Friday, October 14, 2011

Starting "School"

My son is 2yrs and 8 months old. He's super gregarious, energetic, and has a great sense of humor. He also corners the market on creative play these days. But, about a year ago, I noticed that some of my son's peers were surpassing him in learning things like "the ABC's," colors, numbers, and shapes. My son might be able to guide you on the mile long walk through the streets of Over-the-Rhine to the public library, but he can barely count to ten.

Many of my son's peers are learning these basic skills (counting, identifying letters, etc.) from either watching television or attending daycare/preschool. Since my son does not watch television, nor attend daycare, it's going to be my job to teach him.

We already read a lot. And we talk a lot in normal conversation about animals and colors and such. But, last week, we started our first official week of "school." And for the next eight months or so, we will spend 3o minutes, 1-3 days a week, learning basic preschool things--letters, numbers, shapes, colors, and lifeskills.

I'm really excited to share the experience of homeschooling in the city where it's possible to have a rich, exciting education, as well a socialization, apart from attending a standard school.

My son loved his first day.

Now I just need to prep for Day 2!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Midpoint Music Festival

I have had mixed feelings about the local phenomenon of Midpoint Music Festival, but they really redeemed themselves for me this year with their Midpoint Midway and CAC-sponsored acoustic stage.

For folks like me who live in the neighborhood, it was a great way to get out of the house and enjoy the event without spending money on a ticket. With two kids at home, the ticket would have been mostly wasted. And, considering the way MPMF takes over our neighborhood for a weekend, it was nice to have this early evening, all-ages, free part of the event. It definitely made up for the noise and parking issues that weekend!

We made it down to the Midway three nights in a row. We listened to some acoustic music, watched the skateboarders, and ate some fabulous soft pretzels. The weather was great and my son is still asking me if he can go "see some music" again tonight.

Thanks, Midpoint. Maybe next year I'll buy a ticket.

Monday, August 15, 2011

City Walks with Kids

I would love to see a book like this published for Cincinnati. We do, after all, live in one of the most walkable cities in the country!

the City Walks with Kids series, published by Chronicle Books

Monday, July 18, 2011

They Did Everything Right

Last week, news broke in New York City that an 8 year-old boy had been abducted, then killed and dismembered, after getting lost only blocks away from the place he was to meet his parents that afternoon. His error: he asked the wrong person for directions. That man took advantage of the situation and it ended tragically.

I’d rather not recount all of the details. You can read them for yourself.

As a parent raising children in an urban area, I am already well-aware of the perceived dangers of city life. I know that many of my peers, with children of the same age, think I’m nuts for planting our family here. And I will admit that I sometimes question this decision, as well, counting the cost of all the extra work my husband I and I have to do to keep our family safe and healthy in the city.

But the more time I spend here (we’ve lived in Over-the-Rhine for over three years now and I worked here for the three years before then), the more I am convinced that although there are certain dangers inherent to urban life, many of the dangers inherent to childhood transcend location. No matter where you plant your family, you run the risk of encountering danger. The likelihood of my children being abducted, breaking an arm, drowning in a neighbor’s pool, or getting hit by a car does not significantly decrease the further we are from the city. In fact, depending on where you live, some dangers will increase while others decrease.

On the issue of child abductions, some basic statistics:

  • Family members account for the majority of these reported cases (82 percent)
  • Non-family abductions account for 12,000 of these reported cases (18 percent)
  • Of non-family abductions, 37 percent are by a stranger


In more tangible terms, for every 100 children abducted, 82 are taken by a family member. 18 are taken by a non-family member. And, of those 18, only 6-7 of them are taken by a stranger. Call me crazy, but this says to me that, if your child is ever the victim of abduction, there is 93% chance they are abducted by someone you already know. And, the people you know will be the people you know no matter where you live.

And this is just one example.

As an aside, consider this: as soon as summer hits, the news is littered with tragic stories of children drowning in a neighbor’s pool. I don’t know about you, but I can’t think of a single property within two miles of my home that has a backyard pool. And the two public pools within those two miles are surrounded by high security fences and manned by lifeguards when open for business. So, this childhood danger is actually greatly reduced by living in the city.

The most tragic thing about the boy killed in Brooklyn was not that he was abducted, or that he was killed, or that it happened only blocks away from his intended meeting place. The most tragic thing for me, as a parent, is knowing that his parents did everything right and it happened anyway.

The family lived in an insular Orthodox Jewish community, a community where you’d assume residents were safe and adults were trustworthy. The boy was a month shy of 9 years old and had been begging his parents to allow him to walk home from summer camp alone. This was the first time they’d allowed it and they even walked the route with him, to insure he knew exactly where to go. Somehow, he got lost anyway. And when he stopped to ask for directions, the man he asked happened to be the one person within who knows how many miles who would take advantage of the situation.

