Monday, March 27, 2006

Raising A Reading Child

So I signed on to my messenger this afternoon, and the little box that pops up to show your most recent emails; some links to articles of varying interests (usually things about romance, work, and raising children) and then I believe the last tab is actual news (I never read the last tab).

Today, the little page of “human interest” stories included one that caught my eye – (there is usually one fairly frequently that does) – it was something along the lines of “how to raise a child that loves to read”. Because all of my little darlings (‘little’ being a bit ridiculous now that they are teenagers) love to read so much that I have had to ground them from reading. How ridiculous is that to most parents, “you are grounded from reading until you get out of this room and do something else”.

So I clicked on this fabulous tidbit of parenting advice. The five tips were ever so helpful (rolling my eyes). It’s not that they are bad tips, the thing is, with almost any parenting advice – it either happens naturally, or its so forced the kid is thinking (perhaps not consciously) that you have got to be smoking something if you think they are going to fall for that load of crap – and well maybe it’s my mood, but I read their five tips as classic this is going to come off as so forced and unnatural.

So I am determined, in my own less than expert, but it’s working out pretty well for me, style, to tell you what worked for me. It is not a suggested five steps to raising the next super journalist/author/editor – it’s what we did, and our kids are such avid readers that it actually makes other people shake their heads in wonder.

From the Article - #1 – Pay attention to their interests – my reaction, um “DOH” is this something that really needs pointing out to parents? If the only book on your bookshelf – oh here’s my number one – have books, have lots of books, have varied books, have them accessible, have them all over, I have bookshelves in EVERY room – even the kitchen and bathroom – granted the kitchen is for cookbooks and the bathroom is for magazines and in fact I get angry if I find an unattended book in the bathroom – it’s a very dangerous place for a book to be left unchaperoned – fair and kind treatment of books follows later. Alas I have digressed, which is my prerogative this is my rant… anyhow, have books, lots of books, and if they want to read the cookbook, let them, and if the two year old wants to read consumer reports, let them… so having books that “pay attention to their interests” – well hopefully, that will just happen, because you have so many books everywhere. You are saying, but an 18 mo.oOld will tear the book, a 9 mo. old will put it in her mouth. – and you are right… that’s why, God bless them the toy manufacturers have created nearly indestructible books – I really like the fabric ones. But the “chunky” books are pretty tough too, although you can’t run them through the warsher if they accidentally get spit up on. That’s right I said spit up on… I never said “have books everywhere after they turn 4 years old” – I said “have books everywhere”, and that means all the time. There is NO magic age to begin looking at books.

From the Article - #2 – Show your child that reading is fun – well much as I don’t think that naked human form is something to get all prude about, aside from reading playboy or comics, we don’t usually just burst out with outward expressions of joy. Frankly, I think reading playboy around the kids is probably better left for when they have locked you in the alzheirmer’s ward and you are shocking them with your lack of modesty. Also, comics are not bad, they just aren’t all that good either. They have their place, so read the comics on Sunday morning, and read some other books at other times. I think the main thing here isn’t so much to sit around reading Thomas Hardy and heartily laughing at the distress of poor young Tess, but not to bitch about “having to read this for work” – don’t make it a chore, at least not EVERY time, because face it, sometimes it is a chore – I think that some of those books that my husbands Sales Manager assigns, look like a huge chore. Also those parenting books, icky icky icky – have those people seen human children? They are on the right track, but they didn’t actually phrase it correctly, it should have read “don’t make reading a chore” – which could translate “don’t force” – oh wait didn’t we cover “force” up near the beginning?

From the Article - #3 – Use bedtime bribes – I may be one of THE BIGGEST FANS of bribes and threats – the antithesis of every parenting book ever written – like I said, have these people ever seen human children? – however, if you bribe your kid to do something, you are telling them that it is a chore, it isn’t fun, it is something they must do, sorta like my dad “making” us go to church EVERY Sunday – my mom said “why” and he didn’t know. He said it creates a routine, it gives structure, it’s a good habit – not one thing about spiritual growth – that’s when we changed churches, only went when we felt like it, or mom guilted us (holidays) – and dad was s.o.l. on the whole “routine” “habit” deal, not to mention that really killed the old catholic mass that was an occasional visit (he had been raised catholic). So aside from a whole opportunity for another rant on faith – I do bribe my children, to do chores, to do homework that sucks, to clean dog poop – face it there is no selling the dog poop scooping as “fun” no matter how you spin it – even Tom Sawyer wouldn’t have pulled that off. Threats too, but they didn’t mention those, so we will skip them for now. I will say this in response – THERE IS NO NEED TO BRIBE YOUR CHILDREN TO READ AT BEDTIME IF YOU READ with THEM. There is a novel concept that is NEVER mentioned in this article, reading bedtime stories to your children… just like our parents read to us, and their parents read to them, and just like the movies. If your parent didn’t read to you, I am sorry for you, but it’s not like you haven’t heard of it. We read to our children EVERY night from about 3 months at least until they began school, in fact I think until about 2nd grade, okay I broke down and outed myself for writing this to my daughters, the older one “doesn’t remember” (of course she also didn’t remember she had a term paper due) – and the younger one says that we read to them till they were about 6 and then for a couple of years after that we read chapter books as a family – and I do remember reading Charlotte’s Web in particular – my husband and I would take turns on who did the better voices… he would do Wilbur and the Rat and I would do Ariel and Charlotte, that sort of thing. “Voices” are very important when you are reading chapter books to children. In summary, for reading bribes suck, togetherness rocks.

