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My son had a stroke as a baby. I just watched him become a man.

My greatest hope for my son Max's bar mitzvah: I wanted him to have both a fun and meaningful time.

I got my wish. Actually, I got more than my wish.

It was all so surreal. It didn’t feel like that long ago that Max had suffered a stroke that would lead to cerebral palsy. That he might not walk and might not talk. That he could have vision and hearing problems.


And here he was, my young man.

All photos by Ellen Seidman, used with permission.

Max owned the ceremony. We put it together ourselves, creating our own tradition.

He sang his songs and prayers beautifully, accompanied on guitar by a music teacher with whom he'd been practicing for eight months. He was especially gleeful about belting out "Thank You, God" — sung to the tune of "Fire Truck" — because he'd made up the words. ("I love the mitzvah of helping people, I want to be a fireman when I grow up!") The refrain of "Uri, Uri" had special meaning to me: "'Cause you've got the music in your soul, this world needs to hear your song."

When Max made his speech, first he used the speech app on his iPad to pronounce each sentence, and then he articulated the words. He noted that he is good at being Jewish and doing good; that he'd done a fire safety presentation at school for his mitzvah project; and that everyone should join him in eating sushi afterward.

Max had a gigantic smile on his face the entire time and giggled when people pumped their fists and said, "Woot! Woot!" — he had requested no clapping. He had everyone in the sanctuary laughing and crying; there is a reason we had 70 packets of tissues handy.

He had everyone in the sanctuary laughing and crying.

I only lost it a few times. Mostly, I was beaming, thrilled by his delivery and confidence. Boy, was he in control. Max told one of his cousins "Shhh!" when he heard her talking and directed his little sister, Sabrina, where to stand when she came up to sing a song with him. At the end, he gave the rabbi a hug. After stopping by a pew to give his teacher one, too, he booked out of there for cocktail hour.

Max made an ecstatic entrance into the party room wearing his Fireman Max hat as "Firework" played. He danced it up. He had asked to not be raised high on the chair during the hora, but when the predesignated Max Lifting Committee got him up there, he asked to go higher. Then he asked to do it again. Then he wanted Daddy to go up on a chair. Then me. Sabrina went up, too. Baby Ben: no.

Max welcomed special guests to light candles on his cake. He and the kiddie crowd played games with the DJ. He watched, in awe, the photo/video montage I’d made of his life and kept watching it again and again as it looped on the video screens. He ate a giant slice of birthday cake. He got pics taken in the photo booth. He danced some more, including our mom/son duet to "Just the Way You Are."

And when it was over, he requested another bar mitzvah. "This year!" he told me, hopefully.

Umm...

I wasn't just proud of my boy, I was all-out wowed by him. It was a day to celebrate Max becoming a young man but also a day to celebrate how far he has come.

My husband, Dave, and I did our best to capture the wonder that is Max in the speech we gave at the party.

Max held the mic for us the entire time.

Me: "My friend Wendy recently gave me a compliment; she said I always choose happiness and joy in life. Actually, that’s not completely true. Happiness was delivered to me and Dave, and his name is Max. From his first smile at two months old, Max has added cheer, exuberance, and joy to our lives and to basically everyone who comes into contact with him. To know him is to adore him."

Dave: "Behind that smile is a whole lot of strength, determination, and will. (Stubbornness, too, which explains why Max’s first word was 'No!') Max knows exactly what he wants, at all times. When we went on a joy trip last winter, Max chose the destination — Chicago. He watched videos on YouTube about Chicago, and when we were there, it was him telling me how to get around."

Me: "Max has shown us the way throughout his entire life. He has shown us what true perseverance is. He has shown us how to appreciate the inchstones along with the milestones. He has shown us the many meanings of 'ability.' He has shown us that it’s perfectly OK to be on your own timeline, proceeding at the pace that is right for you. He has shown us the beautiful range that is humanity. And, of course, he has shown us the way to the nearest fire station, wherever we go."

Max has shown us the way throughout his entire life. He has shown us what true perseverance is.

Dave: "We’re so glad you’re here to celebrate Max’s bar mitzvah. You’ve come from places near and far including Tennessee, Missouri, Texas, Georgia, Chicago, Los Angeles, Maryland, Massachusetts, and that truly exotic locale, Brooklyn, New York. So many of you have played a role in Max’s life, whether directly with him or enabling me and Ellen to be the best parents possible to him."

Me: "My father, Zaydie, is here with us in spirit and likely wondering how good the food is — he loved a good meal. He was impressed by Max’s progress, and he would have been so proud of him today. At the beginning of Max’s life, we only hoped this day would come; eventually, we knew it. 'I can see the brightness in his eyes,' a doctor once told us. I know that today, you've seen it too."