I think about my hometown, in the SW suburbs of Chicago. And I think about the twelve or so blocks between my childhood home and my middle school. I think about the millions of times I must have walked that mile when I was eleven years old. And I think about how “safe” it seemed, even though it involved crossing multiple lanes of traffic in a pedestrian un-friendly area.

And then I think about my friend Karen’s home, in Blue Island, IL, which was a far cry from my suburban neighborhood only seven miles away. And I think about riding our bikes around her neighborhood when we were probably no older than ten years old. I think about the first drug deal I ever witnessed. And I think about the stories she told. And I think about the first time I drove through Blue Island as an adult and thought: I can’t believe her parents let us wander around this neighborhood alone!

But now I think I understand.

I think about my neighborhood. I think about the ten blocks between my home and the public library and I think: My son already knows this route and he’s not even three years old. Of course, by the time he’s ten years old, I would assume he’s competent to take this walk alone, even if I wouldn't yet allow it at that point.

The truth is, a good parent knows their child well enough to know when they are ready to “face the world alone.” And the best they can do is trust that they’ve given their child every tool necessary to take care of themselves on that walk down the block, then the walk around the corner, then eventually the walk down to the library. And when something goes wrong, if something goes wrong, chances are that it was nothing the parents could have foreseen and that they did everything right.

This is why it’s tragic when something terrible happens to a child. Regardless of what normal, natural, everyday thing they were doing when the tragedy happened, there is only so much we can do to protect them. And it doesn’t matter where they live. At a certain point, we need to allow them the freedom to take steps out the door alone.

I fear for my son’s life at least a dozen times a day. And my daughter, who is still about three weeks away from being born, is already stressing me out. But I know that, as they grow, the best thing I can do is provide the tools they’ll need to navigate this city without me. And the tools they’ll need here are different than the tools they’d need if we lived in the suburbs, but they are no more or less important. And my neighborhood is no more or less “safe.” It’s just different. The dangers are different. The people are different. The streets and houses and stores are different. And my children will be different because of it. (Heck, that’s part of the reason we’re here.)

The sentiment spoken at the boy’s funeral is perfect for the situation:

“He got lost, he got lost,” he said... “There’s nothing to say, he got lost. God wanted it.”

As a person of faith myself, I can understand what he means. For others, it’s a difficult thing to take in. But the sentiment is something we can all appreciate because it’s true: when something like this happens, there is often a simple explanation for how it happened. In this case, “he got lost.” I’ve been lost before. And you probably have, too. And it happens in the city and in the suburbs and on the hiking trail and in a foreign city. And sometimes you stop to ask the wrong person for directions and you end up more lost than you were before. Or sometimes it ends in tragedy.

Often times, there's simply nothing you should have done differently.

I hope that little boy's parents know that.

Monday, June 20, 2011


The past six months are a blur.

For one thing, the weather in Cincinnati has been... disappointing... and has kept us inside more than I wish to admit. The perpetual rain has made it hard to feel motivated for the walk to work. And these recent, sudden hot/cold temperature fluctuations have been exhausting. Cincinnati has such fickle weather and I guess I'm more of a fair weather pedestrian than I'd like to admit.

Also, work got really hectic the past few months. Thankfully, my schedule has started to ease as June hit, but my husband is in the midst of the long, busy building season. Lots of late nights. Tired bones. And the end is nowhere in sight. Not for a few months, at least.

Oh, yeah. And I'm pregnant. I'm seven months pregnant at this point, which makes everything just a bit harder and each day a bit longer and every walk feel a bit more exhausting. And having a toddler has made this pregnancy different in every way from my last. And as I anticipate this new arrival, I am mourning how little time I have left to spend alone with my son, my first favorite baby, who will no longer be my "only" in just a handful of weeks.

As far as our city is concerned, the past few months have been a crazy time. The issues of the infamous streetcar and the casino, recent homicides in our neighborhood, businesses opening and closing. If I had not begun reading a Twitter feed with local news and neighborhood conversations, I would be clueless. And still, even with the Twitter updates, I always seem clued-in too late.

I just can't keep up--physically or mentally.
And emotionally, I'm still a few months behind.
And when life moves so fast it can start to lose its charm.

Some friends came for a quick visit a few weeks ago on their way through town.
They are urban dwellers, living in Elgin, IL, a small city near Chicago that I used to call "home." They asked about our work, the politics of the city, the changes in Over-the-Rhine.

My friends seemed so enchanted by our home, our neighborhood, and our family life here in Cincinnati. And when you stop to think about it, I guess we really do have something special here. Sometimes we just move too quickly to notice the small, subtle changes that make this city what it is.

