A good dog saves the day!

After spending a little time at our local animal shelter yesterday with a good friend, I was thinking about how good dogs are for our lives. Here’s a good dog story I wrote last year:

rknatashapartyhats

The kids celebrating a birthday with our good dog Natasha.

 

I read a heartwarming story Sunday morning about a missing three-year-old girl who wandered away from home–and yes, it has a happy ending. The location was Australia and when you think of how many missing children stories end badly, this was a relief—thanks to a loyal old blue heeler named Max.

In “Loyal blue heeler stays with three-year-old lost in bush overnight” by Gail Burke and Matt Eaton, they describe how the little girl Aurora wandered away, spent the night in the cold and rain in treacherous terrain, but had Max by her side:

“An old blue heeler named Max remained by the side of a three-year-old girl and led searchers to her after she spent more than 15 hours lost in rugged bushland on Queensland’s Southern Downs overnight.

Aurora was reported missing about 3:00pm on Friday after she wandered off on her own, but a search of woodlands and hills on the rural property in wet weather on Friday night found no trace of her.

On Saturday morning, more than 100 State Emergency Service (SES) volunteers, police and members of the public resumed the search and found the girl safe and well with Max the dog at 8:00am.

For his good work in keeping the little girl safe, Max has now been declared an honorary police dog.

Kelly Benston, the partner of Leisa Bennett, who is Aurora’s grandmother, said Ms Bennett and other searchers heard the little girl faintly from the top of a mountain on Saturday morning.

“She found the dog first. Max led her to Aurora,” Mr Benston said.

“Max is 17 years old, deaf and partially blind.”

SES area controller Ian Phipps confirmed a family member spotted Aurora and Max about two kilometres from the house, still on the family property at Cherry Gulley, 30 kilometres south of Warwick.

“The area around the house is quite mountainous and is very inhospitable terrain to go walking in, so she’d travelled quite a distance with her dog that was quite loyal to her,” he said.

Screen Shot 2018-04-22 at 11.16.36 AMI didn’t know what a blue heeler was, so I looked it up and found a description on Dogster.com:

“Blue Heeler History
Mixing native Dingoes with Collies and other herding dogs, Australian George Elliott developed the Blue Heeler in 1840. Australian cattlemen and ranchers loved the breed’s toughness and work ethic, and the dogs quickly became popular as cattle herders. They are also called Australian Heelers, Queensland Heelers and Australian Cattle Dogs.”

I enjoy a good dog story. Dogs are amazing. I told my husband about Max and Aurora and he said, “See I told you we didn’t need to worry about Robert when he was with Natasha!” Natasha was our first dog, a Rottie.

It was May 1996, when our three-year-old son wandered away from home. I had taken “the baby”—which was what I called our four-month-old daughter–with me to help set up a database and create a roster for a charity I was involved with. Of course, one hour turned into several, and when I returned home, well something was wrong. My husband was supposed to be in charge of our son.

First, our garage door was wide open as was the archway gate to our backyard. The kitchen door was open, the French doors to the backyard were open, too.

I had “the baby” in an over-the-shoulder-baby-holder as I walked into the house wondering what was going on. My husband was in his chair, remote control in hand. I asked, “Where’s Robert?” I went from the living room to his bedroom. No Robert. Into the baby’s room, guest room, our bedroom. A sense of panic was rising from deep down in my stomach to my throat. Pretty soon I think I was screaming for him.

I spotted a pile of his clothes by the pool—by the open gate to the pool. With dread, I searched the bottom of the pool with my eyes. With relief, there was nothing but few small wet footprints on the patio next to his clothes.

We ran out into the street yelling and calling for our son. My husband found him across the street and empty lot on Indian Canyon, walking the dog, stark naked.

My husband said at the time, and reminded me today, “You see, he was safe because he had a Rottweiler with him. Nobody was going to touch him.”

“I just sat down for a minute,” is the other thing my husband said. Right. Just long enough for our son to open up doors, gates, get undressed and go for a swim and walk the dog a block away—naked!

At least we had a good ending to another child wandering away from home story–thanks to a good dog.

 

rknatasha

My kids with Natasha. She was a good dog.

Have your kids ever wandered away? Do you have any good dog stories to share?

 

 

Advertisements

Crossing the line from helping to hurting your kids: from helicopter to snowplow

kiddos

My kids making good use of their super powers.

