Sunday, June 19, 2011

oh, paper. I'm so sorry.

My inlaws recently gave us a gift.  One that I, admittedly, was uncomfortable with.  They gave us a brand new iPad…and even though I fought it, I do love it.  I’m still trying to figure it all out, but I have a confession to make: I downloaded some books. To read.  On iBooks.  There. I said it.  I am reading a book right now on a digital device.  Just typing that makes me feel dirty and scandalous.
I couldn’t help but to see what it was all about.  Really, can you blame me?!  I will say that I feel like I’m having a bit of a tryst.  Maybe more of a ménage trois?  I’m torn.  I love books: the smell of books, the feel of a good heavy book in my hands – the excitement of buying a new book and cracking the spine.  I know. I’m a complete dork, but whatever.  Reading a book on an iPad is just weird.  There is really no other way to describe it – using the touch screen to turn the page seems wrong, but it’s also so easy.  And, I can hardly wait to get to the beach and have not just the three heavy books I will STILL tote with me, but also the 15 others that I’ve downloaded onto the iPad.  You know, just in case I can’t pick the right one to pack.
I know I wrote this about digital readers, but I guess I’m growing and changing with time.  Or else, I’ve just lost my mind.  Either is possible…I’ll keep you posted.

Monday, June 13, 2011


This week I had a birthday.  Normally, birthdays sort of bother me.  I spend a lot of time thinking about particular birthdays of the past: the one, at 16, where I hung out in a car until midnight with my sweet friend Amy so we could celebrate our birthdays together (hers is June 12).  The birthday I spent crying about the boy who had broken up with me earlier that day…and that was the one where I was skinny and hot, but also? Who does that? Shame on him. My 21st, where I wore a shiny gold dress to a club called The Edge and danced in a cage and then fell down half a flight of stairs – drunk on Midori sours…seriously.  The thought makes me simultaneously laugh and throw up in my mouth a little bit.  The one right after I had Lucy where I drank half a beer and thought I would die – I was 30 and remember thinking about how people did BIG things for 30th birthdays.  That day I mostly felt like a giant boob. My point is that, at 36, I’ve decided to not ever be bothered with that trivial stuff anymore.  I’ve decided this is the year I will take back June 11th. 
This year has been one of the best years of my life.  Honestly.  I’m not sure if it’s because I’m really happy with my work – I’ve found a happy place in teaching – or if it’s because my children are old enough now that I can stand back a bit and relax and enjoy them more?  I’m not sure.  I don’t know if it’s because I’ve finally decided that this extra 20 pounds is really not that big of a deal.  I just feel like each year gets a little bit better for me, and that all the stuff I worried about when I could fit into that shiny gold dress doesn’t matter at all anymore.  Sure, I’m not that skinny and cute, but I’m also not that skanky and stupid.
I’m hoping that my 36th year will include more traveling and less whining.  More eating delicious food and drinking really good wine, and less worrying about where those calories are heading.  More time spent with family living far away and less time crying about that family not living in Kansas City anymore.  My 36th year will be about FINALLY getting started on my masters and not letting the excuse of kids, money or time get in my way.  It’s not a new epiphany…it’s just about finally getting off my own back.  Women are way too hard on themselves and I’m finally seeing some of that.  This year will be about loving myself more and criticizing myself less.  I hope that some of you will hold me to it.

Monday, June 6, 2011

the power of play

I’m writing this while sitting on a flight from Minneapolis to Kansas City.  Earlier tonight, my mother-in-law asked me if I enjoy traveling alone. I do.  A lot. Part of it is the tiny break from the day-to-day madness of having two kids under six. Part of it is exploring somewhere new. And part of it is simply remembering what it was like before I had people who depended on me for everything.  I’m not writing about some wonderful self-discovery here, I just think traveling alone is a rare treat for me, and this weekend I got to do just that when I flew to Rochester, NY, for a quick weekend with my Aunt Karen and her family.
During the weekend, Karen and I drove to New Paltz, NY, which lies on the Hudson River about an hour and a half outside of New York City.  It’s a beautiful area, truly, with mountains and the Hudson River and the Erie Canal, and all of these tiny towns tucked into the scenery.  I attended a workshop put on by the Hudson Valley Writing Project in New Paltz.  Yep, this could totally be yet another love letter to the National Writing Project and all of its local sites, but I will spare you that. Again.  You’re welcome.  This weekend I got to spend time with early childhood educators and it was fantastic. The best part? Meeting 80-year-old Deborah Meier and getting to listen to her talk about her experiences and stories. 
Deborah is many things: first and foremost a teacher, she has opened schools, she is a public advocate for education and education reform. A mutual friend called her, “...a piston. One of our true legends in the field.”   She truly should be an inspiration to educators everywhere.  She spent a lot of time this weekend talking about how schools in the United States spend an inordinate amount of time teaching kids the right answers.  I wanted to jump up and clap when I heard this, because I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the current state of our education system and particularly about how schools are no longer teaching or empowering students to think critically…about much of anything. 
We talked about the power of play in early childhood classrooms and about how when children learn to play, they in turn learn to think.  Ok, really, I could write a book about that last sentence – I’m REALLY dumbing that down for the sake of time and space and not boring you.  We talked about how many kindergarten teachers these days are encountering children in their classrooms who have no idea how to play.  Teachers are having to model play in classrooms because these children aren’t playing at home, and the early childhood programs they may have attended are doing away with play in favor of more "concrete" learning.  Can you believe that?  It’s terribly sad to me.
One of my favorite quotes from Deborah this weekend was “children know how to play until we teach them not to.”  Like I said, I could go on and on and on about my feelings on this subject, but mostly I wanted whomever might read this to simply think about it.  How did you play as a child?  What did you pretend to be?  Do (or did?) your children play?  How are you embracing and encouraging the play that is happening in your home?  Yes, that’s right, I said encouraging play.  Do it.
Right now I’m reading A Child’s Work, the Importance of Fantasy Play by Vivian Gussin Paley, a book I picked up this weekend.  I’m sure that I will have plenty more to say about this book as well, but I just wanted to present the idea of play to you. In a time where schools, particularly early childhood programs, are doing away with play, and turning preschool curriculum into sit-at-a-desk-and-learn school school, I think it’s super important to look at WHY play is so important for children.  I can’t tell you how nice it was this weekend to sit with a group of smart early childhood educators who agree with this stuff – it’s proof to me that we are going to do something to change the way things are going in early childhood education…one superhero or princess at a time.