weekly photo challenge: create

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Furnishing dollhouses was a hobby my daughter and I shared as she was growing up. The first dollhouse was a gift for her which my husband assembled from a kit. We painstakingly finished it off with paint, wallpaper, roofing tiles, and electricity. We were quite pleased with the finished product, as was our daughter who squealed with delight upon seeing it Christmas morning.

The following year my husband’s aunt and uncle visited from California, bringing with them a surprise for our daughter. Driving their trusty trailer the 3,000 miles to our home in Redding, Conncecticut, they eagerly presented her with a dollhouse that uncle had built with pride. He’d built dollhouses for 3 granddaughters as well.

To our great surprise uncle had built the exact same dollhouse that we’d presented to my daughter! There was a slight difference, one that made his more convenient for 360 degree viewing. Attached to its underside was a turntable. This dollhouse could be placed anywhere, unlike the first which had to be situated so that the front of the house and the inside could be seen at the same time. Displaying it took some creativity on my part when trying to incorporate it into our home furnishings. A dilemma not easily solved in a 100-year-old, 1500 square foot, Victorian farmhouse. But I managed.

Now there were 2 dollhouses to display and furnish. Over time, the one built by uncle  was furnished with pieces selected by my daughter. She lovingly arranged each as she imagined a house should look…lived in. Miniature food was left out on the table, pumpkin carvings on newsprint on the floor, magazines and games strewn about.

The one my husband had built became a haven for the vintage finds I favored. I was delighted to have another outlet for my insatiable passion for antiques…of any size. Normal size or miniatures, originals or replicas, none of that mattered. The “look” is what I obsessed about. This dollhouse began to resemble the feel of our house…only in miniature.

What fun my daughter and I had creating comfortable dwellings for imaginary people. And she and friends spent countless hours playing house like the wee folk…thanks to 2 creative geniuses…

…her father…and great uncle…

………hugmamma.   🙂

daily post challenge: what prompts me to create…to write?

I’m a storyteller. Aren’t we all? I think what I have to share is worth sharing. I don’t know of too many people who feel differently about themselves.

Danny Lambert of the Socialist Party of Great ...

Image via Wikipedia

I want my turn at the soap box on the corner, where I can spew nonsense, or platitudes, or gut-wrenching experiences. Who doesn’t do that, every day?

I’m looking for an audience, beyond my immediate family, who’ll nod in agreement, offer sympathy, or call me a genius. Don’t tell me you don’t have those same fantasies?

Escaping the reality of housework, endless meal preparations, weekly laundering, tending the garden…other good reasons…to create…to write. Surely you have your own list of reasons to seek some respite in more pleasurable past-times.

We’re human beings, after all. We’re not mythological gods who manipulated fate on a whim. Nor are we members of the lesser species whose only business is to survive. We must carve out our own legacies…with our own hands…with our own creative juices.

My professional career was spent behind a desk, several in fact, from Hawaii to Washington D.C. to Boston to New York. During that entire time, the artist in me lingered in the shadows, while my more practical side set about to conquer the world. Well, maybe just a fraction of it.

Now the only desk I enjoy sitting at is the one on which my laptop sits. And any desk will do…

…as long as I can write………hugmamma.

a “crack” in traditional chinese parenting

As Yale law professor Amy Chua defends and touts the superiority of Chinese parenting, it seems there might be a shift, or at least a “crack”, in the long-held traditions she advocates. Directly below her article in the Wall Street Journal “Why Chinese Moms Are Superior,” was another written by Victoria Ruan, “In China, Turning Away From Tough Love.” It is subtitled, “Parents increasingly want their children to be creative, independent and less obsessed with test scores.”  The culprit for this surprising change of heart? Books, but nothing at all like the 2000 publication by parents of “Harvard Girl Liu Yitting,” which served as a guide to how their daughter “won a coveted spot at the Ivy League school. Among the character-building exercises to which they subjected their daughter was having her hold ice cubes in her hands for long stretches.”

 Middle-class families in China’s growing cities seem to be making a “quiet shift,” embracing such non-traditional tenets of parenting, as encouraging and nurturing children’s independence and confidence. Parents in their 30s and 40s are at the forefront of this movement. Current best-seller, “A Good Mom Is Better Than A Good Teacher,” by former Beijing public school teacher Yin Jianli, published in 2009, has sold more than two million copies. “Ms. Yin advocates listening to kids and developing their potential without forcing them to obey authority.” Against tasks that harm children’s desire to study, Jianli admits to sometimes having done her daughter’s homework. “In one case, a teacher had asked the girl to copy the same words over a dozen times one night as punishment for failing to memorize them.”

Author Sun Ruixue wrote best seller “Catching Children’s Sensitive Periods,” as a followup to “Love and Freedom.” Ruixue hopes that her readers will better understand their children, allowing them to grow up “healthily in love and freedom.” She also encourages Chinese parents to discover a child’s “true nature,” a founding principle of education reformer Maria Montessori. While author Fang Gang recognizes that “Our society, to some extent, remains a society full of ranking-related prejudice,” he proposes that children can be happy and successful without garnering the highest test scores. In fact he challenges that of those students with the top scores, ” ‘how many have kept independent thinking, creativity and their unique characteristics?’ ” The title of his book says it all “My Kid Is a Medium-Ranking Student.”

“One Must Not Fail in the Enterprise of Being a Father,” is another best seller co-written by father and daughter, Alex and Ashley Xu. An American businessman with a chain of hotels in China and the head of other multinational companies, Xu supports easing up on academics for their children, while encouraging them to choose extracurricular activities based upon their own interests. Born in China’s countryside, recipient of a master’s in the U.S., Xu encourages his daughter, born and educated in the U.S., “to be ‘as confident as a foreign kid,’ resisting the traditional Chinese emphasis on quiet deference to authority. Children shouldn’t be arrogant, he says, but they also shouldn’t be ‘overly modest.’ ”

It’s interesting to note that in this article, the Journal inserted statistics showing the results of the 2009 Program for International Student Assessment tests. They track 15-year-olds in reading, math and science. Of the 65 economies researched, Shanghai, China scored #1 in all three subjects, while the U.S. ranked #17 in reading, #31 in math, and #23 in science. In a footnote to the chart, it was indicated that “*China provided scores from SELECTED educational systems, including Shanghai, Hong Kong and Macau.”

Our species being what it is, sooner or later we succumb to independent thinking, especially in light of ideas traveling the Internet at the speed of light. And China’s largest online book retailer, Dangdang.com, is presenting parents with an array of writings by international  authors from South Korea, Taiwan, Japan, Germany, the U.K. and the U.S. American imports include John Gray’s “Children Are From Heaven: Positive Parenting Skills for Raising Cooperative, Confident and Compassionate Children,” and “How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk,” by Adel Faber and Elaine Mazlish.

Maybe the past and the present can meet somewhere in the middle, and chart a new course for the future. The following clip from the movie “JOY LUCK CLUB,” based upon the book by the same name, illustrates this possibility.


for amy chua coming over to the “dark side,” huge hugs…hugmamma.