Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The black egg

I really hope this post does not stir up an unintentional can of worms.... If you choose to comment, which I will enjoy, please do so with thought.

So I have this post I want to write. I was going to include a picture, but in my infinite organizational skills, I have since lost the black egg. So imagine if you will.....

A wooden flat egg shape on the end of a wooden stick so it becomes a "puppet". The wood is blank and meant to be colored and designed upon. My three year old colored it yellow and pink and then recolored it black, his favorite color.

My five year old and three year old built a "theatre" out of Duplo blocks and began an egg and bunny puppet show. It was cute. They were making up voices for the puppets. And I was doing the dishes. Everyone was occupied. Until I almost dropped a dish.

My five year old daughter with her pink and purple colored egg said the words: "Your BLACK egg can't be in the puppet show, it is UGLY!"  I was raw with emotion.

How did my five year old say such an ignorant and yes, stupid,  remark? HOW? She has grown up in a diverse area. She knows all races, all religions, all differences. She says often that she wishes she had brown skin because "it's so pretty".

I grew up in Prince George's County and then outside of Columbia, MD. I understand and have lived in relevant harmony of all races, religions and genders. I have been told that I am ignorant because I grew up in a utopia society. That I didn't know how the real world worked with race. But the thing is, I did understand. I just chose to rise above it. I chose to not care about the color of someone's skin or what holidays they observe. I chose not to make stereotypes.

When I became an educator, I was made aware of discrimination and racial bias, and how prevalent it still is in many ways. But it all doesn't make sense to me. Why and how can a teacher or a person see another person or kid and say "that person is lower in education or status because of their skin color". It doesn't make sense.

Circumstances help to create a person or student, but they are not the only thing that helps create the person. Circumstances change. People change. While it was educational for me as an teacher to become aware of the struggles in the past and the racial bias in the present, I often wonder when, as a nation, are we going to move forward? When will will it make sense to everyone that judging someone by their skin color does not make any sense at all?

Back to the puppet show.... It turned out that when I confronted my daughter about her exclusionary statement, and began the lecture on how the color doesn't matter, it turns out she just thought the egg should have been colored pink or yellow, you know for Easter and spring.  The black color was grim and ugly for an egg. And hence why she looked at me like a crazy person when I put it in context of racial issues.  Nevertheless, it got me thinking. And she now tolerates that her brother's favorite color is black..... And it's ok because it's a boy color.

And here goes the gender stereotype conversation......

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Laugh or drive yourself to the loony bin. AKA: Motherhood

Today, my mother and I took my two children (ages 3 & 5 )  and my daughters friend, age 6 , to see The Muppets Most Wanted. It was a rollicking tale, one that emitted guffaws and slap stick humor. But it paled in comparison to the humor of my day with my children. Because when it gets this crazy, you have to laugh or drive yourself to the loony bin.

Lets start out by saying this: the weather is wacky here. It was 80 degrees and gorgeous two days ago. Today, it was 65 degrees and pouring rain at 9 am and it has been raining all day. And the temperature is dropping. It is now 5:30 pm and 40 degrees. I tell you this because maybe it is a possible reason for the insanity of my world today.

My three year old, D, has been horribly oppositional and stubborn lately. He is three, after all.  Last night he asked for cheese and bread for dinner. (My kids are less culinary than an ant). After asking him three times if he was sure that is what he wanted to eat and him replying yes each time, I made him a plate with bread, and circle (provolone) cheese. He promptly didn't touch either.

Guess what he got for breakfast? Cheese and bread. Guess what he ate? Bread. The cheese went in the refrigerator. No snacks, including popcorn later at the movies, until the cheese was eaten. He waited until 12:30pm, when we were in line to get the popcorn, to gobble it up. Can we say stubborn? It took him 18 hours to eat a piece of cheese.

On our way out the door to go to the movies, D had to bring toys with him.  This is because every time he goes anywhere, he has to bring a bucket of toys with him. (Including when he goes upstairs) I told him he could bring two toys. Two small toys. He chose a digger and a Batmobile. He could barely carry the Batmobile and digger. But I refused to carry them.

