Saturday, October 24, 2009

Child Development Discussion Group

Right before school started I sent out an e-mail with a proposal (see end of post).

Fast forward to last Monday:
For a bit, it looked like I might have four or five people attending, but life and continuing education and spouse's work got in the way. Nevertheless, we stayed with the proposed date, and are eager to continue. We kicked off the book club with a small but earnest group--Kindergarten parent Erica Herman, 1st grade parent Andrew Draper, and Maria and Ian McGrath. It was an entertaining discussion, drawing not only from NurtureShock and recent buzz about "free-range kids," but from old chestnuts such as How to Talk So Kids Will Listen, discipline-based tomes like 1-2-3- Magic, and somewhat more obscure (to me) books such as Other People's Children.
We wondered whether PS 9 might be able to incorporate anything from the successful Tools of the Mind program that Bronson and Merryman talk about, and floated several choices for the next discussion. We would like to meet again, with a few more people, and we could either continue to discuss NurtureShock, or tackle a new book such as Carl Honore's Under Pressure or Rafe Esquith's new book, Lighting Their Fires.

Subject: New research on praise and lying - reading group?
Hi all,
Above is a link to an interview with Po Bronson, who wrote an article in
New York magazine a few years ago about why certain praise can be
detrimental to kids, especially in an academic setting. Now, since I've
become a parent, one of my favorite genres to read has been child
development, from How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids
Will Talk
to Einstein Never Used Flashcards,
to Nation of Wimps,
Packaging Girlhood,
The Trouble with Boys,
and even The Narcissism Epidemic.
I know I tend to try to pass on vignettes from these books, sometimes,
but what I'd really love is to hear others' opinions, too.

Anyway, just in case any of you all are as fascinated with this area as
I am, I wanted to offer to host a monthly (?) discussion of some
of the new literature, at my house, if there's any interest.
Tentatively, since September is so crazy, I'd say let's meet Monday
evening, October 19, to discuss Nurtureshock.

Monday, May 25, 2009


It's been a jam-packed Memorial Day weekend, and we even managed to see a parade. Somehow we got the whole clan out our door by 7:15, and on the 8:11 to Maplewood (kids ride free). We got to see Coco's best friend march by with her Brownie troop, then missed the duck races in favor of hanging out in and around their house. I can kind of see the logic in Ian's argument for a back yard, but I'm not ready to give up apartment living and the wonderful things we're close to just yet. (And when I do, we'll still stay in Brooklyn, somehow.)
On the train back, which was a fairly empty double decker, the five of us were hoping we could get the seats in the two-facing-two configuration, but both of those seats were taken up by relatively young women with their big bags and their feet up on the other seats, chatting away on cell phones. They looked at the five of us blankly, then continued to talk to their (absent) friends. Ian sat next to Coco, and I sat next to Washington in front of them, and each of us gave the speech that apparently the other passengers never got from their parents. To wit: If you are traveling alone, leave the group seats for groups of people. Now, on the subway back into Brooklyn, several people got up to make room so that my tired four-year-old boy and I (who had the baby in a sling) could sit down. While I was expecting, and when I wear the baby now, I am offered a seat on the subway or bus at least 95% of the time, usually without my even looking at the people sitting. Often, Maria Louise is calmer if I stand, or we're only going one stop, and I have to insist to people that I don't need them to get up. Now, it's tempting to make this into a suburbs vs. city thing, but I've seen thoughtless behavior on the subway too, though not nearly as often.
As one of my favorite podcasters, the Modern Manners Guy, says, manners means not assuming that you are more important than other people. I want my kids to grow up with excellent manners, especially on public transit, and I hope they will.

