For the BIG KIDS

Do you have a BIG kid? Or maybe you are a BIG kid yourself? Looking to keep your big kids occupied in ways that feel enriching beyond the screen?

They aren’t going to be tricked by the enthusiasm of a sheet of word problems. They won’t be enthused by your idea of fun. They are BIG. Give them the respect to solve real challenges in the REAL world.

Here are some examples.

CHALLENGE #1: BACK TO SCHOOL REALITY

School may have to have social distancing when they return. How will that work? You’re an expert on school. SOLVE THIS. Look at your old school schedule. Think about the spaces you have in school. What problems do you foresee? How can YOU solve them? 

CHALLENGE #2: I miss XXXXXX (insert ANYTHING here)

Got a BIG kid complaining non stop about all the things they are missing?! Well, challenge them to recreate them. But really recreate it. Have them think BIG. It’s not just the Pizza from a certain restaurant you miss, but what about the restaurant experience makes it a “restaurant” experience. Is there music? How are the tables arranged? Are there candles? What are the roles of people who work there? Make the menu! This is an entire day of building, creating and cooking. 

CHALLENGE #3: LET’S BREAK STUFF

Got an old computer or appliance that is broken? Let them take it apart and learn about its components and build with the parts to make art or a new invention. We just recently did this. Look HERE! Now that Benno has learned the major components of a computer, he will then build his own computer using Piper

CHALLENGE #4: COVID CHRONICLES

There are loads of interesting life stories happening right now. Even in your HOME. Have your big kid interview relatives across the globe and a family chronicle.

CHALLENGE #5: EDUCATION’S FUTURE

Now that you have experienced distant learning, what are parts you like? What are parts you don’t like? What would your DREAM school look like now? Are there classes you would like to take from home if any? What would your schedule look like in this new reality? Build it! Send it to your school even. They too are looking for answers. 

CHALLENGE #6: ENGINEERING 

Everyone is in the education business now, including YOU. The private sector is exploding with resources. Look what Dyson released here.  You also can repurpose all of those Amazon packages as cardboard is a needed for most challenges.

CHALLENGE #7: REDESIGN THE HOUSE

Is your big kid staring at the walls and complaining about them? Give them the challenge of building their dream room. This will require them to measure all the walls in their room. Remind them about doors (they will need to open in their designs!). Then give them a website like Wayfair and go to town. They will need to look up dimensions etc then draw the furniture into their floor plan. Have them add up the costs for some math work! Hey maybe they have some good ideas.

CHALLENGE #8: PHOTOGRAPHY

Have a brooding kid? Is this kid especially dark right now? Take that out on film. There are LOADS of challenges. Here is a 30 day one. Or maybe stop-animation will excite a budding director,

Hope this is helpful!

Abby

Cancer is next

While the world’s attention has been hijacked, mine hasn’t. I continue to read, think, about cancer. If anything my speed is increasing. There are some promising things happening in the medical community. Things that prior to COVID seemed absolute, but right before my eyes the ground is shaking. 

Its a revolution! A medical revolution!

Maybe I’m too optimistic, but I believe this virus is paving the way for a new tomorrow in medicine. The medical community will not return to “again.” They will build BETTER.

For the first time, walls are being brought down in the medical community. Academia, the private sector, and doctors are working together. Previously they each eyed each other with suspicion. Each having their own way of doing things and each accusing the other of not having the “whole picture,” because each of their own biases did not allow any perfect vision. But here we are. It’s 20/20.

We have the world coming together with east and west medical models working together. We also have people talking about the environment for the first time, which plays a HUGE role in cancer. Carcinogens we know are real. Polluting our air, water, and food has huge consequences (cancer being one) and people are waking up to this reality as they pause and reunite with nature.

And I believe we will walk out changed. Or at least the medical community and public interest in medicine will. 

