Tag Archives | kids

unstructured time, or, don’t unplug that TV just yet: a cautionary tale

An entire weekend day with nothing to do.  Most of the schools have let out for the summer, families have packed up for month-long vacations elsewhere, and the temperature outside is in triple digits. We’re inside sucking down the AC (carbon footprint be damned), each of us in a separate corner of the house.

Caleb has announced he’s writing a “made-up fiction book” about dragons. Title of forthcoming epic? Dragon Malice.  I think it’s going to be huge.

Liam bought himself a science kit about circuits and is reading through the manual figuring out how to blow up the world create a circuit that would power a small lightbulb.

I think to myself “self, look at these independent creative kids you have. wow, you are a stellar mom. a rock-star mom to have these kids who can entertain themselves and be all in their heads,  alert the media because you have got this mommying bitch knocked, you should write a parenting blog or something.”

Ah, hubris.

Caleb: What cultures believed in dragons? China, Japan…what other ones? I need a list

er…Mexico? Aztecs?

Liam: I need a lemon. Two lemons. And some vinegar. Where’s the vinegar?

no lemons, a few limes, vinegar in the cabinet left of the stove

Liam: I can’t reach it.

Caleb: Do you have smaller paper? I want book-sized paper. Like The Borrowers book, that size.

tiny? like a book The Borrowers would read?

Caleb, curt: No. Just the size of that story. Duh.

Liam: What about apples? Do you have more vinegar? Where’s the salt? Hold this light-bulb for me, right here. No, here.

Caleb: Can we do it on the computer? Can I use your computer?

Liam: Do you have some pennies? What about zinc? Or what about juice, do you have some juice?

fresh out of zinc, I’m afraid. Tinfoil? Pennies, try in the drawer in the living room.

Caleb: Do we have any books about dragons? I need to look at some pictures to help with illustrations.

I think it’s back in New York. What about your mythic magical creatures book?

Liam: I can’t find the pennies. Where did you say they are?

Caleb: Where’s the formatting button on the computer?

Liam: What about soil? Can I use an ice tray and put soil in it, to make mud? Mud is a conductor, right?

Caleb: Did Norway have dragons? What about Sweden? Do we have a dragon book? I asked you already.

Liam: Come look! I made the light flicker! Come look NOW!

Caleb: Let me read you what I wrote so far, you have to LISTEN!

Does anyone want to watch TV? Would you like me to put on a movie? How about a nice video game. If you start now, you could probably hit about twenty levels before bedtime. Wouldn’t that be fun?

 the science station


Continue Reading · on June 30, 2012 in Abu Dhabi, Education, family, Kids, Parenting

boys to men

The other day, at the beginning of class, I asked the students to write about a specific passage in the novel we were reading, so the students curled over their desks and the room was silent for a few minutes except for the scratchings of pen on paper. I love that silence – I loved it even as a kid (yes, hello, clearly even at 15 I was destined for life as an English professor)  – the silence of a room filled with people thinking.  But on this day, I found myself looking at the boys, all of them first or second-year college students.

They’re beautiful, these boys, even the ones who aren’t particularly “cute.” Their skin stays close to their bones and gleams with health; when they walk they inhabit every inch of their bodies. They’re intent on their work; their arms wave with enthusiasm when they have something to say to the class and sometimes when they talk, their words come out so fast, they get tangled in their ideas and have to start again.

They’re no longer children – they’re at college in Abu Dhabi, which for all of them is a long, long way from home – but they’re not quite men, either, despite the fact that some of them have wispy little beards or long what-do-you-think-about-these sideburns.  I only went to Boston for college, from Illinois – and it felt like an epic distance, so how are these 18 year olds handling entire hemispheres of distance?

I remember the tearful phone calls I made to my mom during those years about how strange and weird it all was, that my sheets smelled funny, the food was weird, and my roommate was from some entirely alien planet called New Jersey. Continue Reading →

Continue Reading · on April 30, 2012 in growing up, Kids, Parenting, teaching

Monday Listicle: 2011 First Things

We’re in New York for the holidays and the past week has been a blur of visiting, appointments, and last-minute shopping.  I’m exhausted, in part because I’ve been moving at a New Yorker’s pace for the first time in five months and I’m a little out of practice.  My days have been occasionally triple-booked, like the day I had coffee with Squashedmom, did some errands, met another friend for lunch, went to a doctor’s appointment, met a third friend for a glass of wine, and then met up with my wonderful family, all of whom have converged on New York in December so they could visit with us.

I’d sort of forgotten it was Monday, and then I saw Stasha’s great list about “first things” in 2011–the topic came from Bridget at Twinisms. Stasha’s  list is short so you can read it and get back to the cookies/football/champagne/snow-ball fight.

This year has been full of firsts, including our first Christmas at my sister’s new house in New Jersey, where champagne has been flowing with great abundance. It seems to me that if we could get most of the warring factions in the world on a steady IV drip of Moet or Perrier-Jouet, we might solve a number of the world’s problems.  Just a thought.

Significant firsts of 2011, in no particular order:

1. My sister’s second baby–another daughter–was born in April. She is the second baby but I couldn’t be at the hospital for the first baby’s birth, so  this is a first. Now, in December, that tiny morsel is all thighs and cheeks and big round eyes. Delicious:

2. I rode an elephant.

3. We hired a cleaning lady, which is a bit like suddenly having a fairy godmother.

4. Liam started playing the euphonium in his sixth-grade band. Some children play the flute, or the clarinet. In extreme cases, maybe the drums. My son chose the mini-tuba, which is about as big as his torso.

5. I started stand-up paddle-boarding.  An hour paddling around on the flat waters of the Gulf in the early morning makes everything seem okay.  Santa brought me an underwater camera, so now I can take pictures while I paddle around.  I may start saving my dirham for my own board.

