The Day the T.V. Died

You could say our TV was murdered by Barney, the big purple dinosaur with the unnervingly cheery voice. The one children seem to like in inverse proportion to how disturbing their parents find him.

This is what happened, Dear Reader. One day, about five years ago, a Barney video (the fat chunky kind — this was before DVDs) got stuck in the video slot of our small, crappy television. It seemed like a message from PBS (the public broadcasting system, for those who don’t live in the United States): if you want your three boys to become readers, let the television stay dead. Why PBS would want to say that, I have no idea. Maybe they’d been forced to watch too many episodes of Barney.

And so, we threw away the TV (we did pry the Barney tape out, in case we changed our minds). Mayhem did not ensue. This is what happened, in case you’re interested:

  • Our boys were too young (6, 6 and 1) to effectively fight back. I’m not sure we could do this now when they are 11, 11, and almost 7. They’re starting to band together on issues. Local 1 of the Union of BlogLily Children is on the horizon. Their first demand will most likely have to do with media access.
  • It wasn’t that a calm settled over our house. The words “calm” and “our house” cannot, in fact, be used in the same sentence, except maybe at 2:00 in the morning. But, in the absence of access to Dragon Tales and Arthur and video viewing, they read Magic Treehouse books, books they loved and which gave them a feeling of mastery as readers.
  • They did complain. As they got older, and they realized this was a sort of weird thing we’d done, they complained a lot. We ignored them. The parent, harsh as it might sound, is the one with the bank account. Unless they were going to secretly go out and get a job, nobody was going to buy a television.
  • Phase Two of the media wars: They saw that gameboys and other things of that ilk might be a good television replacement. Alas, Dear Reader, I hope you don’t think less of me to learn that I told them gameboys suck the life out of your brain and they weren’t coming into our house. Ever. It helped that their best friend wasn’t allowed them either. The result? A lot of whining and a lot of reading.
  • Phase Three of the media wars. I love computers. Everyone in my family loves computers. (I’m betting their heads are nodding right now and they’re thinking, yes it’s true but Lily is so LAME with her computer. All she ever does is write. And you’d think when she figured out how to upload pictures that she was the first person on the face of the earth to use a digital camera. But I digress.) So yes, I let them play computer games. Computer games and our failure to control them, are actually a good illustration of why we had to get rid of the television in the first place. We are terrible at setting limits. At first, they played educational games. Their brains were getting sharper. They were solving puzzles with Fripples, hanging out with Liberty’s Kids, occasionally reaching the Pacific Ocean on the Oregon Trail. They were spending a lot of time with someone named Carmen Miranda. (Yikes. A sharp-eyed BlogLily boy has just pointed out that her name is Carmen Sandiego and that I should know that because I bought them that game. Sorry.)
  • Can you hear that hissing in the Garden of Eden? It’s . . . the sound of a sports game spinning around on the dvd drive. In a millisecond, sports games morphed into war reenactment games, games where you can fight full on battles for world domination. Again and again. They’ve fought every known conflict (and quite a few conflicts that haven’t even occurred) in our little breakfast nook. Multiple times. It gets really loud in there. I let it go, because after all, they are the weirdos without a television. (This is what they tell me anyway. I don’t think they’re weird at all. They’re handsome, smart, athletic, violent little boys. What’s not to like about that?)
  • My favorite ploy for re-instituting television? One of my sons snapped at me, after the six millionth discussion about the lack of television, “You’re just doing this because all your friends think it’s so cool.” It was a brilliant moment of psychological insight. The trouble, though, is that my friends don’t actually think this is cool. They think this is crazy. And they know we do it in part because we find it difficult to set limits. If we were more like our friends, they who can set limits, we’d be watching Jon Stewart at night on a really large television while our children are asleep.
  • We do watch movies. We watch them on a laptop, our family crowded around the little screen like ancient peoples huddled around a fire on a cold night. Every once in a while somebody yells at someone else to tilt the screen so they can see what’s going on.

