until 9pm, of course.

When I held her in my arms all those years ago, I couldn’t even imagine this day would come.  I was, however, lucky enough to have wise friends who told me to cherish each day because they would pass by so swiftly.  Because of the words of these wonderful ladies, I have always put my children first.  If they needed me for something, I was there for them.  If they needed to talk, I stopped what I was doing and gave them my full attention.  Always.  As a result, this young woman talks to me about anything and everything.  She tells me what makes her happy and what has made her sad.  I am there to pick up the pieces, whether it’s a stupid boy in class who made her heart hurt or the tears she sheds are because her father has disappointed her once again by putting her last on his list.

The thing is, what I cherish most in this world is time with my children.  I also realize that the days when mom is needed are swiftly coming to an end.  So while I am terrified of her driving, I also realize that for the next year, she and I will spend a minimum of sixty hours where she and I are simply driving around town.  We will be able to talk to our hearts content and as any parent knows, this is time when your kids tell you everything.  They know they have your undivided attention and tend to open up about anything that is bothering them.

So, rather than look to the future and to a time where I am no longer needed, I’m going to cherish this next year, much like I did for the twelve weeks of my maternity leave.  I will spend each moment with her being truly with her and hope that no matter how independent she gets, she will always need her mother.

At least a little bit.

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Pia Pucknucker On Hold For Now by Linda Lindsly

So for now “Pia Pucknucker And The Mystery Of The Indian Treasure” is on hold and due to come out in May, not March as I originally thought.    But that’s OK, because I’m still excited to have it published.  Lately, I have been conjuring up some new ideas that will take Pia Pucknucker on a new adventure.  Pia’s interest in solving mysteries as a private eye, include everything from a stolen bike (who done it) to unraveling mysteries of the past (the Indian treasure) or just finding answers to strange circumstances that keep Pia wondering why.  And Pia will also include her best furry friend, Thumbelina, on every new adventure she encounters.  Any ideas of  past childhood adventures that anyone has to share would be great.  A simple idea can spark a whole new adventure for Pia.  I remember growing up and playing with the kids in the neighborhood until we were called in for supper.  Everyday my friends and I would get together and do plays in our garage and charge neighborhood kids a dime to come and see what we were up to.  We also played softball and dodge ball on the street with our teams in place.  Every now and then a new kid on the block would join.

As  I think about all this, life was much simpler and we always would interact with each other, even fight and argue with one another.  But it was always understood that we were friends despite our differences.  We would just make up and go on.  Children don’t get to interact with others the way we did back then.  Most parents today both work and outside of school, not much social  interaction.  Activities are scheduled  and planned, which is good, but not much freedom from time restraints.  Also, the world is unfortunately not a safer place to have kids playing unsupervised or playing in the streets like we did back in the old days. We didn’t even have to wear helmuts to ride our bikes!

Well, enough of memory lane stuff.  As my ideas flow I’ll be jotting them down and envisioning what I’ll be illustrating and just go from there.  I’ll share my ideas and anyone who reads this can critique me on these ideas as well as share stories of their own.  I think that would be cool!

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Christmas 2014: As one year ends, a new one begins.

Last year, my oldest child discovered the final “Secret of Santa” as in mommy and daddy are in fact Santa Claus personified.  He has kept his promise (to my amazement) not to spoil things for his younger brother and to let Nate figure things out on his own.  I have to admit that having an extra helper around to move that annoying “Elf on the Shelf” and help me stash/hide Santa gifts has been great.  What isn’t so great is the realization that he is growing up.  Within the past few months it has become evident to me that he is no longer a child in so many ways.

He’s asked his first girl to a school dance, albeit she is a friend he’s had since he was 5 but he still agonized over whether she would say yes.  He’s gone on-line to research the best deals on all of his Christmas Wish List items as well as the things he wanted to get for other family members.  He’s passed on hanging out with friends because he has projects and homework for school.  And last night, he decided he wanted to cook dinner for the family so he went on-line and found a cooking video for a beef stroganoff recipe that he wanted to try.  Aside from an occasional question (how to operate the defrost function on the microwave) and a request that I run out to the store for an ingredient we were out of, he made the whole meal himself and it was delicious.

As I watched him in the kitchen, I was struck by how mature he looked standing there at the stove checking the instructions on the tablet and adjusting the seasonings to taste.  What was also interesting to see was the echo of me, my mother, and my grandmother in his actions.  He stands at the stove the way I do when stirring a pot or browning ground beef, which is how my grandmother stood when she cooked.  He talks to himself the way my mother does, a sort of running commentary on adding this or that and calculating the timing for cooking the noodles to coincide with when the garlic bread needs to come out of the oven and the sauce is done.  I could almost see him in 15 years or so cooking his first meal for a special girl and I wanted to cry simultaneously for the loss of my baby and the realization that I am raising a good self-sufficient man.

