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Thursday, January 30, 2014

Promoting Primrose Schools - A Gold Medal Moment during Atlanta's Snowmaggedon/Snowpocolypse

Nobody will forget the snow storm that shut down Atlanta in 2014.  I can't help but think it could have been me and my three children stranded were it not for strange twists of fate.  Last year I was in Georgia working as a Lead Teacher in the Infant Room at Primrose School of Macland Pointe in Marietta, Georgia.  We endured a few tornado scares that caused us to shelter in place with a room full of infants.  How many rounds of "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" and "You Are My Sunshine" did we go through as we helped soothe the babies?  Meanwhile, my own three children were being protected by the amazing After School Program at King Springs Elementary School in Smyrna. 

Those moments cannot compare to what the remarkable Director, Kathleen Sanchez, and her team of teachers accomplished when some of the children at Primrose were stranded as their parents tried to get to them.  Roads made it impossible for people to pick up their precious babies.  The staff expertly banned together to make sure the babies were safe, warm, and well loved.  Parents were reassured that their little ones were in capable hands.  These ladies demonstrated what quality child care is all about.  It's about loving children and caring for them as you would your own.  Primrose has one of the best philosophies and statement of values I have encountered in the field of Early Childhood Education.  Being accountable, responsible, and fully present for families are critical elements when looking for a place you can trust with your most precious treasures.  Babies need to know that they are secure even when an emergency prevents their parents from getting to them.

I am proud that I know the individuals who took on the enormous responsibility of being stand-in parents during Atlanta's historic, snowy epic of courage, determination, and willingness to do whatever necessary to reunite family and friends.  Part of me is relieved I was not there to deal with all the traumatic events of traffic, separation from children, and worry that loved ones were stranded in all that mess.  But there is as a part of me that regrets I was not a participant in the amazing coming together of colleagues, friends, and family members to weather the storm together.  These are the moments that define us and make us stronger, more resilient, and surprisingly creative in our approach as we solve problems as a team.

Primrose School of Macland Pointe deserves a Gold Medal Recognition.  There are probably many others who braved the elements and helped keep children safe and sound during this incredibly debilitating storm.  Today we solute the teachers who went above and beyond their usual routine to accommodate the tiniest members of the community.  Well done!

About Primrose School at Macland Pointe | The Leader in ...
Baby swings covered with snow

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Snow Days and Vehicular Impatience - Did ya really have to Honk at 5:30 am?

My days usually begins with me shuttling my husband to work at 5:30 am before returning to get my three children ready for school.  Like many individuals throughout the country, I look to the weather channel to plan my day and determine the best route for travel. I can only hope and pray that my fellow road warriors are also contemplating the safest way to commute to work.  The past two days have included very snowy roads and movement at a slower rate of speed.  I should be immune to the variations in driving techniques I have encountered in my years of experience with inclement weather conditions. Still, I have been shocked that drivers have exhibited some rude and dangerous behaviors on my most recent trips. 
First:  It is hard to drive when the lines that divide the road into four lanes are covered with snow. Most reasonable individuals will recognize that the car in front of them is making a good faith effort to remember where those lines are supposed to be and follow accordingly.  Most reasonable individuals with any good sense for their personal safety and the safety of others would not pass the individual in front at an unsafe rate of speed and honk as they go by.  (This really happened.)
Second:  If you clearly see that a vehicle is having difficulties maintaining a lane, it is safe to assume that the person in front of you may have a better handle on what is happening with the road and is making adaptations  to accommodate the road conditions.  Stop following so closely even if you do not see slick spots on the road.  It is still slippery and you will not be able to stop as quickly in an emergency.
Third:  When you see that someone is trying to merge or exit the road, don't speed up or cut them off.  Turn signals were made for a reason!  Don't make that car go out of its way to the next exit just  because you are unwilling to let them in front of you.
There's something about having someone honk at you on a snowy, slick highway at 5:30 a.m. that just brings out the unholy in an individual.  Lots of prayers and lots of patience are required on such days.   A little courtesy goes a long way.  I will continue to look out for others, like the car from New Mexico who seemed nervous that I was traveling behind him.  When I was able to safely maneuver around his car and leave two lanes between us, I  removed this element of stress so that New Mexico could figure out the road conditions without me barreling down on his smaller car. 
Hoping your road conditions are not too stressful.  If they are, I hope that your fellow travelers will be kind and courteous to you, that everyone will drive with care, and everyone will safely arrive at their destinations.   Our children watch how we interact with others.  They are the future drivers, so let's set a good example...even when the weather tries our patience.
Stay warm and have a safe day!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Humorous Parenting - A Book Recommendation