So, that’s where we are five years in. Our six year old is just on the horizon of being a reader. He loves movies. He doesn’t care a lot about episodic television. The older boys are resigned to their fate. They know this is a family tradition. (My own parents didn’t really like television and periodically we didn’t have one. It wasn’t until the 6th grade that a television moved into our house for good. I watched a lot of Star Trek and I Dream of Genie. I loved our TV.)

One thing. Lately, we’ve been thinking about getting a huge big screen television and a king sized bed. We’d like to watch movies in a nicer venue. No cable though. Not until Local 1, BlogLily Children, figures out how to get the cable guy here on the sly.

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33 thoughts on “The Day the T.V. Died

  1. I’m loving the vision of the BlogLily family hunched around a laptop. Well done on tossing the TV: I’m saying this both enviously and admiringly (it’s just so cool) because TV’s big here. We haven’t got into computer games yet, and as you know Lily is poised to read too. As I live a continent away from any grannies, I regard the TV as my friendly babysitter that I switch on when I need a moment’s sanity to cook and, you know, blog. Luckily in DLand there are regulations about what can be shown to children, so they watch a channel with no commercials, which I love. Then there is the odd DVD too, but as I am a movie fan I’m happy for my kids to be too. My rule with the TV is that I don’t want it to be the soundtrack to our lives, so we’re either sitting, watching it or it’s off. That way I can also monitor what they’re watching.
    PS I too loathe Barney …

  2. You are incredible. I’m not a huge televsion watcher, but I must admit I have a bit of a cable news problem, and every once in a while I mainline some History Channel. All other televsion, anything of quality, any way, is now available on dvd. I say, get thee a big screen television for YOUR bedroom w/out cable so you can watch movies and leave it at that…I mean, there are some movies that just translate better on….not a laptop.

    I think, really, you must be the most amazing mother. Your boys are lucky, lucky, lucky.
    Courtney

  3. I love it, thanks. We did break down and buy a wide-screen TV about a year ago. And we even have cable, though we’ve dropped that down to basic (plus the music channels and a DVR). We hardly watch, though it’s nice to have around for movies. The au pair watches every episode of “Sex in the City” repeated… but then, I can justify that because 1) she’s 20, and 2) it must be improving her English, right?

    The 4 year old loves to watch movies, though we limit his TV/movie viewing to one hour a day max (usually it’s about 20 minutes, except for “movie night” once a week, when we watch one of the DVD’s straight through). We do sometimes watch movies on the laptop or desktop as well. We spent a year overseas (when #1 was about 2), so we’ve got quite a few Zone 2 DVDs which won’t play on the TV. And, he’s got various educational computer games (JumpStart, Little People), which again are limited to one hour a day or less. #2 (20 months) is curious about the computer, but he’s not yet figured it all out.

    I guess we’re good at setting limits, because, well… we’re stubborn. So are the boys. I wonder where they get that from?

  4. I seem to remember (Mom tells the story occasionally) about you telling your teacher we didn’t have a TV. She didn’t believe you.

    We have three TVs at our house, and 5 computers. I have to admit that Tivo is my friend. 🙂

    I’ve finally given up on my 33 years of watching soap operas. Well, it’s been about two weeks now. I may regress and watch them again. But they’re still being tivod.

    At Becky’s house, the TV is delegated to the downstairs part of the house. I watch mostly the bedroom TV. Doug watches no TV.

    No cable? Cheaper certainly, but the boys are missing out on Battlestar Galactica. Maybe I should send DVDs as a late birthday present.

  5. How Bizarre,
    My mother decided when I was four that the entire family (I have four siblings) was addicted to TV. In truth we were and she gave us enormous opportunity to change. One eveneing a friend of hers visited and on leaving called into the living room “Goodbye”, no one answered. That was the final straw. The TV was gone within a week and did not return until I was fourteen or so.

