Thursday, August 28, 2008

what's bookmarked: Beautiful Boy, by David Sheff

What I thought of it:
I admit that I’m usually drawn to memoirs (bordering on fiction, in some cases) that detail other people’s woes, especially if said woes stem from drug over-use or unconventional parenting practices. Some of the earliest titles I read in this genre include the classic Go Ask Alice, credited to Anonymous, and Steven Levenkron’s The Best Little Girl in the World. More recent reads in this arena include The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls, and the infamous James Frey’s A Million Little Pieces. In contrast, I don’t think I’ve ever read a memoir about someone overcoming a horrific illness (other than addiction) or injury.

So, it’s no surprise that I picked up Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s Addiction, the story of how a father dealt with his son’s methamphetamine addiction. (Actually, I ordered the book to my Kindle—but more on my new hi-tech reading toy some other post.) Author David Sheff’s son also has a memoir out, so I even have the option of reading about the whole ordeal from the addict’s point of view—bonus!

Despite my interest in Sheff’s topic, I’m afraid I didn’t think much of the book. My main criticism is that the informational tidbits about addiction, recovery programs, and typical pattern of relapses were repeated too many times, in pretty much the same words. I understand that part of a parent’s frustration must be that the whole cycle of drug (ab)use, rehab, relapse can endlessly repeat—that addiction is a heartbreakingly tedious disease with no true end in sight. But it just didn’t make for a fulfilling read.

What it made me think:
It certainly made me think about all the parenting choices I’ll make over the years, and what possible effects they may or may not have on my children. This is really scary stuff. More alarming is the thought that the even more numerous decisions un-related to parenting may have an equally significant effect on the way children understand their world. Sheff really did seem to provide the best possible home, family, and education for his son, Nick, who apparently was an articulate, artistic, loving young boy for at least 13 years. Seems like Nick made it a long way before the trouble began! However, David himself thinks (and writes) a lot about how his divorce from Nick’s mother and subsequent new family affected his son. Nick does have to shuffle from home in Point Reyes Station during the school year to somewhere in the Los Angeles during the summers. (Disclaimer: I’m not writing this with the book by my side, so I may be giving incorrect ages and place names.)

Yes, divorce and its aftermath seem to be part of the problem for Nick. But I found myself wondering also about the effects the ├╝ber-positive home and community environment had on Nick. Was he over-compensated for the difficulties he faced with too much freedom? When it comes to providing a nurturing environment for children, is it possible that there can be too much of a good thing?

What Beautiful Boy really made me think about was how little control I, as a parent, have over my children and the choices they’ll make in life.

And that's enough thinking for one afternoon....

~jkg

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

first day of school!

Yesterday was Meris's first day of school. Last year, he attended a play-based preschool in the neighborhood two mornings a week. This year, he's signed up for a Montessori program five mornings a week, and he'll stay for lunch twice a week, too.

I have some things to say about why we chose a Montessori program in another post. I'll also write about how we're living green and taking public transportation to school, baby and all!

This one is really just about posting a few photos of our big guy.






And... he's off! But first, a few hugs and posed pictures with mom and Matea.


~jkg

Sunday, August 24, 2008

meris's book of the moment-- Guns: What You Should Know

One of the joys of having a small child is teaching them about pretty much everything under the sun. When Meris developed an interest in guns a few weeks ago, I had no idea how best to go about explaining why guns are dangerous. So, I asked the children's librarian for book suggestions.

The librarian had nothing to suggest at first (though I find it hard to believe that I'm the only parent who's ever asked about books to teach gun safety to preschoolers). But she kindly continued her search after I'd gone off to chase Meris, and soon brought me a copy of Guns: What You Should Know by Rachel Ellenberg Schulson.

The cover shows an illustration of two children shooting enormous squirt guns at each other, so of course Meris immediately wanted me to read it. I felt incredibly self-conscious reading it aloud in front of other people's children, and sure enough, the other families had drifted away by the time I got to about page 5.

That said, this was exactly the book I needed. It starts by acknowledging that most children play with toy guns or use their hands as pretend guns, and then asks, "Have you ever wondered about real guns?" From there, it talks about different kinds of guns, how bullets work, and why guns are more dangerous than we (children) might realize. It explains that grownups in the United States have different opinions about gun laws, but that they all agree that children should never play with guns. The final page gives rules about what to do if you find a gun.

Sounds like a lot to cover in one short picture book, but the text is just right for a three-year-old, and the simple illustrations also prompt plenty of discussion.

Whew! We've gotten a solid introduction to what I'm sure will be the first of many tough topics Meris raises. Why did the topic come up at all? That's a story for another post.

~jkg

Thursday, August 21, 2008

here we are... on the road!

So I thought I'd get things going by posting a few photos of... what else?--my family (especially the kids).

Here's Meris, at the wheel of our brand new minivan.


He constantly corrects us when we refer to it as the car. "Actually, it's a minivan," he says.

Anyway, we went on our first family road trip last month--a three-week trip to Colorado. The shot of Meris was taken on the way home.

And here is one of Matea, proving to all that she has visited Mt. Rushmore.

And last but not least, here's a group shot of the four of us at Badlands Nat'l. Park.


Even in this relatively small photo, you can still see that Meris's eyes are all puffed up. Apparently, the skin around the eyes can be super sensitive to mosquito bites; he had a couple bites on his forehead that made his eyes swell shut!

That's it for now,
jkg

first post!

I can't quite believe I've started a blog, but I do need to do something with my brain now and then. (Other than plan out a week's worth of meals, or try and calculate whether it's a better deal to pay sales tax at retail or shipping costs online.) My hypothesis is that my life might seem more interesting (to me, even) if I write about it.... we shall see.

I came up with Think Read Knit because--surprise, surprise--those are three things I do almost every day (well, except for knit. And I'm counting things like nutrition labels and street signs when I say that I read every day).

What are some of the things I probably will write about here? Baby stuff, of course, since I have a three-year-old son and a three-month-old daughter. I dabble in baby signing, cloth diapers, and elimination communication/diaper-free practices. I'm a huge fan of every baby sling/carrier under the sun. And I'm always on the lookout for fun kid and baby clothes. So those are some topics you'll read about here.

Living green, being part of a community, eating with and cooking for my family, traveling the world (both with and without small children)--those are some of the other subjects that undoubtedly will arise.

I'll also tell you what I'm reading, what's on my to-read list, and probably the books I'm currently reading aloud to Meris (and sometimes to Matea, too).

And last but not least, I'll let you know what I've got on my needles.

My posts may be somewhat short and sporadic, given that my free time comes in short, irregular bursts. But Meris does start school on Monday, so I'll surely get into a blogging groove within the next few weeks.

More soon (with photos!),
jkg