A little on the quirky side.

Unicorn Alexis

Alexis behind a Unicorn Mask. / Photo by KidZond.

 

Like any parent, I have a lot of hopes for my children. You bring these little persons into the world and try to teach and guide them so they can stand on their own. You wish nothing but the best for them, and wish with all your heart, that they will succeed in their life better than you. You’re fearful of the world, and what the world may do to them, but you know if you give them the right tools, they will be just fine.

Yet when you have a child with High Functioning Autism, the fear is magnified a hundred fold. The deck is stacked against her from the start.

We’ve only been on this rollercoaster of learning about our Autistic daughter for a little less than a year now. Dozens of meetings with doctors, counselors, school staff and reading. A lot of reading and research. At times for me, the challenges of giving my daughter the tools to have a happy healthy life are daunting. It can make you feel very small, very ignorant, and very angry.

Anger is my biggest problem. Most people don’t see my anger. I’m usually considered a jovial guy, even when subjects come up in the course of conversations that normally piss everyone off, I’m the guy who takes it all in stride.

Except when it comes to my kids. I’m very defensive.

Yes of course you should be defensive of your children. I’m not a helicopter parent, more of a military drone style. I’ll let it go on for a bit, then come in low with missiles ready to fire and blow you up verbally. It’s not a good trait, I don’t like being like this. But, it’s my kids. Still, until my wife pointed out that this drone style of attack wasn’t helping the situation, I had been lashing out.

She was right of course, I was wrong. I ran afoul of my own passion to defend my daughter, just to exacerbate the situation. I need to find a way to redirect, to work on getting those who can understand Alexis, to understand. Those who are incapable…well to just let it go.

Fairy Brides are Quirky.

For years I have been an avid Folklore buff. Mostly British folklore. In those stories that I have read and re-read, I have run across the Fairy Bride. A quirky set of tales that have not made it to Disney yet. Yet these tales help put things in perspective, and makes me wonder if Autism was a foundation for the tale.

Fairy Brides are a big part of British Folklore. A man meets a beautiful woman and marries her on the spot, so to speak. Yet his bride is quirky, she has trouble adjusting to the mortal worlds social norms. Fairy Brides tend to cry at Weddings, and laugh at Funerals. Much to the consternation of the mortal husband. They do socially inept things that often cause the husband to have to admonish his wife, to try to change her, mold her into being a ‘Good Wife’. Often the story ends with the Fairy Bride leaving the husband, his life now in ruins.

While the moral of the story is one about the fallacy of Love of Beauty alone, (for Fairy Brides are the loveliest of creatures) it also makes me think of Autism. A woman, from another plane of existence, has to adjust to a world that just doesn’t make sense to her. A world that demands she conform, behave as they expect her to, not as she is. Yet she never does, and in the end, goes back to a world that makes sense to her.

This is a problem I face with Alexis. Not so much her, and her autism, but to how others react to it.

Some people just believe that we are bad parents. That we need to correct her more. Others feel she is conning us, twisting things around so she can get her way. They get confused by her actions and react badly because they just don’t understand that she does not think like they do. That social norms they take for granted, are not to be found with her.

Now while some will learn, other will refuse to. No matter how I explain it. Even if I say those infamous words “Don’t take my word for it, read this…” , they still are locked into their opinion that this is some sort of great game to Alexis. That she is a puppet master and we are merely puppets.

Of course the part that really gets my proverbial goat is the “Fix it” or “Grow out of it” mentality I run across. Those who believe they can fix Alexis’ autism by doing this or that. Or that she’ll one day just grow out of it. She won’t. This is her, it is how she will be for the rest of her life.

And that is when I call for a drone strike, lashing out verbally against those who think this is all some sort of game.

And, I have to stop that.

Because my wife was right, lashing out isn’t helping me, her, or our daughter. You can educate people, help them understand that Alexis isn’t being a brat, it’s just that she thinks in a way that you can not fathom. I need to just learn that not everyone will get it, not everyone will accept her, and that my job as a father, and our job as parents, are to work with her to help her understand that not everyone will understand.

Our hopes are to give our HFA daughter the tools she needs to lead a good life. To enjoy family and friends. To have the career she wants. To teach her that although like a Fairy Bride in the mortal world, she can learn to adjust to our theoretical “Neural Typical” world, and still be herself.