I came across a funny, terribly illustrated book that highlights some of the quirky yet true parenting challenges we all face.  I'm not being overly critical with regard to the pictures.  The author, Amber Dusick, presents her humorous insights with the accompaniment of hilarious illustrations.  They are somewhat more detailed than simple stick figures but far from beautiful renditions that depict parenthood with a halo overhead.  Dusick is real.  She doesn't sugar coat the sometimes unpleasant and messy parts of raising young children.  This mommy understands we all need to laugh to keep from crying some days.
I read this book straight through one night.  My children kept asking me why I was laughing so hard.  Because I just needed this book to let out a few giggles.  It is easy to read even with noisy children and a lot of activity swarming around your head.    It is even better if you can put the kids to bed and relax with a warm cup of hot chocolate...or something stronger if you are so inclined.  I found this book at the library, but you can also purchase it on line at Amazon.                                  

Parenting: Illustrated with Crappy Pictures

parenting illustrated with crappy picturescrappy-book

Author: Amber Dusick c. 2012 Harlequin Publishers

Hope you enjoy this funny and quick read! 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Beginning of the "Last of the Firsts" - Sebastien's Loose Tooth

Saturday evening the youngest of my three children - the last of my babies - excitedly told me that he thought his bottom tooth was loose.  This occurred at 11:00 P.M. when I had finally managed to get him to bed.  He has unlimited energy and is simply hard wired to be a late night individual.  Add this to the fact his eleven year old sister had a friend spending the weekend with our family.  There was just too much going on for him to miss anything.  I figured that this "loose tooth" was another ruse to avoid the necessity for sleep.  I never imagined that this end of the day conversation would result in tears on my part and a very excited six-year-old.
I anticipated that Sebastien would continue to wiggle his tooth, even if it was firmly intact, until I attended to his concerns.  He explained that he didn't want to swallow the tooth in his sleep.  Two seconds after I reassured him that this would not happen, I went ahead and escorted him to the bathroom to examine the said "loose tooth."  Imagine my surprise when I found that the tooth was more ready to come out than I was willing or ready to admit.
Sebastien looked at me expectantly and waited for my assessment.  I looked back at him with wide eyes and informed him that it looked like his tooth may indeed be ready to jump ship and abandon his gums for the comfort beneath his pillow. I may have been able to hold it together had it not been for the look of pure excitement on his face.  His anticipation of the milestone that was to transpire drew a huge smile on his face and made his eyes sparkle. He literally jumped up and down until I invited him to hold still so I could help get that tooth out.  I gently wrapped the tooth with a washcloth and encouraged him to wiggle it a little.  It was just too much for him to wait and he finally asked me to take it out for him.
It didn't take much effort before I pulled my hand back and looked at the wash cloth to reveal a perfectly white little pearl.   It was beautiful.  Sebastien looked in the mirror and was too happy to be concerned about the blood that had pooled where the baby tooth had resided.  I showed him how to rinse his mouth with water and then found a gauze pad to hold in his mouth until the bleeding stopped.  The happy drama drew my daughter and her friend to the open door outside the bathroom. Sebastien gleefully announced his successful extricated "First Loose Tooth" and the girls rewarded his news with their own excited oohs and awws.  (They took a few pictures to document the moment.) Then they smiled back at him and I could tell that they were happy that he had reached this momentous milestone.
I surprised myself and the girls by... crying!  I explained that this was the last "First Tooth" I would ever experience since Sebastien was my last baby.  It's funny how such seemingly innocuous occurrences can bring out the emotional side of parenting.  After I deposited Sebastien's tooth into an envelope labeled with his name and the date, I helped him place it under his pillow with hopes that the "Tooth Fairy" would visit and leave a treasure.  He had a peaceful, content expression as he floated off to dream land.  He was secure with the knowledge that he had joined the "lost tooth" club of which all six year olds want to belong.
I am now a member of that parenting club known as "Last of the Firsts."  I knew it was inevitable.  Each time one of my children experiences a "first" I am faced with the reality that they will grow up way too fast.  I am learning to treasure each milestone and moment as we continue on this journey together.  These precious times help me understand that I have been given an amazing honor to be a part of their lives.   These times help we when things get rough.  The "Beginning of the Last of the Firsts"  are bitter sweet and I love them!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Anatomically Correct Lingo – to share or not to share with your children