From the Article - #4 – Practice what you Preach – though I preached this one to my husband on occasion while the kids were young, fact is, he could count the number of books he has read in the last five years on one hand, while I have been accused of faking back injuries in order to lay in bed and finish a particularly good read. Still, our children read like something out of a horror movie – sort of a “revenge of the killer tomatoes” with the tomatoes recast as my kids and the house recast as my bookcases.

From the Article - #5 – Set up family reading time – tell me this doesn’t sound like a chore again. This is bible study with a different book – oh hey while we are on bible study – um if that is the only reading that you do, or that you “require” your children to do – you are missing the entire point of the joy of climbing inside the pages of a wonderfully written story and joining the hero while he chases clues to the bad guys’ identity or adventures through strange lands and meets a woman who is not only wonderfully feminine but wonderfully tomboy enough to share his adventure and go off catching snakes and playing baseball and then becomes a huge success but then fails down below his worst nightmare only to climb back out again because of perseverance and the love of the one person that would never deny him. You can change all of that around to fit your favorite book.

So… my advice to anyone who actually wants their children to beg them to check for used James Patterson books on Amazon, because the book budget is completely out of control – have books, and have more books, and read them, together, alone, and for enjoyment. Never force it, never require it, and never ever make it into something scary. It’s not the worst thing in the world if a book is damaged by too much reading.

Oh yes, but if it is neglected or abused, well that is another story. Did my passion for kind treatment of books have anything to do with the love of them… I don’t know. I will tell you this, any book that was ever thrown, dropped, left alone in a bad area, had to be kissed and apologized to. You heard me Kissed and Apologized to. If you threw your book because you were pissy that it was dinner time, you had to retrieve it, kiss it, apologize to it, and put it on a shelf kindly. Books are a privilege and a treasure, they deserve to be treated as kindly as the family crystal. They will become an heirloom, really.

Monday, March 13, 2006

oops... forgot "my weekend"

had extra girls over - friends of both my daughters - funny funny, smart girls - we laughed all weekend - it was truly wonderful.

This part of parenting - I absolutely adore - it is so wonderful to help shape young people, and have fun all at the same time!

My stomach muscles actually hurt from laughing, and it amazes me that the entire world isn't as addicted to shamrock shakes as we are!

My weekend and my parenting nightmare last week... maybe

It seems everytime I "title" my post, it turns out to be rather different than I at first intended, but since this is just my random run-on thoughts, I don't go back and change either. So apparently from the comments on my friend Don's blog (see previous post) very few people fully understood what he meant. Turns out it had something to do with having a sense of humor - gasp... Don referring to humor - I should have known. Secondly, in my last post I mentioned my nightmare parenting moment -- you know this parenting stuff can really suck when really all you want to do is have some fun with your kids and help mold them into decent people. So maybe I had my children too close together, that is one person's theory on my dilemmas of recent weeks/months -- the other is that I am a bad example (whatever!).

My major recent dilemma is that my kids don't treat one another with respect, particularly when they are away from home, which generally means "at school". You see, my three little darlings do sort of have a few strikes against them in this... A. - they are only 15 months apart, each set - therefore the oldest is 2.5 years older than the youngest - yes I banged out three kids in fewer than three years - it can be done. B. - they attend a 7-12 school, this means that while one of them could be enjoying a portion of her high school years alone - she isn't, her brother and sister are right there on the bus, at the activities and in the halls with her - all day, every day (unless they are staying home faking sick). C. - they attend school outside of our neighborhood, so much of their social life occurs only during organized after school activities or during school - they don't really hang out with school friends because of geography, and they don't really hang out with neighborhood kids, because they don't go to the same school and therefore know very few neighborhood kids. I recognize that this makes for some challenges, but add to that, the boy is the middle child - you know all that crap about needing more attention, etc. -- only he is the only boy, therefore he gets all that male child attention to make up for not being the oldest or the youngest. He is however sort of an ass - okay if I were his 15 or 13 year old sister I would probably say he is a big ass - in fact they do say that. The oldest, my "sanguine" child - I don't know if she is obsessed with trying to be sanguine because the word sounds cool, comes from the root 'blood' (she loves anything bleeding - that whole wanting to be a surgeon thing), or because it's a great excuse not to have to learn to deal with emotion - she did get pretty slamdunked at an early age with death, dying, disease, and general shitty depressing times - anyhow, my oldest, well she can be kind of a bitch - it's her way of protecting her emotions - if she doesn't make friends, she won't have to get hurt - and she "doesn't care" (her idea of sanguine) - this causes problems with the friends that the others make - my youngest doesn't know a person that isn't her friend, she is gregarious, outgoing, friendly, open, to a fault -- she is friends with the busdriver, the janitor, the cafeteria ladies, and the grocery store clerks -- but, understandably, she doesn't like all of her brother's friends -- more friction.

