Tuesday, January 31, 2012
Additionally, children are so different by nature and therefore likely benefit from various educational formats. Our children have unique home lives/family dynamics, learning styles, special needs, sources of motivation, etc. While talking to parents in our community, I have discovered that in some cases, different siblings from the same family attend different schools due to these different needs...yikes, quite the logistical challenge for those parents!! Nevertheless, I am fortunate to live in an area in Cleveland that offers excellent schools, both public and private, regardless of these individual preferences/needs. I am going to guess there is no 'best' format for learning, and there are likely various types of schools that might work well for any given child. Unfortunately, it may take trial and error to find the right fit. The best we can do as parents, is to visit, observe, discuss, and try to get a feel for these different schools in our communities to determine which is the best fit for our children.
It just so happens our children attend a Montessori school, and when we moved to Cleveland, I had limited knowledge about this system. I was new to the area, and therefore did the requisite tour of preschools. Although I liked several, I settled on one Montessori school. During my visit, I observed the different classrooms, from preschool up to 8th grade. I was highly impressed with how motivated and genuinely interested these children seemed throughout the classrooms. Allegedly, the upper school children "could not WAIT to get to school early" to start their day. Students were literally jumping out of their chairs to participate...it was very surprising and inspirational. After spending three pre-primary years there, we have been very happy with our experience, and will therefore likely continue through grade school. Yet, I am keeping an open mind, and I will continue to consider all options since the majority of families in our neighborhood rave about our public schools. I sometimes wonder whether we might be missing out on all of the wonderful benefits that system provides. I am certainly not declaring Montessori to be the 'best' format for our schools. But, I will say, as a parent with limited knowledge and a hesitancy (due to its nontraditional nature), we threw caution to the wind, and have found it to be a great fit for our children (thus far)...As such, I do believe that it could serve as an effective framework for some school reform...perhaps not in every school, or in every city, or for every child. But, perhaps it is still worth considering.
Monday, January 30, 2012
|A bit more contemporary than my taste, but I love the strong chevron pattern on floor, animal print pillows and pops of blues and greens|
|So, I am not the only crazy one who picks bright yellow lamps for the living room! Love the repetition of yellow tones mixed with some blues and greens...and of course the animal print ottoman!|
|Love the dual-chromatic color scheme of diff shades of blues and reds, offset by the soft grey wall...beautiful and bold ikat drapes and large scale rug...also, interesting collection of photographs hung as art in diff sizes|
|Love this bold/funky navy rug and apple green ikat chairs, tempered with soft greys|
|I have always loved the color combo of soft blues mixed with cream/beiges, and of course love the graphic print on rug! Also, like the juxtaposition of more formal elements (chandeliers) paired with more rustic pieces (wood table)|
|I am considering a deep green paint for our living room walls, and this room is an inspiration with the greens, yellows, browns.|
|What a fun and funky bright orange bar!! Love this!|
|Inviting deep taupe/grey color...this rooms looks so cozy and warm. Also, love how the arrangement of books in the built-ins provide visual interest/pattern on focal wall|
|My usual favs: animal prints, bright yellows, greens, Persian rugs...and I can't tell if those are actual books on the bookcases (they almost look too-organized-to-be-real!?)|
|Again, a bit more contemporary than my taste, but still a lover of the greens and yellows! Also, what fun gold lamps! Perhaps this is Don Draper's living room in the next season (CANNOT WAIT!!!)|
|Love the primary use of neutral shades of browns, taupes, with pops of colors (red lamps, orange/green/blue coffee table books) and once again, arrangement of books providing visual interest on far wall!|
Saturday, January 28, 2012
|I love the bright cheery yellows, tempered by the soft greys in this kitchen.|
|Fabulous fabric was carried from bench to valence, and hung in such a way to showcase the fun graphic pattern|
|Love the Greek key motif on headboard and ikat pillows for little girl's room|
|I am drawn to the cheerful yellow color scheme and LOVE the stripes on headboard!|
|Once again, my weakness for both bright yellow and bold stripes! LOVE this little bathroom!|
|How fun in this little sleeping nook for boy's room? Love the bright yellow on ceiling and fun nautical theme!|
|Bedroom designed by brilliantly quirky Kathryn Ireland...love the bold color scheme and dramatic scale of flower print above bed|
|Such a soothing color palette of periwinkle and greens for bedroom|
|Love the delicious color combo of rich dark chocolate brown with soft/feminine blues...esp love the amazing graphic rug...I am going to use this brown in our bedroom soon!|
|Another cozy room designed beautifully in browns. Love the dark chocolate walls, animal prints and monochromatic color scheme.|
|Jonathan Adler designed this fun dining room....love the chevron patterned floor and bright colors throughout! The floor reminds me of Mary McDonald designs from Bravo's Million Dollar Decorators (is this show ever coming back!?)|