This is the first year that I have not had to go behind him to move ornaments that he placed on the tree in clumps or on branches too frail to hold their weight.  Each ornament was placed in exactly the right spot.  He even got into the decorating inside the house.  In past years, he has always helped with the “Griswolding” of the outside but never wanted to do anything in the house.  He helped me check the lights in the strands and even helped wrap the tree with lights.  Together, we set up the Charming Tails Christmas town beneath the small tree in the bay window or rather he put most of the thought into where each of the figurines would go and scolds his brother for trying to play with them.  “Nate, they are decorations, not toys to play with.”  I hear myself in his words, the phrase I have uttered each Christmas to him since he was able to walk and grasp things that caught his eye.

As I placed the Santa photos that I get each year on the top of the TV cabinet, we shared smiles at the memories of each visit.  His first Santa picture was at 9 months and you can tell from the photo that he was enchanted by the big guy in the red suit.  His second Santa picture at 21 months was less happy but that was more because of the reindeer antlers I made him wear for the picture than the visit with Santa.  His photo at 3 makes us laugh because that Santa was wearing motorcycle boots and looked like he belonged on a Harley not a sleigh with reindeer.  At 4, he was joined by his brother and we have a succession of photos from then on of the two of them smiling and dressed in matching or coordinating outfits for their annual picture.  I particularly love this year’s photo.  In part because he no longer looks like a child in his black suit, grey shirt and bow tie, which he is only wearing to make me happy, and in part because there still exists a trace of the child who loves Christmas and still wants desperately to believe in Santa.  His brother still looks like a little boy but the promise of Oliver as a man is juxtaposed with the child in that picture.  His father thinks this is probably the last year of Santa pictures for Oliver at least.  Oliver has assured me that he will always pose with his brother for a Santa picture until he has children of his own but he does feel that next year he will be too old to actually sit on Santa’s lap.  I’m sure I will get a few more years of photos, at least until his brother hits middle school, but the thought of getting a Santa picture of the boys each year well into their 20’s does make me smile.

He still has his moments of childlike behavior, such as the occasional meltdown or pout over something not going his way.  The endless bickering with his little brother over who gets to chose a TV show, a video game to play, or who sits by me on the couch.  Despite those moments, I know this new year takes him ever closer to manhood and his independence.  In the next few weeks, we will be turning the playroom into his bedroom so that he can have his own space away from his brother.  We’ll start the process of splitting the toys up and I will lose my “office/craft room” so that the boys can have a place to watch TV, play video games, and play with the few toys (Legos) that they both still enjoy doing together. The gulf between 8 and soon to be 12 is much to great for them to continue sharing a room but luckily the decision was theirs that it was time to split them up. I knew it was coming, I was just not quite ready for it yet. Just as I am not quite ready for him to leave his childhood but I know I have to step back and let him make this transition.

It’s a bittersweet Christmas.

Mairead Walpole is the pen name for a somewhat introverted project and contract manager who has 20+ years of business and technical writing under her belt. In her spare time, Mairead writes paranormal romance among other genres. Her first novel, “A Love Out of Time” is available through Second Wind Publishing (www.secondwindpublishing.com) or Amazon.com.

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Buddy and the Bear — by Norm Brown

I think for most people, the early years of life before they were old enough to start attending school are mostly a blur. Now, at the age of…let’s just say pretty old…I can only actually recall a few brief scenes from those years with any detail at all. On a recent vacation trip to Glacier and Yellowstone national parks in Montana, however, a brief encounter brought back one of those memories from long ago with amazing clarity.
My brother and I were returning to our camp from exploring the “Road to the Sun” and other beautiful sights in Glacier National Park, when we encountered a small black bear sauntering along the park road in front of the cars of other tourists. We pulled over and got a few snapshots through the car windows.