 Just prior to getting snacks at the movies, we all go into the bathroom. As we are entering,  there are three children playing with the hand dryers. These are SUPER hand dryers. They are louder than a 747 plane taking off and they were continuously setting them off. My kids were all covering their ears and I, with complete judgement,  looked at the children and their mom who was coming out of the stall with the stink eye.

Ironically, as I am helping my son go potty (newly potty trained), I hear the squeals of two little girls and the hand dryer being set off repeatedly. And I notice those squeals immediately and begin to yell, "STEP AWAY FROM THE DRYER!" Which is futile because these dryers are so loud, I can't even hear myself yelling.

We go into the movies and find a seat. We have successfully wrangled three kid trays of overflowing popcorn, fruit snacks and gallon sized kidde drinks of fruit punch, two small popcorns and two small drinks, tickets, and three small kids into seats.

Let me go back to the kiddie drinks for a minute. WHY are they so huge? I get the adult drink sizes (not the cost) but the size of the kids fountain drink is about 32 oz. (I don't actually know but that is what it looks like).  How does 32 oz of red dyed liquid fit into a child's bladder without having to go to the bathroom 20 times during the movie? HOW?

For a while, everything was great. We didn't have a lot of time before the movie started. Everyone was happily stuffing their mouths with popcorn. Then my son slugged half the drink. I thought it would a good idea to take him to the potty. We go and he doesn't have to go. Ok. Sure you don't, kid.

We go back to our seats. He wants to sit on me and cuddle. Cute. 20 minutes later. Girl 1 has to go potty. My mom takes her. Girl 2 decides she has to go too and runs after her. Then my son decides he has to go too. I meet my mom in the hallway and send her back into the theatre. Girls do their business, D goes drip drip (he has now had 24 Ozs of liquid) and pronounces he is done.
 "Are you sure?" I say. "Yes!" He says, annoyed I asked the question.

We return to the theatre. 20 min later. It is now the end of the movie. D: "I have to go potty now!" We rush off to the bathroom. He gets on. And......

It shoots out so fast it sprays everywhere. On me, the floor, his clothes and because he bends over to "aim", it went right into his mouth. (I am not gonna lie, I felt mild justice with that.) Now this how I know I am a mom: first, I wipe his mouth, then i wipe the floor, then I change his clothes. I still have pee on my leg, mind you. The extra pair of pants in his backpack are wet because they were against the open wipe container. The only other pair of pants were shorts and pull ups. Because for some reason, I forgot underwear. The whole time I am changing him, I am yelling at him to not walk to the wet area where I wiped the pee. After changing him I look at the drops of pee on my jeans. There are no paper towels. Only the insane hand dryer.

I get water on my hand try to wipe my jeans and pray it doesn't smell.

Time to meet the girls and my mom outside of the movie theatre. Movie is over.  Girls have to go potty. My mom takes them into the potty. D sees a picture opportunity with The Muppets stand up advertisement and wants to go to it immediately. There are other people taking a picture with it and I tell him to wait until the girls come out. He drops to the ground in protest. I am carrying two backpacks and trying to pick him up. I decide to leave him on the floor. I bribe him and tell him he won't get a lollipop from my mom's house. He shapes up quickly. Girls come out. Picture is taken. We go back to my mom's house. After playing quietly for a bit, we leave. It's now 46 degrees, my son is in shorts, and it is pouring outside.

We get home and he decides he is going to take forever to get out of the car and walk to the house. He decided to jump in the puddles in his shorts. Therefore, I get soaking wet. Which didn't really matter because I had to change my pants anyhow. And then when I was putting long pants on him, he hugged me and kissed my neck with his previously pee stained lips.

I love him, but man he exhausts me.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Tracking the trains

It was a GORGEOUS day today. Clear skies, in the 80's, sun shining, light breeze, flowers blooming, birds chirping, beautiful day. My husband had recently heard of the bridge over the Germantown train  tracks. The bridge is in "Old Town Germantown".  On a whim, we decided to take the kids there and try to spot some trains.