Science

A juice company dumped orange peels in a national park. Here's what it looks like now.

12,000 tons of food waste and 21 years later, this forest looks totally different.


In 1997, ecologists Daniel Janzen and Winnie Hallwachs approached an orange juice company in Costa Rica with an off-the-wall idea.

In exchange for donating a portion of unspoiled, forested land to the Área de Conservación Guanacaste — a nature preserve in the country's northwest — the park would allow the company to dump its discarded orange peels and pulp, free of charge, in a heavily grazed, largely deforested area nearby.

One year later, one thousand trucks poured into the national park, offloading over 12,000 metric tons of sticky, mealy, orange compost onto the worn-out plot.



The site was left untouched and largely unexamined for over a decade. A sign was placed to ensure future researchers could locate and study it.

16 years later, Janzen dispatched graduate student Timothy Treuer to look for the site where the food waste was dumped.

Treuer initially set out to locate the large placard that marked the plot — and failed.

The first deposit of orange peels in 1996.

Photo by Dan Janzen.

"It's a huge sign, bright yellow lettering. We should have been able to see it," Treuer says. After wandering around for half an hour with no luck, he consulted Janzen, who gave him more detailed instructions on how to find the plot.

When he returned a week later and confirmed he was in the right place, Treuer was floored. Compared to the adjacent barren former pastureland, the site of the food waste deposit was "like night and day."

The site of the orange peel deposit (L) and adjacent pastureland (R).

Photo by Leland Werden.

"It was just hard to believe that the only difference between the two areas was a bunch of orange peels. They look like completely different ecosystems," he explains.

The area was so thick with vegetation he still could not find the sign.

Treuer and a team of researchers from Princeton University studied the site over the course of the following three years.

The results, published in the journal "Restoration Ecology," highlight just how completely the discarded fruit parts assisted the area's turnaround.

The ecologists measured various qualities of the site against an area of former pastureland immediately across the access road used to dump the orange peels two decades prior. Compared to the adjacent plot, which was dominated by a single species of tree, the site of the orange peel deposit featured two dozen species of vegetation, most thriving.

Lab technician Erik Schilling explores the newly overgrown orange peel plot.

Photo by Tim Treuer.

In addition to greater biodiversity, richer soil, and a better-developed canopy, researchers discovered a tayra (a dog-sized weasel) and a giant fig tree three feet in diameter, on the plot.

"You could have had 20 people climbing in that tree at once and it would have supported the weight no problem," says Jon Choi, co-author of the paper, who conducted much of the soil analysis. "That thing was massive."

Recent evidence suggests that secondary tropical forests — those that grow after the original inhabitants are torn down — are essential to helping slow climate change.

In a 2016 study published in Nature, researchers found that such forests absorb and store atmospheric carbon at roughly 11 times the rate of old-growth forests.

Treuer believes better management of discarded produce — like orange peels — could be key to helping these forests regrow.

In many parts of the world, rates of deforestation are increasing dramatically, sapping local soil of much-needed nutrients and, with them, the ability of ecosystems to restore themselves.

Meanwhile, much of the world is awash in nutrient-rich food waste. In the United States, up to half of all produce in the United States is discarded. Most currently ends up in landfills.

The site after a deposit of orange peels in 1998.

Photo by Dan Janzen.

"We don't want companies to go out there will-nilly just dumping their waste all over the place, but if it's scientifically driven and restorationists are involved in addition to companies, this is something I think has really high potential," Treuer says.

The next step, he believes, is to examine whether other ecosystems — dry forests, cloud forests, tropical savannas — react the same way to similar deposits.

Two years after his initial survey, Treuer returned to once again try to locate the sign marking the site.

Since his first scouting mission in 2013, Treuer had visited the plot more than 15 times. Choi had visited more than 50. Neither had spotted the original sign.

In 2015, when Treuer, with the help of the paper's senior author, David Wilcove, and Princeton Professor Rob Pringle, finally found it under a thicket of vines, the scope of the area's transformation became truly clear.

The sign after clearing away the vines.

Photo by Tim Treuer.

"It's a big honking sign," Choi emphasizes.

19 years of waiting with crossed fingers had buried it, thanks to two scientists, a flash of inspiration, and the rind of an unassuming fruit.


This article originally appeared on 08.23.17

via Jess Martini / Tik Tok

There are few things as frightening to a parent than losing your child in a crowded place like a shopping mall, zoo, or stadium. The moment you realize your child is missing, it's impossible not to consider the terrifying idea they may have been kidnapped.

