Saturday, October 28, 2006

Missin' Tania, but bonding with Lu

Oh Christ, I miss Tania! Sometimes I take her for granted. I realize that she's actually not just a big help to me, but she's also my very best friend. I find myself wanting to tell her things all throughout the day, and when she calls me, I'm giddy with excitement.

I'm also getting some good bonding time with Lu. I'm trying this thing called Elimination Communication with her. Basically, you read your child for signs of having to pee or poop and try to get them to the potty in time. Yes, I realize that she's only four months old. It's not potty training. It's different. Do you realize that if you watch your child enough, you will be able to tell when they have to pee or poop? And if, every time they pee or poop, you make a noise to associate with it, they will eventually pee or poop if you make that noise? It works. It's hard to get the hang of, but it's working. As long as I'm not a slacker, I can tell when she has to go. It's insane.

Anyway, we went to a baby-wearing meeting today and it was fun. Joey's sick though, so that blows. He came, but was embarrassed about his condition, so he hid out at a coffee shop. The bad news is that I saw a million more wraps and slings I want to buy and make. The good news is that I got to see people that I really have enjoyed getting to know. Some of them are coming to my house on Friday for a playdate. Yay!

Tania gets home in either two or three days. She has the camera, so hopefully she'll have some good vineyard pictures. I'm so glad she has the opportunity to just get up and go to my parents' vineyard to take part in the harvest. It's a great experience for a kid her age...well, for a kid any age.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Tania has a blog too!

I just wanted to tell people that read here that Tania has a blog now, too. You can find it here. She'll be posting when she can about what she's doing and what kinds of things she's into lately. I think she put up a post about the book that she's reading right now.

Today, my parents are driving up from Winston to pick up Tania and have her stay at the vineyard for a few days. She should have a wonderful time. They're going to spend the night here tonight, and I think we're going to go to a pumpkin patch! I'm so excited! I've never been to one before. The one I want to go to has a corn maze (corn maize...ha ha ha...).

Well, ta-ta for now!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Long walks and skipping stones

We had a wonderful day yesterday. We decided to go for a walk and ended up finding the Oaks Park Wildlife Reserve. I hadn't realized that it was so near our house. I guess there is also a 40-mile bike trail in and around the park too.

We walked on the trail for a while. The trail went under the train track and then along the Willamette River. We found a little trail down to the river, so we scaled it down. All along the river are smooth stones, so we started skipping them.
I am no good at skipping stones, but Joey is some kind of pro at it. The most I could skip a stone was twice, but some of Joey's stones skipped seven or eight times! Tania tried it several times, but had a hard time getting the right throw. That's okay. It's not an essential life skill.

The river was so calm and peaceful. There was not another soul in sight, except for one kayaker who paddled by. We stayed down there for quite a while.

When we were headed back, we spotted an apple tree with ripe apples. The tree was over a fence and on the other side of the train track. So Joey lifted Tania over the fence and she ran across the traintrack to pick as many apples as she could! Don't worry; we were watching for trains. We also found some ripe blackberries. We picked them and ate them very quickly.

It was a very nice and relaxing day. The weather was beautiful. It was cold when we started out on our walk, but by the time we made it home, we had all taken off our jackets. The sky was blue, and of course, the leaves were all kinds of colors. Tania collected leaves, pinecones, and rocks.

We have this Northwest nature book, so when we got home, Tania pulled it out and found all the plants and trees that we had seen that day. We didn't see any animals, but the plants and trees are all new to us, so they were exciting enough.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Fall is incredible in Portland!

Fall is so much fun here! As you can see, we got a pumpkin that's bigger than Lu. And of course, she only cares about whether or not she can eat it. Tania also got a little tiny pumpkin from a lady who lives across the street. People here have pumkins ang other squash of all shapes and sizes growing in their front yards.

The leaves are changing colors, and it's just so beautiful. I've never been in a place during fall that has seasons. So I'm just awed by all of the extraordinary colors. I must look like a crazy person picking leaves off of the trees all of the time.

It is getting a bit colder, but we have still had some warm days, like today.
We went to the playground and hung out with some friends. While Tania played, we watched a Little League game and enjoyed some gourmet icy-cold Pabst Blue Ribbon. I had to take some photos because the sky was so blue, but the trees were all kinds of colors. I know we only have a few days left like today.

