Life with the Almost-Teen (Or How to Be Wrong with No Effort at All)

Posted by on Sep 11, 2014 in Growing Up, Parenting on a Daily Basis | 2 comments

the next 20 years

I am wrong.

Also, I am annoying. I miss obvious points. I am illogical. I don’t see common sense. I am in the same room. I like the pillows on the couch. I make unreasonable demands. I ask too many questions. I am appallingly ignorant about sports. I am late to parties.

But sometimes I’m okay.

Got an adolescent? I suspect you know what I’m talking about. This is how the creature I was promised would show up in my house right around this time apparently views me–some of the time. “Jack” will be thirteen in a few months, and, to quote from a movie, “he’s good at it.” (100 points to the reader who can identify the movie and the actor who said the line.) I find that we can go from pleasant, even fun interaction to “get out of my face” in .07 seconds or less, and then back again (if I’m lucky).

I know this behavior is normal. I also know that it’s exhausting. And, frankly it’s no fun to deal with Incensed-Almost-Teen when Great-Kid-I-Know-And-Love had just been sitting on the couch next to me, laughing with me over a joke or something funny the cats did. But then he asked if he could do something and I said no, or maybe I even said, “We’ll see,” and WHAM! It’s like being body-slammed without ever making physical contact.

It’s not that I don’t sympathize with him.

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Reading is STILL Fun: New Books for Young Readers (Plus One for Everybody)

Posted by on Sep 4, 2014 in Education & Learning, Tips, Recommendations & Warnings | 0 comments

ella-reading

So the kids are back in school. You might be thinking, Why would I want a book list when the kids have to read in school and for homework every day? He’s not going to want to pick up a book in his spare time. 

But…some of your kids do love to read in their spare time. And others of your kids would be willing to give up a little xBox time for a book if only they could find something that spoke to them. If only reading could be fun.

Of course reading can be fun. I know that. You know that. Here are some books to help your kids know that. (If they already know, then here are some new books for your kids to read.)

All of the books in the following list were published either in August or early September, or are due to come out later this month. With one exception, this list was put together by the fabulous Isabel, who curated Uncharted Parent’s midsummer reading list in July.

I’m going to start with the exception, because I can’t wait to share with you a book that just came out this week:


what if? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions

The author of what if? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions, Randall Munroe, is also the creator of the xkcd website, about which I am apparently the last to know. A former robotics scientist at NASA, Munroe hits the comedic/creative/scientific sweet spot as he answers silly, even ridiculous questions he’s received via his website with a combination of stick-figure drawings, laugh-out-loud humor and honest doses of solid science. Here are a few examples of the questions he tackles:

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10 Parenting Goals for the New School Year

Posted by on Aug 27, 2014 in Adoption, Domesticity, Growing Up, Parents are People, Too | 2 comments

Nope, NOT one of my goals this year. (Image courtesy Stargirl806 via deviantart.com)

Nope, NOT one of my goals this year.
(Image courtesy Stargirl806 via deviantart.com)

The new school year begins today. I know my kids will be asked to set goals for the year: goals as students, specific class goals, sports goals, academic activity goals, etc. As their mom, I will try to help them achieve their goals by supporting them in various ways while also encouraging their gradual independence.

But what about my goals for the new school year?

Yup, I’m talking about my goals as a parent. Calendar years mean little when you’re a parent; December 31 is just an excuse to party (or, more likely, try to party but not make it to midnight). When you have kids in school, the academic year is the one that counts. So I’d like to set a few personal, parental goals as the school year begins:

