Farmer’s Markets, Fire Trucks, and Funny Faces

Sometimes I actively plan great educational and fun activities for my kids, and other times they just happen to us in the course of just living our hectic and often crazy lives.  Such was today’s visit to the local Farmer’s Market.

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On the way home from a disastrous kiddie gymnastics class where my two little kids did not use their best listening skills, we spied a fire truck at the Farmer’s Market we sometimes visit.  My three-year-old son loves  his planes, trains, and trucks.  So, I promised we would stop if we were able to improve our listening and subsequently our behaviors on the errand run I needed to complete.

My kids were almost angelic through the bank, pharmacy, and dry cleaner stops.  Trucks can prove quite util in my parenting bribery repertoire.  So on our return, we stopped to see the gathering of all things with motors among the fresh fruits, vegetables and flowers.

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We’ve been at events before where the organizers charged money to enter to “touch a truck,” so it was a delight that this event was free.  We were also loaded up with freebies–stickers, signed photographs, pencils with bus pencil topper eraser, cardboard bus banks, and anti-bullying paraphernalia.

My kids loved the freedom to touch, sit in, drive, push the buttons of, and imagine themselves truck drivers, bus drivers, race car drivers, fire fighters and police officers all in a half hour pit stop. They were all smiles and all their previous listening skills problems were solved with a little truck therapy.

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Current city employees, retired fire fighters, Jr. R.O.T.C. Members and local celebrity race car drivers (I’d never heard of the guys) were all on hand to answer my kids’ probing questions: “How do you make the seat go up and down?”  My son proudly declared himself a fire fighter, “I fire fighter not boy.”  And my littlest amused the crowd by singing “The Wheels on the Bus” inside one of the city buses.  My kids have never taken the bus and thought it was the most exciting idea when the bus driver gave us the schedule to “ride around some time.”

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My oldest daughter who loves anything involving dressing up was really in character inside of an oversized fireproof jacket.  She instructed passersby that if there were a real fire they would need to “stop, drop and roll” and get to their “safe meeting place.”  The kind gentleman who helped her suit up was impressed with her act.  Getting my little guy out of the fire truck wasn’t an easy feat.  He was ready for duty and not happy with the idea of going home for a nap.

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My big girl also got some laughs when she announced that the little kids belonged in the back of the police car as they were bad.  She’d drive them down to the station.  On some days I could use a partition between me and the motley crew in the back seats.

The star of the show for my kids was the tractor.  I grew up around farm equipment.  My family home had apricot, peach, cherry, apple, and plum trees.  We had patches of raspberries, strawberries and pumpkins.  If you were hungry you picked something from the garden–fresh peas were my personal favorite.  Slowing down for tractor traffic was a way of life.

My kids live in a county with rich, black volcanic soil, yet they are so disconnected from the land.  I remember riding on my step-grandfather’s tractor to check up on his baby lambs.  My kids haven’t had the same experiences climbing trees to reach the blackest cherries or picking tomatoes for a dinner salad.

So, it was important to me to emphasize the amazing role the tractor plays in helping produce all the delicious foods at the market.  They listened and humored me as I told them about Reggie the lamb that was “mine” and riding on the dirt roads on the back of the tractor, but ultimately they were most impressed by the size of the tires and the length of the gear shaft.  At least I tried to give them some of what I had–something dirty and gritty and organic that can’t be bought at any Farmer’s Market.

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We bought a peck of tomato, a half bushel of golden delicious apples (my favorites), a bag of Italian plums, some cilantro, corn-on-the-cob and against all my children’s wishes some beets.  Tonight’s dinner was all fresh foods: soup made with the vegetables; corn and beets.  There were a lot of funny faces made at the table.  My kids are definitly not beet eaters, but if I have anything to do with it they will learn to appreciate all the goodness the earth has to offer–one bite at a time.