6. The fluffy July trees of Hyde Park got me so inspired I got myself some new kicks and started running. I’m a long, long long way from even running even a mile without stopping, but I still get an endorphin rush that (temporarily) squashes my desire to eat cookies.

7. Finally got through all eighty gazillion pages of Book Five of the Game of Thrones series only to discover that it’s not over. George R. Martin is writing another freaking book that I will probably have to read just to find out what the hell happens.

8. Caleb became a voracious reader. Not sure if that’s a “first,” exactly, but it’s pretty significant.

9 & 10.  Started linking this blog to other sites, particularly (duh) Stasha’s listicles and freefringes lovelinks.  (Hey! I won editor’s choice at lovelinks last week, too. What a nice holiday gift, don’t you think? Winning is like a little black dress: always appropriate and goes with everything).  Reading the writers on these blog lists helped me weather those first weeks in Abu Dhabi; I’m grateful to both Stasha and Erica M for creating these online communities.

Continue Reading · on December 26, 2011 in Abu Dhabi, Children, Monday Listicle

Grace in Small Things #2

Am in need of grace this evening.  It’s been, as they say, one of those days. Although actually if I am really precise, it’s only been one of those days since 3:45, when my children got off the bus and all hell broke loose. But we’ll ignore that explosion for now, other than for me to pose the question: does it make me a bad mother that when my kids are having meltdowns, a tiny part of me thinks blog fodder!

But I am not writing about meltdowns this evening. I’m going glass half-full tonight, instead of glass shattered-on-the-floor-with-orange-juice-on-the-rug (metaphorically, that is. No one broke a glass, no one had to be rushed to the hospital gushing blood).

1. Spicy almonds from Lebanese Roastery,which has an entire wall filled with what looks like small file cabinets. Each drawer contains different flavors of nuts: lemon pistachios, spicy pistachios, walnuts, weird black knobby things with Arabic names that I can’t read. The drawers are warmed, so that when you get your bag of nuts, they are fragrant, warm, crunchy.

2. I found a vegetable market within walking distance of my apartment! It’s not the Union Square Farmer’s Market, but the produce is relatively local (versus, for instance, the irony of going to one of the grocery stores around here and seeing that all the grapes were from California).  Also unlike Union Square, most of the guys working in the market are barefoot. Also? You can buy fresh coconut:

3. Delivery trucks with decorative paneling. Many of the white trucks that rattle around have detailing: cut-out tin hearts, flowers, butterflies. They make me smile.

4.  Bad translations. Probably I shouldn’t laugh at mis-translations (especially because at the rate I’m (not) learning Arabic, I will never even know how to say my own name in another language, much less translate anything).  But then again, I’m the mother who thinks her kids’ miseries will create blog content, so what the hell. Somebody’s bad English gave me a giggle:

5. Yoga on the beach. Actually, yoga on the beach is a BIG grace note. I confess that I’m not a true yogi: if I were, I would’ve been “on the mat” for our entire summer travels and for the weeks after we got here. I even went so far as to put yoga classes on  podcasts in my ipod but you know what? I got distracted, would do a little bit and then decide I needed to do something more important. Fold the laundry, check my email, eat cookies.  So when I found out that The Yoga Juice was starting up their evening yoga on the beach classes, I got myself there: in an open-sided pavilion facing the water, doing vinyasa during the long Arabian sunset. More than grace. Bliss.

Continue Reading · on October 16, 2011 in Abu Dhabi, exercise, expat, grace in small things, UAE, yoga

Too Cool for School, or, NYC Kids See the Sights

A beautiful London evening: soft breeze, gentle sun coming through impossibly fluffy green trees. Every now and then a black cab trundles by on the wrong side of the street and I swear to god Mary Poppins will be twinkling up the sidewalk at any minute.

We’re staying in a friend’s apartment—I mean flat—marking time until we go to Abu Dhabi but I forget, almost daily, that we’re going further east when we leave here and not heading back home to New York.

We’re here because we had to be out of our NYC apartment in early July and were heading to a family reunion in France mid-month, and so it made sense (with the gift of a free place to stay) to perch in London for a bit before heading into 110 degrees and Ramadan, which is what’s waiting for us in Abu Dhabi.

Husband and I thought the boys would love London: castles, bloody history, soldiers in funny hats, weird old buildings, Harry Potter! What’s not to like?  I got a great guide book– Frommer’s London With Kids–but as helpful as that book has been, there are two books that need to be written:

A guide book written FOR kids, not for parents traveling with kids. This guide book would take into consideration things like ice cream availability, gross-out factors, what friends back home will think about these activities, and relevance to some particularly bloody/gory/romantic historical event.  (This book would also include a section for teens on “where the cute kids are.”)

The second guide book needs to be written for kids from New York who are visiting other cities.  The Frommer’s guide talks about all the street performers in Covent Garden but to kids used to the variety show that is Union Square? Yawn.

Big huge parks with ponds? Been there, done that.

Throngs of people speaking many languages waiting for the train? Meh.

People with bleached blonde Mohawks and multiply pierced faces sitting next to us in the café? Yep, we see ‘em in the Astor Place K-Mart all the time.

The boys concede that the Tube is more comfortable than the NYC subway and that the chocolate bars are better, but other than that? They refuse to be moved by ancient buildings, tiny winding streets, thousands of years of history.

I can see it now, can’t you? An entire series marketed to NYC Kids. We could call it something like “New York Doesn’t Have THIS, Dumbass.”

Although I guess if the series is aimed at kids, maybe I should leave off the “dumbass?”

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Continue Reading · on August 4, 2011 in Abu Dhabi, Children, family, NYC, Travel

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