  1. Surviving the first months of THE TEENAGER. This year, my son “Jack” will turn thirteen. It’s no secret that I have long feared this stage of development in my children. There’s the split-personality moodiness, the overall crankiness, the disdain for the existence of parents, the meanness of other teens toward my own kids, the possibility that my kids may be mean toward others, the cliques, the slammed doors, the limitless potential for serious trouble, the possibility that there might be serious trouble and I won’t know anything about it… I could keep going. (And believe me, I do keep going in my brain at night.) My own teenage years were less than spectacular–actually, there’s no reward in the world that could entice me to repeat them–and my biggest hurdle will be not projecting my own experience onto my kids as I shepherd them through this next stage of life. Good luck to us all. If you need me, I’ll be quaking in the corner.
  2. Allowing my son to attend his first school dances without embarrassing him such that he joins the Witness Protection Program and doesn’t even tell me. Because, come on, how cute? They’re going to dances this year! I already asked if I could be one of the parent chaperones, and Jack said “no” faster than I’ve ever heard him answer any question in his life. As I mentioned above, I remember my teenage years all too clearly. So I don’t want to ruin this for him. But a few photos couldn’t hurt, right? Maybe a hug in front of his friends?
  3. Pulling off a successful bar mitzvah without turning into the Jewish-mother equivalent of Bridezilla. This one I think I’ve got. There were enough over-the-top moments leading up to my and my husband’s wedding that I believe I learned my lesson for a lifetime. It’s a celebration for a thirteen-year-old. Read from the Torah, nosh, dance the hora. L’Chaim. Do not lose your head.
  4. Navigating the next part of the adoption journey with “Emmie.”
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Screen-Free Week 2014: The Successful Failure

Posted by on Aug 20, 2014 in Kids & Technology, The World We Parent In | 3 comments

(Image courtesy hugovk via Flickr.com)

(Image courtesy hugovk via Flickr.com)

We did it. As promised, we visited upon the children a week without screens.

Well, that’s not entirely true. We had good intentions. Earlier in the summer, we had warned the kids that a screen-free week was coming. We laid out rules and a clear set of exceptions: communications via text or emails with friends would be okay (because “Texting is the New Phone Call”), as would anything related to work for the adults, looking up answers to questions we parents deemed educational or informational in nature (otherwise known as “Asking Dr. Google”), and other necessities of daily life in the twenty-first century. But when it came to entertainment, there would be no television, no computer, no iPod, no tablets. (We don’t have an Xbox or anything of that nature.)

This lasted approximately one half of one day.

The first slip occurred on Sunday afternoon, when the kids asked if they could watch an episode of Gilligan’s Island. We’ve been watching the entire series together over the past year, and the kids are enchanted by this hokey, dated band of misfits who can build anything, communicate with anyone, but can’t find a way off the freaking island. Sometimes the kids laugh so hard they practically fall off the couch. So they asked if they could watch an episode, and I said yes. Oops.

After I realized my mistake, I told myself it was family viewing, so that made it okay. I told myself the same thing when nine-year-old “Emmie” begged to watch So You Think You Can Dance, which we’d just started recording for her the week before. If we all watch it together, that’s family time, right? But that’s it, kids. That’s IT.

Then…twelve-year-old “Jack” hurt his back, enough that he asked me to take him to the doctor–a first-time event. So of course, when a super-active, sports-loving adolescent finds himself restricted to a couch, icing and heating his back for the better part of a couple of days, what are you going to do? You’re not going to read him works of Shakespeare. Trust me, he’s not interested. You’re going to hand him the remote control. There’s no other choice.

So our week wasn’t screen-free after all. But even with these major stumbles, we did achieve a week of much-reduced screen time. The small screens were barely in evidence all week, and the television was on much less than usual. And this is where things get interesting.

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Summer Reading for Kids, Mid-Summer Edition

Posted by on Jul 30, 2014 in Tips, Recommendations & Warnings | 2 comments

reading is fundamental

August starts this week. August! Just when it feels like summer has only begun, it’s time to squeeze in those last days of digging bare toes into the sand, huddling with ever-taller kids around a fire making s’mores, or, for the kids, stretching out in a hammock or lawn chair reading books assigned by no one.

But finding great books for kids can present a challenge, whether your kid is a voracious reader who’s already plowed through the local library’s summer list, or a reluctant or very selective reader who needs something special to grab her attention. So Uncharted Parent is here to help.

I asked a colleague of mine, children’s literature expert at Gibson’s Bookstore Isabel Berg, for some kids’ book recommendations to pass on to you. What follows is a fantastic selection of older youth fiction and younger young adult titles that should work in general for kids who are about nine to fourteen years old. Consider yourself well supplied for that final road trip or beach vacation of summer.

Happy reading!

Isabel’s Summer 2014 older Youth Fiction/younger Young Adult recommendations

 Realistic Fiction

The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher, by Dana Alison Levy – Move over Penderwicks, here come the Fletchers! Chronicling life’s daily joys and tribulations over the course of a school year and featuring two dads, four adopted multi-racial boys and various pets, this is realistic fiction at its finest.

