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Thursday, September 29, 2011

What's the Fascination with Doors? Another Sebastien Story

My three children and I had the wonderful pleasure of attending a friend's birthday party on Sunday.  It was an amazing, fun event for everyone.  The children were treated to a "Game Truck" parked outside the host's home.  It was filled with age appropriate video games and activities that kept them busy in between rounds of home-made pizza, bottles of refreshing beverages, and a table of snacks set up in the garage.  The "Game Truck" host was very patient and obviously loved his job.  He played games with the kids and supervised their requests in an efficient and professional manner. The adults were able to enjoy each others company while the children played inside an air-conditioned "RV" with large, flat-screens, Wii gaming devices, and a plethora of game choices. 

So what did my 4-Year-Old enjoy the most?  Well, he did spend some time pretending to drive courtesy of a Mario brothers game.  But his absolute favorite activity involved going in and out of the gaming truck.  It required a lot of active muscle movement as he hopped up and down off the step outside of the truck.  I allowed this to go on for a short period of time before I grew anxious.  I was concerned that Sebastien's actions would annoy the Game Truck Operator (GTO), so I informed Sebie that he would need to either go in and play the games or stay outside with me. 

The GTO heard my admonitions and commented that he'd seen many children do the same thing.  There was a natural fascination with that darn door on the Game Truck RV.  Here's the thing...He didn't seem concerned at all.  Throughout the party, GTO guy maintained the same relaxed smile and level patience that he possessed at the beginning of his gig.  I concluded that I was the only one worried about Sebastien's choice of activity and level of energy.  I also decided that if "Game Truck Dude" had no problems with the in and out door situation, then I was the one with the issue.  So, what the heck was my problem, anyway?  I'm sure you won't be surprised by what I am about to share with you, so here's my honest assessment...

The "voices" of my parents echoed through the pre-programmed brain of my childhood.  This is not necessarily a negative thing.  However, an awareness of it's impact on your own parenting experience can be a valuable tool when properly applied.  Here are the "door" issues from my past.  (Some creative license has been employed in the interest of humor.)

Door Issues of Childhood Past:  (a.k.a. The 7 Sins of the Open Door)
  1. Shut the door. You're letting in the flies.
  2. Shut the door. The AC is on and you're letting the cold air escape.(Summer Time)
  3. Shut the door. You'll let your brother/sister escape. (Year Round)
  4. Shut the door. The neighbors can see inside and your toys are everywhere.
  5. Shut the door. You're letting the cold air in and the heater is on.(Winter Time)
  6. Shut the door. You're letting the rain/snow/sleet/hail inside.
  7. Shut the door. The "door-to-door ministers of Jesus" are in the neighborhood and they're coming this way.  (Just kidding on this one.  My Dad actually enjoys engaging in conversations with individuals who subscribe to a wide range of religious philosophies.  He is a true connoisseur of religion and is quite well read in this respect.)
What did I learn?  Well, I can't say that I'm totally reformed yet.  A slammed door still makes me jump.  My children often like to shut their doors so the air cannot properly circulate throughout our home.  And I still cringe when they play with their doors when a safety issue is involved.  I am a work in progress, as we all are.  However, I am grateful for moments like the one I encountered on Sunday.  Observing how someone else can be more relaxed allows me to see the opportunites in letting go of the things that just don't matter.  By the way...Sebastien had a blast.  I hope he retains a good memory of his fun day. 

