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Monday, August 29, 2011

Memories of Homework Past

Each evening brings new, yet frighteningly familiar, homework challenges.  Tonight I watched as my fourth grader struggled to understand the nuances of her assignments, and find myself extremely grateful to my former teachers.  During my early years as a student at St. Pius X Catholic School, I developed a love for reading and writing that continues to provide a security blanket during times of stress. One of the reasons I started this blog was to manage my anxiety about changing career plans at this point in my life.  So far, I feel calmer and more patient with my children.  It's a work in progress.  Stay posted for further updates. 

Tonight I remembered how I used to practice handwriting and learned cursive in school.  We actually earned grades for our penmanship.  I remember working so hard to get that coveted "Penmanship Award"  that was presented in the form of a certificate signed by the teacher.  We also had weekly creative writing assignments with selected papers posted on the outside classroom bulletin board.  Because everyone's paper was not always displayed, we worked harder to acheive those unique places on the board.  Throughout the year, everyone had the opportunity to have their writing displayed. 

I remembered how difficult it was for me to grasp some of the algebraic concepts in seventh grade.  Sister Marita Anne made each student take a turn going to the chalk board to work through problems.  Although I was painfully shy at times, my turns at the math board helped me gain confidence within my peer group and better understand how to work through the math problems.  Her teaching techniques were to the point but always laced with a dose of humor.  Her quotes were legendary.  She demonstrated how important is was to balance serious learning with fun.  And everyone always respected her!

So as I sat with my daughter to explain, answer questions, correct spelling, and review assignments, I recalled that each of us continues to be both student and teacher.  We all learn from each other and we can all teach each other.  Although the approach and techniques are important,  being able to receive the information is also critical.  When all components converge to create a common goal,  success is sure to follow. For my part, I will be open to becoming a more receptive student. 

Have a wonderful week and enjoy every opportunity to learn something new.  Sharing it will be a bonus!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Expectations are a "B" - I Used to Get a Pain in the "A" from Them!

I have found that my sanity is directly proportionate to my ability to manage, lower, and eliminate the high expectations I have placed on myself and others.  Past history has validated and consistently verfied this premise.  I am confident that other humans could provide anecdotal documentation that attests to this!  Then again, perhaps that is also too high of an expectation. Hmmmm.  What a dilemma.  Here are some of my most frequently challenged and refuted expectations for your consideration.  Given that I am on a quest to reinvent myself and all that goes with this process, yours truly is more that willing to consider consultation from outside sources.  Here goes...
  1. I expect that my children will listen to me the first time I advise them to look both ways before dashing out into oncoming traffic.
  2. I expect that everyone will be equally as fascinated with the promise of self awareness as I am,  and will enjoy collaborating with me to make the world a wonderful and peaceful place to reside!  (Go ahead, giggle.  It won't hurt my feelings...anymore!)
  3. I expect that my husband will actually come home when he says he will come home!  Even if it's more fun to go out for drinks with his Hispanic brethren.  (A whole other issue I won't get into!)
  4. I expect that when I put on my turn signals, all the other drivers will yield to me so I can get on the correct Interstate without endangering myself, my passengers, and surrounding landscape.
  5. I expect that when my heart is in the right place and I attempt to "do good", others will see my true intent and assist me in my endeavors...not curse me out.
  6. I expect those around me to work hard, take initiative, and be kind to each other.  You'd think this was a no brainer!
  7. I expect that at the end of my day, I will be filled with good will towards all, a feeling of complete contentment, and a willingness to wake up the next day to face more challenges with a smile.
Perhaps these things are elusive.  Perhaps it's just a wish or a dream.  Maybe I just wrote it in the hopes it will make you laugh or make fun of this intended dissonance.  Whatever purpose it serves, I sincerely hope that we are still able to maintain some level of expectation on ourselves and those around us.  How sad it would be to settle for mediocrity when we are capable of so much more as human being.  Just look around at recent tragedies to observe how good people are to each other.  When faces with crises we have shown  amazing levels of concern and consideration for our neighbors.  Why wait for a crisis?  Just something to consider!  Have a Safe Weekend!  Hope all affected by Hurricane Irene will fare well.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Working Out with My Water Babies

Water Workouts are a great way to enjoy a low-impact (easy on the joints) workout.  Working out with your children is even better!  I'm on a quest to ensure that my children maintain their active lifestyles even though it takes extra effort on my part to get myself motivated.  Research has shown that families who work together on health and fitness have a greater level of success than those who do not have this common goal. 

I was a quiet, introverted child who was perfectly content to read books and play in my room.  As a child, I did enjoy being outside with my siblings and friends for bike rides around the neighborhood, a trip to the park, or playground activities.  However, my activity level did not equal that of my daughter and two sons.  Their capacity for energetic play rivals that of Olympic athletes.  They also have an amazing ability to forego sleep in favor of movement 'til they drop!

I enjoyed an increase in my athleticism during my twenties and early thirties during the height of the Aerobics Fitness craze.  I went to conferences, attended classes, and engaged in conversations with seasoned Fitness Instructors who mentored me as I became an AFAA Certified Aerobics Instructor, Fitness Counselor, and Personal Trainer.  I was at my best weight and Fitness level when I trained 6 days a week and maintained a daily regimen of workouts as I exercised with my clients.  Somewhere over the past few years, I have drastically veered off course.