Black Bear Glacier NP

Black Bear Glacier NP

It was thrilling to see this beautiful wild animal up close. Oddly, it also got me thinking about a similar encounter so many years ago. I am amazed at how clearly I can recall those few moments as a terrified little boy. My family, including grandparents, uncle, aunt, and cousins were on a camping trip to Yellowstone. I don’t know the exact year, but I was probably five or six years old. Early on my older brother had trouble pronouncing Norman, so back then I was known as Buddy to all my relatives. I’m not sure I even answered to my real name yet. Today, I don’t remember seeing all the geysers and other amazing sights of the park as a kid, but I definitely remember bears. In those days they were allowed to roam around the park as they pleased among the tourists, who often fed them. This was during the 1950’s. Yeah, I’m old; I think I mentioned that.
On the morning of that one specific day I recall from that trip, my dad and big brother headed across the campground to fill a water jug at the single faucet provided. I decided to tag along, but soon got distracted by something and fell behind. When I looked up and noticed that I couldn’t see them, I also discovered that I was not alone. A black bear was walking straight toward me. To a little kid the animal looked huge, but it was probably about the size of the one in the photo above. I started walking quickly in the direction my dad had gone. To my horror, the fat furry monster turned and walked along beside me. I quickly sped up. So did the bear, matching my pace. Screaming for my dad over and over, I ran as fast as I could. To my right, the bear easily kept up. Looking back on that so clearly remembered scene, I know now that the animal wasn’t exactly chasing me, but running along with me. Then it happened. The bear growled and bumped up against my right side with its shoulder, lightly at first, but then with more force. I remember stumbling and falling—then looking up at the animal’s face right above me. In a panic, I just stood up, totally convinced that I was about to be eaten, or whatever it was that bears did to little boys. The furry creature didn’t attack, but growled in an annoyed sort of way and slowed down as it crossed right in front of me and casually sauntered off to my left. Ahead, I could see my dad and brother coming back toward me. I took off. At some point, I looked back and saw that the bear had made it to his actual destination. The garbage can was partially buried, supposedly to make it bear resistant. The bear was contentedly pawing at the lid. I guess I had simply gotten in its way. I didn’t hang around to see if he managed to open it. In fact, the memory completely stops right there.
I have no other memories from early childhood any more detailed than that one. I can still see that black bear as clearly as these somewhat fuzzy new photos taken behind the safety of the car windows a couple of weeks ago.

Black bear 2014

Black bear 2014

Norm Brown is the author of the suspense novel Carpet Ride, published by Secondwind Publishing, LLC.

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Striking a balance between nurturing creativity and instilling a sense of reality in your child

My approach to parenting is to encourage my children to try new things (within reason), which is why I have become a “sports mom” with a mini-van that is overflowing with various sports equipment and has the permanent odor of sweaty kid’s feet.

Luckily, my kids are also interested in academics, the arts, and video games, so it’s not all about sports with us. I’m sure it’s probably no surprise that I encourage my kids to create stories and we often play the “what if?” game about things we see, or hear, or even think about. Sometimes, the stories are just silly, sometimes they are a little scary, and sometimes the stories are quite good.

Both boys have some creative talents, thus I am a regular customer at Michael’s craft store and have a well stocked collection of paints, chalk, sketch pads and the like. My husband and I were both musicians in our pasts, so there are also a variety of musical instruments in the house that the children are encouraged to play with. And, I’ve been known to show the boys how to make a musical instrument with craft supplies. For example, an empty frozen orange juice can with lid, duct tape, and a collection of small rocks makes a great maraca or rumba shaker. With a love of music comes a love of dance as well, so it is not unusual to find me or my kids dancing around the house when doing chores or playing “Let’s Dance” on the Wii.

What I am not is one of those annoying mothers who believe her special snowflake should do anything he wants to do regardless of ability and everyone else should get with her program to applaud his efforts. Radical concept these days, I know.

So, what happens when these two mindsets collide?

They did last night and this morning I am still wondering if I handled this the right way or if I need to put some more money in the therapy fund. (Their grandparents have the college fund covered. My husband and I are putting aside money for therapy – hopefully, if we’re doing this parenting thing semi-right, the kids won’t need it and can go buy a car for their graduation from college or put a down-payment on a house.)

My youngest informed me he was going to enter the talent show at his elementary school.

“Really? What are you going to do?” I asked, wondering what exactly he was thinking about since our talent shows tend to be all about the kids who have studied dance, martial arts, music, or sing in their church choirs. Nate’s talents aren’t really the sort of ones that translate well to the school talent show stage. One day, he could become a comedian of the Chevy Chase variety, but at 7, he is definitely not ready for Prime Time.

“I’m going to dance.”

That awkward moment when you realize your kid is dead serious and you love him to the moon and back for his absolute lack of fear, and yet, you know that his dance skills – unless something major changes between now and high school – will one day be an excellent means of preventing teen pregnancy.

Seriously, how the kid can be so coordinated on a sports field and such a flailing train wreck on the dance floor is beyond me. It’s adorable in that “only your mom will love this” way and sort of painful to watch all at the same time. No teenage girl is going to want to get anywhere near that no matter how cute he might be when standing still.

“Um, have you actually tried out and gotten accepted?” Thinking this current culture of “there are only winners” has taken things one step too far if my son’s dance skills are considered talent show worthy.

“Not yet, you need to sign the form.” G-r-e-a-t. Enter Mom, the wrecker of dreams unless I want to allow him the experience of public humiliation.

“Well, honey, you know you’ve never taken any dance classes and these sorts of shows are really for the kids who have studied. Is there anything else you can think of that you could do?”

