Monthly Archives: November 2008

Think Before You Buy

I’ve seen it before. I may have even posted on it before. But, this holiday season, as we don our credit cards and check books and head out for some furious shopping, I urge you to think seriously about what you buy–and give–for Christmas.

Please take the time (fifteen minutes out of your day is nothing compared to the message this video delivers) to watch The Story of Stuff. Think about where the items you purchase on a daily basis come from.

Think about the fact that, here in America, 99% of what we purchase ends up in the garbage or the “unused” shelf somewhere in our home within six months of purchase.

Think about the fact that manufactures and retailers depend on the fact that poorly made products will break or fall out of fashion sooner than next quarter’s credit card statement will hit your mailbox and, in so doing, prompt you to go out and buy more stuff.

Think about the messages contained in television and print advertising: You Suck. You suck unless you buy the latest shoes, purse, clothing, car, television, stereo, computer…you get the picture.

Think about the quality of your purchase…and the externalities required to get your purchase onto a store shelf, and into your home or under your Christmas tree.

Watch the video. Think. Think a lot. I have. I am. What do you think?

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‘Tis the Season–Full of Firsts

On Thursday, we celebrated our first Thanksgiving ever–just the five of us.  We’d initially planned on celebrating the holiday with Andrew’s side of the family.  But, alas illnesses amongst the kids within two separate family units prompted our staying put.

We introduced our kids to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade for the first time ever.  With our older two children being 5 1/2 and 4-years-old, I figured they’d really get a kick out of watching the monstrous floats and balloons gliding past on the tv screen.  And they did.  For a while.  But by the time the zillionth commercial came on, and yet another interview with some apparently well-known soap opera star or former American Idol…idol…was completed, they’d pretty much lost interest.

Fast forward a few hours and we sat down to a table boasting ham, sweet potatoes, my mother’s broccoli-cauliflower casserole and the like…and there we were, gathered around our Thanksgiving table; Andrew and I enjoying our meal, the kid’s barely taking a bite; our youngest slurping vigorously from his Sigg bottle of soy milk as usual.

thanksgiving-dinner

Yesterday, in our traditional refusal to participate in the “tradition” of getting up at 4am to stand in a line full of anxious “Black Friday” shoppers, we drove to the local gas station, purchased a $5 tree cutting permit and headed into the Gallatin National Forest to cut our family’s Christmas tree.  Since moving to Montana 5 1/2 years ago, I’ve always wanted to do this.  Now that our children are (relatively) getting older, it has become more possible than in recent years.

After driving five miles on a snow-covered forest service road, and passing a truck full of men wearing neon orange vests–which reminded us that this is the last weekend of rifle hunting season–we found our spot, donned snow pants, boots, hats and mittens and set off to find our tree.  It didn’t take long, of course, as one would expect when surrounded by thousands of acres of forest.

christmas-tree-cutting

Tree cut and tied to the roof of the car, we headed home–losing one child to sleep on the way.  We will erect the 2008 Hull Family Christmas tree today and, while the decorating and lighting of our tree may not be as ceremonious and magical as the lighting of the tree in New York City, or the National Christmas tree on the Mall in Washington D.C., it will be magnificent enough for us, because celebrating Christmas with three young children is all the magic a parent could hope for.

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Mooning the Smoking Man

We’re pretty open and honest with our kids. Andrew and I don’t hesitate to tell our kids how we feel about things (me, probably more than him) and as a result, they sometimes pick up on our strong opinions about certain issues. Like smoking.

Yesterday, while dangerously running after school errands with all three kids in tow (you never know how 4:00pm errands are going to go after a long day of school, play, etc.) we pulled into the grocery store parking lot to finish up our requisite tasks. As we steered into our parking spot, our four-year-old son (Mr. “Dilvrums”) started saying out loud, “uh-oh. Uh-oh, Mommy. Look at that man! Look what he’s doing!”

The man in the truck next to us had his hand hanging out the driver’s side window; a burning cigarette in his index-middle finger clutch. As he intermittently took a pull from the cigarette, our son kept proclaiming the same warning: “Uh-oh…uh-oh…he’s doing something bad!’

After unbuckling our two-year-old, the older two kids proceeded to climb over the middle seat from their third-row positions. Oldest child now exited the car, our middle son awkwardly completed his over-the-seat self extrication, elastic waist band pants slipping to half mast in the process. As he turned to join the other three of us outside the car, he effectively mooned the smoking man who was watching the whole circus act with great intrigue and entertainment.

I, of course, started laughing at the beautiful irony of the whole thing: an accidental exposure of a four-year-old’s back side in mockery of the dirty habit he’d just been noticing.

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How to Explain Thanksgiving to a Child

As each significant holiday roles around, I contemplate how to discuss its’ significance with my children.

This year, as Thanksgiving quickly approaches, our four-year-old son cut me off at the pass.  Here’s how it all went down, while driving home from preschool pick-up:

So, Honey, have you learned anything at preschool about Thanksgiving?”

~ Long pause while driving along a Montana back country road; boy looking out window at passing tractors and tall, yellowed wheat grass.~

“Yeah.  Today we learned about Dilvrums.”