A woman in New Zealand recently lost her son in a Kmart but was able to locate him because of a potentially life-saving parenting hack she saw on TikTok a few months ago.

The woman was shopping at the retailer when she realized her two-year-old son Nathan was missing. She immediately told a friend to alert the staff to ensure he didn't leave through the store's front exit.



"Another friend searched the area he was last seen," the mom wrote in a Facebook post.

The mother began looking for him by rummaging through clothes racks and running through the aisles.

It was the "scariest 10 minutes of my life" she later wrote.


But then she remembered a parenting hack she saw on TikTok by blogger Jess Martini. "If your child goes missing, screw the stares and start calling out their description," the mother recalled.

"I'm missing a little boy, he's wearing a yellow shirt and has brown hair. He's two years old and his name is Nathan!" she called out to the rest of the store while reminding herself not to "break down" in tears.

"You need people to understand you loud and clear," she said.

The mother's calls immediately deputized everyone who heard them to begin looking for the child. It was like multiplying the search by a factor of 10. "I turned an aisle and heard 'He's here!'" she wrote. "I turned back the way I came and there he was. A man had walked past him after hearing me calling out."

She immediately thanked the man, realizing that if she hadn't called out he may have never known the child was missing. "Nate would have walked past him and he wouldn't have blinked," she said.

In November, parenting blogger Jess Martini posted a video sharing the best way for parents to locate a missing child. It's great advice because the knee-jerk response is usually to just call out their name or silently run around looking.

@jesmartini PSA that I feel can save kids and I’ve used- if your child goes missing in public #momsoftiktok #PSA #nojudgement #fyp #4up #besafe #parentsoftiktok ♬ original sound - Jess martini

"To all parents out there, if your child goes missing, do not search in silence or just call out their name,' Martini says in the video. "Shout out loud and clear. Say they're missing, give a description and repeat, repeat, repeat!"

"Everyone will be on alert, and if someone is trying to take off with your kid, it will decrease the chances of them getting away," she added.


The advice is a great reminder to make a mental note of what your child is wearing when you go out, so if they go missing, you can easily provide a description. It also proof that when a parent needs help, most people are more than willing to lend a hand.


This article originally appeared on 01.27.21

Island School Class, circa 1970s.

Parents, do you think your child would be able to survive if they were transported back to the '70s or '80s? Could they live at a time before the digital revolution put a huge chunk of our lives online?

These days, everyone has a phone in their pocket, but before then, if you were in public and needed to call someone, you used a pay phone. Can you remember the last time you stuck 50 cents into one and grabbed the grubby handset?

According to the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, roughly 100,000 pay phones remain in the U.S., down from 2 million in 1999.

Do you think a 10-year-old kid would have any idea how to use a payphone in 2022? Would they be able to use a Thomas Guide map to find out how to get somewhere? If they stepped into a time warp and wound up in 1975, could they throw a Led Zeppelin album on the record player at a party?


Another big difference between now and life in the '70s and '80s has been public attitudes toward smoking cigarettes. In 1965, 42.4% of Americans smoked and now, it’s just 12.5%. This sea change in public opinion about smoking means there are fewer places where smoking is deemed acceptable.

But in the early '80s, you could smoke on a bus, on a plane, in a movie theater, in restaurants, in the classroom and even in hospitals. How would a child of today react if their third grade teacher lit up a heater in the middle of math class?

Dan Wuori, senior director of early learning at the Hunt Institute, tweeted that his high school had a smoking area “for the kids.” He then asked his followers to share “something you experienced as a kid that would blow your children’s minds.”


A lot of folks responded with stories of how ubiquitous smoking was when they were in school. While others explained that life was perilous for a kid, whether it was the school playground equipment or questionable car seats.

Here are a few responses that’ll show today’s kids just how crazy life used to be in the '70s and '80s.

First of all, let’s talk about smoking.

Want to call someone? Need to get picked up from baseball practice? You can’t text mom or dad, you’ll have to grab a quarter and use a pay phone.

People had little regard for their kids’ safety or health.

You could buy a soda in school.

Things were a lot different before the internet.

Remember pen pals?

A lot of people bemoan the fact that the children of today aren’t as tough as they were a few decades back. But that’s probably because the parents of today are better attuned to their kids’ needs so they don't have to cheat death to make it through the day.

But just imagine how easy parenting would be if all you had to do was throw your kids a bag of Doritos and a Coke for lunch and you never worried about strapping them into a car seat?


This article originally appeared on 06.08.22

Cameron the creative Lyft driver offers a variety of ride options to his passengers.

Have you ever ridden in an Uber or a Lyft and had the driver talk a lot when you felt like being quiet? Or not say a word when you tried to make conversation? Or play music you found annoying?

