Sundays with my only kid Gage

I read this article from the Washington Post yesterday and thought I’d weigh in as an only with an only.  Growing up there were times I wanted a sibling, but I rather liked my childhood and didn’t feel like I missed out on anything.  Sometimes I felt like the house was too quiet, but you don’t need a big family to fill a house with laughter.  There are times Gage tells me I need to have a brother for him (never a sister) and I do sometimes wish that was in the cards, but it’s not.  Honestly, I don’t understand the stigma attached to only children.

While families with siblings manage relationships among the siblings, we go out and forge relationships with other families, often with those that have only one kid.  Not because that’s important, but because it’s practical.  A few weeks ago we took a four day vacation with another family of three and the boys (who have already been friends for years) had a great time.  Gage and I rode with the family for the one and a half hour trip there and the boys had a blast (so much so that they carpooled with Jason to science center camp this week).  We all had a great time.

Both of these boys had challenges when they were younger and neither one would be where he is now if there had been siblings to look after also.  What I’ve been able to do for Gage health-wise never would have happened if he was not my only focus.  I never would have had the time to go on research trips, study, cook so many different diets, reach out to other moms, experts and doctors (let alone the cost) if we’d had another child.

I read the comments to the article on Facebook (where nothing good ever happens) and was sad at how much judgement there still was for a fast growing population of kids.  According to the article 22% of women who had kids only had one.  During our presidential studies we recently read a few books about Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his being an only child featured prominently into his story, and this man born to extreme privilege and indulgence did some pretty great things for the least among us, and I told Gage that we only kids should aspire to such great things.  #Putman2048

Sundays with Gage – Gerald McDermott

IMG_0062Gage is reading at grade level, but it is still a big struggle for him.  As most second graders are reading chapter books, Gage is finally comfortable reading the grade level picture books.  In the past I’ve tried to push him, but now I just try to find things that will make him enjoy the story and know that progression will come when he’s ready.  I found this at a book sale and included it in his yearly advent tree (Raven: A Trickster Tale from the Pacific Northwest).  We liked it so much that we checked out the ones they have in this series of trickster tales at the library.

Gerald wrote and illustrated these folktales and says, “I celebrate the comic nature of the trickster as troublemaker, resourceful champion, and sometimes fool.”  Raven takes place in the Pacific Northwest, Zomo in Africa, Coyote in the Southwest, Jabuti in the African Rain Forest and my favorite Monkey is from India.  There are a few others in the series as well along with other books about myths and legends.  I’m going to enjoy finding them all.  The stories are multilayered and give us something to discuss and the illustrations are colorful and gorgeous.

If you see these when you’re looking for kids books make sure to take a look.

Although I tend to stress about the slower progress of his reading, Gage never needs our help with math and tested in the 98 percentile in the state.  Guess he gets those genes from his dad 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sundays with Gage – Presidents

Over the years I’ve tried variations of ‘mom school’, but for the most part let it go by the wayside when he started 1st grade over a year ago.  Too much school work and way too many activities. But, well, mom school was never really about hard learning.  It was more for fun time spent learning together – usually both of us.  I like teaching and connecting and learning with my son and decided to bring back mom school.

In December (when we had time) we did 5-10 minutes learning about kids who did amazing things and it was fun.  But with the new year we started something with a little more stretch.  We are spending 5-15 minutes a day to study each President in order.  The first four are pretty easy since big things were happening.  I don’t know how it will hold up over the next 41 (and the 45th? it will take all of the diplomacy this Libra possesses).

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So, my goal was to read a book and then choose one thing that we could do.  Jason and I visited Mount Vernon last month and I picked up a book of paper dolls.  It took me more time to cut out George and his stepson and all of their clothes than we actually used them, so not sure that was a win for me, but they are cool.  For John Adams we had a 10 minute drawing contest to see who could draw the best picture of the first White House and then we called Jason in to see who did the best.  I was robbed.  For Thomas Jefferson we read through the two picture books shown Thomas Jefferson Grows a Nation and Worst of Friends and then Gage traced from a photo America before Jefferson was President and after the Louisiana Purchase to see what a big deal it was.  James Madison’s book was okay and after we learned that the White House burned to the ground in 1812 Gage went to work burning down the White House he drew  two days earlier, lol.  We also watched a video on the story behind the Star Spangled Banner.

