Tuesday, August 31, 2010

From Out Of The Cabbage Patch

Okay, so maybe I am a bit baby struck with grandbaby number 6 making his stupendous arrival last week. But let's face it. How many grandmas have 3 new little ones in less than a year?

But as precious as mine are, the fact is all babies have an affect on the human condition no matter how cynical or resistant to them you may be. After watching the trailer for Babies. With no narrative or subtitles, director Thomas Balmés brings the focus to the early moments of lives of four beautiful babies - easygoing Ponijao in Namibia, curious Bayarjargal in the remote farmland of Mongolia, Mari in her small apartment in Tokyo and Hattie, a pampered American in San Francisco.

A scrapbook of moments in this visual diary of these babies captures the essence of our commonalities and differences as the human animal develops. The documentary chronicles the first year of life and is delivered with charm and humor as Balmés sets his camera and lets each baby move through their world unobtrusively. The result is a magical peek into what goes on in the cabbage patch as these delightful babies crawl their way into childhood.

My son-in-law made a memorable comment when looking at his newborn son. "What's new, son?" "Everything, Dad!" Take a look at life through little eyes and see if some of that "new-ness" doesn't rub off on you. That's what a wise grandma would do.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Lucky Numbers

Since I was a young child, I have always felt like the number 6 was my lucky number. I don't know why exactly but it seems to come up a lot and more often than not something good follows. This morning at 6 am, I am waiting anxiously for grandbaby number 6 to arrive.

Taben King will join the ranks of the most beautiful babies in the world sometime today. My oldest daughter is in labor as I write and with any luck, I will make the 2 hour trip in time to witness the next miracle in my life. His mother, I suppose was the first.

We adopted her in 1977, but she was born in my heart in April of 1973. I was there when she was born and when I held her in my arms, I somehow knew then she was mine. She lived with us off and on for the next year until the pain of her leaving was more than we could bear and we petitioned for guardianship. Every time we found a sock under a cushion or stepped on a misplaced squeeze toy, our hearts would break a little more. Fortunately for us, her biological parents and the courts deemed us worthy.

It has been a roller coaster ride ever since but worth every penny of the ride. This is her first baby and a lucky baby he is. Taben has a wonderful father, who I am sure at this moment is bringing Taben into the world with gentle loving hands, soothing his mother as they cross together into the wild and wooly jungle of parenthood.

Patience is the order of the day, though my car has been ready to go for the past week and it seems like dawn will never break. I fed the chickens, watered the garden, walked the dog and am trying to swallow one of the blueberry muffins I just baked. Hurry up, Taben! The world is waiting to greet you and oh, what a world it is. But I have no doubt that my almost 6 beautiful, smart, savvy grandchildren will do an outstanding job of leaving their footprints in the sand where ours will inevitably wash away.

Until then, take my hand and let's walk and talk for awhile...that's what a wise grandma can hardly wait to do!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Summer Reading

Remember when you were a kid and signed up at the library for reading contests? Our library always had fun contests, reading scavenger hunts and summer reading lists that made reading not only fun but productive!

As soon as I got my allowance, a whopping 50 cents at the time, I would get on my bike and head to the library. Armed with a stack of books, I would ride to the Foster Freeze and spend my Saturday afternoon sitting in the booth with a milkshake and a Hardy Boys mystery. Life was good!

This summer, almost 50 years later, I find myself in a familiar situation. Instead of a milkshake in a Foster Freeze dining booth, I am in a wicker rocker with a glass of iced tea. But in my hands is a book. August has been a slower month at work, allowing for more leisurely afternoons to devour the printed word. And though I am not ready to give up the turning of the page for the swish of the Kindle, the stack of summer reading books is getting smaller as September approaches.

I highly recommend Prayers For Sale by Sandra Dallas and At Home On Ladybug Farm by Donna Ball. Not being a romance novel fan, I often challenged to find a book that offers a story that carries me from page to page, anxiously waiting to find what happens next to the charming characters in these two books.

Prayers for Sale has a setting in a mining community in 1936. The main character Hennie comfort, welcomes a newcomer, Nit Spindle to town, telling her stories about her past life before and since she arrived on the Colorado mountain. Creating a bond between the two women, the stories weave their lives throughout the book bringing the past full circle as dark memories and hardships are endured and shared. Sandra Dallas uses colorful phrases and moments to artfully bring this story to life with enduring characters.