I think the discovery of a vaccine for COVID-19 will just be the beginning of cures and cancer will be next.  Cancer takes 10,000,000 lives a year. Cancer also strikes with no warning like COVID and costs the economy TONS. 895 Billion a year cancer costs the world. Yes. 895 Billion. And we have been paying that bill for decades! 

So I’m taking notes here. I’m watching you, world. I’m watching as you rewrite “protocols.” I’m watching dr.’s rethink the “known.” I’m watching the private sector fund novel ideas. And for the first time it seems that out of the box thinking is being rewarded rather than scoffed at. 

And I have the ultimate warrior to remind me that this fight can be won. This morning when I told Jacob we were going to the hospital. He asked if he will be getting 3f8 (immunotherapy). Ugh. Dreaded question and I was ready for things to start flying and shrieks, but I also couldn’t lie. “Yes” I said reluctantly.

His answer: “Alrighty.”

Well, wonders never cease. 

a·gain

/əˈɡen/

Again.

Again.

Again.

I have an issue with this word. It is becoming close to the level of my hatred for the infamous “E” word.  I’m adding “again” to the list of words that are severally misused and misunderstood. 

But yet this word is everywhere.  It is even chanted. I believe the word is being used to illicit solace and comfort.

From the context, I’ve heard “again” chanted, it is a cry to return to a time ago, to go backward in time, to a time prior. However, we rational people know that is NOT a thing. There is no Back to the Future time machine. How can you repeat something the same as before? Just the act of repeating makes it a new experience. 

And the bigger question- WHY WOULD YOU?

Maybe it’s us educators who truly understand the meaning of again. We do things again to do things BETTER. We do it to learn. We ask our learners to repeat not for the same result, but for a new result that is informed by the first. Musicians don’t preform a score over and over again to amuse themselves, they do it, to do it better. And not one attempt is the same as the first as you can’t erase all that you learned nor anticipate the possible mistakes of the now.

But yet masses are crying for AGAIN. And this cry is harmful. Not only because it is set up for failure, but because it is dismissing a KEY moment of learning that is essential for progress. A chance to reevaluate. For years I’ve followed blogs, think tanks, etc on the “future of learning” and the “future of the workforce” (as they are inherently linked) and the ideas are there, but that is where it ends, ideas. Understandably, execution is hard, how do you prepare for a new tomorrow when you still have to deal with demands today. How can you build tomorrow when the now never stops?

But what if everything stopped?! What if you were demanded to pause.

Oh wait…

that has happened.

Every person whom I’ve spoken to during this pandemic talks about so many issues they discovered in their professional fields. The pandemic jumping on any weakness it can, not just in our bodies, but also our systems. Some are big like in healthcare where they realized that they may need special wings for emergencies. Or small, like schools that are learning that they haven’t updated their LMS software in 20 years. Just felt too BIG to conquer. Moving all the teachers to a new modern system. Too hard. We are too “busy” to address these issues, but the NOW shows this procrastination is more harmful.

Like my new favorite person, Andrew Cuomo, has put so well…there is only doing BETTER. After Hurricane Sandy the Jersey shore didn’t build it “again.” No, they built something BETTER. 

So let’s open up the world again, but understand that it will never be the “again” being chanted and to attempt that is not only foolish, but dangerous. A dangerous misstep. No lesson learned. And the true meaning of AGAIN is to learn.

SO let’s do it AGAIN with the knowledge of the past for a different outcome.

The rope

The rope doesn’t seem to have an end.

Just when you think you are at the end of it…nope more. Just when you think you can’t take anymore, more to be taken.

So much rope. So much rope. Enough to hang yourself with. Maybe that its purpose

I am definitely on my last nerve as I hang on the not end of the rope. With the virus, Jacob has not been able to receive his hearing aids so he screams all day long and today was no exception, but I needed that exception. I really did. This week is a treatment week. This week we have to again separate our family to keep everyone safe. Steve, Jacob and I in the city. Benno with his grandparents on Long Island. This week is our first time entering the hospital post lockdown (prior was a radiation center). To say I am nervous to take my son to a place of immune-suppressed people is an understatement.

