The words you’re not supposed to say

Most of us learn from a pretty young age that there are good words and bad words.  The “bad words” might be hidden from us at first, but eventually someone slips.  Probably while driving.  Or maybe a big kid shares them at school.  Eventually they come out from the shadows, and parents freak out.  Or at least, it seems like most parents do.  I don’t.

Frankly, I don’t swear very much myself.  But I know that other people do, and I don’t expect that I can keep such words hidden from my daughter for long.  Well, in all honesty, I haven’t even tried to keep them from her.  I shrug when my child-free friends apologize for dropping a “bad word” in front of my six-year-old.  Sometimes I’ll even say I’m less concerned about those words than I am the words that hurt people’s feelings.  If any words are bad, it’s the hurtful ones.

Maybe that sounds like some kind of hippie-tastic idealism, but this article echoes my opinion on it pretty well, and I have no doubt that my daughter, a word lover from a very young age, will continue to expand her vocabulary to include all sorts of words, inappropriate and otherwise.  From the article:

“Obviously, Shawn and I don’t want Gracie to walk up to her kindergarten teacher and ask where the bleep she can put her bleeping backpack. But we’re unconvinced that, say, when she gets to high school, she should get grounded for describing a bad day to us with words that help her to express herself.

Hopefully, Shawn and I will instill an expansive vocabulary and love of words in our daughter so that she won’t often need to resort to swearing.”

Turns out, there’s a picture book for this very situation (Isn’t there always?): The Very Inappropriate Word by Jim Tobin.   When Michael learns a new word on the school bus–never used in the book–he loves using it.  He loves words in general, and this one seems especially good.  How does his teacher handle the situation when the word gets around the classroom?  Some kind of punishment?  Washing his mouth out with soap?  Nope.  She send him to the library to find more words.

In the end, it was just one word among many.  That’s all.  No one was hurt in the speaking of the word.

inappword

There’s a more detailed write up about the book at Kirkus, and there’s a book trailer here. No matter how you decide to approach curse words in your family, give this book a chance.  It’s an opportunity to explore why words have the power they do in a way that doesn’t talk down to kids.  And that’s important no matter what words you’ve decided to use or not use.

Slowing Down & Looking Closely

“Let’s all slow down,” I said as I introduced one of my favorite picture books  in a recent presentation to a group of librarians and teachers.  I always seem to have a weakness for picture books that focus on little things.  Simplicity.  Patience.  Observation.

I suppose I wish my life were simpler and that I were more patient and observant.

I was reminded of how much I value slowness and observation as I listened to a recent episode of Pratfalls of Parenting in which visual artist Karen Kasel spoke of the role that slowing down played in her life and art–having kids forced her to slow down.  Now that her kids are school-aged, she wants to share the idea of slowing down and looking closely with them.  How do you convince a kid that slowness and patience are worth it when you have to compete with tech and all the other distractions we have?

I don’t know.  But I know that I would start with a few good picture books.

how-to ifyouwanttosee LittleBird

  • How To by Julie Morstad is one of my favorite picture books of the year for its look at the everyday beauty that we often overlook.
  • If You Want to See a Whale by Julie Fogliano is another good one for reorienting your perspective to the small joys.
  • Little Bird by Germano Zullo reminds us to cherish small things.

And for you?  Once you’ve let the picture books settle a bit, stop by the Hidden in Plain View exhibit–currently at the Minneapolis Central Library through October 26th–for several perspectives on everyday beauty from local photographers.  The exhibit is quiet and thoughtful.  The photographs contain people and places we’ve probably seen-but-not-seen a million times.  Here is your chance to stop, to remind yourself that there is much to see if we take the time to look.

hidden

Books, art, music.  These are my touchstones.  When I need to reorient my perspective to my values, I turn to these things.  How do you recharge?  What reminds you to live your values?

A Parent’s View of Summer Vacation

I'm Bored by Michael Ian Black

I’m Bored by Michael Ian Black

I spent most of my childhood bored.  I’m sure my mom would love to confirm that I complained of boredom a lot, but I’m not complaining today.

Looking back, I’m grateful for my youth spent in wide open play and exploration, and I sometimes feel like a defender of boredom in a world where kids seem too busy with classes and camps to just play.  Or at least, I did feel that way.

Preschool is over.  Kindergarten is months away.  As much as I loved coming home from work last week to my five year old’s exuberant claim that she “read books ALL day long!!!”  (There were at least three exclamation points.  Possibly more.) I am also nervous for next week when the novelty wears off–when the “I’m bored” sets in.

I’ve heard tell of a magical place in the middle of the “free range” and “planned” parenting styles.  I’ve even found a guide in this article by Asha Dornfest, author of Minimalist Parenting.  I especially like #9: “Challenge the fear of boredom.  Your kids’ boredom is irritating, not life-threatening. Don’t be afraid of it.”