|Interesting mix of colors and textures: glossy navy walls, different shades of blues, velvets, silks....love, love!|
|LOVE bright and bold colors used in a modern way for a traditional style quilt|
|Cozy and feminine bedroom in adorable pink scheme...love the fun striped rug and wallpaper carried up into ceiling|
|I have always LOVED the American flag used in home decor...how quaint is this boy's bedroom!|
|Love this bold Moroccan print used throughout this bedroom. Obsessed with lanterns too...unexpected use for bedroom lighting!|
|I am inspired by the clever use of maps for this wall...and LOVE the colorful Ikat pillows! (I plan to use my son, Jack's maps he made in kindergarten in a series of large frames for his bedroom)|
|This designer made great use of small space for a cozy nook in girl's bedroom|
As a sidebar, unlike preceding generations, ours (post-feminism) was raised with the advantages, opportunities, and beliefs that women can aspire to be anything and everything. We were focused on academics, sports, careers, professional-you-name-it, with little to no formal training on the typical FTM skills our preceding generations had (i.e. classes in home economics, sewing, etc.). And although we wanted to raise a family one day, we did not grow up actually aspiring to perfect those skills needed to raise a family. Rather, we focused on all of the aforementioned non-domestic skills/achievements. As such, (particularly from the perspective of prior generations), we are a spoiled generation, lucky enough to have dreams, opportunities, and skills beyond those of our mother's, grandmothers, and great-grandmothers. However, as any modern FTM can attest, we have new challenges. We want to raise our families AND continue to pursue at least some of the creative or professional interests/skills on which we were raised, at least SOME of the time. Meanwhile, since we had zero training on the domestic skills required to raise a family, we have to learn all of those from scratch. There are simply not enough hours in the day to accomplish everything, much less everything WELL.
Before I had children of my own, I never would have imagined how much hard work goes into the bare minimum FTM duties. Just the constant love and attention required by our children alone, could keep us busy 24/7...then, to also manage keeping house (cleaning, cooking, laundry, maintenance, etc.) it is a daily 24/7 grind. So on any given day, if we pursue any of these interests or skills, by default, we are not spending as much time with our children, or cleaning, or organizing...something has to give.
To the other extreme, the 'Beverly' state refers to an existence where we pursue nothing but (with all due respect), a Beverly Cleary stereotypical 1950's existence. We ONLY do the following: spend quality time with our children, complete several loads of laundry, iron shirts, clean/organize rooms, cook a perfectly balanced meal from scratch, tend to the vegetable garden, and look flawless while doing so. In this state, the children are happy and engaged and therefore misbehaving and melting down less....which makes Mommy feel more effective in her role as FTM, happy to have well-behaving children, an orderly/clean house, and all her ducks in a row. But somehow, by the end of the day, she still feels like something is missing. She is yearning for something more, something else that fulfills her, makes her want to get up in the morning, not only to keep her orderly ship afloat and peaceful, but something that kindles her spirit and soul....which is where Martha starts knocking at her door...and you know the rest.
So, the modern FTM must figure out this tricky balance that keeps everyone in the house at a maximum state of collective welfare and happiness....We must ultimately determine the appropriate balance for how much Martha time we need to achieve fulfillment and sanity without taking the fulfillment and sanity away from our children and homes. In my case, I was simply trying to bake a chocolate cake that tastes delicious (very Beverly of me), AND furthermore looks beautiful (very Martha of me), and although the kids had a ball helping out, the afternoon still resulted in all of the Martha by-products of toddler melt-downs, chocolate messes, tornado rooms, etc. In conclusion, it seems some days are better served pleasing Martha, while others Beverly, so we must take one day at a time, say a prayer they get along, and laugh at ourselves while doing so!
"Darn Good Chocolate Cake"
Oil spray for misting pan
Flour for dusting pan
1 pkg dark chocolate fudge cake mix
1 pkg (3.9 oz) chocolate instant pudding mix
4 lg eggs
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup warm water
1/2 cup veg oil
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1. Place rack in center of oven, and preheat oven to 350. Lightly mist 12-cup bundt pan w veg oil spray, then dust w/ flour. Shake out excess flour. Set pan aside.
2. Place cake mix, pudding mix, eggs, sour cream, warm water, and oil in large mixing bowl. Blend w/ electric mixer on low speed for 1 min. Scrape down sides of bowl, increase speed to medium and beat 2 to 3 min more. Batter should be thick and well combined. Fold in chocolate chips, distributing well. Pour batter into pan, smoothing it out w rubber spatula. Place in oven.
3. Bake cake until it springs back when lightly pressed w finger and just starts to pull away from sides of pan 45 to 50 min. Remove pan from oven and place on wire rack to cool for 20 min. Run a long knife around edge of cake and invert onto rack or cake stand to cool completely.