As we walked on the bridge, I noticed some paint peeling, uneven concrete and lights that were disconnected.  My son, daughter and her friend were excited with anticipation. We looked and watched and I began to notice "graffiti" around the bridge. It was clear that the bridge had been painted fresh white but the graffiti was left to admire. More on the graffiti in a bit.
My daughter and her friend waiting
for the next train.

We only had to wait a couple of minutes to see the first train. It was a shorter diesel train and as it ran directly below us at a high speed we could feel the hot air rush onto our bare legs, the smell of diesel pungent in the air and the roar of the train driving through every cell in our bodies. The girls were exhilarated. My husband was electrified. I was alive with this new experience. My son, was scared. I think he was confused as to why he was scared. He LOVES trains. But I think this one was a bit too close for comfort for him. As we waited for another train, he clung to his father and I.

Back to the graffiti. I realize that I live in the suburbs. I realize that "graffiti" in my town isn't exactly urban. However, I really loved this graffiti. It was perfect in every way. And I began to wonder what the world would look like if there was graffiti like this everywhere.
Live life with no regrets

The first graffiti that I saw said simply: "Live life with no regrets."  I began to wonder about the person who wrote it. Did they have regrets? Were they contemplating jumping off the bridge onto the tracks? Were they walking to their car after getting off the train? Regardless, it made me stop. And think.

We can not run from who we are...
Our destiny chooses us 
What is your destiny? Do you even know what your destiny is yet?

And I have posted a few more below:

But how cool would it be if there were thoughts like these all over to get people thinking and talking?

So here is a question to you: What would you write? How would you get someone thinking?
Be honest
Be True to Yourself
Call someone you haven't talked
to in a while

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Hitting the books

First, I want to apologize for the lack of posts this week. I have been super busy with the kids and with my grandfather's passing... The funeral is this week, therefore I am hoping to get into the swing of things after this coming week.

My daughter recently got her first library card too!
I remember when I was younger, I used to love to go to the library. My brother was in school (he's five years older than I am), my mom would take me to the local library, and I would fill up my bag with books.

I got my library card at an early age and I used it frequently. I would devour books by the bagful and always wanted to go right back for more. Around the age of 11, my love of reading halted.

nkotb photo: NKOTB NKOTB-300px.jpg
Joey was my favorite
I am not really sure why. Perhaps it was my new love of boys and the phone. Maybe listening to New Kids on The Block and cutting out pictures of NKOTB from Tiger Beat magazine filled up my time too much.

In high school, I was really good at bullish**ing my way through essays and book reports. I rarely read a book. I was too busy rehearsing for a show, reading plays and learning my lines. My friends took the priority and being alone was a scary state. I recall reading and enjoying I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou. The topics were adult and shocking to me. As a teenager, it spoke to me. Many years later, I read the rest of her memoirs. Her writing is exquisite. Her words flow off the page in poetic storytelling in a way that makes my brain tingle with emotion. 

It wasn't until college when I started to read for pleasure again. I began with some Oprah Book Club books and continued on reading ever since. When I became a teacher, I remembered my fondness for Children's books. 

Children's books versus Adult books are like Twitter is to Facebook. You have to be succinct, clear and get the point across in a short amount of text. There is beauty in the simplicity of the words. Every word has expensive real estate on the page. 

There is also the illustrations that accompany the book that help to make the story come alive. The illustrations have to be magical and colorful for their audience has a fast attention span. 

Recently, My husband and I were on a date. After dinner, we went to a book store (one of our favorite date night events) and browsed around. I decided to go to the children's book section and catch up on a few new titles. 

I was really looking forward to reading "The Day the Crayons Quit" by Drew Daywalt. I also picked up another book which looked interesting. The book about the Crayons was cute, funny and I immediately saw the value of using it to teach point of view and perspective in my future classroom. 

