Tuesday, March 25, 2014

How Typing Saved a Life

A few weeks ago, Little Dude and I were driving to school when he declared, "Typing saved Great-grandpa's life."

It's true.

The little one and I had spent that previous Sunday at my grandparent's house and Little Dude got to hear some of my grandpa's stories. I love his stories. And one of my favorite stories, which I never tire of hearing, is about the time typing saved his life.

It was during the Korean War. My grandpa's unit was overseas and a commander needed a clerk. So they asked anyone who knew how to type to take a typing test.

According to my grandparents, back in those days, not many men knew how to type as it was considered a woman's job. But my grandpa has always liked learning new things and he had learned how to type.

All the privates who knew how to type were huddled together in a small wooden room waiting to take the typing test. It was freezing cold outside and the room had a little stove heater for warmth. All the other men were huddled around the heater stretching their hands towards the small fire to warm up their fingers. They kept inviting my grandpa to come over and warm up his hands by the stove, but he declined. He put his backside to toward the stove instead letting the heat warm up his body. He was raised on a farm and spent many cold mornings milking cows. He knew from experience that the best way to warm up your fingers was to stick them under your arms and let your body heat warm them.

Soon the time came for the typing test. According to my grandpa, everyone else's hands started stiffening up as soon as they were away from the warm stove. He managed to best them with his typing speed and was assigned the job.

So how did it save his life?

My grandpa stayed behind as the rest of his unit was sent out. He said farewell to his friends and brothers in arms planning to see them again. But none of them returned. Not one.

He never gave us a lot of details about what happened to his unit. When he talks about it, his eyes tear up as if it happened recently. Sometimes I wonder if he feels guilty about not going out with the rest of his unit. But I'm selfishly glad that he was spared... whether it was because he knew how to type or knew how to warm up his hands or even just a stroke of luck.

You never know what "useless" skill could one day prove handy. You never know what menial assignment could one day change the course of your life. I hope that's the lesson Little Dude learned from that story. Hopefully he'll have many chances to hear the story from his great-grandpa and let the lesson sink in.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

All the Best Intentions

Why do the holidays always seem to fly by on a plane fueled with stress and loaded with unfulfilled plans?

It starts with Halloween. This year I was actually prepared. Ok, I'll admit I was only prepared because my mom gave Little Dude a Civil War costume for his birthday. But it worked. He made a handsome Union soldier. Even won the costume contest at our church's Fall festival. Little Dude was the North (the winning side, of course) and his cousin was the South (he can do a great rebel yell).

North vs. South

But when it came time to wear his costume to school, he opted for a ninja getup as he reasoned, "I don't want to get my costume dirty." And yet again I was (surprisingly) prepared.

I think he looks more like a mini Chuck Norris!

I had also planned to have the house decorated, the candy purchased and the pumpkins carved by Halloween night. Well, at least we had the candy purchased. My hubby ended up carving the pumpkins at the last minute because we were busy with Little Dude's soccer games and fixing my car after a truck slightly rearranged my trunk.

But it all worked out.

Trick or Treating happened. Candy was pillaged. And we got to meet a few more of our new neighbors.

Big Dude's handiwork.

Even Furry Dude gets in on the action!

Thanksgiving was next. A little different this time around as Big Dude's mom and my parents all left town for the holiday. Given my aversion to turkey, I tried to convince my hubby that the pilgrims could have eaten chicken tacos.

He didn't quite hold to the same creative historical interpretation, so turkey stayed on the menu. The only time in my life I've ever cooked the turkey was 7 years ago when I was cooking a little bird of my own. The morning sickness meant I spent more time leaning over the commode than the stove. So I wasn't prepared to cook the bird this year.

But it all worked out.

Luckily my sister-in-law offered to cook the turkey. My niece made the pumpkin pie. Hubby made he mashed potatoes. He asked his mom to make her awesome stuffing before she left town. I made the sweet potatoes and corn. And Little Dude set the table.

Then the race to Christmas began.

Why do I always feel like I lose the race?

I had the best intentions -- get Christmas cards out early so people would have our new address (I actually ordered the cards in October!), make family gifts, make Christmas cookies, decorate the house, put up Christmas lights, get all the presents wrapped right away and stowed under the tree, have a snow day, take Little Dude to see Santa, solve world hunger and give peace a chance. Um, well, you see...