Have a wonderful day.  I would love to hear about your own childhood "voices" and how they have influenced your parenting.  Just drop me a note in the comments section of my blog.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Waiting is a Game - When You are 4-Years-Old

Today Sebastien and I arrived at the Library 15 minutes early.  While waiting for the library to open, Sebastien amused himself in the following ways:
  1. Jumped off the bench
  2. Found a loose tree branch and promptly became one of the Power Rangers on a quest for justice
  3. Dug in the dirt
  4. Introduced himself to another child and explained he was a Power Ranger (Justin)
  5. Hung on the handicapped railings leading up to the steps on the side entrance
  6. Ran around in circles
  7. Jumped in the dirt again
  8. Attacked a flowering shrub with exuberance
  9. Continued to talk to the other children who had arrived for story time
  10. Looked up into a small tree where one of the children had climbed up...pondering whether or not there  was room for one more
Time passed very quickly, and Sebastien soon was engrossed in a wonderful story time while Mommy started blogging away.  I love small libraries!  And I love how 4-Year-Olds create happy moments from simple pleasures!

Music Across the Curriculum

I recently attended Open House for my children and was impressed by the creative teaching techniques that are employed in the classroom.  As one impressed parent commented, "We sure didn't do that when I was in the fourth grade."  Thankfully, creativity in the classroom has been embraced by more and more educators to reach a wider range of children.  We know that learning involves our senses, and that children often respond well when lessons are introduced through musically enhanced activities.  As an Infant/Toddler Teacher I had the opportunity to personally observe the benefits of music in a classroom setting.  As a parent who frequently sings and makes up songs for my own children, I know how music can provide auditory cues that allow children to improve their attention to directions and information.  I was impressed by the use of music in my child's classroom.  I hope other teachers may have the opportunity to share this wonderful technique.

The demonstration that occurred in my 4th Grade daughter's classroom during Open House was a stellar example of how one teacher with a vision of excellence elevated the learning experience and created an environment that infused students with an interest in the subject matter.   Moments like these have the potential to create a life long love for education.  The teacher, Ms. Rogers, used popular music that is current and interesting to her students. For example, she rewrote the lyrics for "The Lazy Song" by Bruno Mars and applied it to learning adjectives.  "Today I feel like studying adjectives.  Ms. Rogers says it will stay in my head.  I'm not going to pick up the phone, so leave a message at the tone.  'Cause today I feel like studying adjectives."  The look on the children's faces as they performed for their parents was charged with energy and pride. 

I was impressed by the demonstration and immediately grateful that my children are enrolled in a school where the Principal supported this teacher's creativity and enthusiastically looked on with pride at both the teacher and the students.  As a child who grew up in a musically enhanced home, I can appreciate the benefits of encouraging music across the curriculum.  I also encourage use of music in my home to provide transition between activities and add humorous elements to otherwise mundane chores.  Waking up in the morning becomes so much more silly when Mom sings to her children.  Giggles and a chorus of, "Please stop singing now Mommy, I'm up!"  are so much more rewarding that yelling at everyone to get up or you'll miss the bus.

There's something magical about music.  Children who might otherwise argue about completing a task might stop to listen when a message comes in the form of a song.  Perhaps future blog entries will feature some of my favorite re-written lyrics set to well know tunes.  Then you too can appreciate my children's comments of, "Please, Mommy.  No more songs." Of course, they're just kidding.  The other night one of my boys asked me to please sing to him to help him go to sleep.  "Please sing those songs from when I was a baby, Mommy."  With pleasure!  Hopefully one day my children will pass on this wonderful gift of music to their children.  In the mean time, I hope that more teachers will continue to use music in the classroom!

Enjoy the rest of your week.  And the next time you hear a tune that sticks in your head, don't be afraid to play with the lyrics and adapt it to your own personal situation.  If it helps you laugh, remember, or become more uplifted, then you'll understand the wonderful power of music. 