Because like a Fairy Bride, with all her quirkiness, she is the Most Beautiful of Creatures to us.

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Putting on the Mad Hatter’s Hat.

And helping others get their Alice on.

Alexis Self Portrait2

Alexis. Self Portrait.

 

 

A little fact about myself. I only have 9 toenails. I lost one due to a childhood accident. Now when I tell the story of how I lost it, I’ve never been asked the question will it grow back. Little children do sometimes, but never from adults.

This is typical. Most adults don’t go around saying to a one-legged person, “So when do you expect your leg to grow back?” or “It will get better, just keep working harder, relying on that prosthetic leg is not helping you”. I could never imagine saying that to someone, could you? No, you wouldn’t.

Yet I get this a lot with my daughter who is a HFA, High Functioning Autistic. There seems to be this perception that if we just teach her this, or that, her autism will go away. As if it is just a cold, and given time, it will go away.

It won’t.

People seem to get lost that because she looks like a typical 10-year-old girl, which she is…just one with HFA…they expect her to interact and behave like any ‘A neurotypical’ 10-year-old girl. Which she doesn’t.

Alexis has quirks. Little things that people don’t notice at first, and when they do? Well they become Alice in Alexis’ Wonderland. Just like the story Alice in Wonderland, where a little girl goes into a world, that doesn’t make a bit of sense to her, most people try to correct Alexis, believing it is all just bad behaviour. Not understanding that the behaviour they expect? Is just as alien to Alexis as Alice was to the Mad Hatter. Remember, the Hatter thought Alice was Mad.

I find people perplex by her quirks. Even after I explain her quirks to them, explain that she is HFA, they still just don’t accept it, and suggest she ‘grow her leg back’ so to speak. I am given parenting advice, tips, links to articles. All sorts of stories of how they were raised, and what their parents did to correct their bad behaviour. Because that is how they see her, behaving badly. A product of bad parenting. An extremely ironic stance if you know the history of autism.

Alexis doesn’t say ‘Please’ and ‘Thank You’. She finds those social niceties absurd. Often I run across the Adult who withholds giving her a toy, piece of candy, or some other object till she says ‘Please’. Which to her is traumatic, and frustrating beyond the comprehension of the adult, who is perplexed by her reaction. See, Alexis isn’t a child who needs to ‘learn their manners’, this is akin to me giving you a $1,000,000 check after I won the lottery and telling you I wrote Void on it. Your first response would be “Why would you do that?” and all I can say is Exactly! Welcome to Wonderland Alice, you have just stepped inside my daughters world.

This is the Mad Hatter’s Hat I have to wear sometimes. Stepping into Alexis’ world so I can tell all the Alice’s  of the world, why she acts the way she does. I have to play interventionist just so people can understand her, and not get frustrated by her reactions. Which they do often, but mostly, I have to intervene so she doesn’t get frustrated and slip into a traumatic state that will take hours, if not a whole day, for her to calm down.

Alexis does has quirks. She likes wearing certain clothing, namely, pajamas. She even wears them to school. Now you may find this cute, or inappropriate, or weird. Yet trying telling your daughter who is standing in her bedroom, wearing only her underwear, refusing to dress, because you forgot to put her jammies in the dryer last night. And do your best to keep calm as she melts down, crying, with only 10 minutes to get to school before the first bell rings. You see, it’s a tactile thing for her, certain fabrics bother her as fingernails on a chalkboard bother most of us.

Alexis isn’t a picky eater. Provided that the food she eats, say pork chops, tastes the same each time she has it. If I get a different cut, or use a different spice, she notices, and will refuse to eat it.

Then there are the constant routines, things that have to be a specific way or else it sets her off. Her pillow has to be just so, her blanket too. Stuffed animals arranged in a specific order. People coming over unexpectedly, or not coming over. Us staying a friends longer than what we told her originally, or someone staying at our place longer than she expected. Or say a substitute teacher at school, even simpler things like not having the cup for her drink. Those disruptions which seem so mundane to us, that I can say to my 7-year-old son, “It’s fine, Nick”, and it is fine for him, become an obstacle for Alexis, that she struggles to overcome.

