Thoughtful Thursday (late edition): News Madness, Some Quick Thoughts

Image  WOW! Tuesday my head was spinning from so much news coming in so fast! I was watching 3-5 channels, on my Twitter feed and on Facebook trying to keep up with the Zimmerman trial, Aaron Hernanzez, DOMA, Nelson Mandela…! It was the same way during the chase of the 2 “Boston Marathon Bombing” suspects.  I was up at 1 a.m. watching news and reading Tweets to follow the madness.  I remember when I first became obsessed with news coverage – I was in college, when Magic Johnson was announcing he has AIDS.  Since that day I devoured news like my life depended on it (and sometimes it does).  I recall being a college student in California when the Rodney King police office trial was going on, and waiting anxiously for a verdict, which at that time, we could only watch on t.v., no Twitter, Facebook, or internet feeds or updates.  Those were sloooooow news dissemination days by today’s standards. Then I got to thinking….

Am I always a critical news consumer? No, but I should be. Especially since I am a mom. I teach my students to be critical consumers of knowledge, including news, and I should do better to do the same.

In order to lead by example & teach our children to be critical consumers of news, we must take the lead.  I have developed the following guidelines for myself (guidelines, not rules because sometimes I “break” them):

  1. Acknowledge that all news reporting has biases; even our favorite papers and/or reporters.
  2. Try not to react viscerally (especially in front of small children) to the breaking news of anything. Stories change quickly and the first report is not always the right report. Anyone remember CNN’s coverage of the Gore-Bush election???
  3. A tough one for me:  No “hard-hitting” news before work (only weather and traffic) and no news right before bed (switched from 11 p.m. to 6 p.m. broadcast).
  4. If I’m following a breaking story, I look for different perspectives. I have my favorite stations and I check out what my least favorite news reporters are saying also.  I cannot teach a class on social welfare policy and only present the CNN, MSNBC  perspective…I gotta get the FOX and others side too.
  5. I use Twitter and Facebook not as a primary news source, but as the quickest way to stay ahead of the t.v. folks. On Tuesday the Tweets were flying about Trayvonn Martin’s friend testimony. I got caught up in the madness! A day later more thoughtful responses to her came out….

There are all kinds of blogs and articles out there about children and news, here are my tips (remember I have a toddler who I do not feel is ready yet for news beyond weather & sports…):

  1. Discuss what your child about the news only what is age appropriate and what will affect his/her daily routine
  2. Add news reading to their reading list when he/she is old enough to discuss with you what he read

Other tips I found out there about critical news consumption:

  1. From PBS: http://kidshealth.org/parent/positive/talk/news.html
  2. From Children Now: http://www.childrennow.org/index.php/learn/twk_news

A good place to start with kids:

  1. newsnick.com
  2. http://www.cnn.com/studentnews
  3. http://www.timeforkids.com/news

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Meaningful Mondays #1: Taking Time Off This Summer

I have heard several news stories and read several articles over the years about how we (Americans) do not really take our vacation time AND how our jobs offer us less vacation time than many other countries.  We work ourselves into unhealthy habits and lifestyles and sometimes, unfortunately, into an early grave.  Here’s a nice by the numbers example of the stats on Americans and vacations: http://theweek.com/article/index/244771/americas-war-on-vacation-by-the-numbers

I’m fortunate, that while I don’t make the BIG bucks, I have lots of time off and flexibility.  Summer is the perfect time to have a vacation (or stay-cation as people have been often saying).  Without much money to spend I decided, spontaneously, which is how I like to make my decisions, that I’m taking my son out of daycare every Friday this summer and we’re going to do something that resembles a “vacation.”  Merriam Webster, doesn’t say a vacation must be expensive or that it has to be taken far from home, http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/vacation.

ImageHere are my Top 10 plans for Fridays (and other days with my son & hubby & friends):

