Thursday, July 24, 2014

What We Are Reading: BATMAN Who is Clayface?

The hubby has a new job and is working near comic  book store. When he came home with BATMAN Who Is Clayface by Donald Lemke, pictures by Steven E. Gordon Colors by Eric A. Gordon.  I have to say I was a little disappointed. Not because I'm not a fan, but because Animal is a little much sometimes and super hero/bad guy play,  is not something he needs any extra encouraging with. 

All doubts however were wiped away when I saw the excitement in his face! One important thing when hoping to instill a love of books in a child (or any person for that matter) is to remember, interest in subject matter is of utmost importance. So if like me you're not a fan of sci-fi, don't frown when your child comes home with Dune.  Instead look on the bright side. If your child brought home a book it's probably going to get read. There in lies the trick.

What's the silver lining in our new favorite bedtime story?


What's a detective mama? A person who solves mysteries by paying attention to clues and asking questions.  What's a batarang? It's a special boomerang that looks like a bat. What's a viking? A Scandinavian pirate. What's a utility belt? It's like grandpas tool belt only filled with the things Batman needs to fight crime. 

We have learned a lot of new words.  They are seeping into his free play time and therefore creating new synapses in his little brain. Important new information onto which he can connect other new facts. You can't really learn something unless it can connect to something you already know. 


This book is 36 pages long, it takes longer to read, but he is so interested in the content  and pictures that he follows closely. A skill that will translate to other books and activities.


This story has a lot to work off as far as lesson planning goes.

For instance in the story Clayface robs a bank. What can he learn from this you might wonder? We can play bank. We can practice counting skills, sorting, and simple math can be presented. If he were a little older we might draw up our own money and talk about where money comes from. We might visit a bank, talk through the process of depositing and withdrawing money. What other things can you do at a bank? Maybe take a deposit and withdrawal slips to copy and have some writing and math practice. 

There are also science opportunities. Matt Hagen becomes Clayface when he falls into toxic goo. You could play mad scientist. Look up the recipe for silly putty, play dough, gak, or clay. You could fill glasses with a few drops of yellow, red and blue food coloring. Then mix them with your child to see what new colors they get.

How about art or PE? Trace your child on butcher paper of let them trace you. Then color or paint a few "wax" figures. Put them up around your backyard and let your kid go wild with a boomerang. 

If my son was older and had some writing skills I might ask him to imagine he was Mat Hagen and tell me how he might use is new shape shifting skills in a short story. If he got really creative, I could help him transform his story into a short play. We could build a set and make a short video. 

The possibilities to get creative and teach your child in a meaningful way through his own interest  are really only as limited as your imagination.

Now get out there and have fun!

Monday, July 21, 2014

I Can't Believe I'm Doing This

There are a lot of things I prepared for during pregnancy. Like labor and delivery, how to care for a newborn, and logistics like health insurance for the little guy. 

The hubby and I talked about who would get up and handle night time feeding. Birthday parties. What would we do when he wanted a Mohawk, a piercing, or a tattoo. We had philosophical chats about t-ball, corporal punishment vs. timeouts, and how long I would breastfeed. 

Before parenthood there were a shit ton of things I'd never considered or even knew existed. Like what a doula was, an episiotomy, or whether or not I would circumcise my son. I didn't know what attachment parenting was or how to use a breast pump. 

I don't like making uninformed decisions, especially  when my child is at stake. So I research and research and research until I am satisfied that I'm doing what I honestly think is best for my little love bug.

Other things I just really thought I knew. I'm an Early Childhood Educator for Pete's sake! At least a 150 kids have been in my class. I'm good at what I do. Really.

So there were a few things I was for sure not going to worry about. Like discipline. Consistency. Language development (unless I had to, and of course I would know). Socialization. Close to the top of my list was potty training. 

I've been there, done that, with so many families. I knew what the signs of toilet learning readiness were. When to start and when to step back. 

Oh I knew. Like all childless people, I knew.

I had it all planned out. I would simply wait until my son showed all the signs of readiness, was physically ready and could verbally express his needs. I the great knowing mother would just follow his lead. It was that simple. Why complicate matters? Why push my needs and desires onto this little person? Why turn it into a needless power struggle?

Why indeed. 

Here's the thing. I'm pretty sure he's there. He's even asked to use the toilet and then gone. Successfully. And you know what I'm ready. I'm tiered of spending money on diapers, wipes, desitin, and diaper genie refills. I'd love to put that money into his college savings account.

So now here I am. Buying a potty seat. Underwear. Researching how to potty train a boy. Getting stickers and a few other little rewards (bribes). Fingers crossed hoping I'm not going to be starting a terrible power struggle I'm bound to lose. 

Any tips? 