Yeah, only a few of those things happened.

But it all worked out.

Little Dude did get to see Santa and play in the snow. It was the most magical Santa-filled weekend ever! And it snowed during our visit to the "North Pole" so he got to go sledding and have a snowball fight.

Top Row: L) Snowball fight! R) Holding his silver bell from Santa on the Polar Express!
Bottom Row: L) He helped the elves make the toys and then he tested the toys! R) One-on-one time with Santa. 

Other than decorate our tree, we didn't decorate much. And the Christmas cookies I planned became New Year cookies and then sometime-in-January cookies. I hurried up and wrapped all the gifts just a few days before Christmas. And we (Big Dude, Little Dude and me) all worked together to create at least one sentimental homemade gift.

But on the plus side the whole family worked together on the Children's Christmas program at church (Big Dude did sound, I helped direct the choir, Little Dude had a little solo, and even our niece helped with the choreography).

And although we had the best intentions, and our plans either didn't happen or were just seriously delayed (I blame the virus we kept sharing with each other), we still had a wonderful Christmas. We still kept an eye on what was important. And plans didn't get in the way of having some fun family time together.

Hope you had wonderful holidays and wishing you a wonderful 2014!

Monday, September 30, 2013

Camp Papa

This week is Fall Break for Little Dude. He has an entire week off!!!

We had plans to take a mini-vacation, but that fell through. Then my parents had a brilliant plan... they would take Little Dude camping!


My dad wants to teach Little Dude how to fish. It's really important for granddads to teach the younger generations important skills like camping, fishing, catching bugs, farting when someone pulls your finger, setting things on fire, and napping. All valuable lessons for a growing boy.

My husband has been teaching Little Dude his own set of skills, like how to tie his shoes, how to ride a bike, how to build every Star Wars scene with Legos, how to avoid Gamer's Thumb during long Skylanders sessions, and how to fake a belch. But my husband didn't have many opportunities to go camping or fishing when he grew up and he's a little too safety-minded to throw caution to the wind and drive out to the middle of nowhere with just a sleeping bag, duct tape, and chopsticks. (Seriously, I think that's all I took one time during a spontaneous camping trip!)

However. my dad was in the Boy Scouts and his dad was his troop leader -- all something I recently learned now that I'm old enough to actually pay attention to him when he talks. He could probably built an entire fortress with just twigs and spit. Of course, that won't be necessary. Because these days, the ol' Boy Scout camps in a very comfortable 5th wheel. Nothing like enjoying the outdoors with indoor plumbing!

We enjoyed camping while I was growing up. Sometimes we camped in tents. Sometimes in a small trailer that sat in the back of our truck. We lots of adventures and created great memories. My dad was always quite skilled at setting up the camp, chopping wood, and starting a fire. We'd spending time hiking and exploring. And back at camp, we'd play games and read books.

Now while my dad easily earned his scout badge for camping, I'm not sure he ever earned one for fishing.

Throughout the years, my dad has had brief aspirations to fish. Every so often, he would get an inkling that he might actually enjoy it. However, I'm not sure I recall him ever actually catching something. He's more like the lucky mascot for everyone else who fishes with him. When he went fishing with my mom, she caught fish. When he took Big Dude on his first fishing expedition, my happy hubby came back with several fish. My dad? Nada. Zero. Zilch.

So really, I'm not sure why my dad decided to teach Little Dude how to fish. But at least it's better than teaching his how to set things on fire. And really, as long as he's fishing with my dad, Little Dude's almost guaranteed to come back with something other than mosquito bites and pockets full of rocks. I'm looking forward to Little Dude coming home from Camp Papa with lots of stories and memories... and possibly a fish or two.

And by the way... this morning as I was saying goodbye to Little Dude, the reality hit me... this is the longest that he's been away from us!

It didn't sink in until he pulled out his camera, and after taking a picture of Papa and Grandma, he took a picture of me. He said he wanted a picture of me in case he forgot what my face looks like!

Hmm... maybe I didn't explain how long his trip is. He may possibly be planning to stay with Papa and Grandma longer than I planned on!

Monday, September 16, 2013

The Mesopotamian Mind

Remember when you first learned about Mesopotamia? Cuneiform? Gilgamesh? Ziggurats?

Me neither!