To the Alice’s of the world, she seems nothing more than a spoiled brat who isn’t getting her way. Because they only pop into our Wonderland for a short time, they don’t live there like we do. Many want to correct her, or berate her. And by doing so, upset her. They don’t know she doesn’t understand why they are ‘mad’ at her. Nor why doing something their way is ‘proper’ and her way is ‘rude’.

There is more of course, the personal hygiene, physiological issues that come along with autism. Well, at least my daughter. Even being HFA, there are issues. Because Autism is truly a Wicked Little Tailor that makes a suit for each person it affects. You learn to deal with those issues, while working hard to avoid public embarrassment for your child.

Alexis is very high functioning on the Autistic spectrum. By guiding her, help her deal with all the Alice’s of the world, she can find an inner translator for her Wonderland. A Hatter’s Hat, so to speak, that she can give out, to all those who just don’t quite get her quirks. Till that day comes, I don the Hatter’s Hat, get out my translation book, and tell the Alice’s of the world that No, she will not act the way you think she will. And No, this is not bad behavior, or being a brat. And NO, this will not ‘go away’.

 

 

 

 

 

A little Fake News is good for the soul.

If of course, you believe in that stuff.

 

GustaveDore_She_was_astonished_to_see_how_her_grandmother_looked

Grandma certainly does have big eyes, and dog breath. / Gustave Dore – Wikicommons

 

I saw a post on Facebook fishing for followers. Can’t say I blame them, if you are in the blogging/media world you want followers. So you drop a snazzy headline, jazz up the article/video and wait for the fish to bite.

Of course, I bit. The headline was “How to spot Fake News”, with an emphasis on fake articles from the 2016 United States Presidential election. The Russian influence.

This article actually disappointed me. Not because it was about politics, and how the Russians used Facebook post to Fake News, but because that was all they talked about. As if the political aspects of Fake News are the most important aspects.

Yeah, well, of course it is important. You can argue the case that political Fake News is damning and hurts a nation. But what about all the other fake news? You know, the stuff people rarely even bat an eye at that it might be fake?

There is a name for that type of fake news, dozens of books, movies, t.v. shows, all that very popular stuff.

Folklore.

Or urban myths, tall tales, or jocular tales to entertain, and sometimes scare the bejesus out of you.

Some stories are meant to anger you, work on your emotions, and get you mad enough to do action.

Like this one below, meant to have you boycott Pizza Hut. A quick google search and you’ll find the story is a hoax meant to illicit anger and resentment. Nothing in the post is true, not even the owner of the post.

 

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This tale is meant to incite anger. / KidZond.

 

Years ago you would hear these stories by word of mouth, then came along email, and finally, social media.

The surprise of these stories is not their absurdity, nor how well they take a truth and twist it, but how eagerly people are ready to believe it. Many of us do, I have bought into some. It happens folks.

See this one below? Seems like a wonderful idea. And guess what? It actually works! But…yes, there is always a ‘but’ with these, this is not the 10-14 hour version. This is light it, and probably burn up really quick version. As the fire will go up the feeder logs before they can roll into the pit. In other words, you’re creating a bonfire in the form of a ‘V’.

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Now a real version of a self feeding fire pit does exist, but it takes a lot of hard work and skill to build. Knowledge and a bit of elbow grease to get it to work.

This? Is not it.

It is however, a self feeding fire pit. So while the picture doesn’t lie, it neglects to tell you the outcome. You are supposed to be able to ‘set it, and forget it’. Instead you will probably need the garden hose to put it out before you ever get a chance to truly enjoy it.

If of course, you believe in that stuff…

 

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Of course the worst Fake News out there are the medical claims. This fruit will cause (or cure!) cancer, diabetes, scurvy, kuru and possibly, if you are lucky, improve your sex life.

90% of us just make a sour face and scroll on. Then there are those posts, like the one above, that put you at risk if you follow their advice. Snazzy graphics and sketchy statistics lure you in.

Consider the current situation in the United States. There is a flu outbreak, it is all over the news. Two strains are being talked about, some 37 deaths reported so far. People are concerned and rightly so. The Flu is a dangerous thing.

Most of those who have not already gotten a shot, would be thinking, about now is a good time to get one. Then, while scrolling down on their Facebook feed, they run across something like the screen capture above.