But to begin his treatment week he needed the coveted COVID test first. The test is a nasal swab. Shots no problems with Jacob as he gets them daily, but a nasal swab, which is rarer, is now his worse nightmare. It took three nurses and myself to hold him down as he screamed at deafening decibels. To then be released for his final finale- Jacob trashing the room. Taking the limited medical supplies and throwing them to the ground. Wiping entire counters free of their belongings. And of course, SCREAMING. 

“Why does Benno not get this? Why does he not have to come to the city? WHY? WHY? WHY?” Screams. And I now do this alone. Only one adult allowed up during the pandemic. So when Jacob says he won’t move another inch, in my mask, gloves, and all the bags that have the food and entertainment I need to last hours with a six year old in a hospital, I now have to carry him as he SCREAMS in my ear.

I would say I’m at the end of my rope, but I sadly know there is way more rope to be had. A whole week of immunotherapy. A whole week of watching Jacob writhe in pain, followed by nights of fever that will feel that much scarier in this pandemic.

So I beg, whoever holds the reigns on this rope, could you just throw the whole thing down at once? That would be appreciated. I would accept the challenge of an entire lot of rope rather than the slow feed. 

We had a date…but we need you NOW

You may not recall but we had a date. 

MAY 20th. 

We were going to pop bottles! We were going to celebrate! We were definitely planning on touching as hugs were to be had. Jacob was in remission! And we were going to celebrate with the BAND OF PARENTS,  the exact organization that funded the studies for the immunotherapy and multiple drugs that have saved our Jacob. And on this night, Nightwing would rise and help raise money to help fund another series of drug trials for as we know Neuroblastoma has no cure.

May 20th is off, but please still celebrate with us as us cancer parents need you MORE THAN EVER.

There are hundreds of families who right now are receiving the diagnosis of cancer. There are families during this pandemic that are coming out of 13-hour surgeries like Jacob had making their child especially immune-compromised and frail.

Can you imagine going through pandemic with a child with cancer?!  Think about that the ONE thing you may be clinging to right now is that this virus does not kill the young. What if you didn’t have that peace of mind.

Now…take it a step further…imagine doing this without a place to stay?! Worried about your next meal? 

MANY of cancer parents travel to New York for treatment. Sloan is the ONLY hospital with this formula of 3f8 (humanized). The only other hospital that has this drug is in Barcelona. Therefore, families travel from all over the world and they depend on the Ronald McDonald House to live. Without the house they could not afford nor have the support they need to survive this as often cancer parents have to split their families. One parent staying at home with siblings. Often cancer mom is alone and now alone in a foreign city in the middle of a pandemic.

And now cancer mom is homeless.

The Ronald McDonald house is CLOSED because of a COVID outbreak.

Honestly…no words. 

But here comes humanity…here comes the BAND OF PARENTS. The Band organized quickly to be there for our fellow cancer parents. 

At the Band of Parents, we are trying to do everything that we can to help the families through the crisis. Our efforts include:

  1. Housing: We are currently providing housing to families at the Residence Inn Midtown. We have secured an entire floor dedicated to pediatric patients and are subsidizing rooms so that families pay what they would if staying at the Ronald McDonald House.
  2. Telemedicine: We have provided medical equipment to families so that telemedicine appointments can be easier, more effective and stress-free.
  3. Transportation: Our board members and volunteers are providing transportation to and from distant appointments such as radiation. This enables patients to travel in a known vehicle, with a known driver, without needing to touch door handles. (If you are interested in volunteering, please email Priscilla).

So PLEASE still show up still for me, Jacob, Steve, Benno, and the Band by donating NOW. Donate HERE.

Or do it for this young warrior who is currently staying at a residence the Band of Parents found.

Dear Jackson

I write to you, but I also write to all the Jackson, Jacks, Julias, Juliettes out there. I write to you, the seniors, the class of 2020. The class with the coolest name, after, of course, the class of 1999 who had their own Prince theme song…just saying.

