Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Dreams Coming True

Akiva, obsessed with planes, was invited into the cockpit of our US Airways flight last week. We took a special little trip because of this obsession. (Overkill wish fulfillment parenting? Maybe, but we also got to visit Uncle Simon and take in a little desert sun.) The pilot even got up and offered Akiva the chance to sit in the pilot's seat, but Akiva got a little freaked out. They turned on all the lights for him (there are a MILLION little switches) and frankly, I got a little nervous. I don't want to know how complicated it looks in there.

I thought this sort of special trip was impossible post 9/11 but I am glad the terrorists did not win and prevent the toddlers of America from having their dreams come true.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Racing. Waiting.

I have to admit I am totally confused and frightened by two alarming and seemingly contradictory movies I have seen in the past month. “Waiting For Superman” which made me cry, and “Race to Nowhere” which also made me cry. Have you seen them?

“Waiting For Superman” is a moving, depressing and intelligent film which essentially paints the teachers unions as the major villains in our ineffective education system. It’s the teacher’s unions’ contracts requiring apparently immediate tenure for all teachers which keep terrible teachers teaching students. These terrible teachers leave kids barely literate and wanting to drop out of school as soon as possible. Who could blame them? I have suffered through terrible teachers. Although mine were few and far between. I remember the greasy ponytail of a young man assigned to teach me math in 9th or 10th grade. It was some sort of one year assignment, maybe he was a grad student. I don’t know. He was majorly inexperienced. I remember his glasses, a thin tortoise shell, the fluorescent lights tiny rhombuses reflected as he stared upwards. And how a model of a house I’d made for a project got totally smashed to bits in the trunk of his car. And I remember the sickening feeling of barely understanding the math he was mumbling into the chalkboard each day. I don’t remember any of the math. It was horrible. If this man had been entirely in charge of my education I would have become pretty desperate. But I went to a very well funded highly regarded public school with terrific teachers and I enjoyed school. “Waiting For Superman” shows it's pretty much a direct route from being placed in one of these “drop out factory” schools- schools full of teachers like this- to prison.

“Race to Nowhere” is a sad and shocking film about the pressure put on students to achieve academically at the expense of almost every other aspect of being human. The stressful overload of homework and after school activities inflicted on students is meant to keep children competitive for being accepted into college and ultimately into high paying careers. There is a section on tutors for toddlers to get into New York City preschools. But this film convincingly shows the overachievement culture is actually is a direct inhibitor to actual learning, a major contributor to serious depression, and actually causes poor test scores and lousy future college and job performance. One employer said that recent graduates are bad employees because they are always waiting to be told what to do.

What’s going on? Kids who live in neighborhoods with bad public schools drop out because they are stuck with teachers who don’t expect anything from them and can’t teach them, and kids who live in richer neighborhoods aren’t able to actually learn much either because too much is expected of them to the point where they are doped up on Adderall and cheating their way through medical school?

It seems that what everybody wants the educational system to do is more more more. The charter schools that the kids in Waiting For Superman are hoping to get into have better more inspired teachers, but also more hours of school work. One is even an elementary boarding school. One student it seemed, was having a hard time in his public school learning to read- but he was only in first grade. From what I know, historically it has been considered developmentally quite appropriate for a child to learn reading in the 2nd and 3rd grades and be considered quite normal and in fact may turn out to be ahead of other students in subsequent grades. Not to say this child's school wasn't awful, but not teaching him to read in 1st grade isn't by itself awful at all. However, it would be ludicrous to think, watching this movie, that those children are seeking out anything destructive in those charter schools- winding up in prison is destructive. It makes Race To Nowhere look downright silly.

But the confusing thing is, it wasn’t silly.

It seems we are lost as a country. The knowledge is there about effective ways to teach, and what’s healthy for children. But we can’t seem to provide that for anybody. What’s going on?

How about you? How was your school experience? Do you have children? What do you think of their schools? I’m lost.

Akiva's Music Pick of the Week 2

More guitars of course.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

children + dogs = meant to be

Akiva and Kula the other day.

This morning Akiva woke up early. He was sleeping in our bed, and I walked him back to his room. Our conversation:

Me: Akiva, lets go to your crib and you can read your airplane magazine* for a few minutes while we sleep.
Akiva: Maybe Kula come in crib?
Me: (extremely touched) You love Kula, don't you?
Akiva: SO much.