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Even and Odd Birthdays: Managing Costs and Craziness in a Big Family

I do some things like my parents when it comes to parenting.  I guess, we probably all do as we are the products of our parents’ parenting efforts, we know what worked, and what didn’t work so well.  I, for one, will never throw my children a surprise birthday party because of how badly I disliked my own surprise party with a clown named Rainbow (I also dislike clowns).  My parents tried to make things special, but my not being prepared for it and a clown to boot led tonthe party being a disaster with me refusing to attend it at all.

One thing I did adopt from my parents is their even and odd birthday schedule.  On even birthdays we could have friend parties but on odd birthdays we could only have family parties.  I’m not sure how my parents came up with this idea, but with 5 children I’m certain it was a money-saver as well as a sanity preserving technique.  I think it’s pure genius, and I have enacted it as the law of the land in our house.

My six-year-old hates the even and odd schedule.  But, she has definitely learned the Math concept well.  “So because I’m turning seven, and 7 is odd, then I won’t get a party, right?”  She doesn’t like the idea that this year only my boy will get a party when he turns four.  She and my littlest will only get family parties as they are turning odd ages (3 and 7).  “So then next year the girls will get parties because it’s our even year, right, Mom?”  She asked this after I recently purchased some clearance items for birthday grab bags to use for my son’s party.  I can’t say that I liked this policy much as a child either, and I think it got me less invites to my peers’ parties because I didn’t always reciprocate an invitation with an invitation.  But, I think it also made me more appreciative of the parties I did get (except for the one with the clown).

My daughter had a medium expense party last year at her dance studio when she turned six.  She was allowed to invite all her classmates as well as all her dance mates.  I did not limit the number of invitations like my parents did.  We were only allowed to invite the number of guests equal to the number of years we were turning.  I did warn my little dancer that I didn’t think the male turnout would be strong, and I was right on with that assumption.  A snowstorm the day of her party also prevented guests who had intended to show from arriving as well as the cancellation of the prima ballerina, but all-in-all she was pleased with her day and spent it doing what she loves most.

I did feel like a cheap mom when we later attended one of her friend’s birthday parties where a party bus with indoor gaming systems made an appearance and bouncy houses of every kind littered the lawn.  I wondered if what I had spent was enough considering my penchant for thriftiness and my rejection of social trendiness for the most part.  The I read an article on Slate.com that confirmed that parents are spending more and more and more on their kids’ parties.

You can blame it on what Cornell University economics professor Robert H. Frank calls an “expenditure cascade.” In short, as people at the top of the income pile spend more on an item, it causes everyone to upgrade their expectations and expenditures. Happy extravagant birthday…

The birthday market for children’s parties is big business.  I understand that parents want their children to be socially accepted and well-adapted, but I still think we are feeding a smart industry.  I was thrilled this summer when my daughter received an invitation to one of her male dance mates parties.  It was held in a public park, and all the kids were invited to come dressed as their favorite superhero or princess.  The mom just let the kids run around and play, and she didn’t make a huge fuss over organized activities or lots of food.  Cupcakes and juice were served at the end, and my daughter who was dressed as Ariel from The Little Mermaid could not have been happier.  I liked the return to old-school simplicity.

This year for my boy’s first friend party, I plan to host it at the YMCA (for the space and clean-up help), and I think we will just do old-school games with old-school treats, and I won’t worry that it wasn’t enough because it will be enough for him.  As for my daughter, she’s already making plans for her Sweet Sixteen, and I have told her that I will not host one of those, but if she will learn French to the point of fluency by 16, then I will take her to Paris (I would love to go).  She doesn’t always agree with me or get me, but someday I won’t be surprised if she adopts some of these birthday traditions with her own kids.

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Jump Up and Fall Down: Raising Children With Sensory Needs

My couches take a beating on a daily basis.  At one point they were a beautiful and new (and expensive) Raymour and Flanigan chenile pull-out sleeper couch and love seat duo.  Now they are my three active children’s gymnastics mats, trampolines, and punching bags.  I’ve given up trying to protect them from little feet and high energy.   The once plush cushions have started to sag, but I can’t bring myself to purchase new couches because I understand my kids have sensory input needs that are greater than and different than my own.  I don’t want to waste my breathe getting upset over my couches when my children just need an outlet to meet their needs.  So, I’ve decided to sacrifice my own desires for a lovely living space for now in order that my children’s needs are met.