Tossing a baseball, wrestling, or training his dog to do a trick weren’t really activities that would be allowed, so I steered the conversation to some of the other things he could do – like play a tune on his Ukulele or compose a song on the piano. Neither of which interested him because he thought no one would like it. Granted, his Ukulele playing is pretty basic and his compositions on the piano are more Schoenberg-esque than I think his classmates can appreciate. My husband would probably prefer Nate dance than play a piano, but Hubby isn’t a big fan of the expressionist style of composition.

Nate wants to dance, because he loves it and all his friends think he has great dance moves when they are on the playground at recess. He is confident enough in himself that when his friends laugh and encourage him, he interprets it as a positive. I want him to hold onto that confidence for a little while longer so he doesn’t become self-conscious and let fear of being ridiculed hold him back. As I listen to him talk, I am torn. How to tell your kid you don’t believe he dances well enough to enter without forcing reality on him too soon? I go for something less than brutal honesty that I hope will be somewhat supportive.

“Nate, I don’t think you are quite ready to dance for the talent show. Tell you what, why don’t we look into some dance classes this year, then you can sign up next year?” I’m afraid of the next stage of the conversation. The moment when he realizes I honestly don’t think he can dance.

He thought about it for a moment or two. “Could I take magic lessons instead? Or get a magic kit for my birthday? Then I could do magic tricks as the Great Nate next year!”

“You have a deal, but you can still take dance classes if you want.”

“Mommy? You know you’ll need to make me a cape, right?”

Mairead Walpole is the pen name for a somewhat introverted project and contract manager who has 20+ years of business and technical writing under her belt. In her spare time, Mairead writes paranormal romance among other genres. Her first novel, “A Love Out of Time” is available through Second Wind Publishing (www.secondwindpublishing.com) or Amazon.com.

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The Latest Educational Strategy – A Must-read for Today’s Parents

When I look at photos of the innocent faces of youngsters slaughtered in Newtown, my tclasshoughts take me back to the first day my son went to school. Both of his parents were teachers, so he was well prepared for that golden milestone in his life: his first day of school. We had convinced him that education is a marvelous thing, school an exciting place and studying the mysteries of life, the earth and universe a fulfilling and incomparable delight.

About to leave the house that morning for his maiden day of education, my son said,” Daddy do you want to hear me say my ABCs?”

“Of course.”

He recited them.

“And will you listen me say my numbers?”

“Certainly.” He counted as far as he could. “Son, I’m proud of you. Goodbye and have a good day. See you tonight.”

“Bye, Daddy.”

After what happened in Newtown, I’ve mentally rerun the above scene a thousand times, and I know if it took place today, it would play somewhat differently. My son, no doubt, would still recite his ABCs for me and still “say his numbers.” And then I would add, “But you didn’t mention the most important thing I taught you about school.”

AK-47“Oh, you mean that. Yeah, now I remember: you said when I hear the first gunshot, I should hit the floor fast, not move a muscle and pretend I’m dead. That way, maybe the gunman won’t shoot me.”

“Well learned. I’ll see you tonight, son.” As soon as he had closed the door I’d add, “I hope.”

And then…I’d cry.

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Raising Readers – Maurice Sendak is Dead and I Don’t Feel So Good Myself

I was lying in bed reading a book one night, when my oldest son came in.

“Dad, I can’t sleep. Can I read in here for a while?”

The answer wasn’t even out of my mouth before he dashed out of the room to fetch the book he had just started reading; the first book of The Spiderwick Chronicles series. He returned to my room, and I set up a pillow for him to lean on. After he had adjusted himself into a comfortable position, we made some small talk about the books we were reading – prompted by his stealing glances at me reading. And I, in turn, stealing glances at him reading.

“Dad – You read books, and mom is Catholic.”

I sat back and looked at my son. “What?” He clarified, “You read a lot of books, and mom is Catholic.”

As funny as it may be; the kid was on to something. When my son made this declaration, I had been pondering how to get him to be more interested in books. Not that he’s uninterested in books. He is. We just hadn’t found the books he was really interested in; books he had a magnetic attraction to.

Last summer, he and his brother discovered Star Wars, and like most little boys; they became completely brain-damaged by it. Every word spoken was about Star Wars. Every synapse that fired sounded like a laser bolt inside their little melons. So – what do I do? I pick up every Star Wars book I can find – Star Wars novellas for young readers, character encyclopedias, spacecraft manuals. I even bought them a Star Wars cookbook (I’m not kidding. It’s called Wookie Cookie. The Boba Fettuccine isn’t bad). The problem was, as much as he enjoyed the books; I got the feeling he just wasn’t crazy about the Star Wars novellas like he was about pretending to be in a galaxy far, far away.

