Frontline Mom

The Toys of Childhood

February 11, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

My kids have been enjoying all the great gifts they got from their relatives and from Santa. Enjoying with them all the last Christmas loot to arrive in the house got me thinking about all those fun holiday gifts I remember I was lucky enough to get as a kid,

Legos, Lincoln Logs, TinkerToys and simple wooden blocks made for countless hours of city and building building outside my apartment building with my neighborhood friends. I also loved the the Little People, particularly the School, the Castle and the Garage. By the time the city with all its Little People was through it looped around a big bush, down the stairs and around the corner. Talk about imagination gone wild.

My first Atari set, while certain to be continued a prehistoric instrument by five year old, was the absolute best. Asteroids, Space Invaders, Pac Mac and Donkey Kong let to countless hours of fun and an occasional fight with my brother who often wanted to play his favorite games first.

The arrival of my Big Wheels finally made me one of the cool kids on the block. I loved braking it as it raced down the hill near my Grandma’s home. WIth the right level of braking at the right time, it made an amazing turn that was the envy of my neighbors (not that I always made the turn…)

I don’t think anyone forgets their first tricycle or bicycle. Even President Obama has released a now-famous picture of him riding one as a child. My favorite bicycle was by far my yellow, banana seat bike although my red Ten Speed I got at age 12 was also a top memory. Lots of toys are fun but as kids, what we often play with the most is what stays in our minds whether its the dollhouse, the skateboard, the very first baseball mitt, or maybe the swing set.

Playing board games with my kids has given me a great excuse to buy the games I loved as a kid – Hungry Hungry Hippos, Candy Land, Chutes and Ladders, many make the list. I’m looking forward to Battleship, Trivial Pursuit, Monopoly and Clue when they get a little older.

Growing up, I suppose that to this list of toy treasures, my first Valentine’s heart candy should be added; the first time I received flowers from a special someone, and the first time I bought myself my own album (Billy Joel’s Glasshouses)with my own spending money.

What toys or games do you remember most from childhood? What makes them special?

The Resolution for no Resolutions

February 11, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

My friend who works in a gym told me that by March 1 many of her eager customers start to fade away. I know what is it like to give up on a plan but only 8 weeks after what was likely a New Year’s resolution to “work out more” seems to be to be too much of a defeat.

This time of year comes with some painful/expected revelations about the depth of our commitments to keeping New Year’s resolutions. Some of these may have been carefully thought up (and written up) throughout the course of the year. Some may have come to mind as we clinked champagne glasses right before the clock struck midnight; others have been carefully thought out and well planned.

I find that the most important resolutions — staying healthy, spending more time with family, going on that trip you’ve been thinking about — usually stay with us, and are things we work on regardless of whether they make it to the official “resolutions” list or not. Instead of resolutions, I think its easier to list out my priorities. What are the things whose accomplishment is supremely more meaningful to me than that of any others? This puts me under less pressure than to “keep that one single bullet resolution.” In the past my resolutions have included losing five pounds by a certain (unreasonable) date, reading a book a week, hitting the gym most days before work. While these sounded great, they were “Hail Mary” type resolutions that I really couldn’t easily stick too, which set me up for disappointment.

Ticking off priorities can sometimes be more helpful than coming up with one resolution, because priorities, rather than the silver bullet one thing to accomplish, can be juggled as life requires. They also imply not a single mission but an ongoing process or behavior to bake into life. Through a more holistic prioritization, the accomplishment of that fabled resolution does become not the end of the game; the hard work you put in has to continue. The failure/achievement dichotomy of resolutions can be superficial and very disappointing. That’s why this year, and next, my resolution is not to have any more resolutions. I’ll just focus on my priorities, thank you.

Do you set a New Year’s Resolution? How are you sticking to it?

Cabin Fever

February 11, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

I can’t complain about the winter this year. It has been particularly warm, March-like most of the season. Except today, after a light snow dusting yesterday, the cold hit. So much for my 4 mile run outside – 13 degrees is too cold for me to run outside. The last time I ran outside in this kind of weather my lungs froze…looks like it will be the treadmill today.

Living in the Midwest means getting used to inevitable snowstorms and regularly getting somewhat stranded in your home on account of bleak weather panoramas. In Chicagoland, its more the cold and wind that stops – less the snow. In Michigan, with their lake effect snow, its a whole other story.

So what’s a family to do when taking a drive, or even a walk, is out of the question? The only answer is to bring the outside indoors. Games become a key appeal – board games, video games and any made-up game that my five year old invents with her princesses, legos, blocks or other toy. We often build forts with pillows, create picnics in the living room for my children’s stuffed animals and make crafts with snowflakes and other wintery-themes.

These unexpected “holidays,” when everyone is at home with no plans for going out (understandably), is often a good time to call the relatives on Skype. Another fun activity is baking cookies like I did with my my Mom and brother when we were snowbound as kids. Something about snow seems to bring the family together.

Its also a fun time to curl up with the cats and read a book but quite frankly with two kids under five this doesn’t really happen too much.

Now, giving the kitchen an extra scrub or getting an early start on the week’s laundry duties are also options for being productive while stuck indoors, but why not use the time to do something that’s not a chore? Somehow when its a snow day outside the last thing I want to do is create a work day inside.

One friend gave me an idea to make a home movie about the experience of living through the storm. Most people don’t think of recording their homes’ interiors because they can come to seem extravagantly ordinary, but one’s ordinary experiences are usually what future generations find most thrilling to learn about. So why not also make a time capsule or a scrapbook? It’ll be interesting for the kids to consciously think about what they would like to say to family members or to themselves in the future. And it might just make for some fun viewing doing a snowstorm a few years from now.

What’s your favorite thing to do when “homebound” because of weather?

A Story of Courage – Gabby Giffords

February 5, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

I recently watched a multiple tissue program on 20/20 profiling Gabby Giffords and her new book A Story of Courage authored with her husband astronaut Mark Kelly. Roughly one year ago a tragedy struck that stunned the nation and hit me particularly hard. On January 8, 2011 the democratic congresswoman was critically injured while speaking at a Town Hall outside a supermarket by a gun-wielding twenty three year old, Jared Loughner. In total six people died and thirteen were wounded. Among the victims was a nine year old girl, Granddaughter of former Cubs manager Dallas Green, who had poignantly enough been born on 9/11.

Since then Representative Gabrielle Gifford’s year of recovery has become a tale of endurance and resiliency that’s inspired the nation. The 20/20 episode featured tear-inducing interviews with Gabby and her husband and footage of Gabby tenaciously going through rehab and relearning how to speak and walk. I enjoyed learning about the role music was playing in her recovery and was inspired by the support her family and medical team provided – showing what great support network is all about. I can’t imagine the journey Gabby is going through but I feel connected to her and inspired by her. We both are Fulbright Scholars and I am inspired by her political leadership, charm and commitment to public service. And being married to an astronaut is pretty much the stuff of Fairy Tales! One of Mark Kelly’s tributes to his wife was inviting Bono to sing “Beautiful Day” at a concert while a proud Mark Kelly beamed in on video from outer space.

Exactly one year later, Gabby Giffords returned to the same venue in her hometown, but this time it was to commemorate those who were lost and to demonstrate, along with everyone present, bravery and strength in the face of tragedy and adversity. More recently, I was saddened to hear that Gabby resigned for her seat in Congress. In a rare moment of unanimous applause by Congress Gabby submitted her resignation letter to a crying John Boehner.

Some might consider it defeat, but this past year has really been Gabby’s comeback. She has vowed to get better and return to Congress but in my book, she has returned. She’s a profile in courage and an inspiration from here to the stars.

Who are your living heroes?