Archive for June, 2009

A Patch Of Blue In A Sea Of Black And White

Posted in Sports, Travel on June 29th, 2009 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

We took a fun little excursion to Chicago this past weekend and had a few adventures!  More about those later (if I get to them – my time to blog has dwindled A LOT lately!).  What I want to write about now is the Chicago Cubs game.  Let me begin by escorting the elephant from the room – the Cubs got creamed by the White Sox yesterday.  There, I said it.  And I’m just stating fact, unfortunately.  We were lucky enough to have tickets (happy birthday to me from Hubby – THANK YOU!!!!!) for Sunday’s game – the final game of a 3 game series between the cross-town MLB rivals the Cubs and the White Sox.  This game was to be the “rubber match” – with both teams tied at 1 win apiece for this series, Sunday’s outcome would decide the series winner.  But the Cubs lost.  Miserably.  It was almost like they didn’t show up to play baseball – which is something I and probably at least a few other Cubs fans lovingly yelled from the stands.  We got to watch Carlos Zambrano, the Cubs famously hot-headed starting pitcher, take the mound – and consequently lose his control and get booed off the field.  And let me say it wasn’t just Sox fans who were booing Zambrano.  But I think it was awesome that he was the starting pitcher the day we got to go watch the game live, and he was really fun to watch.  It was frustrating to see the empty bullpen across right field though – it seemed empty forever.  My husband and I really thought Lou Pinnella should have made the call  to the bullpen a little bit sooner and at  least get someone throwing balls down there – Zambrano does not recover his game often once he loses it.   We were both watching for Lou’s call, and finally Zambrano made his trademark nasty move – the guy gets so angry that he beans someone.  He throws a 90ish mph baseball AT the batter!  So then he stalks off the field, gives the fans a one-finger salute (I don’t think it was THAT finger), and goes into the locker room to pout by himself.  He didn’t throw down any water coolers on  the way this time as he’s also been known to do, but I can’t say that I wouldn’t have liked to see that.  As lucky as we were to get to see Big Z pitch, he didn’t do very well and we were happy to see him go.

But alas, Zambrano was not the only problem yesterday since the Cubs’ bats haven’t produced much of anything for weeks, and our game day was no exception.  Thus we witnessed a shut-out on the Cubs.

But that’s enough of that.  It ‘s amazing how much fun we had despite the worst possible scenario for the game!  I LOVE live baseball, and MLB almost doesn’t compare to the smaller AAA and AA  leagues.  Those are fun too, but comparing those atmospheres is really like comparing apples and oranges.  It was kind of toasty in the sun, and my knees got burnt to a crisp; I’m dealing with that today.  For those of you who want to know the outrageous robbery they’re getting away with in MLB stadiums across the country, at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago, it costs $23 to park, $6.75 for a 20 oz. beer, $4 for a bottle of pop or water (let me guess – they took out all the public drinking fountains, I sure didn’t see any), and $4.75 for a hot dog.  If you can keep yourself hydrated  during the game, you can save yourself $6 on 2 bottles of water by buying one before and one after the game from the street vendors – they  sell them for $1, which isn’t bad at all in that heat!  Originally I had planned to eat all day at the stadium, but I just wasn’t hungry in the heat.  There’s nothing like sitting there at a baseball game and cracking peanuts, but I actually passed on those too.  I certainly didn’t want to leave my seat much, and by the time the peanut vendor arrived, we no longer felt like sitting there calmly cracking peanuts while the Cubs played like you-know-what and gave the game away.  That reminds me – we had GREAT seats, upper-level, 3rd base side, right about even with the pitcher.  We had a bird’s-eye view of Zambrano’s animal-like pacing and stomping rituals on the mound.  I guess that’s enough about the game – interesting how we were ALMOST late…

