Posted in Education, Family, literature, Opinion, parenting, reading, summer, teaching, teen, toddlers, Uncategorized

Woodland Adventure Handbook

Review: Woodland Adventure Handbook by Adam Dove is a book I reviewed for work that I thought some of my readers might like.

It’s a little handbook about family activities to do in the woods. Adam Dove using ideals from UK “forest schools” and makes them approachable for parents and teachers. Learning through play is not a new idea by any means but it is becoming increasingly popular. TInkergarten, Montessori, and others have grown in the last decade. Why? I think the standards and pressures for what children are supposed to know when has become almost excessive. Parents are trying to find alternative ways of teaching that don’t require young children to sit at a desk 8 hours a day.
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Each section has a story, followed by how to set up for the upcoming activities, then games and things to create that go with the story. At the end is a wrap up of what was learned.

For example, section 5 is called “Magic potions and wizards’ power wands”. The story at the beginning is just explaining the ingredients needed to create the potion that can only be used to help others. It says to follow stick arrows and footprints. So, before you go out in the woods with your children you make stick arrows and footprints that lead to the things they need. They follow it, create potions, craft wands, and play a game.

It’s a really cute book with some new ideas for any parent wanting to do more outside and get more involved with your child’s education. I would think the target age range could be anywhere from 3 to 7. Possibly a little older if you make it more elusive for them.

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Posted in DIY, Family, health, Mental Health, Opinion, parenting, teen, toddlers, Uncategorized

Safety zone: Child’s bedroom

There’s a lot out there on moms and dads having “me time”. It’s super important, I’m not denying that. I am however advocating the kids need “me time” too. Time to reconnect, time to calm, time to be bored. The best place for that is outside, and if you’re lucky enough to have a space outside for your kid to play alone than use it! However, second best is their bedroom.

Their bedroom should be their safe zone. They should want to be in there. Don’t force your decorating aesthetic on them. I want my whole house in Harry Potter decor but it’s just not going to happen because my kids haven’t even seen a whole movie yet (I know, it’s on my list).

My daughter decided she wanted a flamingo bedroom when I told her she couldn’t share a room with her brother anymore. It was kind of a sad day but after she started picking out some things for us to use she pepped up pretty fast.

Perks:

  1. More likely to stay in there during the night and during bedtime: if you have had issues with this you know how big of a deal that is.
  2. Has a place to go when needs to cool off: again if you have had issues with this you know how important this is too. We have a small house so it’s crucial my kids feel comfortable in their bedrooms to diffuse.
  3. Gives them a place to play quietly when quiet time is needed: if you have more than one child, or one but you do work from home or something else that requires quiet, having a safe zone room is crucial. Before we made over my daughter’s room getting her brother to nap was super hard. She would want to be out in the living room with us or playing in his room. Now, she has a craft/reading area in her bedroom that she will play with until he’s asleep and we can play together.
  4. Gives them a safe place: kind of goes with the cool off one, but also for other intense feelings. Sometimes kids just need to cry or scream or vent. Sometimes they need to do that alone before you try to intervene and make them talk through it.

But how?

Well for one, ask them what they want. There’s almost no theme or idea that you can’t tweak to make you both happy. Unless, of course, it’s Dora (again yes). Also, we did not have a “moving to a new bedroom and need decor” budget in our savings. So, we took things we already had and made it work for the room. I think total I spent about $45 bucks on paint, new sheets, and one stuffed flamingo (optional).

We painted the hutch that a friend was getting rid of, the mirror from Walmart, and the green shelves that were currently in her brother’s room but had nothing on them. I put the dresser in her brother’s room that now had more space with her bed gone and moved the bookcase into her room since she is the one who is using the books more.

The princess netting was over her bed in her brother’s room but we decided to use it over her reading area to give it more of a separation. Additions have been a lava lamp for calming down at night and an oil diffuser.

 

Posted in Education, Family, health, Mental Health, Opinion, parenting, Social Change, teaching, teen, toddlers, Uncategorized

They’re after me Lucky Charms!

There are three things that I am very passionate about. Three things, that if I were asked five years ago would I care about them, I would have probably answered with “eh not so much”. Simple living used to mean being boring, education used to mean finishing college- didn’t really care about the general education system, and nutrition meant making sure I ate something in between my three daily energy drinks.

