52 Weeks of Sisterhood: Raising Readers

My husband and I have been reading to our girls since they were born. They have their favorites and so do we. We know that the Dr. Seuss books are fun but long. We know the books that rhyme and the ones that don’t. We know which books require special voices or sound effects. And we know which books are sure to get a laugh. 

In that latter category of humorous books, my little one has been favoring “The Pigeon” books lately. Are you familiar with the Pigeon? OMG he’s hilarious. The author is Mo Willems and he used to write and animate for Sesame Street – which totally explains why I love his humor. Among her faves right now:



She laughs at just the right spots. And she can’t wait to turn the pages. She’s even memorized some of the words so far, which makes me beam with pride.

(As a side note, my husband and I have a standard baby gift. We always buy a Pigeon book and the accompanying stuffed animal. We had generous friends and family contribute books to our girls’ library and we want to pay it forward.)

My nine year old is also enamored with books. She most recently finished the memoir, “Behind the Secret Window” by Nelly S. Toll. It’s the story of a young Jewish girl’s experiences during World War II.

My daughter’s always been fascinated by Anne Frank, but I’ve spared her some of the horrid details until she gets older. This book so captivated her that she hasn’t stopped talking about it for weeks. As she was describing the book to me last week, she said how much she’d love the chance to meet this woman (who now probably in her 70s or 80s).

This might sound morbid, but I did some research to see if the woman was still alive. Turns out that until recently she was teaching at a college near where we live. There was no mention of a death date online so – onward! I continued researching and found what appeared to be a viable email address. I sent her a note.

No response yet.

But whoa. My daughter will completely freak if she gets the chance to meet this woman. I’ve met a few authors whose works I’ve loved and for me it was like meeting a rock star. I’m in awe of authors and how they can inform, educate, entertain, persuade, or frustrate me by the words they so carefully string together. I adore the fact that my daughter feels the same way.

I believe reading to kids and in front of kids is something really special. Oh sure there are lots of studies noting how it helps with the developmental and cognitive abilities of children…blah, blah, blah. That’s all true, but I read to my kids for different reasons. I want them to discover how books can transport you to another place and time. I want them to know that books can make you laugh and cry and leave you thinking about characters long after you’ve turned the last page. 

OK fine. It’s really because I can’t resist the extra cuddles I get when it’s storytime. 🙂

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Where Are The Dads’ Voices?

If you go to any bookstore, big or small, and visit the parenting section, notice how many books are written by and for women and moms. There’s nothing wrong with this, of course, but it kind of makes you wonder where all the dads are. Where are their voices? Where are their stories?

When I think about the parenting books I read when I was just starting out raising my girls, they were almost exclusively written by women (with the noted exception of Dr. Spock.) They were stories from moms who eagerly shared their experiences about breastfeeding, potty training or navigating the challenges of a child with special needs. Their stories were told with great candor infused with humor, as if they were your best girlfriend sitting in your kitchen.

But what about the dad’s perspective? Why are their voices all but absent from the conversation?

Certainly there was a point in time when it wasn’t considered masculine to be a hands-on dad or to be concerned about how well you were parenting. I’m happy to say things are changing.

A new book will be released this Father’s Day and it’s a beautiful compilation of some of the most heart-warming and heart-wrenching stories you’ll ever hear about parenthood. And they’re all written by dads.

The book is  called, “Dads Behaving Dadly: Real Stories of the New Fatherhood Culture” and is co-authored by author, speaker and life coach, Hogan Hilling, and Al Watts, President of the National At-Home Dads Network. The book is being released by Motivational Press and will feature more than 60 stories by fathers who share some of their most intimate and defining parenting moments.

I had the great pleasure of reading some of these stories in advance of the publication and they really touched my heart. The stories are real and moving and so very powerful. I think it’s incredibly brave for these fathers to be vulnerable in sharing with the world the tender moments they experience with their children.

Parenthood is a scary and uncertain time. You navigate each day as it comes. We like to think if we read all the books, manuals and how-to guidebooks that it will all make sense. But nothing could be further from the truth. What gets us through the day-to-day struggles is the connections we make with other parents. It’s in the sharing of our stories and discovering that we aren’t in this alone.

THAT is what these brave men are doing. They are showing fathers (and mothers) that parenthood is complicated and wonderful and frustrating and exhilarating (sometimes all in the same day), but it’s worth it. 

