Our miracle RAINBOW BABY BOY arrived 8/2018

1st IVF = BFN
2nd IVF = Baby A, born May 2015
3rd IVF = Miscarriage at 14 weeks
4th IVF = BFN
After we paid for 5th IVF, positive pregnancy without IVF!

Because the important moments in life just don’t fit in a status update! I started this blog when I was training for my first ½ Ironman, (70.3 miles) to record what I hoped would be growth and progress but ended up being a huge learning experience. Although fitness is one of the key ingredients to a happy life, it certainly isn't the only ingredient. My blog has evolved to document growth, progress and setbacks in other areas too. From my surprise proposal in Rome and wedding in the fall of 2013, to Mom's devastating stage IV cancer diagnosis and death 2 weeks after I found out I was pregnant. Who knows what shape it will take, but thanks for being along for the ride.

Thursday, September 23, 2021

How to Ruin Children’s Play: Supervise, Praise, Intervene

 How to Ruin Children’s Play: Supervise, Praise, Intervene

How to enjoy, not destroy, children's play.

By: Peter Gray, Ph.D. Published online in Psychology Today

My soul has been stirred by many of nature's wonders—by orange and yellow leaves sparkling in the autumn sun, by mallards landing softly on still waters at dusk, by clouds drifting by as I lay on my back gazing upward. But, of all of nature's scenes that I have enjoyed and pondered, none have enthralled me more than those of children playing—playing on their own, without adults guiding or interrupting them. Intervening in children's play seems to me to be like shooting those mallards that are landing on the water.

My words are poor substitutes for the actual scenes, but let me try to convey two examples that have moved me more than any poetry. There is nothing special about these examples; they are like play everywhere. What made them special to me is that I took the time just to watch and enjoy them, to look at them as some people listen to concerts or admire great paintings. I report on them here partly in an attempt to convey their beauty, but also to point out how adults might well have ruined them by supervising, praising, or in other ways intervening, as happens all too often today.

Both of these examples happen to have occurred at the church to which I belong. I present them in the present tense in the attempt to paint a verbal portrait.

Example 1: A game of keep-away

The Sunday service has ended. Bored by the adults' coffee hour, I go upstairs to the large open room where children sometimes play while they wait for their parents to finish socializing. Fourteen children—of both sexes and ranging from 3 to about 12 years old—are playing keep-away with an inflated ball, about twice the diameter of a basketball. Fourteen human bodies of greatly different sizes are moving rapidly about, each following a rather random path, at its own pace, with its own flair. Yet, somehow, all 14 blend together, accented by the bright green ball, into a single fluid organism.

I feel that I am watching a beautifully choreographed dance, but there is no choreographer. Nobody dominates; nobody is left out; nobody bumps into anybody else; nobody complains; all of the shrieks are of joy. Every child who wants the ball receives it for a fair period of time. The older players dribble the ball as they run with it, daring the others to steal it; the younger ones just run with it until they pass it toward the outstretched arms of an eager teammate.

The 3-year-old runs joyfully in circles, his arms sometimes flailing above his head, showing no interest in the ball at all, just delighted to be out there running with these amazing older kids. Despite the differences in age, size, and ball-playing ability, all of the players are treated as equal—as equally worthy, equally deserving of having their needs met. The game goes on like this for the entire 20 minutes that I can stay and watch. As I watch I learn lessons of movement, rhythm, coordination, and unselfish self-expression, in which joy comes from anticipating and fulfilling the needs and desires of the others. I see democracy, in its most ideal form, in action.

The kids and I are lucky that no other adults are paying attention and that my attention is inconspicuous. I've often seen such games ruined by well-meaning adults who intervened—for the sake of safety, or because they believed that someone was being treated unfairly, or because they believed that they knew better than the children how to make the game fun for children. Attentive adults can ruin games even if they don't intend to intervene. Children perceive them as potential enforcers of safety, solvers of conflicts, and audiences for whining; and this perception invites the children to act unsafely, to squabble, and to whine. Play requires self-control, and the too-obvious presence of adults can lead children to relinquish their self-control.

