The Big, Yellow School Bus: A Cautionary Tale

  • Fact: Approximately 480,000 school buses transport children to and from school (and activities, field trips, etc.) daily.
  • Fact: 25 million children — over half of America’s school children — ride a school bus daily.
  • Fact: An average of 6 school children are fatally injured inside school buses annually.
  • Fact: About 16 children are fatally injured in the loading and unloading zone around school buses annually.
  • Fact: The average heart rate of a woman after witnessing the near striking of her child by a school bus is 890,349,834,983,948,938,498.

Okay, so I made up that last one.

This is how the story goes:

Yesterday morning Mia ran out the front door, down our driveway and across the street to wait for the school bus, just like every morning. I stood in the doorway to watch, just like every morning. As the bus approached, I waved and told Mia I love her,

           just. like. every. morning.

Yesterday was warm, springlike and misty. The bus driver had his window open. He pulled up to our stop and heard me telling Mia I love her. No, he didn’t hear that, but he heard me say something.

“What?” he yelled.
“Oh, nothing,” I yelled back. “I was just telling her goodbye.”
“Oh, okay,” he said, and started to pull away.

Mia had just crossed the street. There was no way she could have been on the bus at that point, but I couldn’t see her as that mammoth yellow vehicle was blocking my view. A million thoughts ran through my head as I yelled for him to stop. Where was she? Surely she’s not trying to get his attention, to go after it. Surely she knows to back up onto the sidewalk and stay put.

How could he not see her? She was wearing a bright green raincoat and sparkly shoes. Not to mention she’s made of rainbows and moonbeams and stardust. The girl practically glows. HOW COULD HE NOT SEE HER?

He heard me screaming and stopped. “I’m so sorry!” he yelled, shaking his head. “I didn’t see her.” Apparently, what he got from our brief exchange was that Mia wasn’t going to be on the bus this particular morning.

Under the belly of the bus, Mia’s legs, clad in faded jeans and those sparkly shoes, ran the length of the school bus to climb aboard. The doors hissed shut. I saw her silhouette through the windows as the bus driver pulled away once again. It was only after the bus had gone that the reality of what just happened, what could have happened, suckerpunched me in the gut.

Last night Mia and I had a heart-to-heart at bedtime. We went over all the safety precautions of crossing the street and getting on and off the bus and riding the bus. She told me that she had, in fact, tried to get the driver’s attention as she skipped alongside the bus. I explained why this wasn’t a good idea and what to do instead.

She yawned and asked, “You just want me to stand there and yell, Hey! You forgot about me?”

“Yes, I do,” I said. “Well, I want you to stay put on the sidewalk until the bus comes to a complete stop and then you can get on. But if Mr. Carl doesn’t see you and starts to drive away, then yes, I want you to stay where you are. The yelling is optional.”

“Mommy?”
“Hmm?”

But there was no more. She had already closed her eyes, so I tiptoed out of her room and closed the door, trailing bits of moonbeam and stardust behind me.

 

Milk + Bookies: Read, Give, Grow! (Teaching Kids to Give Back)

Milk + Bookies

I recently discovered this charitable organization called Milk + Bookies, an accessible and FUN way to teach younger children the importance of giving back. Milk + Bookies’ mission is to get books into the hands of kids who might not otherwise have access to them.

Milk + BookiesTM is a nationwide charitable organization that inspires children to give back, using books as its currency.

You want to know more, right?

 

If you’re interested in hosting a Milk + Bookies birthday party (yes, please!), go here. If you have a teen or college student looking to earn community service hours, M+B Class Projects is a pretty cool way to do so.

I don’t know about you, but teaching Mia about the concept and importance of giving back has been a hard one for her to grasp. I think something as interactive as Milk + Bookies might just be the thing to ignite that spark. Also, the cookies. She’ll choose a chocolate chip cookie over anything, even birthday cake.

Happy (Random) Friday

We woke up to a thin blanket of snow this morning, just enough to cover the ground. Mia was thrilled. There’s something enchanting about snow falling in the half-light of sunrise. Apparently I was so enchanted that I forgot to make Mia’s lunch for school. She picked up her backpack as she was hurrying out the door and said, “Wow, this is really light. Is my lunch in here?” Oops.

I’ve been in a creative mood today, or more accurately, I’ve been thinking about the creative process. (*Thinking is the key word here. The most creative thing I’ve actually accomplished today is magically removing blueberry stains from shirts of the two messiest toddlers ever in existence.) In this vein, there are a few things I want to share with you in this random post.

The first is this Kurt Vonnegut quote because I love Kurt Vonnegut and also because it’s a coping mechanism that I want to instill in my children, that creating something, or immersing themselves in the creative process, can make life’s tougher obstacles more bearable. The best way to learn is by doing, and when you create something you almost always learn something new about yourself.

“Go into the arts. I’m not kidding. The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an an enormous reward. You will have created something.”
– Kurt Vonnegut

Next on the list is this Doris Day song, I Got the Sun in the Morning. Perhaps you’ve heard of it? I used to play it for Mia when she was little (littler) and we would rock out (as much as one can rock out to Doris Day). At some point along the way, we stopped listening to it. Not sure what it has to do with the creative process, but I randomly remembered it yesterday and haven’t been able to get it out of my head since.

 

And finally, this video by the creative genius, Oliver Jeffers. *I tried and tried to embed the video but it just would not work with me, so here’s the link. Watch it! It’s worth it.