We want change. We want better grocery options, an end to the hostility and violence among neighbors, less litter, fewer loiterers in the public parks, etc. But, sometimes we are so anxious for the big changes in our neighborhood that we forget to notice the small breaths of life that peek up around every corner. Day by day, this city--and the downtown area specifically--is becoming more healthy, viable, and safe. There may be a million naysayers living outside the city limits, but those of us who are here in the thick of it know the truth.

In pregnancy talk, there is a word for the moment a woman can feel the movements of her unborn child. It's called "quickening," and it's a fabulous experience. Personally, it's been the point when I can mentally accept that the thing growing inside of me is REAL, is LIVING, and is becoming more and more AMAZING every day.

As I type, I can feel this baby spinning circles inside of me.
And, while people outside our city are looking for quantifiable changes to prove the viability of Over-the-Rhine, those of us who live here can feel its "quickening."
In fact, this city has been moving for years. But to understand it, you've got to crawl inside it, or put your hand up to its belly and feel it kick. You've got to walk its streets, play in its parks, explore its local flavors and colors. You've got to be willing to know it the way a woman knows her child, the way she nurtures it, the way she leans in and whispers "I know you're in there," and the way she anticipates its birth.

It's a great time to live in this great city.
I hope I can slow down enough some day to take it all in before everything has progressed so far that we can't believe its been so long since those first days when we felt it move.

How long have you been waiting?
And when did you first feel it?

Monday, May 16, 2011

Ode to New York Kids

I found this today on Stroller Traffic. It's quite charming for those of us who have chosen the urban life for our children:

If You Can Make It Here... 100 reasons to raise kids in NYC

Now, I know that Cincinnati is no New York City, but what's your favorite thing about raising kids here? I gonna start making my list...

Saturday, April 2, 2011

My Other Identity

I'm raising money to complete my long-awaited album.
Check out my Kickstarter campaign!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Things to Love: Winter Survival Toys

On most days, if my son has not left the house by 10am for either a walk, playtime at the park, or a few moments on the front stoop to watch the neighbors walk their dogs, I start to sense he might go crazy. He's an extrovert with a lot of energy and curiosity. And I try to make sure I provide as many opportunities as are reasonable for him to get out and explore our city. But, let's face it, no one really wants to take a walk when it's 20 degrees and freezing rain outside. So, there have been a few days these past few months when we've never left the house.

Here's my list of things that have gotten us through the Winter and kept us busy on the days when a walk around town is just not an option:

Balance Bike

Granted, this toy would not be as effective if my son were already a pro. But, since it's a new toy--his big gift for his second birthday in January--he is only just learning how to ride it and he moves slowly and carefully enough to ride it in our home. Our version of the balance bike is similar to the one shown in the photo and those available at this link, but is not labeled with a brand name. I purchased it on a whim about six months ago when I saw a listing on Craigslist with an unbeatable price for one made by "some European manufacturer" that the seller couldn't recall. (Local favorite Park + Vine sells a version, too!) Either way, we love the bike. It's very well made, looks great, and will be awesome for playing outside this Spring. Also, since the seat moves up and down, it could last us another year, easy.


My husband said his mother never let him play with Play-Doh as a child. She was an art teacher and her taste in materials was far too advanced for the stuff. Heck, I'll admit it. I would have never purchased it for my son. But, a friend gave it to him for his birthday and he ABSOLUTELY LOVES IT. I cannot overstate this: he's crazy over Play-Doh. I, on the other hand, cannot stand the smell of the stuff and have been hunting around for homemade versions to take its place. Since there are a million recipes online, I trust I can find a kinder-scented alternative. But, in the meantime, it's kept him happy for hours these past few weeks.

Library Books

One of my favorite things about living in Over-the-Rhine is that awesome cultural amenities like the public library are only a short walk away. My son's recent borrows include: a book about Curious George and a firetruck; Dino Parade; a really advanced "Learn German" read-along CD (which we laughed at and then put back in the bag to return on our next trip); Woodie Guthrie's New Baby Train; another adorable book to prepare him for being a big brother called There's Going to Be A Baby; and a book about tubas (at his request). The library isn't only good for books, though. We attend a storytime there on the Monday mornings when I don't work. And there is a computer for him to use (since I won't let him fiddle with mine). Even on cruddy-weather days, the 10 minute walk is bearable when we can spend a ton of time wandering around the library hunting for books for me and books for him. Sometimes we bring a snack; sometimes we stop for a snack on the way home; sometimes we wait until we get home and can crack open a new book while we eat our lunch. Either way, we try not to go more than two weeks between visits to the library to freshen-up on books for both Mama (sometimes Daddy) and son.