We are getting ready for Halloween. We're going to be witches. Joey might not be a witch. I think men have a need to be pains in the ass at Halloween time and end up just wearing regular clothes. Meh. Tonight, I think we'll do some Halloween crafts, but we won't carve the pumpkin until it's closer to Halloween.

Oh! Talula is four months old today! I can't believe how quickly the time has passed. Then again, Tania is almost eight, so I guess I can believe it.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Raise Children With A Wild Streak

Raise children with a wild streak
Many `ideal' students lack inventive, restless and self-reliant spirit

Special to the Observer

A new report from the American Academy of Pediatrics stresses the importance of childhood playtime. It reinforces my own belief that many young adults have been cheated by years of excessive schoolwork and teamwork, too many extracurricular activities, and a straitjacketed "just say no to anything risky" upbringing. I am convinced that modern childhood generally does not build enough independence and thirst for knowledge.

For the past few years I helped interview high school seniors seeking scholarships to come to Appalachian State University. These applicants come from all over the state. They play instruments and sports, participate in church and charity, and work in diverse jobs.

They also display remarkably similar accomplishments. They are at the top of their high school classes and possess generically good manners. They lead teams, groups and clubs. They are smart, solid and hardworking.

They might be surprised to learn that I, like many college professors, yearn for rarer traits -- curiosity, passion, a wild streak. Yes, teamwork and leadership skills will help your child to implement someone else's ideas, and extensive extracurricular activities will foster responsibility. What your child really needs, though, is an inventive, self-reliant, restless spirit.

The key questions

For me, the heart-wrenching interview moment is when we ask these teenagers what they would choose to do on a day spent alone. Many say they never have the chance. Worse still, some have no answer at all. This should disturb and sadden any parent.In the end, my scholarship votes ride on two questions: Is this someone that I'd be excited to have in my class? And is he or she open to being changed by my class? Class rank and extracurricular activities are less important than genuine individuality or enthusiasm. It matters not whether someone is bold or shy, worldly or naïve. Is there a flash of determination, a streak of independence, a creative passion, an excited curiosity?

We need more students like the ones who leave after graduation to work as missionaries or in the Peace Corps. More like the ones who start successful businesses while in school. More like the ones who find the courage to go overseas for a summer or a semester because they know their own worlds are far too small.

Some students are team players and high achievers, but I'd trade them for stubbornly creative iconoclasts. Some students as children were taught to color inside the lines, watch Barney the purple dinosaur, and always ask permission. We need students who found out what Crayons tasted like, loved reading "The Cat in the Hat" and paid little attention to rules -- students whose parents encouraged their children's curiosity.

Something's missing

The irony is that many students begin to perceive late in college that they've missed something along the way. They regret not taking risks with difficult professors, unusual courses or semesters abroad. They berate themselves by equating self-worth with grades, and they are saddened by the realization that they have only glimpsed the breadth of the university. They begin to grasp that their uncomfortable sense of passivity has its roots in the highly controlled existence foisted on them.

Parents: love, guide and support your children, but don't insulate them, control them or let them be too busy. Independence, confidence and creativity come from freedom, risk and a good measure of unstructured solitude.

Encourage studying but make them play hooky, too -- partly to learn what it feels like to be unprepared and partly to foster spontaneity, irreverence and joy. Study chemistry together, then blow up a television in the backyard.

Foster camaraderie and connectedness through group activities (especially family ones), but be unyielding in your commitment to teaching them to love doing things entirely on their own. Make each child plan and cook the family's dinner on his or her own once a week.

Surround them with books, not video games. Raise a garden or build a deck together. Send them on solo trips.

However you choose to do it, give your children, their teachers and society one of the greatest gifts of all: Help your kids become creative, independent, curious, interesting people.

Mark Pruett is an assistant professor in the Walker College of Business at Appalachian State University. Write him at

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Hmmm...that's interesting.

Here is Talula, pondering the meaning of life. I hope that she can figure it out for the rest of us. Actually, I think I have it figured out in my head, but I'm not sure I can articulate it. Something like, "Free yourself, free others." It's vague, but it has special meaning to me.