    Oh we made do by visiting friends houses, watching TV on special occassions (we often rented a TV at christmas so we could watch family movies) and generally asking friends about shows we really liked (the liking doesn’t stop because you cannot watch). Overall though I was very glad. I had a twin addiction to books and TV so getting rid of one allowed me to concentrate even more time on the other.

    It has come full circle though. over the last year I have stopped watching TV. I read more news online, I blog and I work harder (Good, Good, Bad!). I still have an incredible weakness for documentaries (the chief highlight of television in my view) but overall I watch about as much as when i was four and we no longer had a television.

    I think you have done a great thing, TV is too passive by far, at least on the web you search and find what you like to consume, maybe as TV migrates to the web it too will become less passive and more active.

  6. We killed our TV (well, okay *I* killed it) in 1996, a few years before we got married. Finally gave in and got a new one in 2001, to follow the news. In early 2002 we killed the antenna, and went to a movie only household. No cable, no broadcast – DVD’s all the way.

    I am constantly amazed about the response people have to this — there is so much anger out there. I’ve been accused of child abuse because I’m ‘depriving my child of stuff everyone else knows’. Even our immediate family – who don’t get enraged – are at best puzzled and at worst actively disapproving.

    But…

    I have a six year old who can go through the whole grocery store with me without once whining for this candy or that character cereal. She whines for apples and coloring books. Her attention span is sufficient for two chapters from Little House on the Prairie (and probably more if I was willing to read longer!), or an entire planetarium program, or a full length feature film at the theatre.

    Child abuse? Yeah, right. Whatever.

  7. That actually sounds great. I have a hard time setting limits, too, but unfortunately, my family has long been addicted to the TV. Which is probably why I get less done than I’d like. I wish my parents realized this when raising my brother — he’s a TV/computer/video game addict. Have to force him to read. It’s like making him eat vegetables, which isn’t conducive to developing a love for reading.

    I love the image of you guys huddled around the laptop…

  8. Hello Charlotte and Everything (in between, of course)– The truth is that I do so love television. I loved it when we got it back in our house when I was 12. Just as people need stories to read, they also need mindless things to do. And children need that to. It’s just that it can be hard to stop. Limits are good, and they’re hard to set. Good for you for doing that. And you too, Jonathan!

    hey Sue — That’s an impressive number of screens. And YES to the Battleship Gallactica offer. That’s exactly the kind of thing the boys love. People killing each other in outer space. We also spent some nice time huddled over Bewitched recently. They are very amused by Samantha Stevens for some reason. Possibly, it is their dream that she will turn out to be their actual mother rather than me and she wil let them watch tv.

    Eoin, that is a wonderful story. I do so like the sound of your mother and your four year old self. I also like to hear this turned out well. I don’t care if my children end up writing for television, or spending a lot of time in front of it when they’re older (I certainly did). I just want them to know there are options. And also, maybe to know they don’t have to do what everybody else is doing and they’ll turn out just fine.

    Anna, your child abuse accusers sound a lot like my own children. They’re probably adults who are imagining what it would be like if somebody took away THEIR television and stopped them from watching 24. CHildren survive a lot of things, but this is hardly one anyone should be worrying about.

    My dear AC, You are an incredibly literate woman. Your brother will get to reading when he’s ready, is my bet.

    My very best to all of you,

    BL

  9. Hmmm….make no mistake, when your angels were with me not only did they watch a bunch of cartoons but they seemed to know the different shows and characters. Not having a TV is great (as you know because we pretty much grew up most of the time without one) but the truth is you can watch it at other people’s homes (including mine, I’m afraid). The neat thing is they also read books while they were with me, sang songs–pretty gifted kids and spent time outdoors. We sure love to hate TV…….reminds me of a lyric from an old Tower of Power song–“I can not stand the slaughter but still I eat the beef”…I sure seem to have a lot of TVs in the house for a guy that doesn’t watch that much TV…or do I? Looking back on it, TV is one of those things that is part of the landscape. You can run but you can’t hide.