Sox park (its real name is a tongue and finger-typing twister) is situated on I-90, one of Chicago’s expressways.  I was anxious to try Jill the GPS’s skills in a city environment since she had so failed us in Pittsburgh, but more so in the outskirts,  we weren’t really in downtown Pittsburgh.  Jill did fine in the big city of Chicago, but when we got off the expressway, it was chaos – and it wasn’t like Jill was programmed to guide us through the Sox’s bizarre parking system; red coupons, green coupons, etc.  We THOUGHT we had left in plenty of time for the game and might even see some batting practice, but we hit some traffic on the way down (did I mention this was also a weekend for the Taste of Chicago?!?  Oops – bad planning on our part; we couldn’t believe it.  The Taste draws millions!).  Anyway, when we arrived on the south side, we were confused about where to go for cash ($23!) parking.  There were people directing traffic (don’t know if they were cops or city workers or Sox park workers, but I might find out so I can file a complaint!), so we asked one of the ladies how to get to cash parking.  She said, “I’m going to let you make a U-Turn (we were heading east, toward the stadium), and you make the u-turn and go to 33rd street.  So we made the U-turn and headed west when we began to get a not-so-comfortable feeling.  Remember, we had seen the stadium, and we were now heading away from it, out of the city.  And usually numbered streets in cities are parallel to  each other.  So if we were looking for 33rd, most likely we should see 31st, 32nd, or 34th streets first – but we weren’t.  So we turned around, and an hour later, when we finally figured out where to  be, we had passed the “helpful” traffic person again and confirmed our suspicions:  she had tried to take us out of the city on purpose.  In fact, when we passed Ms. Directions again, there was a Sox parking pay lot one block in front of her.  I like to think the  best of people, but here it’s obvious that earlier, she had us make the U-turn rather than turn around so we wouldn’t be able to see that she was taking us the wrong way.  Rude isn’t even the word for that.  As most locals know, Sox park is not known for being nestled in safe neighborhoods – Wrigley Field, home of the Cubs, is known as the “Friendly Confines” – NOT Sox Park.  We were fine, the area didn’t get too bad, my husband just got really upset that we might be late for the game.  Indeed, when we did finally find our lot, there was a big line and we sat in it for a long time.   I can’t help but wonder if maybe Ms. Helpful had noticed the color of our shirts – Cubbie blue- which isn’t exactly welcome on the south side of Chicago.  And those Cubbie blue shirts we wore (which ironically said “Cubs win!”, sheesh) were probably responsible for other rude behaviors directed our way.  For instance, my husband got bumped a little harder than regular crowd jostling, and some of his popcorn spilled.  Sox fans nearby jeered, and there were also the people who would walk by us up the stairs on the way to their seats (we were seated on an aisle) and feel  inclined to say “Cubs suck”.  Yesterday they may have had a point.

The people directly  around us were friendly enough, a mix of Chicago fans, both north and south, Cubs and Sox.  Some people wore a Sox hat and a Cubs shirt, while there were families of people dressed for both teams, an interesting mix.  As I looked around the stadium, I saw mostly white shirts (the black shirts were hard to see) in the sea of people, although the sea was dotted with many patches of Cubbie blue, much like the blue patch the two of us created.  As rude as a select few Sox fans were though, I suppose they can’t be all bad…  on the way  in to the stadium, it was extremely windy and we both got our Cubs hats blown right off our heads – maybe it was a sign of things to  come…  But anyway, it was Sox fans who helped up retrieve the runaway hats.

Overall, a great day for some baseball; definitely something I hope to do  again.  Except next time, I think we’ll park far away and take the train to the stadium and forget trying to park in the city.  We hit traffic on the way out too, and an hour after the game had ended, I turned around and I could still see Sox park which was STILL within walking distance!  TOO MUCH TRAFFIC!

SAVE OHIO LIBRARIES!

Posted in Uncategorized on June 24th, 2009 and tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

It’s a catch-22.  In this horrible economy, people are using the free resources provided by their local libraries more than ever.  However, in this horrible economy, governments are having trouble funding the free resources provided by local libraries.  Here in Ohio, Governor Strickland is contemplating a new state budget cut that would reduce our libraries’ funding by an additional 52%, and that’s on top of the 20% cut they’ve already seen in 2009.  With this kind of reduction in funding, obviously the libraries would not be able to function on the same level on which they are currently functioning, nor with the same hours.  If you live in Ohio, you can help the governor and congressmen know how harmful library funding cuts would be to each and every community in the state.  Here is some contact info to help you do  your part in saving the libraries:

Click here to  Contact the Governor’s Office
Contact the Governor’s Office by phone @ (614)466-3555
Fax the Governor @ (614)466-9354

State Senator Steve Buehrer
Phone: (614) 466-8150
Fax: (614) 466-4250 ATTENTION STEVE BUEHRER
Email: SD01@senate.state.oh.us
For more information, click here:
www.saveohiolibraries.com

Thank you for your help!  Closing library branches is harmful to communities in many ways and would affect everyone, even those who don’t use the libraries themselves.