Well, it has been getting colder here in Portland, and we had our first cold rain day today. Maybe people that live hear would knowingly throw their heads back in laughter and say, "You think you know cold? Ha! Wait 'til it gets really cold!" But we slept with the heater on last night. It's cozy.

People here paint their homes really weird colors, and I think I figured out that it's to give the town a bit of color after all the leaves fall off the trees and the sun goes away...
which is happening right now. The leaves are kinds of pretty shades of red, orange, yellow, green, purple and brown. Tania and I have been collecting them and pressing them to mail to our friends and family in Hawaii. Speaking of which, we heard that there was a 6.6 earthquake today! I can't believe it happened right after we left! Even though no one was killed or injured, it makes me feel like I am where I should be.

We've been getting our for a walk every day, and to play at the park, but we've been getting more and more comfortable indoors, reading or using the computer. Tania is really into a couple of games that she plays with Joey. She is reading "The Littles" right now, by John Peterson, and we are on Volume 2 of the Story of the World books, the Middle Ages. Tania has really taken to the history books. She asks me to read them all the time. And she has excellent comprehension and memory, not like her mother. She remembers things that we read months ago. We aren't doing any math right now. We got through simple multiplication and division, and she grasps the concepts well. She hates sitting and using a workbook though, so I will try to help her build her skills through games and practical life situations. She's really interested in fashion right now, and spends a lot of time sketching designs. I'm going to learn how to knit soon, and she says she wants to learn too. I also plan to get a sewing machine soon and she wants to learn how to sew. So we're following those interests right now and we'll see where they take us!

The sun just came out, so I think we'll be off to take a walk!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006


SelfDesign: Nurturing Genius Through Natural Learning
by Brent Cameron

I just checked out this book from the library and it was extremely refreshing for to read. I think it was just published this year. There aren't even any reviews up at Amazon yet. The author runs a school in Vancouver, British Columbia. It was pretty much started because his daughter didn't want to go to "regular" school.

The author's theories are along the lines of unschooling, but he does think that collaboration is extremely important for a productive society and for an individual to be fully educated. I actually learned more about myself than I did about Tania through reading this book. It has inspired me to focus on what I want for myself and let Tania worry about what she wants for herself. So many times, I have thought, "I want X,Y,or Z for Tania." The author believes that what parents want for their children often gets in the way of their true destiny. If you just let the child be, she has natural curiosities and instincts that will lead her toward happiness and survival. This is different from neglect. The parent is there offering opportunity and building on the child's interests gently. But the choice is the child's about what she wants to learn, when she wants to learn it, and how she wants to learn it.

The author has a mantra of children's rights that he and some of the students formulated. The basis of these rights is that children have to right to live and learn in freedom. I have come to believe this truly is a right.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

We live in the City of Roses

We visited the Rose Gardens in Washington Park last Saturday. I don't think I ever really had a proper appreciation for roses until then. The park has hundreds, if not thousands of varieties of roses. I always though roses were sort of cheesy and over-exploited. People in Hawaii don't really grow roses, so the ones I have seen are the typical obligatory Valentine's Day long-stem dozen. Red. Boring. But the roses you see in Portland are, first of all, everywhere. And second, they come in hundreds of colors, sizes, shapes, and scents. The other day, I saw what would have been a great picture to showcase Portland. Alas, I forgot my camera. There was a bicycle chained to a stop sign, and around the stop sign grew a bush. One single beautiful pink fully bloomed rose came out over the bicycle. Roses and Portland. Anyway, the Rose Gardens were so beautiful. I remember telling my mom when I left Hawaii that I would miss walking down the street and smelling the fragrant Hawaii flowers. Well, walking into the garden, you could smell the roses right away. There were three weddings going on at the gardens, so I suppose roses still are a bit cheesy, but it was a little piece of magic for us Hawaii people. Afterward, we went to the world's biggest playground structure (not officially). It is near the Rose Garden in Washington Park. Tania was so impressed that she wants to have her birthday party there. It's the equivalent of about four or five playground structures all put together. None of my pictures do it justice, so I won't bother. It was a very pleasant day.