*(Akiva is obsessed with airplanes. We take him to LAX to watch the planes land. He knows the difference between an Air New Zealand 747 and the Qantas A380. We were at the book store the other day and I bought him an imported British magazine called Airliner World: The Global Airline Scene - to have something to read on the potty. It has about 100 pages of airplanes. This issue specialized in the history of various Slavic airlines, and has a 4 page spread on Baltic Air. Akiva went a little berserk when we showed it to him and insists on reading the entire magazine several times a day)

We went out for coffee this morning and Akiva met Max, who was whimpering for his owner to return from inside the coffee shop.

Me: I think it misses it's master.
Akiva: Doggy crying.

We watched it and then some other dogs showed. Lucy and Bruno. Akiva made fast friends.

Then it was time to leave. Akiva walked Kula.

And we came across a puppy named Tank.

Kula liked Tank, too.

But Akiva wanted to make clear who was number one in his heart.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Andy Goldsworthy

Akiva had a nature walk this morning in Temescal Canyon with his toddler program group. It happened to coincide with a book I ordered arriving in the mail, Hand To Earth: Andy Goldsworthy. Akiva has been really into our Banksy book on the coffee table, and I don't know- I guess a toddler can really relate to graffiti, but I thought I'd have a book around that had less... disruptive... examples of altering the world around us. Aren't these photos just amazing?

The nature walk was awesome too.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

My Brain this Week

Okay there is just so much you need to know in order for this to all make sense.

Firstly: I still breastfeed Akiva. (Is "breastfeed" a word? My computer is underlining it in red. Breast feed?) I don't know. -But this is my point- I feel so shy about it, even writing this post I just feel a little nervous- like everyone - even the staff at Microsoft Word or Blogger or whatever this program is underlining the word in red - is in some way against breastfeeding. And my MO about it has been to try not to bring it up, keep it on the down low, do it behind closed doors. Because I get the sense other people think breasts are for other things, and their hijacking by babies for sustenance and a sense of comfort in this terrifying world should be just a brief paragraph in the story of their adventures.
I think this way because I've encountered comments from people I know about children being breastfed until age 2 and that it was "awful". Hm, I think I might have even given a subtle shudder when talking about my breastfeeding plans- ugh! breast feeding plans- wait, doesn't "breast feeding" seem creepier than "breastfeeding"?- I digress. Yes even I was known to frown and pull my lower lip to the side when I heard about children being able to "ask" for it, this when I was contemplating my own breastfeeding future during pregnancy. See, that was the popular marker- "they're too old when they can ask for it", right? So even I was judgemental and skeeved out by toddlers nursing. It was easier to be that way.
And I thought it was entirely up to me. I didn't realize then there was actually another opinion that would weigh in.
Well, as you know Akiva was saying "guitar" at 11 months, and was able to talk in 3 word sentances by 14 months, so, instead of the usual thing about boys talking so late- I had to deal with this "asking for it" thing before most. And many of you will probably find it highly disturbing, (I found it incredibly adorable) that Akiva, around 14 months, would finish slurping up one boob and then say very matter-of-factly "other side?" (sounded more like uzzer si-i-ide?) It was even more disturbing/adorable when a month or so later he could say "uzzer side, please?"
And, as my thought was that I would nurse to at least a year, as recommended by the AAP, and then we'd be done in the coming few months once the asking started, this had to be rethought. You see, with his ability to chat about it, I realized he was very passionate about it. How could I say no? Literally. He would have a whole debate with me.
Anyways, the fact is he is 21 months and in my head I kept pushing 1 year to 2 years and now 2 years is coming up pretty quickly and I just keep reading articles about how much healthier and smarter and well adjusted breast fed kids are, and it gets more so the longer the nurse- and how the age for human weaning, if you look at stomach enzymes, and ratio of baby size to adult size, and teeth to teeth and archeological bones and families in aboriginal cultures and if you take the name of the first pet you had with the street you grew up on, etc, the age for human weaning should be like 3.2 years or something, so I feel SO totally normal to breast feed until 2. It's only 2!. And he only breastfeeds morning, nap and night, well....except....