Now these things mean so much more to me.

I would like to start with a nutrition post. I know I’ve already lost some of you, but I promise I have good reason!Image result for nutrition meme

Growing up, I knew what healthy was. I still know what healthy food is. Everyone knows what healthy food is. But do you know just how unhealthy the unhealthy food is? And do you know how unhealthy some of the healthy food is? And do you know why we don’t know these things? How are we all not dead yet?

Well, it sounds like we’re speeding up to it. I heard a quote recently that I cannot for the life of me remember where I heard it, but in short it said; our generation of children growing up now, will be the first to not live as long as their parents. THAT’S TERRIFYING.

There are plenty of areas to pick on: fast food, sodas, processed foods, etc, etc. But what I accurate breakfast cereal cocoa puffs box changedam going to focus on is a food that hurt me. It hurt me deep.

I grew up on bags of off-brand sugary cereals. We also had the “healthy” cereals like Cheerios, Corn Flakes, etc, but those usually got topped with a spoon full of sugar. All of these were mixed with skim milk, so you know, totally healthy breakfast.
accurate breakfast cereal froot loops box unchanged

This probably sounds pretty normal to most of us. Without these sugary cereals I probably wouldn’t have made it through college. Most poor college kids ate Ramen noodles, I ate Captain Crunch. My pregnancies were both a blur of doctors appointments, insomnia, getting fat and swollen, and Fruit Loops. Then I discovered Fruit Loops with marshmallows; forget about it! I could go days just eating that.

*Before I start savagely ripping into cereal companies I want to say that I am only picking on them so hard because I felt the most duped. Yes sugar is blatant but the rest…eh…

Cereal companies are some of the biggest villains in the advertising world. Cartoon characters are featured on almost every cereal that is catered to young children. Why? Because kids like cartoons. They also are easily swayed with brand recognition (hello Disney). Those brightly colored familiar faces are all placed strategically towards the lower shelves where little eyes can see them better. Cereal companies also are great with flowery words that hide some of their horrible ingredients. A few years ago (2013), Kellogs had to pay a few million because they were advertising that Frosted Mini-Wheats helped children focus and do better in school. Obviously that’s an unfounded claim but I bet it was totally believable when you saw it on tv. Kellogs also got busted for claiming that Rise Crispies were beneficial to your health. Eh, not so much.

As I have posted about before, my daughter has had emotional problems pretty much since birth, if that’s possible. I have an autoimmune disease that is steadily getting worse it seems like with no plausible cause or cure other than medications that I refuse to take. Both of us seem worse off when we have cereal in the morning. Is that science? Not really, but it did make want to do some research.

Youtube brought me to a gentleman who introduced a chemical to me that I had never heard of. Trisodium Phosphate.

Image result for trisodium phosphateImage result for trisodium phosphate

I checked my own box at home, and sure enough this isn’t propaganda. It was right there in front of me.

“As the cereal maker noted repeatedly, “TSP itself is safe and the amount of TSP in cereals is tiny. It’s a water-soluble salt that helps adjust acidity.”” This was taken from an article defending General Mills. I understand that as a counter argument but I just can’t shake the feeling that I shouldn’t be eating a chemical cleaner. Now, it has been compared to baking soda, which can also be used as a chemical cleaner but is found in many baked goods. Possibly the same? I don’t know, I’m not comfortable with it because I don’t know. And I feel like most people weren’t aware of this either.

They are supposedly removing artificial coloring from their cereals slowly but surely so there’s that. As of now though, a lot of cereals still have these artificial coloring in them. Let’s look at those shall we?

They are known as the Southampton Six by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (which have been pushing for the removal of these dyes). The Southampton Six include: Red 40, Ponceau 4R, Yellow 5, Yellow 6, Quinoline Yellow, and Carmoisine.

