Tag: parenting

Cheaper by the Dozen

Ever since I was about 12 years old one of my favorite books has been Cheaper by the Dozen by Frank Gilbreth and Ernestine Carey.  It is a memoir that tells the story of the Gilbreth family in Montclair, New Jersey during the 1920’s.  Frank and Lilian Gilbreth were pioneers in the field of motion study.  As part of their profession they would enter factories and study the movements of workers to figure out how items could be made more quickly.  This started when as a young man Frank studied the motions of brick layers and discovered a way to reduce the amount of steps it took to lay a brick wall.  He then wrote a paper, which led to further papers and finally a career in the field.   An interesting fact is that Frank never went to college despite being a frequent lecturer.  His wife, Lilian, was a well educated woman who received a BA and MA from UC Berkley and a PHD from Brown University.  I don’t want to give too much away but Lilian was a remarkable leader and mother- one of my heroes.

After they married Frank and Lilian decided to put their motion study expertise to the ultimate test- by raising a family of 12 children.  They even decided that 6 boys and 6 girls would be the perfect dozen and that’s just what they had. As you can imagine operating a two income family while raising 12 children is no easy task and Cheaper by the Dozen tells the story of how the Gilbreth’s did it.  The funniest parts of the book involve Frank Gilbreth’s attempts to bring his motion study career into the running of his family- even to the extent of filming the kids tonsillectomies to see how the surgeon can improve efficiency (that story has such a funny ending).   I love how the kids have to listen to language records while they get ready in the morning and study morse code in the summer by solving clues written on the wall by their Dad.   There are also great scenes of both Gilbreth parents trying to deal with their children growing up in the roaring 20’s.  Frank puts up quite the fight against his daughters dating, wearing flapper fashions and cutting their hair into short bobs.

I am sure the real life Gilbreth family was not as perfect and whimsical as portrayed in the book but I like to think they were close.  Regardless, Cheaper by the Dozen is a funny, charming book about a family that lived with flair!  By the way, don’t pay  any attention to the Steve Martin movies made under the title Cheaper By the Dozen.  They have no similarity to the book except for the 12 children.  I don’t know why they didn’t just adapt the book.  Its so great! There is an old version with Clifton Webb that is more accurate.

If you are looking for a funny, light, entertaining book READ IT!   I know you will love it!

My Dad: Comfortable in His Own Skin

I know I’ve been posting like crazy lately, but I’ve been going through a lot of changes and it helps to blog about them.  This weekend I was talking to  a friend of mine about my posting “The Only Happy FAT Woman in America“.  What surprised me is that she didn’t seem to buy my positive attitude toward my body- like I was just putting on a happy face but deep down inside I hated my body.    Nothing I said convinced her, so I dropped the subject.

Why is it so hard to believe that a fat woman could be happy with her body?  I don’t know the answer, but I do know I have not always felt this way.  In fact, one of my great stumbling blocks in life is worrying about what other people think of me.  I used to get torn up inside because I wasn’t as pretty, classy or smart as other girls.  Even worse than that, sometimes I would hold myself up against this imaginary picture of what I felt a “classy businesswoman should be like”.  Trust me- nothing does more damage than trying to live up to an illusion.

What changed, you ask? As you all know 3 years ago I decided to do something crazy and quit my job.  I quit a stable job in a family-owned company- a job I was good at and had been with for 3 years.  I had wanted to quit for over a year and finally I couldn’t take it any more.  For years I knew I was not behaving in an authentic way- I was not living the life I was meant to live.  Instead of following these impressions I ignored them as “crazy talk”.  I said to myself, “How can I quit my job without something to fall back on?” and yet I knew it was the right thing to do.  Following that prompting was one of the hardest and most thrilling things I have ever done.  It meant stepping into the unknown.  It meant doing something crazy and scary.  It meant not giving a “hoot and holler” about what anybody thought about my choice.  I was petrified but also at peace, and it turned out to be one of the happiest times of my life.  I knew I had done the right thing.  I had followed my inner-voice, the spirit, and I knew it would take care of me.  Ever since then I have seen door-after-door open.  I honestly believe that when you are being your authentic self miracles happen.  It was a long lesson to learn, but one I will never forget.

Its amazing I didn’t learn this lesson sooner because growing up I had a terrific example of a man who follows his heart in my father.  When talking of self-acceptance, ambition and a genuinely positive attitude my Dad is the first person who comes to mind.  Sometimes it would drive me crazy growing up, but now I recognize  the value in his example.