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
8 oz semisweet chocolate, finely chopped (or chips)
1 T liqueur such as Grand Marnier, framboise, or peppermint schnapps (optional)
1. Place cream in small saucepan over med heat. Bring to boil, stirring. Meanwhile, place chocolate in large mixing bowl. Remove pan from heat and pour hot cream over chopped chocolate. Stir until chocolate is melted. Stir in liqueur, if desired.
2. To use ganache as a glaze, let it stand at room temp for 10 min before spooning over cooled cake. To use ganache as a frosting or filling, let it stand at room temp for 4 hrs, or chill until it thickens.
Tuesday, January 24, 2012
One primary agreed-upon theme is the idea that the parent (and our society at large) pursues and values high achievement over character development through the focus of good citizenship. When I think about the countless hours of homework, activities, sports, music/dance lessons, etc., of the typical American family, it is easy to see how achievement in these areas could become our main focus. Do not get me wrong, I appreciate and enjoy the benefits of all of these activities for our children. I grew up participating in an endless stream of activities: swimming, diving, soccer, speed-skating, basketball, field hockey, ballet, tap, piano, art camp, etc. However, these authors have concluded that when children feel their parents' love and attention is a function of/or dependent on their level of achievement, they become stressed, depressed, burnt-out, and stifled in terms of genuine self-discovery and development. Interestingly, apparently this effect is much more subtle than your classic pushy helicopter parent screaming on the sidelines of the soccer field. By simply praising the outcome of a child's academic, athletic or other extracurricular endeavor, it is essentially sending the following message: it is not the effort, improvement, or internal reward that is important, but rather, the gold star at the end, the win or lose, the GPA, class rank, etc. This ties into the classic debate over which is more effective: external versus internal motivation.
As I read these books, I assess these theories in terms of my own experiences growing up. Specifically, if we imagine the stereotypical overzealous helicopter parent as mentioned above, please note that my parents were the exact opposite. Not only were they NOT overly invested in the outcomes of my sports/school activities, but in my eyes at the time, they were significantly UNDER-invested. They often missed games (according to them, I heavily protested their attendance due to shyness? modesty? who knows?), brushed off good grades (while some friends' parents offered material rewards for academic achievement), and simply downplayed any successes. They were positive, supportive, and encouraging, but did not over-praise success. Today, as I read some of these parenting books and learn about what truly motivates us, I have a new appreciation for their approach. I believe their non-chalance ironically buoyed my enjoyment of these activities and allowed my internal motivation to kick in through my own pursuit of achievement/success. Make no mistake; I did not enjoy nor achieve success in every activity. I often dreaded piano practice (the only activity my parents did force upon me....and yes, they were right, I DO appreciate it today). I would protest and procrastinate until the very last minute before my weekly lessons. Even more embarrassing: I was the one on the high school basketball team that accidently shot (and of course missed) for the WRONG basket! But, I did enjoy and succeed in other activities, and this developed my self esteem, confidence, and ultimately helped me become a 'better version of myself' as Matthew Kelly likes to mantra in his book, Building Better Families.
In terms of good citizenship, most parents would proclaim that they want their child to grow up and "be a good person, be kind to others, live the golden rule, etc." However, it seems the over-emphasis on achievement and success crowds out the opportunities for such character development. As Matthew Kelly discusses in his book, kids today are organizing service trips to Africa, but too often with the padding of their college applications/resumes as the motivating factor. We need to figure out ways for our children to 'be a good person' in the day to day interaction with others, at home, at school, etc. Modeling this behavior ourselves is likely the most effective manner in which to teach these lessons. I have always been a believer that 'bully-ish' children likely have 'bully-ish' parents. We need to encourage them to identify areas in our society in need and to share their time and effort helping such causes. They should be inspired to discover and share their talents, passions, and dreams; their true authentic selves. All of this makes sense and seems feasible in theory. Yet, attaining these goals and following these guidelines seems monumental in practice. I am just trying to figure out how to make this happen on a daily basis!!
On the creative front, it is a common struggle for both parents and children alike....do we encourage/pursue our creative interests, although the career/financial rewards may be limited (think of the stereotypical starving artist), or do we pursue a what many perceive as a more 'practical, stable-career-minded' path?...Although I see pros/cons to both pursuits, I have concluded they are not mutually exclusive...perhaps just simultaneously. So, although I pursued a career in public/corporate accounting, (for which I am ever grateful that it afforded me the adventures of living in downtown Chicago, becoming financially independent, and ultimately, serendipitously meeting my husband)....I had to put off my passions involving all things creatvie to a later date. Perhaps when I am a grandparent (like my talented Uncle Jim Einspanier) I will have the time to pursue painting, design, etc. In the spirit of creativity...I wanted to post a link to an article by Ann Lamott entitled, "Time Lost and Found." My friend, Anne Carmack shared this article on her FB page...click link below...