Talking to Your Children
The Anatomy of a Conversation
Graphic Attributed to:
What a question!  Yet I feel compelled to ask you how you have handled this topic with your children and within your circle of family and friends.  When I was growing up, my two sisters, three brothers and I were introduced to my mother’s native Hungarian language.  This included identification of body parts and accompanying clothing.  It was only years later that my siblings and I questioned if we were exposed to actual anatomically correct terminology or some type of sanitized, cute label for our “private parts.”  

Turns out that the male reproductive organ (which I can’t even phonetically spell in Hungarian) was actually labeled as a “fireman’s whistle” because that’s what the baby’s penis looked like to my grandmother. (My grandfather was a firefighter.) Seriously?  Of course I’m sure that back then there was no way they could have foreseen the obvious double entendre. I don’t even know how the female part got its name so I called my mother to have that discussion.  She laughed and admitted that she didn’t know the history of the delicate part of the “feminine mystique.”  (Not my mother’s exact words. Just me using a little creative license.)

My mother commented that the Hungarian terms were more discreet for our family to use especially in public because few if any individuals would understand the language.  We were free to ask to use the bathroom or indicate any problems we might be encountering with our “areas of concern.”  Unfortunately, nobody understood us when it was time to go to school. 

As a teacher I faced interesting situations when it came time to encourage toddlers to learn about toileting.  I quickly discovered that it was in everyone’s best interest if I asked the parents what terms they used in their home to identify body parts and bodily functions.  Without these key bits of information there was little hope of helping the wee ones break the potty code and ultimately discover an amazing world of freedom from diapers.  

Perhaps parents everywhere could unite and collectively agree upon a universal code of toileting that could better facilitate the transition from diapering to underwear.  There would need to be quite a list of terms.  We didn’t even use the word “underwear” in our home but the Hungarian word is much too embarrassing the share here.  Then again, maybe that was a made up term too.

I promised myself that when I had children I would make a grand effort to correctly identify body parts and functions so that my children would grow up well informed, educated about the Human Body and its remarkable Anatomy, and infinitely more comfortable with their bodies that I was even as an adult.  I probably lost much of my inhibitions during pregnancy when there were many necessary opportunities to become less embarrassed and more confident in what the body is capable of enduring.  

Let’s be completely honest here. There’s not much room for extremes in modesty during this stage in life.  The sooner you accept this the better you can deal with the challenges of pregnancy and child birth.  Yet lately I find myself wondering about the benefits versus risks of using anatomically correct lingo with my children.  More specifically, I wonder when my two sons will get tired of talking about body parts.  Here’s a question for you.  What happens when children who learn correct identification of “private” body parts also learn how to create their own songs to “musically enhance” a conversation?

How could I have possibly predicted that two seemingly innocent parenting concepts would merge to create the perfect storm?  First:  I have always enjoyed making up my own poetry, songs, and parodies of popular tunes to help myself and my children accomplish tasks. My philosophy is that there’s a song for pretty much anything.  Music can provide a transition between activities and encourage waking up and getting ready for school.  I used music throughout my day when I taught Infant/Toddler classrooms.  Children respond well to music as an auditory cue and it also encourages active listening skills.  Second:  I have always taught my children to use correct terminology for their body parts and encouraged them to feel comfortable talking to me when they have questions related to their bodies.  Now do your math.  Add the first and second concepts together and mix in a healthy dose of normal silliness that identifies boys ages 6 -9 and you have an entire program of non-stop body part songs that can be turned into a musical.

I had three brothers so I can remember some of their antics…including the large summer sausage that emerged from the refrigerator to be turned into an extension of another body appendage and the conversion of familiar phrases, songs and restaurants into unseemly phrases (Steak n’ Shake became Shake your Steak.  Richard Marx “Hold on to the Night” became “Hold on to your nuts.”) You get the picture.  