His very life story shows an independence and strong spirit.  To begin with, my Dad completed all but one class in law school but never finished.  He knew inside that he was done and was not going to practice law.  He didn’t care what others thought about this decision back then, and he doesn’t care now.  I have never heard him utter a moment of regret about his choice.

Moving from there, Dad, became an entrepreneur.  Over the years he has tried his hand at a framing store, computer program designer, small business owner, ESL computer lab consultant, chairman of the board at JWA, landlord, and president of Grabber Inc.  A number of these businesses were not successful, however, I never recall my Dad being depressed or discouraged.  In fact, he frequently extols with pride the great people he met, lessons he learned and experiences that enriched his life with each enterprise.  I’m sure he must have felt some negative emotions, but he kept a positive face for his children.  I certainly don’t think I could take disappointment and discouragement as well as Dad does.

While flawed like anyone else, my father is a great example of someone who accepts his life and finds the good in himself and others.  He is simply comfortable in his own skin and doesn’t need validation from others. Without ever preaching about it, he taught me to accept and love myself.     Even now as we work together, he is constantly praising me and helping me be confident in my decisions.  This despite the fact that I have definitely given him reasons to ream me out on occasion.  He is kind, loving, understanding and has an unfailing belief in my abilities.

When I couldn’t get a job he was the only one who saw my potential.  The other day when I was watching that horrible TLC program the parents of the overweight girl said they “were disappointed they had an obese daughter”.  I have never felt anything like that from my Dad (or my mom- who is also wonderfully supportive and nurturing).  Both my parents knew- when I was ready I’d conquer it.  In fact, he was the one who encouraged me to join the swim team in high school.  Again- he saw my potential long before I did. Now that I’m ready for this big challenge, he is cheering me on!

My Dad accepts himself, flaws and all, and he does the same for me (and all his children).  I’m so grateful for his example and love him very much.

Many Worlds in One

The other day I saw a fascinating NOVA program on PBS.  It is called Parallel Worlds, Parallel Lives and it focuses on Hugh Everett and his son Mark. On the surface the two seem completely different but they are actually linked in an interesting way. In the end, the life of the father explains the life of the son.

In the early 60’s Hugh was a physicist for the Pentagon working as a cold war scientist.  Frustrated with the prevailing views of quantum physics (which I will not even begin to explain) he started exploring other types of particle theories.  Eventually he came up with the Many World’s Theory.  As best as I can grasp this theory looked at particles  at their own level- not at how they created larger phenomenon.  According to the NOVA program this view broke with tradition and was the beginning of Everett’s theories.  Looking at the world on such a small level he noticed energy behaving differently.  (Like I said I am way out of my element in explaining this).  Here’s how NOVA explains it:

Byrne: In order to demonstrate the consequence of this mathematically, Everett came up with a solution showing that the observer, the human being, correlates with every possible state that the gram of carbon, that pencil tip, could be in. So before the human being looks at the gram of carbon, the carbon is in all the millions or billions or trillions of possible states, and after the human looks at the gram of carbon, he or she is in one state. In Everett’s theory, what happens in between, as it were, when the human actually looks at the carbon—or a clock or any other object—is that he or she splits like an amoeba. (The act of looking, that interaction, is just exchanging energy. A person looking at a clock, for example, is an energetic interaction, with photons of light bouncing off the clock and going into the person’s eye.)

So, in Everett’s view, when the human correlates herself—that is, interacts, exchanging energy with the gram of carbon or a clock or whatever—she splits like an amoeba. She splits into copies of herself, one for each element in the superposition.

NOVA: And this split is what creates the “many worlds” of his theory?

Byrne: Yes. And wild as it sounds—a person splitting into numerous copies of herself—Hugh Everett’s theory has not been shown to be mathematically incorrect. God knows, people have tried. They have found some mathematical gaps, but you can’t fault his basic mathematical logic, which made a powerful case that every time there is an interaction anywhere in the universe above a certain size, one of the systems splits in order to accommodate all of the elements and the superpositions that are contained in the wave function that describes the observed system. In other words, the basis for having multiple universes emerges from his solution of the measurement problem.”

