Posts Tagged ‘child’

oypmomn4w5fqvh4avx2kwy3rgqPhoto: Shoup Family
Col. Harry Shoup was a NORAD commander who received a surprising phone call in 1955 about Santa — and started a new tradition.

This story about a fast-thinking colonel in the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) who calmed a crying child and started a new Christmas tradition is sure to warm the cockles of your heart. John sent it to me early this year, and I’ve been waiting until the right moment to share it.

Steve Hendrix at the Washington Post had the report.

“Col. Harry Shoup was a real by-the-book guy. At home, his two daughters were limited to phone calls of no more than three minutes (monitored by an egg timer) and were automatically grounded if they missed curfew by even a minute. At work, during his 28-year Air Force career, the decorated fighter pilot was known as a no-nonsense commander and stickler for rules.

“Which makes what happened that day in 1955 even more of a Christmas miracle.

“It was a December day in Colorado Springs when the phone rang on Col. Shoup’s desk. Not the black phone, the red phone.

“ ‘When that phone rang, it was a big deal,’ said Shoup’s daughter, Terri Van Keuren, 69, a retiree in Castle Rock, Colo. ‘It was the middle of the Cold War and that phone meant bad news.’

“Shoup was a commander of the Continental Air Defense Command, CONAD, the early iteration of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD). Then, as now, the joint U.S.-Canadian operation was the tense nerve center of America’s defensive shield against a sneak air attack. … It was not a place of fun and games. And when that red phone rang — it was wired directly to a four-star general at the Pentagon — things got real. All eyes would have been on Shoup when he answered.

“ ‘Col. Shoup,’ he barked. But there was silence.

“Until finally, a small voice said, ‘Is this Santa Claus?’ Shoup, by all accounts, was briefly confused and then fully annoyed. ‘Is this a joke? … Just what do you think you’re doing?’ he began.

“But then the techno-military might of the United States was brought up short by the sound of sniffles. Whoever was on the phone was crying, and Shoup suddenly realized it really was a child who was trying to reach Santa Claus.

“The colonel paused, considered and then responded:

‘ Ho, ho, ho!’ he said as his crew looked on astonished. ‘Of course this is Santa Claus. Have you been a good boy?’

“He talked to the local youngster for several minutes, hearing his wishes for toys and treats and assuring him he would be there on Christmas Eve. Then the boy asked Santa to bring something nice for his mommy.

” ‘I will, I will,’ Santa-Shoup said. ‘In fact, could I speak to your mommy now?’

“The boy put his mother on the phone, and Shoup went back to business, crisply explaining to the woman just what facility their call had reached. …

“The woman asked Shoup to look at that day’s local newspaper. Specifically, at a Sears ad emblazoned with a big picture of Santa that invited kids to ‘Call me on my private phone, and I will talk to you personally any time day or night.’

“The number provided, ME 2-6681, went right to one of the most secure phones in the country.

” ‘They were off by one digit,’ said Van Keuren. ‘It was a typo.’

“When Shoup hung up, the phone rang again. He ordered his staff to answer each Santa call while he got on the (black) phone with AT&T to set up a new link to Washington. Let Sears have the old number, he told them.

“That might have been the end of it. But a few nights later, Shoup, as was his tradition, took his family to have Christmas Eve dinner with his on-duty troops. When they walked into the control center, he spotted a little image of a sleigh pulled by eight unregistered reindeer, coming over the top of the world. …

” ‘What’s that?’ the commanding officer asked.

“ ‘Just having a little fun Colonel,’ they answered, waiting for the blowup.

“Shoup pondered the offense as the team waited. Then he ordered someone to get the community relations officer. And soon Shoup was on the phone to a local radio station. CONAD had picked up unidentified incoming, possible North Pole origin, distinctly sleigh-shaped.

“The radio station ate it up, the networks got involved and an enduring tradition was born. This Christmas Eve marks the 63rd straight year that NORAD is publicly tracking Santa’s sleigh on its global rounds.” More here.

As a former copyeditor, I’d like to point out that typos matter. But as a grandma, I’ll add that sometimes a mistake can lead to something good.

Photo: ShareAmerica


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The artist I have in mind is four. Here are some watercolors he painted over a couple days at Christmas.