I love the idea of this book. I was told by the authors that they are still accepting stories. So if you know a father who would be willing to share his story of what fatherhood and being a dad means, please go to Dads Behaving Dadly for more information. You can also read some of the sample stories on their site.

I applaud Mr. Hilling and Mr. Watts for their vision. I can’t wait to read more of the stories.

 

 

 

 

 

Hogan Hilling
Author, Speaker & Life Coach
Twitter @TheDadGuru

3 Reasons Why I Support St. Baldrick’s Foundation

I can’t think of anything worse than childhood cancer. Can you?

Too many people (myself included) complain about stupid, mundane things like the traffic on our daily commute; the snowstorm that hits AFTER the first day of Spring; or the dirty socks that your spouse continues to leave on the floor day after day.

Childhood cancer is extremely humbling. It bitch-slaps you right in the face and makes you realize what’s really important.

There are lots of great (and not so great) organizations out there doing work to raise funds to fight cancer. But I think this one organization is different. If you’re not familiar with the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, maybe you’ll want to check them out. They do wonderful work. Their only goal is to raise funds for grants for childhood cancer research. You can Google them for more info, but the statement on their website that absolutely floored me was this:

“About 60% of all funding for drug development in adult cancers comes from pharmaceutical companies.
For kids? Almost none, because childhood cancer drugs are not profitable.”

That statement turns my stomach. Childhood cancer drugs are not profitable. What’s even more striking is that all types of childhood cancers COMBINED receive only 4% of US federal funding for cancer research. FOUR PERCENT.

It’s worth noting here that St. Baldrick’s Foundation spends more than 3/4 of the money raised on funding research grants (79.5%). The remaining 20.5% is spent on fundraising and administrative costs. That is an impressive ratio.

As their website states, yes, cancer strikes more adults than children. However, when we’re talking about the allocation of money, the game becomes less equitable. Childhood cancer simply isn’t “profitable” enough. That really makes me angry.

I’m supporting St. Baldrick’s this year. Here are my reasons:

1. Because my money goes to fund childhood cancer research grants. My money is not going to purchase accoutrements like ribbons or balloons (which are all well and good to raise awareness) and it’s certainly not lining the pockets of big wig boards of directors or administrators.

2. Because my husband and I have friends who have lost their children to some form of cancer and it was the most gut-wrenching experience for us as outsiders to observe. I cannot imagine the hell the families went through.

3. Because by some sheer stroke of luck, my son and my two girls are healthy. Thank God.

There’s one more reason I’m supporting St. Baldrick’s. A dear friend of mine has supported them for years. He’s a cancer survivor and I admire his efforts to “go bald” this weekend to raise money for this worthwhile cause. If you want to join me in supporting his efforts, here’s a link to his page.

Are You Superstitious?

To this day, if you buy a brand new pair of shoes and put them on a table, my mother will shriek and yell while pointing at said shoes, “Hey! New shoes do not belong on the table. It’s bad luck!”

As ridiculous as I find this superstition, I admit that I’m a little afraid of the consequences should I dare to put a new pair of shoes still in the box on my kitchen table. Of course, when my mother is here I sometimes do it anyway just to see her reaction.

I’m mean like that.

But what about purses? Are brand new purses on the table bad luck too? I hope not. Because after much deliberation in the purse aisle at my local Marshall’s (and after numerous texts and photos back and forth with my sister for her expert opinion), I decided on a lovely white and navy blue number from Ivanka Trump’s purse collection.

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I think it will be great for spring and summer. I’ve never really been much of a purse gal – give me a functional black leather shoulder bag and I’m all set. But now that I’m ready to ditch the “mom-who-keeps-everything-in-her-giant-bag” look, I thought it would be irresponsible of me to not give purse fashion a try.

Although it isn’t a pair of shoes, it’s all new and leather-y just like a pair of shoes. And yet, when I got home I left it on the table for an hour or so before moving it to the chair. Which of course I’m hoping will appease the gods of bad luck.

Are you superstitious? Is this weird?

An “Elbow-Bump” Turned Her Day Around

My girl missed the bus this morning.

But in her defense, it’s unbelievably freezing and I didn’t want her hanging out at the bus stop, which is not far from our front door. So, I told her to get ready and then wait in our front hall until we could actually see the bus arrive.

Little did I realize it would take her a bit to get ready. She had forgotten her retainer, her socks (!) and her viola.