When he was younger, I used to pick up the heavily discounted encyclopedias from the front of the bookstores. I bought books on snakes, primates, helicopters, dinosaurs, sharks; anything I thought they’d be interested in. I would leave the books around the house for him and his little brother to pick up. The goal wasn’t to have them read the books; neither of them could read at this point. I wanted them to get used to books; to become comfortable with them. I would also rent documentaries on dinosaurs or sharks, whatever they wanted to watch- we then would look up in the books the animals we had seen. We watched a dinosaur documentary every Sunday night, and we would place post-it notes on the pages of the dinosaurs we saw in the documentary. I then read the pages to them for their bedtime story. This went on for a year or two. We went through a spider phase, shark phase, and venomous snake phase. It worked out for me because, let’s face it, you can only read Goodnight Moon so many times before you want to hurt someone.

But that didn’t matter as much to my children as what I was doing.

I think I have a healthy appetite for books. Going back through my Goodreads.com and Amazon.com accounts; I estimate that I read a book every seven to ten days; approximately 45-50 books a year (not including the books I read to my children or work). I don’t know if that qualifies as a voracious reader. We’ll just say I like books.

What my son had cued in on was not the books I was gently introducing him to, but the family attribute of being readers. It was interesting to me he likened being a reader to being Catholic. It was a way for him to categorize the family based on a strong, identifiable trait.

Similarly, my five-year old told me this weekend that he and his brother don’t believe in God when they are with me, and they do believe in God when they are with their mother   (Which was never my intention with them. I always told them to pick the path that was right for them). He tells me this as he poses his Star Wars action figures on my large, wooden statue of Buddha. I can only assume he is referring to the one-true-god who looks like Barry Gibb, and not any of those weird, foreign gods. But he’s only five years old, so I couldn’t really argue with him. I did tell him to get his gun-toting Star Wars bounty hunters off Buddha or he’ll release the flatulence of a thousand vegetarian curries under his covers as he’s falling asleep. To which he replied, “Cool!”, and quizzed me on exactly how bad that would smell.

My ex-wife, the Catholic, isn’t a prolific reader. So it’s only a matter of time before they think atheists are readers, and Catholics – not so much. I could head them off and correct them before they make the connection, but why spoil the fun?

On March 27th, USA Today ran an informational snapshot which stated 18% of 4th grade boys felt they did not have enough time to read, while 10% of 4th grade girls felt similarly. In comparison, 40% of 8th grade boys and 24% of 8th grade girls felt they didn’t have time to read.

Without getting into the disturbing gender disparity (I mean, 76% of 8th grade girls have the time to read and kiss their Justin Beiber posters!), our children are not reading or getting enough time to read. The really sad news is, the children are reading more than many adult Americans. An MSNBC poll showed 27% of adult Americans had not read a book in a year. In 2004, a study conducted by the National Endowment for the Arts found only 57% of American adults had read a book that year. Of those 57%, the median number of books read per year was 9 books for the women, and five books for the men (Come on, guys! Why so low? You can read more than five books a year if you only read while sitting on the toilet!). I am willing to bet the children who aren’t reading are raised in households where the adults also do not read.

When I was in the Navy, I had the benefit of having some very good leaders, as well as some atrocious ones- and I learned from both. One of the good ones taught me that any failure on my crew was ultimately my fault (and subsequently his fault, etc.), because we had not identified the weak link and given that person the necessary training they needed to do their job. The goal was never to punish the person for not meeting the standard, but to give them additional attention. I also had a boss who we could not beat in our qualification tests. For years, I struggled and studied to beat him in one of those tests. His ability to stay just out of our reach was indicative of his lead-by-example style of leadership. He was far senior to us and it wouldn’t really matter if we scored higher than him on a qualification test, but he did it because it motivated us. Years later, after he retired, he told me how hard he had to work to stay ahead of us. I can say I eventually did score higher than him on an exam; I beat him by two points. I had studied for months for an upcoming exam. Then the night before we were to be tested, I got him drunk and sent a hooker to his room at 3 in the morning- which is something I learned from those bad bosses I mentioned earlier.

I think we can take the same attitude with children reading (Maybe skip the hookers, but if that’s what it takes to motivate them. Right?). We can lead by example and be their role models for reading. We can blame the internet and texting, but ultimately the failure falls on us. I have zero evidence to support this rant, but it would seem that if we want to raise readers, then we need to be readers ourselves. It’s like when people say to not go on a diet, but make a lifestyle change. Make reading one of your traits; a part of your personality.

We also need to provide better examples of readers in books, television, and movies. The people with books in any movie or television show are either rich, white people who have expansive libraries nobody believes they read; liberal, white people who have books stacked around their loft as part of their decor; or the crazy, mad scientist. Not exactly the typical American family.

