Thursday, December 20, 2012

Keeping the Christmas Spirit Alive

It has been a week since the Sandy Hook shootings, and like many, I still find myself reeling from the devastation that this has caused. It is a source of a river of pain that branches out infinitely, flowing endlessly and in every direction.

I have cried. I choked out the words to my husband while he was in the bathroom – dreading hearing myself say them out loud – picking that precise moment where we would (almost) be guaranteed privacy. I have cried at inopportune times. I have cried and then had to make up pithy excuses for my crying jag to my children. I have cried in sympathy for those parents, who realised that their children’s last moments were possibly spent in terror. And there was nothing they could have done, no ‘Life is Beautiful’ game they could have played to spare them from the terrible reality of what was about to happen. I have cried about the fierce maternal instinct of those teachers, some of who weren’t even mothers, but who defended their students like a mother bear would her cubs. I have cried thinking about the parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles who will have to look at Christmas gifts they bought for their little angels.

I have managed to shelter my children from what has happened; I don’t know in America if I would have been lucky enough to have that choice, and my heart aches for those parents who would have liked to do the same for their young children, but weren’t able to: an event like this owns you and the general population, and it would be nearly impossible not to offer some explanation for the palpable sadness. It would be seen on faces of people in Dunkin Donuts, in line at the ATM, waiting for Santa photos.

Although everyone is devastated by this tragedy, when you live with a six-year-old kindergarten student, it makes it all the more real. My six-year old is the funniest person in the house, often without meaning to be. He asks questions like, ‘Do Scottish people wear pants now?’ He thinks Santa needs to get some Chinese elves, so that he can keep up with the demand for electronic goods. He thinks his snacks taste better from a blue bowl. His world is Lego, playing cowboys and getting lost in picture books. The joy of parenting reaches unseen heights when you have a six-year-old, when even they can finally laugh at the demands and frustrations of their own ancient history of toddlerhood. Adam Lanza was a six-year-old once.

While it is impossible to make sense of any of this, and questions emerge about the issues of mental health and gun control, I continue to be moved by the small and not-so-small acts of kindness that are emerging. These, too, flow out like a river, and may these acts of kindness continue until they reach the depth of the oceans. Mr Rogers tells us to ‘Always look for the helpers.’ This is God’s work, this is the Christmas spirit. Hug not just your babies tight this season, but everyone you can.

God Bless.

Dedicated to the families of Charlotte Bacon, Daniel Barden, Rachel Davino, Olivia Engel, Josephine Gay, Ana M. Marquez-Greene, Dylan Hockley, Dawn Hocksprung, Madeline F. Hsu, Catherine Hubbard, Chase Kowalski, Jesse Lewis, James Mattioli, Grace McDonnell, Ann Marie Murphy, Emily Parker, Jack Pinto, Noah Pozner, Caroline Previdi, Jessica Rekos, Avielle Richman, Lauren Russeau, Mary Sherlach, Victoria Soto, Benjamin Wheeler, Allison N. Wyatt

Sunday, November 25, 2012

There's pain, and then there's Lego pain...

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And tonight's punishment for those who misbehave will be:  Walk across this Lego forest.  Blindfolded.

Fun with Phonics

Clever 'sh' words for six year olds?
 This is an actual excerpt from Ted's phonics book.  The idea was to come up with as many words as possible starting with 'sh'.  One friend commented, 'Should we be worried when they get to the 'ck' page?'

Some people may find the teacher comment disturbing...Frankly, after a day with 28 kindergarteners, it's a wonder she can even hold a pen, much less read...

My mother would say this is karmic payback for my flagrant disregard fpr the rules of Scrabble: eg, no abbreviations, slang, foreign words...and of course, no swearing.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Home with a sick child

Having had a bad run of sicknesses this winter (including some that I thought only occurred in Victorian novels: sweating, hallucinations/dreams, fevers, etc), I thought we were at the end of it all when spring in the the southern hemisphere finally arrived. 

But no.

Yet another bout came on Friday:
(Phone ringing)
Me: Hello?
School lady: Kelly? It's Judy.  Ned's just vomited all over the classroom floor. (Curtly) Can you come and get him please?
Me: Just after I finish my round of golf.  I'm on the back nine as we speak.

Anyone with a child in school knows that you under NO circumstances piss-off the lovely Admin ladies that keep the whole school ticking over.  If she says you're missing a sick note, you write one on your last check if you have to.  If she says come now, you come now, even if George Clooney has just bought a bottle of Cristal Rose for the two of you to share.  Luckily, I was close by, because vomiting + classroom full of students = evacuate the biohazard area ASAP and quarentine for the lucky vomiter.

