Tag Archives: teaching

Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss!

2 Mar

Have a magical, seussical, wonderful day! Want to have some fun? Check out Seussville and then head on over to the Read Across America site for ideas on celebrating the birthday of Dr. Seuss! Need a copy of your favorite Seuss adventure? Amazon has them!

Here’s an oldie, but goody… Alex at age 3, reading Go Dogs Go… Enjoy!

What Seuss piece is your favorite? My most favorite, if I have to pick just one, is:

My Many Colored Days


Keeping kids on The Safe Side

23 Oct

The Safe Side

Seven year old Somer Thompson was abducted, murdered, and thrown away with the trash this week.

There seems to be an endless barrage of tragic news about abducted and abused children. I don’t know if it is happening more frequently, multiple media saturation, or if now that I’m a parent my ears are tuned more toward news relating to kids. We try to regularly review our “stranger safety” plan and emergency plans with our kid, but the necessity of increasing the frequency and intensity of reviewing these plans and practicing our emergency plans is highlighted this week.

Somer’s mom told NBC’s The Today Show :

“It takes just a couple seconds to tell them you love them,” Thompson said. “Tell them you love them because you don’t know what’s going to happen. And just make them aware of stranger danger. I tried with Somer. I feel like I failed — obviously.”

Our little guy tends to be pretty black and white, so when we first discussed the concept of strangers, we found that people like his grandma’s friendly neighbors fell into that gray area and he would just totally freeze up and then freak out- not knowing how to handle the gray area. Because of our extra challenges in teaching our kid so he can actually use the information, I looked long and hard at what was on the market (and online) that could help us explain “stranger danger” to him effectively.

After a little research I found “The Safe Side” a program by John Walsh and Julie Clark (you know- the Baby Einstein lady). They do have a website, but the DVD really helps get the point across in a fun and friendly way, that even my kiddo could understand. It teaches what to do in certain situations and most importantly uses a simple “traffic light” system to help kids remember the rules.

We enjoyed the DVD and I highly recommend it to any parent (kids 9+ might find it cheesy or goofy, but it still brings the message home).
Remember, try as we might, we can’t be everywhere all the time. Teaching kids safety doesn’t lock them up in an isolated tower, but rather opens up the world to them by giving them the tools to navigate it safely. I remember a time when kids roamed the neighborhood free and only showed up at dinnertime. We do not live in that world anymore and we, as parents, need to educate our kids in different and more intensive and extensive ways than our parents educated us.

Amazon carries the DVD for under $10 (Amazon purchases through this link send a tiny percentage back to us. Woohoo! Thanks in advance!).

TheSafeSide.com’s website also has downloads and printables for parents and kids.

The whole safety thing reminds me of the parable about teaching a man to fish and feeding him for a lifetime. You can isolate your kid and keep them safe (and miserable) by exclusion, or you can teach your child to be safe and you will help keep them safe for a lifetime. The murder of that innocent little girl and the interviews with her mom in the media underscore the importance of frequently reviewing safety information and making sure it is information that our kids can actively use. I am also reminded of all of the “don’t touch, tell an adult” rhetoric given to kids about firearms and matches and lighters and the hidden camera news reports showing the kids doing the opposite of what their parents told them. We need to make sure our kids understand and can actively use and recall safety tactics.

There is nothing neurotic about quizzing your kid before a family outing, visit at a friend’s house, or even using action figures to play out scenarios (we use Playmobil figures as they are pretty generic and equally sized- underscoring the concept that you don’t know who is good or bad or dangerous by appearance alone).

We don’t want to scare our kids, but we owe them, and ourselves, their safety. My son knows about Somer. Her mama sang, with others at a candlelight vigil, “You Are My Sunshine”. I cannot imagine what Somer went through, I cannot imagine what her mama is feeling. I cannot imagine a world without my sunshine.

A little girl named Somer died this week, at the hands of a bad/evil person. Her mother wanted people to know how beautiful and sweet she was and how she wanted to be friends with everyone. (from the NBC Today Show interview)

Let’s do whatever we can to keep kids from being a statistic and another tragic story on the evening news.