Secondly: Akiva has been waking me up in the middle of the night. To nurse. Because he was sick AND teething at the same time! How I could not help him out with his sore throat and throbbing mouth?
But this had to stop. So Matt has been enlisted to go into his room very gently to tell Akiva that when he wakes up at 4am, ( never crying, but we hear distinctly and demandingly over the crackling monitor: "Nurse. Nurse. Nurse...."), Matt reminds him "you can nurse IN THE MORNING"
and I hear Akiva try a new angle: "Need a cuddle Mama"
Oh, he's sneaky.
Matt will tell him he can cuddle daddy.
"Mama! Need a hug Mama"
He's so good he's almost a girl!
I hear this and my heart strings are pulled so tight I almost can't breath, but then I realize I'm the one still in bed and how lucky I am.
So, anyways, this is why I have been a little out of it all week. I'm a little sleep deprived. Matt is even more sleep deprived. And because of this I found myself back in my college mindset of listening to something on NPR in the car, alone, about the universe and how it's expanding, and I'll go home and say to Matt "This whole thing that's going on? It's really weird. That it's like this. Just like this. That there are even planets, and look at us, these things -arms." And we'll both stand there, looking at Akiva "He's weird too!" "I made him in my body" We blink and watch him drive a fire truck across the floor silently.
It's gotten to that.
Or, maybe it's that it rained this week in LA. That's everyone else's excuse.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Akiva's Music Pick of the week

Akiva and I were listening to the radio in the car the other day. I think Akiva was a little entranced by this piece we heard: Asturias (Leyenda) by Isaac Albeniz. I'll call it his music pick of the week. After it finished he called out "More?"

One note: His first word was "guitar" and he went through a pretty heavy guitar obsession.

Crank up the volume.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

paranoid parent product

I am a paranoid parent. I have read too much about the toxins in everything we eat, breathe, bathe with, play with, garden with, cook with, clean with, sleep on, compute on, and on and on. So I really do my best not to freak out, because I think if you really thought too hard on all of the information about what babies and children can be exposed to, it would just make being a parent in the US unbearable. That said, I try to casually research and find the best products I can that aren't going to overtly poison Akiva.
I'm sharing this product, only because it was SO HARD to find it.
Akiva recently started asking me "What does this say?" when he sees words printed on things. So I'll tell him, and he's gotten curious about what letters are. He's really into O right now. But we haven't had any toys with letters and numbers on them around the house, and so the only place Akiva can practice finding O's when the passion hits him is on Matt's text paintings:

So I wanted to find some alphabet fridge magnets. And since Akiva is only 21 months old, he still is tempted to put everything in his mouth. So I didn't want plastic. I looked for wood. The only ones I could find were Melissa & Doug. And I read the "review" of them because why not. And some fellow paranoid parent had bought them and actually sent them to a lab. The magnet on the letters tested high in lead! Yikes. I searched and searched and finally found these cuties by a company called Rubbabu:Made of natural rubber. Here's the safety info. Only problem is that if you don't live in Spain, you have to buy it from some website that charges a lot of money to ship it possibly from Spain? Ours are in the mail. Happy speling.

my architect

Matt and I have decided its time to make our back yard into a desert no-water landscape. A friend had a great idea and suggested we do a sort of zen garden meets desert experience. And since we have no suitable trees for a treehouse, I want to include a playhouse for Akiva.

I have to admit I have been obsessed with forts and mini houses my whole life. I think it's because my father was an architect (now retired). I remember the best summers of childhood were when he would construct some sort of wonderful fort for us out of something he found- like sticks and hay. If there was enough snow, he'd build us igloos in the winter- one was big enough for the whole family to sit inside and sip hot cocoa by candlelight.

And then we took a day trip once to Newport, Rhode Island, and saw the mansions and I was haunted by how lucky those Vanderbilt kids were- not for the huge mega mansion with platinum leafing on the ceilings,

but for their amazing little mini mansion playhouse!

And so I thought Akiva should have a little playhouse built into the design of our new back yard. And if we are doing the zen garden thing, how about a little mini japanese tea house? I found a website, called "Life of An Architect" where the architect had posted all elevations, renderings, blueprints and final shots of the very thing I had imagined!
I was so excited! Being the daughter of an architect, clearly I was able to tap into the children's play house design zeitgeist. I showed Matt my findings to add to our own little piles of amateur renderings,

...and Matt was silent. "It kind of looks like something out of Apocalypse Now, like maybe some torture is going on in there." Hmm. Unfortunately, he was kind of right.

We might have to call on Grandpa for another stick and hay fort.

Friday, October 1, 2010

time to surf part 2

Akiva practices his moves on land. He is a little unsure about this whole surf thing. Going to the water's edge is a bit intimidating for those under 2. He might scrap the whole idea, and just watch Dad surf until...

Luna shows up.

Suddenly its cool to surf. Akiva heads for the waves.

Brr. It may have been 107 degrees, but the water was a bit shocking.

And here it is. captured forever. Akiva's first surf. Monster waves!