When you hop into a driver's car, it's a crapshoot what kind of ride you're going to have. But at least one Lyft driver is removing the mystery a bit by letting passengers choose.

Facebook user Eric Alper shared a post that showed a photo of a piece of paper stuck on the back of a car's headrest that read:

"Welcome to Cameron's car!!!"



"To ensure the best ride possible for you, I have prepared a menu of the various types of rides I offer. Just choose one (or don't, that's an option too) then sit back, relax and enjoy the ride. :)"

Then it listed the 10 ride options Cameron offers:

1. The Awkward Ride - You ignore this menu completely, then we will sit in silence for the remainder of the ride.

2. The Funny Ride - I tell you jokes or entertaining stories from my life.

3. The Silent Ride -

4. The Creepy Ride - I don't say anything but I keep staring at you in the rearview mirror.

5. The Karaoke Ride - We rock out to hits from the 80s, early 2000s or literally whatever you want.

6. The Bubbles Ride - We blow bubbles the whole time.

7. The Small Talk Ride - We talk about how crazy the weather's been lately and I ask if you caught the game last night.

8. The Therapy Ride - You vent to me about your problems and I listen.

9. The Drunk Ride - You throw up in my car.

10. The Cliche Ride - You ask me how long I've been driving for Lyft."

OK, the Bubbles Ride sounds fun, but also maybe a little dangerous. And the Drunk Ride is the main reason I've never wanted to be a Lyft or Uber driver. I may have unintentionally taken a both a Therapy Ride and a Creepy Ride before.

But seriously, the concept is fabulous. People often want something different in a ride depending on their mood, so the idea of having options to choose from is brilliant. The list also directly addresses the awkwardness that is often present when you're getting a ride from someone, so it makes a natural icebreaker and conversation starter—particularly helpful for folks who struggle with social anxiety.

People in the comments loved it.

"I'm sure this wasn't the intention but this is a great example of disability accommodations that everyone can enjoy," wrote one person. "Being able to choose how much energy I expend is so helpful."

"There should be a feature on both Uber and Lyft indicating what type of ride a rider wants or expects," wrote another. "I usually don't talk, but sometimes the driver keeps persisting and I feel awkward at times."

"It clears the air, takes the awkwardness out of it, and establishes expectations for the ride, on both sides," wrote another. "Great idea."


There are some more options I'd love to see added, though:

The Pep Talk Ride - You need encouragement? I'll give you everything I've got to pump you up.

The Tour Guide Ride - I share interesting details about places we pass and offer advice on cool things to do around the area.

The Life Story Ride - We estimate how long your ride will be, set a timer, and each of us shares our life story for half the ride. (No questions, unless the ride goes longer.)

The Deep Questions Ride - We skip the small talk and get right to the big stuff—meaning of life, existence of God, our place in the universe, etc.

The High School Debate Ride - We pick a controversy, flip a coin to decide who will take which side, and debate regardless of our own personal views.

The Pretend Persona Ride - We each make up totally fake names and personas and converse as them so we can chat without actually getting personal at all.

So many possibilities. What kind of ride would you want to take?


This article originally appeared on 04.21.22

Teacher Lisa Conselatore isn't holding back.

A recent study by the National Center for Education Statistics found that 87% of public schools say the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted students' socio-emotional development. Respondents have also said there has been a significant increase in student misconduct.

However, a teacher with 24 years of experience in the U.S. and abroad believes we are misplacing blame for this rise in misconduct. In a viral TikTok video with over 480,000 views, Lisa Conselatore claims that the big problem isn’t the pandemic but modern parenting.


“The problem is cultural," Conselatore says. "We have raised children to think that they are absolutely the most important person in any room. They are so special that whatever they want to do, or whatever they think, or whatever they say is the most important thing in that moment.”

@lisaconselatore

#tiredteacher #enough #raisingkids #timetolisten #supportteachers #culturetalk #culturecheck #teachersoftiktok #teachersontiktok #teaching2023belike

“I know your children are special to you. I know that my children are special to me,” she continues. “But none of them are the most special person ever in the room at any time. They're not. Nobody is because we live in a society and we all have to get along and we all have to respect one another and part of respecting one another is recognizing when you have a contribution to make and when you need to sit there and open your ears. … We don't have that down. We've missed it.”

In the video, Conselatore lays some pretty big blame on America’s parents, but she also offers some simple solutions to improve the situation.

“Teach them when to listen, taking a turn to speak. Speak when it's appropriate. When you have something to say and. It's your turn,” she says. “Let's reevaluate our family cultures, our community cultures, and our larger society cultures. Because of this is not working, not working.”


This article originally appeared on 11.7.23