500th Post

Posted in Cool Internet Stuff on June 23rd, 2009 and tagged , , , ,

WOW!

I’ve made 500 blog posts here on My Food Chain Gang!  That is A LOT of rambling and a ton of tangents!  Thank you for reading; especially those of you who have read all 500 posts, if there is anyone who could stand me for that long!

I think after that many posts, I’m entitled to a generic one, noting nothing other than my 500th blog post, don’t you?

AWWW!!!

Posted in animals, Everyday Life on June 22nd, 2009 and tagged , , , , , ,

We were playing in the back yard yesterday when we saw something furry laying on the ground.  Thinking the dog had gotten an animal, I put the dog inside and made myself scarce while my husband investigated – I’m sensitive about animals, and if the dog had killed a furry little creature in the back yard, I wanted to pretend like it didn’t happen.  So I come back outside a few minutes later, and my husband is still kneeling over the fur, saying he hasn’t figured out what it is yet.  What?  Clearly the fur was not moving; why couldn’t he figure out what it was?  I fetched him a stick, and when he poked it, he found that it was just fur.  And underneath the fur was a hole containing teeny tiny baby bunnies – live ones!  They are incredibly cute, and they even hop!  After some investigation on the internet, we found that the best thing to do is to leave them alone and that their mother didn’t abandon them.  Baby bunnies only get nursed for 5 minutes per day, and if the mother were to stay near the nest, she would alert predators to the babies.  I couldn’t resist pushing aside the fur to take a picture.  It’s very inconspicuous yet also in the middle of the open yard.  I sure hope nothing happens to those babies.  The first one is of the nest, then you move the fur, and the second picture is of a little head, note the white blaze on the top of the head.  The third picture is a baby bunny face with eyes closed, see if you can find it in the middle of the fur:

bunny-nest-in-the-yard-001

bunny-nest-in-the-yard-003

bunny-nest-in-the-yard-002

I’m too afraid of hurting them to examine them closely enough to count them or take better pictures, but aren’t they cute!  From what I read, they will venture out of the nest at around 3 weeks old, and they will leave it altogether at 6-8 weeks.  Judging by the size of our babies and the fact that we didn’t see the nest before yesterday, I’d say ours are probably only days old; perhaps they were even only hours old when we found them yesterday!  I am so glad we have a fenced yard now to keep the neighborhood cats out – we have a few, and I’ve been feeding one of them.  I feed her at the front of the house though, so I wonder if continuing to feed the cat will encourage her to come over here or if it will distract her and keep her in the front of the house, away from the baby bunnies?

I’m excited to watch them grow – they already look bigger than they did yesterday!  Maybe I’ll post their progress on my blog – stay tuned!

Before And After – Chapter 3 – Beesly

Posted in Pets on June 17th, 2009 and tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Our dog Beesly (named for the character Pam Beesly on the awesome NBC show The Office, which you should really watch (end of shamelss plug)) can grow to be very fluffy.  From people who have seen her, we’ve had comments  ranging from “That dog is more round than she is tall!” to “there is more fur than dog there” and then there are the people who would just laugh after they saw her.  She is was a very fluffy dog.  Since it’s summertime where Beesly lives, we figured it was time to shear her like a sheep, which ended up being a surprise doggie makeover because she had SO much fur.  Check this out:

BEFORE:
beesley-before-haircut-6-16-09-0021AFTER:
beesley-after-haircut-6-16-09

After we sheared Beesly, we looked forward to showing her to our 9-year-old daughter, Taylor, who is Beesly’s main caregiver.  We told the kids we had a surprise for them, and we let Beesly in from the back yard and my daughter’s friend cried out that the surprise was that we got a new dog.  Well, thanks for giving the kids expectations about the surprise (hehe), but she was half-right.  The surprise was a “new” dog.  The kids can now pet Beesly since before the haircut you would only be petting a thick mat of fur.  Beesly herself appreciates this makeover a lot too!  She is much more cool when she lays outside, she is less thirsty, and she even has lots more energy!  She IS like a new dog!  And by the way, the kids all liked the surprise.  Taylor saw Beesly and laughed and laughed; it was adorable.  And as a finale to this blog post, THIS is how much fur we got off of Beesly – the pen is sitting on top of the bag to reference the volume of the fur contained inside:

beeslys-bag-of-hair

I know they make clothes out of alpaca fur and sheep’s wool; does anyone know about the harvesting of dog fur?  And I’m not talking about Burlington Coat Factory, YUCK!