I hope this is the end.  My weekend was spent washing sheet, towels, clothes, bodies and hands, OH! the hands.  My hands do not look like they've been soaking in Palmolive, but in lye. (Can you botox your hands?) The house is wiped out of disinfectant. Let's hope I've contained whatever this is.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

My Life With Ethel

Seven is the age of reason, as the saying goes, and as it turns out, with good reason:

‘In Medieval times, court apprenticeships began at 7; so too did apprenticeships at the time of the Guilds, and in English Common Law, children under 7 were not considered responsible for their behaviour. The Catholic Church offers first Communion at about age 7; it's also when formal schooling begins in most societies.’ (Brodkin)

I have to say, as a parent of a seven year old, it is a wonderful age. I have noticed a palpable shift in our relationship this year: it’s still mother-and-daughter, but I can see a little glint of true friendship sparking just beneath the surface.

Seven for many kids, in addition to being the age of reason, is also around the time that they really start to become aware of their talents. They start to realise that maybe they are crap at sports, but man, can they decoupage. Ok, they can only draw stick figures, but they can beat Grandma at checkers. Every time. What’s better: they start to become okay with that. Phew. What a milestone from a parenting perspective. (This is also why not everyone needs a trophy for every activity at the end of the season – it’s no longer developmentally appropriate – but that’s another topic entirely.)

I suppose most parents start to tune in to their child’s talents and abilities much sooner than the child himself actually does – hence, the age of reason. In my case, I was certainly aware of where Eva’s potential interests, or perhaps even talents, might lie: considering that her life has been ‘one big dramatic performance up to this point,’* I knew that channelling that into children’s theatre would be a good thing. And I’m happy to report that it has been. Eva’s most recent role (in addition to the daily performances she gives around here) has been the tortoise in ‘The Tortoise and the Hare’. She’s got an outlet, I get to see the good side of this ability and it’s cheaper than therapy. We’re both happy.

But there is another, ahem, ‘talent’ that lends itself well to her inborn theatrical abilities, and that is Eva’s singing. Her love of singing didn’t come as any surprise, since she would sing whatever she could from a very young age, eg, ‘I’m puuuttttin’ on my UNNNdeeeeeeesss now, UNNNdeeeeeeeesss now…!’ She writes songs – not that she has any knowledge of writing music, but she’ll have a bank of lyrics ready for when she does. In fact, her singing has become so constant, I don’t know how she is able to contain her urge for the six-and-a-half hour school day. Sometimes I feel like I’m trapped in one long, plotless musical, the only escape from which is her bedtime.

I wouldn’t really call myself a fan of the genre of musical theatre either – in my experience, I just start to get into the story, just start to care about the characters and they lose me by bursting suddenly into song: I get it already, I feel your pain, you don’t need to supplement your current crisis with song. Really.

Most recently, (the gods clearly have a sense of humour) Eva’s singing has taken on this big-voiced Ethel Merman-esque quality. Every number has to be big, big, big. It’s like I’m trapped in a Cole Porter hell, although she does do a mean cover of Amy Winehouse’s ‘Rehab.’ Occasionally, mid-number, I ask Eva a question I have no interest in knowing the answer to, just to break her from her reverie. I’ve even had to introduce a few rules, like ‘No singing at the dinner table’. Sometimes, she drives her brothers crazy with the singing, and I have to be Switzerland, even though I, too want to scream, ‘Will you PLEASE just give the show tunes a freakin’ break already?!?!’

It’s funny, but as any parent will tell you, they are born who they are. Parents guide, encourage, nurture, expose to opportunity, and perhaps most important of all – tolerate. After all, ‘Everything’s Coming Up Roses.’

*(This quote is actually taken from my friend Linda’s imagined response to the question, ‘Does your child have any experience with drama or in theatre? on her own daughter’s camp application. Thanks, Lin!)

Read the full article ‘The Age of Reason’ by Adele M Brodkin, PhD, at

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Returning from afar

Well, I must be the world's laziest blogger. Unfortunately, in the blogger's universe, they don't give awards for that. Aside from 'technical difficulties' I experienced with accessing my own blog (aaarrrrrgggghhhhh), I began to rethink it all: should I bother? I almost have three school-aged children and my rantings of life at home seem to be a part of another era. I have taken most of a year off from doing entries with any sort of regularity. And what a year it has been - but let's face it, they're all eventful in their own way. Perhaps the biggest challenge for me this year (which also accounts for my lack of blogging) has been the return to work. It certainly adds another layer of responsibility and time management. My house has cerainly never looked worse. And you know what: I don't care. It's not that I'm apathetic, it's just that I've stopped agonising over the little things so much. Ok, I've lowered my expectations. My parenting goals are: keep 'em clean, keep 'em fed, keep 'em clothed and keep the peace. And for now, that is going to have to be enough! Stay tuned, proper blogs will appear at random...