As she ran upstairs to get all of these things, the bus pulled up. Well, by the time she got everything together and put on her winter accoutrements: coat, hat, scarf, boots and gloves (damn you, winter!) and was ready to walk out the door – you guessed it. The bus pulled away.

She was devastated. She loves hanging out on the bus with her friends. It’s like her version of study hall. But today we would have to drive. And I would have to coax my 3 year old out of her princess dress and into something more suitable for a cold ride in the car. Good times.

As we drove to school (virtually behind the bus, mind you) my girl was sulky. She was mad at the bus driver (who is notoriously late, but of course, not today). She was mad at her socks for not already being on her feet and she was made at her viola because today is her lesson. Logic has no place in a nine year old’s mind.

We talked on the drive. If you can call her one-word responses and/or grunts to my questions ‘talking.’

Soon we were slowly making our way through the drop-off circle at her school. She was still sullen-faced as she gathered her bags and viola case. And as we neared the front door, we saw something that as a “busser” she doesn’t normally get to see. Her principal – who is just about the coolest dude ever – was standing outside to greet the students as they walked in. He’s relatively young, a little taller than me (read: short), and completely bald. So much so that he dressed as Popeye last Halloween. None of the kids knew who he was. Yes, I like him a lot and I love his leadership style. The kids know he’s tough and won’t put up with any crap, but they also know he is by far their biggest cheerleader.

So there he was on this frigid morning with a giant smile fist-bumping each kid as they arrived saying, “Hey, good morning! Glad you’re here, make it a great day!”

My daughter was so loaded down with her viola, backpack, and lunch sack that she couldn’t get a free “fist.”

So he elbow-bumped her. 🙂

And she smiled and giggled.

these are the days

Jimmy Fallon Rocks

OMG did you see the video with Jimmy Fallon and Idina Menzel singing “Let It Go” ?? I know the song has totally been overplayed and everyone is sick to death of hearing about it – but I can’t get enough of it.

I think I need help.

My girls are singing it non-stop, too.

We are a household in need of an intervention.

If you haven’t seen it – here’s the video.

We own the Frozen dolls, the soundtrack and of course we’ve pre-ordered the Frozen DVD.

We are freaks.

52 Weeks of Sisterhood: Teamwork

My girls don’t always get along.

Their seven year age difference is part of the reason. But when they do get along it makes my heart happy.

We’ve had way too much snow recently and it’s resulted in either school cancellations or two hour delayed openings for big sister. The most recent two-hour delay day happened to fall on the day little sister has her swimming class. So we all piled into the car and headed to the Y with plans to go to swim class and then rush home to get big sister on the school bus by 10am.

She wasn’t happy about having to rush. She wanted to stay home in her jammies for a bit longer and play on the latest tween obsession “Wee World.” Don’t ask.

But off we went. We sat on the bleachers alongside the pool, sweating and breathing in the humidity. We watched my little one practice her kicks and put her face in the water to blow bubbles. The class is only 30 minutes, but my older daughter’s face looked like she’d been there for days.

But then something cool happened. The teacher asked her class of toddlers if they wanted to swim the length of the pool to the deep end using their little floaties. Their eyes widened for a second before they all squealed and shouted, “Yay! Yay!”

The class slowly began kicking, making their way out of the shallow end. They swam in the crookedest line ever, but it was really cute. There are only three of them, but they each had a little cheering section on the bleachers. Kick. Kick. Kick. They were in the middle of the pool – headed straight for the deep end – when big sister got up and ran alongside the pool to the deep end. (Note: the lifeguards yelled at her for running, but she didn’t care.) She crouched down at the edge of the pool and started cheering and cheering and cheering for her little sister. “C’mon you can do it! You’re almost there!”

When the little one finally made it – all red-faced and breathless – it was her big sister who jumped up as if she had just won the kid lottery. And then she told her, “You did it! I’m so proud of you!” And my heart swooned.

Of course, on the way home, they fought about who was allowed to sing the Frozen songs. (For the record, my little one prefers to sing ALL BY HERSELF. Holy high maintenance.)

But I didn’t let it ruin my moment.

p.s. Cell phones aren’t permitted in the pool area so I failed to get a shot of little one kicking her heart out. So I include this one instead.

52 weeks of sisterhood

Holding hands so they don’t slip on the snow…