Teaching Is Probably Not My Forte

Posted in church, Kids on June 14th, 2009 and tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

Another tangents.org blogger, who is also a very  good friend of mine, blogs about his (mis)adventures concerning substitute teaching.  He has posted a poll or two about what subjects and ages his readers would like to teach if they could choose.  I never really took the questions seriously since I could never picture myself in the situation to teach.  After all, you need a degree to teach most anything these days, and I stopped college short of a degree to get married, which is one of the best decisions I  ever made, no regrets.  So I would answer those polls, and I would say I’d like to teach zoology or animal behavior or something like that because I love animals.  And I guessed that I would like to teach kids younger than high school, because I was a kid once, and I remember how older kids treat their substitute teachers…  But again, until a few weeks ago, I never thought I’d find myself in a position to actually teach a class…

At our family’s church, childcare is provided.  Over the summer,  understandably there  are many childcare volunteers who need a break, so they ask parents to volunteer.  My husband and I quickly signed up – after all, we have 4 kids in childcare there every  week, so it was time to give back.  We didn’t state an age nor gender preference of our students; we just noted that we didn’t want to be in the 4-year-old nor 2-year-old classes since that’s where our two daughters are who would have a chance of being clingy with Mom and Dad volunteering in their class.  Basically, it was the luck  of the draw – and our “luck” dictated that we were to be in the 3rd-5th grade boys class.  Ok, no problem.  I’ve seen the tail-end of those Brownies meetings while waiting to pick up my daughter – 9 or 10 tween girls running around; screaming, giggling, gossiping, sometimes somehow doing all 3 of those things at once…  So um, no thanks, boys will be just fine for Sunday school.  So I thought…

We got our “lesson plans”, and there were not fewer than 10 pages of instructions to follow for our 1 hour and 5 minute class.  Well, add-in the arrival games and we were in charge for about an hour and 15 minutes.  But I haven’t seen  time crawl by that slowly since before I had kids; it was the longest hour I’ve had in a long time!  Not that I wasn’t having fun, because I was –  A LOT of fun, actually.  So anyway, all week, my husband and I have been poring over these lesson plans; I was committed to go in there today knowing exactly what I was doing and determined to keep  control over those boys.

So  we arrive, and the helpful leader tells us to  grab snacks for the kids ahead of their arrival, but we don’t know how many we’ll be expecting, so in her words, “10 should be plenty”.  We get to the classroom, she explains a few things, and kids begin to arrive.  From the beginning, it was clear we were going to have to  keep one eye on a rambunctious and mischievous (though intelligent) little boy named Avery.  In fact, the very minute after I made a mental note to watch Avery very closely, I looked up and he was gone.  I had no choice but to leave my poor defenseless husband in the clutches of the growing number of 8-10 year-old-boys while I literally ran after the wayward Avery.  The Kid’s Kingdom building of our church is still somewhat of a maze to me, so it was pure luck that I got out into the hallway just in time to see the back of Avery disappearing through a set of double doors.  “I’ve got you now, sucker”  I  thought as I ran through the gym after him.  I chased him right up to the kids’ check-in desk, where I, the newbie, had to explain to the staff person why I was chasing a kid who had escaped from my classroom.  Luckily for me, she seemed to know Avery and to be familiar with his escapades, and she was grateful that I had chased him down.  Turns out, he had decided to get himself a name tag (which he is supposed to do before class but evidently did not), so he decided to leave the classroom to do so without telling anyone, which of course is a big no-no.

So I collar Avery, and we return to the classroom, and there are now kids everywhere who all had apparently arrived during the chase scene!  There was one teeny-tiny little girl who stuck out like a sore thumb in a room full of all boys years older than her, so I went over to her and offered to walk her to the girls’ class –  and that’s how I found out that she was a guest of one of the kids in the class, who turned out to be one of the pastor’s sons.  Actually, he was the son of the pastor who was our friend before we chose this church, so seeing him was a bit of a relief – for that moment anyway.  I thought for sure he would be a nice, helpful boy…  but more on that later.  We did a head count, and we discovered in our classroom, we had 14 boys + 1 little girl + 2 freshman teachers with Ø experience = fun times ahead!