Friday, January 20, 2012
During a summer drive in 2008, we stumbled upon a herd of cows. We had to make a sudden stop to the side of the road, and sadly, this herd must have thought we were stopping to feed them! They moved so fast and furiously to the edge of the fence, jostling to be in front of the pack, anxiously awaiting what we would do next...which, to their dismay, was simply to rearrange some luggage, stretch our legs, and greet them with some smiles and waves before we continued down the road....how cute are they watching us, watching them?!
Of course, I enjoy my gadgets as much as the next gadget-er. I love reconnecting with old friends from past schools, distant cities, or previous lives as well as new ones. It is certainly fun to keep in touch through the sending and receiving of birthday messages, the sharing and commenting on family photos of our "fellow-mom-and-newborn-playdate" friends from prior cities, and sharing links to relevant articles, blogs, etc., with current neighbors and friends. My son, Jack, and I had so much fun Skyping with his best friend from school who recently moved to Switzerland with his family. This would not even be feasible prior to such genius technology. Similarly, I relish the convenience of reading NYTimes.com articles on my ipad while waiting in the carpool line, to pick up my children from school. The fact that I can do these things and MORE from my Blackberry, plus texting, (yes, I have YET to convert to the iconic iphone)....is all the more convenient, efficient and entertaining in terms of connecting with others, collecting info (my favorite, being an information junkie) and communicating with again, the "outside world".
However, I am beginning to feel a tension rising between my constant magnetic pull to these devices and the constant need for attention, love, company, and "being present" by my loved ones, my "inside world". My husband I are constantly harassing one another for being attached to our Blackberries...so we have recently made a pact to "put it down" more often, particularly in the presence of one another. As much as these devices are essential for bare necessity communications (i.e. a "your-kid-is-sick" call from school, last-minute carpool changes, meeting times/places with your spouse, etc.), I am finding the majority of time spent on these gadgets simply distract me from more important, soul-enriching activities. In addition to my focus and attention to my family, I found that by "putting it down" more often, I could spend time on more relaxing activities. For example, I gave up bringing the Blackberry to bed for Lent last year. I am such an information-addict, that I used to lay in bed reading every story I could find from various news outlets. Once I gave this up, I discovered that novel reading is far more sleep-conducive than flipping through random current event articles (many of which are anxiety-producing, I might add).
I have concluded these gadgets are to adults as the TV/video games are to our children. Their cost/benefit ratio is becoming top-heavy. Of course our children are entranced by the lights-camera-action of the large plasma screen...but is it becoming too frequent to the point where the basic reading, writing, creative/analytical thinking, problem-solving, activities REQUIRED for their essential education cannot compete with such stimulation? For this reason, we try to limit screen time for our children - but of course this is challenging, as any parent can attest. Similarly, these gadgets for adults provide greater connectivity, efficient communication, entertainment, but are they providing so much escape and 'stimulus' that they interfere with our connections with our spouses, children, and prevent more soul-enriching activities such as reading, writing, painting, creative-anything, or just plain meditating? I cannot imagine a Buddhist monastery where they encourage followers to just focus on their ipads.....how absurd!? But we all know Buddhism conjures images of mindfulness, meditation, wisdom, and peacefulness. Are these concepts at odds with our gadgets?
On a larger scale, I fear that our society at large will begin to suffer from less-connected marriages, families, communities, if we fail to monitor and moderate the time spent with our beloved, but too-often-soul-zapping-gadgets.
Of course, I am not proposing a complete gadget-elimination. I am simply declaring that I, personally, would like to limit their use to fewer-and-far-between moments throughout my day. I recently started blogging as a way to document all things creative in my life. I am happy to say that at least this creative activity is NOT done from any of the aforementioned gadgets!!
In light of this topic, I wanted to attach a recent NYT article I enjoyed by Pico Iyer, titled "The Joy of Quiet." Please click below to read the full article.
Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Jack and Charlie ventured with their mommy to the market.
Their car drove in circles until they could park it.
The local farmers offer the freshest ones they grow!”
Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple – what a beautiful sight!
The ORANGE said, “Pick me! I am orange and juicy, with Vitamin C!”
The KIWI said, “Pick me! I am green, fuzzy, and round!”
The GRAPES said, “Pick us! We are purple, and a great snack for the plane!”
The WATERMELON said, “Pick me! I am red and so juicy, I might squirt on your shirt!”
With eyes bright and wide, the boys wanted to know, “Are we finished yet? Now can we go?”
Mommy replied, “Not yet, we must find colorful vegetables they grow!”
The baby CARROT said, “Pick me! I am orange crunchy, and tiny!”
The LETTUCE said, “Pick me! I am green, leafy, and good for you too!”
With eyes bright and wide, the boys wanted to know, “Are we finished yet? Now can we go?”