The other book I picked up was phenomenal. The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore by William Joyce is a GORGEOUS book. The illustrations are unique and engaging. The story is deep, entertaining and beautiful. The book is about a man and the circle of life as told in the "circle of books" (in other words, how you can own books but when you go away from them, they make magic in another person's heart)  

I vowed to purchase the book and find out more about the author. When I began to do research about William Joyce I became excited. He has several websites, the one for The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore is Not only was The Fantastic Flying Book of Mr. Morris Lessmore made into a short film that earned an Academy Award, he is the author of the famous Rolie Polie Olie series. He is also the man behind the movies, Epic and Rise of the Guardians

He has a new series out now, The Guardians of Childhood, that chronicles the backgrounds of each of the holiday icons like the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus. His website,  is informative and entertaining as well. If you are unfamiliar with his work, check it out, no matter what age you are, you won't regret it.

To keep up with my profession and because I enjoy them, I try to alternate my reading between adult books, Young Adult Novels and Children's Books.

Do you have a favorite Children's book? Were you an avid reader as a child?

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Moving backwards

"I can't get the wipes, I keep moving backwards."

Said my son, age 3.

He is cute and he knows it. 

He has been having a lot of difficulty over the last 6 months with the baby to "big boy" transition.   He is the baby of the family (on both sides) and I believe that outgrowing that is really perplexing to him. That being said, with potty training and various other "big boy" steps, he is moving forward to being a big boy. But honestly, he will ALWAYS be my baby. And I would be lying if my heart didn't cringe a bit every time I utter the words: " You CAN do ... you are a BIG BOY!"


There are times when he is laying on the ground and he says "I can't get up" or walking up the steps "I can't walk" or getting the wipes "I keep moving backwards" that a larger part of me wants to laugh at his attempt at staying a baby.

The other day when he told me he kept moving backwards, I couldn't stop thinking of those words. First of all the phrase was hilarious. Second it REALLY got me thinking.

What is the rush? Why are we trying to move forward so much? Why do we say "Don't live in the past"?

When D was a baby he would curl up on my chest and immediately be at peace. He still does that but it's just his head. I don't want to move forward to the point when that is awkward...

When he was a baby he used to eat EVERYTHING. Now he eats five foods. I sure would like to keep moving backwards on that issue.

When he was younger, he would take naps, and although I still get an occasional quiet time from him, the naps are gone and the quiet time is fleeting.

My grandfather passed away last week. You can read all about my relationship with him here: Twinkle. He was an amazing man with an amazing life. Like many people of his generation, he did not bother to grasp the technology of the internet and using a cell phone was a stretch. He was a member of the "Greatest Generation".

I recently reread his memoirs and in it I was struck by the simplicity of life. It took his family three weeks to move from Minnesota to Maryland. There weren't highways at that time, there were "illegal" toll roads and there were 7 of them in a car. together. for 3 weeks. I can't even imagine how that would have played out. They didn't have iPads, DVDs or Mp3 players. There were 7 of them in a car. together. for 3 weeks.

My grandparents grew up in the Depression. They were simple even when didn't need to be. It was important to get iceberg lettuce. It didn't matter that it lacked nutritional content compared to the other lettuces. It lasted a long time and served a good base for a salad. The blankets, though threadbare, were "perfectly fine" and still warm. Therefore, no need to buy a new one.  Books will keep you company and a good comic strip will provide a laugh. A basket of chocolate (The same type for 30 years: Mr. Good Bar) is perfectly suitable for a special treat.

My grandparents in the 1940's
My grandfather's girlfriend (yep my 93 year old Grandfather had a girlfriend) would save things for his great grandchildren. When we came to visit she would give each child something. Her manner of presentation of the "gift" was so sweet and kind that it was as if they were touching gold. She gave my daughter address labels that came in junk mail. We had left them behind at the retirement home. My daughter cried the whole way home.

Today, we were leaving a park and my daughter's friend stopped, moved backwards and said "I have to pick those flowers for my mom!" (They were flower weeds) I started to protest. I started to open my mouth and say "no, come on, it's time to go" but I stopped myself. Find the joy in those flowers. Pick them for someone special.

So, maybe its not such a big thing to keep moving backwards. We can learn from it. We can be in awe and savor the special and simple moments.

As technology grows I am in awe as to what we can create and learn. As a soon to be teacher (again), I am astounded at how children will be able to grow up with the digital world at their fingertips. But I hope and pray they stop and pick some flowers too.