The Christmas tree is green along the left side, but this artist likes lots of color. He is careful to keep colors from running together and getting muddy.

He paints snowmen and people in twos.

The still life features a banana, apples, grapes, a pear and limes.

I love that over two days, his people evolved to have hair, arms and a discernible smile. I’m smiling, too..












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Actor Finn Wittrock wrote recently at the New York Times about helping to start a mini Shakespeare company in the 1990s to entertain his parents and other theater professionals. He recalls with wonder his young self’s confidence of success.

“I was born in the Berkshires in Western Massachusetts. I lived there until I was 6, then moved to Evanston, Ill., and later to Los Angeles. But every summer for most of my youth, I would go back East with my brother, my mom and my dad, who most summers was acting or teaching for Shakespeare & Company. I would often be cast as a page or an altar boy in one of the professional productions.

“I went in lieu of a summer camp; I went to romp in the Berkshires, see old friends, get out of the city. But mostly I went for the Very Young Company.

“Starting at the age of 8 and until I was 16, my oldest friends and I would get together every summer: Rory, Reilly, Wolfe, and later my brother, Dylan, and Wolfe’s brother, Tiger (yes, their real names) would arrange five or six scenes from Shakespeare, rehearse them on our own time in the sun-drenched Berkshire afternoons and perform them for the adult company after one of their Mainstage shows. We began the company ourselves and it ended when we were no longer ‘very young.’

“For a kid, it was an epic undertaking; an outlet for pre- and post-adolescent energies. We were totally self-motivated; nobody told us to do it, which was in itself an incentive. We’d choose a scene based on our own criteria: Had the company done it before? Could we make fun of them for it? Could we put Reilly in a wig and have him play a girl? And, most important: Did it end in a sword fight? …

Sometimes I yearn to have the boldness of one who knows nothing, who jumps onstage for no other reason than because he is young and has a loud voice.”

Later in his essay, Wittrock recalls something the celebrated director Mike Nichols once said about his own early years: ” ‘Why was I so confident back then? I had no business being that confident.’ And yet he attributed most of his early success to that unreasonable confidence. …

“No one gave us permission to do the Very Young Company; no one ordered us to do it, and no one had to boost our confidence to do it. We just did it. We were just kids howling Shakespeare to the Berkshire trees, and our readiness was all.” More at the New York Times, here.

At one point in my  childhood, I, too, was confident. I thought, if my parents would only call the movie theater and set it up, four of us kids — the Gordons, one of my brothers, and I — would be a smashing success performing our version of “Snow White and Rose Red” before the feature. The grownups didn’t quite believe in it.

Some neighbors and I did perform an original play about a snowman for family members. One of the actors returned a copy of the pencil-scrawled script to me at my aunt’s funeral in 2002, decades later.

Photo: Lauren Lancaster for the NY Times
Finn Wittrock, right, and Rory Hammond, enacting the killing of Lady Macduff and her son in a mini-“Macbeth.” The young actors formed their own company more than 20 years ago to entertain their parents and other professionals at Shakespeare & Company in Lenox, Mass.

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Feeling the cold setting in?  Well here’s a summery scene on New Shoreham’s famed Painted Rock, one of my favorite pictures of the island’s constantly changing bulletin board. Wish I knew who the artist was.

John is behind the new tumblr blog featuring the Painted Rock in as many iterations as folks can dig out of the albums and send along.

Here’s what John had to say about it on the island e-board:

“Thanks for the kind comments and great pics submitted to paintedrockbi.tumblr.com The ‘mini cooper rock’ and the ‘hamburger rock’ are especially cool.

“There was also a question about me and the reason for the blog, so here goes.

“About 20 years ago my mother painted the rock early one morning to celebrate my sister turning 16 and my turning 21. Our summer home is a only short walk down Mohegan Trail from the rock, but if you took careful note of our ages, you might guess that my sister and I were not really morning people.

“So by the time we had rolled out of bed and made it down the street to look, it was already painted over. No photos were taken, but I know it’s there buried under all the layers. Now I am a parent, and it kind of reminds me of the many things we do for our children that no one ever really sees, but we keep doing anyhow.

“For many years I’ve been thinking about how best to document the many cool rock paintings. And last week I finally got around to doing something about it; hopefully the page will continue to get submissions and we can save the many small memories behind each coat of paint.”