In books, there are only two characters holding the book pennant up for our children: Klaus Baudelair of the Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events series, and Hermione Granger of the Harry Potter series. Both are avid readers fueled by a thirst for knowledge. For both characters, the ability to apply the knowledge gained from books is their super power. However, neither character seems to read for the simple joy of reading.

I believe movies can also play a role in raising readers. I recently let my kids see the first Harry Potter movie to get them interested in reading the books. We then began reading the series after their approval of the movie – and by “We”, I mean “I” am reading the books to them. My oldest can read the Harry Potter books, but he can’t read it smoothly as a storyteller. His little brother also wants to hear the stories, so I do the reading.

The annoying thing about reading the book after seeing the movie was they knew what was going to happen. For the second installment of the series, I read the book to them and then rented the movie. The book-then-movie path seems to work better for us. The movie becomes a sort of reward for finishing the book, and it seems to make them look forward to the next book.

I decided to continue with the trend of renting movies based on children’s books series as an introduction to new series. I rented Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, as well as The Spiderwick Chronicles. Along with the movies, I picked up the first couple of each series to read if he was interested.

I presented the boys the first two books of The Spiderwick Chronicles,  along with two supplemental stories to the second book. I picked up the books at a used bookstore for roughly $.75 each, so even if they don’t like the books, I’m only out a couple of dollars.

An interesting thing happened with The Spiderwick Chronicles series. My oldest began reading the first book on a Thursday night. When my alarm went off the next morning, he hopped into my bed and stated he read the entire book. Saturday morning, the same thing happened; he had read the second book in the series. After his baseball game on Saturday, he hopped on the couch and began reading the supplemental stories. By the end of the weekend, he had read all four of the books; roughly 300 pages total. He then took off reading The Lemony Snicket series.

I don’t know what it was about The Spiderwick Chronicles series that captured his attention. He didn’t pretend to be in the story or reenact a scene; all of the cues I had been using to pick books I thought he would be interested in. It seemed he just needed to be introduced to enough books to find the ones that he liked.

Although I am no expert on the matter, I do have a few pieces of advice for raising readers:

  • Treat books as regular entertainment for children. Too many children just get books as gifts. Make it a rule that your children can come and ask for a new book just like they do school supplies.
  • You don’t have to buy children books to get them to read. I pick up comic books for my kids whenever I’m grocery shopping. Reading is reading.
  • Ignore the reading levels printed on the cover of some children’s books. When I was first began introducing books to my son, there was a book he really like. However, the book was emblazoned with a large number 3 on the cover, indicating it was a Reading Level 3 book. Some well-meaning, but moronic adult had told my son he should be reading Level 1 books. I had to promise him I’d help him with any difficult words in the Level 3 book if he would read it. After that, I have purposely shied away from books with the reading levels printed on the cover. I have used the reading levels as positive reinforcement. The Scholastic website has reading levels for several children’s books. After he read The Spiderwick Chronicles books, I showed him how he, who is in 2nd grade, was reading at a 3rd-4th grade reading level.
  • Give them books to look forward to. I set aside a stack of books for the boys to read when they are ready. The stack includes non-traditional books- Peter Benchely’s Jaws, Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park, Richard Matheson’s I  Am Legend; as well as the traditional- Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer. It’s just a stack of books that will knock their socks off when they are old enough to read them.
  • You don’t need to spend a fortune on books. I picked up many of the books at used bookstores. I have bought grocery bags full of children’s books for under $20.
  • Stop caring what they read. My kids could read The Satanic Bible and I wouldn’t care. We need to stop pushing the books on them. You can – and should – introduce books to them, but you can’t force them to read a book you picked if they aren’t interested.

For more information on raising readers, check out these links:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/04/table-talk_n_1476274.html?ref=topbar

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lisa-bloom/how-to-talk-to-little-boy_b_1473167.html

http://www.burningthroughpages.org/

Unfortunately, as fitting as he would be to this blog; I would like to call for a moment of silence in the wild rumpus to mourn Maurice Sendak. Where the Wild Things Are is, and forever will be, the coolest children’s book. To this day, when someone get’s in my way when I am in the mood to make mischief of one kind or another, I still threaten to eat them up.