  10. Hey Tom, that’s why we send them to YOUR house. So they can watch tv and eat chocolate! It’s interesting how a child who doesn’t have access to television at home still knows a lot about what’s out there just from being at other people’s houses. As you say, it’s part of the landscape. I myself know an enormous amount about Jennifer Aniston and Courtney Cox — thanks to People magazine which I love, even though briefly after Princess Diana died, I thought maybe I should show my grief by cutting off my addiction to that kind of thing. It was too hard though.

  11. So far, our daughter is about the only one who hasn’t complained about the no-tv thing! *lol* Probably because we’ve had a tv free house since before she was born, and she just doesn’t think it should be different. I think the child abuse talk tends to come from people who can’t imagine what you do with your time if you’re not watching television.

    Tom, I agree, TV is definitely part of the landscape – there is certainly no lack of exposure to TV itself, and to TV related media – sesame street and dora books, for example. We try to explain it to other people sometimes by using the ‘restaurant dessert’ analogy – TV is the mental equivalant of a restaurant dessert, and just like a restaurant dessert it’s not something we want to indulge in all the time.

  12. I’ve always been the kind of mother who thinks forbidden fruit dangerous to put in bowls around children, although I do admire you enormously for having the courage to see this through. When I was doing a PhD and my son was little I did use the tv as a babysitter from time to time, I admit. It backfired horribly though, as my son soon grew wise to the strategy and point blank refused to watch it, demanding to stay with me instead. So, that’s another way of weaning your children off television, I guess…!

  13. For a while I was televisionless, mostly because I didn’t have space in my studio apartment and I had moved out of a house I was sharing with a friend who owned the television we used.

    I found it quite liberating to be without one. So liberating that, when I finally got a VCR/TV combo to watch movies with, I didn’t attach the antenna and I put it in the closet when I wasn’t watching movies I had rented. I got my news from the radio (I didn’t have a computer either) when I listened to NPR. But, I even went radio-free for quite a time.

    Both habits have corrupted me to the point when I don’t much care for televison or the radio to this day. We have cable (for internet, and for my wife’s enjoyment) — but I am quite happy typing all day or reading.

    While it was liberating to unchain myself from those two things — I think the most profound choice I made was not to replace the pager I used to carry with a cell phone. My life seems more simple when I compare it to other people who have cell phones, tv schedules and watches (I don’t carry a watch either, and yet, I’m never late).

    I’m not anti-technology, I just have no use for most of it.

    I *am* addicted to the internet, but even that is changing some now that I realise it.

  14. When I was 8, my family faced a choice: we could keep the TV or sell it to buy Christmas presents. Almost sounds like Dickens, right? Anyway, we sold the TV and didn’t get another for about 3 years. My mom liked TV, but my dad hated it with a very violent passion. He’d wander into the living room as my sister and I watched “The A-Team” or something equally stimulating, say, “What is this crap?” turn off the TV, and then go back to wherever he had been before. Right now, we have a TV and DVD player, but no cable. The TV exists only for movie watching. BTW, you can still watch Jon Stewart online if you have fast internet. 🙂

  15. My husband works in animation and yet we live TV-free. The box is there, but it doesn’t receive a signal. NetFlix is our friend, however, and with certain oh-so-wonderful shows (like Carnivale, Battlestar Galactica, Big Love, etc), we just NetFlix the whole season. Every once in a while we go to our favorite Thai restaurant, which has a TV mounted on the wall, and we just. Veg. Out. We love television – if we had one, we’d never get anything done.

  16. We used to have three televisions, which for a two person household I found excessive. One died and I’m patiently waiting for the second one to go the same way. I’m finding television more and more irritating, to the point where I don’t turn it on during the day anymore, preferring to either sit in silence with my books or to play music that I find soothing. There are programs I used to watch religiously but even those are becoming easier to turn off. I’m not entirely sure where this shift has come from but I’m enjoying life without (so much) television.