Everyone I talked to was shocked about the parents who paid bribes to get their kids into college. It made me unbelievably angry–and a lot of my friends, too. What kind of person would do that?

A lot of us are helicopter parents, yet we’d never dream of going that far. The ‘paying to get your kids into a good school’ is a matter of degree of helicoptering or snowplowing. If you’re a mom who wouldn’t let your kids fail before college and were running to school with forgotten homework then it’s a matter of crossing a line — albeit one that is unethical and illegal — to bribing a college coach to let your kid get admission to the school. (Yes, I was the parent driving homework to school, including my son’s senior year of high school!)

In a New York Times article called “How parents are robbing their children of adulthood” by Claire Cain Miller and Jonah Engel Bromwich, they talk a lot about “Today’s ‘snowplow parents’ who keep their children’s futures obstacle-free — even when it means crossing ethical and legal boundaries.”

Here’s an except:

Helicopter parenting, the practice of hovering anxiously near one’s children, monitoring their every activity, is so 20th century. Some affluent mothers and fathers now are more like snowplows: machines chugging ahead, clearing any obstacles in their child’s path to success, so they don’t have to encounter failure, frustration or lost opportunities.

Taken to its criminal extreme, that means bribing SAT proctors and paying off college coaches to get children in to elite colleges — and then going to great lengths to make sure they never face the humiliation of knowing how they got there.

Those are among the allegations in the recent college bribery scandal, in which 50 people were charged in a wide-ranging fraud to secure students admissions to colleges. According to the investigation, one parent lied about his son playing water polo, but then worried that the child would be perceived by his peers as “a bench warmer side door person.” (He was assured that his son wouldn’t have to actually be on the team.) Another, the charges said, paid someone to take the ACT for her son — and then pretended to proctor it for him herself, at home, so he would think he was the test-taker.

The parents charged in this investigation, code-named Operation Varsity Blues, are far outside the norm. But they were acting as the ultimate snowplows: clearing the way for their children to get in to college, while shielding them from any of the difficulty, risk and potential disappointment of the process.

In its less outrageous — and wholly legal — form, snowplowing (also known as lawn-mowing and bulldozing) has become the most brazen mode of parenting of the privileged children in the everyone-gets-a-trophy generation.

It starts early, when parents get on wait lists for elite preschools before their babies are born and try to make sure their toddlers are never compelled to do anything that may frustrate them. It gets more intense when school starts: running a forgotten assignment to school or calling a coach to request that their child make the team.

Later, it’s writing them an excuse if they procrastinate on schoolwork, paying a college counselor thousands of dollars to perfect their applications or calling their professors to argue about a grade.

katrob

The pre-school, elementary school years.

The article goes on to discuss how the recent college cheating scandal shows how current parenting practices have gone off the deep end:

The bribery scandal has “just highlighted an incredibly dark side of what has become normative, which is making sure that your kid has the best, is exposed to the best, has every advantage — without understanding how disabling that can be,” said Madeline Levine, a psychologist and the author of “Teach Your Children Well: Why Values and Coping Skills Matter More Than Grades, Trophies or ‘Fat Envelopes.’”

“They’ve cleared everything out of their kids’ way,” she said.

In her practice, Dr. Levine said, she regularly sees college freshmen who “have had to come home from Emory or Brown because they don’t have the minimal kinds of adult skills that one needs to be in college.”

One came home because there was a rat in the dorm room. Some didn’t like their roommates. Others said it was too much work, and they had never learned independent study skills. One didn’t like to eat food with sauce. Her whole life, her parents had helped her avoid sauce, calling friends before going to their houses for dinner. At college, she didn’t know how to cope with the cafeteria options — covered in sauce.

Speaking of having adult skills, I’ve written about the “Things Kids Need to Know Before College” here and for SwimSwam here. I’ve lived through the consequences of doing too much for my kids and not letting them fail. That’s why I write about it. I hope to save other parents from the same mistakes I made!

Here’s how the NY Times articles puts it:

If children have never faced an obstacle, what happens when they get into the real world?

They flounder, said Julie Lythcott-Haims, the former dean of freshmen at Stanford and the author of “How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success.”

At Stanford, she said, she saw students rely on their parents to set up play dates with people in their dorm or complain to their child’s employers when an internship didn’t lead to a job. The root cause, she said, was parents who had never let their children make mistakes or face challenges.

Snowplow parents have it backward, Ms. Lythcott-Haims said: “The point is to prepare the kid for the road, instead of preparing the road for the kid.”

