Tag Archives: children

Science: Ruining childhood since 1543

In a FB discussion a while ago it was implied by some (who don’t know me) that I’m a stick in the mud, dream crusher of a mother who didn’t “let” her kid believe in Disney princesses, unicorns, dragons, and Bubble Guppies- as in, my 3yo knows those things are pretend/make believe and it was horrible of me to disabuse her of the notion that cartoons actually exist.

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If you know the origin of this image, and the person I should credit, please let me know.

Just because those things are pretend/make believe doesn’t mean she can’t enjoy playing make believe. She knows she can use her imagination to think up anything at all, not just what marketing execs at Disney want her to think about when she’s parked in front of the Disney Channel. I’m glad that when she plays princess, she just thinks up what kind of princess she wants to be- and isn’t just choosing which Disney princess to be.

However, what really gets me, what I fail to fathom, is the notion that only pretend things hold wonder.  Have you seen a Cheerio under a microscope?  What about a flower petal?  Salt? Hair? It’s pretty neat.

little scientist mcphd

Examining whatever she could find under a microscope. Even boring stuff can be exciting when you magnify it 200 times.

The actual world, and all the things that actually exist within it are wondrous. Stars and comets, Princess Di and Queen Noor, dinosaurs and narwhals, Sally Ride and Jaques Cousteau- all real and all wonderful and all amazing and all more enthralling than anything Disney might insidiously market to my kid.

Disney has it’s whole “When you wish upon a star” mumbo jumbo, but it was pretty freakin’ awesome to stand in our driveway and watch the Minotaur rocket shoot across the New York sky as it launched from Wallops Air Force Base (click on the link to see the schedule of launches and the map of where the launches are visible).  To then run inside and watch videos of the launch from the ground, learn about rockets, figure out why it looked the way it looked in the sky, etc. was also awesome.  To have Mabel ask for pictures of the rocket launching to take for show and tell was awesome.  To spark her interest in space an space exploration was awesome.  Disney can’t top that.

Distinguishing the real from the make believe doesn’t steal her child-like wonder, it opens her child’s eyes to the wonder that is around her every day, even if most grownups are oblivious.

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Flu Shots: We’ve got ours, have you got yours?

Last week Mac had an on-site freelance job, so I worked from home on Friday.  That meant I had the pleasure of taking my kids for their flu shots.

Can you tell who got the nasal spray and who got the shot?

Can you tell who got the nasal spray and who got the shot?

It was entirely uneventful.  Other than some tears from both of them, it was easy, a couple of crackers and we were good to go.  Several days later, all’s well.  Nobody had any reactions.  Safe and effective.

Mac and I got our flu shots a couple of weeks ago when my company had a health fair with free flu shots for employees and their families (over 10 yo).

I’m hoping this year’s seasonal flu vaccine works better for us than last year’s.  While Mac and I were fine last year, Mabel and Nemo both came down with the flu- a strain the pediatrician said was a mismatch to the virus (see more on the efficacy of last year’s seasonal flu vaccine here).

I know that no vaccine is 100% effective.  For more on efficacy on the flu vaccines in different age groups, check out Melinda Wenner Moyer’s recent Slate piece on the topic (and note she gets herself and her son flu shots!). Given the safety of the seasonal flu vaccine, it is definitely worth the miniscule risk to give my kids even a “moderate” level of protection from the flu.  My own anecdata supports the safety and efficacy of the flu shot.  With a mom who is a public health nurse, I’ve gotten flu shots my whole life.  The only year I got the flu was the year of the vaccine shortage when I was in grad school.  I couldn’t get the shot, I came down with the flu, wound up with an abscess tonsil two days before Thanksgiving, it turned into recurring tonsillitis (every single time I got a cold), and landed me in the hospital the week my thesis was due to my readers, which meant I had my tonsils out at 27 years old the day after my thesis defense.

As I told Mabel when it was time for this year’s shot, “This medicine will help to make sure you won’t have to miss school on your birthday this year!”  Since she’s only 3 and still thinks school is nothing but fun, that line of reasoning worked for her.

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Every great scientist started out as a kid, and every kid could be the next great scientist

I’ve seen this a couple of times on IFLS and I really get a kick out of it every time.

Source:  IFLS

Source: IFLS*

Sometimes we need a reminder that every great scientist started out as a kid, and every kid could be the next great scientist.

Maybe this kid will grow up to be one?

little scientist mcphd

The perks of having a scientist for a mom, she can bring home a microscope from work and you can see what flower petals, ear wax, table salt, and Honey Nut Cheerios look like on a microscopic level.

*If you don’t know who these scientists are or would like to learn more about them, see here:  Stephen HawkingNeil deGrasse Tyson, Carl Sagan, Albert Einstein, Richard Feynman.

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My DIY (never have to make it again) Advent Calendar

So I did a crafty project and I’m going to share it here.

The Instagram picture I shared with the caption,

The Instagram picture I shared with the caption, “Finished! Finally! Massive undertaking. A DIY Advent calendar of sorts. 25 tiny wrapped gift boxes full of treats.”

