Tag Archives: parenting

People, Ron’s Big Mission and Amazing Grace

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I’ve been so busy trying to keep the kids busy this summer that I have not had a chance to post a weekly multicultural book or talk about WeStories– the organization I have had a chance to volunteer and get involved with these past couple of months. So today I will highlight 3 multicultural books.

In May we attended our kick-off for WeStories and received our bookbag with multicultural books. They were books I had never heard of, much less read. Loved it. Still reading the books with the kids. Some of them were sad and they were shocked/taken by it- trying to process all the feelings around segregation and racism. It’s hard for us adults to process so imagine kids doing that. But it’s important work and I will continue and talk to them, push past my own comfort zone knowing that my children will be better for it. Considering everything going on in the world right now- I think there is no better time to do this. We must do this. Educate our children in age-appropriate ways on topics of race and skin color and the history/legacy of our country around these two topics.

People by Peter Spier

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People is the simplest of all these books and it places a strong value and emphasis on the beauty of diversity in this world. Highlights different cultures, skin colors, nose shapes, religions, languages and customs. A book you can go back to again and again.

Ron’s Big Mission by Rose Blue and Corrine J. Naden

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Ron’s Big Mission was super sad because it features a little boy who lives in segregated 1950’s South Carolina. My kids couldn’t understand why he wasn’t able to get his own library card. As proud card holders themselves for years now, this really disturbed them. Lots of conversations around emotions and anger after reading the book.

Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman

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Amazing Grace was a big hit with Baby Girl. Not only does Hoffman tackle cultural stereotypes but gender ones as well. This book empowers and paints a picture of girls being more than just quiet, polite, rule-abiding children. Long live Grace and all the rules she breaks in this book!

Happy reading and warm snuggles.

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Mark Twain’s Hannibal, Missouri

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We road-tripped to Hannibal, Missouri which is 100 miles northwest of St. Louis over Memorial Day weekend. Our goal was to visit the Mark Twain boyhood home and museum and spend the day exploring the town and maybe squeeze in a cave tour. We were lucky and able to experience all three things!

We took a scenic route up there that took us along Highway 79 and through historic Clarksville, Missouri. This town is also one of the largest migrating areas for the Bald Eagle. This charming town is filled with lots of antique shops and provides an up-close view of the Mississippi River.

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The river town of Hannibal, Missouri was the inspiration for Mark Twain’s novels- Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Adventures of Tom Sawyer. We were able to secure a nice discount to Mark Twain’s Boyhood Home and Interpretive Center on Groupon so be sure to check that out before heading over. The tour gives you access to all the main places- Mark Twain’s boyhood home, Becky Thatcher’s house, Huckleberry Finn’s house, and the Museum Gallery which features 15 original Norman Rockwell paintings. We spent considerable time viewing all the buildings and experiencing all the interactive features.

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The UnderDog

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A few weeks ago, 2nd Most Honorable Son played in his final lacrosse tournament of the seaon. We weren’t expecting much because the team had not won one game at the last tournament in Indiana. And it’s not about winning- right? Also- it was hotter than a mother out there and I was secretly hoping to get home in time to just relax. But of course we cheered and told him to go out there and play his best. And he did, they all did. This last seeded underdog lacrosse team played their heart out, beat out a previously undefeated team and went from last place to a final competitor in the championship game. They played the game of their life and lost but came in 2nd place overall.

A great lesson for us all- NEVER EVER underestimate the underdog! 

World Bird Sanctuary

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The World Bird Sanctuary sits on 305 acres of Missouri hardwood forest out in Valley Park, Missouri. Their mission is to “preserve the earth’s biological diversity and secure the future of threatened bird species in their natural environments.” The organization does this through education, field studies around the world and rehabilitation of injured animals.

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We journeyed out to spend a day at the World Bird Sanctuary in early June. Upon arriving, we visited the Monsanto Fund Environmental Education Center where we met several animals who had been rehabilitated. “Frazzle”- an Eastern Screech Owl really touched our hearts. These owls can be found in orchards or woodlots and are usually a gray or rust color. Frazzle came to the Sanctuary as a young bird with a severe eye infection. Despite treatment, the staff was not able to save her eye and it had to be removed. My kids were so touched by Frazzle- we lingered around her cage for some time and discussed ways we might be able to help other birds like Frazzle. You can see her closed left eye in the picture below.

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After leaving the Education Center, we ventured outside where there were several different types of owls, eagles and hawks for viewing. Below you see a European Barn Owl. These owls are found across Europe with the exception of Scandinavia and tend to be smaller and lighter-colored than their American relatives. Did you know that one Barn Owl can eat up to 2,000 mice a year? 

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We followed a paved footpath where we passed a hospital that helps rehabilitate many patients like Frazzle. We ended up walking through to their outdoor exhibits where they had many animals- All types of owls, Red-Tailed Hawks, Bald Eagles, White Pelicans, Sand Hill Cranes and Turkey Vultures, just to name a few. There were also several off the beaten path trails that took you through their backwoods. It was really breathtaking.

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We ended our journey with a visit to the Nature Center. There we saw birds, parrots, bats, an armadillo and our favorite- “Anna” the Green Tree Python! Wouldn’t want to meet her in the forest but behind the glass- she looked pretty cute. If you live in the St. Louis area- this is a great place to visit and take your kids- They have a BatFest in Early Spring, National Trails Day in June, and an Owl Prowl in November. Many of the programs are free or low-cost. And the work they are doing is incredible. Truly.

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Silent No Longer

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I just can’t anymore. It’s been a long, emotionally trying week here in America. I find myself at a loss for something. Not quite sure. Loss of innocence? Loss of trust? Loss of life and love and compassion for other human beings? 