In other words, on a particle level atoms present possible outcomes and in a way those possibilities continue on whether the human participates or not.  Using the example above if the person looks at the pencil or not, the particle energy around the action still exists.  This is why Everett called it the Many World theory.  On a particle level there are infinite numbers of worlds created every moment which all react in different ways.

This is where the son comes in. Like I said, on the surface Mark has nothing in common with his father.  He is  a front runner for an independent rock band called the Eels.  According to the NOVA program much of Mark’s music is dark, focusing on mental illness, abuse, and death.  To give you an idea one of their most famous songs is called “Novocaine for the Soul”. Apparently much of the darkness in the music came from a lonely childhood with a father obsessed with work and science.  On the program Mark tells the story of a conversation over the dishes he had with his father just before he passed away.  Of this simple chat he says “We joked around a little and I remember thinking that it was the most human, real conversation I’d ever had with him. He even told me a joke.”

Later the next day his father dies, and he is devastated by the missed opportunities.  Eventually Mark tries to put his feelings to music and as he struggles he realizes something about his father.  He learns they had a key similarity:

“I realized that I had been feeling that same thing he must have been feeling all those years when he couldn’t be bothered because he always had some crazy ideas he was trying to sort out in his head. You’re just about to crack the code and the kid wants to play baseball. I get it now. We’re both “idea men” and anything outside of these ideas is a distraction.”

With this understanding Mark begins to learn more about the ideas of his father.  Finally it occurs to him that their lives are the ultimate example of the Many World’s theory.  Two worlds co-existing independently of each other and yet intrinsically dependent on one another.   It’s like the show’s title describes: Parallel Worlds, Parallel Lives.  In the end, Mark understood his life better because of his father’s theories.  This to me is fascinating.  How often do we have answers staring at us in the face, yet we dismiss it as ordinary or familial? How often do we discount something because it is different, even offensive, and yet in that other world is the answer to our own happiness?

There are so many examples of parallel worlds, which if understood could enlighten both worlds.  Notice we aren’t talking about combining worlds.  They are inherently separate, but perhaps they could still teach us?  The NOVA program explores the worlds of father vs son, musician vs  scientist, and youth vs. age.  Religion would be another interesting subject for discussion.

Like I said, the science is a bit beyond me, so I hope I have done justice to the program.  If you get a chance, put it on your DVR or watch it on youtube.com . It kind of reminded me of a This American Life piece on television.- excellent and thought provoking. Check out the PBS website on the show for more information. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/manyworlds/.  On a final side note, this program would be great for teachers and homeschoolers who want to learn more about physics.  I know practically nothing and it explained complex concepts in ways even I understood.

Happy Birthday Mom

“I remember my mother’s prayers and they have always followed me. They have clung to me all my life.” — Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)

A few weeks ago I did an entry on my dad for his birthday.  Now it is my mother’s turn for today is her birthday.  Its almost hard for me to write on my mom without it sounding too effusive.  Simply put, she was born to be a mother.  It is her gift.  She’s a natural nurturer- patient, kind and understanding.  Naturally it took me a while to appreciate all she did for me but now I marvel. Some of the specific things I love about my mom are:

1. She is always there for me.  My mom has 6 kids, which is a daunting number by most standards but these 6 range in age from 30 to 9.  Such an age gap requires my mother to balance the needs of older children with kids, single me, a teenager in high school, a middle school aged boy and a young girl.  Not every mother could multitask her mothering as well as my mom does.  Even though I am very independent I still need the care of my mother.   I am so grateful that we talk almost daily on the phone and visit whenever we can.  The greatest thing is that my mom doesn’t make me feel that the time she spends on me is a sacrifice even though I know it often is.  It might be something as simple as asking her about a recipe or a laundry tip, but I appreciate that she is there for me whenever I need it.

A perfect example of my mom’s help and loving nature occurred last December.  It was the day before our tenants were to arrive at our new house.  I was growing increasingly stressed out because a snow storm was preventing furniture movers, cleaners and other people from arriving at the house.  I had a picture of the people arriving at the house without furniture in a construction zone.  By 4:30 I had all I could take, and I called my mom in tears.  Whatever it was she was doing, she dropped it and helped me calm down.  With the help of my dad and mom, we solved the problem and everything worked out. Not everyone has someone to turn to when they are stressed out, and I am grateful for such a blessing in my life.