Red 40: comes from petroleum distillates or coal tars. Mmmm yummy. Red 40 can cause allergic reactions in “some people”. No big whoop, a lot of things do. They can also cause hyperactivity in children especially if they have ADHD or ADD. *Collar pull* eh okay, I mean so can sugar and stuff so go on…it also contains “p-Credsidine, which the U.S. Department of health and Human Services says is “reasonably anticipated” to be a human carcinogen.” Ah…well…shit.Image result for red 40 coal tars

On studies done on poor little lab mice, Red 40 caused immune system tumors, lower reproduction success, decreased brain weight, and lowered the chances for their offspring to even survive. The argument is, as usual, it’s okay in small doses. The problem is, on FDA labels there is no guidelines that makes companies list how much Red 40 is in their products. Ergo, you have no idea how much you are eating. I think just skipping it entirely would be your best bet. Red 40 can also be called Allura Red, Allura Red AC, and Red No. 40. The other problem is some foods that are not red or orange still contain Red 40. Pickles, dressings, BBQ sauce, and some cheese may have it in there.

Yellow #5 or Tartrazine: I remember in high school hearing that guys that drank Mountain Dew had lower sperm counts.

Image result for uh what gif

Apparently, this view was widespread enough that the Wall Street Journal ran an article about it and Dear Abby advised her readers to not use Mountain Dew as birth control. The culprit is tartrazine. Again, tartrazine has been linked to hyperactivity in children. In 2010, the FDA actually released a memo that stated “for certain susceptible children with ADHD and other problem behaviors, the data suggest that their condition may be exacerbated by exposure to a number of substances in food, including but not limited to, artificial food colors”. Of course this is only going to effect a small number of consumers who have ADHD, ADD, or other mental disorders. There have also been studies done on allergic reactions to Yellow 5, particularly with children on medications, and their inability to fully get beneficial treatments because of it. Yellow 5 is already banned in some European countries.

Image result for jacked up on mountain dew meme

But what about the sperm issue? Apparently there was a study done in 2009 in Algeria and another done in 2010 in India that showed reduced sperm count in mice when they were given tartrazine. Just slightly, mind you, so I wouldn’t bank on that for safety.

Blue, dabbodedahboodah: Blue No.1 & Blue No. 2: “Brilliant blue” was originally made from coal tar like red, but now a lot of places are able to make it from an oil base. “Indigotine” is a textile dye. Again, these are both relatively safe when ingested in small amounts but have been linked to hyperactivity. Blue dyes have a unique set of worries because their dangers have been linked more to skin absorption and entering the bloodstream via tongues. A study using pigs and the blue dye showed the dye did indeed enter the bloodstream. This was worrisome because “several studies show that these dyes might inhibit cell respiration”.

In addition to dyes there is the ever present argument of sugar and high-fructose corn syrup. Sugar is obviously one of the main ingredients in most children breakfast cereals. There is a laundry list of problems associated with excess sugar consumption: liver damage, diabetes, hyperactivity, obesity, metabolic dysfunction, even things like depression can worsen with too much sugar. It has been proven that sugar is as addictive, or more so, than cocaine. Again, the problem with sugar being on the ingredients list is you are given the grams. So, let’s say Golden Grahams has 14 grams of sugar per serving which is probably a cup, or half a cup. What does that mean to you? Probably not much. Food companies are not required to put a percentage next to sugar to show how much you should consume in a day like they do other ingredients. Like so:

Image result for food labels no sugar percentageImage result for food labels no sugar percentage

I do believe that there are motions to put another label under sugar that says “added sugar”. Again though, it will only give you grams, no percentages. It would seem that if they can give you percentages for fat and sodium, they should for sugar too right?

So what am I saying? Do you have to cook a homemade breakfast every morning or risk feeding your kids and yourself poison? No, that would be ridiculous. My daughter loves Lucky Charms. Loves them. Like if a box of Lucky Charms and I were hanging off a cliff and she could only save one I would be worried about my chances for living. However, I will definitely create a better diet that will restrict Lucky Charms, and all the other unhealthy cereals, to very limited consumption. Everything in moderation. So what do you do the rest of the mornings? Here are some things to limit and/or stay away from if you can manage it, and a list of better options:

 

The Good

Puffins cereal

Cascadian Farms

Kix

Kashi

Oatmeal

The Bad

Lucky Charms- the first ingredient listed is whole grains…that’s about where anything nutritious stops. The following ingredient is marshmallows or sugar. However, there is about 3 grams of fiber but there are also color additives. So, it’s a battle for this one but on rare occasions I think I will still allow Lucky Charms in my cabinet.

