What Color Toys Did You Prefer?

Dad and I have been enjoying the adventures of having a little boy in our lives after experiencing parenthood with only girls. I wondered if boys are taught to play rough and like particular toys, but I now believe it is part of their DNA.

I have been outside enough to witness the excitement as a car or trucks comes into view. None of you ever showed any interest in diving headfirst off the bed or sofa or jumping across a line of cars because you had become a monster truck.

It will be fascinating to see if Bryce teaches his sister his dare-devilish stunts, or if she is will be content to sit quietly and play with her own toys. Where will her interests lie?

I pulled out your baby books for some reminders of your interests based upon your birthday and Christmas gifts. These presents are another trip down memory lane. I was surprised to see many gender-neutral gifts.

As the oldest, I was shocked to see that I mentioned very few of Kelly’s gifts except for a shopping cart and Winnie the Pooh—apparently her favorite toy on her third Christmas! I was surprised to see that Jamie was not the only fan of the cuddly bear.

Jamie’s received more “neutral gifts” on her birthday. I see Sesame Street Colorforms, Magna Doodle, puzzle, Dorothy Gale doll, and sand and water toys. (She was the only summer baby.) At Christmas she received a Mickey Mouse airport, Little People playhouse, and puzzles—all neutral gifts—for her second birthday, she got arts and craft gifts, a camera and binoculars, and her first Barbie—finally a “pink” present.

For Casey’s second birthday, she received ruby slippers, a Dalmatian puppy, Ariel doll and outfit, Ninja Turtle mug (from your boy cousins), a puzzle and a Magic Nursery Doll. The third birthday was a dollhouse with accessories, “5-Little Baby dolls, and Beauty and the Beast Colorforms. (No “blue” gifts that year.)

I believe you all got more opinionated around your fifth birthday with the surge of Barbie dolls, clothes, and accessories. I believe that Casey’s abundance of “pink” toys as early as her second birthday was a direct result of the influences of her older sisters.

I must admit that I am surprised that the gifts were much more neutral than the abundance of boy toys I see scattered around Bryce’s playroom. Do the toys make the boy or did the boy direct the toys? While I am no longer as certain now as I was when I began this story, I still believe his actions were more aggressive than the three of you. It will be very interesting to see what color toys Lily will receive, and whether her DNA or her brother influences her behavior. As far as her toys, I predict lots of “pink” toys.

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Back to the Days of Yore

Technology is great. We can connect with our family and friends in an instant via texts and “long-distance-free phones.” Losing our way is now greatly diminished because of GPS technology, and we can entertain ourselves via an endless array of games, movies, and television shows available on our smart phones, computers, and televisions. If we need a question answered, we turn to the Internet rather than heading to our local library. What would we do without these amazing machines?

However, Saturday night was a prime example of how technology has also robbed us of valuable time we lose because of these great necessities of life. How many hours do we whittle away when we set up our new phones and computers, fix problems with these wonders of modern times, and scratch our heads in puzzlement as we attempt to figure out how to set up a Twitter account?

We have become more impatient. Even three year olds are guilty of this as exemplified by Bryce, when he complained that a video on my phone was taking too long to load.

Last night, as Dad and I were about to settle down for “Saturday night at the movies” in our living room, our aging router decided to kick the bucket. Four hours later, Dad was finally calm, while I was ranting about how an evening on the prairie back in the days of yore was probably far less stressful than how we just spent our night.

I was thinking about a typical Saturday night at the Ingalls household. Caroline and the girls would clean up the dishes and then gather around the fire and sing along as Pa played his fiddle. Perhaps they read a book or took their weekly bath. In any case, they did not have their evening plans wasted by spending three hours trying to figure out how to put their technological house back together.

They did not fritter away an hour of their life getting into their horse and buggy to go down to the general store to pick up a new router. Ma and Pa did not need to deal with a millennial named Brandon who was mentally laughing at them because they just had no idea if they should purchase the $39.99 router or the $299 router. (Brandon, Grandma and Bampa Consumer were able to figure out how to put our house back together without your help. So there!)

I love all these gadgets–I really do. But sometimes I wonder if we all save more time or waste more time because of them. You all grew up with this, so what are your thoughts?

