Friday, April 29, 2011

Church? or Not to Church?

I took Zoe to church this Easter Sunday.

She's been fewer than a half-dozen times, and I think it may have been pretty obvious.  I didn't see any other moms pulling an endless array of items to keep small hands busy out of their bags.  I didn't notice any other arrays of small-hands-busy items falling into the aisle with little girls done up in tulle and flowers falling behind.  Twice.  I didn't hear any other children wondering about the unfairness of the grown-ups getting a snack during communion time.  And I'm sure that there was only one girl who struck up a conversation with the priest about how coincidental it was that they were both wearing the same long dress.

As I sat there between my squirmy girl, for whom an hour of still and quiet is sheer torture, and my mother, who dutifully took me to church most Sundays of my growing up life, I thought about the question that is so easy for many parents out there, and so hard for others.  To Church?  or Not to Church? 

I was a church kid.  I went to mass, attended CCD, had first communion, was confirmed, the whole bit.  I never really liked it.  I never really felt it.  When I was old enough, I stopped going.  I tried Unitarianism for a while.  I liked that.  But I stopped going there too.

My husband?  Not so much.  He tells my stories of "the church bus" that would come round the Coast Guard Base on Sundays, and drop people at their church of choice.  He tells me he went to the baptist church a few times, because the singing was the best.  But after a while he stopped.  That was about it.  He says that the church decision is my decision.  He will support (through absolute uninvolvement) whatever I choose.  That's a pretty weighty decision.  So far I have chosen...not choosing. 

But I am feeling like I need to.  My kids need to know God.  So the big question I go back to the Catholic Church?  It it familiar.  I know the drill.  You go, you sit, you stand, you kneel, you sit, you kneel, you stand, you sit.  Sprinkled within is some singing and praying.  I always like the shaking hands bit the best.  But I never really felt it. 

I want to go back...but where?  The message is pretty much the same wherever I go.  They all get us to heaven (as does simply being a good person in my humble, non-churchgoing opinion).  Do I go for familiar?  Or do I set my mind to searching for a better fit? 

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Great Free iPod Apps This April

I teach a combined kindergarten/first grade class, and had some technology money to spend this past fall.  I opted to get a few iPods for the classroom and have been on a quest for great, educational apps ever since.  There is a lot of junk out there, and can be difficult to wade through and find the quality apps.

I came across the apps from a few months ago and have been absolutely loving them.  When I learned that they were free for the month of April in honor of Autism Awareness month, I was psyched and downloaded them all.  I use them in my classroom for a number of targeted reasons.  They are fantastic for my students on the spectrum, for my students having difficulty processing information, and for my students who came to school without a lot of background knowledge.  I also use them with my four year old daughter to entertain, educate and get her ready for school. 

What Rhymes? reinforces a very basic kindergarten and first grade learning goal, one that is essential for learning to read.
ABA Problem Solving Game – What Rhymes? -

There are several that help to develop critical thinking and problem solving skills.  As a teacher, I struggle with getting my students to think outside the box and solve problems on their own.  As a parent, I want to send my child to school with this skill so she can be successful.
ABA Problem Solving Game – What Rhymes? -
ABA Problem Solving Game – Which Does Not Belong? -
ABA Problem Solving Game – Which Go Together? -

There are also many that target "Receptive Identification".  Receptive Language is the ability to understand what is being read or said.  Giving a direction such as "Put away your toy", then having the child put the toy away is receptive language in action.  Having this skill as absolutely essential for success in school.  Children who have a hard time understanding directions can be mis-labeled as having a behavior problem. Getting better at understanding and answering questions can help a child with all aspects of their education.
ABA Receptive Identification -
ABA Receptive Identification - By Function -
ABA Receptive Identification - By Class -
ABA Receptive Identification - FFC Combined -
ABA Receptive Identification - By Feature -

Finally, they have a large selection of flash cards, featuring photographs, a clear speaking voice and classical music.  I was surprised about this my student LOVE these.  All of them.  They sway to the music and repeat the words to themselves and their friends. 
ABA Flash Cards - Alphabet -
ABA Flash Cards - Zoo Animals -
ABA Flash Cards - Actions -
ABA Flash Cards - Fruits & Nuts -
ABA Flash Cards - Earth Science -
ABA Flash Cards - Things You Eat -
ABA Flash Cards - Vehicles -
ABA Flash Cards - Things You Wear -
ABA Flash Cards - Things You Play With -
ABA Flash Cards - Vegetables -
ABA Flash Cards - Emotions -
ABA Flash Cards - Shapes -
ABA Flash Cards - Famous Places -
ABA Flash Cards - Sports -
ABA Flash Cards - Musical Instruments -

Enjoy!  And let me know what you think!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Second Time Around

The first time around I had a Bible.  A Constant Companion.  A Shadow.

"What to Expect"...the whole series.

Throughout the pregnancy, What to Expect when you are Expecting lived on my bedside table.  It was opened nightly, dog-eared, quoted, and parts were even memorized.  For every bump, squirm, movement, upset stomach, mood swing, headache, muscle ache, or food craving I would grab for the book.  Was I normal?  Was it to be expected?  Am I OK?