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My two youngest children are classified as “sensation seeking” and need high levels of activity to meet their sensory needs.  However, it isn’t possible for them to always be in high aerobic activity, and to avoid them causing disruption to other children we have had to learn other ways to provide them with tactile stimulation.  Fidgets (small toys or swishy balls) help my children stay calm and seated for longer periods of time.  We have needed to become educated on ways to meet their sensory needs in order to help daycare providers and teachers understand that our children are not bad kids, but that they need to meet their sensory needs by being allowed some flexibility in movement and that getting them involved as classroom helpers gives them positive outlets to receive the stimulation they seek. Websites like sensorysmarts.com have helped us make suggestions to our partners in raising our children.  We do consider their teachers and daycare providers partners and communicate what works and doesn’t to help them as they help us care for our active little ones.

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It isn’t always easy to take sensation seeking children places because their need to move and receive input can often conflict with the setting (restaurants, performances, church) which makes meeting their needs even more challenging due to not wanting to disturb other people.  Even grocery shopping has been difficult because my active children refuse to ride in the cart.  They prefer “helping” me get items off the shelves which has resulted in several accidents and led to my 2-yr. old scaling the cookie aisle to get the Oreos. I have started buying groceries online to avoid the hassle of my overly active children or I try to take only one of them at a time.

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I worry about my kids going to Elementary school.  I know they will challenge their teachers (I’m a Special Education teacher, and they often challenge me), but I fully intend to make sure they have OT services in place, and to send them with an arsenal of fidget toys, cushions to sit on for wiggle room, chewies (necklaces or pencil toppers) for oral stimulation needs, and weighted vests to remind them to stay seated.  Whatever it takes to meet their needs and help them also meet with success in school then it will be done.

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This summer we bought season passes to Lake Compounce an amusement park in Connecticut.  The tickets were a great deal, and we knew our active sensory-seekers would enjoy themselves and going there would wear them out.  While visiting we attended a performance by a group of acrobats and aerial performers.  My two active little kids didn’t move at all during the show.  They were enthralled completely by the trampoline flips and spinning of the “circle girl” and wanted to see it again and again.  My 3 year-old said, “I want to jump up and fall down.”  He loved the visual sensory stimulus and wanted to participate in the show with the performers.  The performers were awesome– they allowed our children to take photographs with them every time we saw the show, and they started recognizing us when we came in because our children were so excited to see them perform each time.

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My children are all now enrolled in either Acro dance or Kiddie Gymnastics.  They love their classes, and their physical needs are being met, plus the activity wears them out, which I love.  The little kids call their classes “jump up and fall down,” and I think that’s an appropriate name for what it’s like parenting children with sensory issues–sometimes things are up and sometimes they fall down, but you just keep on jumping. I’m really grateful for the physical outlet of gymnastics, but I do know that my couches won’t be leaving us any time soon though.

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See the link below for resources for children with sensory processing disorders:

This post contains affiliate links, and I’ll earn a small commission if you shop through them. This is how we help to make money, so we can continue to bring you amazing content.

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Grace Kelly Style is My Era

I’ve always admired the cool sophistication yet crisp simplicity of Grace Kelly.  I watched her movies over and over because I loved watching her move in her A-line dresses–classy yet sexy at the same time.  Recently, I discovered the online fashion site Mod Cloth, and I am in love with their offerings.  I enjoy reading their blog, and last night I took the “What’s Your Fashion Era?” Quiz to confirm that I should have been born in the era of Grace Kelly.  I do love “timeless simplicity with a touch of class” with “clean” figure flattering lines.  It pegged me.

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In looking at the site I discovered an interesting feature of a mystery item dress for $20.  I love a good surprise, so I ordered one for my niece.  I can’t wait to see what she gets.