I made a little Advent Calendar of sorts for counting down the days until Christmas.  I had wanted one last year, but couldn’t find one I liked that I could afford.  Etsy has many gorgeous items- all kinds of ways to mark the days of Advent from envelopes to buntings, to little wooden shelves with drawers.  However, the ones I liked most were way out of my price range.  It goes without saying that they were also out of skill range!

So, I thought, why not just make something myself?  I’m not really sure how I came up with this idea, but I decided upon wrapping little gift boxes (the type jewelry comes in) with paper and putting goodies and trinkets inside, then putting them in a large vase.  Mabel (and Nemo next year) can open one box per night, leading up to Christmas.

So, here’s how I did it.  I actually had about 16 gift boxes in my house.  This is probably because my husband is really good in the jewelry buying department.  I then hit my mother and sister up for the remaining 9 boxes I needed.  If you’re doing the math, that’s 25 boxes, instead of the traditional 24- I’ll get to why later.

Even before I had all the boxes, I started wrapping.  It took HOURS and HOURS to wrap all those little boxes.  Especially because I wrapped the lids and the bottoms separately and towards the end I was kind of scrounging for boxes and wound up struggling to wrap one heart-shaped box and one round box.  If I’m going to wrap 25 tiny boxes, I’m only doing it ONCE.  This way, I can tie the boxes with string each year and never have to wrap again.  I used scrapbook paper I had on hand from making the bunting for Nemo’s Christening.  I chose mostly greens, blues, and browns.  It works for Christmas, without being ‘too Christmas-y’ I think.  You can see the before and after below.

I also had a tag-punch for making gift tags.  Since some of the contents would be date specific (details below), I needed a way to label them.  I purchased this assortment of stamps from Amazon because 1-25 would vary in width and I wanted to make sure they would fit on the tags.  (Note:  I’m super cheap and wasn’t willing to buy the acrylic block.  I was going to just use them without it, but realized that I had a lame paperweight my company gave out that was acrylic, so I just used that and it worked perfectly.  I have to say, having the block be see-through really helped with placing the numbers in the center, not going off the edge, etc.)  I used a gold stamp pad I already had (from making the Save The Dates way back when Mac and I were engaged).  You can see the 25 tags below.

So, once I had the boxes wrapped and the tags punched and stamped, it was time to fill the boxes.  I had been brainstorming ideas on what to include for a few weeks- keeping my eyes peeled when I was out shopping.  A lot of Advent Calendars just contain candies, so I picked up a bag of soft candy cane mints at the grocery store.  I chose this kind because Mabel is still too young for hard candy and I didn’t want the mess of actual candy canes!  (Also, these are my sister’s favorite, so she’s getting the leftovers!)  I also put in some Hershey’s Candy Cane Kisses (these things are AWESOME- like peppermint bark!).

So I had candy, but I wanted to mix it up.  I also didn’t want to forget what we are actually celebrating during Advent and Christmas.  So, I included some of the figurines from Mabel’s kids Nativity.  Last year, my mom got her this Little People Nativity I had put on her Christmas list.  It’s great because she loves to play with it and makes no attempts to touch my porcelain nativity!  So, I put the 3 wise men in one of the larger boxes.  I then put Mary and Joseph in separate boxes.  Those boxes will be opened early on so that Mabel (and Nemo) can play with them.  Then, in keeping with the reason for Christmas, I put the baby Jesus in his own box- box 25.  Mabel can open that box Christmas morning and put Jesus in the nativity scene (assuming we bring it with us to North Carolina, where we will be spending Christmas with my in laws).

In addition to the figures, I picked up a few other goodies.  A ring pop, a push pop, a hair bow, a My Little Pony toothbrush with toothpaste (makes up for some of the candy!), and ‘Reindeer Food’ (see the picture above, it’s in box 24 so we can sprinkle it out on Christmas Eve).  I also picked up a few new Christmas books- Llama Llama Holiday Drama and This is the Stable through Mabel’s preschool Scholastic book club.  Since the books themselves wouldn’t fit, I cut out pictures of them from the book flier, clued them to tags, and put them in boxes.

I have lots of other ideas for future years.  My friend Stefanie posted about this great idea of a book only Advent Calendar of sorts.  As we accumulate more books (we already have a dozen or so) this could be a nice way to do it one year.  The reason I didn’t dole out our books that way this year was because I didn’t want to have to wait to read some of them!  Also, it’s A LOT of wrapping paper to use every year.  If I did, I’d write the names of the books and put them inside the boxes.

Other possibilities include hot chocolate packets, Christmas ornaments, small crafts, holiday movies, holiday CDs, holiday jewelry (earring, pins, etc.), cookies.  Really, if you were to print out pictures (or write out something for older kids) you could have any gift or activity in a little box (i.e. tree lighting, caroling, craft, baking, etc).

One thing that I think will be nice with this idea for Advent is that it will grow with the kids.  As they get older, I can change what I include in the boxes.

