A Resolution I Can Keep

Image courtesy of Google Images

‘Tis the season to reflect on what’s working and what’s not working in our lives and make a solemn vow starting on January 1st that everything is going to be better from now on. 

It’s noble.  It’s lofty.  And, for me, it has been a largely unrealistic if not futile endeavor. 

The top new year’s resolutions tend to fall into several categories:  (1) Take better care of our bodies (eat more healthfully, stop smoking, cut down on drinking, exercise more, deal with stress effectively; (2) Take better care of our minds (go back to school, read more); (3) Take better care of our souls (spend more time with friends and family and less time in front of the computer or at work); and (4) Take better care of our planet (recycle more, buy organic, go “green”).

As I peruse this list, I see that there is plenty of room for improvement in my life.  Without delineating my myriad frailties, shortcomings, and bad habits, suffice it to say, I could stand to institute many of these.

But I won’t.  I can say that honestly and without embarrassment. 

Since becoming a parent, I have learned–more than at any other juncture in my life–that I, like all of us, am a work in progress.  I am constantly changing and (I hope!) evolving; but any changes for the better I have made in my life have stuck only when they have arisen organically–not due to a mere change in the calendar. 

So my resolutions for 2012 are as follows: To remain open to the possibility that my way is not the only way, to treat others and myself with great care, to admit when I’ve been wrong and to make amends accordingly, to breathe. 

In other words, to continue doing the very best I can. 

Happy New Year to you. 

 

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What I Learned from My Son’s Seizure on Christmas Day

It was admittedly a comparatively small one–the potent medicine Edgar takes all but guarantees (as much as anything can) that the big seizures will be kept forcibly at bay.  But it was a generalized seizure.  On his grandparents’ couch on Christmas Day as he was unwrapping one of his new favorite toys. 

And for the seconds it was happening, the world stood still. 

Though our threshold for seizures has, as Edgar’s neurologist predicted, grown exponentially, there was something about this one infiltrating the sanctity of a six-year-old child’s Christmas. 

It was a moment we couldn’t photograph, a memory we might like to forget.  Except we can’t. 

It’s ours.  And it’s his. 

And it reminded me that as much as we might like script and plan, we can’t.  Whether we’re parents or not, parents of children with special needs or not, so much of this all is beyond our control.  The only thing we can control is how we react. 

Did I know this before yesterday?  Most definitely.  Our journey to and through parenthood taught and continues to teach me that lesson regularly. 

But Edgar’s seizure taught me something else yesterday.  All the trappings, all the traditions, all the consistency in this world that we’ve created for our children is at the mercy of Edgar’s epilepsy, and nothing will ever be the same again.  Is it better that Edgar–with his diagnosis–dwell in a world of relative predictability.  I think so.  And is our world better because of him?  I know so. 

There will never be a day when we won’t have to think about Edgar’s epilepsy.  And it was naive of me to think that we might get a day off for Christmas.  But I am learning–and lucky me I have such a wise and beautiful teacher.

 

 

 

 

 

In Praise of Paper

I haven’t printed any of my pictures in over a year-and-a-half.  Never fear . . . I have taken hundreds (okay, let’s face it, thousands) of photos over the last 18 months.  But the last time I printed any August wasn’t even walking. 

This is not good. 

Taking photos, saving them on my computer, editing them, sharing them digitally, backing them up on a CD–check, check, check, check, and check.  But none of this takes the place of printing.

There is something comforting about holding an album in your lap as opposed to watching a slide show on your laptop, something familiar about turning the pages and watching time go by.

Oscar found our most recent album (circa 2010) and sat for the better part of a half-hour, sunk into our big livingroom chair, talking about what he remembered (and couldn’t believe he didn’t remember) as he moved through the photographs. 

He said, “I should really take more time and look at our photos.”

And it was at that moment I realized I need to take more time where our photos are concerned, too. 

When I walk through our house and look at the photos that adorn our walls–photos of my gorgeous grandmother from the 1930s, black-and-white childhood photos, our wedding photograph, photographs of our children–there isn’t a computer anywhere in sight. 

And it wouldn’t make sense if there were.  There is a warmth in a printed photograph that can never be replicated by a display on a monitor. 

So, next week, you’ll undoubtedly find me at the Kodak kiosk at our local drugstore, inserting CD after CD and printing until they run out of ink–because as much as I appreciate my computer, I appreciate moments such as the one in the photo you see here (which I will be printing, of course) a whole lot more.

Product Review: Looking Glass App

When my husband’s (or, really, anyone’s) iPhone is within grabbing distance, my three sons–at their very young ages of 7, 6, and 2–are incredibly intrigued by and surprisingly adept at negotiating the technology.  And while the ease with which young people handle every new contraption put before them is undeniably impressive, as a parent, it is more than a little terrifying to contemplate what they might accidentally stumble upon.

Enter Looking Glass.

Looking Glass  is unique among apps for the youngest viewers.  The download to your iPhone or iPad is free (and offers several free sample videos); and for an incredibly reasonable and highly affordable $3.99/month, subscribers receive three new videos through iTunes every week.  The videos are visually appealing; and so that parents can actually exhale, all have been vetted by a respected child psychologist who ensures that every aspect of every video is educational and appropriate for and beneficial to young children.

What attracted my sons to the app–before they even saw the crisp, colorful images on the screen–was the accompanying music.  The videos are narration-free.  And in this noisy world of information overload and 24-hour access to everything, these videos are a quiet respite; the lack of narration creates space for children to ask questions.  They inspire inquiry and communication.