Hugs all around.

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Rolling Rolling Rolling….

5 Aug

You Got To Roll Me….

Originally uploaded by CleverIndie

Keep the dice a rolling

keep the game a moving

don’t ever lose that die!

Rain and wind and weather

hell bent for jenga*

wishing my bro would lose and cry…
*uses a six sided, six color die according to wikipedia.org. Yes. I checked. Would you expect less of me?
We are just getting to the point where playing board games is not eerily reminiscent of my childhood (as an only child, living in the middle of the woods, no cable, and I was the weird kid. I learned to play every game by myself. Even hide and go seek. It’s true. More on that someday. I’m just starting to own that part of me.)…

Alex will sit and play and follow directions (with a great deal of repetition on our part) for a little bit- though his attention is still somewhat short…

All of the games we have happened upon lately seem to have die or dice involved. We have been rockin’ the Monopoly Jr., Clue Jr., and Mouse Trap.

Part of the motor skill challenge has been rolling the die or dice (and actually having it change to a random side). Part of the “I have an almost 6 year old” challenge has been getting him to not pretend to roll it so that he miraculously gets 6 every time, because at almost 6 bigger always seems better even if it gets you sent back to the start of the game board.

We also tend to play around our lovely Noguchi glass coffee table as we can all sit comfortably (and my work is usually overpowering our little kitchen table…Still want my Edison farmhouse table. Someday it will be mind. Someday.) Not only is there glass, there are a few choice knick-knacks near by that are probably not-so-durable and there are two big club chairs and a love seat. My arthritis refuses to get down on the floor to retrieve overzealously thrown dice (actually it’s more of a problem evolving back into an upright position these days).

And I fear glass chips and broken knick-knacks. And face it, my kiddo is wonderful with many things, but his motor skills are a major work in progress.

So here is my solution.

I took a tin with a clear lid (the lid covering is plastic- I do not suggest trying this with a glass-topped tin) that is of the “deep” variety (I got them from SpecialtyBottle.com – the one shown in my image is a 4oz/deep). I popped the die in, closed the lid (the lid isn’t terribly loose but it is not secured outside of friction- so if you feel you need a sturdier hold try some masking or electrical tape around the edges.

And voila! Alex can shake-shake-shake and I no longer have to go fishing for game pieces, the coffee table is intact, and my curios are happy campers and have removed their helmets and safety goggles.

This also helps teach him the rules of “rolling” – he has to give it a few shakes and put it down. This has made a huge difference in his comprehension of rules- those of the game and those little social game play rules. Eventually he’ll roll by himself, but for now this lets us play and show him the joy of playing boardgames as a family. He can focus on playing and not obsessing over this one small part.

The containers are too big to squeeze into most manufacturers game boxes and I like to keep all parts in their respective boxes, so we have one “rolling” container. If he was younger and more apt to try to consume the parts during game play, we would probably secure the lid more permanently.


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Hello Friend.

26 Dec


Originally uploaded by CleverGirlBek

Boy’s big wish from Santa this year was for an “xo laptop”…

We decided to tighten our belts more, suck in our guts, and instead of a mountain of less expensive goods that get lost in the shuffle, get him one through the “Give One Get One” Program.

The benefits are many.
1. We bought one, the one that we gave will go to another child somewhere else in the world as an educational tool…

I love this idea, but our home economy doesn’t really allow for this degree of charity… After all, almost all of our money, goes to directly support individuals with type 1/juvenile diabetes, arthritis, autism/asperger’s, and depression and a slew of other issues.  When looking at the cost, the “2-fer” part makes it look positively cheap… When looking at the reality that we just get one for $xxx it is still a wise investment as it will help boy with skills in all areas. Sure we could do that on our regular computer, but that would wind up in lost time and money (on hold with customer service, having computer serviced, possible emergency intervention by Geek Squad) and the cost quickly (trust me on this one) takes care of itself…

2. Our mac may now be safe from the mad clicker/deleter…. He has no interest in our boring mac’s.  He has a swanky, rugged looking, very useful machine that we are not yet regulating…(the xo will have to go on the same “time bank” as other activities, but we are giving him another day to explore…)