Tweet Tweet Girls

Today, I am writing a crossover post because I believe it is relevant to both my Do Svidanya and my Mommymeandering blogs. My apologies to anyone who subscribes to both.

Dear Girls,

I changed your diapers, taught you to talk, make your beds, tidy a room, ride a bike and drive a car (Dad was a player too!) Now our nest is empty and we are called for advice and help far less frequently.

Now I have written a book (technically my second), and after years of researching, writing, editing, and rewriting, I thought I could put it on a shelf and move on to other projects.

Then I realized that if I want to sell this book to anyone other than a very close circle of people who have watched my writing journey from the bleachers, my hard work is far from complete.

So I joined the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, mainly because of my anxieties with what I had written. I was shocked to discover that the twitter account I had set up in February for the sole purpose of voting for Carly’s MTV dance was now being followed by someone in this support group.

After a brief moment of panic, I decided that just maybe learning to tweet would help me. I learned about the 140 character limit and tweaked my twitter profile by adding a relevant photo, a short bio, a link to my blog, and brief description of me.

I found a few people to follow and posted a few tweets. Not much happened, so I concluded it was time for me to approach the three of you (and Carly, who started this mess!) for some assistance. Ah, the tables of teacher and student have suddenly turned.

Casey sent me several how-to-twitter articles, and all of you explained that hashtags. (Aka “the number sign” or a “tic-tac-toe board”) are critical to bringing readers to one’s tweet. She made the following analogy: “Think of tweeting like going to a cocktail party. You have something to say, so now your goal is to find people to want to listen to you.”

Yesterday, I deleted a tweet I had tweeted earlier in the day which was relevant to today’s news (and therefore quite awesome I thought) since it was about Grandpa, Joe McCarthy, and Donald Trump. I replaced my tweet with another which differed only in the addition of hashtags.

“Have you no sense of decency?” Said to #McCarthy but just heard it said abt #Trump. Who read my story? #genealogy” 

 It is really difficult to condense my thoughts into 140 characters! I don’t even know if it makes any sense!

Did it help? Perhaps, but I am not convinced. I see no difference between the number of viewers of my hashtag tweets versus my virgin tweets.

So I will analyze more successful twitterers (is that a word?) and try to entice more people in twitterland to follow me. I appreciate your help but believe that the skills Dad and I taught you trump (you may laugh here) the lesson of how to tweet.

Next I will move on to a lesson by Kelly of how to promote my brand using Facebook ads. This is more her forte than tweets.

In the end, you all owe me. Disregarding the driving lessons, housecleaning lessons, and learning to talk instructions, the years spent changing all those diapers is why you all can never do enough to repay me.

                                                                        Love,

                                                                        Mom                                                                                                                                                  

Fun With Dick, Jane, and Sally

I listen to Jamie speak of her experiences teaching kindergarten, and I think about how much has changed since I was in my first year of school. Come to think about it, the demands of five and six year olds seem more difficult than they were when the three of you were walking the halls of Valley View School. So change is happening all around us!

Jamie’s year in kindergarten probably resembled what her students learn today more than the other two of you. Kelly played the most and learned the least, and I think Casey’s experience was somewhere in between. As someone who pushed me to find a loophole to getting her enrolled in kindergarten before her fifth birthday, I suspect she would have been happy to be pushed to read as much as Jamie did in her kindergarten class. As you all remember, not being satisfied with her curriculum in nursery school, I bought a set of books to help teach her to read—The Bob Books.

Back in my day (Those words will come out of the mouths of all of you someday, trust me!), we all learned to read using the “Dick, Jane, and Sally” books. I am fairly certain that everyone in my generation is familiar with that gang. Spot and Puff were the names of their pet dog and cat.

I learned from a website called “Mental Floss” that “editions that were intended for first-graders contained about 300 words apiece. Third-graders were given 1000 and, in 6th grade, kids followed similar escapades in 4000-word volumes.” (I am including the link to “15 Fun Facts About Dick and Jane” for Jamie, who may be interested in learning about reading during my childhood.

According to what I learned from those 15 fun facts, Russian children far surpassed their American counterparts in reading. By fourth grade, here in the U.S., children could read 1800 words while Russian children were allegedly reading 10,000 words.

I am interested in hearing your thoughts, Jamie. Can you tell me what kind of books your students are able to read at year’s end, and approximately how many vocabulary words should they be reading as they enter first grade?

