Posts from the “Parenting” Category

In Defense of Writing

Posted on October 4, 2012

I heard something I didn’t like this week.

Kids — especially grade school kids — don’t like to write.

Howwwww is this possssibbbblllllle???? I loved to write when I was a little kid!!!!

Apparently, loving writing makes me weird. Math is more fun for children because they’re solving puzzles and playing with little plastic sets of ten and sometimes even Gummi Bears, if they’re lucky. Writing involves too much memorization (i.e. spelling words) and rules, and requires just too much work in general.

In kidspeak, writing is what they call borrring.

This revelation emerged as a general aside during a parent-teacher conference I had this week. It had nothing to do with my own kid. Although I do know that good writing requires work, as a writer I’ve never perceived that my job is boring. I love what I do and am prepared to beat someone up after school (you heard me) in the interests of defending my craft. So, filled with more than a hint of righteous indignation, I asked the teacher if there was any way I could help her show kids why writing is a good thing, an important thing, and even . . . (wait for it) a fun thing. Although I’m not sure if she’ll take me up on it, she said yes, she’d like me to come in after the first of the year. The good thing about this is that it gives me plenty of time to construct some pro-writing propaganda about how writing is the best thing in the world, ever, so there. I’m in this to win hearts and minds, after all.

Rebecca Wallace-Seagall wrote an impassioned defense of creative writing classes in schools, drawing from her experience as executive director of New York City’s Writopia Lab, a nonprofit that runs writing workshops for children aged 8 to 18.  Wallace-Seagall’s piece is part of The Atlantic’s education series “Why American Students Can’t Write”. Over the next two years, public school students in 46 of 50 states will have a writing curriculum that favors clarity over self-expression and Wallace-Seagall believes that good writing in any genre requires logic and precision. She writes:

If young people are not learning to write while exploring personal narratives and short fiction, it is because we as educators need more training — or the specifics of the curriculum need more development. It is not because those forms of writing in themselves are of no use . . . Human beings yearn to share, reflect and understand each other, and they use these reflections to improve the state of things, both personal and public. If we want our students to have this kind of impact, we have to teach them how to express themselves with both precision and passion . . . where would we be as a nation if we graduate a nation of people who can write an academic paper on the Civil War but have no power to convey the human experience? If Frederick Douglass had stopped writing his narrative on slavery because he felt he could not be at once a lucid communicator and an expressive, emotional being, where would this world be?

Indeed, where would it be? I’m hoping I can do my part, in whatever little way, to help another generation care about words — how they feel on your tongue, how they look on the page and how they sound to your ears and heart when a little symphony spills from your pen.

Critters

Posted on June 5, 2012

caterpillarone

Yesterday I battled cookies, both cyber and edible. I’ll write about my tangle with meringue later. Today, I’m writing about this little guy, pictured above. I turned my back on my vegetable garden for a day (because I was battling cyber cookies in a seemingly never-ending effort to upload my approved thesis to the university database) only to find that this little bugger had laid waste to one of my parsley plants. Rather than make the beast pay for its transgression, I ran inside, grabbed a plastic container and scissors and made a little home biology experiment for my youngster. After all, we grew and released an army of painted lady butterflies a few summers ago when we lived in Atlanta. Why not see what this little monster becomes too?

caterpillartwo

Once I captured our little friend (and a few bunches of withered parsley), I closed him up, punched little holes in the container’s lid and watched as he climbed up the side like this. That is where he has been since last night, when I Googled “caterpillars in South Louisiana” and discovered that he will not turn into an evil swamp creature that will devour us all, but a beautiful Swallowtail Butterfly.

Photo: brooksvillegardenclub.us

Photo: brooksvillegardenclub.us

Grazing

Posted on December 5, 2011

IMAG0194-1-1

For the second consecutive year, we chopped down our own Christmas tree. We scored a nine-foot beauty that has already made our house smell like the holidays.

So, why the cow picture?

Why not?

After all, these bovines sat in a nearby pasture munching and mooing as we tromped past arbor after after arbor.

Plus?

We’ve hung cow lights on our Christmas tree for years.

When I asked the family if we should ditch the cow lights in favor of a classic white light, my kid responded: “No, Mom. It’s just not Christmas without cows.”

Let the holiday season begin!

C is for Cookie

Posted on August 15, 2011

cookies

My daughter started first grade last week and as soon as she got on the bus I was hit by another wave of feelings about how big she’s getting and how quickly time flies. The umbilical cord is cut on a daily basis, it seems, and it still smarts every time it is snipped.

Get used to it, you say?

Oh I’m used to it. But that doesn’t mean it gets any easier to take.

I promised to make the kid chocolate chip cookies to celebrate her first day of a numbered grade. That’s what I said out loud at least. To myself (and to this blog, I suppose), I admitted

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Signs of Life

Posted on July 11, 2011

Today my daughter informed me that you’re not supposed to run by the pool. We were not at the pool or running when she informed me. As a matter of fact, we were at home, sitting still.

But no matter!

You’re not supposed to run by the pool, she said, because you could slip and die. You’re also not supposed to run by the pool, she said, because the sign says so.

Which sign? I asked her.

“The sign with the running person covered by a red circle with a line through it,” she said. “That’s how you know you’re not supposed to do that. It is a rule.”

It is also common sense. But common sense, as we know, is not something we all have in common.

Which brings me to this sign:

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The Pachyderm Problem

Posted on May 4, 2010

The trouble with having my advisor read my blog is that he now sees fit to keep me honest.