After placing my order I received a $20 off $100 coupon in my inbox.  I plan to use it today!  I really love the retro feel of the dresses and the humor of many of the accessory items–kitty sneakers, mushroom house backpack, hedgehog nightlight lamp.

Now I’ll be looking for the perfect kitten heel to complement my Grace Kelly wardrobe.

http://blog.modcloth.com/2015/09/11/quiz-whats-your-fashion-era/

In my cart right now:

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Check them out to find your own style era.  I am now an affiliate of ModCloth as well as a new customer and fan.  http://www.shareasale.com/u.cfm?d=246029&m=43745&u=1167440

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Selfies, the New Tool for Childhood Expression

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Selfies are to my daughter what my Polaroid camera was to me in the 80s–a tool for documenting her reality and for exploring her own identity.  I sold cards and stationery door-to-door to earn my beloved camera.  Getting my parents to buy film for it often required a great deal of convincing and some hard work around the house or the yard.  I took photos of myself and my environment in ways that today are reminiscent of the selfie-obssessed world we live in.

Just type in the words “psychology of the selfie” to see that today’s technology has spawned a whole lot of thoughts about their contributions to identity formation.  I particularly enjoyed reading the following article on a blog dedicated to helping bloggers get more traffic (perhaps I need to post more selfies on my own blog to generate more interest?): https://blog.bufferapp.com/psychology-of-selfies.  The fact is I do like to look at faces just like everyone else apparently, and my own phone, may it rest in pieces, had its share of selfies on it–mine, my daughter’s and even the occasional smart aleck student who dared sneak into my desk to snap some selfies.

I think faces connect us to each other.  Looking into the eyes of another human being is something often referred to as seeing the soul.  Perhaps, selfies are our feeble attempts to feel more connected to the world we live in when the more technologically advanced we become the more we long to return to basics?  Therefore, we document our every emotion in a 1-inch lens to project into the pixilated universe that is cyberspace hoping desperately to somehow make a human connection?

My beautiful daughter uses the selfie to practice her “faces” and to express all her inner emotions (Inside Out the movie influenced her a lot in this area), but she also uses the selfie and all the photo app.s to express her creativity and to just have fun.  I hear her in the car as I’m driving (selfie hot spot) laughing at some crazy photo she’s just taken of herself using some warped lens or crazy color scheme.  It’s fun to her like a game and keeps her entertained as we run mundane errands or travel long distances.

I’m not convinced the selfie-phase is narcissitic.  It seems to help keep her somehow grounded, and she will tell me that she sees herself growing in the photos she takes.  Her lost front teeth have been featured in her repetoire as has the bright pink (looks like Pepto Bismal) lipstick she was allowed to buy for her last dance recital.  My baby’s growing up before my eyes and documenting it all for me from the backseat of my car.  I think I will one day be really grateful she has left me such a treasure trove of her best little faces.

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**This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links

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How Does Your Daughter Read Like That?

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I’m about to reveal a BIG secret.  I can no longer count the number of times I’ve been asked how it is my six-year-old reads the way she does.  It’s happened so many times that I’ve got a pat response, “Thanks for noticing.  She’s a bright girl and quick learner with an annoying mother who makes her read aloud every night  (mostly) and who reads books to her back.”  I am sometimes still amazed that people don’t make the connection between reading to their children and their children’s reading development.  “That’s it?” I have received that response so often that my daughter and I look at each other in anticipation of its delivery.

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But, though I hold to the simplicity and beauty that reading to your children makes them readers, I also know I’ve had a little help.  In the 80s there was a commercial for Calgon, a laundry product that got out ring-a-round-the-collar in a miraculous way.  A woman asks the Chinese owner his secret to getting her husband’s clothing so clean to which he responds, “Ancient Chinese secret.”  It is his wife’s announcement that they need more Calgon that lets the truth come into light.  I feel I have an ancient Chinese secret myself that involves how my daughter learned to read by age four.