So, back to the DIY-ing.  I had all the wrapped boxes, the tags, the goodies.  I fit everything into boxes as best I could and tied them all with Baker’s twine.  I ordered this Baker’s twine from Amazon.  There is A LOT- I’m set for life in the Baker’s twine department, but it was much more reasonable than ribbon or Baker’s twine from the local craft store.  Also, I can have it on had for other uses.  I tied the string around the boxes, made a bow, then put the tag on and made another bow- that kept the tag in place.

Once everything was tied up, I filled the vase- starting with the 25, so it would be at the bottom.  The vase wasn’t big enough (if I had purchased boxes, or been more picky, I would have chosen small ones and they all would have fit in, but I’m cheap and not that picky!) so I arranged the earliest boxes around the vase.  I think it looks nice!

I finished this project on Sunday (I had time to work on it over the Thanksgiving holiday) and so far, Mabel hasn’t seemed to notice it, inquire about it, or try to open anything.  I think she got used to seeing the boxes on our dining room table as I was working on wrapping them- and every time she opened one, it was empty.  I told her that they would be filled and have treats for her, but at almost-3, I’m not sure how much she grasped about what was happening.  This is really the first Christmas where she’s more of a little kid than a baby, but not entirely.

So, that’s my DIY, reusable, Advent calendar.  I like how it came out, and I’m glad I never have to make it again!  Next year I can just fill it!  It will be especially easy if I manage to put the twine and tag in the box after Mabel opens it. Then next year I won’t even have to worry about new twine or tags.  However, with a preschooler, that may not be possible!

Any other cool ideas for marking the days of Advent?

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Children and funerals

Saw this article in the New York Times yesterday:  Letting Children Share in Grief.  The part of the article that really resonated with me is below.

TRYING to protect children from the pain of the death of a relative can actually make matters worse, some experts say. Children pick up “on the message the adults give verbally and nonverbally to ‘not go there,’ ” said Patti Anewalt, a grief counselor at Hospice and Community Care. “As a result, kids are extremely anxious.”

But America has since become a “mourning avoidant” culture, he added, in part because many 40- and 50-year-olds still have living parents. And that longevity, he wrote in an e-mail, has “resulted in a tendency to overprotect children from the realities of grief and loss.” Indeed, death is such a foreign concept to some families, he said, that he has been told, “We just don’t do death.” (Source:  Catherine Saint Louis, NYT)

In her nearly three years Mabel has already attended several funerals and memorials.  My high school friend’s father’s memorial service; her great-grandfather’s wake, funeral mass, and burial; my aunt’s memorial service; the wake for an aunt’s father; her great-grandmother’s memorial service.

Maybe it’s the Irish Catholic way of doing things, but kids are always there.  Even in the midst of tragedy, it seems kids can provide a wonderful emotional release- laughter at their antics, reminders that life will go on.

When my grandmother passed away, my cousin, who had given birth only 2 weeks prior was there, with her infant, though nobody would have faulted her if she had stayed home.  When my aunt passed away unexpectedly, we were all grief-stricken and beside ourselves; however, the little cousins still brought smiles to our faces as they toddled around.

I remember the first wake I attended as a kid old enough to realize what was happening.  My uncle’s father passed away.  We dressed up and went.  I remember seeing him laying in the casket- the kind and generous old German man who always had the kids into his small cottage for German chocolates every time we visited- it was upsetting.  It was also upsetting to see my uncle, a strong man, cry and weep.

Was it wrong for me to be there?  I don’t think so.  Not at all.  I watched my parents and learned the cultural rituals we participate in to mourn the dead, celebrate their lives, and most importantly comfort the ones they’ve left behind.  Some cultures you wail and throw yourself on the casket.  Others you are somber and quiet.  Mine? Everyone stands around and tells funny stories, uses humor to diffuse the sadness, then has a big party.  Everybody fights the urge to cry, tries to keep their sadness under wraps, and often laughs through the tears.

Mabel is way too young to realize what is happening when we go to wakes and funerals.  We don’t bring her up to the casket, we let her play with her cousins in the back of the room and entertain the mourners in need of the happy distraction.  Her hugs and kisses for her mourning loved ones aren’t any less comforting because she doesn’t know why they are upset.

She has little concept of death.  When she saw a dead snake squished on the road near our house, she suggested we take it to the vet.  I told her the vet couldn’t help.  The vet only helped living animals and the snake was dead.  When she asked what that meant, I just explained that it’s body was too broken, it didn’t work anymore, it couldn’t be fixed.  She was satisfied, although I’m sure we will revisit it.

I know there are some who disagree- who think it’s my job to protect her (and Nemo now that he is here) from the grief and sadness.  However, to them I say, when will it be time?  Should it be something she’s always known about and learned about as she grew, or something traumatic and sudden when the person who has passed away is too close to be ignored and hidden, when she will be unaware of the rituals to mourn and comfort?  You know, as I write it- it’s always traumatic in some way, it may always be a shock- but at least she can be as prepared as possible for the eventuality.

Hopefully it will be a very long time before she loses someone she loves dearly.  However, I know for certain it will happen.  I hope by then she will have navigated less upsetting losses and have the skills and emotional depth to ease the pain when it hits close to home.

How do you handle death with your children?

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