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Hearing through the noise

Senseless chatter is my new pet peeve.

Even as I set foot from my bedroom in the morning, I am subjected to the verbal pull of my children. Always a chipper early riser, my 11-year-old son seats himself at the kitchen island and proceeds to talk at (not to) me.

As he monologues, I feel my brain sluggishly turning about, still covered up and dreaming. I respond zombie-like as I try to get breakfast on the table, but it doesn’t deter him from talking a blue streak about anything that comes to mind: a rabbit warren he’s designed, a Mario strategy he’s perfected, a koala’s receding habitat, his top-five favorite fish (not mammals) that live in the sea.

He has always been an extroverted blabber. Upon a recent consultation with his baby book, I saw that I started writing down his spoken words at 15 months – just a handful (hard to believe) – but by the time he’d reached 20 months, I simply wrote “too many words to write.” It was likely an understatement.

My brother-in-law recently told me that his new nickname for my son is “limitless,” after the movie about the writer who takes a pill that allows him to access a large percentage of his brain, bringing about life-changing creative and intellectual expansions. This nickname was chosen for him after my son recited from memory a
Saturday Night Live skit that involved dialogue between three different people.

He has a gift for the gab, as they say, and I am usually the lucky recipient of his gift.

My eight-year-old daughter can’t get a word in edgewise, but in the mornings, she is just as tired as I am and usually doesn’t try to compete. After all, she was raised to the sound of the constant drone of her older brother’s voice, so much so that it delayed her own speech for a while. But now, a competitive second-grader, she can talk at me with the best of them in the afternoon carpool, which, incidentally, is a not-so-subtly waged war of words, the prize being my attention and the other sibling’s pouting silence.

Even my baby seems intrigued by the magic of speech. At the tender age of 14 months, she says a few distinct words – her favorite is “dog,” which she uses as a sort of greeting when we lift her from the crib in the mornings. Then she claps for herself, a habit she picked up from her verbally adoring family. If you can talk, we applaud you! Is it any wonder that I use ear plugs at night? Originally installed in the hopes of muffling my husband’s snoring, they now provide my only true silence.

I recently heard of a novel called The Flame Alphabet about an eerie future world in which the speech of children sickens and kills their own parents. I laughed out loud at the premise, thinking the author must have children like mine. And the more I thought about it, I saw the book as a commentary on the values and the dangers of speech, and perhaps palaver of all kinds.

It brings to mind the infamous saying, “Children should be seen and not heard.” I used to scoff haughtily at such a pronouncement.

How cruel, I’d say, to silence the poor children, as if they were meant to be small actors in a grainy, black-and-white film. Children have things to say too. Sadly, I didn’t realize just how much until now.

I’ve considered forcing my little yaks to take periodic vows of silence, pint-sized nuns and a monk living peacefully in my home. I could enforce morning and afternoon yoga and meditation, perhaps, get them little mats and porcelain figurines and a nature-sounds CD.

Or, I could teach them about the art of conversation, the give-andtake of healthy dialogue. It would help, I think, to encourage less mindless prattle and more listening, more observation, more thought before blurting whatever is on their minds. I could encourage my children to be aware of their own speech patterns, to catch themselves when they feel they might be talking at someone, to take note of glazed expressions and monosyllabic responses.

And I could help them understand that the art of listening is an underrated skill in this age of constant noise and motion, endless commentary and instant feedback. We could all stand to get more in touch with our inner introvert once in a while. Imagine: if the world’s yammering were to suddenly stop one day, we might be able to hear each other better.

Diann Ducharme is the author of The Outer Banks House and is a wife, mother of three children and owner of one border collie. You can find her at http://www.diannducharme.com where, she blogs about the writing life.
Community

Celebrating 106 years

Former Sandston resident Mildred Taylor celebrated her 106th birthday Aug. 9. Taylor, who now lives in Powhatan, is still a member of Sandston Baptist Church. She was visited the day after her birthday by several members of the church, who played for her a recording of the entire church membership singing happy birthday to her during worship. > Read more.

YMCA breaks ground for aquatic center

YMCA officials gathered last week to break ground on the new Tommy J. West Aquatic Center at the Shady Grove Family YMCA on Nuckols Road. The center, which will featured 7,600 square feet of competitive and recreational space, including water slides, play areas for children and warmer water for those with physical limitations, is the fourth phase of a $4 million expansion at the facility. West was president and CEO of Capital Interior Contractors and a founding member of the Central Virginia Region of the Virginia Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors. > Read more.

Rotary donates to ‘Bright Beginnings’

The Sandston Rotary Club recently donated $1,000 to the Sandston YMCA for its Bright Beginnings program, which helps provide children in need with school supplies for the new school year. > Read more.

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Entertainment

Journey to mediocrity

‘The Hundred-Foot Journey’ fails to capitalize on tasty concept
The Hundred-Foot Journey is a curious little Romeo and Juliet of a film. A family, forced out of their native India, begins a trek across Europe.

The family’s sole mode of transportation sputters and dies in a sleepy little French town, but the town’s food culture is high, and that’s a perfect place for a family of restaurateurs to settle down. There’s only one problem – the family’s rustic “Maison Mumbai” is right across the street (a hundred feet away, if the title didn’t clue you in) from a prestigious French bistro with a Michelin star, run with an iron fist by the dreaded Madame Mallory (Helen Mirren, pictured).

It’s here that a particular Romeo and Juliet story begins to develop, with Hassan (Manish Dayal) on the Indian side and Marguerite (Charlotte Le Bon) on the French side. > Read more.

Weekend Top 10


Enjoy the final days of summer with comedian Guy Torry, the Sam’s Club National BBQ Tour or mystery writer Mary Miley Theobald at Twin Hickory Library. Another great way to welcome the beginning of fall is to check out the UR Spider Football season opener with man’s best friend. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

Bottoms up

Short Pump brewery offers more than just beer
I am still (happily) thinking about my entire experience at Rock Bottom Restaurant and Brewery last week. Knowing nothing about this new brewery out of Denver, I was leery of brew-pub in the heart of Short Pump Town Center – this is not what I’d usually think of as a perfect fit, and yet, it was.

The restaurant and craft brewery opened in early June and features 10 beers made by female brewmaster Becky Hammond (pictured). This is the restaurant’s second location in Virginia; the first is in Arlington. Behind glass walls, customers watched the beer brewing in massive steel barrels. For our up-and-coming beer region, it makes sense that Short Pump would jump on board.

As I walked up to the back of the mall near the comedy club, I was taken aback by what I saw: at the top of the stairs was an overflowing restaurant with outdoor seating, large umbrellas and dangling outdoor lights. > Read more.

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Enjoy an evening of blues and jazz with veteran jazz guitarist and composer Vince Lewis and jazz vocalist and composer Barbara Martin at 7 p.m. at The Cultural Arts Center… Full text

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