So, as you can see, we aren’t doing anything mentally strenuous here, but it’s nice that we can spend a few minutes together each day reinforcing that knowledge and learning are important.  I want him to remember that learning can be fun and so can his mom (when she wants to be ;)).

 

Sundays with Gage – New York City

Two years ago Jason had a work conference in downtown Manhattan and Gage and I tagged along.  It was August and about 100 degrees every day we were there. Gage didn’t want to walk much.  It was not the best experience for this mama who loves New York City.

This year the work conference was in June at the Grand Central Station Hyatt and we decided to try again.  Of the 4 days we were there it was upper 90’s twice, but because Gage was more willing to walk and I planned a bit better the trip was much more successful. Gage loved the city, even though he did mention that it wasn’t really for kids.  We did manage to find a playground he liked in Hell’s Kitchen and it was only a 15 minute walk  through Times Square.  He made friends both times we went.

IMG_3061Being in midtown made it much easier to get to Central Park so that’s where I wanted to spend most of this trip since we had done most of the downtown area last time.  We visited The American Museum of Natural History, the Central Park Zoo as well as walking completely from one side of park to the other on the hottest day because I got completely turned around in the Rambles.  This is what poor Gage looked like by the time we got to the subway that day – dripping with sweat but still happy.
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This is what he looked liked when we got on the completely packed train with nowhere to sit or move.
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We visited a few churches, St. Bart’s and St. Patrick’s, both of which I’ve visited many times before, but wanted to share them with Gage.  We were even able to catch Mass at St. Patrick
IMG_3271We ate lunch at the library in Bryant Park, we walked through Grand Central Station multiple times a day and, for the first time, we parked in New Jersey and took the train into the city.  A fun experience for all three of us.

We did a lot of walking and I was proud of him.  I will say that my biggest complaint was staying at the Grand Hyatt.  We could not walk out of our hotel (even the just the lobby, really) without having a tight grip on our seven year old.  He was a champ and loved all of the people and I convinced him that we needed Daddy to find a job here for a year so we could do more exploring 🙂  No more than a year.

It was a great experience and this was a perfect age to introduce him to one of my favorite cities, two years ago was too soon.  Even though he had fun when we asked him his favorite part of our trip he chose the day before we got to New York where we stopped at Hershey Park in Pennsylvania.  We happened to be there the same day that my cousin from Maryland was there with her family and we were able to meet up briefly.IMG_3030 I know he chose the Park because of all the roller coasters he was able to ride now that he’s 48 inches, but I like to believe that seeing family had a little something to do with it!

 

 

Sundays With Gage – Fly

gageWhat if I fall?

Oh but my darling

What if you fly?

This week The Center for Life Skills posted this picture on their Facebook page. The butterfly wings are made up of paper plates that the kids decorated.  When Gage was diagnosed with PDD-nos when he was two the very first therapy he did was here with the occupational therapist he still sees.  It’s such a warm and inviting place and we have made lasting friendships with other families in the waiting room.  Now that Gage is seven he has less interventions, but the needs are changing and so must my strategy.

I was happy to see this when they posted it and I shared in on Facebook and went about my morning.  I came back a few hours later and read the comments and then looked at the picture again, read the words again, and started to cry.  Not heaving sobs, but tears and the question, “how do I make you fly?”  Every parent asks this at some point, I’m sure, but when your kid has special needs it makes the question more challenging because the answers may not easily be found.  Yesterday at the grocery store I frequent, one of the ladies asked me about Gage and we started talking about her son.  It turns out that he has sensory issues and sees an OT and she had no idea that he might be eligible for money from the state for private education.  She asked me as I was leaving, “How do you know all this stuff?” I wanted to hug her because that is where the fear lies.  What if there is something that can make a difference that I haven’t discovered yet?  So, I keep reading, and scheduling and trying new things, but in truth, it’s the other mothers that have shown me the way.  So the most important thing I do is listen and ask an annoying amount of questions and hope that is enough.

