What Do You Tell Your Children?

I hope you tell your children, or nieces or nephew or grandchildren, stories about their family that came before them. Leslie Lang, Writer, Memoir, Biography, Hawaii

Research shows how important it is for children to hear those stories, and how much better they do if they know them. I love talking about my childhood and my parents and grandparents and beyond, and tell stories about those times whenever an opportunity suggests itself. It connects the generations that didn’t know each other, somehow, and is very satisfying for me, too!

Children Benefit if They Know About Their Relatives, Study Finds

From Journal of Family Life

Children who know stories about relatives who came before them show higher levels of emotional well-being, according to Emory University researchers who analyzed dinner time conversations and other measures of how well families work.

The research, by Emory psychologists Robyn Fivush and Marshall Duke, and former Emory graduate student Jennifer Bohanek, was recently published in Emory’s online Journal of Family Life.

“Family stories provide a sense of identity through time, and help children understand who they are in the world,” the researchers said in the paper “Do You Know? The power of family history in adolescent identity and well-being“.

Read the rest here

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Ciao Bambino!

I was asked to guest blog at the very cool Ciao Bambino, and my post is up now. The blog’s tagline is “Inspiring Families to Explore The World.”

Ciao Bambino has helped hundreds of families successfully experience the joys of traveling together in Europe and now our portfolio covers Hawaii, the Caribbean, and other popular tourist destinations. We don’t believe parents need to give up staying somewhere amazing just because they want to travel as a family!

That is one neat blog. It’s about traveling with kids, something I love and always look forward to doing more of — traveling with my kid, that is. It’s accessible, dream-inspiring, informative and sophisticated all at the same time. I am so impressed with that blog.

Ciao Bambino

My article is about being on “The Big Island of Hawaii with Kids” and it was fun to write. Have a look.

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The Little Travelers

My young daughter likes to learn. She will tell you that. “I want to know about everything,” she says, “because I’m curious.”

When she was 3, I happened to read the book Lonesome Dove for the first time. What a wonderful book, and I loved it from that first great sentence. One day I clasped the book to my heart and told her, with feeling, “I am enjoying this book so much. I can’t wait until you are older so you can read it and enjoy it too.”

She listened with every pore and then smiled and told me, with great sincerity, “I will.” She meant it, and I believed her.

It is so satisfying, this business of having a child who loves to learn and experience, because there are so many things I want to share with her and she is all ears.

travelers-copyOne thing I want is for her to travel and see a bit of the world. So I was thrilled a couple years ago when I stumbled upon The Little Travelers, a series of DVDs by a southern California woman talented in video production who homeschools her two little girls and travels extensively with them.

The Little Travelers Production company was founded by Angelina Hart. The goal of the production company is to present the world to children in a format that they can easily receive. Through a variety of media we offer a travel documentary series designed specifically for children, yet interesting and appropriate for all ages.

Through the methods of basic field observation, rather than a scripted production, a rich and authentic experience is portrayed of each culture. The children portrayed in the series are not actors. We feel that by having children speak in a way that children naturally speak adds to the charm and authenticity of the childhood experience.

We offer a multicultural experience for those interested in travel and learning about other cultures and foreign countries. We hope to inspire all who come in contact with our products to have adventures of their own, whether in a foreign country or their own backyard. Happy traveling!

My mom got two of the DVDs for my daughter for Christmas that year when she was 3: The Little Travelers – Japan, and The Little Travelers – The British Isles.

We have watched them over and over and over. They are wonderful.

In each location, the mom and two kids rent a home and stay for several weeks. The unscripted, documentary-style movies explore, for instance, a Japanese home, and show what they eat there and what the bathrooms look like. The girls visit temples and play in cherry blossoms.

The two girls, who are perhaps 3 and 6? in the first movie, meet and play with local kids, even when they don’t speak the same language. They are not observers, but are participants.

In The British Isles, we watch as they go on a caravan adventure.

These movies show kids (and their parents) what it’s like to travel and live in another country. What it looks like there, how people live and what their history and legends are. In the Japan movie, they go to a school and the movie shows seven or eight kids teaching how to pronounce the same simple words, and laughing.

These are wonderful DVDs. When we traveled ourselves with one of the movies, and somehow lost the disk, it caused a bit of a crisis and we had to order it again.