Monday, September 19, 2011

Curious George in the Big City

On Monday, September 12, I took Sebastien to the Library to select a book.  After I got home, I looked at the cover of the Curious George in the Big City book.  In amazement I saw that the illustration depicted the iconic monkey in front of the Twin Towers. Curiosity lead me to the inside cover where I located the copyright date.  It was 2001.  The book was all about how George went into New York City with the man in the yellow hat to do some Christmas shopping.  The illustrations were fascinating and beautiful.  How could the publishers possibly have predicted the significance of this publication for the Holidays prior to 9/11?   As I read this story to my son, I remembered the events that unfolded that fateful day ten years ago.  The skyline will never again be the same.  Movies and Book Illustrations with the Twin Towers will forever memorialize the loss and tragedy of that day.  And I find myself responsible for helping my children understand the historic significance and impact of the day our Country was forever altered.  If you wish to locate this book, here is the information that may be helpful:

Title:  Curious George in the Big City
By:     Margaret and H.A.Ray
Illustrated in the style of H.A.Ray by Margaret Weston
Houghton Mifflin Company  Boston
Copyright 2001

Recommended for: All Ages

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

ABC's of Building a Tent with Your 4-Year-Old

Sebastien is very interested in building and construction.  His efforts are somewhat limited by our small apartment.  However, that does not deter his creativity.  Last night he informed me that he intended to "stay up all night" to build his house. Sebie wanted me to promise not to let him fall asleep before his project was completed.  I did not agree to this promise. I knew that he would hold me to it and be upset with me come daylight.  He carried on even though I refused his request.

Blankets, toys, pillows, and vehicles were assembled and sorted in what we have labeled "the study/library area."  From that pile of resources arose his creation.  As he stood back to evaluate his work, his eyes became serious.  He turned to me and said, "Mommy. This house is just too small.  Help me build a bigger one, please." Mommy's eyes were already beginning to droop at this point.  It was already 10:30 P.M.  So I promised him that tomorrow we would build something together.  My little builder finally managed to fall asleep by midnight. If you're wondering why this mom would allow her child to stay up so darn late, please refer back to my blog about bedtime for my little night owl.

So first thing this morning, Sebastien reminded me of my commitment to build a big house with him.  I set an alarm clock so  I could have a few minutes to myself, and informed Sebastien that when the alarm sounded, I would be his assistant.  After enjoying a few moments of peace, I sprang into action when the alarm went off. We stretched a large lavender blanket from the couch to the desk and secured each end with weighted laundry baskets.  ('s OK to wait to put that folded laundry away until your child's project has been completed!) Another end of the blanket ended up wrapped around the handle of my vacuum.  The final corner was attached to a chair using a plastic bag as a tie.  It was a rough looking sculpture, but Sebie was thrilled with the results.

We dragged pillows, blankets and books into our new living quarters.  As I lay down on the floor and read to Sebie, I realized how strangely peaceful it was inside that "blanket house."  Shielded from the strong overhead light from the room, Sebie and I laughed, talked, and enjoyed the results of our construction project.  It reminded me of how much fun I had creating a room full of blanket tents with my three brothers and two sisters were kids.  We never had fancy toys or electronic gadgets to keep us busy.  We has something infinitely better...Use of our imaginations!  Perhaps a minimalist approach to entertaining children is still the way to go.  I know I enjoyed playing with my 4-year-old today.  Cost: $0   Results:  Memories that will last a long time!

Tomorrow:  The book we read in the tent:  A coincidence associated with historic event.  Looking forward to sharing this with you!  Happy Tuesday!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Library to Reflections Rescue!

Imagine the dismay I felt as I watched my computer screen go blank. It happened last Wednesday as I attempted to do my online search for freelance writing possibilities.  My heart sank and I began to feel nauseated.  I am not exaggerating!  So many times I have wanted to jump start my writing endeavors only to be thwarted by obstacles both real and imagined.  This time, my excuse for not writing seemed valid.  I tried for the next two days to restart my computer.  A few times it looked like I might actually be successful.  However, with my very limited knowledge of computer operations, it was only a matter of time before I came to the conclusion that professional intervention would be necessary.

As any beginner writer can attest, the funds for computer emergency care are not always available. Not willing to panic, I immediately began to formulate an alternate plan.  The best I could think of was our local library. I excitedly informed the children that we would go to the library on Saturday so Mommy could use the computer for her blog.  My six-year-old, who already shows signs of becoming a computer genius, was excited about the prospect of having his own brand of fun with the library computers.  My nine-year-old excitedly planned for checking out a few "chapter" books.  I'm sure that the four-year-old began scheming ways to annoy the other two by running around the small library and  jumping off the step stool in the children's section.  We were all set to go.  Until....