Learning to solve problems, take risks and overcome frustration are crucial life skills, many child development experts say, and if parents don’t let their children encounter failure, the children don’t acquire them. When a 3-year-old drops a dish and breaks it, she’s probably going to try not to drop it the next time. When a 20-year-old sleeps through a test, he’s probably not going to forget to set his alarm again.

Snowplowing has gone so far, they say, that many young people are in crisis, lacking these problem-solving skills and experiencing record rates of anxiety. There are now classes to teach children to practice failing, at college campuses around the country and even for preschoolers.

katrob 1What are your thoughts about the new level of snowplow parenting? If you’re a  millennial, did you experience helicopter or snowplow parents? How did it help you on your journey into college and adulthood?

Missing My Angus and Birthday Boy


robert

 

It’s my son’s birthday is in less than two weeks. I wrote this story a few years ago when he was still in college and Spring Break aligned with his birthday. It was always a treat that he could be home and we’d all celebrate. This year, I’m going to visit him in the Bay area and celebrate his birthday with him there.

I can’t help but get sentimental and nostalgic for when he was a young boy. He called me “sweetheart” because he thought it was my name. When we went to “Mommy and Me” at the Palm Springs Pavilion, there was a “good-bye” song at the end of each session. When his name was called, he’d toddle to the teacher and plant a kiss on her cheek. He was so sweet. Still is.

robert 1In honor of his birthday, I’m reposting a story I wrote when he invited 50 kids to his second grade party. Originally published in the Los Angeles Times Kids’ Reading Room, it’s about Angus our yellow lab of 15 years, who shared my son’s birthday.

A Birthday for the Dogs

“MOM, I’m inviting 50 kids to my party.”

“What, Robert?” Mom said. “That’s too many. Do you know 50 kids?”

I sat in the back seat while Mom drove home after school. My eighth birthday was in two weeks. 

“There’s my class, plus Cub Scouts, and playgroup.”

“I can’t afford to take 50 kids skating or bowling. And I don’t want 50 kids in my house. What about the city pool? It’s heated, open year-round, and it’s only 50¢ a kid,” Mom said.

“A swim party, that’s cool!” I said.

“I’ll say yes to the party, but no to presents. Fifty presents is too much for one 8-year-old. It’s decadent.”

“What’s decadent?” I asked. Mom used words I didn’t know.

“Self-indulgent, corrupt.”

I sat silently and thought I’d be sad with no presents. Then I remembered Angus. Mom got him for me as an early birthday present. We were on a waiting list for two years with Guide Dogs of the Desert. He was being trained as a companion dog for people who couldn’t see. We got him because he had poor hips and couldn’t be a working dog. Angus was big, yellow, and I loved him. We shared the same birthday.

“I have a great idea!”

“What?” Mom asked, glancing at me in her rearview mirror.

“I’ll ask for money for Guide Dogs of the Desert.”

“Ah?” Mom made a weird swallowing noise.

“It’s Angus’s birthday, too.”

Angus5

In the rearview mirror I watched Mom dab at the corner of her eyes with a tissue, and nod her head in agreement.

Two weeks later, I had a great birthday. Fifty kids came with bathing suits, towels and money. Instead of opening presents after cake, we counted dollars they had stuffed into a large jar decorated with photos of Angus. 

Together, we raised more than $1,600 for Guide Dogs. Mom called me a “philanthropist” – whatever that is.

Angus8Happy birthday, son! We miss you, Angus!

Now we know the truth: college admissions are rigged

13417585_10210063407525531_6987965472607988093_n

My son during his high school valedictorian speech.

I am more than upset at the news that rich celebrities and CEOs were bribing university coaches and SAT administrators to get their children into elite universities. It just goes to show how corrupt our country is and that the life lessons I instilled in my kids about hard work and effort — turn out to be “fake news.”

My son was valedictorian with nearly perfect SAT scores, swam, was a musician, a school leader in Junior State of America, went to Boys’ State and the State Science Fair, to name a few of his accomplishments. Plus, he volunteered in our community from an early age. He was rejected by eight of the nine colleges he applied to — many of the same schools these celebrities and rich folks bribed to get their kids admitted to. My son was heartbroken. He said everything I told him was false. He thought if he worked his butt off, got straight As, volunteered in the community and did everything right, he’d have his choice of schools. But, no. Sadly the system is rigged.