Noah Baird is the author of Donations to Clarity, which should not be read by children.

http://www.amazon.com/Donations-to-Clarity-ebook/dp/B005BRRQ72

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Vasectomies For Beginners by Noah Baird

I’m almost 40 years old. I’m divorced (twice). I have two little boys, who may or may not be werewolves. One of my possibly werewolf children pissed on my living room rug this weekend because he was too busy playing to run to the bathroom. I was making the boys breakfast when I heard my oldest complaining that his brother’s pee is getting all over the rug during their epic space battle. It was one of those surreal moments every parent has; I’m pouring cereal in bowls and through the crunching sound I hear “pee” + “rug.” I poke my head around the corner and see my youngest in a deranged Statue of Liberty pose; a Stars Wars spaceship held over his head as he balanced on one foot and shook liquid out of the other foot of his pajamas. Before I could get a “What the f . . .” out – you can’t throw the ‘F’ word out at a four-year old. My brain has to run through a catalog of words and phrases which capture my emotion but is appropriate to little ears. Before I can get any words out, the child dashes off downstairs, leaving me to contemplate the pros and cons of climbing back into bed. The little monster dashes back through the living room, still holding the spaceship but now completely naked, leaving a tangy wake behind him.

I’m at the point in my life where I don’t want any more half-werewolf children.

I posted on Facebook that I had my vasectomy consultation the next morning. I was surprised by the reactions to the post which ranged from “I wouldn’t do that” and “Don’t do it,” all the way to “This is a procedure invented by women to keep man down.” The really strong reaction came from a Catholic guy who had a vasectomy and is mad because he’s going to hell for cutting the Catholic-making pipeline off.

I was surprised I was getting any sort of negative reaction. All of the men I’ve spoken to about it say it’s no big deal. They want to tell you about it, but it isn’t a big deal. Ladies, here’s the part you need to understand: vasectomies are our pregnancy. Every woman wants to discuss their pregnancy; every man wants to discuss their vasectomy. I know it’s not the same thing. We don’t have anything else. We don’t have duckbills poked into us every year. Our doctors don’t even get close to us. I see my physician once a year. He shakes my hand, looks at my tongue, checks my lungs, and kicks me out. The closest he’s ever gotten to me is when he checked my ears.

In the Urologist’s waiting room, as I handed in my insurance paperwork, I notice the nurse looking around behind me. She asks if I’m alone. I tell her that I am. It’s then I notice every man in the room has a female chaperone. None of the men looked happy. The women; they were happy. My mother called to tell me she forced her first husband to get a vasectomy. His name was ‘Tom’ and so is my father. The first one is dead; we call him ‘Dead Tom’. It took Dead Tom two tranquilizers and five beers to get him into the Urologist.

When the Urologist was done playing with my Huevos Rancheros, which is Russian for ‘Stones of Many Pleasures’, we discussed the procedure. One of the topics was scaring. Apparently, some men are upset by the scar left on their seed bag. Who would be worried about a scar there? Have you seen testicles? It looks like our nuts were gift wrapped in leftover elbow skin. I’m not sure if I could find a scar there if I tried. I think I might like the scar. I may need to prove I had the snip one day.

The good news is I passed the consult. My vas deferens (the swim lane between the huevos and the prostate) is “taunt like a guitar string.” I also have big balls, which I’ve been telling people for years, but I don’t think they believed me.

Noah Baird is the author of Donations to Clarity.

http://www.amazon.com/Donations-Clarity-Noah-Baird/dp/1935171445/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1311518859&sr=8-1/

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The Joys of Lying to Children by Noah Baird

I am a bad parent. I lie to my children.

I lie to my children nearly everyday. I’ve told them lies, they have repeated my lies in school, and I get phone calls from stern-sounding teachers wanting to discuss their concerns about my fibbing children. That was another lie; my ex-wife gets phone calls from the teachers. Then I get the talk.

I once told my son, who was attending preschool at a Presbyterian church, the reason we celebrated the Easter Bunny was because when Jesus died and was buried in a cave, an egg-shaped rock was placed in front of the cave so Jesus couldn’t get out. The Easter Bunny pushed the rock away from the cave and saved J.C. The chocolate symbolizes the wood of the crucifixion.

We got a very nice phone call from the school to discuss what I’m teaching the children.

Sometimes I lie because my children ask far too many questions for their size. I have two little boys, 4 and 7, who are bubbling fountains of questions. Sometimes I lie because I don’t know the correct answer, but usually I lie because it’s a lot more fun.

One day while shaving, flanked by both boys quizzing me on my shaving ritual, my oldest asked me, “Dad, why do you grow hair all over your body and mommy doesn’t?” I crouched down to their level, looked them both in the eyes, and very seriously explained to them I was a werewolf. I had to shave because some people are afraid of werewolves, and I didn’t want to scare them. I watched as their eyes grew big. They both nodded obediently when I explained this was a big secret and they shouldn’t tell people I was a werewolf.

Here are the facts as I described them:

  • My hair is brown when I’m a werewolf (they asked).
  • I don’t transform in front of them because I’m afraid it would scare them.
  • I won’t eat the dog.
  • I became a werewolf when I was bitten by a werewolf when I was a boy. That makes me a 2nd Generation Werewolf.
  • They may also be werewolves, but they usually won’t show until they are teenagers. They would only be half werewolf because their mother doesn’t like this werewolf business. That would make them 3rd Generation Werewolves.
  • They may show signs early. I instructed them to check their feet when they woke up after a full moon. If their feet were dirty, then they were out howling at the moon.