Happy summer vacation, everyone. Here’s to facing our fears.  :)

 

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. A portion of purchases made through these links may benefit this blog.  Thanks for your support! :)

On the last day of spring break…

I’m typing next to my living room windows.  It is sunny outside, and there is a steady stream of bike and pedestrian traffic providing me with a soundtrack of conversational snippets as people pass.  It has been spring for weeks, but on a day like today, it feels like spring.

My five-year-old has already brought out her bicycle and played at the park today, and we’ve indulged her whims perhaps more than usual because she has only just returned from a week’s stay at her grandparents’.  A week is a long time to be away from your little one.  Although, I swear she doesn’t seem as little today as she did a week ago when my parents drove away with her.  Did she grow so much in six days?  She did lose another tooth while she was gone.  Perhaps that’s the difference I’m sensing.

I had big plans for those six days, and I only crossed about half of the items off my to-do list.  I always have such big dreams for my kid-free days, like the freedom of not having a little one trailing after me wherever I go (or arranging for her to follow someone else around for a while) will make anything possible.  In the end, though, it’s the little things that make me that happiest.  For example, I spent one evening lounging around reading while my husband was at band practice.  I was able to finish a whole book in an evening.  That used to be a common practice for me, but these days it’s pretty rare.

sigurrosIt wasn’t all small stuff this time though.  There were a couple of big events I was very happy I was able to attend.  The first was Sigur Ros at the Roy Wilkins Auditorium, and I do not feel like I am over-hyping the event by saying that it would be on my top ten concerts in 2013 list, if I were to make one.  It was my second time seeing them live, and it was just as amazing as it was back in 2005 at the State Theatre–though I will say that the theater seating was more comfortable than the general admission floor at the Roy Wilkins even if it does make me feel every bit of my age to admit that.  There are some photos and thoughts on the show here, and video a friend took from the show here for those that are interested.  Photos and video can’t really do justice to the experience though.  I wholeheartedly recommend seeing Sigur Ros live if you can.

The second big event for my kid-free week was a chance to give back to my community.  Mikey Max Heals the World is an annual birthday charity event that features local music and supports local causes.  This year the lineup featured some of my friends’ bands, and the charities were organizations I was very happy to support.  My personal highlight was Fort Wilson Riot, who have been featured on this blog several times before.  It had been way too long since I had seen them live.  They have been touring an awful lot in the past year.  Great for them, not so great for me.  In any case, they played a great set of their indie-pop awesomeness.

fortwilsonriot

I have yet to hear the final total of money raised for the charities, but there was a great turnout.  It is one show that I don’t mind when the audience gets a bit crowded.  I’ll endure a bit of crowding for the knowledge that we’re all there supporting organizations like the Neighborhood Involvement Program (provides health services for the uninsured), Perspectives (supports at-risk families trying to break the cycle of poverty), and the Chicago Avenue Project (a theater mentoring program).

Life gets back to normal tomorrow.  Fewer nights out, more time at the park.  That’s okay too.  There’s plenty of time to read while my girl bikes circles around me.  Maybe I’ll get through this book club pick yet…

cityofwomen

 

I might not make it out to all the shows that some of my childless (childfree?) friends do, but I can’t help but think it’s a good life.  :)

Friday Find: Pratfalls of Parenting

“We make cool stuff. We make people too. How has that affected you?  Along the way we try to stay creative types at the end of the day.” –The Pratfalls of Parenting theme song

pop-itunesI recently discovered the Pratfalls of Parenting podcast about life as a parent in the arts, and I’ve become a bit obsessed with the show.  I am far from being a working artist myself–that isn’t even on my map really–but that doesn’t matter.  The sense of camaraderie in the casual conversations between the artists in the podcast extends to the listener, and turns people whose names I see on advertisements for gallery shows or theater performances into real people whose struggles are not far off from mine.

All the interviews that I’ve listened to so far seem to circle back to the idea that you have to be you to be a good parent.  You might be able to put parts of you in the background at times, like when your kids are quite young, but you have to keep making things or whatever it is you are into.  For me that means writing and making zines.  For my husband, it means making music.  We’ve made these things priorities in our house, and it’s nice to know that there are other families out there who are making the same kinds of priorities we are.