Here’s the indictment of the university coaches from Yale, Wake Forest, Stanford, USC, UCLA and Texas with descriptions of how they defrauded hard working athletes who lost out on those spots.

They actually made fake athletic profiles for kids who weren’t competitive at the sports they were being admitted to on the collegiate teams. For example, at USC, a girl was accepted to the Crew Team, who had never once rowed. They faked a profile of her with Regattas she never attended and used photos of other people in boats where the face wasn’t clear.

Besides athletics, this Newport Beach “college recruiter” named William “Rick” Singer paid off people administering the ACT and SAT tests. The kids were given extra time to take exams because of faked disabilities or their answers were changed after the test.

This quote from the from the Associated Press story called  “TV stars and coaches charged in college bribery scheme” by Alanna Durkin Richer and Collin Binkley is terribly upsetting:

Parents spent anywhere from $200,000 to $6.5 million to guarantee their children’s admission, officials said.

“For every student admitted through fraud, an honest and genuinely talented student was rejected,” Lelling said.

Here’s more from the story:

BOSTON (AP) — Hollywood stars Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin were charged along with nearly 50 other people Tuesday in a scheme in which wealthy parents bribed college coaches and other insiders to get their children into some of the most elite schools in the country, federal prosecutors said.

Authorities called it the biggest college admissions scam ever prosecuted by the U.S. Justice Department.

“These parents are a catalog of wealth and privilege,” U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling said in announcing the $25 million bribery case, code-named Operation Varsity Blues, against 50 people in all.

The scandal is certain to inflame longstanding complaints that children of the wealthy and well-connected have the inside track in college admissions — sometimes through big, timely donations from their parents — and that privilege begets privilege.

At least nine athletic coaches and 33 parents, many of them prominent in law, finance or business, were among those charged in the investigation. Dozens, including Huffman, were arrested by midday.

The coaches worked at such schools as Yale, Stanford, Georgetown, Wake Forest, the University of Texas, the University of Southern California and the University of California, Los Angeles. A former Yale soccer coach pleaded guilty and helped build the case against others.

The person who was behind the college admissions scam is William “Rick” Singer from Newport Beach, CA. Here’s an article from CNN’s Sonia Moghe called “William ‘Rick’ Singer, the man at the center of the scheme, to appear in Boston court” that explains more about how the college admission scam operated:

William “Rick” Singer – the man who owned and operated Edge College and Career Network LLC (“The Key”) at the center of the collegiate scheme – will appear in Federal court in Boston today where he is expected to plead guilty.

A bio that appears on his website states Singer and team have coached, counseled and mentored over 90,000 adults.

He also wrote a book called “Getting In: Gaining Admission to your College of Choice.” In a description on Amazon, that book promises “easy to understand and simple to follow steps to improve the odds of getting in to the college of your choosing.”

One Amazon reviewer writes, “This book is a must — allow Rick Singer to wave his magic pixy dust all over your life. You will be changed for the better.”

Utah Swimming and Dive  Kat Wickham

(Photo / Steve C. Wilson / University of Utah) My daughter was recruited legitimately for swimming. In swimming, the times don’t lie.

 

What are your thoughts about parents bribing their children’s way into college? What lessons are these kids learning and how could the kids be kept in the dark?

When should kids specialize in sports?

poolshot

It takes grit to become an elite-level athlete. Not every athlete has it. And it can’t be developed without internal motivation.

Both of my kids began swimming when they were young. My daughter began swimming with a year-round team at five, while my son began swimming at age eight. (He’s three years older).

They did do other activities for a few years before they decided to specialize. And that is the key: they decided. My son was running between t-ball, tennis, karate and swimming and felt like he wasn’t making progress in any of them. He got the swimming bug and wanted to compete. So, we dropped the other sports.

My daughter was being shuttled between the ballet studio and the pool. She honestly thought that ballet was some weird form of punishment — especially putting on pink tights and a black leotard in the 110 degree heat — while her brother got to dive into the pool and have fun!

Eventually, the ballet teacher pulled me aside and said, “I know she can do this. But she chooses not to. She stands and does nothing at the barres.” As much as I wanted my daughter to love ballet as much as I do, I realized we’d both be better off letting her pursue what she had a passion for — namely swimming.

kidpsp

I listened to a podcast by Ritter Sports Performance on early sports specialization and the main thing I took away was that an athlete has to be internally motivated. They can’t be putting in the hours and training to please their parents or their coach.  If they have the passion and are hardwired to compete at their sport, then they will reach the elite level regardless when they start.