    However, my husband is addicted. I wish he’d spend more time reading, writing or talking but when he arrives home from work all he wants to do is vege out. Television, he says, lets him do that. I’m just thankful we don’t have cable because there would be no time at all left for us.

    If we had children, I think we’d be in for some interesting times in determining limits and enforcing them. Kudos to you for standing firm on the television free house. Although… that king size bed and large screen television for movie watching does sound wonderful.

    Now, if I could just figure out a way to engineer the death of the second television… 🙂

  17. Kerryn — Need a Barney tape to help you out? It seems to work pretty well.

    Welcome Uccellina, Queen of the Knitters, That Thai place sounds great. You know, I’m with you on how great television can be sometimes. Upthread, my sister has offered to send us Battlestar Gallactica, which sounds like fun and I’m quite excited about Netflix. We belonged to it in the pre-Barney death days and have just joined in the huddling around the laptop era. When we move to that big bed, I think it’ll be fun to have intentional television viewing family evenings.

    Bikeprof — it’s like that O’henry story except in this version your dad sells the television and gives the money to the kids and they, not knowing where the money comes from, go out and buy movies for your mom to watch. Wait a minute–this was pre-vcrs, right? As for Jon Stewart, I have started downloading him from Itunes and am so glad that’s available because honestly otherwise I couldn’t stand to be an American right now.

    Mick — It’s so nice to be in a quiet house. Right now, two of my boys are playing Sonic the Hedgehog in the breakfast nook and the other one is outside playing street hockey with a neighbor and shouting warlike chants. That’s what we consider quiet and, in truth, it’s kind of nice, sort of like a hive or something. As for internet addiction, well, I’m glad you brought that up. I just want to say, My Name is BlogLily and I spend too much time typing on my computer.

    Litlove, you do realize, don’t you, that pretty soon our children will be banding together, across the ocean, to fight back against any sort of forbidden fruit? I think you are right, by the way, anything you control excessively in a child’s life is going to just explode on you at some point. That’s why I’ve loosened up on guns and games. And that’s part of the reason for this new idea we have that at least we can watch videos in relative comfort! (I’m afraid we might be seeing the cable guy around here sooner than I think.)

    Hello Ana, Sounds like you’re running that household beautifully!  As for restaurant dessert, oh, it’s so sad we can’t do that more often…

  18. You’re a hero, BlogLily. We do have TV, but no children, so that’s alright. I try to limit myself to watching only what I really want to see, which is surprisingly little.

    And I hate how lots of parents use their TVs as a means to keep their children quiet and out of the way.

  19. So nice to see so many people have had/still have TV-free homes in this day and age. Where were you all when I was growing up and, although we had a TV, was only allowed to watch 1/2 hour a day (until my mother went back to work when I was 8 and could no longer keep such a tight rein) and everyone else seemed to get to watch it 10 hours a day? I have to admit ours is not a TV-free home; we even have a wide screen TV, but I rarely watch it.

    For those of you who’ve been waiting, I finally got an answer on the Dover question (try not to let us extremely-opinionated-publishing-industry-types disillusion you. I’ve just cut and pasted exactly what he said):

    “Dover was a terrific, innovative reprint house, founded by two unpleasant people, Hayward (“The Corpse”) Cirker and his unlovely wife Blanche (“The Evil Prune”). The real genius behind the company was the polymath Everett Bleiler (father of librarian Richard Bleiler at Storrs), who pretty much ran the company and did most of the title selection. He worked there for decades before giving up (I think in the early eighties). The editorial team was a bunch of knowledgeable weirdos; I liked their crafts editor a lot. I think she raised dogs in Connecticut somewhere and may still do so for all I know. The company has not been the same since Bleiler left.