3. This is an adventure for all of us- we are mac and ex-windows XP people…So we have quite a bit to learn…The “xo” let boy jump right in and explore… So far he has drawn pictures, made digital music, written some bits for a story he is working on, played “secretary” with me (he dictates, I type…), and made the speech emulator say “Who farted?” followed by a laugh that he had to spell out…He also took a bunch of photos of himself. The amazing thing is that we didn’t show him any of it. We showed him how to open the case and shut the system down, but that is it. He is learning this new-to-us OS the way I learned mac… Marie Montessori is smiling down on us…

4. I tried to explain the “give one, get one” thing to him and the intentions of OLPC, and his interpretation seems to be that there is a kid, elsewhere in the world, that he is connected to because they have, in a way, twin computers. I think his perspective is somewhat like my own at his age- do you remember those “for the less of a price of a cup of coffee” from back in the days when a cup of coffee was less than $0.40 commercials? Well, I wanted siblings when I was a kid and I was adopted. In my brain this equated to being able to buy a sibling for $0.40/day. I remember rolling coins for my mom on occasion and thinking, “Wow. This is like a month of a sibling.”…I digress…

Speaking of the concept of “other” and a world without boundaries, I know it’s probably not possible (or way far outside of my noggin to even think about without sweeping some other important stuff off the table) but it would be amazing with the give one get one if participants on either end could opt into a penpal sort of a program (via the xo, of course)…

Anyway, here is boy waving and saying “hello” to whatever friend may be out there….

(and check out that sweet swiveling screen! I have already been informed “Your Macbook screen just sits there”… :-)

Anyway, there is more to chat about regarding our Christmas morning, gifts, mayhem, etc…But I am going on day 2 of being in bed (boy is sitting on my bed in the photo…he grabbed his laptop and sat right next to me with our CushTops/lapdesk-y things and we went to “work”….

The best tool in our potty training arsenal…

12 Jun

For years (a little over 4 of them) we struggled with potty training the little guy. Yes, he has some other issues (on top of the drama that is a 4 year old boy at times) which threw a little extra zest into the challenge, but as we had never potty trained another kid this was our normal…

We did, however, amass quite the arsenal of potty paraphernalia during out journey…Most of it addressed specific issues boyo and I were having during the process, but none of them were a perfect solution.

Here were our main issues:

1. boy is blessed with my proportions. He has a long torso and short legs.

2. boy is bigger from front to back than most potties and potty seats

3. boy is fiercely independent when it comes to learning new things. he is also secretive. he will practice something, in private, until he gets it perfect to show us. We think this may be genetic, as we are big on the “do your best” thing rather than the “you have to do my version of your best and I am completely delusional and this will scar you for life” dealio. Anyway, example: he didn’t walk until 22 months (for many reasons) but when he did he just walked. He never stumbled or fell down. He just walked like he had been doing it for a year.

4. With my physical issues (arthritis and early on in his potty training history, projectile vomiting whenever I would move, and a giant tumor, pulsing with hormones, in my neck) emptying and cleaning the little floor potty was necessary, but frustrating and frequently painful and exhausting.

Eventually, we discovered that boy was still dropping a dook in his shorts and telling us, proudly, that he had crapped or wet his pants. Odd. Well, as it turns out, we were encouraging him to, in basic terms, do his business in a container and then we were dumping the goods in the big, flushing toilet and then scrubbing the “container”, he figured he would up our efficiency and just crap directly in his underpants which could then be thrown into the washing machine with some stain treating and rinsing. He decided that this system was much easier and more efficient and he didn’t have to break up his playtime as quickly to get to the “container” to drop the kids off in a timely fashion.

It was at this point that I realized we had taught him that you poop and pee in one place and then you transfer them to, basically, a garbage (that flushes)…

Boyo is very literal. I can see clearly, how our struggle went on for so long… Hindsight is 20/20

So we moved onto the Baby Bjorn potty seat, which was the only seat around that would accommodate all of the necessary little dude gear without him shifting around (and possibly wiggling the seat a bit and scaring the…well, you know… at least he was in the appropriate place for having the poo scared out of him)….

