Saturday, February 22, 2014

A Tease of Spring

Today temperatures hit the sixties.  It was nice.  I forced our family to go outside and walk to the local high school.  I made the kids run around the track.  I made myself run around the track.  It was fun to run outside instead of having a floor move underneath me.  I am excited about the idea of running again.  The snow has mostly melted and the sidewalks are clear enough that I might start running again.
Then I went to my dear friend Nancy's baby shower.  I am so excited for her.  I love new babies.

When I got back I took the kids on a bike ride and met my neighbors.  We spent the rest of the entire afternoon chatting with all of our wonderful neighbors.  The kids played for three solid hours outside.  They played on the dirty snow bank, they played in trees, and they played in the mud.  When they were done they looked like this:
Tiger the Ninja Turtle got messy
Always the lady, Stella did not get muddy.  She chose to avoid mud fights.  

She has been very busy this year selling girl scout cookies to our town.  Here she is selling it outside the wine store.  Nothing like pairing your cookies with a proper wine.

My little Daisy Scout

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Living in the Snow Globe

It has been a terrible winter in DC this year.  Terrible.  Stella has missed over a week of school and has had a delayed start at least seven times.

This has meant a lot of snow fun.  I am not much of a winter sports gal and in ten years of marriage we have yet to go skiing.  This all changed yesterday when we decided to make lemonade out of these snow lemons and go skiing.

We stayed at Massanutten which is out in Shenandoah Virginia.  It was about a two hour drive and we stayed in a cute little condo that had deer in the back yard.  These deer were strangely friendly.  Doesn't seem like a good plan for the species but who am I to judge.

We tried out the indoor water park which was fun but grossly overpriced in the winter since it only had three slides the kids could go on.  Still, we were all exhausted after day one.

Day two we decided to brave the mountain and teach the kids to ski.  This resort requires you to be seven to go to ski school which is crazy.  So mom and dad became the instructors.  Now, I am not a very strong skier.  I can't say I even like skiing.  It always makes me super sore.  Nonetheless, I braved it again and taught Tiger to ski while Seth helped Stella. Tiger was not too bad.  I was really proud of him.

We went up the lift and he got off like a pro and then went down and had a great time.  We were all exhausted after four hours of skiing but we had a great time.  Stella was able to start turning and was a real champ by the end of the day.  I am so proud of them.

I let Seth do a few runs on the black diamonds here and he was surprised at how tame the Eastern black diamonds are compared to our lovely Park City resorts we are used to.
This was the best pic I could get of them.  Tiger borrowed Stella's sunglasses because it was super bright and he has no vanity.  Stella is blinded by the crazy bright mountain.

It was a great end to what I hope is the last of winter because I am done.  No. More. Snow. For. Three. Years.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Is it Really 2014?

Based on Scholastic Book Club's recommended reading for my six year old daughter you would think it was 1972, where girls were finally legally allowed to wear trousers to school.

The books that the Scholastic brochure pushes for first and second grade girls these days are called The Rainbow Fairies.  Lest you think this is some liberal progressive movement that introduces the struggle for gay rights and human equality for little girls, it is not.  No, instead these books focus on fairies and their special gift or talent. 

Here is the list of fairies in the Scholastic brochure:

They also have other series with interests like animals, colors, glittery things, tiaras, and shades of pink.

I hate to be the Grinch here but haven't we had this argument like 34,000 times since I was six?  Why is there not electrical engineering fairy?  Why is there no chemistry fairy?  Why is there no mathematician fairy?  Why is there no fairy where women are missing in the adult working world today?  Because, my friends, there is no fairy for women in those industries and these books are the reason.  We teach our little girls to reach as high as their closet, their figures, their hair, and their accessories.  Gag.  We can do so much better.  

Back to good old Ramona Quimby, Pippi Longstocking, and our secret confession, Captain Underpants, Stella's new favorite but not mine, but that is a different post.

Friday, January 24, 2014


Stella hits the nail on the head.  After four days of winter lockdown, I am done.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

I Disapprove, International Parenting

I read an article someone posted on Facebook about how parents around the world are so much better because of xyz.  It inspired me to list my experiences of living abroad and what I saw in my own xyz.

I have lived on three continents, visited 20 countries, and a handful of states and I have seen child rearing in many different forms.  So far the only thing I can tell about my observations of world-wide child rearing is that I disapprove, all for different reasons, but everyone is doing it wrong.  Let me elaborate:

1.  Philippines
I loved living in this country but man, oh man this place can be whack.  Everything is structured differently.  The extended family is a huge part of the child rearing process because a large chunk of the population is abroad or working in jobs that don't allow them to be at home.

 This created an interesting dynamic because primary caretakers were not always parents and did not have the same motivation to raise their wards as their own.  A lot of the country was raised by nannies or yayas.

  A yaya's job is to raise small children. As long as the kids are needy they have employment, once they are independent you are out of a job.  The yayas would raise children to never take care of themselves.  The International School of Manila had to ban yayas from coming in at kindergarten and feeding their wards because a lot of these kids still didn't know how to feed themselves at five years old, five.