We played the activity that was slated for play while the kids were arriving, and it was a worksheet where the kids matched words with the fears they represent, like arachnophobia=the fear of spiders, felinaphobia=the fear of cats, etc.  It went pretty well, despite disappearing pens (one guess – yes, Avery.  Though I countered his pen trick well.  When he said that he ate the pens, I said, well, you won’t be needing snack then, and the pens were automatically recovered).  Finally it was time to line up to go to large group.

Once in the large group room, also known as The Wherehouse, our responsibilities diminished as the leader took over and we relished a break of sorts.  We got to see a few of the kids act things out, which was neat, and we also  got to see our oldest daughter who had come over from her class.  Let me tell you, she was a pro at their songs and dances!  She just performed them without even  giving a glance over to Mom and Dad, which is so the way we wanted it and  exactly what we were afraid of when declining to volunteer in any of our kids’ classrooms.  But her section of the room was also eerily quiet, and I kind of regretted the decision to stay away from teaching our kids’ classrooms as I envied their parent volunteer with her four quiet girls versus our fourteen borderline obnoxious boys (and one little girl).  Large group was uneventful, crisis-wise anyway.  I tried some of the dances and my husband made fun of me…  but the kids don’t want to see some grumpy-looking  adult standing there,  not having fun, right?  My job was to  encourage them to participate, and I figured step one would be to participate myself!

So at 11:30, after Large Group, it was time to go back to the classrooms until 12:05.  And that’s when time began to creep in a way it hasn’t for us since our engagement.  We began class with one of the suggested games; a relay race involving cups of water.  The instructions said it was “great for boys”, so without really giving it thought, we learned the rules of that game and one other.  The relay involved carrying a cup of water on the back of one’s hand down a “balance beam” (tape line on the floor) and back again.  This was fun, but as you can imagine, there were more than a few spills.  And a note: Avery chose to get himself kicked out of this one  – kudos to my husband for putting his foot down!  Of course, by then all the boys were getting really rowdy (the pastor’s son was one of the tricksters; here I thought he’d be a big help), so we shut the door and passed out the snack.  But if you remember, earlier I said that we had only  brought 10 snacks to the classroom, which “should be plenty” but alas, were not nearly enough for 15 hungry kids.  Luckily, there were other snacks leftover from the previous session, and we didn’t bother letting them chose which of the two snacks they would get, so snack time was very peaceful thanks to my husband’s brilliant “you-get-what-you-get” snack tactic.  I maintain from my many observations of kids that the #1 cause of all kid meltdowns is lack of food.  That is free advice 🙂

So then we sat at the table in the classroom, and it was time for a coin tossing game.  Everyone got a partner (including me – a well-behaved boy named Brandon, thank goodness), chose a side and each team flipped the coin –  the person whose side was flipped answered the first question (something relating to the verse lesson and what was shown in the play during large group).  The game continued with  asking questions of each  partner, and the kids began to have some fun with it and come up with silly answers.    It was a fun game, but we finished and there were still at least 10 minutes until dismissal!  Again, my husband saved the day, and rather than trying to look over the instructions for another game and potentially losing control of the classroom whilel we did that, he made up an activity, so we went around the table discussing our fears.  And I’ve complimented him enough so far because he did an awesome job with the kids, but here’s where it gets ugly – my husband chose this moment to share my fear of frogs with 14 little boys.  If I were a regular teacher, I would be terrified and would probably move from my house and my hometown.  But as a one-time substitute Sunday school teacher, I think I’m safe from any horrid pranks involving amphibians.  So back to the game, according to their creativity, one boy’s fear was of “cinderblocks”, while a few of the students answered honestly that they were afraid of the dark.  Quickly looking for our lesson plans to determine the next activity, we found them to be missing…  “Avery” we said simultaneously, and like magic, there were the lesson plans, right in front of Avery’s chair.  But it was finally almost time to line up at the door for dismissal, and again, Hubby saved the day with another game – this one killed two birds with one stone by producing quiet AND spending time.  The boys had to be quiet while my husband counted to 20 or else he would start over.  We only had to reset twice, believe it or not!  Once for (who else) Avery, and once for two other  boys wrestling each other to the floor.  And then it was over.

And then we got our beautiful oldest daughter back, and she is so good and obedient.  And our other three, they were happy to see us as well, and us them, and things were going great until we pulled out of the parking lot and our 5-year-old noticed her older sister’s new ring she had earned at church…  and so began the fighting.  And the making up.  And the familial bonding which involves a beautiful process that also makes me want to tear my hair out at times.