Everyone has heard about the budget cuts that required libraries everywhere to cut their hours of operation.  When we arrived at the small Smyrna library, the lights were out and nobody was home.  In disbelief, I double checked the hours. This wonderful, small library is only open Monday through Wednesday from 10 A.M.- 6 P.M, Thursday from 11 A.M. - 6 P.M. and CLOSED on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.  Of course, I could go to the larger branch library located at Village Green.  However, this Mom loves the small, intimate location where she can see her children wherever they are.  Containment of these three busy kiddos is a main concern, especially when I need to use the computer to write. 

So now I just had the "10 minute warning" pop up on the computer which limits my time.  However, I am extremely grateful for this opportunity to continue my blog.  So I will continue to do whatever it takes to keep this blog alive and well.  Next time you pass a library, please remember how wonderful these places are.  They are meccas for learning, time capsules of resources, and places of refuge when Moms like myself have computer glitches.  Have a wonderful week!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Why Do 4-Year-Olds Want to Run Away from Home?

My 4-year-old, Sebastien, has always been very independent. When he was 7-months-old, he tried to climb up the stairs of our home in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He actually had one knee lifted to the bottom step.  If anyone doesn't believe me, we have it on video!  He sat, crawled, and walked early.  Perhaps he wanted to keep up with his older siblings. Whatever the reason, Sebastien let us know from the beginning that he had a strong personality and a desire to do things his way.  From the moment he learned that movement was his greatest asset, Sebastien began planning for his ticket out of the house and into the world.  I'm convinced he came into this world with a scheme that included how to pack his backpack, claim his independence, and run away from home.  He's fortunate that Mommy remembers being a 4-year-old with a plan of her own to run away.  More to follow on that story...

Yesterday, Sebastien became frustrated when I announced bedtime.  He had already played, eaten dinner, taken his bath, read a story, eaten a final snack, drank water, and brushed his teeth.  All the traditionally recommended "transitional" activities were checked off.  The "15,10,5 minute warnings" had been administered with a calm, assertive tone of voice given by yours truly.  That calm voice became a bit louder and more insistent when Sebastien refused to abide by the "parental contract" we had previously negotiated for a beautifully choreographed bedtime routine.  Firm reminders that it was time for us to retire to his bedroom for nightly prayers were less than well received.  

Sebastien decided to take this bedtime situation to the next level by providing a display of emotions worthy of developing his own show for TLC.  As I carried him to his bed, he fussed, cried, and released a verbal thunderstorm of threats.  It went something like this:  "I don't want to go to bed yet.  You're so mean.  I want my Daddy.  No, no, no.  I'm NOT tired!  I want to watch my show.  You NEVER let me watch anything!  You're making me so very sad, Mommy." (Before I continue, I want you to know that this is actually my 4-year-old talking!  He's got a wonderful command for the English language.)  Continuing..."Mommy, I'm going to get all my things together.  I'm going to pack my backpack and go away.  I'm going to ask Daddy to go with me so we can live by ourselves in our own house!" 

Well...I could have chosen to have hurt feelings, cry, yell, or threaten.  But I didn't (This time).  Instead, I told him how much I loved him, that I would miss him, and that it makes me sad too when he doesn't listen to me.  I explained that sleep is important for him to grow, and that sleep is important for Mommy so she doesn't turn into The Incredible Grouchy Mamma.  I remembered how I felt at age four.  My mother told me that I also tried to "run away from home."  I packed all my underwear and a few cookies in a brown paper bag, said good-bye to my mother, and went outside to sit on the curb - because I knew I wasn't allowed to cross the street.  (Funny what you pack at age four.) 