So I had a little experience with this harmless behavior.  Yet I was totally unprepared for how far my children were willing to push the boundaries with their creativity.  There have been countless reminders to them to mind their language, be respectful, and tone down their musical styling.   I have sent them to a room for quiet time and taken away favorite toys or games.  Yet they persist.  But honestly they would probably have done the same if I had made up names for their body parts and functions instead of correct labels. 

I’ll talk to their Pediatrician about their behaviors just in case I’m missing something here.  But I’m still sure that this too shall pass and they will grow up to be normal, healthy individuals with a healthy sense of body awareness.

Until this phase passes, and probably beyond that, I will continue to remind them to respect themselves and others.  I will teach them to never allow anyone to touch them in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable or ashamed.  I will remain open to listening to them and let them know they can come to me with any questions or concerns.  I want them to use correct body terminology so that they can communicate with medical professionals with confidence whenever necessary.  I hope they will feel comfortable with their bodies because it is a critical component to living a lifetime of good health.  

There are many parents who choose a different perspective when it comes to teaching children about their body parts and functions.  The most important thing to remember is that each family needs to find what will work best based on the comfort levels of each parent.  Children can sense discomfort and will react according to how a parent presents information.  
I hope that you will find your comfort level and identify ways to help your children grow into sensitive, respectful, healthy individuals who are aware of the amazing abilities of our Human Anatomy.  There are many resources available to assist us in our parenting endeavors.  Happy parenting to you and thanks for sharing your adventures with me.

Resource Alert

Teaching Your Kids About Their Private Parts | The Kid's Doctor

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Time for a Break from "The Long Winter Break"

Who on earth thought it would be a good idea for children to have a twenty day Winter Break from school?  I don’t remember having that much time off when I went to school.  Last night my eleven year old daughter even said she was ready to go back.  There’s only so much family togetherness one can tolerate before everyone starts to go bananas.  Perhaps it’s cabin fever.  The weather has been less than cooperative lately. But still…we have tried to get out of the apartment during the week.  Our break started off with a round of illness and I am grateful that we are all now healthy.  Since their recovery I have tried to provide ample creative opportunities to fuel my children’s need for activities, energy expenditures, and alone time. (Not an easy feat given that they do not have their own rooms.  If your child has a room of his/her own…you’re ahead of the game.)  There’s no chance of me telling them to go to their rooms.  That option is out.  So… Here are some of the moments that we have exhausted at this point:
1.       Putting away the Christmas decorations.
2.       Reorganizing dresser drawers and putting away clean clothes after laundry day.
3.       Finding a home for the new games and toys that were received for Christmas. (We kept this minimal due to space constraints.)
4.       Going to various venues to locate free Wi-Fi where games could be downloaded and Mommy could do her “therapeutic writing.”
5.       Crayola Washable Finger Paints – Set of 10 colors – with heavy weight paper and paint brushes.  (Painting has always been a favorite of mine with my own children and when I was a teacher.  It’s a calming activity and can last a long time…usually until the paper runs out with my children.)
6.       Coloring books, crayons, and lots of blank paper for personalized creations.
7.       Glue, Scissors, Paper, and Items for Collages.
8.       Making Cookies, Mac cheese, and a ton of Apple/Celery snacks.
9.       Playdoh, Playdoh, and more Playdoh   -   with plenty of props for cutting, shaping, and sculpting.
10.   Jumping and flipping on furniture when it’s too cold to go outside.  (I actually am glad we can do this without worrying about ruining the furniture – second hand furniture can be awesome!)
11.   Library trips and Story Telling.
12.   Journaling (Each of my children has owned a journal since they were old enough to make marks on a piece of paper.)  The Dollar Store is the perfect place to stock up on Journals and other creative supplies!
13.   Trips to the “Picture Show” -  We get a discount on movies after they have already been shown at regular theaters.  Here in Colorado Springs I can take the children on Tuesdays for $1.00 per ticket.  A large bucket of popcorn plus a large drink is $7.50 with one refill given on the popcorn.  A drink refill is only $1.50    This is the only way I can take the kids to the movies.  A regular theater is way too expensive.  Finding a discount theater in your area is a treasure!
14.   Visiting the Pet Smart store on adoption day when local shelters have adorable animals to visit.  Although we are not in a position to adopt at this time, we love to go and talk with the individuals who devote time toward finding homes for the sweet animals.  My children also enjoy talking to the animals and showing them a little love.
15.   Going to the local Mexican Market to purchase Pan Dulce (Sweet Bread) as a treat.  We love to eat the bread with a Coca-Cola to share.
16.   Cleaning out the fish tank and watching the fish go crazy with happiness when placed back into their clean home.
17.   Watching cartoons, family movies, and anything that involves no thought process whatsoever.  Just pure laid-back relaxation as we caught upon all the shows we are usually unable to view.
18.   Fighting, arguing, and making up as only a family can do when they have too much time together during the holidays.
19.   Reading books, magazines, newspapers, and anything “old school” where you actually have to turn the pages, feel the paper, and smell the scent of ink…sensory experiences that are missed when you have access to on-line resources.
20.   Visiting the Good Will, ARC, and VA Thrift Stores to locate amazing bargains.
We packed a lot into our Winter Break.  I had moments of pure joy with my family.  I also had moments of frustration and insanity when I wondered how I would make it through until school started again.  It’s only human to want time alone at some point.  Being a parent rarely affords one the luxury of even using the bathroom without someone saying, “What are you doing in there, Mommy?”  To which I reply, “I’m writing the next Great American Novel!  What do you think I’m doing in here?” 
I hope this New Year allows me more opportunities to share interesting and fun times with my family.  I want to become more patient and understanding. I wish I would be less needy in my desire for peace and quiet and moments to myself.   But I anticipate that this normal human desire will continue to challenge my parenting endeavors.   Hopefully the children will grow up remembering the totally awesome moments where we laughed, went a little crazy, and created memories that will last forever. Hopefully they will forgive the times Mommy enforced mandatory moments of alone time in order to preserve her sanity.  Most of all, I want them to feel loved, treasured, and content with who they are becoming.
Thank You to everyone who has taken the time to read some of these posts.  You are appreciated. I  treasure your comments and commiserations on this journey of parenting.