Example 2: Making a Christmas Ornament

I am helping to manage the church's annual "Green Christmas" celebration, at which church members of all ages create earth-friendly decorations, wrapping papers, and gifts. I'm in charge of the natural ornaments table, which contains such materials as pinecones, milkweed pods, and seeds and shells of various colors and shapes. The table also contains hot glue guns, which people can use to fasten the natural materials together to form ornaments for their Christmas trees or statues for their tables. Most people are doing this rather quickly, eager to get something made and to move on to another table so they can complete the rounds. They make big, flashy ornaments, using many materials, but they put relatively little care into making them. As they work, they laugh and joke with others around them. Those people are not, in my view, playing; or, if they are playing, their play lies in their socializing, not in ornament making. They are making ornaments just because that is what they are supposed to do at this table. But one little boy, who appears to be about 4 or 5 years old, takes an entirely different approach.

He ignores the hustle and bustle around him and allows himself to become completely absorbed by his project. On his own, he decides to glue small, round white beans onto a large pinecone in such a way that each of the roughly 60 lobes of the pinecone will have exactly one bean precisely in its center. He doesn't announce this to anyone; he just starts doing it. His expression is one of intense concentration. Using the glue gun, very carefully with his little hands, he squeezes a single tiny drop of hot glue squarely onto the center of one of the pinecone lobes and then, before the glue hardens, places a bean ever so gently on the drop of glue. It takes him about half an hour to finish his task of gluing a bean onto every lobe. During this entire time he does not move from his workplace. He does not say a word, and nobody—I am pleased to observe—says a word to him.

As I watch, a woman asks me if I think it is safe for such a little child to use a hot glue gun. I tell her that I have been watching him and he is being more careful than anyone else at the table. There is no need to caution him or to do the gluing for him. The former would interrupt his concentration and the latter would spoil his play completely. I am grateful that the boy's parents and all others who see him are wise enough to leave him alone at this activity. Imagine all the ways that an over-involved adult could ruin his play. The adult could deprive him of the challenge by kindly doing all the difficult or "dangerous" parts for him, distract his concentration with unsolicited advice or cheerful chatter, hurry him along so he could get to other projects but have inadequate time for this one, or praise his work in ways that would shift his attention away from the process (which is most important to him) and toward the product (which is less important). Because nobody disturbs him, this boy experiences sublime solo immersion in artistic creation, and I experience the joy of watching him and learning from him. I learn lessons of self-determination, concentration, persistence, and painstaking craftsmanship.

Many years ago Lev Vygotsky, a Russian psychologist and a great observer of children's play, wrote that at play a child "behaves above his daily behavior ... as though he were a head taller than himself." I would add that the same is true for adults. We are all at our best when we are playing. That is a theme of many of the essays that I have already presented in this blog, and it is a theme about which there is still much more to say. Let us learn to cherish play, in others as well as ourselves.


How adult intervention disrupts the learning (and fun!) of play

That should blow a lot of us away. We THINK parents and teachers need to be around to step in and help kids learn to get along, be fair, and share.

But in fact, in order to learn those good behaviors — those social-emotional skills — kids need to actually practice them. With parents directing all the interactions, the kids are almost passive. They are not busy problem-solving. They are creating problems that get solved by someone else.

It’s like parents playing the scales for their kids, and hoping that this teaches them piano.

Gray exults that in this instance, no adults came in and tried to improve the game or the behavior or the level of fun. (Never try to make a happy child happier is the greatest parenting advice ever.)

Which doesn’t mean there were no arguments, or cries of “That’s not fair!” But I’m sure the kids figured it all out.

Because Gray sure didn’t.

Read more on Let Grow!

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

August, 2021

The summer volleyball session ended with our girl earning "My first medal in the whole world!" for her team finishing 2nd overall in the league finals! Just like that very first day on the court when she was thrown into a game, once again her Mom did not realize what she was getting her little girl into! We arrived at the gym before 12pm for what I thought would be the usual game or two. Four hours later, she was still playing, because they just kept winning! She even scored some points herself! 

I have called her Awesome Aut before, but this is where she truly earned her nickname! I mean, she played for 4 hours almost non-stop!