  1. Sleep in, if the toddler will let me. Followed by a breakfast. Neither are things we get to do often, if at all during the school year.
  2. Eat LOTS of ice cream with a walk by the Merrimack River: especially the area around Lowell and the Pavilion and Heritage Ice Cream (have I mentioned that since our son was born I’ve spent more time outside than in the last 10 years…no kidding…it’s a milestone!): (a) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Merrimack_River
  3. Visit 2 kid-friendly farms right in our backyard: (a) Great Brooks Farm: http://www.mass.gov/dcr/parks/northeast/gbfm.htm and (b) Kimball Farm: http://www.kimballfarm.com/
  4. Time in the kiddie pool in my own backyard and hit the “Spray Park” at Shedd Park and Dracut.
    1. Check out the free “Spray Parks” in your city or town under the Parks & Recreation Department
  5. Time with friends at their houses, sharing a meal, laughs, and stories.
  6. Train ride to visit friends in nearby New England and Northeast cities & states: Maine, Vermont, Rhode Island and New York: www.amtrak.com
  7. Take in the Festivals we always miss when we’re traveling: Lowell Folk Festival, Arts Boston, WGBH Fun Fest
  8. Boston Public Garden and our son’s 1st visit to the ducks, a friend just bought him Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Make_Way_for_Ducklings
  9. Read a new book each week and/or make our own book about our adventures!
    1. http://www.makingbooks.com/freeprojects.shtml
    2. http://www.bookmakingwithkids.com/
  10. My sister is coming to visit! AND we hope to invite other friends up to spend time with us in New England.

Other ideas for the folks living in the greater-Boston area:

  1. 50 Free Things to do in Boston with kids this summer: http://boston.mommypoppins.com/bostonkids/50-free-things-to-do-in-boston-with-kids-this-summer
  2. From Boston.com: http://www.boston.com/thingstodo/gallery/kidssummer/

As a professor, I do not have vacation days. So I’m taking advantage of being done teaching for the academic year + 1 summer class and I’m creating a vacation! What are your plans for the summer?

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Thoughtful Thursdays #1: With due respect to my sister

I am a third generation only-child raising an only-child.  This was not the original plan.  I think my grandmother and mother both would have wanted more children had the circumstances been different.  They both became single after their first child and then for practical reasons did not have an opportunity to have another child or adopt. I am happily partnered and we would LOVE a sibling for our son, but our circumstances are up in prayer…http://shareectopicstories.blogspot.com/ 

I have lots of mixed emotions about being a 3rd generation only-child family.  Most of my feelings come from caring for and watching my mom struggle with #Alzhiemers.  With both parents deceased, no siblings or cousins, my step-dad and I have become the primary care-takers; and as a girl child I feel the pressure to be more involved in her care. She also had to take care of her aging parents on her own, each divorced without spouses or siblings to share the responsibility. I look at my son and think “I hope you do not also have to bear that type of burden.” 

So here are my thoughts on planning ahead and living in the moment with an only:

PLANNING AHEAD

  1. Purchase long-term care insurance.  It is true that your daily use health care insurance and your long term disability care insurance will not cover the expenses of you needing to enter long-term care such as an assisted living facility or nursing home. If you have an only child he/she will bear the burden of that financial responsibility and depending on where he/she is in life at the moment, it could be devastating. Here’s a recent story from the Chicago Tribune on the matter: http://www.chicagotribune.com/health/sns-201306181700–tms–premhnstr–k-i20130619-20130619,0,3409581.story
  2. Make a clear will and update regularly. In many states your assets and property are not automatically deemed your child’s assets and property when you die. Make sure that those things most important to you are clearly willed to your partner, child, or other friend or family members. From CNN Money: http://money.cnn.com/magazines/moneymag/money101/lesson21/index.htm
  3. When your child is old enough have that uncomfortable/tough conversation about your end-of-life wishes.  Like wills, every state varies in what is acceptable and how these matters are handled. Make sure you know your state’s laws. From the N.Y. Times: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/06/18/mapping-your-end-of-life-choices/?_r=0

 

 LIVING IN THE MOMENT

 1. Be confident and comfortable in your decision. Family members & friends may put pressure on you or make you feel guilty for only having one.  The decision is yours and your partners (if applicable). No need to provide explanations or excuses.

  1. Love your child unconditionally and do not wish out loud for a sibling. Your only child should not feel guilt or shame for being an only child and should experience your love fully. If you do wish for another child, do not do so in his/her presence. That child you have now is your precious gift!
  2. Surround your child with quality friends and make regular play dates. Find or start an only-child play group. This also helps with the skills of sharing and taking turns.  Your child need to be a lonely only, there are many ways to fill his/her life with age-mates and with big brothers/sisters/cousins.
  3. Example of only child play groups: http://onlychild.meetup.com/ 
  4. Travel to visit those 2nd cousins across the country or across the ocean. Skype. If you have relatives with children, but not close by make plans to see them on a regular basis either in person or via Skype.

 I got lucky (my feelings); I ended up with a sister (topic for another blog). But in some sense each of us is still an only child…

What are your thoughts? If you’re an only child or the child of an only child or a teacher/nanny/caretaker who has worked with only children, please weigh-in!