Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Little Kids, Racism, and the Library

A few years ago, when my youngest was three, he had a bad experience with a child at his school who happened to be of Indian decent (meaning his parents were from India.) My son called him "the black kid" and made a few statement which I will not repeat here. Though I'm sure a three-year-old isn't old enough to be racist, little children do have a tendency to make broad judgments based on their experience. I told my son that he shouldn't judge the child by the color of his skin. Still, the child's misbehavior seemed to have a greater impression on my son than anything I could say. Unfortunately, it was not an isolated incident, and my son continued to have problems with this one little boy.

In desperation, I went to my local library and searched the computer system for children's books about racism. I couldn't find anything, so feeling very embarrassed, I explained the problem to the librarian who was sitting at the children's desk. She looked through the system and couldn't find anything either. We talked it over, and I decided I would just browse the shelves for books that featured children of various races.

It was easy to find a stack of books about children with dark skin. (I have never been so thankful for Ezra Jack Keats as I was that day. I also found many other authors and illustrators who wrote fun books about little boys with dark skin.) After I had an armful, the librarian approached me with a couple of books she had found as she continued her search on the Internet. The Sesame Street book called We're Different, We're the Same was one she found, and it was exactly what I'd been hoping to find.

I took the books home, sat my son down on the sofa, and read through all the books with him. I didn't bother to discuss them. We just read. Then we re-read our favorites over the course of the next few weeks.

Do you know what? Those books had an immediate effect on my son. He stopped making racist comments altogether. I was so relieved, and so was our librarian.

Books are powerful. Sometimes, as a parent I forget that. 

What books have had a powerful effect on you or your family?

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Writing and Dancing At Once

Yeah, that's me, the little ballerina who grew up
and needed an image for her blog.
I love to dance. To me, it's not really exercise. It's just fun. I always work a little dance into my day. But as my kids have grown, I seem to need more and more exercise.

In his book 20 Years Younger, Bob Greene recommended that, if possible, you should only spend about three hours a day sitting. After I read that, I started to keep track of all the time I spent on my rear in a chair. To my surprise, I often spend three hours sitting in my car as I drive my kids from place to place. That didn't leave much time for writing at the computer, let alone for watching TV. Bummer! I sooo wanted to move more, but I didn't want to give up my writing.

Then, last Sunday, as I was reading a book by Chalene Johnson, I had an epiphany. She said that she wrote her entire book while pedaling on a recumbent bike. (She put her computer on a lap desk.) Though she didn't push herself enough to consider it exercise, she still burned twice as many calories as she would have if she had simply sat at her desk.

I have also heard of a woman who rigged up her family's laptop to only function when someone was walking on a treadmill. Talk about tech savvy. I'm sure she and her kids stayed so much healthier because of her creativity.

My problem was that I didn't have any exercise equipment. Nor did I want to sacrifice the room in my house to store a treadmill or a recumbent bike. So I tried something new--I put my laptop on top of my tall dresser instead of my desk. Then I turned on some music and stepped back and forth to the rhythm as I wrote. Surprisingly, it worked. I was dancing and writing at the same time! The best part was that I usually can't listen to music at all while I write, but something about moving a little to the music helped me to focus on writing. I actually wrote more than usual on the days I wrote at my dresser.

After my discovery, I found out that you can buy something called a GeekDesk that adjusts up and down for people who like to stand at their desk. Or, if you're cheap like me, I've heard of other people who keep their computer on top of sturdy boxes. Some people also increase their movement by sitting on yoga balls instead of chairs. I have a yoga ball gathering dust in my shed, so I might try it one of these days.