Gage is doing great, but I want him to soar.

Sundays With Gage – It’s so cold and a winner!

Last week I celebrated a decade of blogging and wanted to send a box of goodies to one lucky commenter.  Gage chose the winner…

IMG_2697 IMG_2701 (2) Jennifer T!!!  I’ll send you an email or you can beat me to it and email me your address.

On the Gage front this week, he went back to school from winter break on Tuesday.  Friday they cancelled school because of an ice storm.  Tomorrow is Martin Luther King Jr. Day so no school.  Tuesday he’ll go back (although we’re getting snow tomorrow night so who knows).  In the last month he’ll have had three days of school.  Three. Days.  I love my kid.  He and his dad are my world, but everyone needs to go back to their schedules (Jason has used a lot of vacation time in the last month).  It is so cold and icy and snowy that finding entertainment is challenging.  We’ve already been really sick this winter, so I’m trying to avoid the popular kid sick-infested areas, but Gage requested one tomorrow.  We’ll see if  I can keep my sanity and him healthy another day.  Wish me luck!

 

 

Sundays with Gage – Family Time

As an only child, married to an only child, who has an only child, the house sometimes feels too quiet and too calm.  I often worry that Gage will become too serious like his parents.  There are lots of benefits to being an only, but the lonely feeling is not one of them. It’s why I appreciated growing up so close to aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents.  And now I’m thankful to share that same wonderful family with Gage, even if we are far away.

My nine cousins on that side of the family are all within 15 years of each other and kids came in a timely fashion to most, but not me.  Gage is closest in age to Lucy and she just got her driver’s permit!  But, when family is together all is good and Gage loves feeling like part of a big family.

IMG_2320Amy and I are only 5 months apart and even spent our freshman year at Ohio State as roommates.  Her son is a junior in college and a great kid.  Here he is playing Gage in a game of chess at Thanksgiving.  See Gage surrounded by all the love?  It makes this ‘only’ mama’s heart happy.

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Sundays With Gage – A Mother – Son Reading Challenge

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It’s been a while since I’ve done a Sundays with Gage.  I intend to, but always seem to be short on time.  First grade seems to be going well.  He’s at the same school he attended last year and, even though it’s private, the city school bus takes him and brings him back to the elementary school half a mile from our house.  This saves me two hours every day and it’s bliss 🙂

Gage is great with numbers, he plays chess, he can play Old MacDonald on the piano, he shows no fear when he should, he can tell you about all of the planets, space and black holes.  But until this summer reading wasn’t coming along and it caused him a lot of frustration.  In June, he started going to the local Kumon tutor center once a week for 30 minutes and did about 10 minutes of daily homework and slowly, but surely progress is being made.  It’s a relief to me, but we have a long way to go.  It’s hard for him when something is just too challenging because he really does want to do everything well, so I am trying very hard to go slow and just give him some confidence.

So, the day that I started my new 30 Day Challenge I asked him if he wanted to finally join me in his first 30 day challenge.  He was so happy that I asked and said yes right away.  So, he is reading a new book every day this month and so am I.  He gets to choose the easiest books because I just want him to stay excited and  I look forward to seeing him willing to read every day!

Please hop over to my 30 Day Challenges Blog to follow along.

So far, Gage has read 3 Bob Books.  Not very exciting, but it is really helping his reading aloud fluency.

I’ve read 3 fantastic books so far…

Love That Boy:What Two Presidents, Eight Road Trips, and My Son Taught Me About a Parent’s Expectations by Ron Fournier (4 stars)

“This book  came about when reporter, Fournier, and his wife learned that their 12 year-old son had Asperger’s (from watching the TV show Parenthood.  Go Bravermans!)  As his wife started to assemble a team to help their son, Fournier, took him on a series of road trips to visit Presidential libraries and museums, something Tyler was really interested in.  This was a journey about a father finding his son.”