The neighbor ladies all called my mother and asked her what I was doing.  Mom calmly explained that I had run away from home.  They responded with, "But Helen, aren't you concerned that she'll go too far away?"  My mother, in all her wisdom, told them, "No.  I'm watching her from the window. She knows not to cross the street by herself.  Plus, it's almost lunch time, so I'm sure she'll come back soon."   Sure enough, I returned.  My mother asked, "How was your trip, Mary."  I responded, "Oh, just fine."  Mom asked, "Are you hungry for lunch?"  I answered, "Yes, Mommy."  And that was that.  Well done, Mom!

I'd like to think my child would do the same and come back right away.  Sebastien, however, knows how to pack his clothes, food, and a map.  He made his own map for us to get to the pool at our apartment complex this summer.  That's just how he rolls.  So as I continue to parent this strong willed, independence-seeking young man, I say many prayers, take lots of deep breaths, occasionally allow for moments of insanity and emotional outbursts, and offer an abundance of hugs, kisses, and all the love that little boy can tolerate!    I know that one day his need to venture out on his own will come to fruition, and I will miss the many challenges we face together. 

Parenting is my opportunity to gain appreciation for all my parents have done for me and my children.  It offers a glimpse into my past as I remember my own struggles to grow up too fast and experience adventures near and far.  Most of all, I have the gift of seeing things again through the hearts and souls of my children.  I've advised my children to say the following to me if I become too impatient or stressed..."Just love me for who I am, Mommy."  Permission granted!

By the way... Sebastien did finally give me lots of hugs and kisses along with an apology for his behavior.  He wrapped his arm around my arm and fell asleep as we talked about our day together.  It doesn't always go down this well, but at least for last night I felt that my relationship with Sebastien was intact...and that he would put his plans to move out on hold.  Wishing you lots of adventures, challenges, and peaceful resolutions as you travel along life's strange and bumpy roads.  Happy Middle of the Week! 

Monday, September 5, 2011

Monday's List of Random Thoughts

Writing is often an imperfect process.  Perfectionists procrastinate because they want things to work out right the first time around.  When a perfectionist endeavors to become a writer, it goes against every fiber of their being.  Therefore, in an attempt to reduce the obstacle of procrastination, I have decided to make lists on the days when I feel there is little time to produce an article.  Hopefully, the lists will inspire this perfectionist to create articles of substance.  Tackling procrastination at the root of its origin is the way to go today!  So, here's my random list of thoughts for a rainy Monday morning:
  1. I love rainy days. They make me want to clean closets, scrub counters, and get caught up on the laundry. My children, on the other hand, see this as a opportunity to make Mommy insane as they complain about boredom and other maladies. 
  2. It makes me crazy when my children argue with each other to the point I end up raising my voice.  I always thought I'd be able to calmly talk to my children and they would listen with interest as I lovingly guided them through life's many hills and valleys.  I failed to take into account that they needed to be genetically programmed to listen and respond with interest. 
  3. My computer is so ancient that it sounds like a small aircraft preparing for take-off.  I know I should be grateful that I even have a computer.  I remember preparing college assignments on my father's clickety-clack typewriter.  My first computer printed assignment was done on my boyfriend's "new" Amstrad computer.  If you don't remember this brand of computer, you're also too young to know what an original typewriter looked like.  You may find one at an antique store if you need a visual reference.   
  4. Mostly, I am grateful for any time I can steal away to write at all.  Hey, if J.K. Rowling could find a way to write with very little resources at her disposal (when she first began her legacy) then I can surely find a way to grab a minute here or there to write.  So as I break up arguments today and do the laundry, I need to remember that it's o.k. that my writing is not "perfect" the first time around.  The most important thing is to just write!  Everyday! Even if they're just random thoughts!
Hope you're inspired to get going and do what you love!  Procrastination will always be there.  Don't let it get in your way!  Have a great week filled with awesome adventures, lots of challenges, and many, many blessings!