    It’s always been a mystery how Dover could maintain such high production standards while keeping prices so low. I worked there writing press releases in 1973-74 and can well believe that the Cirkers had no moral objection to the use of slave labor.”

  20. OH my goodness, one more thought…what about BASEBALL? And football? And of course, living with out those, while it would never pass in our household, well, I could SORT of understand it, but what about NCAA BASKETBALL?
    Okay, I need to get my heart back to a normal rate. Maybe this is why I have no time to read all I want to…I am consumed by local sports.
    Crap. Now I have to go examine myself some more.
    Love,
    Courtney

  21. Hi Edwin, I’ve never done anything even remotely heroic in my life. Everything I do is always so smothered in self-interest or self-doubt that you can barely detect any finer motive! But thank you anyway, for being such a sweetheart.

    Emily — that’s a brilliant bit of writing! I just KNEW there was something going on over at Dover. It’s just too weirdly idiosyncratic to have a normal story. I just didn’t know it was the Cirkers. Somebody needs to write their bio.

    Courtney — You’re utterly, completely, and unnervingly correct. The Oakland A’s are about to go to the world series. We love the A’s. (not so interested in basketball. could be because of the Golden State Warriors not being so good.) We are going to have to hook up cable, at least temporarily. (Don’t tell anyone I said this, she says, finger to lips, hoping the BlogLily boys aren’t anywhere near here.)

  22. We have lived without a television set until I was 15. But then it was forbidden to watch french programs on weekdays (I am french). So we had to watch the BBC, CNN, MTV, or undubbed videos that my dad brought back from business trips abroad (including the legendary ‘Zurück in die Zukunft’, by Robert Zemeckis, starring Michael J. Fox).
    This is how we learnt most of our English: one of my brothers has a PhD in medieval history from Oxford University; the other one shares his time between Paris, Miami, London and Barcelona – proper TV guidance rules can do an awful lot.

  23. Having a TV set is all right, as long as it has no tuner or cable decoder attached to it. For those who cannot do without, you can keep young children glued for hours on end with a good old Pink Panther or Snow White or Monsters Inc. DVD. And when they know it by heart, switch to Chinese or Spanish – you’ll be amazed at how fast they learn.

  24. I hear you! Whenever the TV has died in the past it could be a year or more before it was replaced. Always that time was a renaissance in the household. We found time to play musical instruments (that didn’t require electricity!), play cards, board games….. But eventually we’d want to watch a movie or something and BOOM! the devil was in the door.

    Maybe we should have TV interventions, where concerned friends and family come to your house and take away the telly… Put you in rehab where you weren’t allowed to use anything that ran on electricity….

    Doug

  25. Hey Lily! You know how eerily aligned our households are on this, we got rid of our TV when the girls were 6 and 3, and haven’t gone back. I think one of the advantages of living in this area is that there ARE other families who have made the same choice and so your boys don’t have to feel too isolated in their large-purple-grinning-dinosaur free world.

    We also allow computer games, as well as internet access (to a degree) in our house, and often debate whether internet is “just as bad for kids” as TV, as some people say. Although my girls play their share of rubbish on the internet, spending as much time as I will allow them feeding and raising small furry e-creatures while other people take care of their real life hermit crabs (for example), they also use the internet as a tool.

    You know that I think your boys are wonderful, they are creative, imaginative boys who always impress us with their interest and ability to participate in adult conversations. They are bright and thoughtful and kind. While these qualities are clearly the result of a multitude of parenting decisions and designs on your part, the decision to have a TV free household is part of the package, and it is working to mold them into who they are today.

    I still smile when I remember a road trip we were on with you a couple of years ago, sitting in a small, rustic motel room, with 5 mesmerized faces glued to the TV screen soaking up the mind numbing glory of the rugrats. I think I have a photo of it somewhere.

    And I am chuckling at Carmen Miranda….how does she solve so many mysteries with that cumbersome headgear?