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi  (4.25 stars)

“Paul was a neurosurgeon resident and found out he had stage 4 lung cancer at the age of 36.  Between his diagnosis and his death he wrote this book about living.  Paul was able to choose two paths in his shorten life, as a writer in his youth and at the end of his life and his calling as a neurosurgeon in the middle.  I loved his relationship with literature and science and how he strived to make meaning of them both.  The world lost a great doctor and human being when he passed and I can only hope his words will inspire other young people to follow in his path.  A beautiful book about life and death and what to do with the time we have.”

Rosemary:The Hidden Kennedy Daughter by Kate Clifford Larson  (4 stars)

“I loved the inside look at the day to day lives of the Joe and Rose and their nine children.  I’d heard more about the ambitious, controlling father than about the mother, so I was intrigued and put off by her at the same time.  The Kennedy children are beautiful and brilliant, but Rosemary stood apart because she was different.  When she was born, during the height of the Spanish influenza in Boston, a nurse physically held her head inside of her mother after she’d already crowned.  I’m still horrified by it.  Whether that is what cause her ‘retardation’ we can only assume.  I can’t believe that Rose went on to birth 6 more children and live to be 104 after that!”

I’ll keep you posted as much as time will allow, but I’m updating the challenge blog and Facebook page everyday 🙂

 

 

Sundays with Gage – Steamboat School

Did you think I meant that Gage went to steamboat school?  Nah, but he did read a book that was inspired by the true story of the Freedom Floating School in 1847 Missouri.

ssSteamboat School by Deborah Hopkinson. Illustrated by Ron Husband

“I always thought being brave

was for grown-up heroes doing big, daring deeds.

But Mama says that sometimes courage

is just an ordinary boy like me

doing a small thing, as small as picking up a pencil.”

These opening words let me know that this book would reinforce much of what I’m trying to instill in Gage’s mind.  Be brave, do the little things that can make big changes.  When Gage is older and can hear that mama voice in his head I always want it encouraging him to be the best person he can be and to look for ways to make a positive change in the world. Sometimes I think I push him too much, but tonight he told me I was the best loving mother, (I’ve never heard him use the word loving before, yay!) so I must be doing okay.

The book is the story of Reverend John (Berry Meachum) who worked hard to free himself and then his family from slavery.  He taught African-American children in the basement of his church until the state of Missouri made it illegal for him to continue teaching them to read and write.  He found a way around that by building a steamboat in the Mississippi River where he could continue to teach children.  Missouri law had no say in federal waters.  What an ingenious way around the law!

So, the discussion about race was harder to discuss in this book than in the Martin Luther King Jr. book a few weeks ago. It is essentially about kids, like Gage, being told they didn’t have a right to learn. How can you explain something so hateful and ridiculous to a six-year-old?  By his questions I know that he doesn’t really ‘get’ it and why should he, I guess. I’m not even sure I understand how people can be so full of hate and fear.

I loved the story and the illustrations enough that I’d like to buy this one to have as a part of Gage’s library.  Highly recommend it. Thanks for the recommendation Jill 🙂

 

Sundays with Gage – Martin Luther King Jr.

One of the picture books in Gage’s Christmas advent tree was Martin’s Big Words:The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. written by Doreen Rappaport and illustrated by Bryan Collier.  It is a gorgeous book, this picture of the cover doesn’t do it justice.  It’s oversized and has won many well-deserved awards.

Jason read the book to Gage (now 6-still can’t believe it) first and I remember Gage asking a lot of questions about him getting killed at the end.  Not a lot of books prepare a child for this sort of ending.

The second time I sat down to read it with him a few days ago and before we even sat down he was telling me how King did good things. I told him yes, Martin Luther King changed the world (something we talk about often with different people) and even before I got the book opened he asked me, “How old was he when he knew?”  “Knew what?” “That he wanted to change the world.”  My heart melted.  It is never too early to talk to kids about grand ideas or big dreams!  We find out in the book that the seeds were planted when he was Gage’s age.

A beautiful book and starting place for young kids to learn about a civil rights icon.  It led to great questions and a real interest to learn more.  For both of us.

Martin's Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr  img_9740