But I don’t think you have to be some sort of artist to know the tension between keeping your pre-parent self alive and being a good parent, and I don’t think you have to be an artist to appreciate the Pratfalls of Parenting podcast.  For one thing, it’s a fascinating angle on the Twin Cities arts scene.  I’ve discovered so many artists and arts organizations in the few weeks I’ve been listening.  :)

Here are some of the highlights I’ve found so far:

  • Seniz Lennes (improvisor/actor/photographer) talks about parenting as part of her creative practice and the way that her work as an improvisor informs her parenting.  She blogs about this at Yes And Parenting.
  • Carolyn Swiszcz (painter/video maker) references children’s books as a great inspiration, and she mentions several illustrators in particular that she likes.  While I’m on the subject of books, I’ll also point out that Susannah Schouweiler mentions that having free reign of the library as a kid influenced her decision to become a writer and William Alexander (children’s book author) talks about writing, the book industry, and all sorts of other things kidlitgeeks like me love hearing about.
  • Jena Young  (comic/theater producer) brings up the topic of humor in that what is funny to kids is often not the same as what is funny to adults.  I wonder what she and host Levi Weinhagen (of all-ages theater company Comedy Suitcase) would think of my assessment of Kid Humor in picture books. ;)

I highly recommend the podcast to parents of all sorts, but especially to those who make stuff and make that a priority.

Princess Talk

I have a five year-old girl in my life, and it follows seemingly inevitably that princesses are also a part of my life. This is hardly the first time I’ve brought up princesses on this blog, and among parents of girls, the topic has been covered again and again.  Still we can never seem to resist a chance to talk princess with other parents, whether we love them or hate them.  So I listened eagerly (and added my two cents) to the MPR segment which had two dads giving their take on princess culture.

As an aside, does it seem like more dads are talking about parenting these days?  I hope so.  Parenting doesn’t have to be such a girls club.

Anyway, I think it was a caller who brought up the idea of redirecting the princess obsession with a little reality. Princesses don’t just wear pretty dresses and go to balls, and your young daughter might not have quite the same view of royal life after learning more about real princess life.  For the parents who decide to go that route (more power to you!), here are a couple of picture books you might want to slip into your bedtime story rotation:

princessintraining

 princessandthepeas

A peek inside Princess in Training

A peek inside Princess in Training

The Princess and the Peas by Caryl Hart – When Lili-Rose May won’t eat her peas the doctor declares that she must be a princess, so they send her off to the castle.  She’s very excited until she learns all the work that comes along with being a princess, and eating peas back home with her family doesn’t seem so bad after all.  (This might also be a good choice for picky eaters.)

Princess in Training by Tammi Sauer – Princess Viola just wants to be the darling of her kingdom, but she is no good at princess stuff like waving and dancing.  Her parents send her to Camp Princess to learn everything she needs to know.  Only she ends up saving the day with her non-princess skills and becoming the darling of her kingdom anyway.  (This one is a favorite in my house.)

Maybe one of these will change the perception of princesses in your house or at least vary the story up a bit.  Either way good luck to you.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.  Purchases made from these links may benefit this blog.  Thanks for your support. :)

If you only read one parenting book….

I have been reading parenting books for much longer than I’ve been a parent.  I guess I’ve always been a bit of a child development geek.  I probably should have majored in education or something similar, but when I was in college, there was no convincing me that I was not destined to be the next great novelist/poet on the literary scene.  I think every English major I knew had the same aspiration.

After college, I realized that I’d probably need a job while I waited for the writing dreams to materialize.  That’s where library school entered the picture, and that’s where I discovered children’s literature, which has since become my life’s passion.  So it all worked out, I’d say. :)

I still read a lot of parenting/child development books.  Now that I am a parent, I have a more practical reason for choosing them, but I’m still just generally interested in how kids think and how we as parents, educators, and random people might best interact with them.

daringgreatly

On that note, check out the Best Parenting Books of 2012 from Momma Data (one of my favorite parenting related blogs) for some great suggestions that get behind the headlines and dig into the facts.

My parenting book pick for 2012 isn’t even a parenting book.  It’s a self help book that I’d recommend to just about anyone regardless of whether they have children, but don’t let that deter you from reading Daring Greatly by Brene Brown as a parenting book.  You can skip to the chapter on Whole Hearted Parenting if you want or read a version of her words to parents published on the Huffington Post.

If nothing else, this:

“Who we are and how we engage with the world are much stronger predictors of how our children will do than what we know about parenting.”

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.  A portion of purchases made from these links may benefit this blog.  Thanks for your support!

In Search of Calm

Mindful Motherhood by Cassandra Vieten

Planting Seeds by Thich Nhat Hanh

I’ve written before of my discovery of mindfulness in a Library Journal review assignment of the book Mindful Motherhood.  Before I read that book, I never thought about my tendency to daydream or worry as anything I could (or should) change.   It was just me.  The idea that my thoughts and tendencies were not me–that I merely contain themwas revolutionary (to put it mildly), and I am always looking for ways to share that with my daughter.  Enter Planting Seeds: Practicing Mindfulness with Children by Thich Nhat Hanh.

Frankly, I waited forever on a library list for this book, and now that I’ve seen it, I just may have to purchase a copy for our family library.  I did the “Mind in a Jar” exercise with Ladybug as a way of illustrating that we contain our thoughts and feelings.