Of course, this meant that every time he had to use the potty he had to locate me, communicate with me regarding his needs (or just do a dramatic pee-pee dance and then flat out deny that he had to pee while a puddle formed around his feet) , and then we both had to venture to the bathroom, where I would lift him (remember the arthritis? Not a good match for lifting my 36lb wiggly kid)… He would then do his business and wash his hands and move on.

I did notice that he was doing better with the potty thing when he started school, but of course everyone had been chanting before he started “when he sees the other kids being big boys and big girls and using the potty he will want to as well”… So I just wrote it off as peer pressure…

One day, my genius child got the stepstool out (we rarely used it as he still couldn’t reach much even with it) and attempted to climb up onto the regular toilet by himself (I just watched and didn’t intervene as he is a “practicer” with everything). Well, a stepstool (made for kids) has a few critical flaws: the one we have (which we love for other uses) has 2 steps…If boy is on step 1 he doesn’t have enough turn-around space and does not have the leg length to just park his butt on the toilet seat… If he is on step 2 he is very high and the drop down to the toilet seat is terrifying… It definitely doesn’t help that the regular kid stepstools do not have a handrail or grip bar of some sort.. Poor kid was so scared at the top of the stool that he just stood there crying softly and shaking a bit… Pants around his ankles and he couldn’t move because his balance, at that time, was still not the greatest… Note: to this day he takes his pants completely off when he has to pee, even in public restrooms… I have a feeling it was this particular incident with the stepstool that triggered that quirk…

Anyway, I toyed with the idea of installing handicap restroom railings in his bathroom. But still the wooden, very cute, and personalized stool wasn’t the right proportion for this purpose…

Then one day… EUREKA!

When I had my spine surgery I found that even just boosting myself a little bit, to get my butt onto the bed, was torture (occasionally, I blacked out and fell over from the pain doing this)… So one of the nurses hooked me up with a metal step stool- with a higher handle on one side and a grippy surface to step on. It was a life saver for me (and later on, at home, my underused reebok step (with risers) replaced it as I had enough strength to step down without the handle)…

So I ordered one for boyo. I got mine off ebay… If you click the image above it will take you to Amazon.com and a stool similar to the one we bought (ours is apparently unavailable on Amazon at this time, it was by “Drive”, the one linked is readily available and looks to be the same or very similar). By the way, if you have a kid(or kids) or are ever planning on interacting with the pee-wee set, you might want to subscribe to parenthacks… Truly awesome stuff…

Anyway- within a week of it’s arrival we made a huge amount of progress- boy was potty trained. Most of all, it taught me, as a parent, that the key to my little guy’s success is letting him take ownership of his tasks. Helping him get to and from the potty solved some of the mess issues, but it was killing my back, and teaching him that he doesn’t have to be responsible for his bodily functions and the state of his underpants. The step stool has given him the freedom and responsibility to handle those things, and to manage his time better as it is up to him to get his butt up on that toilet before it is “too late”…

Some tips if you do get a stool like this for your kids:

Do not let little kids use the adult toilet, unsupervised… (kids can drown in 1-2” of water…) Perhaps in the beginning of using such a stool it would be wise to park it a few feet away from toilet while it is not being actively used… The legs are wide (like a bulldog) apart and rubbergripped and the stool is fairly solid…It is not easy for someone under 3.5 feet tall to move..Use your judgment, of course, you know your kid best.

Do not attempt to wipe down the grippy surface with a disposable cleaning wipe(ie clorox wipe). Cleaning wipe dingle berries will accumulate rapidly. A spritz of spray cleaner and a wipe with a microfiber cleaning cloth works wonders… If the crevices are getting dusty, try a utility/scrub brush after spraying…

And after your dear child finishes potty training and his/her legs grow long and strong enough to not need this very valuable tool, do not dispose (donate or sell) of this… This stepstool is also steady and useful in the kitchen and, as I mentioned previously, after surgery…

I hope this helps at least one parent and one kiddo….

Hugs all around…


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