Monday, February 9, 2009


Last Monday night was on of the true high points of my life as a knitter and a parent:
Coco finally decided to try knitting this summer, starting with the kitchner stitch. (Her contrarian nature is such that if it is supposed to be easy and she can't get it right away, she refuses to keep trying, but if I tell her it's complicated and hard for some, she's got to try it.) She wanted to make something for her baby sister of course, so I decided on the Mason-Dixon mitred square dishcloth, which I love because it turns out to be a square, but it's not boring. She managed the first three quarters of the square, with me casting on and picking up stitches for her, but we hadn't had time to sit down so I could show her the sl1, k2tog, psso double decrease, which I was afraid would frustrate her.
Anyway, on Monday evening, partly because the beastly cold means we can't go to the playground, she had finished all her homework before supper. Ian had a meeting, so after Washington went to bed, she went and got the knitting and said, "Show me the last part."
We sat together on the sofa, and of course she caught on to the double decrease in a flash; then, there we were in a quiet, cozy house, sitting side by side, each working on a project (I'm almost done with the first Bristow sleeve), and just chatting. Now, just being able to sit and knit is pretty blissful, but equally wonderful is a leisurely, agenda-free conversation with my oldest daughter, in which I wasn't trying to get her to hurry up or do something. (Actually, part of the time we were discussing Gail Carson Levine's book Fairest, which we had recently read together and which is quite a clever riff on the old Snow White fairy tale and extremely thought-provoking on the topic of what makes someone beautiful and what sacrifices beauty may or may not merit.) Finally, there was the added satisfaction of watching just what a skillful knitter my daughter has become. Admittedly, she still pulls things a bit tight, but she can really churn out the garter stitch rows, and is now even able to pick the stitches back up without panicking if they slide off the needle.
Because of the nature (and small size) of the last square, it was finished just in time, and of course big sister was dying to give it to little sister right away, but the baby was asleep, another factor contributing to our undisturbed knitting time. However, just before Coco went to bed, Marly did wake up, all smiles as usual, and when Coco handed her the little washrag, her face lit up even more and she shook it all around and gripped it with both hands and babbled about it, so that the three of us girls were generally bursting with happiness and love for each other.

So anyway, that's my little pearldrop of a moment to carry around and think about when the big girl won't get out of bed on time or won't take a lunch to school or when the little girl is feverish and so clingy that I can't knit or even when I myself have done something disappointing like lost my temper with Washington or failed to add a leafy green component to supper yet again. It's my talisman and my reminder of how rewarding this parenting business can really be, and I'm so thankful.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Paradise Postponed

I picked this gem off a free shelf way back when I worked at Penguin Putnam (so long ago that they've changed the name of the company). I knew I liked John Mortimer, because of his Rumpole series: not just the characters, but the scenarios he came up with and especially the surprise plot twists. I have to say, though, that every time I tried to pick up this book I was put off by the cover. Something about it, combined with the title, made me think the book was a sequel and that I would suffer from not having met the characters before. Turns out it's number one in the Rapstone Chronicles series, and this edition was a tie-in to the Masterpiece Theatre production, which explains the cover and the fact that it was on the free shelf. I just may have to track down the rest of the series.
The main action is in the mid-eighties, but there are plenty of flashbacks to the fifties and before. I enjoyed the book in spite of the overbearing sense of sadness and disappointment. Several of the characters have lives absolutely unredeemed by happiness, though others certainly enjoy poetic justice. The beauty of the countryside, however, doesn't quite alleviate the grimness, though the book ends on a somewhat hopeful note. I always feel a bit shallow when I proclaim my preference for cheerful books, but if I'm going to invest my time, why should I be made miserable. In this book, though the characters are almost all sad and trapped by their decisions and circumstances, on ecan feel removed enough to appreciate the twists of fate that affect them. I will continue to seek out Mortimer's work, Rumple and otherwise, from time to time, but I think I'll look for an Alexander McCall Smith Botswana book next to bring a spot of warmth and brightness to this dreary winter.

Why I stopped blogging (and why I'm going to try to start again)

1. I couldn't do it well.
In the blogs I like, (e.g. Gofugyourself) there are links to old posts, archives, etc. I couldn't figure out how to do that, although I do appreciate the insert link button. When I googled myself, for whatever reason, I couldn't even see my blog. It's hard to upload pictures, too, because once they're up, I can't see them, and sometimes they get out of order.
2. 0 comments.
I started thinking of the blog as a way to let people validate me. my crafts, or my writing. If I ever did get a comment I was thrilled, and somehow it didn't count unless it was right there, under the post. The last straw, though, was when what I thought was a comment was actually a sneaky weight-loss SPAM. I felt taken in for believing someone I didn't know would comment and frustrated that I didn't see a good way to report it.
3. The time.
Life is somewhat busy with the 3 little ones, and I've composed quite a few blog posts in my head that never made it onto the site.
My new, somewhat belated resolution for 2009, is to blog to please myself, not worry about how many photos or links are in each post, but just kind of keep track of what I and the family are up to. I certainly have enough thoughts and musings running around my head trying to get out.
Happy New Year!