Thursday, July 3, 2014

What We Are Reading: Building Empathy

Empathetic children. It's a characteristic most of us can agree we want our children to have. We're not the only ones. Experts have been talking a lot about it. I was reminded of this when I read this great article .

It was about why it's so important for boys and how to foster it. I giggled a little, not because I thought it was silly, but because one of the first tips was about giving little boys baby dolls. It reminded me of a certain story I shared with you. 

The other tips where great too. One was about reading with our children. It talks about a gap in reading to girls vs. boys by parents. The gap starts even before a first birthday. This makes me so sad, but I can totally relate. 

Reading is one of my greatest loves and I have been waiting so long to share that love with my child(ren). When Animal wanted nothing to do with books I could have literally cried. I refused to give up, reading daily to him. Eventually the day came when he picked his own story. It just got better from there. I could have given up, would have given up, if reading didn't mean so much to me. 

Empathy is an important skill for both sexes, it fosters courage, happiness and even success in the work place. 

Children's books are a great place to begin to build this essential skill. Books allow children to experience different points of view. To understand why others feel sad, happy, excited, scared, or lonely. To name their feelings. When you read to your child you can facilitate this process. You can ask leading questions like," What do you think the boy is feeling?" , "Why do you think he's scared?", or  "What would you do if this was happening to you?"

I have noticed my son has a hard time understanding when I'm upset. If I scowl and ask, "Am I happy or grumpy?" he can easily identify how I feel. I reward him with happy faces as well. He has really responded to this and I find he is more easily redirected this way. We can hone this skill at story time. When we read I like to ask, "Does he have a happy face or a grumpy face?" 

At work I use this technique as well. If someone is unkind or aggressive in my class room I ask them to look at their friend, how do they look? How do they think their friend is feeling right now? And finally, What can you do to make your friend feel better? Even two year old can start to understand and contemplate these things. By the end of the year I don't have to prompt them very often, they learn what to look for and how to make a situation right. Don't get me wrong, they are children and don't always care to make things right, but it's not about creating submissive robots, it's about giving them the tools to function socially.

There are many children's books specifically about feelings, and how to deal with them. There are also books like, HEY, LITTLE ANT By Phillip and Hannah Hoose.  That directly ask children to think about how they or others may feel. They are great. But don't think you have to limit yourself to books like this. Fiction titles are especially good at doing the same thing in a profound and meaningful way. 

I can still remember sobbing when I read Where The Red Fern Grows. Or how concerned I was for Ponyboy and Johnny. These characters along with hundreds of others taught me about being someone outside of myself. Outside of my comfort and even made me care for or understand someone I may have otherwise written off or disliked. The empathy that can be built when you step outside of yourself and into someone elses' shoes it's unparalleled,  because there just no other way to feel what someone else feels and think their thoughts and live their outside influences as well.

Empathetic children, another reason to read to your child.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

True Story Hot Dog Review

I grew up more or less believing every commercial on TV. I wasn't a savvy seven year old. So when I was told Ball Park Franks' were the best because "they plump when you cooked them" I was convinced it was true.

When my parents would BBQ, I would ask for Ball Park hot dogs. I thought they were tasty and I was satisfied. They were pretty cheap and so my parents (for who a hot dog is a foreign food) were also happy.

It wasn't until I was married, and once had a craving for a hot dog that I learned anything about what a good hot dog tasted like. I picked up my trusty brand. When I got home my husband was pretty surprised. He refused to eat any but promised me that very weekend I would know what a "good" hot dog tasted like. He brought home Nathan's. He was right. Those were in fact the best hot dogs, I had ever had. 

Since then, I've turned into a bit of a snob. To be fair hot dogs are one of my least favorite things to eat. I have to be really in the mood or at a ball game. What is it about a ball game that makes a hot dog so good?  

Now if some one's cooking a Ball Park Frank I wont eat it. I wont let Animal eat it either. Of course he did try one at someones BBQ, and LOVES them. So I was super excited to find this at Costco a few weeks ago.
Our new favorite!

They are free of all the yucky preservatives, all beef, organic and gluten free. I was sure they would be gross, but what would Animal know? They'd be hot dogs and he would get used to the flavor and like it. 

Well boy was I wrong, these healthier hot dogs are DELICIOUS! We all loved them, including the hubby. They are not so cheap, 11.99 for 15 hot dogs(at Costco), but man are they worth it. With Fourth of July around the corner it's a good time to try them yourselves.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Twelve Years

Today the hubby and I celebrate twelve years of marriage. 

Twelve years of kisses, hand holding, and warm embraces. So many good times and sweet memories. Shopping for rings. Giggling through wedding vows. Buying our first piece of furniture together. Times with good friends,  and with family. Trips, where we drank, ate, and explored together.  The birth (the actual labor and delivery of our son. A moment I count as one of the most romantic moments of our lives together.  