I am looking forward to volunteering in Kid’s Kingdom again.  But maybe next time, changing diapers for an hour would be easier!

Battle Of The Bulge

Posted in Everyday Life on June 14th, 2009 and tagged , , , ,

If you think this is a weight-loss  blog post, click again!

Recently, I’ve  noticed a huge bulge appearing in the floor of our downstairs bathroom:

bulge-in-btrm-floor-6-11-09-001

Ok, so it’s difficult to see in the picture – it’s a few inches above that rectangular green carpet, but believe me when I say it’s getting bigger, seemingly by the day – it’s now big enough to trip over!  My husband thinks we’ll be able to see what’s happening by going into our basement and looking at it from below the bathroom floor.  The only problem is that our bathroom is over the crawl space, not the basement.  In the 2½ years that we’ve lived in this house, we’ve never set foot (nor knee) in the crawl space – it’s always scary to think what one may find in a crawl space that hasn’t been disturbed in years, at least for me.  I guess I’ve seen too many horror movies…  or maybe it’s the fact that I grew up only miles away from the most macabrely (not a real word, but fits perfectly here if you ask me – maybe I will coin the term) famous crawl space – that of John Wayne Gacy, where 29 bodies were unearthed in the late ’70’s.

So anyway, someone needs to go into that crawl space to find out what this bulge it expands and takes over the entire house!

And we recently were told that our electric wiring in the house is out of date; here we’ve been spending money to fix up certain things on the house, and other things just keep breaking.  Sometimes I’m not so sure about the joys of home ownership, sigh!

Cuteness To Get You Through The Weekend

Posted in Kids on June 13th, 2009 and tagged , , , , ,

cute-kids-6-11-09-002

Above is a picture of our second oldest, 5-year-old Sammie and her almost 1-year-old brother Christopher.  He is the only boy in our family, and also the only sibling with which Sammie doesn’t fight.  It seems like the natives (kids) have been restless lately.  Our oldest, Taylor, it back to her snotty tween “I’m-better-than-everyone-else-so-why-do-they-get-more-than-me” attitude, so she is constantly yelling at and fighting with her sisters.  Disney is 2 and has  been really sensitive, demanding, and impatient lately.  Needless to say, our house has been very loud as of late.  But in between  the arguments, the kids still find time to be cute.  Here is a picture of Disney actually sharing the activity table with her baby brother (whose looks seemingly aged months after he got his new haircut):

cute-kids-6-11-09-004

A Regional Forward

Posted in Fun Forwards on June 11th, 2009 and tagged , , , , , ,

With amusement and much scrutiny, I peruse most of the many email forwards I receive…  Occasionally, one will catch my eye.  Such is the case for the forward containing the following picture entitled: “Sauder Woodworking Company Takes Over GM”

sauder-forward1

I found it extremely amusing, but I began to think of the entertainment value of the aforementioned email forward.  Is this also amusing to  people who aren’t affected by the close proximity of the Sauder factories?  Do people who live far  outside of Archbold, Ohio get the joke?

Well, anyway, if you live where you get it, then HaHa –  we share a  joke.  It IS funny – Sauder is a huge employer in the area and  many locals have jobs assembling Sauder’s ‘assemble yourself’ kits of furnitiure.  The fact that someone crafted an email to tie it into the horrible economy and the down-sizing of GM is priceless…   but there I go again, overexplaining the joke.  If you get it, then you get it…  (and are probably located within 60 miles of Lake Erie), but if you have no idea what I’m talking about –  power to you to recognize regionally sensitive email forwards…  What are some of the regional forwards that have been haunting YOU?

Parental Pickle

Posted in books, Current Events on June 10th, 2009 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Have you heard about the controversy of Lenore Skenazy?  She is the New York mom who is under fire for letting her 10-year-old son ride the subway alone.  I would not put my kids on a subway alone, but us here (taking on a sudden  hickish accent…) are country folk, after all, and even I didn’t ride the subway when I was in New York three months ago.  But I trust that Ms. Skenazy made the right decision for her child…  why?  Because I think that parents these days NEED to be trusted to make the right decisions for their children!  I believe that we are in the midst of an age where we are much too over-protective of our young-uns.  And those parents who aren’t utterly over-protective are left to a cruel and unusual punishment of media scrutiny…  If you follow and/or agree with what I’m saying, you will enjoy the writing of Lenore Skenazy:

The last word: Advice from ‘America’s worst mom’

A year ago, journalist Lenore Skenazy caused a media sensation when she let her 9-year-old ride New York City’s subway by himself. In a new book, she explains why she has no regrets.

