Monday, December 11, 2017

The Teenage Brain

I recently read a book called "The Teenage Brain: A Neuroscientist's Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents and Young Adults," by Amy Ellis Nutt and Frances E. Jensen.  Timely, to say the least, as we have two pre-teens in the house who are increasingly exhibiting perplexing yet age-normal behavior.  We are decidedly in a new era of dealing with them, in terms of topics of conversation, how to handle discipline and punishment, and what we are worrying about over them.

 It is such a crucial time in their brain development, and in some ways I am excited about the foundation that is being built in their lives and in some ways I am scared to death at the possibility of them making bad choices and forming bad habits.  We are trying our best, as I know all parents of pre-teens and teens are, and most of all we are lifting these precious lives into God's hands to nurture and grow as He wills for their lives. 

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Cars on His Mind

Asher has developed quite a fondness for cars.  He watches cartoons with cars in them, rides around in toy cars, and is never without a car or two in his hand.  A common morning greeting when we walk into his room is, "Hey, you want a monster truck?" 

Especially cute is when he makes us play cars with him, which either involves them racing or them talking and kissing.  So sweet!

Friday, December 01, 2017

Huang Family Newsletter, November 2017

Asher is really into cars; racing and crashing them, but also having them kiss and hug.  Aaron continues to swim after school, and Jada is still in a singing group and a gymnastics team.  Amy is chugging along at her new job and is starting to get her bearings.  Lee is loving his job as well as his fall teaching gig at Penn.  Thanksgiving was spent with extended family but mostly as a fivesome playing and eating our way through Philly.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Missing One This Holiday Season

We five enjoyed the holiday weekend together.  We trekked to Jersey to see family for Thanksgiving dinner, and ate and played our way through Philly the rest of the time.  With no work, school, or extra-curriculars, it made for a lot of time together, just the five of us, and that was nice.

Our hearts and lives are full, and we are nothing but grateful for that.  But that doesn't mean we still don't feel a sense of emptiness and longing over so many missed opportunities for a fourth child so far.  We've felt all of this all along, but are perhaps more aware this season.

Parents who have lost a child feel it even more during the holidays, and that isn't quite us, for we never really had any of the babies we failed to place with.  But there is still a sense of wondering what could have been, wondering if it will ever be.

We usually do family portraits every other year, and this year was the year to do it, and we were looking forward to it being the first time as a party of six, but that hasn't happened yet, and so we've decided to postpone portraits and I'm not sure when we'll do it next now.  

Our hearts and lives are full, so there is relief that a little baby isn't in the mix, with all of the sleeplessness and responsibility that goes with it.  But there is also heartache and waiting and hoping and wondering.  We squeeze each of our kids tight each time we hug them, because no matter how much they complicate our days we can't imagine our lives without them.  Maybe we will be forever without one more, or maybe it is just a little more time.  This is what we wonder this holiday season.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017


Of all of the nicknames we've come up with for Asher, "King Baby" seems to be everyone's favorite.  The littlest member of our family is also the sun around which the rest of us orbit.

Mealtime is when this seems to really come to fore.  For starter's, Asher gets his money's worth while in his high chair.  Then he'll meander from person to person, getting each one of us to hoist him up to our level, where he'll mooch whatever's in front of us that he happens to like.

We know we need to set limits for him at this age, so at some point he wears out his welcome and we issue an ultimatum that he either has to sit back in his chair if he's still hungry, or else leave the kitchen and go play.  But for a few go-rounds, he's running things in the kitchen.  As it should be for our King Baby.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

College Prep

This recent article by the Reason Foundation, a libertarian think tank, is a nice springboard to a topic I’ve been mulling over for the past few weeks and really for the past few years.  It’s no secret if you read this space that I am a big believer in giving kids room to explore, struggle, and even fail.  As my kids get older, I find I am having increasingly mature and urgent conversations with them about why their mother and I parent them the way we do, and what we hope they get out of it.  Lately, I’ve been hammering away at the same three lessons, which I fear many kids get all the way to college without touching let alone learning:

1.  Take responsibility.  For a very long time, it has been on Aaron and Jada to wake up in the morning, to complete homework, and to pack for extra-curricular activities with no adult intervention.  If you have spent your entire childhood with a human alarm clock, constant help in doing homework, and a live-in assistant who preps your gym bag, college is going to be a rude awakening. 

2. Deal with stress.  The importance of resiliency, and the tragic consequences of not knowing how to cope when overwhelm, are increasingly known and emphasized.  And yet how easily we parents swoop in at the first sign of distress.  Without being overly callous, I have let our kids sit for a minute in the discomfort of stress, acknowledging its existence and encouraging them to persevere through it.  Aaron and Jada now know that if they’re having a late night and they’re tired and they still have homework and they’re anxious about it and it’s their turn to clean the kitchen, the only thing they’ll get from petitioning me for a rescheduling of their chores is a lecture about how sometimes you have to do what you’re supposed to do in less than ideal circumstances. 

3. Live with freedom to do both good and bad.  This is a hard one, because I realize that room to sin means that sometimes kids choose poorly, with adverse consequences to them and sometimes others.  Whether it’s staying home alone, having Internet access, or being on social media, the opportunity is ripe for behaviors that are self-destructive and/or hurtful to others.  I don’t wish this for my kids or any kids, but I prefer that mistakes are made now at 10 and 12 than for the first time at 18 or 22 or 26, when the moral, social, and criminal consequences may be far more intractable. 

Since we live in the shadow of a college campus, in a neighborhood called University City, and since Amy and I are both college alum and college faculty, talk of college is never too far from our family conversation.  College prep usually takes the form of getting good grades, or as kids get to the application phase it’s about researching schools and lining up financial aid.  But there’s another part of college prep that’s even more important in every way than academics or finances, and that is preparing our kids to take responsibility, deal with stress, and live with freedom.  Here’s hoping they’ll be ready when it’s time.

Tuesday, November 07, 2017


Ah the weekend: a time to sleep in, relax, and...oh, but if you're on the swim team, sometimes it means waking up both mornings and driving out to a meet.  Such was Aaron's past weekend, where he had six events over two mornings. 

His results:
50 free - 3rd out of 6
50 back - 5th out of 6
100 breast - 1st out of 6
100 free - 3rd out of 6
50 fly - 2nd out of 6
100 IM - 1st out of 6

He is at the tail end of his age range so is doing better, relative to those he's swimming against.  Soon he'll jump into a new age range and a more competitive pool (no pun intended), so will struggle just to stay in the water.  But for now, it's good to see him see some competitive success in his races.  Attaboy, Aaron!