Twelve years of the same arguments. The same misunderstandings, the same hurts. Years of doing little things that make each other crazy, me forgetting important items like a wallet, a phone, tickets, or directions. Him saying things that make me want to punch him in the face.  (I don't, I just want to sometimes). Big fights, little fights, sometimes tears.

Twelve years of every days. Monotony. The same old, same old. Ups and downs of course (as listed above) but mostly just the same old shit.

You might think I'm complaining, on the contrary I wouldn't want it to be any other way. This every day stuff is great, because I like my husband. He cracks me up. He adds spice to my life and he's my partner. I enjoy spending days at home with him and just shooting the shit. We have a lot of fun together. 

I love my husband so much it's ridiculous really. I'm so sappy, and so head over heels in love that you probably want to punch me in the face. I still get excited when I know he's on his way home to me. Don't be jealous, we want to kill each other sometimes too. Just like every other couple. There's nothing special about us, except we know how lucky we are and that this is it. 


Thursday, June 12, 2014

What We Are Reading: The Block Mess Monster

Have I got a book for you!

I bought this book a few years back, I skimmed through it decided it was not lesson plan material, and threw it in my late spring/early summer bin for our class bookshelf. I picked that time of the year because most of my class has turned 3 by then and I thought the concepts in the story and language were better suited for 3 year olds.

What book am I talking about?
A New Favorite!

The Block Mess Monster by Betsie Howie, illustrated by C. B. Decker, has become a class favorite! Not just my class of toddlers, but from my 2.5-5 years old. The kids LOVE this book. The younger ones love the pictures (as do I) and the older ones really seem to feel for the main characters plight. I have been reading this book multiple times a day to a fascinated and giggling crowd for two weeks. It is not getting old. I love to read it, and they love to listen. Animal even tells me at home he is Calpurnia. 

This story is about Calpurnia, her mother, and the block mess monster. A monster made of blocks that is keeping our protagonist from cleaning her room and her mother who cannot see this creature (only the giant mess) and who is loosing patience, fast.

I really enjoy the back and forth the mother and daughter have. It's really all of us parents, loosing our cool at some point after having nagged, all day? all morning? for our children to do just one simple thing. To clean up their toys. Only told from the perspective of the frustrated child, because let's fast it, it's hard not to be understood by the adults (well meaning as we might be). 

What parent hasn't been here?

The kids just crack up at the this marvelous (dare I say accurate) portrayal of the mother at her wits end. The best part of the story, is that in the end the mother figures out how to help her daughter and Calpurnia feels heard. It's really what we all want. I highly recommend this book and believe me I'll be looking for this book in hardcover come Christmas for my own little one!

Monday, April 28, 2014

To Party Or Not To Party

That is the million dollar question of the day.

This morning when I got to work I found an invitation to a students 3rd birthday. I walked over to my sons file and found that Animal had also been invited (along with the whole class). I immediately thought two things.

1) She doesn't realize he's my son.

2) I have a dilemma.

The party happens to be on the last Sunday in May at 1:30. Posing a few problems. The time is during Animal's nap time. We put him down at 1. If he sleeps he's down till 3-4 missing party. We could skip nap, he's kind of transitioning out of them. The problem is he needs it. In fact he's hard to tolerate without one that I'm afraid to have my highly excitable toddler out in a yard full of other hyped up 2.5-3.5 year olds.

It's a kid's birthday party, and to me that means sugar. You may or may not know how I feel about that, but the short if it is it is, we keep that shit down to a minimum. We don't serve juice in our home, I bring water to any event we attend and I water it down when I'm forced to give in. The hubby and I don't allow fruit snacks or marshmallows, and we keep other sweets to one on special occasions.

I don't say anything to anyone else about it. I don't make loud (or even quiet) comments about why or how. We just say, no thanks. Does Animal happily shrug it off? Sometimes, but he's a toddler and sometimes he cries when we say no to a second helping (or a first). It's hard because he's two, he wants, what he wants, when he wants it. It's also hard because we provide a lot of nutritious food and we don't limit it. We don't force him to eat either. If he takes two bites of lunch and says "I'm done", we say okay. He'll eat when he's hungry. It's an issue for some people. Maybe they think we're dicks. Maybe they think  we think they're bad parents. I don't ask you to defend what you feed your kid, and I would appreciate not having to defend what I don't feed mine. It's just easier not to deal with it.

The fact that we got two separate invitations let's me know these parents (and I know they're not the only ones) don't know Animal is my son. The teachers son. I'm not in the mood to broadcast that. Especially when he'll most likely be batty from no nap.

Last, the last Sunday of every month is family day. My siblings and I go to my parents house and have a meal together, and catch up. It's a rare occasion we are all in the same place at the same time. Or it was until family day started last year. I don't want to miss it.

What say you? Please comment or tweet I really need opinions. Am I just being selfish? Or do you agree there will be other parties?