About a year ago, I let my 9-year-old ride the New York subway alone for the first time. I didn’t do it because I was brave or reckless or seeking a book contract. I did it because I know my son the way you know your kids. I knew he was ready, so I let him go. Then I wrote a column about it for The New York Sun. Big deal, right?

Well, the night the column ran, someone from the Today show called me at home to ask, Did I really let my son take the subway by himself?

Yes.

Just abandoned him in the middle of the city and told him to find his way home?

Well, abandoned is kind of a strong word, but … yes, I did leave him at Bloomingdale’s.

In this day and age?

No, in Ladies’ Handbags.

Oh, she loved that. Would I be willing to come on the air and talk about it?

Sure, why not?

I had no idea what was about to hit me.

A day later, there across from me was Ann Curry looking outrageously pretty and slightly alarmed, because her next guest (the one right before George Clooney) just might be criminally insane. By way of introduction, she turned to the camera and asked, “Is she an enlightened mom or a really bad one?”

The shot widened to reveal … me. And my son Izzy. And some “parenting expert” perched on that famous couch right next to us, who, I soon learned, was there to Teach Us a Lesson.

I quickly told the story about how Izzy, the 9-year-old, had been begging me to let him try to find his way home on his own from someplace, anyplace, by subway.

I know that may sound a little scary, but it’s not. Here in New York, families are on the subway all the time. It’s extremely, even statistically, safe. Whatever subterranean terror you see Will Smith battling in the movies goes home when the filming stops—probably to New Jersey. Our city’s murder rate is back to where it was in 1963. And, by the way, it’s probably down wherever you live, too.

That’s why letting Izzy find his way home alone seemed like a fine idea. Not dangerous. Not crazy. Not even very hard. My husband and I talked about it and agreed that our boy was ready. So on that sunny Sunday when I took him to that big, bright store, I said those words we don’t say much anymore.

“Bye-bye! Have fun!”

I didn’t leave him defenseless, of course. I gave him a subway map, a transit card, $20 in case of emergencies, and some quarters to make a call. But, no, I did not give him a cell phone. Because although I very much trusted him to get himself home, I was a lot less sure he’d get the phone there.

And remember: He had quarters.

Anyway, it all turned out fine. One subway ride, one bus ride, and one hour or so later, my son was back home, proud as a peacock (who happens to take public transportation). I only wrote about his little adventure because when I told the other fourth-grade moms at the schoolyard about it, they all said the same thing.

You let him WHAT?

The more polite said things like, “Well that’s fine, and I’ll let my son do that, too … when he’s in college.”

So—back to the Today show. After Izzy tells Ann how easy the whole thing was, she turns to the Parenting Expert—a breed that seems to exist only to tell us parents what we’re doing wrong and why this will warp our kids forever.

This one is appalled at what I’ve done. She looks like I just asked her to smell my socks. She says that I could have given my son the exact same experience of independence, but in a much “safer” way—if only I had followed him or insisted he ride with a group of friends.

“Well, how is that the ‘exact same experience’ if it’s different?” I demanded. “Besides, he was safe! That’s why I let him go, you fear-mongering hypocrite, preaching independence while warning against it!”

Well, I didn’t get all of that out, exactly, but I did get out a very cogent, “Gee, um … ” Anyway, it didn’t even matter, because as soon as we left the set, my phone rang. It was MSNBC. Could I be there in an hour?

Then Fox News called. Could I be there with Izzy that afternoon? MSNBC called back: If I did the show today, would I still promise to come back with Izzy to do it again over the weekend, same place, same story?

And suddenly, weirdly, I found myself in that place you always hear about: the center of a media storm. It was kind of fun, but also kind of terrifying—because everyone was weighing in on my parenting skills. Reporters queried from China, Israel, Australia, Malta. The English wanted to know, “Are we wrapping our children in cotton wool?” To which I boldly replied, “What the heck is cotton wool?” (Turns out to be the kind of cotton in cotton balls.)

The media dubbed me “America’s Worst Mom.” (Go ahead—Google it.) But that’s not what I am.