A friend of mine in Manila tells a story of when she went to Canada to visit family.  Her daughter was seven at the time and she told her to go shower.  The child just stood there in the shower expecting someone to come and wash her.  It was then my friend realized she needed to teach her child a few life skills.

The reason I mainly disapproved of the parenting style here was because they kept the kids from ever doing things themselves.  Independence was not viewed as a desirable trait, in fact, frankly, I think they never even thought of that as a goal.  I had a neighbor who told her yaya to never let the baby practice walking so it would make life easier for the mom.  Messed. Up.


Oh, Belgium, you funny place you.  I disapprove of the way you do things too, for the exact opposite reason as the Philippines.  When we bid on Belgium it was precisely because we wanted the opposite of Manila.  I wanted green, I wanted parks, I wanted clean air, and I wanted people minding their own business.  Wow, oh wow, I got what I wanted and some.

Belgium was a great post and there were so many things I loved about it but when it came to parenting there were some major clashes there.  First of all, please throw away your copies of Bringing Up Bebe, I would only recommend that book to those who are going to be thrown into the Euro-Francophone culture and need to understand the insanity they are about to begin.

Schools.  When it comes to schools in Belgium the name of the game is hands-off.  PTAs, parental involvement, parental influence, really any say as a parent is non-existent.  We experienced this both in the private Montessori and in the parochial public schools.  The idea was, we know best, trust us, and we will turn your child into what we think is the best your child can be.  As an American with a right to my child's life, upbringing, and information this was unsettling.  I disapproved.

The other pill that was hard to swallow was the amount of independence the Belgians allowed their kids.  I saw kids who were four and five riding their bikes alone in the dark. I saw eight year olds taking metro alone.  I saw kids alone at parks and I saw kids unsupervised everywhere.  It made me very nervous.  I was once at a birthday party for a five year old.  When the child was dropped off the mom begged to drop off the two year old sibling so she could shop.  The kid was in diapers.  The mom left the two year old alone at a strangers' house when she was uninvited.  It was amazing.

There is a children's museum in Brussels.  It was only open on Wednesday for two hours and Saturday for five hours (DISAPPROVED) and you were supposed to drop your children off to be supervised by an unknown amount of museum staff.  No parents allowed.  Yes, I am going to leave my three year old with who-knows who and leave while they do what?  Crazy.

My other complaint was the disconnect that parents and their children had in Brussels.  The parents were not as playful as American parents were.  Kids were to leave mom alone.  It always felt cold to me and a little sad.  This is spoken of widely in Bringing Up Bebe'.  It always bummed me out, kids would be dropped off at school at 7 and picked up at 7, no one thought twice of it.  

United States of America
From the beginning of my career as a mother I have found differences between me and my mothership.  I first noticed it on the playground when my daughter was three months old.  A competitive edge.  People who wanted to know my daughter's weight, height, developmental milestones.  People who never seemed happy for you and your child's accomplishments, only jealous or annoyed.

Americans can be nuttos.  They are so ridiculous, they just don't know how to be cool.  It is always something they are inflamed about.  I was at the pool last weekend with a few local kids.  They were four and five.  Their parents were yelling at them about their freestyle form.  They were crying in the pool as they tried to get their form more perfect.  My two nuggets splashed in a formless mess and tried not to drown.

There is a mom who I see often at the bus stop who has started reporting kids who play tag, so now their parents have to wait to go to work until they get on the bus (the kids are 11 and 12).

Everyone is in a tissy here about something and it is exhausting.

The schools, the place we want our children to learn, are outwardly zero-tolerance about EVERYTHING; things that we really should be tolerant about, like kids losing their tempers at five years-old, and kids who still can't separate reality from fantasy.  It is exhausting.  I love you Lady Liberty, Uncle Sam, and the like but this place needs a major Xanax and the kids all need Adderall.

Eldorado of Parenting

So before you all start leaving hate comments about my disapproval of all the places I have lived, let me leave one universal observation.  Parenting is not a unilateral way of life.  There are billions of kids, billions of parents, and infinite ways to do it.  The only universal truth I have seen in these places I have lived is that all the kids grow up and for the most part, are okay.  Infantile state kids do eventually grow up to be adults (that generally employee a household staff), Francophone Belgians end up being independent and having independent children,  American eventually grow up and after years of self-analysis decide they are okay and raise children who do years of self-analysis.

We all come out in the wash.

What is your favorite/least favorite thing about the countries parenting ways?

Monday, January 06, 2014

2014 Here We Come

2014 has hit and here I am on the first day of the year trying to type out something, although I will not publish this for a while.  I am not a New Years Resolution kinda gal, I have enough pressure, but I am super excited about this year coming up.  2013 almost ended badly.

Two weeks ago I got a call from my brother that my dad was going to the hospital with a major heart attack.  I didn't think it could possibly be serious because I have yet to contemplate the reality that all of us humans are mortal and these kinds of shenanigans happen, even to my old dad.

Luckily, he got to the hospital super quick and had been working out with a full blockage for several years, creating ancillary arteries, thus saving his life.  I am so glad to have my dad alive.  I love him so much and I hope I have many years ahead, but if I don't I was able to get the ball rolling for that day so when it happens we will be able to grieve instead of having to play financial forensics.