My secret is as simple and as accessible as a box of Calgon for cleaning stains.  My daughter has been watching Leap Frog videos since she was just a toddler.  The credit for teaching her letter sounds and blends and even silent letter ‘e’ is as simple as educational programming that is top rate.  Leap Frog’s characters are well-developed and interesting, and though they teach reading basics, they are not boring in their approach.  I can actually watch an entire episode of the Leap Frog videos without wanting to tear my hair out.  My child feels she’s getting a reward when she gets to watch one (T.V. is very limited in our home), and I feel like I am getting a helping hand in teaching my daughter to read.  I often just have to reinforce a concept she was already exposed to through Leap Frog.

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We have tried other programs.  I have several online subcriptions to learning sites some that I really like (Brain Pop), and some that I’m not in love with at all (ABCmouse), but nothing I’ve seen or tried has worked as well as the Leap Frog videos.  I have purchased the DVDs at tag sales and thrift shops, and I have been thrilled to find many of them available for online streaming at Netflix.  Leap, Tad and Lilly have been my partners in teaching my daughter to be an awesome reader.  And, I believe so much in the value of the programming that I am letting the secret out of the proverbial Calgon box.

About a month ago, my daughter and I took her father to the doctor.  I had never met his new doctor before, and when she came into the room before she greeted my husband or me she saw my daughter and called out her name.  She saw the look of utter confusion on my face and explained that she had met my daugher on numerous occasions at her former school, and that my daughter and her niece (who is two years older) had been in the same multi-grade classroom.  She then commented on how well my daughter reads, and she shared that her niece who’s in 2nd grade still can not read.  She expressed her admiration for my daughter and asked my secret, and I told her.

My daughter has read books that the students I teach have not ever read.  Her mind has been opened to big ideas and times and places different than her own.  She has come to learn to love to read the stories and does not view reading as a chore.  She might have a natural ability to learn quickly, but the outside stimuli she’s been exposed to have sped along her neural processes.  I am a fan of the Leap Frog brand and have often said that if I ever leave teaching that I’d love to develop products with the company.

I do think the videos must be reinforced by teaching and teachable moments, but I recognize my daughter would not have read Anne of Green Gables without them.  So, I am grateful for the quality products Leap Frog produces to enhance learning and development.  I’m also indebted to the manufacturer for making the product not only super educational but also entertaining.  I will admit they have provided me with a few moments’ stolen peace.  Now the true test will come with my next two children to see if my hypothesis holds true.  I might have my work cut out!

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Get the Leap Frog movies on Amazon:

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Writing Songs Together Helps You Bond

Last night with my six-year-old’s help, I wrote eight songs—lyrics only for an album the local YMCA is looking to record and sale to help raise funds for the new pool structure.  My daughter apparently told her very creative music instructor at the children’s choir last night that we often write together.  The instructor (a very nice and gifted man) approached me to find out if I would send him some samples.  So, last night we wrote songs to support the core values on which the YMCA was founded and those the organization aims to instill in the youth who participate in the many activities offered at the Y.  We wrote a song about the Y being a second family (which it is for many); honesty; respect; caring; being a friend; feeling good; being healthy; and finding beauty in the world and in one’s self.

We also had brainstormed some particular sports and activities that we will write songs about (maybe today).  This activity was very rewarding to do together.  Getting my daughter involved added to the creativity and also made her feel really important.  We laughed as we came up with rhyming words (some that were not really publishable but funny all the same) and we talked about the values as we wrote about them.  We really hope Max, the super talented musician, will like a couple of them and want to compose music to accompany the lyrics.  If not, we at least, had a marvelous time bonding over our mutual love of creating poetry on the blank page.

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I think other parents and children would benefit from song writing or story writing together.  Even just telling a story and stopping abruptly to have your child continue on with the storyline is a great way of creatively bonding.  We call it “tag team storytelling” and have created some doozies telling stories this way.  Try it and see!  You’ll increase your child’s imagination as your bond grows stronger.  I need to start doing this with my littler kids too–I’m just a little leary of what crazy words they’ll throw into the poetry mix!

At least read and recite poetry together.  I recommend starting with the books written by Dr. Suess as they are silly and illustrated with fun pictures too!

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