I am determined to return to a healthier way of living through improved awareness of nutrition and increased exercise.  A weak ankle from previous injuries has created a need for low impact activities that will be easy on the joints.  My prior experience teaching Water Aerobics has become a useful resource during our family visits to the pool.  My daughter learned that she can swim laps and successfully covered the entire length of the pool at our apartment complex last night.  We tossed a beach ball to each other that required us to reach up, to the sides, and swim to the ball when out of reach.  I showed the kids how to do Jumping Jacks in the pool and "run" laps in the 3ft.-4ft. end of the pool.  Here are a few more ideas that are excellent for increasing cardiovascular capacity and improving muscle tone! 

Water Workout 
  1. Hold on to the side of the pool and kick legs. (Great for warming up)
  2. Have a "race" across the width of the pool in the shallow end.  Do several races between yourself and each child.  They'll love the interaction and individual competition with Mom or Dad. 
  3. Sing and do the "twist" as you bend knees, bounce to each side,  then come back to standing position.  This will really work your waist and thighs. Be care not to "twist" at the ankles.  Lift your heels and watch your positioning.
  4. Do Jumping Jacks
  5. Run "laps" in the shallow end of the pool. 
  6. Hold on to the side of the pool and do leg lifts straight out away from your body (outer thigh), Then bring leg back and cross over (inner thigh).  The water provides excellent resistance.  Do this several times for each leg. 
  7. Have fun and just move.  Activities that you do in other exercise classes can be adapted for use in the water. 
Let me know if you need more ideas.  I would love to hear about your workout strategies and how you're incorporating exercise into your family's daily routine.  The most important thing is to just get started.  It's never too late to start over.  Have a Wonderful Day!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

A Lesson in Project Management and Team Work - From 7 Children

Yesterday evening, my three children and I left dinner on the table when they saw their friends outside.  The kids wanted to play!  I figured, why not?  Dinner could wait a few minutes while we captured the spontaneity of a pre-dinner play date.  Soon there were seven children running, jumping, riding a bike, throwing balls, and turning cartwheels in the grass.  I saw pure joy and contentment on their faces as they created games, joked back and forth, and climbed a tree together.  Their busy activity came to a stop after 30 minutes of perpetual motion.  A ball had bounced high enough to land on top of a very large, tall cluster of bushes that ran along the side of an apartment building.  They surprised me by immediately going into problem solving mode.  What  transpired over the next 20 minutes was a remarkable example of the power of team work to manage a project (retrieval of the ball) and how moderate supervision/consultation can enhance the overall experience.  Here's what I learned by observing the children from a few steps back:

1. The children ran behind to bushes to see if the ball had fallen to the ground. They did not see it, so one of   the children quickly scampered up a hill near the bushes to get a better view of the situation.  Nobody had to tell the child to do this.  Someone just took the initiative and did it! (Taking a step away to evaluate the location of the ball was a great strategy.)

2. When the location of the ball was identified, each child contributed their ideas for how to get the ball back. (They formed a plan.)

3. Each child took turns reaching for the ball while the others encouraged their efforts and offered helpful   advice.  Nobody made fun of the other participants in this process and everyone acted as a team.

4. Someone got the idea of finding a stick to push the ball off the bush and to the ground where it would be   easier to reach.

5. Resources were identified (sticks and branches of different lengths, sizes, and shapes).  Each resource was tested and evaluated for its effectiveness.  Comments were made and carefully taken into consideration.

6. When safety issues arose that the group did not foresee, such as watching out for windows as they used a  tree branch, I did provide input.  (Outside consultation by someone who has a different perspective on the project.)  They commented, "Oh, we didn't think about that."  They proceeded with caution.

7. The children were persistent, continued to offer each other positive feedback, and executed their plan in     a consistent manner.

8. The children successfully retrieved the ball and were elated with their accomplishment.  I offered my own
comments to congratulate them on their success.

Somewhere between childhood and adulthood, we lose sight of how our families, friends and colleagues can come together to solve problems, identify resources, and create plans that can lead to successful outcomes.  I was humbled by what I observed, and hope that I will take this lesson to heart as I continue to work on my own interactions and relationships.  Hope this makes you smile and encourages you to inspire someone today. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A New Adventure

This adventure has long been a dream of mine. Over the past six months, I found myself wanting  to break free from a work situation that left little time for personal family circumstances or pursuit of other interests.  The overtime was initially enticing, but not being able to count on a definite end to my work day proved frustrating and stressful during the school year. I have three very active children who were not always happy about going to the After School Program. Although managed by wonderful individuals who were amazing with my children, ASP left my children frustrated and tired by the time I managed to get to them.  I loved being a Lead Teacher in an Infant Room for one of the best curriculum based programs I have ever had the privilege to teach.  Sharing my knowledge of Infant Development and being a part of each child's journey with us was an amazing experience.  The families were some of the most open and loving people I have worked with, and I really felt like they appreciated the efforts of my team.  It was hard to say good-bye to everyone, but I knew that it was time for me to take charge of my happiness and reinvent myself.  I am confident that writing about my decision and the impact it has on my family will be a wonderful way to document the challenges and the rewards of making a big transitional move.  One of my favorite Inspirational Speakers, Mikki Williams, once said that the only person we can change or motivate is ourselves. However, maybe something we say or do can Inspire others to change.  I'd like to share a quote that had become a favorite: "There is no greater joy nor greater reward than to make a fundamental difference in someone's life."  - Sister Mary Rose McGeady, Children's Advocate  Have a wonderful day.  I look forward to sharing this adventure with you!