Frosted Flakes- Anything that says “frosted” you should probably not consume in high doses. Frosted Flakes is fat free and all that jazz but high is sugar and carbs. I don’t think any dyes to speak of though, so an occasional bowl is probably okay.

Cinnamon Toast Crunch- Surprisingly, this cereal has a little less sugar than it’s siblings. I think maybe the cinnamon flavoring helps? I don’t know but they are made from whole grain with only 28% of it’s calories being from sugar so that’s better than some. Still very high in carbs.

Corn Pops- A little less sugar, a little more fiber, but does contain hydrogenated oils. So not an everyday cereal by any means.

The Ugly

Honey Smacks- Used to be called Sugar Smacks but they wanted to sound a little more healthy. They have one of the highest sugar levels of all the breakfast cereals available. No fiber to speak of and an additive that actually makes you overeat makes this one Image result for crying facecereal I will probably not buy again. And this was one of my favorites.

Apple Jacks/Fruit Loops- Huge amounts of sugar, like no fiber, and tons of color additives. Pass.

Crunch Berries- I love the captain, I really do. And apparently most people that make eye contact with him do too (28% of consumers who made eye contact with the Captain bought Captain Crunch). However, I will have to exclude Crunch Berries from my occasional splurge because of the sugar, and the dyes.

Cocoa Puffs- I’ve never been cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs but even the few times I may crave these sweet chocolate cereals I will have to pass. The second ingredient listed is sugar with no healthy ingredients to combat the amount of sugar per serving.

Reeses Puffs- Although not as high in sugar content as some of the others on my ugly list it is high in color additives.

Posted in Family, Opinion, parenting, teen, toddlers, Uncategorized

When I just don’t want to play

 

 

Image result for child growing up

 

I get bored with playing. There, I said it. It’s hard, even as a blogger of parenting articles and other family related activities, to always express my personal life for public use. However, in order to write honestly, I think I have to.

Sometimes, I don’t want to play pretend. I want to just read and tune out. I don’t want to color or play play-dough. It’s too hot for playing tag and too cold to splash in puddles. Sometimes, I don’t want be completely immersed in another person. I don’t want to talk. I don’t want to ask the same question over and over, or give the same answer over and over.  Sometimes, I want to do nothing.

Sometimes, I just don’t want to do these things. But I do them, even if halfheartedly on the rougher days. Coming home from work and transitioning into mom mode isn’t always easy. But I do it.

Because I know there will be a day when I go to start playing and my daughter will say no. That she doesn’t want to play pretend. She just wants to read and tune out. She doesn’t want to color or play play-dough. She’ll say she’s too old to play tag and too mature to splash in puddles. She doesn’t want to be completely immersed in another person. She doesn’t want to talk. She doesn’t want to answer the same question over and over, or give the same answer over and over. She just wants to do nothing.

Mostly, she just won’t need me to do these things like she does now. So I won’t.

That’s what I remember when I have to play house, or school, or doctor, or any of the games that are on constant repeat in our playroom. I try to smile, push through, and ask her “okay, what do you want to play now?”

Image result for mother and daughter playingImage result for mother and daughter playing

 

Posted in Family, health, Mental Health, parenting, teen, toddlers, Uncategorized

Other than hyper…

When you think of a kid with ADHD or ADD, you may picture a small child swinging from a ceiling fan while making loud monkey sounds. Or maybe they’re on top of the kitchen counter trying to jump rope. They are, more or less, always hyper to the untrained eye.

Image result for child with adhdHowever, having a hyper child doesn’t mean that they have ADHD. Most children, at least a majority of them, have a resource of energy that adults just don’t understand. The phrase “he/she’s been running all day, how is she not tired” could be for any toddler or adolescent.

On the reverse side, not all kids who have ADHD/ADD act out in a hyper manner. Some are very often caught daydreaming or “in the zone” when doing something. Since children with ADHD get distracted very easily, some sufferers need to completely tune into one thing they are doing. If anything else is going on they will lose focus and not be able to complete task. They may not appear hyper but they are struggling nonetheless.