Dreamer Wisher Liar, by Charise Mericle Harper – A funny & poignant novel about one girl’s magical and transformative summer.

Counting By 7’s, by Holly Goldberg Sloan (now in paperback) – For fans of Wonder, an extremely moving story of family lost and found. Both a Great Stone Face and an Isinglass 2014-2015 nominee.

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The Summer of “Figure It Out Yourself”

Posted by on Jul 24, 2014 in Domesticity, Growing Up, Parenting on a Daily Basis | 2 comments

Huddle

Last summer, my kids were my top priority. I’d really begun to see the people they were becoming and how fast they were getting there. I made a point of arranging my schedule so that we could go to beaches, chase an ice cream trail, try canoeing, play with our new kittens, engage in meaningful talks when my son didn’t realize that’s what we were doing, read books together, hunt for Waldo in stores around town and more. For two months, I was able to live in a way that placed them at the center of my life if not daily, then certainly many days each week. They–we–all lived a summer we’ll always remember.

This summer is not like that.

If you’ve been reading along, you know that things are a little different in my house right now. Aside from all of the ordinary obligations of life, I’m still administering my mother’s estate and seeing to my father’s needs. (In terms of time commitment, executing an estate can be like having another job. Who knew?) I’m also dealing with some health issues of my own that have decided now is the perfect time to demand extra attention. So while I am of course not ignoring my children, they do not occupy the singular place in my list of priorities that they did last summer.

To clarify: this doesn’t mean that I throw them into the woods behind the house each morning with a sandwich and a smile and tell them to be back by dusk. Nor do I simply turn on the TV, hand them their iPods and throw potato chips at the couch every time I pass so that they can feed between levels or iMessages or whatever it is they’re doing. They have a couple of camps they’re attending here and there, “Jack” is playing the occasional baseball and soccer games, and there will be a family trip or two. They’re reading; we’re talking.

But for kids who are accustomed to lots of scheduled activities during the school year (perhaps the subject of another post?) and lots of parent-driven fun during the summer, they find themselves left to their own devices–and responsibilities–more often than is their norm. I’m hearing “I’m bored,” more than I ever have. And I think that’s great.

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Soccer & Concussions: It’s Time for FIFA to Set an Example

Posted by on Jul 16, 2014 in Health & Sleep, The World We Parent In | 2 comments

It’s time for professional soccer to change its approach to head injuries, both for the health of its players and, if that’s somehow not sufficient motivation, then for all of the kids, coaches and parents who look to professional soccer for its role models.

Soccer is big in my house. This past month was all about the World Cup for us. We watched “the beautiful game” nearly every day, we bought jerseys, we rearranged our schedules for the U.S., quarter, semi and final matches. I, the former official non-sports fan, even scolded my kids for talking so loudly I couldn’t hear the commentary during Sunday’s final. (I’m not proud of this, but it’s true.) The World Cup is soccer played at its highest level, and this month gave us much to admire: the footwork, the drive, the athleticism, the internationalism.

But the tournament’s enormous international audience saw a dark side of soccer, too: the willfully blind and dangerous disregard by FIFA, international soccer’s governing body, for head injuries sustained by its players during play.

Anyone who was watching can now recite the three most egregious examples of inappropriately treated head injuries during the tournament. Álvaro Pereira of Uruguay, knocked unconscious during an early-round match against England, who then returned to the field to play the rest of the game. Javier Mascherano of Argentina, whose head collided with that of a Dutch player in a semi-final, staggered, was caught by another player as he fell to the ground, then returned to play after only two minutes of medical evaluation. And Christoph Kramer of Germany, who received a vicious if inadvertent blow to the side of the head in the final against Argentina, fell to the ground but then played fifteen additional minutes before he was finally subbed off, supported on both sides so he could walk, with little to no focus in his eyes.

It didn’t require a doctor to see that each of these men needed a proper evaluation for a concussion before being allowed to continue to play. None of them received one. And these are just the most glaring examples from the tournament.

The current structure of FIFA’s rules leaves the call as to whether a player can remain on or return to the field up to the player and his team.

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