In swimming, two examples are Rowdy Gaines and Ed Moses, who both started late in high school. They did a lot of other sports before they found the pool. Once they started swimming they excelled and loved it.

(photo: my kids on the swim team many years ago)

So, why do we insist on sports specialization a young age? It’s because some sports like swimming or gymnastics take a lot of time to develop technique. Parents naturally want their kids to have a head start.

Then there’s the 10,000 rule from Outliers: The Story of Success that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to be good at something.  But, an interesting theory is that it’s not the quantity, but the quality of practice. Our kids can’t be looking at the clock waiting for practice to be over. They have to be in the moment giving it their all.

There are certain guidelines that kids should do a lot of different activities before they specialize, but that by the time they turn 12 or 13 years old they need to focus on one sport.

I say, follow your kids’ lead. They will know what sport ignites their passion. By allowing them to follow their passion, they can develop the grit it takes to be successful.

What sports are your children in and at what age did they specialize in a single sport?

dive

Can illness increase negative self talk?

IMG_0597

Hoping to dive in again soon.

I’ve noticed a correlation between how I feel and negative thoughts. I’ve been battling a nasty cold since I got home from my Seattle trip. With my body feeling weak, achy and my head stuffed through and through, I’m catching negative thoughts entering my brain.

Maybe it’s because my brain isn’t up to speed that I can stop them in their tracks? Or, maybe because I’m not feeling well, my brain is producing more negativity than usual? I feel like my weak body is a target for the negativity swirling in my brain.

It reminds me of a webinar about “managing thoughts” that I heard lately and wrote about here. It was by David Benzel of Growing Champions for Life. He talked about how your brain is a tool and it’s not who you are. A summary of what he said was if you don’t use this tool called your brain, it will use you. He explained how we’re bombarded with 55,000 thoughts per day. If we can separate ourselves from those thoughts, we can evaluate them. When a negative thought pops up, like “Who am I fooling?” or “I’m really not very good at this,” I can stop it and say, “Where did that come from?” or “How is this helpful to me pursuing my goals?” After separating ourselves from the thought, it is less likely to get inside and take over our psyches.

Benzel talked about living in the now. He said worry and anxiety are based on thoughts about the future. Our regrets are thoughts about the past. There is only one here and now. That’s all we have control of. Don’t dwell on the past. Don’t dwell on the future. Take advantage of the now.

I’ve spent two days mostly in bed, trying to get over this cold. I don’t feel much better today. But, I’m guarding myself against negative thoughts taking over. I know that I will feel better soon because I’m taking good care of myself. I also think that when people get older and are in pain, or if someone isn’t feeling well, they may be filled with negative thoughts. Maybe that’s why they are grouchy or may bite your head off. It’s something to think about, isn’t it? I can empathize with their hurt bodies being inundated with negative thoughts from their brains. They may not realize it, but their physical condition is allowing their negativity to take over.

On another note, what are your secrets to recover from a nasty stuffed head, runny nose and cough?

IMG_3419

My constant companion while feeling sick.

 

 

 

What are you giving up for Lent?

images-2Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of 40 days and 40 nights of Lent for many Christians. What are you giving up? Or more importantly, what are you going to do?

The three things I heard this week to do for the Lenten season were fast on Ash Wednesday and Fridays, carve out more time for daily prayer, and do good works.

Yes, I’m hungry, and probably will be every Friday, craving a fat juicy steak that I’d normally not care about. It’s a funny thing when you can’t have something, you fixate on it.

Second, I will find time to pray more. If you believe that prayers make a difference in this world, then more prayer is a good idea.

Third, there is the part about doing good works. I think that is most difficult of all.  Off the top of my head I don’t know what “good works” I can do. However, I am confident that if I keep my eyes open and look around me, I’ll see small ways where I can make a difference. 

I’d like to know what you are doing for Lent. What good works are you going to do?

Here are two heartfelt stories I read several years ago. I hope you enjoy reading them and appreciate those close to you! 

From SwimSwam a story about USC’s Jack Wagner — NO FEARS.

A story about a young boy and his gift to a soldier that will be remembered for a lifetime.

Screen-Shot-2014-03-02-at-8.29.24-AMHere’s a slideshow of 13 Popular Things People Give Up for Lent.