That’s when it falls upon the individual to figure out what is what. Is this serious? Are those facts true? Wow, what in the heck have we been doing to ourselves all these years! Why would anyone EVER get a Flu shot?!

50 Million.  

That is the number of people who died from the Spanish Flu. That happened a 100 years ago, the outbreak started in 1918.

Some 500 million people, or about a third of the world’s population at that time, became infected with the Spanish Flu. It was devastating.

Consider this. The CDC estimates some 291,000 to 646,000 die of seasonal Flu outbreaks world-wide in modern times, some 100 years after the Spanish Flu outbreak. Also consider that the vaccine for the flu is readily available in most developed nations.

Kind of shoots the hell out of the idea that vaccination is a bad thing doesn’t it? Yeah, sure, we’re talking a 100 years time, a particular nasty outbreak in 1918, no guarantee that another nasty outbreak will not occur in the future. Yet…

Do you really think not getting a vaccine is the best route? That vaccines do not matter? What about Polio? Small Pox? Measles?

This type of fake news preys upon those with a predisposed bias. Those who are wary of shots, doctors, medicines and well, the government.

Now, before you write off this Fake News, take a look at the bottom of the above photo. This is my screen capture. At the time I did this 1.1 million had viewed it. 32,000 had shared it. How many believed it?

Little Red Riding Hood was tricked by the Wolf, she was saved by the handy axe-wielding Woodsman. Snopes will help, but having a skeptical mind and good research skills will help you in this social media age.

Folklores of old usually had a ‘Moral of the Story’ part. As in, don’t walk in the woods alone. Never talk to strangers, be mindful of your surroundings. These were stories that taught children that the world is full of deceit. Best to be mindful.

I told my eldest two folktales throughout their childhood. I tell my youngest two these tales also. I feel these tales have lessons we have seemed to have forgotten in this day and age. As we plod along on social media, absorbing story after story, and our children are right behind us. Now is a good time to harken back to those old tales, to read them, and to listen to the moral of the story.

Good lessons in this day and age of Fake News.

 

Further reading and sources used in this blog.

[All opinions expressed in this blog are the authors alone. Unless the Reptilian Overlords have taken over my mind.]
https://www.snopes.com/search/
https://www.popularmechanics.com/home/outdoor-projects/how-to/a19409/this-self-feeding-campfire-will-burn-all-night/
https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/qa/flushot.htm
http://www.history.com/topics/1918-flu-pandemic

 

*Puppy dog tails not included.

Nick in Rainbows

Rainbows, even artificial ones, are always fun. / Photo by KidZond.

 

I just want to set the record straight. I have three daughters. I get daughters, I get girls. I have 26 years experience with daughters.

Each is an individual, each are special and wonderful in their own way. I could not imagine my life without my daughters.

Understand I can shop for girls clothing like there is a blue light special from heaven. I can pick a girls toy out for their birthday and bring a tear to their eye. I can give that hug to take away the mean thing the girl on the playground said. Or agree with them that ‘boys are just stupid’.

Being a father of Daughters is a very important job. Huge, I mean Titanic in proportions to any job you will ever do.

Why? easy. You are the first man they will fall in love with. You are the person, that male figure, they will put the bar to that all men henceforth will have to achieve. And good luck to those guys if you do your job correctly.

Girls I get. Daughters, with all their complexities, I get.

 

Snips and Snails… 

 

Then the boy came along. Don’t get me wrong. I love my son. He’s the coolest dude I know. He’s smart, active, kind, generous, loving and a host of other nice things. I am very thankful to have him in my life.

But, and yes this is ironic, I knew nothing about boys. Yes of course I was one…very long ago. So when my son Nicholas came along, I had a steep learning curve.

The first thing I learned was that he was very different from my daughters. Years back, when my oldest was a baby, I got the bright idea of ‘tossing her in the air’. No, I did not bounce her off the ceiling, just so we are straight here. Just a little hop, didn’t even clear my finger tips. She bawled like a baby. Probably because she was one. Which of course, made me feel horrible and I promised to never do that again to a child.