Since then, The Little Travelers have taken other trips and now there are two more DVDs. I subscribe to their blog‘s feed, so I hear about the trips in progress and know when a new DVD is available. We have those now, too (Bali, and Iran).

Angelina Hart actually took her two young girls into Iran, and we got to see what the people are like there. I would never go into Iran in these times, but I’m thrilled to have gotten to see it through The Little Travelers’ eyes — and for it to be my daughter’s first look at Iran, too.

It was a movie not about politics, which is all that most of us know of Iran, but about the people and culture.

She and I look at these places on the globe, and when she hears one of them mentioned, she recognizes it.

“Indonesia?!” she’ll say. And I know she’s got pictures in her mind of The Little Travelers learning to throw clay on a pottery wheel there, and children in their traditional dress, dancing, as well as water buffalos walking through rice paddies.

Here is an interview with Angelina Hart, the girls’ mother and producer of the DVDs.

Watch video trailers of The Little Traveler DVDs here.

I highly recommend this series of DVDs, which is appropriate for the youngest kids and has been thoroughly enjoyed by every adult who has seen them with us, too. They make great gifts, too.

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Princesses, Frogs, Etc.

Yesterday afternoon my mom and I took my little girl to see the new Disney movie “The Princess and the Frog.”

I am not generally a big fan of animated movies, but it was surprisingly enjoyable. Here’s what Roger Ebert said about it:

princess-and-the-frogChicago Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert, giving the film three out of four stars, highly praised the film admiring Disney’s step back to traditional animation saying, “This is what classic animation once was like!” and, in his print review wrote, “No 3-D! No glasses! No extra ticket charge! No frantic frenzies of meaningless action! And…good gravy! A story! Characters! A plot!”

It’s set in New Orleans and there is lots of really good jazz music. It is a nice story with a rather involved storyline, and one moral of the story is that it’s not enough to wish upon a star, you also have to work hard to get what you want. Yes, that sounds about right.

Also, it has a recurring joke that amused me. When the Prince is a frog, someone refers to him being covered in slime and he says, “It’s not slime! It’s mucous!” I’m sorry, but that is funny. Or is that just me?

Sweet story. I haven’t liked new Disney movies for awhile — I like the older ones — but with this one they returned to Disney’s traditional ways, and I recommend this movie. My daughter wants to go see it again.

From Wikipedia:

The film returns to the Broadway-style musical in the style of the successful Disney films like Walt’s classics, and the musical renaissance of the late-1980s and all of the 1990s.[13]…

While the Goofy short How to Hook Up Your Home Theater experimented with paperless animation, the artists on The Princess and the Frog used traditional pencil and paper that is scanned into the computers….

The former trend in Disney’s hand-drawn features where the characters were influenced by a CGI-look has been abandoned. Andreas Deja, a veteran Disney animator who supervised the character of Mama Odie in Princess and the Frog, says “I always thought that maybe we should distinguish ourselves to go back to what 2D is good at, which is focusing on what the line can do rather than volume, which is a CG kind of thing. So we are doing less extravagant Treasure Planet kind of treatments. You have to create a world but [we’re doing it more simply]. What we’re trying to do with Princess and the Frog is hook up with things that the old guys did earlier. It’s not going to be graphic…”.[15] He also mentions that Lasseter is aiming for the Disney sculptural and dimensional look of the 1950s. “He quoted all those things that were non graphic, which means go easy on the straight lines and have one volume flow into the other — an organic feel to the drawing.”[15]
So, to review: I am heartened to see a good Disney animated movie again. We enjoyed it. There is hope in the world.
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Caldecott Books

ox-cart-man1I am a reader. According to my grandmother, when I was young I would set my alarm clock for 30 minutes earlier than I needed to get up for school, just so I could read. I don’t remember that, and as I am also a sleeper I can hardly believe it (though I do).

I do remember that I would stand on my bed at night and rest my book on the windowsill, where I could read by the light of the moon.

Recently, through Facebook, I heard from a person I went all through elementary and high school with. He told me that he has a daughter now who is a voracious reader. He told me that growing up he’d never seen anyone who read so much and enjoyed books as much as I did, and now he sees the same thing in his own daughter. He told me that sometimes when he looks at her he is reminded of me.

I, too, have a child who loves books now, and it is a wonderful thing.