Our Big Man turned three and we all headed to Disneyland as a family on his actual birthday. But we celebrated a few days before, with my father, as well as a week or so after with a huge THREE-REX party involving real dinosaurs, which you can read all about in an up-coming blog post. My Dad prides himself in being the best gift-giver, and this year was no exception. I was hoping for some wooden trains, and he got the birthday boy an awesome train table, with all sorts of wooden figures and accessories.

I started back to work at the beginning of the month and I am loving it! I thought it was going to be a difficult opening of the school year and it has been super smooth because of funding related to COVID learning loss. I continued my side-hustle with some back to school photography. I also photographed a wedding, and booked a Baptism and 60th birthday party for next month. It is a job I really love. At the wedding, I actually cried when the mother-son dance was the same song that I play daily for my boy; Simple Man by Lynyrd Skynyrd. The editing is time-consuming but fun, and I do most of it while watching Curb Your Enthusiasm at night. I know, I'm late to the party on this one, as it is about 20 years old, but so, so good! Who knew I would identify so well with an older, Jewish man?! Larry David and I happen to have quite a lot in common.

My weight-loss journey continues, and I have lost 20 pounds since April. Finally! But, I found that I have hit a plateau and am no longer loosing. Also, I'm a bit tired of the fasting because well, when you're fasting you can't eat. I thought briefly of saying I'm done - this is my goal weight and as good as it gets - when I decided that I need to take to next level and loose 10 more pounds. I know these will be the hardest to loose. I began searching for a solution when one fell in my lap. My co-worker started talking to be about low-carbs. This is nothing new, and I've heard it before...but, I would get lost when people would start talking about macro-nutrients vs. micro. And, I thought eating a ton of meat can't be healthy. But, no one is saying it needs to be a ton of meet, and she simplified everything by telling me this: 

E: All you need to do is keep your daily net carbs under 20. 

Me: That's it? It seems too easy. 

E: Yes, do that and you will not be able to keep the weight on.

The love of my life!

She used to be in fitness competitions, so she knows, I told myself and that very day I made the decision. I thought it would be pretty easy, until I realized that nearly everything I eat has 20 carbs in it!!! She helped me with some tips and tricks such as the "Two Good" yogurt and these Endulge bars. A week later, and I was waking up and having steamed broccoli with a bit of cheddar, butter and salt, along with baked zucchini topped with parmesan...for breakfast! Because I'm coming from not eating for 18+ hours, it was a bit freeing to think that now I can now eat any time of the day. I love how I'm feeling being at the lower weight, because I have more energy. It's nice to notice not only with how my clothes fit, but how my face looks in pictures. Someday, I'll show you the before pics. Maybe.

Both kids started school in the middle of the week, in the middle of the month. We were both there for their first respective drop offs, which didn't involve any tears, not even from me! We were relieved that they both had such great first days! Cha had a new "big house" and I was so happy that he wanted to go back the second day! At drop off on the second day, kids were screaming bloody murder as they were peeled from their parents (as was the case for him last year) and he very seriously looked at me and stated "I don't like crying." I had some reservations about needing to pack their lunches but have it down now. It's saving us money and it's also a lot healthier. 

I am super-proud to report that Cha pretty much potty trained himself within the span of about two weeks, without much effort on our part. He is a remarkable guy and it was effortless. We reinforced him a few times with m&ms and that was it; he started going on his own while at home without even telling us. In fact, there are times when I wake up in the morning and notice he has gone during the night ... and, left the seat up! By the end of the month, we were sending him to school in his new Spiderman undies, and he has yet to have one accident. 

There was a return of live music, and my best friend and I (along with her hubby and son!) went to a Guns 'n Roses concert at the Banc of California arena in LA. There at the concert, I realized that we had been going to shows together for over three decades! Which is strange since we're both still 29. Just a week later, we also all went to the Improv. For now, life seems to be back to normal but the Delta variant remains the wild card.

The kids and I became Magic Key passholders at Disneyland this month and started going there weekly! Big Man is already 40 inches, so he's able to go on almost everything, including Splash Mountain! As you can tell from the photo below, he really enjoyed the ride. I have the Dream Key Pass, which includes parking, while both kids have the Believe Key Pass. My hubby has the Free Pass to do whatever he would like in the quiet house, while we're at the park!