At Home On Ladybug Farm by Donna Ball had me laughing within the first 20 pages. A delightful set of characters set in present day, decide to purchase Blackwell Farm. Now what? The story is a series of mishaps, calamities and touching relationships between the three women, a confused but determined young daughter and a troubled teen. The language was modern and believable without profanity, a rare treat. The characters were witty and charming and the quiet community surrounding the farm is filled with the history of the old farm, which eventually becomes known as Ladybug Farm. Donna Ball has written a wonderful, funny book - great way to spend a warm summer evening.

Well, those are my picks, although I have started another book, I can't help but think about what is happening to Hennie and her travels beyond the Colorado mountain or how much I would love to see the restored fountain on Ladybug Farm. Don't you love a book that works its way into your heart? That calls for another glass of iced tea and the raising of my bookmark. That's what a wise grandma would do.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Don't Trust Anyone Under 30

Now that we are over 30, the tables have turned. As teens, our rebel cry was "don't trust anyone over 30". As parents (and grandparents) well over 30, teens of our own, the rebel cry has dramatically changed. With young people willing to chat about anything in the open forum of social media sites, parents are finding themselves in the uncomfortable position of "friending" our children.

With about 50% of parents surprising their teens with a friend request on such sites as Facebook and MySpace, it seems there is little privacy for teens. Common Sense Media, a none-profit tracking teen use of social media reported that parents were not aware of what their children were doing online from chatting to sexting. In all honesty, I am friends with quite a few of students. There is great controversy from teens as well as the public scrutiny as to the propriety of this invasion of this social frenzy.

After talking with many parents this past week, I am inclined to agree with parents that it is necessary. My own father used to snoop through our rooms. I remember my outrage and his remark about not being my friend, he was my parent. More than 40 years later, I find that I have to be friends with my grandchildren, their friends and my students to parent them. Why? Have you read what the write? I don't spy, but I do call them on rants and bully efforts. My comment to their wall posts is simple - "you do know I read this, right?"

Parents told me of what they have found and yes, I believe it would be irresponsible parenting in this era of no holes barred social media to not monitor your under 18 year olds. Although teens have multiple accounts to thwart efforts of prying eyes, we still need to be on the front lines when it comes to protecting our kids.

Nothing beats an old fashioned conversation with your child. Keeping the lines of communication open on any subject, no matter how uncomfortable it is for both of you. But being proactive in all aspects of your child's life is just plain good parenting. Whatever generation you belong to, there will always be a parenting challenge between you and your teen. Stand your ground but never forget your teen years. Monitor your own social chat. Keep a distance that respects privacy, keep things in perspective and avoid gossip and keep it to yourself and your teen. That's what a wise grandma would do.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

What's That You Say?

Old ears on young bodies is becoming the norm. Rather than waiting until their senior years to require hearing aids, the ear buds attached to ipods have caused a generational gap between the ears.

"It's a different level of use than we've seen in the past," according to Robert Novak, director of clinical education in audiology at Purdue University. Novak says seeing young people with "older ears" is a trend from the Walkman days and today's technology is producing wider spread hearing loss among younger people similar to what one would expect in a much older person.

From a random selection of students, Novak documents this growing trend in what is know as noise-induced hearing loss. Ultimately the students lose the ability to hear higher frequencies, have difficulty following conversations in noisy environments and suffer from tinnitus or ringing in the ears.

Despite the warning signs and mounting evidence, it seems clear that ear buds are here to stay. More people are using them to block out street noise. But how much is too much? Research shows that a portable music player with headphones at 60 percent of the volume for an hour a day is relatively safe. Telltale signs of trouble are ringing in the ears that persists even after rest your ears.

Will this evidence stop young people from wearing ear buds excessively? Doubtful. We attended concerts and came away with ringing in the ears before we wised up to bringing a pair of ear plugs or stuffing them with cotton. I am afraid that telling young people of the potential consequences of hearing loss will most likely fall on deaf ears. With one in 5 teens experiencing hearing loss, limiting their exposure may result in a flurry of adolescent misplaced anger, but in the long run, they will still be able to hear you say I love you for a very long time. That's what wise grandma would do.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Joy of Gardening With The Seasons

My garden definitely took a hit with the strange weather, late summer and my teaching schedule. As the schedule is winding down, I find the weather is cooperating and I have more time to spend getting in touch with my dirty side.