The kindergarteners at her school are doing a “Caldecott Challenge.” That’s where she and the other students have to read at least 10 Caldecott Medal books, and then they get to participate in a special something-or-other at the school’s library.

The Caldecott Medal is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children published that year. It was named in honor of nineteenth-century English illustrator Randolph Caldecott. Together with the Newbery Medal, it is the most prestigious American children’s book award.

The school library has a bookshelf filled only with books that won the Caldecott Medal, and everyday we have been bringing one or two of those books home and reading them before bed.

What wonderful books. The librarian said something to me about how they do this Caldecott Challenge to introduce kids to other literature, so they aren’t only reading Arthur and Fancy Nancy.

I don’t mind Arthur or Fancy Nancy, but I am charmed to my toes reading most of these award-winning books with the beautiful illustrations. As is my daughter. We look at each picture, and discuss them, and talk about the story. We are really enjoying them together.

Here is a list of all the Caldecott winners (one per year). Really consider picking up some of these books for the children on your Christmas list, or buying from this list for birthdays. These beautiful children’s books are enriching our lives.

Some that we have read and enjoyed recently include:

  • Abraham Lincoln
  • The Little House
  • The Little Island
  • A Tree Is Nice
  • Chanticleer and the Fox
  • May I Bring a Friend?
  • Noah’s Ark
  • Ox-Cart Man
  • The Polar Express
  • Lon Po Po
  • Grandfather’s Journey
  • Officer Buckle and Gloria
  • Rapunzel
  • Flotsam

We both especially liked (if we have to narrow it down) Ox-Cart Man and Flotsam. That was hard to narrow down, and really I’d like to add most of the other books to that list, too.

I know this assignment is for my daughter, but I truly feel like it’s for me, too, because I am enjoying the books so much. It’s like getting to be a kid all over again.

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Four Mile Drive Into The Past

Local excursion #2 of our Summer of Exploration was a slow, winding drive down the four mile, scenic route that diverts from the highway and runs along the coast, more or less, between Pāpa‘ikou and Pepe‘ekeo.

This used to be the main road, I told my little girl. This is the way people used to go to get to Hilo town a long time ago, I said, and we talked about how the road is smaller and much more winding, and how they must have driven much slower than we do now.

I told her that what’s now Highway 19 used to be railroad tracks, where trains ran up and down the Hāmākua coast carrying sugar from the sugar mills to the harbor, where the big sacks of sugar were put onto ships and sent to the mainland. “To California!” she piped up. Yes.

And also people rode on the train, I told her, and we talked about how there were railroad stations up and down the coast where you got on and off the train. I told her that when my grandmother, “Tutu,” was her age, she used to take the train to go to town with her mother. We both thought about what a different time that was.

onomea1

At least to my eyes, it is still a bit of a slower, older time along that four mile drive. I like it. It is quiet there — and while certainly there are probably people along that route living busy, 21st century lives, you don’t see much of that from the road. Mostly you see families living in houses where there families lived for a long time before them, eating fruit from the same trees their grandmothers picked to make jam, playing in the streams.

“Papa’s grandparents were married in that church,” I tell my daughter every time we pass the little church near the Pāpa‘ikou end of the scenic route. Once when we visited new friends near there, we learned that the woman was the priest’s daughter. She recognized my husband’s name and showed us his grandparents’ names in the book her father had kept his records in.

I donʻt know why I feel compelled to tell that to my little girl every time we pass, but I find that I do. Someday, when she looks at that church, she will think about that. Maybe she already does. It will be one more place she has a small connection to, and two people who came before her might feel a little bit more real.

Even aside from its wonderful history, the marked “heritage route” is a beautiful drive. Luxuriant jungle, bridges over streams and rivers, waterfalls right alongside the road…

I told my daughter about the Onomea Arch — a rock formation over Onomea Bay that you used to see from the road, until one day when it fell and was no more. Some artists painting it nearby saw it go.

Lots of things are gone now. But while we live and enjoy our lives here in the present, with what’s here right now, we will remember some of them and take them with us into the future.

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Disneyland

Every Spring my three girlfriends and I meet in southern California with our seven little kids and take them all to Disneyland.

Dumbo ride at Disneyland

That’s where my daughter and I are right now. We spent Wednesday at Disneyland, and then on Thursday we all trooped off, drove the two cars onto a small, 3-car ferry to Balboa Island, and spent an afternoon on the beach. Then back to Disney on Friday, where we spent the day at the newer Disney attraction, California Adventure, which is built on the site of Disneyland’s former parking lot.