Image from Rare Book School

                Image from Rare Book School

Button Button Who Has the Button?

Dad and I were returning home from our road trip to Maryland. We were approaching our last hour when I noticed trouble ahead—a bridge under repair and an accident. Rather than face sitting in traffic for who knows how long, we switched our setting on our GPS to “avoid highways” and exited the interstate before the trouble would begin.

As we meandered through Bishopville, admiring the beautiful farms and old houses, I noticed a small sign begging us to go down another road. I told Dad I wanted to make that right turn and do a little spontaneous sightseeing, but he was too tired by then. “This is what I have been talking about,” I explained. “My idea of a fun trip is having a start and a finish but also including random unplanned stops along the way.” Sad to say, he did not buy it.

What we did not do that day, but what I hope to do with my friends on another (with lunch and a glass of wine thrown in of course), is a trip to this very fun-sounding museum known as the “The South Carolina Button Museum.”

According to the sign along Route 1, this was not your run-of-the-mill button museum that we are all familiar with. No, girls. This was “the SC Button Museum”–one of our state museums!  Who knew?

Further research showed that this very fun place was born when its founder, a man named Dalton Stevens (currently 86 years old), began to have difficulty sleeping. Back in the days when there was not twenty-four hours of television, Mr. Stevens needed something to do to pass those late-night hours when insomnia got the best of him. His solution was to sew buttons. First it was a suit, which he filled with 16,333 buttons. This project took nearly three years to complete.

He moved onto cementing buttons onto an outhouse, car, hearse, piano, and two caskets. (One of which he plans to be buried in. He is my kind of guy!)

His project gained him fame, so much so that he has been on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, the Letterman Show, and several other local and national news shows as well as featured in Star Magazine.

He eventually opened his museum, and I am very fortunate that it is a mere forty-five minutes from our house. I will be sure to follow up and let you know about it after my visit. Are you all jealous?

By the way, I got the photo of the casket from a sight that I didn’t know about—Roadside America. http://www.roadsideamerica.com/about/   (I have heard of it but never explored it.)

Check it out. See what unusual sites exist in your area. I, for one, cannot wait to visit the monument to the father of gynecology right here in Columbia.

button casket

We Deserved a Break This Morning

Dad and I just returned from a short road trip to Maryland, where we finally visited Casey in her new apartment. We had a great weekend (No lie, Casey!). We saw how close she is to the Metro so I no longer need to worry about her walk home. She and Chris took us out to a variety of walkable-to-their-apartment ethnic and themed restaurants.

We started our tour of Silver Spring with a chicken restaurant: choose the type of chicken and the sauce; then moved on to Sunday lunch/brunch at a dim sum restaurant. That evening we tried Lebanese food, which was like Al Amir here in Columbia. Monday we had pizza for lunch followed by a great noodle restaurant for dinner.

Dad and I had a curry noodle dish, Chris has an Italian pesto/pasta meal, while Casey had a salad. At most of the restaurants, we ordered our meals at the counter, were given a number to display on the table, and then our food was delivered to us.

Next time I would like to try the Cuban restaurant as well as a dumpling place. This is something we never see in our little city.

On Tuesday, we left very early for home, determined to beat the early morning Washington, DC rush-hour traffic. I am happy to say that, in theory, we could have made it home in seven hours. Of course, we made a few stops along the way: breakfast, potty, and outlet stop so I could pick up a new purse.

Breakfast was the most surprising stop, particularly so because we stopped at McDonald’s. Dad and I got our usual breakfast entrees: An Egg McMuffin for Daddy and oatmeal for me. I mentioned to the cashier that I love their oatmeal, and she cheerfully told me that she was happy that I loved it. Her smile and demeanor seemed genuine.

Then came the surprise. She handed us a number (just like in the Maryland restaurants) and instructed us to be seated. Within a very short time, our meal was delivered to our table!! Remember, we are talking about McDonald’s.

We were shocked and very impressed. It made our trip at this so very American fast-food icon seem slightly elegant. And may I add that although their bathroom did not rate a “10” on my very picky bathroom rating scale, they did try. In both the Ladies’ Room and the Men’s Room (according to Dad), a real (not plastic) orchid was sitting on both sinks.

Good job McDonald’s!