But putting coolness aside, your class was one we educators dreamed of. What would the class of 2020 bring? And what would you be offered in a new decade?

You had a unique experience from the start. You were offered loads of issues none of us adults would have imagined, in addition, to new worlds that we could not fathom. A high school experience like none before.

You were a class that walked out of classrooms demanding the end of school violence as you saw or heard accounts of your peers slaughtered in schools across the nation.

A class that lived through the admissions scandals that made you wake up at a young age to the reality that your hard work and study may not be enough.

A class that grew up with the internet and free knowledge. You had the ability to learn without “teachers.” You had opportunities none of us could imagine. 

A class that connected digitally as well as in person. Created social networks that made our childhood villages look like huts.

And you WORKED hard in school as the stakes got higher.

 The statistics so unpromising. Would I be one of the 5% that gets into Harvard?! Would I ever be able to make a living to offset my student loans? Are my SATs high enough? Why the hours of homework? How do I stand out in this rat race? Is this what “winning” is supposed to feel like? 

But you played and played well.  

And there was supposedly a reward. A second-semester senior year full of senior pranks to be followed by the DREAM, college. The land where beer and books combine to make a four-year experience of laughter, friendship, and lessons. Or at least that is the narrative you have been sold. 

However, you have been robbed like so many others in this pandemic.

Robbed of us adults watching you throw your cap while in gown skywards. Cheering you on as you move future bound. And maybe not everyone is recognizing that. It is hard to complain about a prom when people are dying and it may be hard for your adult to put your feelings first as they deal with putting food on the table in a time of financial uncertainty. But your concerns are real. Your anger real. 

But know this, as your former teacher and friend, I hear you. I hope by just acknowledging that it is a bit better…maybe a bit?

So Jackson, Jack, Juliette and others, let’s get real. Some of you have reached out during this time. 

One of you asked what I would do if I were you?

I would defer and below I share my thinking for you.

College is 75% experience and 25% (at most) learning. This is not a knock on college. It’s just the reality of how college is currently designed. I would argue its value lies mostly in the sports teams, the pep rally, the dorms, and the quad. The real learning is not around a table with professors but around a table in the cafeteria. The learning is in your decisions that happen void of a parent’s praise or condemnation. It is about YOU making decisions and living with the consequences. No, there won’t be your adult calling to argue with your teacher on your behalf. And there is VALUE in that experience. And the cost of college is also 75% experience. The operational costs of a college would make your head spin. That quad doesn’t mow itself. 

That may make you question…is college worth the price if only 25% is learning? That is a fair question and in the age of distant learning, the colleges are questioning that too. College applications are dwindling and more and more colleges are forced into bankruptcy. Prior to the epidemic higher education has been in crisis and now its in turmoil. 

As everyone keeps saying tomorrow will bring a NEW normal. Education is no different and a field that should embrace change (we claim to be about learning from mistakes). This epidemic is pushing colleges to rethink how they can restructure education to meet the needs of their students and the changing economy. This was ALREADY happening, but slowly. Many models have been thrown out there that capitalize on the SOCIAL importance of the college experience but move the education model into the reality of today.

So in my opinion, it is time to take a GAP year as Colleges need to GAP too. Give your college time and get your value out of the experience that is more than learning in a classroom. Let the world heal and see what the new order will be.

And remember…those who take a year and GAP, out PREFORM those who don’t. This data below is representative of kids who take a year off before going to college. This data includes those who HAVE to take a year off to work and save money. 

And I can feel your eye roll. I know many of you class of 2020, and eye-rolling is your thing. 

And you are right, you can’t go to Ecuador to learn Spanish. You can’t go to India to do service-learning. There will be no travel Gap year, but that doesn’t mean we can’t create something exceptional. 