Was it junior high? High school? College? I'm not sure I ever actually learned about Mesopotamia. I definitely don't remember learning anything about a guy named Hammurabi. And I could not point out Ur on a map.

But it's a new generation. Hello, Core Curriculum. Just a month into 1st Grade, my son brought home this study guide...

Yep. He had a test on Mesopotamia.


Now, I've been pretty positive so far about Core Curriculum. I like the idea that if we were to one day move to another state, Little Dude wouldn't miss a beat in school. I like the math that he's been doing (basic algebra right now). And I like the amount of time spent on reading, spelling, and writing.

But seriously? A test on Mesopotamia? I can't even pronounce "ziggurats" and he's supposed to know what it is? Shouldn't 1st Grade Social Studies be spent learning something more general instead of delving into a subject that college students spend an entire semester studying?

So last week, I found myself having to make a decision... whether to just help my kid memorize the answers to get through the test or to actually make sure he understood the subject. Hmm...

On one hand, I've survived this long without any academic knowledge of Mesopotamia. Unless Little Dude plans on completing the $800 question in the Mesopotamia category on Jeopardy, I'm sure he'll be fine with just memorizing. But on the other hand, with the way Core Curriculum is structured, what if this is the foundation for future lessons on Mesopotamia or other ancient civilizations? What if he gets into 3rd Grade and regrets having just memorized the answers because he now has to truly delve into the subject? What if he has to take The History of Ancient Mesopotamia in college and is behind all his peers... because mom just let him memorize the answers?

With nightmarish visions of my child's future failure in my mind, I sat down and starting quizzing him. Luckily, he knew most of the answers AND how to pronounce them. In fact, he even corrected my pronunciation a couple times.

Apparently I was worried for nothing. He knew the subject. We even Googled some Core Curriculum lesson plans on Mesopotamia and had fun looking at the pictures and PowerPoint slides as Little Dude taught me about Mesopotamia. He even told me the story of Gilgamesh.

Crisis averted!

This time.

Hopefully next time I'm facing a memorization vs. understanding choice, I'll remember this moment. The moment I realized my kid actually learns stuff in school. The moment I realized that memorization is also an important tool to learn and that my kid doesn't have to be an expert in every subject. The moment I realized that my title as the "Crazy Mom" at school is pretty secure because I tend to over think everything.

EPILOGUE: Little Dude went on to ace the Mesopotamia test. He didn't have to spell ziggurats or Euphrates. It was multiple choice. :-) He is now studying the Scientific Method. And Crazy Mom over here can't wait delve into that subject!!!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Little Dude, Big Dreams

"Bonjour, Mama!"


"How do you say 'Mister' in French?"


"So it's 'Bonjour, Monsieur?'"


"Oh, that's 'yes' in French!"


"Oui, oui!"

This morning, Little Dude told me, "When I'm Daddy's age, I'm going to live in Paris." Clearly he's thought this out because then he told me that he'll need to learn French to do so, to which I replied, "Maybe we can learn French together." And he excitedly replied, "Oui, oui!"

I'm never really sure where Little Dude's big ideas come from. Sometimes I swear he has a secret life that I am not privy to, or maybe he's a reincarnated Ernest Hemingway. He'll tell us fantastic stories that we have never heard before. He'll express his disapproval by saying things like "that's inappropriate." He is suddenly in love with playing chess. And I wouldn't be surprised to come home one day and find him typing away at an old typewriter while smoking a pipe.

Seriously. Who's kid is this?

So this morning, I wasn't even shocked when he announced his plans to move to France in 30 years. I didn't even bother to ask him why or how or any of those tough questions. After all... he's has plenty of time to figure out the details. But right now, he's a dreamer.

And honestly... that's the best part about being a kid. Dreaming.

Remember the dreams you had as a kid? Before someone came along and told you they were impossible or too hard to achieve. I do. And maybe it's bad parenting, but I don't want to squash Little Dude's dreams. Maybe he will live in France one day. Maybe he will become a rock star-missionary-teacher-veterinarian-astronaut. Who to say he can't? Maybe if he keeps dreaming, he'll become the next Ernest Hemingway and achieve all those dreams in his books.

In the meantime, I'll support him as he figures out who he is and where he's going. Even if it means I have to learn how to say more than "Bonjour, Monsieur" in French!