So yeah, tossing babies was out. Should have known that anyways. But hey, first kid. Of course I didn’t do that to my next child, Kayla. Yet when Alexis came along I had forgotten what an idiotic thing that was. Um, she bawled too. Another reminder to myself, don’t toss babies.

Then, by accident, as I adjusted my grip while holding him up in the air (I think I was taking him out of his car seat) and I tossed Nick. He giggled. Another little toss, giggle, a little higher, full on laugh. He loved it. Can you guess which of my four children jumps on their bed the most? Yeah, the boy.

Then there was the time Alexis was super excited and well, she peed on the floor. I was changing Nick’s diaper. I learned a valuable lesson that day. Even if your 3-year-old is peeing on the floor, never leave your son exposed and look away for a bloody second. He peed on me. So, clean up on aisle living room, little girl, little boy, and myself.

He likes to jump, loves to run. He learns something and goes with it. Like climbing, flipping, getting into things. Those child locks on cupboard doors? Three daughters never got into them, tried but never could. Nick busted them off opening the cupboard door because “The door was stuck”.

It is the physical aspect of having a boy no one tells you about. I’m not just talking about rough play, but the things like when you wife tells you to teach your son how to ‘aim’, because a wet toilet seat at 3 a.m. is annoying. A pissed mother is even more annoying.

Of course in this day and age, a lot comes with raising a boy. Like the plethora of Facebook posts that remind me not to raise a rapist. I guess I should find these offensive, but no, not really. The main reason is not only am I not teach him to be a rapist. I am also teaching him not to steal, not to bully, not to be mean to animals.

In fact what I am teaching my son is respect. Be respectful of other people’s things. Be respectful of other people’s feelings. Be respectful to those less fortunate than you. And of course, be respectful of other people’s personal space and bodies.

(of course in full disclosure, he still jumps on me like I am a toy. But that is just a father-son thingy.)

Nicks PWD Award

Nick holding his First Place Award for his Pack’s Pinewood Derby Race. / Photo by KidZond.

 

…And all things nice.

 

In the end, raising boys is very similar to raising girls. Yes, they are very different. From the get go, boys and girls are opposites. Probably why they find each other so attractive years down the line. But raising them? There are a lot of commonalities. They are children, and all children have a general behavior. All children need direction and guidance.

Your son goes off of how you are as a father. Like your daughter, whom you are the first man she loves, you are the first man your son respects. How you handle situations will define how he will, as he grows up. If you get angry at every little thing. Well that sponge of a brain of his will think that is the way to handle situations. If you leer or make snide comments about women? How do you think he is going to feel toward women? If you think nothing of stealing, don’t be surprised if you son turns out to be a thief. Your actions, set the tone.

The picture above of my son winning his pinewood derby race is a great lesson. I didn’t think he would win. Neither did he. Yet prior to the race I talked to him about winning and losing. In both, be gracious. Make sure you congratulate the winners, and tell those who lost, “great race”.

I’m happy to say he was very gracious. He was sad a Den mate did not win, and wouldn’t move on to the next race. He never gloated, never boasted, was respectful and kind. Like a good son, and definitely like a good Cub Scout.

I’ve only had Nick in my life for 7 years. But I am getting a glimpse of the man he may become. I have to hedge my bet and say “So far, so good”. Yet to say with absolute certainty he will be a good man is tempting fate. He, like every person that has grown up, will face trials and temptations. Bad influences abound. Friends with ‘cool ideas’, or something he saw in a video on YouTube and thinks he should emulate.

And this is where I come in. As a father, you not only protect your children from others, you have to work on protecting children from themselves. Give them the tools to make the right decisions, let them work the problem, help them find the solution that doesn’t compromise their morals or ethics. Teach them to be a good person. Teach them to Be Respectful, and that includes being respectful of themselves.

 

 

[The views expressed in this blog are solely of the author. Opinions expressed in this blog do not represent the BSA organization, nor is the author directly affiliated with the BSA organization.]

 

Argh! A writer’s life for me!

[ Well sometimes…]

 

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Nick and Alexis enjoying the new deck. / Photos by KidZond.

 

If you like to write, like myself, you will eventually run into this problem. Life gets in your way.

There are a whole list of problems that confront you, that whole sleeping thing, eating, and well the dog looking at you because you’ve been writing for the last 10 hours straight and she really needs to pee. Hopefully you notice before you step in the puddle.