So to the event of disrespect last week - apparently things haven't changed much since the 1800's when we rode the covered wagon school bus across the prairie to school -- the cool kids hang in the back of the bus, unless they are underclassmen -- or something like that. So, my oldest likes to ride in the back of the bus because she is an upper classman - but she has no friends on the bus to speak of. My son, who thinks he is supercool because upper classmen like him, and apparently nearly every 'sevie' girl (except his own sister) have the hots for him, feels both obligated and privileged enough to ride in the back of the bus in spite of being in only 8th grade -- apparently however, a lot of 8th grade boys ride the back of the bus - I think the little twirps (yes I condone name calling) think they are supercool. My sevie daughter, who actually is cool and popular, rides in the front of the bus, because she likes the busdriver and she and the seats are roomier???? -- also her friend prefers the front - however, due to some hideous behaviour by some boys (basically sexual harassment) - one of those boys is now required to ride at the front of the bus, and my sevie and her sevie friend no longer feel comfortable up there - so they have moved to the middle/back. Now I know this was a rather silly diatribe on bus position - but if you ever rode the bus in Jr. High or you have kids that ride the bus, you know how important it actually is...

So apparently ms. bitchy (oldest) refused to move up a couple of seats when asked by the boy's "supercool (translate jerk)" friends b/c she feels they only ask her to move to support another girl who sits in the back (this girl is in my daughters class, but hangs out with the younger boys and has tortured my daughter w/ gossip etc. since about 3rd grade) and to be mean to her - so to be mean right back she refuses to cooperate/compromise. Her brother, with his enormous lack of "family is a team" and his overwhelming typical adolescent boy immaturity, not only backs them up, but then assists them in torturing and teasing her all the way home. Her sister (now moved back, but used to be in the front), supports her because she doesn't like either the older 10th grade girls or the idiot 8th grade boys because apparently they also make fun of her friend (who is a tiny bit chunky - but to hear them talk you would think she was built like Orson Welles) -- so I pick them up from the bus and get blasted with what an asshole the boy is, to which I respond - "and you don't try to be friendly or nice or to compromise so you set him up to be an asshole" -- well this met with the usual iciness and disdain brought on my any criticism -- in my defense, I also slammed (verbally) the boy for his behaviour and I tried to allow the youngest to maintain her neutrality. Because they continued to be idiots and argue in the car - by the time we got home I had threatened (I am the idiot queen of absurd ridiculous threats) to put them all in different "neighborhood" (read lousy drug and crime infested slut hole) schools and I may have also said something about no more extra-curricular activities -- well this met with tears, even from the boy - who then said "it's all my fault mom" to which I responded -- too late for that (by now we have walked into the house, where my husband's office is, and have been overheard -- okay I was yelling) - my husband soon appeared - now, as of this writing, actually nothing is settled, he likes to go on complicated voyages of discovery, ours was shortened by evening activities, and never finished... however the next day, the oldest did confess that she tried to be nice, and the boy admitted that his friends were assholes but he didn't participate -- it's a start.

Apparently it is wrong for us to "require" that our kids be supportive and friendly to each other publicly and that family comes before anything else -- at least that is one message we are getting. Thoughts?

Oh yeah the voyage - write down ten characteristics of the ideal sibling - we got to about #3 (working from 10-1) in our follow-up roundtable discussion. The boy wants things like "is popular", "is smart", "likes sports" -- the oldest wants things like "knows when to leave me alone", "knows when to comfort me", "doesn't interfere in my friendships", "gives me my space" -- the youngest, (aka drama queen) "chivalrous", "kind", "generous". I think that the different approaches and the selfishness of some of the answers still needs to be addressed, as well as, what is going to change - b/c right now they are simply moving forward on fear that this absurd threat will be the one I will carry through on.

p.s. Our neighborhood schools are not ideal, but they are better than many, and education is all about how involved you are as a parent and how committed both parent and student are to getting an education -- but, my kids do feel very privileged to have the opportunity to go to the school that they attend - so they see the neighborhood schools as some sort of blight.

Friday, March 10, 2006

wtf is he talking about?