Check it out: http://paintedrockbi.tumblr.com/

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I moved from Rochester, New York, more than 30 years ago, so it was only when I went back for a visit that I got to see the storied collections of Margaret Woodbury Strong in a museum built to house them.

When one recovers from the enormity of her obsession, one feels deeply grateful for all the toys and dolls of one’s childhood so beautifully preserved.

The offerings and outreach of the museum have grown like topsy in 30 years. And today another new partnership was announced.

“The great minds of the toy industry will be honored alongside their famous creations when the Toy Industry Hall of Fame combines with the National Toy Hall of Fame under a partnership announced Tuesday.

“The 5,000-square-foot National Toy Hall of Fame gallery at the Strong museum in Rochester will undergo $4 million in renovations, with the goal of opening the combined hall in the fall of 2015.

“The Toy Industry Hall of Fame, whose inductees have included Milton Bradley, Frederick August Otto Schwarz, Walt Disney and George Lucas, has been without a physical presence for about eight years following the closure of the International Toy Center in New York City.

“Leaders of both halls have been talking for some time about combining the two as a way to raise their visibility and exposure and to promote their educational missions. …

” ‘The Strong is an ideal home for this homage to both the toys that have influenced generations of children and the innovative minds that brought them to life,’ Carter Keithley, president of the Toy Industry Association, said at a news conference at the Strong museum, where items like alphabet blocks, roller skates, the Frisbee, Lincoln Logs and the stick occupy places of honor.”

Read more at Yahoo, here. Click “like” if you believe in toys.

Photo: The Strong Museum
“The Strong’s founder, Margaret Woodbury Strong, had a particular interest in dolls and amassed one of the largest collections in the world. The National Museum of Play® at The Strong continues to refine and develop her collection, making it increasingly comprehensive and inclusive. It now includes more than 12,000 dolls and 2,800 paper dolls.”

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A woman in my tai chi chuan class yesterday mentioned that she was taking her son to an “Instrument PettingZoo” this weekend to see if he could find an instrument he’d like to study.

What a great name for the event! With a title like that, no one needs to explain that the idea is to help children learn about different instruments — and have fun at the same time.

This weekend’s Instrument PettingZoo is at Powers Music School.

The school’s website provides some history:

“Powers Music School is a regional, not-for-profit institution established in 1964 to provide superior music instruction and performance opportunities to all interested students. Each year the School also provides musical outreach opportunities in the community through programs such as Belmont Open Sings, the Stein Chamber Music Festival, the Peter Elvins Vocal Competition, and the Mildred P. Freiberg Piano Festival.

“The founding principles, that all students are entitled to high quality musical instruction and that music is an essential part of our lives and belongs in the community, continue to guide the School today. During 2010-2011, the School worked with over 1,000 students who traveled from 50 surrounding communities. In addition, Powers gave over 70 student recitals/community performances.”

I love the school’s dual-meaning slogan, “A great place to play.”

Makes me realize my off-and-on-music education may have left out the playful side of “play.”

Photograph: PowersMusic.org

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In last week’s Boston Globe, Bella English had a sad-happy story about a nonprofit that reaches out to families impoverished by their children’s cancer, Family Reach Foundation.

English writes that Carla Tardif once promised a friend who died of cancer that she would help families who were struggling with a child’s treatment. In searching for the best way to do that, she ended up at Family Reach, which helps families get back on their feet. The stories she hears are heartbreaking.

“ ‘On top of watching your child suffer, people get threatening eviction notices, calls from collection agencies, or they can’t make a car payment so they lose the car and can’t get their child to treatment,’ says Tardif.

“Medical hardship is one of the leading causes of personal bankruptcy in the nation,” writes the Globe‘s English. “According to a Harvard University study, more than 62 percent of bankruptcies are caused by overwhelming medical expenses — and cancer is the most costly. ‘It’s because a parent needs to stop working to take care of the child,’ says Tardif. ‘The average cancer treatment without complications is two years.’ …

“ ‘What I’ve learned is that it’s about so much more than money,’ Tardif says [of her work]. ‘That someone cares and gets it, has a really profound effect on families.’