Of course those are the more silly aspects to writing. The reality is your job, (unless you write for a living – and I’m not there yet.) your family, and well things that just need to get done.

Take my porch for instance. My porch, or rather stoop, was not in the best shape. What’s worse is that the walkway to the stoop, had sunk and with this wet summer we’ve been having, has caused a 5 inch deep by 4 foot wide lake. Hey, it’s a lake when you try to walk across it at night after getting off work.

So, it had to go. After talking over options with my father-in-law, he had a simple solution.

“Hey I want to try out this 16 lbs sledgehammer, see if we can get that  concrete stoop out and then build a deck.” Is what he texted me.

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Hey, sledgehammers do work pretty well! Also great for punishing sarcastic son-in-laws.

 

What started as a trial of a sledgehammer has turned into a full-blown project. Because, well, it needed to be done. So, I went from working, household chores, children and writing to working, household chores, children and building a deck while trying to squeeze in writing. The trick on the writing is to write when you are mostly coherent, not at 1 a.m. after a day of shoveling in 3000 lbs of fill dirt and working 8 hours. Something was going to have to give.

Writing took a backseat for the time being. Okay, Blogging took a backseat for the time being. I still write, everyday, usually on my downtime at work, using pen and paper to craft out an idea for a novel. Yet sitting down to write after a full day just turned out gibberish. Ideas were lost in my tired mind and blogs were relegated to the trash heap. Hopefully to be resurrected in the near future.

All writers face this problem, heck you don’t even have to be a writer to have life interrupt you. Car problems, house issues, and children will often throw your plans off kilter. It’s a fact of modern life. Pretty sure it was a fact of ancient life.

“Dear? Weren’t we going to go hiking today?” Roman husband asks.

“Yes why? Mt. Vesuvius is just lovely this time of year.” Roman wife says.

“Yeah, well it’s erupting, we may want to go sailing today instead.” Roman husband says quickly packing.

 

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This is only 1400 lbs of dirt, 1600 to go.

 

Whether you have a home improvement project, or life just interrupts you, learning to take time off from what you love, and not fret over it like a Mother cat who has misplaced a kitten, will make your life a whole lot easier.

Many articles are written about guarding your writing time. Finding a time everyday to write uninterrupted. They’re good articles, they make a good point. For those of us who live that ‘organized chaotic life’ with children and life’s interruptions, what sounds like sound advice, isn’t always practical.

Even successful writers have trouble getting time to write. And those lucky S.O.B’s probably have to do book tours and a host of media interviews that cut into their next novel’s time. So while us personal bloggers slog along in life, remember, it could be worse. You could have that million dollar book deal you are working on, and have to hire someone to build your deck.

 

This may Bug you.

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Just a toad looking for a princess, in vain. / Photos by KidZond.

By Js Kendrick

 

I hope you like nature. As in bugs. This post has bugs, and toads, and a frog for fun. Creepy, icky, things, and children’s love of them, is what this post is about today. If you have children, or are thinking of having children. You might want to take notes.

Case in point, Mr. Toad (No not the one above) was a perennial visitor to our porch when my older daughters were younger. One night I stepped out and saw Mr. Toad just sitting there. I figured, hey! What a great learning experience! So I called out to my daughter Jenelle. She was about 4 at the time.

“Hey Jenelle, come see whose on the porch!” Being cutesy about it all.

Jenelle comes out, I point to Mr. Toad. Eyes grow wide, slight shake of the knees. Points inside the house. 

“I’m going inside now.” She announces in terror. Never to come out for the rest of the night.

She of course learned to love toads, frogs…well there was that poison dart frog she killed, but it was just a case of mistaken identity…and other creepy things when she was younger. Her sister Kayla too.

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Not a poison dart frog. And this lucky fellow lived. Jenelle didn’t stomp on him like she did his predecessor.

 

Kids generally do like the creepiest of things. Depending, certain creatures have to be explained. Like Harvest Mites, which look like a spider but aren’t. They’re pretty harmless unless your believe everything Abraham Lincoln posts on Facebook.