Sprig's Eco-Trucks

Last year, my mom purchased my son an amazing toy made by Sprig. This company produces toys made from "Sprigwood," a composite of recycled wood and reclaimed plastic. The toys have no painted surfaces, minimal packaging, and don't require batteries for fun. I absolutely LOVED the toy she bought him last year and mentioned that she could purchase him as many toys made by the same company as she wanted. For his birthday this year, she brought him two more of their toys--the Eco-Trucks. Just like their predecessor, he loves them. Learning to manipulate the digger and dump truck's movable pieces has taken some time, but it has also kept him occupied and requires brainpower and coordination. Unlike some other brands of environmentally-friendly toys, we have been impressed by how well the Sprig toys roll and move. And I think they look super cool, too!

What about you?
What has helped you keep your kids occupied during cold and rainy stay-inside weather?

Monday, February 28, 2011

Do This: Clean the Highway and Get a Free Trip to the Zoo!

This year, Keep Cincinnati Beautiful will again kick-off the Great American Cleanup with the Ohio State Roadway Cleanup on March 26th. On this day, hundreds of volunteers will take to the highways to clean and beautify our city's dirtiest exit and entry ramps.

Why should you volunteer?
The first 500 volunteers will receive a free admission ticket to the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden for participating in the event. (Volunteers must be signed up with KCB prior to the event and at least 16 years old with a parent or guardian present if under 18.) This is the perfect opportunity for a parent or two who want to plan a trip to the zoo, but would rather not have to pay for multiple admission tickets. If both parents volunteer at the State Roadway Cleanup, their tickets will be free! Find a sitter for the morning and come volunteer!

You can also help choose the cleanup locations by submitting your pick for the dirtiest highway exit or entrance ramp in Cincinnati. Voting ends on March 11th.

Sign up now for details about meeting times and locations!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Positive Reinforcement

Because I'm generally not a fan of forced ethics on a governmental level--i.e. outlawing plastic bags and the such--I do appreciate all forms of positive reinforcement.

Take, for example, the way the City of Cincinnati re-worked their curbside recycling program to reward residents for their participation.

Thanks to a new partnership with Recyclebank, a rewards program similar to a frequent flier program, residents can now earn tangible rewards for each pound they recycle. With new, high-tech (and massive, I might add) recycling bins and fancy recycling trucks with scanners and scales, Recyclebank now keeps track of how much is recycled per household and allots points to the residents. Then, registered families log on to their online account and, once they've reached a certain level, can redeem their points for online rewards from local businesses.

Many folks, myself included, took advantage of the City's curbside recycling program without this rewards program. And, so, receiving rewards for our efforts are only an added bonus to the work we were already committed to do. (In fact, I'll be honest and say that, although I'm registered online at Recyclebank, I haven't checked my account for a few months. And, because those new bins are so huge, I only put out my recycling every month instead of every two weeks, which is when it is now collected.)

I know there have been some complaints about the size of the bins (especially in historic row house districts like the one in which I live), or about the switch from weekly to bi-weekly pickup (because people like me are absentminded about this sort of thing), but I think the program is much stronger than it was a year ago--due in part to this partnership with Recyclebank.

Hopefully, the City has seen an increase in recycling since the program kicked off a few months ago. If nothing else, maybe the appearance of a large, green recycling bin on the doorstep made some residents wonder why they'd never recycled before. Either that, or there's some lady in Over-the-Rhine hoarding dozens of the new recycling bins in her backyard... (oh, wait, that's totally true...)

Visit the Cincinnati Recycles website for full information. Then, when your bin arrives (or if it has already), log on to the Recyclebank website and register!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Do This: Blue Manatee kids' programming

My plan today, due to the warmer weather, was a walk to the downtown branch of the library for the weekly storytime. But, because I had another side-trip to make, we decided to try something new and get out of downtown.

When my son was young, before he was fully-mobile, we drove out to the Blue Manatee Bookstore in Oakley every so often so I could grab a cup of coffee with a friend and our kids could peek through some books. Sometimes we'd make it a day trip and stop in to The Spotted Goose and King Arthur's Court Toys.

I haven't been to the bookstore for the past six months or so but, early this morning, I checked the schedule and registered my son for the art class at 10am.

The class cost me $5, lasted a half hour, and we came home with two art projects. Izzy loved his first official painting experience, and it was fun to watch him alongside his peers. The class was for ages 2-4, with eight kids total.

For Cincinnati parents, I would highly recommend a trip to the Blue Manatee, either to browse, catch a storytime, or take a scheduled class. (I believe they host private parties, as well, which I'm going to keep in mind for my mid-winter birthday boy.) Check out the website and find a time to stop in. Heck, you can spend the whole day in Oakley--books, toys, boutique goods, and even a trip to a good ol' soda and ice cream shop!

Enjoy your trip!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

I Couldn't Agree More

I definitely haven't said much lately on this blog. Rest assured, it's not for lack of ideas or desire. I've simply been too busy and overwhelmed to sit down and write.

Until I get my act together and write something original, chew on this:

A great article, courtesy of about the value of planning cities with families in mind.

Thanks, GOOD. I couldn't have said it any better.