And as a parent, I couldn’t ask for anything more.

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Looking Glass is offering a $25 iTunes gift card to one lucky reader of “My Three Sons.”  To enter, simply leave a comment on this post.  To enter more than once, share, share, and share again–on Facebook, Twitter, on your own blog, through a mass email.  Just come back here after each share and leave a comment regarding where you shared and with how many people.  You can enter up to five times.  Comments will be open until Wednesday, 14 December 2011, 11:59 PM EST.  We’ll conduct our drawing on Thursday, 15 December, and announce the winner on “My Three Sons” on Friday, 16 December 2011.  Good luck!

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AN INTERVIEW WITH PROJECT COMET CEO RYAN BUDKE

SH: Can you tell me a little about yourself and your role at Project Comet?

RB:  My name is Ryan Budke, and I’m the CEO and one of the co-founders of Project Comet. I’ve been involved in the web world for the past decade working at companies such as AOL and MySpace in their social and content brands, but that’s the boring stuff. I’m a kid at heart: I love creating, building (still play with LEGO) and watching things come together.

SH:  How was the idea for Looking Glass born?

RB: Recently, I went on a trip around the world, and I uploaded footage of my travels for my young nephew to watch on YouTube. When my sister told me they had to be with him the entire time he watched the videos (since it’s so easy for young kids to stumble upon inappropriate content while on sites like YouTube), I realized the need for a safe, walled-garden type of environment for children to explore videos on their own – and Looking Glass was born.

We wanted to create a library of videos where kids could dive into a wide range of topics, completely free of advertisements and full of content created specifically for them. I really think we’ve accomplished that with Looking Glass.

SH: What does $3.99/month buy a subscriber?

RB: For $3.99 a month, subscribers get three new videos every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, plus immediate access to the entire back catalog of Looking Glass videos. All of our videos are 3-5 minutes of original content set to an original soundtrack, and they cover a wide range of topics – from horseback riding to how cupcakes are made to how cable cars work, and everything in between.

SHWhy are the videos free of narration?

We decided to go the music-only route for several reasons. First and foremost, we wanted to make Looking Glass available to an international audience. By keeping the videos narration-free, there’s no language barrier.

Also, these videos were very much inspired by the kind of “how-to” vignettes my team and I used to watch on Mr. Rogers, Sesame Street and 321 Contact when we were kids. We loved how those videos relied solely on imagery to teach kids about different things (remember the crayon factory?), and we wanted Looking Glass to do the same thing: Let kids draw their own conclusions based on what they see.   

SH: What separates your product from other apps geared toward young viewers?

RB: There is no other subscription video app for children out there right now – we’re truly forging new territory here. Something that makes us stand out from other kids’ apps in general is the quality of our videos – one of the most consistent piece of feedback we’ve gotten from users is how beautiful and high-quality the footage is. Also, we work hand-in-hand with a noted child psychologist on each of our videos, so a lot more than just guesswork goes into creating the best content possible for our target audience of 2-8 year olds.

Follow Looking Glass on Twitter @LookingGlass and on Facebook at facebook.com/LookingGlassApp

A Plea to Consider the Backstory

By Monday afternoon we were all feeling the effects. 

On Sunday night, due to the festive arrival of a six-foot evergreen in our diningroom, no one got to bed when they were supposed to.  So, we all greeted Monday more than a little sleep-deprived; and if Mondays weren’t hard enough and long enough already, sleep deprivation only made things worse.

We arrived home.   I pulled up in front of our house.  August was crying inconsolably for reasons I still don’t know.  Oscar and Edgar were in the throes of a vociferous disagreement.  There were grocery bags and backpacks and lunch boxes to bring in.  Dinner had not even been contemplated.    There was homework to squeeze in.

Oscar bounded into the house first–fresh from LEGO Club and eager to engage with a recent masterpiece.  His unsteadiness brought on by exhaustion caused him to trip and drop a creation on which he had spent an inordinate amount of time.  The fruits of his labor resided in hundreds of tiny pieces on the floor. 

He came out onto the porch as I worked to empty the car and let loose a barrage of language that would have made a seven-year-old sailor blush. 

And one of our neighbors was standing there–and heard it all.  And this neighbor said in response to Oscar’s display, “Well, I guess there’s one in every family.”

My response was quick, admittedly curt, and clear.  And it reeked of a parent’s protective defense of her child.

I have gone over a thousand times what my neighbor might have meant.  And I have finally concluded that the intent, while worth considering, is largely immaterial.  What matters is how it was perceived.  The comment implied that Oscar was that “one” in “every family”–the one people obligatorily invite to gatherings, the one people alternately talk about and dismiss, the one who isn’t quite like the others, the one who is volatile, unpredictable, the one whose histrionics make the rest of the family uncomfortable.

But Oscar is seven.  And whether the comment was meant to be funny or not, he is a child.  And he was tired–really tired; and something on which he had worked hard had been ruined–albeit temporarily. 

This person may have meant to be humorous, may have read in me my own propensity for sarcasm, yes, even where my children are concerned. But the person who made the comment did not know the backstory of that particular moment, did not know my own particular history–the fact that I had been raised by that “one in every family,” did not know what Oscar’s particular biological history might have been, didn’t think what a child’s reaction to that comment–had he heard it–might have been.

Did I speak to Oscar about his behavior?  Of course.  And right on cue, and in a move that proved Oscar is anything but that “one in every family,” he then asked if he should apologize to our neighbor.

And, honestly, I still don’t know how to answer him.