So give yourself a GIFT. The gift of not being robbed of the collegiete experience.  A gift of SLOWING down and learning a bit about the world and things not covered traditionally in school so that when the world does settle, you will know what narrative YOU will choose. 

So what will your GAP YEAR be like?

That is the very question I’ve been working on all day. After several job offers this week from schools and organizations asking me to create distant learning solutions for K-5, it is you, the seniors, that worry me most. It is this problem that is most pressing (in my opinion).

How can society use these thousands of children to better the world during this time? How can they continue to develop and grow?  I don’t think you, class of 2020, will be the only students “taking a year.” I know of sophomores and juniors thinking of doing just the same as they don’t want to lose a year of the experience of college at the price of just the education piece. This could possibly mean 100,000’s of smart, driven, young adults who jumped every hurdle and played the school game, looking to better themselves for a year. Looking for direction. 

I would love to hear from you all. I would love to hear your thoughts. What can we create together?

It is only two questions, I promise!

Is there an “off” button?

I’ve been playing a game for years. I can’t say it is fun, but it is addictive.  I can’t even say how it ends as it has no hard stop. And I can’t say there is a winner. I question if this is really a “game” in the traditional sense,  but yet I play and play and play and play.

I’m captive. 

The game gets especially competitive in the wee hours. From 12:30-2:00 am is prime time play. Maybe I jolt awake because I’ve been called in. Maybe this is an honor for advanced players as the game goes into speed rounds at this time. Round after round in rapid-fire.  I assume must be in the top 10 by now, but no leader board to be found. I could very well be at the bottom.

I don’t remember when I started the game. I don’t think I was always playing or maybe I can’t remember that far back. I can’t nail down the first play. In the beginning, I think it was fun and felt productive. It felt “adult.” It felt responsible, but I had no idea that it never would end. I had no idea what I just subscribed to.

And that there are no winners only losers. 

Maybe you play too. 

The game is like solitaire. You play it solo. You can play it anywhere and sometimes you play it around others (they just don’t know). It always starts with “What if…” and really there is not much stopping the play from there. It spirals into many “what ifs.” “What if Steve gets the virus?” What if because of his lung situation it can advance too quickly and we can’t get him tested?” “What if the grocery’s don’t get ordered on time?” “What if Sally from work finds my email offensive?!”

Most people I think stay on the beginner level with “what ifs” based on the future, but I don’t stop there, I’m definitely at the advanced level of the game. I play “what if” with the past and imagine new nows. This stage of play I’m finding destructive as like the future play it is never-ending. “What if Mind the Gap was opening this fall and we had all these young adults moving to NYC?” Overwhelming anxiety overwhelms me thinking of the students and faculty on my care. “What if I didn’t send that email?” Overwhelming anxiety that I did the wrong thing.

And it’s crippling. Truly crippling. As the permutations are so numerous so infinite and the past is over, but yet I’m redoing it.

I want out of this game. I do.

Anyone have the off button?

Monday of all Mondays

Monday of all fucking Mondays

In a world when every day is Monday, the actual Monday is just that much more painful. Wishing you homeschooling parents a good deep breath this morning. I know I need one. It takes me 90 minutes a day to comb through the 12 documents (yes…12…I’m not kidding) Benno’s school sends me. We have no schedule provided by the school so it up to the parent to make it. We are sent lists of activities to somehow make sense of. 

DEEP BREATH.

Happy Monday of all Fucking Mondays.

Is it the Tuesday Monday yet?

Operation Smile

I know I need a hug or a punch in the face. Either I think could suffice. I don’t think I’m the only one. So…today we launched

OPERATION SMILE  

All it took was a walk outside to collect rocks, shells, etc. Add some sharpies in the mix and VOILA! Oh and this took THREE hours today:)

West Hampton Beach

And then into the car we went.

To decorate little nooks and crannies for people to find some light in their day.

And, of course, this operation included the closed church right near our house where we watched families slow down and pray in their cars for Easter.

Please join our OPERATION SMILE and bring love to thy neighbor.