“Just ask Raquel Rohlfing, who at fund-raisers tells her story. Homeless, with a son [Mikalo] who had undergone a bone marrow transplant, she got a call from Tardif, who arranged payment for a year’s rent on a Winchester apartment, not far from her own house.”

In Rohlfing’s case, Tardif really went the extra mile.

English writes, “Tardif’s husband, a builder, put in a new kitchen and floors, and fixed the bathroom in the apartment. But Tardif wasn’t finished. She is also executive director of Music Drives Us, the nonprofit founded by car magnate Ernie Boch Jr. Rohlfing needed a job, and Tardif needed help, so she hired her at Boch’s foundation.”

Read more.

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I took a taste of local strawberries, and they brought back the little wild strawberries of my childhood. And how a friend might come over, and I might tell her in whispers that I had found a secret place.

I wouldn’t say where exactly until we got close, and she would have to promise not to tell anyone. Then, checking around that no one was watching, I would lead her into a stand of pine trees and out into a clearing in the middle. And there we would sit down and pick wild strawberries, which are always sweeter than any in the supermarket.

Today I was asking my boss about his vacation with his wife’s family in France. He said his four-year-old had such freedom there to run outside and play with cousins. It reminded him of the freedom of his own childhood, and he thought his daughter was only just now experiencing the way childhood is supposed to be. Where he lives, in the city, his little girl could never just run out  like that.

(If you are interested, here is one of many studies on the importance of nature and play in childhood.)

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Nicholas Kristof wrote recently about a new ” ‘poverty statement’ from the premier association of pediatricians, based on two decades of scientific research.” It ties early childhood stress to persistent poverty.

In his NY Times column “A Poverty Solution that Starts with a Hug,” Kristof says of stressed children, “Toxic stress might arise from parental abuse of alcohol or drugs. … It might derive from chronic neglect — a child cries without being cuddled. Affection seems to defuse toxic stress — keep those hugs and lullabies coming! — suggesting that the stress emerges when a child senses persistent threats but no protector. … The crucial period seems to be from conception through early childhood. After that, the brain is less pliable and has trouble being remolded.

“ ‘You can modify behavior later, but you can’t rewire disrupted brain circuits,’ notes Jack P. Shonkoff, a Harvard pediatrician who has been a leader in this field. ‘We’re beginning to get a pretty compelling biological model of why kids who have experienced adversity have trouble learning.’ ”

Lest this is striking too dark a note for Suzanne’s Mom’s Blog, I hasten to point out that identifying a problem is the first step to fixing it. As a proponent of both hugs and poverty alleviation, I was really happy to see this addressed! And Kristof’s mention of the stress hormone cortisol jumped out at me because I hadn’t heard about it until I saw the research in yesterday’s post, which suggested that a pleasant phone conversation with Mom can reduce cortisol more effectively than instant messaging with Mom. (Or whoever reduces your stress.)

Read more. And do leave comments.

(I must look up that article from a few years ago about the Indian woman who stood on a street corner in New York and gave free hugs to long lines of people craving hugs.)


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Today at work we had a holiday team-building outing to the nonprofit Cradles to Crayons. A lot of organizations bring employees to the group’s Giving Factory for their community service projects. Our team volunteered at the same time as Blue Cross Blue Shield and Bank of America.

First we watched a video about the history of the organization, which takes donations of clothes and equipment for children, sorts them, and fills orders for individual children at the request of social service agencies. The donations come from ordinary people and from partner corporations.

A group of us sorted donated coats. I was with the group that “shopped” among the warehouse shelves for bundles of sorted and age-labeled items, looking for the needs listed on individual order sheets. For example, we might have a sheet for a boy, age 4, that said “clothing pack, book bundle, craft packet, boots size 6, coat size 6.” It was very well organized. If we found that Cradles to Crayons was  out of something, the staff would fill the order anyway and invite the requesting agency to reapply for missing items. They like to provide whatever they can as fast as they can.

Cradles to Crayons says, “Our vision is that one day every child will have the essentials they need to feel safe, warm, ready to learn and valued. Through the Giving Factory, we provide those essentials, as donated clothes, shoes, books and school supplies to homeless and low-income children. We also offer meaningful volunteer opportunities to hundreds of corporations and thousands of individuals and families each year.”










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