Oliver Jeffers Author Video

Has your Friday been as random as mine? Cheers to the weekend!

Kiki & Coco in Paris (a book review)

Kiki & Coco in Paris

I love the art of photography, and once upon a time (in high school) I was on my way to being a decent photographer. I could tell you all about f-stop and aperture and depth of field, but I dropped the camera in college and didn’t really pick it up again until Mia was born. Now I mostly use the automatic setting on my digital camera. One of these days I plan to take advantage of this great little art center down the street and reclaim my photo mojo.

Anyhoo, when I first read about Kiki and Coco in Paris, it was Stephanie Rausser’s gorgeous photographs along with her subject matter — her own daughter who’s close to Mia’s age — that lured me in. I ordered it sight unseen as a Christmas gift for Mia, and as soon as the discarded wrapping paper had been cleared away and the awe of Santa’s presence in our home dissipated, Mia asked to read this book. (Actually, she asked me to paint her nails with the nail polish Santa left in her stocking, and then she asked to read this book as they dried.)

Kiki is a girl and Coco is her beloved doll. Together, they traipse around Paris, home of another little heroine called Madeline.

When Kiki holds Coco’s hand, Coco’s feet skim the floor like a ballerina. It’s as if they were made for each other.

Kiki & Coco

The story is told from Coco’s point of view, and while at first the narrative presents itself as “a day in the life” kind of story rooted in the relationship between girl and doll, a story arc emerges when Kiki forgets to grab Coco from a chair as she leaves a bustling café.

“Coco waits. Surely her girl will dash back in for her.”

I knew Mia enjoyed peeking in on Kiki as she explored the City of Light, but the heartfelt reunion between Kiki and Coco via an unsuspecting hero is what I believe took this story to the next level for Mia.

“The pitter-patter of little feet, and Kiki is above her. She scoops Coco up off the cold ground and whispers promises that she will never ever forget her again.”

But I think Mia’s favorite part might actually be the end page when she recites,

 Je t’aime, Coco,
Je t’aime Kiki,
Je t’aime Mia

Kiki-and-Coco-VI-300x192

Rausser captures Paris through her lens from the vantage point of a child. I later discovered that the photography was staged for the storyline, which made sense when I looked back through the book, but nothing feels forced or contrived in this collaboration between Rausser, author Nina Gruener and doll maker Jess Brown.

320951_249864108385155_1807330600_n
I admit, there is nothing new to discover in Kiki & Coco in Paris, nothing that hasn’t been done before. The plot is traditional and straightforward, the climax quiet, but I think this was intentional. After all, it is Rausser’s stunning photography that really tells the story. A story that is elegant in both its setting and simplicity, something moms who will be asked to read this book time and time again can appreciate.

Kiki & Coco

 

This is 34

The day after my birthday Zach and I went to a movie. We went to a matinée in order to be home in time for dinner and bedtime routines. When we walked out of the theater the sun was bright, the sky blue, and I couldn’t remember the last time we had gone to a matinée, or a movie at all. We stopped for a drink, a happy hour drink before Happy Hour because I’m 34 and three kids were waiting for us to come home.

At 34, I am basically who I wanted to be, save for an authored book or two. Sometimes I give myself a hard time for not accomplishing this feat as of yet. Sometimes I feel guilty for wanting to be at my computer dreaming up worlds rather than playing Barbies or wiping snot off noses in my own world. Sometimes I curse the hours in the day and wonder why can’t there be more. (And I’m not just speaking of hours here.) Sometimes the grass looks mighty green and manicured somewhere else over yonder. Sometimes I catch myself wondering at the luck and good fortune of others.

At 34, I still have freckles. The same freckles I’ve always had. I considered them endearing at 16, but now they mingle with the wrinkles beginning to surface and the overall effect is that my skin is having an identity crisis. The other day I plucked two gray strands of hair from my scalp. My ankles crack when I walk down the stairs. I have my mother’s knuckles.

At 34, I have a nearly-6-year-old daughter who is funny and inspiring and doesn’t like birthday cake which makes me question whether she’s really mine at all. I have 19-month-old twin boys which still blows my mind. I never wanted twins, much less twin boys. If you had asked me at 30 where I would be at 34, twins would have had no place in my plans. Yet here they are, and amen for that.

At 34, I still focus too much energy on where I want to go and how I’m going to get there rather than where I am now, in this moment. I spend too much time doing dishes and laundry and not enough time jumping in puddles and creating with glitter and dancing in the living room. I text while I make breakfast, I check my email while Mia practices reading. I have forgotten doctor appointments twice lately. I feel like I am everywhere, extending myself in every direction, and yet not really present anywhere.

Zach asked me if I feel 34. How is 34 supposed to feel? I asked. Truthfully, I look back at pictures from college and in my 20s, and that’s how I feel, minus the hangover (most of the time). Sometimes I wake up and wonder how I got here, a life with a husband and three kids; a mortgage and bills to pay. When did it all happen?

Mia and me

At 34, I end my day by tucking in a princess and two little super heroes. I stumble into my own bed with an aching back, fatigued muscles, and a certain kind of love I have never, ever known. I close my eyes wondering at the luck and good fortune of it all, promising that tomorrow I will be more present, more mindful of now, less concerned with what’s coming next.

Hello, 34. Let’s do this.