The difference really comes down to, is it negatively affecting your child’s life? A lot of times ADHD/ADD can’t be identified until they are in Kindergarten or older because their limitations of concentration haven’t really been tested. From what I have seen in work and at home, there seems to be three categories that ADHD/ADD symptoms are lumped into most often: Inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness.

Inattention:

  • Difficulty organizing
  • Cannot remember directions and has trouble with completing tasks
  • Seems to not be listening when being spoken to
  • Constantly losing things or putting them where they don’t belong
  • Difficulty concentrating on schoolwork or activity for the amount of time it would take to complete it

Hyperactivity

  • Can’t sit still; fidgets or constantly moves feet when sitting
  • Gets in and out of chair when sitting at table or desk
  • Talks excessively and usually loudly
  • Difficulty playing quietly

Impulsiveness

  • Interrupts, even when you are answering something they asked you
  • Struggles to control physical movements
  • Blurts out answers (if in classroom)

I think it’s important to note (since this is how I realized we may have a problem on our hands) that ADHD/ADD is linked with behavior issues. It’s easy to understand why, once you start to think about how a child with ADHD has to process the world around them. Frustration, anger, fear, anxiety, and low self esteem are all very real feelings for kids suffering through this. Parents may be exhausted and beat down but even when your child is screaming they hate you, they are probably going through more emotional turmoil than you are.

Some other symptoms that are not mentioned as much but still may be a red flag are:

  • Aggressiveness
  • Bold and no fear (meaning they will talk to strangers, climb on anything and not care about the idea of getting hurt)
  • Unable to hop on one foot (up to age 4)
  • Complete loss of control (for parents who experience this, it’s like a tantrum on steroids)

 

I am putting this information out there for parents who may be on the fence about whether or not their child has ADHD/ADD. There is a lot of literature available about how ADHD/ADD does not exist. That it is a made-up disease for pharmaceutical companies and to label overactive children as a way to explain their actions and behaviors. In the past three years, I have learned very clearly that is inaccurate. While medicating a child is a separate topic completely, I think we need to realize that mental illness is completely, 100% real, and that it does affect people of all ages, even children. Until that stigma is gone I feel a lot of children who need help won’t get it.

On the same note, I have said it before, I do think it’s also over-diagnosed as well. Do yourself a favor, if you think your child has a problem, go to a doctor. Not your pediatrician, but a counselor of some kind. They will be able to tell you after a few sessions and talks with you whether your child is just very energetic or if there’s something else going on. There are many natural remedies to some of the behaviors you may be experiencing and with just a little tweaking here and there you may see a huge difference in your child at home and at school.

 

Posted in Education, Family, Opinion, parenting, teen, Uncategorized

Repost: Maryland Title 1 Funding=No sense

The Baltimore Sun posted an article about the allocation of funds for Title 1 schools in the coming school year. Somehow, the poorest counties in the state got overlooked. Majority of the money is going to Montgomery county, which has some of the wealthiest areas.

“The answer [to this phenomenon] lies in a complicated and outdated formula that’s used to distribute the Title I money – a formula that’s resulted in a series of significant funding discrepancies that can shortchange school districts with high concentrations of poverty, and benefit larger districts and big urban areas instead of poorer, rural districts and small cities.”

I can’t help but mention when you read the article, that I think being in the Baltimore Sun made them a little biased. Somerset County is actually the poorest county in the state and would be able to do a great deal of good with some of those reallocated funds.

 

 

An article in the Baltimore Sun compares funding from the federal education program, Title 1, finding differences between per-student funding from county-to-county in Maryland while an article in US News and World Report looks at the trend nationwide. As reported by the Baltimore Sun, Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Montgomery and Prince George’s counties all have poverty rates […]

via Articles Compare Title 1 Allocations Throughout Maryland, US — Conduit Street

Posted in Education, Family, literature, Opinion, parenting, Social Change, teaching, teen

Teaching Teens Tolerance

In light of recent events, I thought it was fitting to do a post about teaching tolerance of others to teens. I honestly am not a fan of the word “tolerance” since it has the connotation of just “putting-up with” or merely “tolerating” those who are different from you. I instead like to think that teens can be understanding and accepting of others. I think they can actually enjoy the differences, imagine that. We as a society have obviously messed something up somewhere but this cycle of hate doesn’t have to continue.