In between all that, we all stayed at my friend’s house in Garden Grove. She lives, literally, a block away from Disneyland. It’s awfully handy.

Not only does she invite the 11 of us to stay, and feed us, but she also has fancy “water features” in her back yard to rival the finest resort. Two connected, rock-lined jacuzzis, complete with waterfalls and lights that change colors — and on our last morning, her husband filled them with bubbles and delighted the kids. Right before he started a fire in the nearby fire pit and roasted everybody some marshmallows. At noon.

I sat back one day while we were there, watching them and thinking about how they are building childhood memories.

When they are older, they are going to say, “When we were kids we would meet our friends and go to Disneyland every year. And we would go to Auntie Jodie’s and Uncle Fred’s and swim in their jacuzzis and write on their bricks with fat sidewalk chalk and eat pizza.”

I thought of that because at one point we adults all talked about what we used to do like that when we ourselves were kids. Those memorable vacations our parents took us on. The places we went back to again and again — like Disneyland, and the beach. The adults who always had coloring books and sand buckets and shovels for us.

Here are the Disneyland highlights: My daughter’s first roller coaster ride. It was the kid roller coaster in Toon Town, and she loved it beyond words. At California Adventure, which I’d never been to before, we went on the big Mickey Mouse ferris wheel and sat in one of the cars that swings around wildly on a curved track as the ferris wheel turns. We both loved that.

California Adventure also has “Soarin’ Over California,” which is about the coolest thing I’ve ever seen. They seat you in these fancy seats, and then lift the rows of seats up into the air so everyone is dangling before a huuuuge screen. Then the IMAX-like camera swoops through the air above different parts of California, and when you soar above the tops of pine trees, you actually smell pine, and when you swoop through the orange trees, you smell orange. You soar down to the ocean at one point and I was hoping they would even mist our toes, but no.

I really loved that attraction and would have gone back to see it a second time that same day if I weren’t being a part of a traveling freak show at the time (it’s a little chaotic to take seven young kids to Disneyland. To say the least).

We’re staying with my mom now and getting in family visits, too, and last night we ate in an English pub for my mom’s birthday and had delicious food. Not a lot of English pubs where I live on the Big Island! I had bangers and mash and loved every bite.

We have eaten so much good food. Visiting family and friends always ends up about celebrating being together with food, doesn’t it, and that’s part of the fun about being on vacation. This morning we went out for a great breakfast and I had country biscuits and sausage and gravy, with fried potatoes. Delicious, but it’s definitely time to lighten up a bit on the food. If I ate like this all the time it would be a problem.

It’s been a fun, rejuvenating respite from a very busy life. Tomorrow we head home again, and get back to our real world. We will definitely re-enter our world of early alarm clocks and short deadlines and other realities with a new spring in our step.

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Hilo Vog

Edited on 4/21/09 to add: And an earthquake, too! My visiting friend is having the full Big Island experience.

From the USGS: A light earthquake occurred at 4:58:09 PM (HST) on Tuesday, April 21, 2009 . The magnitude 4.2 event occurred 7 km (4 miles) NNE of Ka`ena Point.

I have a dear friend visiting from the mainland, and today there is big time vog here in Hilo. It look as if you might have to push through the voggy air with your hands in order to walk.

I feel terrible when a friend is visiting our lovely, usually sparkly town and Hilo puts on her all-time ugliest dress.

VogVolcanic fog. It’s stuff that can make your eyes burn and that you can taste in your throat. It can be a huge problem for people with asthma or other respiratory problems. I have a cold right now and I feel the vog in my lungs; fortunately, this will pass.

Thank goodness it is not usually like this.

Hilo is truly one of the prettiest cities I’ve ever seen. It rains a lot and then it sparkles, and is blue and green in all the right places. The water shimmers. And the gentle tradewinds generally whisk away all the bad stuff, leaving us with air that is crystal clear.

It sounded so defensive today when I muttered that it isn’t usually like this. “It really isn’t.” (Defensive.)

What’s a person to do? We went for a long walk in Lili‘uokalani Park anyway, and pretended we could see clear to the other side.

The trades will come back and the air will clear, and soon everything will be all right again. Tomorrow is another day.

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