At this point, the reader should expect a story about frightened children who could not sleep; afraid of the werewolf dad prowling around in the dark. My lie had the opposite effect: it stopped the bad dreams, monsters in the closet, and moving shadows on the wall. I hadn’t made the connection until I overheard the boys playing. My oldest, speaking as the elder statesman of the two, wished the boogyman would break into our house so they could watch me transform into a werewolf and scare him away. My youngest speculated I would only need to show the boogyman my claws and roar, and the boogyman would never scare another kid again.

My double life as a werewolf has been the answer to numerous pre-pubescent concerns. Vampires? Werewolves and vampires don’t bite each other’s children because we are equally strong. A vampire attacking a werewolf’s pups would be inviting an attack on their children. Peace is maintained through equal power; the Cold War with fangs. Zombies? Werewolves don’t taste good to zombies so they stay away from us. Of course, no self-respecting werewolf would ever eat a zombie. That’s just disgusting.

My oldest is now at the stage where he’s excessively fascinated with guns, war, and all about my military experience. Enter the werewolf; I fought in the Great Werewolf-Zombie War. Werewolves and Vampires rounded up all of the zombies and locked them into underground bunkers (because you can’t kill zombies. Duh!). You try to explain the U.S.’s foreign policy in the 21st century to a four year old. There are people running for president who can’t explain why we’re in Libya.

At dinner one night, my oldest gravely told me his teacher had explained to his class that dragons weren’t real. The child was upset with the thought that dragons didn’t exist in his world. So, like any bad parent would do: I moved dinner into the living room, and streamed a documentary on Komodo Dragons. Now, in case you don’t know, Komodo Dragons don’t breath fire, but they do have pretty nasty mouths which might as well be venomous. We couldn’t find a documentary on fire-breathing dragons because they’re hard to film. They keep melting the cameras. Armed with new knowledge, my son happily marched into school the next day and informed his teacher dragons do exist.

My question to the well-meaning adults out there: Why are your lies better than my lies? Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy are permissible lies because they fall into an agreeable construct we’ve all accepted? Open the imagination box wide. Better yet, kick the lid clean off. Let the kids have their imagination. It just might do you some good too.

 

Noah Baird is the author of Donations to Clarity.

 

http://www.amazon.com/Donations-Clarity-Noah-Baird/dp/1935171445/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1318131504&sr=8-1

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Starts, Stops and Goodbyes by J J Dare

Today, I bring my oldest daughter and youngest granddaughter to the airport. After a three week visit, I’m not ready for silence to envelope my house. I’m not ready to say goodbye. Life is fickle and I don’t know when I’ll see them again.

Sunday was the first time in a long time I was able to see all of my girls on the same day. The constant noise was loud and wonderful. A kaleidoscope of people flowed in and out of the house all day.

Last week, my mother went into a “skilled nursing facility,” a fancier term for a nursing home. After breaking a bone in her leg four weeks ago and after a stint in a rehabilitation hospital, she is still unable to manage. The hope is she will rally enough to begin walking again and, in her words, “break out” of that place and move back in with me.

My childhood home is gone. The closing was only thirty minutes long. Thirty minutes and a multitude of papers to sign and that was it. It’s no longer the central hub of our family. The shift is slowly turning to my own house as it becomes the hive of the queen bee.

In addition to the goodbye we said to my mother’s home, I saw some faces in my family unmasked. The actions and reactions from the loss of the home surprised and saddened me. The start of naked greed over a tangible thing contributed to the fracture of intangible relationships.

The days in July are starts, stops and goodbyes. They contain the birthday of my partner and later in the month, his deathday. Although it’s another month among the past eleven months of my mourning, the sixty-second anniversary of his birth and first anniversary of his death loom large. I grieve for him daily, yet, this coming month will be the hardest to live through.

My writing has come to a stop. I blame it on the lack of time during the day because of the care I  have to give to so many. The true reason is my muse has left me for greener pastures until I’m ready for her to return. Will she come back next month, the month I could really use her to distract me from my sorrow? Or, will my grief keep the door shut on my writing helper? As with fickle life, muses do not always come when called.

Yesterday, I was visited by a grandfather dragonfly. As the three-inch long insect kept me company outside, I thought about how the smallest things are as important as the largest. Life is fleeting and fickle. Reality is how you make it. Muses come and go, as do the people in your life. The best you can hope for is to walk the path fate has laid out for you without stumbling too often.

J J Dare is the author of two published books, several short stories and about thirty works-in-progress.

Current enthusiasm is co-authoring at Rubicon Ranch

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