We started with a jar of water. What do you think about when you wake up in the morning? Sprinkle in a bit of rice.

Soon the jar was full of the thoughts and feelings of the day, which we stirred up.  When we stopped stirring, the water slowed and eventually stopped.   As the rice settled, we talked about our thoughts settling with our breath.  Ladybug was attentive to the activity, but she seemed to know where I was going already.  It wasn’t revolutionary to think about being in charge of your thoughts or using deep cleansing breaths to keep calm or clear your mind.  There was a teeny-tiny part of me that was disappointed.  I wanted to blow her mind with this news that was so huge for me.  But I think it’s probably a good thing that this wasn’t news to my four-year-old.

I think it’s time to take it to the next level.  Next up: Pebble Meditation.

You can read more about the book in this review from First the Egg.

Disclosure: Amazon.com links are affiliate links. A portion of purchases made via these links earns a commission for this blog. Thanks for your support!

On being a different-looking mother

I  read a book recently that focused on mothering with a disability, which included an essay written by a woman with one arm–just like me.  (I should note, though, that she lost her arm as an adult, which I imagine is quite different from my congenital deficiency.)  She wrote that caring for a baby one-handedly was very difficult for her. Her husband admitted that he had never thought of his wife as disabled until he saw her struggling with the baby.  That comment made me pause.  I didn’t feel disabled as the mother of a baby.  I changed diapers, breastfed, bottle-fed, and everything else all with just one and a half arms without feeling like I was missing anything. But occasionally I would see pictures of me holding my daughter that would make me double take.  Is that really how it looks?  How do I do it?

Now that my baby isn’t a baby anymore, we have new challenges to navigate.  Like this: We were baby-sitting a little girl, two-years-old, who was a little afraid of my little arm sans prosthesis.  She backed away if I sat next to her and wouldn’t come close.  My daughter noticed right away. She said, “I know it seems like an owie, but it isn’t.  It’s just regular.”  She grabbed my little arm affectionately to mark her point.  It seemed to set our little friend at ease, but it caught me by surprise.

I suppose all kids end up explaining their parents to other kids at some point, but there was something off-putting to me to see my daughter be my interpreter of sorts at such a young age.

I tend to like to think of the experience of having a parent who is physically different in an idealistic way.  The picture book Mama Zooms is a lovely glimpse of a mother and son playing happily despite her wheelchair.  I love the book, and I recommend it often for its look at the possibilities with a positive focus.

There are times, though, that I worry about the potential negatives my daughter will face as she finds herself explaining me probably almost as much as I end up explaining myself.  How will she adapt to a world in which many of her peers will be curious or fearful of her mother’s difference?

I know what it is like to be me, but I wonder what it will be like to be her.

Read more about my thoughts on motherhood in the zine Will There Be Smoking? Or read about my prosthetic arm on Fake Arm 101.

Disclosure: Amazon.com links are affiliate links. A portion of purchases made via these links earns a commission for this blog.  Thanks for your support!

Playing Games (Ready for Kindergarten)

As promised, this month’s Ready for Kindergarten theme is “Games.”  What’s so great about games?

  • Board games and card games teach social skills like following rules and taking turns.
  • Guessing games and riddles help kids make connections and think creatively.
  • Many games reinforce concepts like color recognition, counting etc.

Playing hopscotch at the MN Children’s Museum’s Our World exhibit

I feel a tiny bit hypocritical writing this post because I… well, I’m probably never going to pull Candy Land (possibly the only kids’ game we own) out unless my daughter really wants to play.  Are there adults who really relish kids’ games the way I love kids’ books?  Perhaps.  But I will admit that my interest in child oriented entertainment does not really extend to board games.

I do, however, play lots of silly games as I ride the bus with my daughter or wait in lines.  I Spy and Rhyme Time are great ways to pass the time, teach skills, and sometimes amuse people sitting near us on the bus. :)

My favorite game to play with my preschooler is “What if?”  I usually start with a random question–say, What if we were tiny like the Littles?–and we speculate together on how our lives would be affected by the situation in the question.  I like the think that this game stimulates her creativity and helps her look at the world with different eyes.  Perhaps when she grows up to be an innovative thinker, she will point to the What if? game as her inspiration for her life’s work of inventing or creating.

And just because I can’t help bringing books into everything, I’ve started a list on my wiki for picture books that are guessing games or interactive in some way.  Feel free to leave any suggestions in the comments of this post.  I’ll be sure to add them to my list!

What kind of games do you play with your kids?  Do you play with skills or school readiness in mind? 

See more posts for Parents & Educators here or follow my Kids Activities & Education Board on Pinterest for more preschool fun.

Disclosure: Amazon.com links are affiliate links. A portion of purchases made via these links earns a commission for this blog. Thanks for your support!