In a lot of ways young adults today seem to have more experience with different races, religions, and sexual orientations than past generations. Classrooms are becoming more diverse and even the media is breaking down a lot of diversity stereotypes (on the other hand however, they are making some worse). Most parents welcome this, as they should, while others seem less enthused.

One way to promote understanding is to make all students aware of the truth. This means teaching them history accurately. Not the watered down, Disney esque, version that is taught in most politically run schools today. I mean the real history of the world. All the nitty gritty details of it. The book Lies My Teacher Told Me is one of my absolute favorites. A tough read for teens but as a parent, who is educating your child, I suggest you give a read through.

I have to mention, that I believe you should try to be unbiased as possible when teaching history to your children. It’s very easy to sway historical events to be the fault of this group or that because you personally feel that way. Stick to the facts. Come to the understanding that no group has clean hands when it comes to history. I will be posting a history cheat sheet for anyone who needs a little help to better explain some complicated historical events, like the Crusades.

We can just talk about the elephant in the blog and mention Islam education. Their religion is a complex one and it is important for our teens to understand it. It would appear that tensions in the Middle East and tensions with the U.S. are not going to subside anytime soon thanks to the control that ISIS has acquired. I think teens should have a general understanding of all world religions in order to be able to make better assumptions and judgements of current world issues.

Tolerance isn’t something that needs to even be as vast as world religions and politics. Teaching teens to be tolerant of other students and members of the community is a great place to start. Most teens I have encountered understand to respect others who are handicapped or impaired in anyway. Some will still find an opportunity to mock the other’s pain but for the most part I feel that young people are generally good natured in that way. However, I think it’s much easier for teens to make fun of, or belittle, those with less visible ailments. For instance, a student who is suffering from Asperger’s may be a target because they do not understand the same social cues as everyone else. Their impairment is not a visible one making it easier for teens to target someone with a social problem.

I think a great way for parents to explain this to a teen if they talk about a student who maybe isn’t the best at socializing (or who is extremely solitary or who takes too long to answer questions in class) is to explain they think and process information differently than your teen does. This doesn’t mean they are any better or worse than your teen. In fact, the student struggling may have skills your teen does not. For instance, they may be very artistic or know more about a particular subject that your teen struggles with. Making light of their talents instead of their social inequalities is a good way to see them as equals for your teen.

Getting out to volunteer is another way to teach tolerance. Places like homeless shelters, nursing homes, other schools, libraries, and other community outlets will introduce them to people they may have not encountered otherwise. Seeing the less fortunate can do the same. There are many inspiring stories out there about young people starting fundraisers and doing great acts for those who need it. There’s an organization called Teen Line where teens volunteer to speak or text with other teens who may be in crisis or just need someone to talk to.

Never discourage your teen’s (or younger child’s) curiosity of those around you. Sometimes you may be asked something that you think is rude, or racist, or unacceptable; however, if they are generally unsure about something you need to be able to answer them honestly and respectfully. Steer them towards the appropiate response and reactions to the world around them.

The biggest and best way to teach tolerance to your teens? Be tolerant yourself. I know, this is groundbreaking stuff. But if you are accepting and helpful to others they will see that and emulate you. Remember that they are listening, all the time. So be wary of using hateful slang and furthering any sort of stereotypical ideology that you may have grown up with yourself.

 

 

Some reading recommendations for teaching diversity to teens:

 

 

“Chronicles the contemporary adolescence of one Native American boy as he attempts to break away from the life he was destined to live.”

 

 

“Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness.”

 

 

“My name is August. I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.”

 

 

 

“Tragedy forces Esperanza and Mama to flee to California during the Great Depression, and to settle in a camp for Mexican farm workers. Esperanza isn’t ready for the hard labor, financial struggles, or lack of acceptance she now faces.”

 

 

 

 

“A gripping and intensely touching debut middle grade novel by Kerry O’Malley Cerra, Just a Drop of Water brings the events of September 11, which shook the world, into the lens of a young boy who is desperately trying to understand the ramifications of this life-altering event.”

 

 

“The world is too busy crumbling to pieces to pay attention to a 17-year-old girl.”