Baby, baby, baby.  Time to move on to What to Expect in the First Year.  Focuses on an object? Check.  Rolls over?  Check.  Turns head to sound of Mom's voice?  Check.  Check, check, check.  All the milestones, dutifully tracked and recorded.  Any lack thereof a topic of discussion at playgroups.  She hasn't said Mama yet...could she be deaf?  Does she have an attachment problem?  Is she not quite normal??????

Then on to What to expect in the Toddler Years.  Such weighty topics including, To cry it out or not to cry it out?  Time outs...a good idea?  How to plan a perfect playgroup.  And so on.  And so on.  God bless the husbands of America who have suffered through far too many evenings of discussions based on these books.  I know I am forever grateful to mine.

Thanks to What to Expect...I made it through first time mommyhood.  Pretty well, I think.  The books were shelved but close at hand for kid number two, who would most certainly be coming soon.

And the books were shelved throughout the entire pregnancy.  Took it out when I started having contractions...couldn't quite remember the times per minute/per hour ratio thing.

And the books were shelved during the entire first year.  Yep, I would think.  Kid number 1 did something like that.  Yep, it was around the same time.  Guess we're good.

The toddler years are here.  The books are still shelved.

"Daddy home." 

17 months old, and this sounds a lot like a sentence.  I was shocked.  I don't know what the book would say.  I probably will get it out to check, but I learned the first time around that it doesn't really matter.  Ahead, behind, they are who they are.  I'm a good mom.  My kids are good kids.

"Daddy home."

It doesn't really matter...but I do think she just might be ahead of the game on this one.

Monday, April 11, 2011

It's All a Matter of Perspective

 Is it a bird?

Or a rabbit?

It's all a matter of perspective, yes?

My daughter's preschool is moving to a new location.  Moving for a myriad of great reasons, none of which I will get into here.  Some parents are upset about this, also for a number of good reasons.  Only one will I mention.  The current school is in an idyllic location, overlooking a river and a golf course.  The street is rarely travelled and the children are very close to nature.  The new location will be closer to town and will overlook a fairly busy road.  Several of my mom friends, also parents of children in the school, have lamented about how their child will miss seeing the river every day.  They have even mentioned switching to a different school that has a mountain view.  As an adult, I completely appreciate where they are coming from.  It is what I would want for myself.  I would venture to say, however, that if you ask any of the 3 and 4 year olds from the school, many of whom live in idyllic locations with mountain views and rarely travelled roads, they will love watching the trucks drive by.  It might even be the highlight of their outdoor play!

It's all a matter of perspective.  It is so important that we, as parents, as teachers, look at decisions affecting our children from the perspective of our children.  So often we think we are doing what is best for them, but it is really what we want, from our perspective.  Take a peek from 3 feet tall.  From only 3 or 4 years of life experience.  From a world unencumbered with heavy importance, where play is their work.  If it's healthy, if it's safe, if it's reasonable, go with your child's vision.

Incidentally, my daughter thought it was an ostrich.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Smarter Than Me

I knew it was coming, this day of days.  And today, here it is.

The day she is smarter than me.

"Mummy...I'm thinking of an animal.  It starts with an X."

"Hmmm," I pretend to think.  "It must X-RAY FISH"

"Nope," she replies with a little giggle.

"Honey," I say gently, "I don't think there are any other animals that begin with X"  She is just turned 4 after all, still figuring out her letters and sounds.  I'll take this as a teaching opportunity!

"Of course there is, Mummy!  I'm thinking...of...a...XENOPS!"

Ah, yes.  The Xenops.  That member of the Furnariidae family we all refer to so commonly as "ovenbirds".  The Xenops.  We saw one at the bird feeder just the other day.  The Xenops.  Don't those folks down the road keep one as a pet?


She's only four.  I'm sure that today is the first of many such days.  A she is smarter than me kind of day.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Diet for Dads

My husband subscribes to Men's Health. 

Monthly it arrives with it's cover promises..."getting fitter, looking leaner, eating better, etc."  While I'm sure that Clay reads those articles, I'm pretty sure he actually gets the magazine for Jimmy the Bartender's expert advice.  He also tends to leave it open to pages that say things like "77% of women consider great lingerie to be very important".  OK, honey...noted.

Not that I mind this subscription.  The men in Men's Health are quite easy on the eye.  I'd not heard of Georges St. Pierre before, but now think perhaps I should become a Canadian mixed martial arts fan.

I'm sure the "No Sweat Cardio Plan" is fantastic and would whip whoever tried it right into shape.  I'm sure "Leveraging Your Leg Power" would help you win your next 5K.  I'm sure "Good Food.  Fast." is delicious, easy and healthy.

I have a plan to add to next month's Men's Health.  Guaranteed to shrink your gut in 30 days, improve your leg strength and balance, and will absolutely improve your relationship.  It's easy to follow, and easy to do multiple reps every day.  Here it is...

1. Stop and look down.
2. Bend
3. Pick Up
4. Put Away
5. Repeat until the room is clean

Five easy steps to abs of steel.

Simple.  Maybe your wife will even pick up on the hint and buy some new lingerie.