  26. hello Karoline — I am sorry we managed to lose your girls’ hermit crab. Who knew that if you left the top to his home open he’d make a break for freedom?

    There is a lot of sound parenting here. What I find reassuring is how many different ways there are to go about raising children. Good thing too. I don’t know what it would be like if we all were raised the same way and had the same experiences! Boring blog conversations, that’s for sure.

    And thank you what you say about the boys. I don’t often think of them like that, love them though I do, because I seem to be spending a lot of time putting down violent armed conflicts.

    Yes, I’ve had the same thought: what on earth is that woman wearing on her head?

    xxoo, L

  27. Boy does this all sound familiar! My boys (now 31 and 26) thought I was the meanest mom in the world when, after buying them a Nintendo one Christmas, I took it back to the store a week into Christmas vacation because I couldn’t stand that they were spending all of their time indoors with the shades drawn. I also hated the sounds of the games, and that when I told them to turn it off they’d say, “just wait til I die”–at the end of each round your character dies. YUCK!

    We didn’t have a TV when they were little because any TV watching at all, even Sesame street, would seem to scramble the older one’s brains and leave him incredibly hyperactive. As a result both boys were constant and avid readers until their teens when other things took priority. Now the younger does all his reading on-line in discussion groups about his interests and the older still reads a bit, but works such long hours there isn’t much time for it.

  28. Jana, Do they STILL think that about you? I wonder sometimes how my parenting decisions are going to sound when they’re played back at Thanksgiving dinner twenty years from now. (“We are thankful that mom was such a pain in the ass about television. Otherwise, it would not have occurred to me to move to Los Angeles and produce reality tv.”)

    Just wait till I die! That’s very funny.

    I’ve noticed that after a child (or an adult) comes up for air from what they think will be a relaxing bout of television watching, they’re generally still at the same place they were when they sat down. The argument or the fussiness has just been deferred. That’s not a bad thing, and sometimes a break is needed. It’ll be interesting, by the way,to see how your boys’ reading habits evolve as they get older.

  29. Of course, I didn’t have TV when I was little, but I did like weapons. Seems boys do. World War II helped. But that fascination was replaced when my dad gradually taught me and my brother how to make things in the basement tool area.He was an engineer. He showed us how to do all the things you have to do with saws, hammers, screwdrivers, paintbrushes, etc. to maintain a house. He didn’t seem to make a concerted effort to teach us; we were just envious of what he was doing and wanted to help. Like the windows we broke with baseballs and basketballs. He showed us how to put a BB backboard on the garage. Also fixing faucets, and I cleaned out a toilet trap, but that was for a Boy Scout merit badge later. And somehow all that led to making things like book ends by myself and later to bookshelves, games, miniature ping pong tables and football fields and basketball courts. He got my older brother a lathe that led to lots of little wood cup-like things for paper clips and shells from the beach. I loved the neat way he kept all the differnt size screws and nails in old jam bottles that lined the little shelves between the 2 by 4 framing on the brick walls. That neatness rubbed off on my brother and none on me, but I do have lots of screws and nails.
    My brother’s son got fascinated with taking apart and building computers, but he couldn’t resist paint-tag guns or whatever they are called. Weapons have their way but seems some other interests that involve eye-hand coordination can be encouraged to move in.

  30. I cannot remember where you had asked me about french websites for kids. I have found one:
    http://www.lesclesjunior.com/
    It is a news site for kids, related to a very famous magazine here.
    The problem is to find content interesting enough with language easy enough (how old are your kids, by the way ?).
    I am still looking.
    PS: you can delete this comment, it is just that I am starting to believe you do not check you earthlink mail that often.
    Best, mandarine.

  31. Hey M — I do check! I just don’t always get around to answering right away. (It’s the codeine I’ve been imbibing these last few days.) And thanks for the link. My twins are 11 and it’ll be fun for them to check this out. xxoo, BL

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