All over social media – you are either on one side or the other, it’s us vs. them.  The comments that people write are horrible. And I’m exhausted. I’m sorry but it is not my job to educate you on what white privilege is. It’s not on me to have to explain why every life is precious- regardless of prior criminal record and socio-economic level. 

You feel empathy for me because you can’t imagine how hard it must be right now to be a mother of black sons in America? Well- don’t. Don’t feel sorry for me. Do me a favor. Educate yourself. Take a course on “witnessing whiteness” through your local YWCA. Read books – lots of them- I have a long list if you are interested. Learn the history of this country- not the one they taught you a long time ago back in high school from an outdated textbook but learn the history from black, Latino, Asian and Native American perspectives. You will be shocked of what you learn and it will give you a much richer perspective of the diversity of America.

Please- don’t post that it’s not a black man issue. That you are going to educate your children to respect authority (as if that was the issue), that it came down to personal choice (as if they had a choice). Don’t send me videos through messenger that explain why police killing these black men was justified (your side of things as you put it- I’m not against you or what you stand for but this is how I see things you said). We are better than all of this and it’s insulting. 

It’s on all of us. This issue will not go away. We need serious changes in this country when it comes to criminal justice and law enforcement systems. But it all starts with each individual acknowledging that there are serious problems here.

Really take a deep look at yourself and ask these questions-

What internal racisms and biases do I personally have? (We ALL have them- to admit otherwise is naive) 

How are those biases being passed on to my children? 

Finally- what can I personally do to confront those biases? This will involve doing lots of things outside of your comfort zone. Go meet people who are completely different than yourself- go to places that you normally don’t go to. Challenge yourself to learn something new about a different culture every day. 

This is our defining moment people. Years from now the history books will paint this time of 2016 in a certain light- similar perhaps to the year -1968? 

Where we go from here matters. The world, this country, our legacy, our children’s futures depend on it. 

Exchanging a Bathroom for a Scooter

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April-June 2016 415A few weeks ago, we sent Big Boy to Lacrosse camp at the University of Notre Dame. We made a prior trip this past Spring and really enjoyed our time there. This was Big Boy’s first time away from home and he was so excited. In fact, he couldn’t wait to push us out of his dorm room. It really disturbed him that we hung out a little to observe the scene. He kept saying- “just go already!” He was more than ready for this.

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From a parent standpoint, I found the most interesting thing about the camp to be NOT the lacrosse skills he acquired while there from the coaches who hailed from various universities across the country. Don’t get me wrong- he definitely improved upon his stick skills and learned some new tips on defensive moves.

April-June 2016 414April-June 2016 417What cracked me up and surprised me the most were the life skills he learned while he was there- basically how to barter and work with others in a free enterprise system. Turns out- prior campers had this whole camp thing figured out. Boys had came prepared ready to barter, sell and profit from exchanging goods and services such as snack treats, stringing other people’s lacrosse heads, lacrosse sticks, nets, skateboards, and scooters. Big Boy said he sold his bag of beef jerky for $3.00 to another player. I responded with a “What? I paid over $5 for that bag?!” To which he promptly responded – “Mom- I had already eaten some.” I was thinking why in the world would you sell it then but instead said nothing.

Big Boy’s biggest complaint on day 1 was that his feet were killing him because the coaches made them walk back and forth from the dorm rooms to the playing fields a couple times a day- adding up to several miles on top of the regular drills and games.

So Big Boy did what he had to- he “sold” access and use of the private bathroom he shared with his roommate in exchange for use of another player’s scooter so that he could scoot back and forth throughout the day. Turns out Big Boy and his roommate had a corner room so they were the only boys on that floor to have their own private bathroom. Big Boy quickly realized what an advantage he had and used what he had to get what he needed.

The other player got to have his own private bathroom to do his business in and Big Boy’s feet got to rest just a little bit. And I had been worried about him and his feet. Yeah, right.

Art and Thinking Twice

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With the end of the school year, I had the pleasure of reviewing all the kids’ artwork from their art classes. What a surprise I found- I love learning new things about my kids and the way they think. It makes me think about how the stuff we talk about at home impacts what they say and do out in the world.

All 3 are in summer camps this week, so I find myself with a few hours of spare time. Wouldn’t you know it- accompanied by a terrible head cold. I am so mad about it- going on day 5. Instead of enjoying the nice weather and going for a walk or yoga class, I find myself at home, sniffling, doped up on medicine and napping. It could be worse I suppose- I know. So, I’ll quit whining.

Back to the artwork. Second, Most Honorable Son drew the above piece. By itself it doesn’t say much. Accompanied by this caption- however – it speaks volumes.

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The world is a whole place with diversity in it. Black, brown, white, yellow, tan, every color of the rainbow. Every color is needed and it is a beautiful thing. Words captured by a 10-year-old boy on how he views the world.

Here is Big Boy’s self-reflection pastel portrait. Loving it and so proud of my boys. They never fail to amaze me. This morning while watching CNN, a commercial for UNICEF came up with Alyssa Milano as the voice-over. As we heard about the “poor children who are starving and dying in the world because of lack of food,” I asked them- does this commercial make you think twice about throwing away your food and not eating it? No- they responded. “It makes us wonder why they only show black and brown children?” I was shocked. I had never thought about that commercial in that way. Despite seeing it or versions of it throughout the past 30 years of my life. Well said, my boys. Well said. In so many ways- through television, social media stories, throughout history and how it’s presented to us are we only shown part of the story, through a lens of bias, stereotypes and assumptions.

How many other things out there do I just dismiss and not think twice about how or what the message is that is being presented to me/us? There is much to think about here.

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