Over the years I’ve had the good luck to find critters and give my children a quick explanation on what they were and how they fit into our ecosystem. The migration of Monarch Butterflies is always an interesting tale for children. Also the story of the Viceroy Butterfly who mimics the Monarch is just as fascination. It’s a good lesson in deception that will help them later in life when they date.

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He was friendly. Toxic little sucker! Yes, Milkweed is very toxic.

 

One thing about my four children I did not expect was the boy. Now while each of his sisters didn’t mind bugs and other critters growing up, at 6 years of age, Nick is obsessed with them. He hunts them out and captures them only to ask me to identify them. I’m not an entomologist, nor am I a zoologist. So I have to give him some rules to follow.

1.) Don’t pick up anything you haven’t picked up before without my approval. Some may bite, sting, or suck your blood.

2.) Never pick up a wild animal. The key word is Wild and it will go bad quickly. Squirrels are not ‘pets’. If you see one hurt, get an adult.

3.) Baby birds are best left in their nests (He asked for me to take one down once) and if you find one on the ground. Leave it be. Especially if it is a BlueJay’s fledgling. Mom and Dad have very sharp beaks. I know this from personal experience.

4.) Definitely leave the black and white kitty with the bushy tail alone when you see them. You will regret it, and I do not stock that much tomato juice in the house.

5.) Sticks that move on their own are a type of insect. Walking Sticks. Branches that move on their own are called Snakes. Back away, don’t touch, tell a grown-up.

6.) Leave little bunnies alone. They aren’t abandoned, their mommies leave them in a safe place while they eat. They’re fine, exactly where they are at.

7.) That is not a loose dog, that is a coyote. He’s fine, keep your distance.

8.) No, you can not pet the wild turkeys.

9.) And finally, if you don’t know what it is, leave it be. Ask an adult.

10.) Oh! I’m not sure why there aren’t any cicadas in our yard this year, they go in cycles.

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Think Cicadas are bad? You should see the 3 inch long wasps that prey on them.

 

Explaining nature to kids is a fun thing to do. Yes, bugs can be creepy, slimy, icky, and yeah…nasty. But they open up a child’s mind to a bigger world. They learn that this planet is pretty big and we humans share it with a host of other critters. Some are nice, like our pet cats and dog. Others like bees and wasps have to be given their distance. Respect them and they will respect you. Except Honey Badgers, they don’t respect anything. Please note, Honey Badgers are not indigenous to the Americas, Europe or Australia. Be thankful for that. My sincerest best wishes never to meet one for the rest of the world.

The trick of course is cute does not equal safe. Black Bears are very cute looking. But they are still a bear. Many people get tricked by that every year. YouTube is full of videos that show what happens when you assume cute is safe.

Look but don’t touch has been my motto over the years with my kids. Some critters are okay, as in having a butterfly or moth land on you. Yet others, such as Tussock moth caterpillar, are not to be touched. Kids are of course curious, so their hands work faster than their little brains sometimes. Yet as I help them explore nature ( often with the help of google) I hope they learn to appreciate it more. And eventually, pass this knowledge onto their children in time.

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As cool as this Tussock Moth Caterpillar looks, it gives you a nasty sting if you touch one. Think of him as a fuzzy bee.

 

Through the Prism of my Yard.

Or why you should teach your children not to believe in ‘races’.

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Photos by KidZond

[Authors Note: Besides blogging I have the infamous Day Job. I work at a manufacturing plant. My job is the Yard Truck Driver, in short, I move Semi-trailers in and out of docks and assist the truck drivers who come to our plant for pick ups and deliveries.]

I have a rule at my job. When you come into my yard you leave behind what you think you are. You leave behind your gender, your ethnicity, your political views, your religious beliefs and your race. Every truck driver that comes into my yard is classified as a Driver. I have done this at my job for the 11 years I have been there.

I would like to tell you that I do this for a higher moral purpose. That I am devoid of jaded opinions. That unlike the other 7 billion people on this planet, I alone, have the moral high ground cornered.

I don’t. Not even close. Yet I do know that in order for my yard to function, I have to minimize any conflicts that may arise. So ever driver that comes into my yard is just that, a driver. I’ve had to let that be known on more than one occasion. Neutrality is the key to keeping my yard running smoothly.