I was killing some time, and when I kill time, I like to read a couple of blogs that belong to people I personally know. One is the Colorado Conservative... however he found an 8-5 paying job and has basically become the blogger that once was... never any new material, um, I'm not calling the kettle black, I know I don't update much either. The other is fairly good about updating, although apparently has an audience that really goes into withdrawal if he doesn't post like practically daily - I am understanding of this lull or that... anyhow, it is his blog that inspired my post today. I say that I know him personally, really that is an exaggeration, I should say that I knew him personally (in high school - which is of course license to say that you KNOW someone - when in fact you know some 17 year old kid that moved away and grew up into an adult without any real influence from you or the adult that you became without their influence) I should say, I knew him, and I have fond memories of some of the times we shared as we tried to walk that tightrope between youth and adulthood... I'm going to send you to his blog, so naming him isn't really a violation of privacy... Don was a funny funny guy all through junior high and high school, and he had some off the wall ideas of ways to have fun (dawn of the dead parties, if any of you find this, I hope it makes you smile), that generally turned out to be some of the better fun of a given weekend. Don was friends with just about everyone, basically non-judgemental (except to judge those who were judgemental), and creative as hell... we shared a couple of classes that turned out to be major forces in either molding who I became (English) or that I wish my children could experience (Rock History)... so, Don went away, became a version of himself that was always there but that really blossomed away from our little "home town" and in the company of people who were far more like him than any of us could ever have dreamt of being. And Don, unlike most of the people we went to school with, became something of the man he wanted to become... and it is his blog that I enjoy so often. I sometimes go weeks or months without reading it, then I will read it devoutly for a couple of weeks -- I think I like it because I see myself as one of the few people who know Don in a different way than most of his readers... so, Don hasn't posted for awhile, he came home to Colorado (I didn't see him, we don't know each other anymore... ) and he didn't post while he was here... well today he is back, and his post makes nearly NO sense to me... the words just swam around on the screen and I couldn't digest them at all... I know he came to visit his sister and her children, but I can't figure out at all what he is talking about, then he jumps to this comment about some sort of starter page... to start what? a blog? a webpage? your own porn site? tracking people down? I went there, they have sticky notes... red ones even... I didn't stay long. I have this blog (very easy to use) and I have a website that I am the webmistress of for work (I love that term "webmistress" - it makes me feel like putting on false eyelashes, a leather corsette, and bright red lipstick and announcing spooky b movies (Elvira is from around here also, she and I did NOT go to highschool together), I have no desire to start some page that will take a bunch of thought and brainpower... I love the internet because I don't have to use my brain as much as I use it for work or for parenting... OMG I should have posted about yesterday's parenting nightmare... nightmare may be strong... but I did just mention Elvira.

Check out this post from Don and tell me what you think he is talking about. Is this a positive comment on family or a negative one?

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Lent and then some...

Well, I figured out what to give up for lent, and it's not working out all that well (yes less than a week into it) - I gave up computer games between 9am and 9pm (except for lunch break)... well I've taken some pretty long lunch breaks, and I've justified playing after 9am a couple of times because I began working before 9am, so I give myself that time (ie. if I work from 7:30- 9:15) then I can play games from 9:15-11:00), and then 11:00 could be lunch time. Also plugging up the whole system was that my daughter was home sick almost every day last week, and well honestly it's really hard to stay motivated on my work with another human so nearby-fortunately I had major deadlines and didn't have a lot of choice or it would have been even worse. Then yesterday my son stayed home sick (oh please, he was so able to be at school, he just wanted a little of what his sister had) and my boss said "take a couple of days off or just do the minimum this week to make up for the hours on Saturday" - um, I work 20 hours per week, and I worked 20 hours on Saturday - so I guess I pretty much get the whole week off, except of course that won't actually work because of things like people wanting to get paid, etc. -- anyhow between Mr. "I'm sick but I can eat cookies" sitting around watching Lord of the Rings and the total exhaustion of the weekend and my boss' free pass, I pretty much took about a 5 hour lunch yesterday - however the intent of giving up the games for lent was so that they would stop interfering with my work, and well as I had the day off, how could they interfere? -- this is going worse than the F word last year!

Top that off with a couple of very upsetting personal events and I don't really give a damn about lent, or any other damn thing, including work, housework, bills, etc. I thought I felt like blogging my feelings and venting to my "unknown" (and probably non-existent) audience... but I don't feel like it now that the time is here.

Hey... but Gameblast has a version of Qbeez available, and it's pretty fun, lots and lots of levels, and the cutest little "powerups" - I don't think that is what Qbeez calls them, but you get the idea anyhow. The little guys that become cannons have cute little helmuts, makes me giggle. I think I'll take lunch early today, lol... it's 10:20 now, hmmm how early can I justify? Okay I'll do a little work first.