To wit: In a recent post, I wrote “the education of young Paige begins.”

That, of course, prompted him to pick up the phone and remind me that I was not at all young.

Fair enough.

I will edit myself.

The education of this creaky old broad begins…

Happy now?

****

When I’m between stories or waiting for interviews or simply stumped, I like to take on foolhardy creative projects. Last week, while I was shopping for my daughter’s fifth birthday party, I thought “Wouldn’t it be a great idea to knit little baby toys for pregnant friends x, y and z?”

I thought it would be a stunning idea. Just brilliant.

Except the thing is, I’m the poster child for regretsy.com. I can knit a scarf because it is flat and requires little thought. My mother thinks some of my scarves turn out pretty, or even stylish.

But she is my mother, so what do you expect her to say? That she doesn’t want my scarves anywhere near her precious neck?

Anyway…

Scarves are one thing and a perfect project for someone like me who is challenged in the needle arts. Knitting an actual animal shape that will be sewn and stuffed and detailed with embroidery and felt ears? Hm…I might have bitten off more than I can chew.

I bought this book called “Knitted Toys” and the patterns in it seemed pretty straightforward while I was browsing through it in the bookstore. So I blithely flipped to one page, decided “Okay, I will knit little elephants,” and went to the local yarn store to procure all the goods I’d need to do the deed.

I got home, I knitted a front leg. And then I knitted a back leg and connected it to the front. Then I knitted a trunk. Ha ha! I was on a roll. Then I connected the trunk to the rest of the body. Then I looked at the directions and couldn’t figure out why I was 35 rows into this beast and seven stitches short. I went back to the knitting store and asked them what the heck.

They told me I didn’t know how to count (which was probably a polite way of telling me I didn’t know how to knit, either). They also told me I needed to unravel my pachyderm and start over.

So I did.

And here’s where I am right now…elephant

Hopefully I will not have a tarantula when I’m done.

Every Family in Louisiana Has One

Posted on February 7, 2010

Mom is probably being accused of leaving games early in this picture.

Mom is probably being accused of leaving games early in this picture.

Long before my parents divorced, my mother spent a good number of years telling my father that she didn’t want anyone to know he was her husband. This happened in the early 1970s. Back then, Dad would leave our home in Baton Rouge on Sunday mornings in various states of disrepair from LSU games the night before so he could attend Saints games in New Orleans. My mother thought he was insane (which was partly true) because she couldn’t imagine why anyone would voluntarily get up and invest several hours of one’s time in something that was so bad.

In Mom’s defense, she said she tried to hang in there for about the first six or so years. And by the first six or so years, she meant the first years of the Saints franchise, not of her marriage. She hung in there for 12 years of that. But all during this past season, Mom remembered those early days when she could still bear to watch, even during the 1970 halftime show when a guy shot off his fingers during a re-enactment of the Battle of New Orleans.

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Stone Cold Blogging

Posted on January 13, 2010

Shadows of mom and kid, freezing on Friday.

Shadows of mom and kid, freezing on Friday.

My daughter woke up early this past Friday morning and reported that it had snowed in the front and back yards. Spellbound, she looked out of the front window of our house and breathlessly continued her report.

“It snowed on the roofs, it snowed on the trees, it snowed on the cars, it snowed on the mailboxes, it snowed just a little tiny bit on the porch, it SNOWED!”

Snow, of course, is in the eyes of the beholder. When you are four years old and have only seen maybe two other snowfalls in your life (one of them decent by Southern standards, the other negligible by anyone’s standards), any snow is a major deal especially if it gets you out of school for the day. However, when you are a boring old bifocal-bound mom, such dustings are a mild annoyance, especially if they are accompanied by bone-chilling cold.

“Let’s go out and PLAY in it!”

Let’s wait until it warms up a bit after lunch. It is really…REALLY…cold out there.

“But I want to go now!”

You have to eat breakfast/bundle up/insert other excuse here before that can happen.

The maternal stalling tactic worked, but only for a little while. An hour later, I was bundled to the hilt in the front yard, trying to start a snowball fight with…virtually nothing. But I started one. Though it didn’t last long (it couldn’t have, what with our resources), it was fun.

Lesson one for the New Year in finding joy in (and with) small things.

*****

Though our great Southern snowstorm was laughable, the cold weather we’ve had here in Atlanta has been no joke, mimicking the fairly decent deep freeze this blog has experienced since last fall. Said blog freeze is a story for another time (and probably a really boring one when you get down to it).  In the meantime, let me make a few cold weather recommendations before the rumored thaw hits sometime later this week:

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Agridorkery

Posted on August 13, 2009

My horticultural ineptitude has shipped many innocent plants off to that sunny, well-fertilized garden in the sky. Though my great-grandmother grew award-winning African violets and my uncle regularly harvests his own homegrown vegetables (everything from finger-length okra to plump, juicy tomatoes), I…well…actually have a pretty thick rap sheet of crimes against Mother Nature.

How bad are my offenses? Try real, live un-premeditated cactus murder, for starters. As for the rest, I’ll just leave that up to your imagination.

Any time my mother visits, she goes room to room, shaking her head as she rounds up pots of wilted ivy and brings them to the kitchen sink. “Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank yoooooou!!!” she wails as she waters each plant. “They’re crying out, Paige. Can’t you hear them? Your plants are grateful I’m here to save them once again.”

Gee thanks, Mom.

In my defense, it’s possible that motherhood showed me I could actually nurture and care for something and not have it all go dreadfully wrong;

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