We saw cousins and second cousins and had a riotous New Years Eve party complete with a talent show, limbo contest, dance contest, Karaoke, and questionably legal fireworks from Evanston, WY (God Bless America and your crazy division of states).  It was so fun and I am so glad we went, even if it cost me my retirement.  It has been five days though, and we miss Seth, so tonight we will be reunited.  Although, he has worked every day of this Christmas break minus Christmas and will continue to work every day when we get home.  We may see him around Groundhog day, maybe.

Here is to a new year full of adventures, growth, and excitement.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Best Christmas Gift of 2013

So little Stella decided to make Tiger a gift from the heart, she made it on a rainy Saturday last month.  It was hiding in my drawer and as I was pulling stuff to be wrapped out I found it again.  I love it so much.

Copyright Stella B. 2013

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Homework at Six, What is Reasonable?

How much homework is reasonable for a six year old?

This post may sound like a back-handed compliment. It isn't meant that way, I just need to put some things in perspective.  My daughter is bright.  Her teacher said as much at the last conference; her report card has backed this up, and six years have showed me that Stella has always been on the whipper-snapper side of the learning curve.  She likes school, she likes worksheets, she likes math problems, she likes to write stories.  School was made for little girls like Stella.  

So, this is where my post begins.  This kid has too much homework.  She gets home around 4 on normal days and at 5 on the two days she has after school activities.  She is expected to do a math story problem which involves reading the problem, drawing it out, answering several questions.  Then she must write a poem or a story using this week's vocabulary words, and THEN she has to read a book that would take me 20 minutes to read aloud. It takes her at least 30 minutes to read it aloud, and then she has to write "four fun facts" about the story.  Finally, she is supposed to read aloud at least 20, but preferably 40, minutes a night to me.

Story math problem, drawn out, and then answered. 
Boring book about America's National Landmarks.  4 Fun Facts Answered. 
Story written using vocab words, illustrated, words then copied three times each. 
Out loud reading for at least 20 minutes, preferably 30.

So the girl gets home around 4, works for a hour, eats dinner at 5:30, goes back to work until 6:30, reads aloud until 7 and goes to sleep.

Do you see a problem here?

This SIX year old has no minutes of down time.  Zero. She isn't wiggly, she focuses well, she is an easy kid, it is taking us all night to get her homework done and she is not wasting time goofing around.  I can't imagine how a kid who is wiggly is managing.  

I used to love the days of my sweet Stella bouncing back from school only to create her latest project and then she would whip up a slipper that she made of paper and stapled herself, or a number pad she drew that had to be pressed to enter into her room.  

She doesn't get to do that anymore and I miss it, I miss her, and I question the usefulness of this much homework.  One thing, sure I can work with the kid for 30 minutes.  But four things, taking her over two hours to accomplish, and she is ahead of her grade in reading?!? Is this reasonable?  Is this normal?  What do I do?

Monday, November 11, 2013

Beep! Brussels Slide Show

I made this slideshow when we left Belgium but had problems with the music.  It seems to work at least in the US so I am posting it for those who want to see how much the kids changed in our last tour.  A little late but I want it on the blog.


Friday, November 08, 2013

Touching History

Today I chaperoned Stella's field trip to Mount Vernon.

Yes, they took 150 six year olds to George Washington's estate.  For those who are raising an eyebrow about the appropriateness of the activity to the age of the children, you are correct, keep your eyebrow raised.

I was in charge of 4 kids with another parent.  I thought we were lucky because we had four kids and two adults, and all four kids were girls.  Easy peasy.

The kids were bouncing off the walls the first five minutes we entered the estate, they were running, rolling down hills, and jumping.  End five minutes, end whatever sugar they ate on the bus, and one of my four girls decides she is tired, and decides to lay on the dirt road, and it is very cold and very windy, she just lays there like this music video:

Radiohead - Just by steveo_russianspy

We get her up, walk about 10 minutes more, the kid snoozes on benches, on trees, and finally I decide we need to stop walking.

(I would post pics but she isn't my kid, so sorry, but just imagine a very awkward situation where a kid is sleeping outside on a bench in cold weather with nasty wind).

So we go the museum.  One of the girls reaches for a gold leaf covered orb peace dove weather vane and touches it.  I run over screaming her name and saying no.  Then her eyes tear up.  I made a kid cry.  It was awful.  So to cheer them up I take them to this movie at the museum.  It was 15 minutes and it was about General Washington's victorious battles against the British.  It has guns, cannons, and very lifelike sound effects that come from under the seat.

The girls were terrified.  Sunny: 0 World: 1

Advice to Parents Sending Their Children on Field Trips

1.  FREAKING FEED YOUR CHILD, and not Halloween Crunch.  They need real filling food eggs, or oatmeal or something that will fill them so they don't have to eat my lunch, which is what happened today.

2.  FREAKING DRESS YOUR CHILD, it is cold, it is windy, please pack a coat and think about gloves, hats, and scarves.

3.  FREAKING PUT YOUR KID TO BED, having a kid walk like a zombie all day is not a fun for anyone.  Please make them go to bed before 8.