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Posts tagged ‘kids’

Mother Knows Best

My mother, that is (not me).

Maybe it’s because of all the wisdom she accumulated raising three kids, or maybe it’s just plain old Midwestern resourcefulness, but she seems to often (not always) know best.  She knows how to paint rooms and arrange flowers and install screens and strip floors and sew comforters and fix almost anything.  She knows how to make people feel special and loved, no matter who they are.  And most impressively to me these days, she knows how to get kids to eat vegetables. Read more

It’s a Small World After All

Earlier this week, twenty-two children died in the state of Bihar in northeastern India.  They didn’t do anything wrong.  They just ate lunch. They ate rice and beans and potato curry and soy balls.  They started feeling a little sick, and then a lot sick, and then some of them died.  It all happened within a few hours.

Stories about tragedies run constantly in the media, and I often skim over them in favor of the shiny, happy stuff.  But once in a while a story hits home, and that’s what happened to me when I read this one.  The child The New York Times talked about in its story, Ashish Kumar Mishra, was five years old.  His dad carried him from clinic to clinic until he ran out of options, and Ashish died at his side. Read more

Swimming Lessons


My son is learning how to swim.  After a few years of being tentative around the water, he suddenly loves it — grinning throughout every minute of the splashing and kicking and flailing and sputtering that inevitably mark the early days of swimming.  He hasn’t figured out the difference between a jump and a belly flop yet, and he earnestly looks up for approval every time he slams his stomach onto the water.  I try to smile encouragingly when it happens, and immediately brace myself for him to do it again.  He “floats,” if only for a few seconds before the teacher scoops his legs up using one of those styrofoamy noodle things.  And when he gets out, we talk in detail about how it feels to float, wondering if it’s how astronauts feel when they’re walking on the moon.  When he watches the adults gliding through the water a few lanes over, his eyes glimmer.  “I’m going to swim like that someday,” he says confidently.  “You sure will,” I reply.

Eagerly strapping on his little neon green goggles, my son is intoxicated by the thrill of learning something new…of getting a little bit better and a tad bit more confident and notably stronger every single day.  I covered the idea of learning new information a few weeks ago in a post called “Girl Meets Cheese,” but I think it’s worthwhile to think about learning new skills too.  When was the last time you learned how to DO something new?  Something totally brand new — like walking or talking or swimming or playing the guitar or riding a unicycle?  As we get older, it feels like our opportunities to learn how to do new things diminish; but in reality, the only things that diminish are our willingness to fail and our perceived ability to learn new things and our bandwidth to make time for them.  The new things can be small — like how to bake bread with quinoa flour (something I’m going to try to learn this weekend), or big — like how to code (which I’d love to learn).  And the little things matter just as much as the big things…I’d even dare to say they might help keep us young.

When I think about the things I’d like to learn how to do, here’s a quick and rough laundry list:

  • Learn to code
  • Learn to speak conversational French
  • Learn to paint with acrylics
  • Learn to skateboard
  • Learn to ride a tandem bicycle
  • Learn to swim the butterfly
  • Learn to do the whole ashtanga primary series by memory
  • Learn to coach other people
  • Learn to kitesurf
  • Learn to bake bread with quinoa flour (never hurts to put something on the list that you are likely to be able to check off soon!)

What’s on your bucket list to learn in the future?  And what’s the last thing you’re proud you DID learn?

P.S. If you read this post in hopes of getting a swim workout to try, here’s one I posted a few months ago!

Born Wise

kids on beach

I wrote a post last month about laughter — and specifically, how kids laugh hundreds of time every day, but somehow grow into 40-yr-olds who can count their daily giggles on one hand.  My kids teach me this simple lesson — laugh more — every single day.  Actually, I think that kids are full of wisdom — innate, untouched, beautifully naive, human wisdom — that can help us be better, more real, and more well grown-ups.  Here are a few of my favorite bits of wisdom from the wee ones:

Believe that people are good until they do something that makes you feel otherwise. And then be open to believing they are good again. 

Seek happiness for the people you love.

It’s OK to ask “why” 5+ times in a row.

Running is faster than walking.

If you’re scared, tell someone.