2. She actually enjoys her children.  This has always been a great trait of my mother.  When other mom’s were counting down the days for summer vacation to end my mom was sad.  She not only loves her kids but genuinely has fun with them.  When I have exciting news, a funny story or a meet a cute guy, the first person I want to tell is my mom.  We used to tease her that she couldn’t tell a joke or a story to save her life but that never stopped her from making the effort!  Both my parents have always set an example  on how to enjoy life- how to accept who you are and gain pleasure from whatever phase you are in.  They are not worriers, moping about looking for pity.  They are happy with their life’s and taught me to conquer challenges while still remaining happy. I have particularly noticed this trait lately as it seems many unhappy people often surround me- people that are miserable with their station in life.  My mother is great at enjoying the journey of life.

3. She is always learning.  My mother has the intellect to be a college professor, a senator, or any other educated profession; however, she decided to be a mother. Defying stereotypes of the soap opera watching housewife, my mom has always been a self-learner.  My whole life she has been up-to-date on current events  in practically every field.  In addition, she is well-read in philosophy, literature, political theory, horticulture, the arts and every other topic.  It took years in college before I took a class that my mother was not only familiar with but well-versed and informed- sometimes more so than my professors.  When we used to get sick, my mother was the first one to the library (or now the internet) researching the condition, quickly becoming a mini-expert.

She was also  great at creating learning experiences for her children.  I remember going on walks and her pointing out trees, bugs, or birds and then describing something interesting about them- how they live, grow, what colors they become etc.  In college I would often call my mother and go over material with her because I knew if I could explain it to her than I knew I understood the topic  well enough for a test.  On such calls the emphasis was always on what I was learning, not on the grade (both my parents have never been grade-focused, which I am grateful for). I used to think all mothers were like this but have since learned to appreciate the emphasis my mom made on learning and improving oneself.

4. She is always sacrificing.  When I was 10 my mother announced to us that she was pregnant.  As excited as we were, pregnancy meant she  would have to go on full bed-rest.  She underwent this trial two more times- making almost 2 1/2 years of my mother’s life in bedrest (not including what she had for us older kids). I can’t even imagine how difficult this must have been.  It was hard enough for our whole family, but it must have been a nightmare for my mother.  It’s one thing to sit in bed when you are ill but for most of the pregnancies my mom felt fine, yet she still had to sit day and night.  This type of sacrifice is emblematic of the way my mother has lived her life- always thinking of others needs ahead of her own comfort.  She has given countless hours of her life caring for new babies, working on school projects with us, making costumes for school plays,  babysitting grandkids, cooking meals, and making traditions special for her family.  In today’s society we seem to think there has to be an equal link between work and rewards.  The sense of sacrifice previous societies accepted has practically gone away- except with my mom.

5. She is a wonderful nurturer.  Again, when I was growing up I thought all mothers were like my mom- warm, kind, sympathetic.  I have learned that she is special.  She knows how to comfort a crying eye- even at the age of 28! She listens better than anyone I know, and she does it while doing a hundred other things.  Her and my dad would read to us every night growing up and then we would say prayers together.  Rituals like these are all about comfort and love for children.  My mother is wonderful at such things.

6. She is patient.  When I was in high school I felt different from my entire family, including my mom.  Thankfully I never really rebelled, but I am sure there were plenty of moments where she was frustrated with my attitude.  I think the reason I didn’t rebel is because my parents were patient with me . They gave me the space to be myself- to figure out what I wanted.  I have never felt that my parents had preconceived notions of who I was to become or what my life is supposed to be like.  They have just let me be me and accepted that.  Such growth requires patience on the part of parents, and my mother is the ultimate example.

It really is hard to write about my mom and make it sound adequate.  Let me just say- she is wonderful and I love her.  I could not have been more blessed. I don’t have any pictures of my mom by herself (probably because she was busy preparing a meal or taking care of a kid!). Here is one of my mom and dad with my newest niece Nelle Lloyd.


“By and large, mothers and housewives are the only workers who do not have regular time off. They are the great vacationless class.” — Anne Morrow Lindbergh

“I looked on child rearing not only as a work of love and duty but as a profession that was fully as interesting and challenging as any honorable profession in the world and one that demanded the best I could bring to it.” — Rose Kennedy

“My mother was the most beautiful woman I ever saw. All I am I owe to my mother. I attribute all my success in life to the moral, intellectual and physical education I received from her.” — George Washington (1732-1799)