~Another long pause.  This time it’s me…trying to figure out what in the hell a Dilvrum is.  Think…think…think…oh yeah! Pilgrims!

“Ah, yes!  Dilvrums!  What did you learn about Dilvrums?”

“They’re mean, and they paste weird things on their forebrows and have pets called Robby Foxes.  They shoot people and kill people and push other people.  They’re real mean.”

~An even longer pause: Think…think…think…they paste weird things? Ah yes…the buckles on the black Pilgrim hats. Forebrows?  Foreheads + eyebrows = forebrows.  Got it!  Killing and shooting???  Hhhhmmm will have to save that for another conversation.  Robby Foxes???  No idea…~

“Tell me more about the Robby Foxes, Honey.  What exactly are those?”

“They’re pets, Mom!  Just like I told you!  They dig holes in the ground.  They’re real sneaky.  They’re actually statues…but they’re alive, so they can dig holes.  Yeah.  Yeah.  That’s what they are.  Robby Foxes.”

“And why are the Dilvrums so mean?”

“I don’t know, they just are.”

“Hhhhmmm.  Did you learn anything else about Thanksgiving?”

“When my teacher asked us what we all knew about Thanksgiving, I raised my hand and said it’s all about Jesus.  She said I was wrong.”

“Oh.  Well, were you thinking about Christmas when you answered that question?”

“Yeah!  I was!  I said Christmas was all about Jesus!  She still said I was wrong!”

~Ok.  I know these preschool teachers too well.  Especially the head teacher, whom I absolutely and positively adore.  I know she wouldn’t say that about Christmas and Jesus.  Take it in context, Kimmelin.  Take it in context.  He just told me Thanksgiving is all about “Dilvrums who shoot and kill other people…. who harbor some sort of beasts called Robby Foxes…(I can’t believe I’m admitting my son was talking about make-believe people that shoot and kill…we don’t even let our kids play guns, bows & arrows or anything else of the sort, let alone watch tv or video games with an ounce of violence…play with toys guns, etc.  Again, that’s for another conversation.)

Anyway, you get the picture.

As of now, there are two and a half days left until Thanksgiving.  Do you think I’ll be able to convince him of the real Thanksgiving story by then???

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Celebrating A Child’s Inventiveness

If you’ve been hanging around here for a while now, you’ll know that I occasionally post on the curiosity, ingenuity and inventiveness of my children.  Truly, I think witnessing the burgeoning creativity of a child is one of the greatest honors of parenthood.  If you’ve also read my book, you’ll understand how healing and rejuvenating celebrating a child’s imagination can be (in my opinion and experience).

This past week, while keeping our daughter home from school for her THIRD BOUT OF HEAD LICE (and the school’s principal insists it’s not coming from school…hhhmmm…) the three kids and I just spent time together…playing…inventing…exploring.  In a fit of creative exuberance, my daughter came up with this:

paper-shoes1

paper-shoes2

No, these ain’t no Marc Jacobs or Gucci…but wow, was I impressed!  They reminded me of the boiled wool slippers from Kurdistan I saw the other day at an art show.  Just…not quite so…waterproof.

What’s your favorite invention that one of your kiddos came up with?

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Teaching Numbers Through the Art of Rhyming

As our four-year-old son works to polish off his mastery of numbers 1-10, his preschool teacher recommended we spend extra time helping him with the most frequent offenders:  numbers 6, 8 and 9.  While brainstorming a way to help him keep clear on the symbols that represent six, eight and nine, I came up with the following:

Mr. Six
mr_six1

Mrs. Eight
snowflake_eight2

Mr. Nine

mr_nine3

How do you  (or did you) teach your children to memorize their numbers???

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How to Interpret Your Child’s First Grade School Report Card

There are many firsts in life.  Especially when children enter the scene.  First roll-over. First sit-up.  First steps, first words, first foods…

And then comes school.

Andrew and I attended our daughter’s first elementary school parent-teacher conference yesterday.  We sat with Mrs. B., while our daughter played hopscotch on the decorative classroom rug behind us, chatting about how the transition into kindergarten has gone thus far; how the social dynamics on the playground are playing themselves out; how our daughter’s academic achievements are progressing.

Not surprising to us, Miss E’s greatest area of expertise is writing and drawing.  She spends A LOT of her free time at home writing lists of words, creating cards for friends, compiling mini-books about princesses, circuses and friends and family.

As we scanned the first-ever report card; familiarizing ourselves with the symbols and letters that indicated how well our daughter was doing in her new classroom setting, all else faded into near-oblivion for me when her teacher made that one finalizing comment:

“She told me, ‘When I grow up, I’m going to be a writer, just like my mom.'”

Now that was a proud moment for this writer mom.

Whether she was making excellent, mediocre or disastrous marks on her report card, what I came away with yesterday was the following:  the transition to school life is getting easier for our little kindergartener, she’s making friends at school, she’s a “good citizen” within her classroom community, and she has developed the concept of setting a goal for her future self.  Regardless of whether she becomes a writer, a janitor, a teacher, a midwife, a sales clerk, the President, a swim teacher….or something else…we will always be proud of her.  (But, if she did become a writer like her mama…now that would be pretty damn cool!)

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