It feels amazing to learn new stuff.

Sleep…or you’ll be cranky.

Huge, long, wraparound hugs feel amazing.

All art is beautiful.

How about you?  What life lessons have you learned from a child, and why do you think we lose sight of the basics as we get older?

Making Memories

photo by counselman collection, via flickr creative commons

photo by counselman collection, via flickr creative commons

“When people say that time goes by too quickly, I generally respond that time goes by at just the right pace.  But today, when I think back on the day you were born, that five-year chunk of time seems to have passed very quickly….you’re growing up in an interesting time, as there are lots of social changes afoot (legalization of gay marriage was a huge social issue in the past year) and technology continues to evolve at rocket speed….I was just looking for the email address I reserved for you when you were born and wondered to myself whether email will even exist when you’re old enough to use it….This year has been filled with tragedies in Newtown and Boston and around the world, and every time one occurs, I have to shift my mind away from the fear that it will happen closer to home and find strength in my confidence that you are going to contribute to making this a more peaceful and happy world….I love you with every bit of my soul.”

These are a few excerpts from the birthday letter I wrote to my son last night.  Every year on my children’s birthdays, I pour myself a glass of wine and take some time to pen a letter re-capping the past year in their lives, my life, our family, our corner of the world, and the broader world and society we’re part of.  My plan is to hold all of these letters and turn them over to the kids when they’re ready to fly the coop…giving them a glimpse into what happened in our lives and in the world as they grew up.

I generally don’t make cakes (I’m a crummy baker) or cool Pinterest-ready gifts on kids’ birthdays, but I do try to “make memories.”  Knowing I lacked the discipline to keep up with a traditional baby book, when I had children, I decided these letters would be the way I’d try to connect the dots for myself and our kids.  I do this because as time goes on, the events of our days and lives start to bleed together.  And an annual milestone like a birthday offers time and space and reason to extract the events and ideas and emotions that stand out over days and months and years and lifetimes and keep them in the forefront of our minds.  In the case of the letter I wrote last night, it’s also a great way to help my children (someday) understand who I am…not just as their mom, but as a person.  I freely write about my own hopes and fears, my own passions and projects, and my own frustrations and celebrations — to remind myself and teach them about the constant juggling and tradeoffs involved in life….and to remind them that each of us is our own unique person on this planet.

Not everyone likes typing letters like I do, and that’s fine.  There are tons of amazing forms of self-expression — songs, videos, drawings, handmade cards, etc.  For example, every year on our anniversary, Sean and I pull out a nondescript book that sits on our bookshelf and together jot down a few notes of trips we took, job highlights and challenges, friends we made, things that happened in the world, etc.   This weekend’s New York Times featured drawings authors made of their children at specific ages, accompanied by a brief 1-sentence summary of the parent’s greatest fear.

The practice of making memories will look and feel different for anyone who does it, but the point is that taking time to make memories — both for yourself and for your loved ones — can be a powerful way to anchor our past, direct our futures, and knit our common experiences together in really special ways.

What do you think?  Do you do anything special to mark the time between birthdays, anniversaries, or even just calendar years?  What do you do, why do you do it, and who do you share it with?   

The Kids Will Be Alright

photo(11)Eight years ago, The New York Times ran Ayelet Waldman’s essay “Truly, Madly, Guiltily” in its beloved “Modern Love” column.  And all hell broke loose.  Waldman ignited the media and enraged mothers across the country with the statement that would bring her fame: “I love my husband more than I love my children.”  Read more

Flowers and Bubbles

zoe flowersI arrived at my son’s preschool for my volunteering shift a few weeks ago to find 18 rosy-cheeked, sweaty, and INSANELY HYPER 4-yr-olds frantically trying to assemble themselves into a circle before lunchtime.  When they were all finally seated, the teacher asked them to take a few minutes to “smell the flowers and blow the bubbles.”  Immediately, each child clasped his/her hands together as if gripping a freshly picked bouquet and proceeded to take a deep breath in through their nose (smelling the flowers) and a deep breath out through their mouth (blowing the bubbles).  Within a few minutes, the kids were calm and quiet and able to move on to lunch. Read more

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