Tag Archives: kids

Guest post: To Make Ends Meat, Don’t Turn Your Back on any Electrical Outlets

By @taniaha. Read more Guest Posts here and here.

When I was a kid, I was terrified of walking on a boardwalk or pier, convinced that I would slip through the half-inch crack between the boards and plunge into the ocean. I also believed that a person’s race dictated the color of dog one could own.

Knowing I couldn’t be the only person who had labored under this type of delusion, I posed the question on Facebook – what was something dumb or silly you believed as a child? Close to 30 people responded with their own childhood misconceptions and stories of confusion, which ranged from odd to hilarious.


Did we all at one time believe the bathtub drain could actually suck us down?

Some themes bubbled to the top: Continue reading


Google Maps told me the walk would be 0.9 miles. The humidity was rising, but a mile isn’t so far.

Plus I had just eaten a chocolate muffin from St. Balmain, justifying the indulgence by noting that there would be zero chocolate muffins in Kenya.

Once I passed the McCarren Park pool, the walk started sucking. The part of Greenpoint I found myself in would be best described as Not Cute. Homely, perhaps, as opposed to homey.


Around the 0.7 mile mark, I wanted to shout “this is for you, Maasai kids!” but they couldn’t possibly have heard me over the noise from the BQE.

I started crying almost as soon as I walked into the Greenpoint dollar store.

Not because I was in a dollar store, per se, but because as I shuffled up and down the aisles, I was reminded of the directions my trip organizer had given me about how to choose a gift for my “buddy,” the student who would be my companion during my days volunteering at the Maasai school.

Books need to be culturally sensitive. Don’t buy candy–most of the kids won’t have a toothbrush.

Avoid anything that requires batteries or electricity. These kids don’t have access to either. A well-intentioned volunteer gave his buddy an iPod, but once the battery dies, it’s useless.

Good gifts include a simple journal, a solar-powered flashlight or a puzzle that shows a picture the kids can relate to.

At the dollar store, I felt like a failure. None of the toys seemed right for my teenage buddy, a fourteen year old boy named Steven.

As I put a notebook, a pack of pencils and a pencil case in my cart, my heart sank: I had just committed to buying office supplies for someone who will almost certainly help me have an eye-opening, life-affecting experience.

I suppose he already has, in some ways.

Hopefully when the time comes, my modest gifts will somehow be the right ones.

[For context, this post was written on late on Thursday, July 10 and scheduled for Monday, July 14. I’m set to present these tokens to Steven on Friday, July 18.]

Questioning my life choices. Or am I?

I didn’t meet my friend Julie’s son Zach when he was first born. Part of it–a big part–was that I broke my ankle the same weekend he was born last May.

Add to that Julie and Zach’s residence on the Upper West Side, my well-established laziness and you have a recipe for procrastination.

When I finally met Zach, he was already about seven months old. Fortunately he didn’t appear to hold a grudge (nor did his mom). Instead, he let me hold him, explored my face with his hands and smiled. He even leaned in to touch his nose to mine several times, deliberately and charmingly.

I was in love.

Every subsequent encounter has been more of the same. Zach’s a charming kiddo, not prone to fussing. He smiles and laughs. At eleven months, he didn’t walk–he ran. Julie’s biggest concern (beyond NYC preschool admission shenanigans) is ensuring he grows up to be a Yankees fan.

Zach. He’s a game changer.

*       *       *

At six am, I heard a knock at the door. It was soft and tentative, delivered in an uneven tempo. I rolled over in the pink-sheeted twin bed, thinking that if I ignored the knocking, Zoe would go back to her twin sister Emma’s room where she had spent the previous night while I slept in her room. I was tired from having flown in from New York and catching up with their mom, my college friend.

But, no. The knocking continued, persisting until I sputtered “go back to bed, Zoe!”

I was tired from having flown in from New York the day before. Grumpy.

“But I need headbands,” four-and-a-half-year old Zoe wailed plaintively, “HEADBANDSSSSS!”

Tearing back the pink sheets of the twin bed, I stumbled to the bedroom door and opened it to admit Zoe. Looking down at the tiny girl, I grumbled “you’re already wearing a headband.”

“But I need more,” she responded. I flopped back onto her bed.

As Zoe pulled headband after headband out of the bedside dresser, I thought back to what she had warmed me before going to sleep in her bed: Don’t play with my toys. She was probably concerned that I was wearing her four-year old girl sized headbands on my big old melonhead.

After going back to sleep for a few more hours, I stumbled into the twins’ bathroom to brush my teeth and then take a shower. Right around the time I started shampooing my hear, I heard a noise and opened my eyes.

There stood one tiny twin, silently watching me take a shower.

“EMMAAAAAAAA!” my friend Nadine yelled, “leave Jen alone.”

Soon after, it was time to say goodbye to my friend and her sweet, lively family, to check into the hotel and start the business portion of my trip to LA.

I slept like a baby that night and the next.

*       *       *

We need to talk about this

Not my normal light far. No snark. Very serious.

America’s homeless population, particularly teens and children, continues to grow. 60 Minutes’ coverage of this subject tonight tore out my heart, dropped it on the ground and then stomped on it with a stiletto for good measure.


I want to do something. For starters, I have some electronics equipment I plan to donate including a brand new fax machine/copier/scanner I had planned to sell on Craigslist.

Of course I realize that there are homeless people right here in NYC where I live, however the fact that 1/3 of the United States’ homeless population lives in Florida put into perspective the magnitude of the crisis (as well as how it taxes one state’s resources).

If you’d like to join me, leave a comment that includes your twitter handle or another means of contacting you. Let’s see what we can do to help collectively.