I really think I’m a parent who is afraid of some things (bears, cars) and less afraid of others (subways, strangers). But mostly I’m afraid that I, too, have been swept up in the impossible obsession of our era: total safety for our children every second of every day. The idea that we should provide it and actually could provide it. It’s as if we don’t believe in fate anymore, or good luck or bad luck. No, it’s all up to us.

Childhood really has changed since today’s parents were kids, and not just in the United States. Australian children get stared at when they ride the bus alone. Canadian kids stay inside playing video­games. After I started a blog called Free Range Kids, I heard from a dad in Ireland who lets his 11-year-old play in the local park, unsupervised, and now a mom down the street won’t let her son go to their house. She thinks the dad is reckless.

What has changed in the English-speaking world that has made childhood independence taboo? The ground has not gradually gotten harder under the jungle gym. The bus stops have not crept farther from home. Crime is actually lower than it was when most of us were growing up. So there is no reality-based reason that children today should be treated as more helpless and vulnerable than we were when we were young.

If parents all around us are clutching their children close, it’s easy to understand why: It’s what pop culture is telling us to do. Stories of kidnappings swamp the news. Go online, and you can find a map of local sex offenders as easily as the local Victoria’s Secret (possibly in the same place). Meantime, if you do summon the courage to put your kids on a bus or a bench or a bike, other parents keep butting in: An unwatched child is a tragedy waiting to happen.

Here’s a typical letter addressed to me at Free Range Kids:

“I understand that you probably don’t want your children to grow up afraid and not able to survive as independent adults,” she wrote. “On the other hand, I think you’re also teaching them that there is nothing to fear, and that isn’t correct. It’s survival of the fittest, and if they don’t know who/what the enemy is, how will they avoid it? There are many, many dangers to protect them from, and it does take work—that’s what parenting is. If you want them to run wild and stay out of your hair, you shouldn’t have had them.”

I agree that it makes sense to teach your kids about danger and how best to avoid it. Just like you want to teach them to stop, drop, and roll if they’re ever in a fire. But then? Then you have to let them out again, because the writer is wrong when she says, “There are many, many dangers to protect them from.”

There are not. Mostly, the world is safe. Mostly, people are good. To emphasize the opposite is to live in the world of tabloid TV. A world filled with worst-case scenarios, not the world we actually live in, which is factually, statistically, and, luckily for us, one of the safest periods for children in the history of the world.

Like the housewives of the 1950s, today’s children need to be liberated. Unlike the housewives of the ’50s, the children can’t do it themselves. Though I’d love to see hordes of kids gathering for meetings, staging protests, and burning their baby kneepads—and maybe they will—it is really up to us parents to start re-normalizing childhood. That begins with us realizing how scared we’ve gotten, even of ridiculously remote dangers.

We have to be less afraid of nature and more willing to embrace the idea that some rashes and bites are a fair price to pay in exchange for appreciating the wonder of a cool-looking rock or an unforgettable fern.

When we watch TV, we have to remind ourselves that its job is to terrify and disgust us so that we’ll keep watching in horror. It is doing an excellent job on both fronts.

We have to learn to remind the other parents who think we’re being careless when we loosen our grip that we are actually trying to teach our children how to get along in the world, and that we believe this is our job. A child who can fend for himself is a lot safer than one forever coddled, because the coddled child will not have Mom or Dad around all the time. Adults once knew what we have forgotten today. Kids are competent. Kids are capable. Kids deserve freedom, responsibility, and a chance to be part of the world.

I have to be honest, though: I write all this in a kind of shaky mood because I just got a call from the police. This morning, I put Izzy, now 10, on a half-hour train ride out to his friend’s house. It sounds like I’m a recidivist, but really: His friend’s family was waiting at the other end to pick him up, and he’s done this a dozen times already. It is a straight shot on a commuter railroad. This particular time, however, the conductor found it outrageous that a 10-year-old should be traveling alone, and summoned the police, who arrived as my son disembarked.

When the officer phoned me at home, I told him the truth (while my heart stood still): We had actually inquired of the railroad what age a child can travel alone and were told there was no specific regulation about this.

Later I looked up the official rules: A child only has to be 8 to ride alone on the railroad or subway. Good rule.

(From the book Free Range Kids by Lenore Skenazy. © 2009 by Lenore Skenazy. Reprinted with permission of the publisher, John Wiley & Sons, Inc.)