I would like to think I carry this attitude off work. I try, but I fall victim to my own prejudices now and again. That isn’t totally a flaw in my character, but a flaw in my humanity. Let me give you an example.

For a while there has been a cute meme circulating on Facebook. It shows a black toddler in middle-eastern dress, putting her hand on a white toddler in european dress, cheek. The meme extolled the virtues of children. Children who do not look at each other as being of races, that race is a concept beyond their ken. It’s a flipping cute meme! You’re going to have a hard time not liking the meme and most people absolutely accept it as truth.

But it’s not the exact truth. The truth is that these kids are two toddlers and recognize that fact. Kids, especially very little ones, look at each other as kindred spirits in a world full of giants. If someone were to put a toy between these two, all hell would break out in less than 30 seconds. Simply because they are kids, nothing to do with pigment.

Even as children grow up they keep this ‘kids against the adults’ mentality. Of course there will be a point when children notice differences in others and will form their own opinions. Obviously how they are raised, how their parents, grandparents, and every other elder in their life feel about other people, who are different, in one way or another, has an important impact.

Back to the meme. No, kids are not born racist. Yet they are born to discriminate. And believe me, there is a huge difference there. People discriminate all the time as adults. It doesn’t mean you are a racist.

You have friends? most likely a majority of your friends have common interests with you. You probably don’t agree with your friends views 100%, but you do agree on a good chunk of it. It may be you two have a history dating back to grade school, or you met in the military and clicked. You have commonalities that bonded you together at one time and have kept you together. They are your friend and others are not because you discriminate against the others. Not in a bad way, you choose to be with those that are like you. This is a very human quality, and not on its own, a bad one.

“The last race died out 40,000 years ago.”

My eldest daughter asked me an interesting question one day. How many races are there? I told her one. She gave me a serious wtf look and I had to give a quick explanation.

One Race, the Human Race. Specifically Homo Sapiens. The other race died out about 40,000 years ago. The Neanderthals.

Of course she asked about people who looked different from her and I. If you haven’t been asked this question yet by your child, it will come. Mine was in her late teens when this topic came up for some reason. Yet scoff all you want about there only being one race, take a moment to consider the alternative. Just how many are there?

Okay, So we have Asian, Black, White, I guess Brown, but what is brown? Hispanic? That’s not really a race. Hispanic is a broad term for people whose ancestors were once under the control of Spain. Yet Filipinos were also under spanish control at one time and we consider them Asian. Geography, go figure. Indians, is that a Brown race? So does that mean that people who live in Nepal and those from Karachi Pakistan are the same? Why are they Brown and people from Africa, and their descendants, are called Black? And, for the love God! What about indigenous people’s? Inuits and Aborigines? All they One race or Two?

Gets pretty maddening doesn’t it? Humans are a spectrum of diverse colors and physical characteristics. Yet we are still, all of us, human. That much we have in common. Our diversity has kept our species on this planet for the last 150,000 years. Unlike the other race, the Neanderthals, we made it.

Back to the prism of my yard. There has been many days over the years I have watched truck drivers struggle to put their empty trailer in our drop lot. They will be cranking their wheel, jacking their trailer in the oddest of positions so they can put their trailer next to one that looks just like theirs. It’s not just a driver trying to put his trailer next to another trailer from his company, but types of trailers next to the same type. All the while there will be plenty of empty space for the driver to drop and go. Yet people discriminate, they find commonalities and have a desire to conform. They put those trailers next to each other because it just, well … it looks right.

The elephant in the room on races is that people, to this day, consider it a big deal. People will hate, cheat, deride those whom they feel are different from themselves. Races may not exist as we’ve been taught, yet racism is real. It exists.

So in my yard, I have banished it. I judge people on their ability to do their job, whether they are nice or an asshole. Little things like the color of their skin do not factor into my opinions. I don’t have time for that. Neither do they.

As for my children, I have always taught them that there is only one race. That humanity is diverse, and that is a good thing. That 7 billion humans are individuals, sometimes conformity gets the better of them, but they are still individuals. That looking at the differences between people and judging them for those differences is like looking through a prism. Your view will be distorted.

Yet, if you hold that same prism away from you and let the sunlight shine through it, you will be rewarded with a rainbow of colors. Amazing isn’t it? That one prism can hold so many different colors.