One of my favorite birthday gifts was a cap that says "Plays In The Dirt". That describes me to a tee or should I say trowel. My children grew up with a little shovel in their hands, helping me plant seeds and dig, dig, dig. Although they preferred watering to weeding, all three enjoyed the organic harvest. I suppose next to drowning slugs in stale beer, they loved to pick the vegies of their labor.

My granddaughter is helping me prepare for the Fall garden. With an expected late into September summer, we planted chard, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach and kale, along with another round of cilantro and lettuce. Today we are picking cucumbers, broccoli, zucchini, basil and peppers. The peas and lettuce are done, with the chickens getting the last of it as we prepared the bed for the new Fall plantings.

With gardens popping up and spreading out in backyards everywhere, it is easy to bring kids into each season with fun activities while playing in the dirt! That's what a wise grandma would do.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A Spoonful of Common Sense

My oldest daughter is about to have her first baby. She is, as we all were, nervous about the parenting challenges that lie ahead. I told her that it is a waste of her energy to worry about the teen years before the teething years. Every child is as different as is every parent who walks miles through the parenting maze. I have often chastised my own mother for not warning me that this job doesn't end once your child blows out 18 candles on their birthday cake. But I have learned it is the one job that you never retire from and rarely live long enough to see the fruit of your labor.

I read many of the mommy blogs to see how the new generation views discipline. I would like to offer a dose of common sense. Here are five basic lessons every child should learn.

#5 Good manners - please and thank you are always appreciated but thank you cards should be sent to those who give a gift, do a kindness, for a teacher or a friend. It is an art that has gone by the way side but makes a huge difference, now and as an adult habit.

#4 Responsibility - no matter how young, children should learn to clean up after themselves. If they take it out, help them to pick it up when they are done. Oh, and set the example...pick up after yourself.

#3 Read! - This is a difficult lesson, but reading is obviously something your child will use for the rest of their lives, even it is as simple as reading directions. Keep it simple and let your child take the lead as to how much they want to read but one day a month (at least) should be a trip to the library. Reading to your child paves the way - and they are never too young!

#2 Tolerance - We are all different and the sooner these differences are seen as points of celebration rather than ridicule the better. Use positive words these differences whether they are of color, religion or disabilities. Be profound in your own behavior toward others.

#1 Kindness - To me this is the same as the "Golden Rule". Treat others as you wish to be treated. Sure it doesn't always work out that way, but for the most part if you smile or offer a kind word to someone, it will come back to you ten fold.

The most common sense approach I have for young parents, is to examine yourself. Buffalo Springfield said it best "Teach Your Children Well". Children imitate what they see and hear. Listen to what you say. Watch what you do. Then listen and watch them - children are a mirror.

I wrote this blog post while participating in the TwitterMoms and Nanny McPhee Returns blogging program, making me eligible to get a $50 gift card. For more information on how you can participate, click here. I decided to blog because being a grandma coming up on 6 times now, I am eligible for a t-shirt in common sense! That is what a wise grandma would do.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

With A Little Help From My Friends

HELP! I need somebody! For those old enough to know the words, this Beatles song sang a familiar tune this past weekend. Teaching summer camps the past couple of months has left little time to work in the yard and the weeds had taken most of the yard hostage. Childhood friends and sisters, Sharon and Carol heard the call and came to the rescue.

My biggest problem was the pond. The pump had given out again - the third pump in the past 10 years. The pond was over run with iris that had gone wild, no blooms due to the shady area. The 5 gallon pots were too heavy to lift out of the pond by myself and the roots from the iris had embedded themselves deep into the silt and debris.

Cavalry to the rescue! The three of us spent the day clearing the pond, installing a new pump and filter, digging out old and setting in new fence posts. I had done much of the clearing of blackberries, morning glories and dandelions prior to their visit, so I can at last enjoy the last few weeks of summer in my beautiful yard.

With a little more than a quarter of an acre, it is always a challenge to keep it under control. I am forever grateful for good friends who not only know the words to the Beatles tune, but know exactly what they mean. I am having breakfast - french toast made with eggs from my chickens and topped with blueberries from my garden and humming my favorite tune. That's what a wise grandma would do.