Friday, January 3, 2014

An On-Call Angel & Healthy Kids - Finally!

We managed to make it through the holidays even with three sick children and one exhausted mama.  Sore throats, congestion, fevers, and coughing invited us to make an unscheduled visit to the after hours clinic on Christmas Eve.  I'm not usually one to request antibiotics for my children because I am well aware of the implications for them and for those in our community. I agree with the Pediatricians that antibiotics are not a "cure all" and will actually do nothing for viruses.  We've been down this road on may occasions.  I had hoped that my pristine track record as a concerned and aware parent would have earned me the  courtesy of a call in prescription on Christmas Eve.  Wrong!
After speaking with the on-call nurse and explaining my children's symptoms, she agreed to check with the on-call physician regarding a phone-in prescription. I emphasized that I was not one to insist on antibiotics unless I truly believed it was warranted.  A call back fifteen minutes later revealed that no matter how competent or responsible I was, there was no way around a visit across town.  Never mind that I was also becoming sick and scared to take any antihistamines if I had to drive.
Now I am not ashamed to admit that I channeled my inner cray-cray mommy and almost lost it on the phone with that nurse.  I explained that I was severely sleep deprived and just wanted my babies to feel better for Christmas.  I had terrible thoughts of ending up in an Emergency Room on Christmas day with three children who had fevers over 103 degrees.  The fever thing is what concerned me most since I had been unsuccessful in alleviating this symptom.  I know that fevers are the body's way of fighting off an infection and are not as ominous as previously thought.  Still...why take any chances.
Now here is the real reason I am writing about this experience.  The nurse on the phone was absolutely the best on call resource a tired mother could ever hope to speak with when under duress.  She talked me off the ledge of insanity that only someone who has been in that situation could understand.  I usually have a tremendous amount of respect for the medical professionals who care for my children. Yet extreme circumstances bring out the unholy in me.  I finally accepted that the only way to get the appropriate medications for my children would be to make that appointment.   We would have to see another Pediatrician since our regular one was unavailable.   I complemented the nurse on call and told her that the only reason I had the strength to get there was because of her calm, reassuring voice and unwavering patience. 
Then she told me that the doctor asked her to tell me that just because I came in didn't mean my children would be given antibiotics.  I firmly told her to please convey to that doctor that I was prepared to throw down a fight to get the medications needed and that I was not in much of a mood to negotiate that point.  I asked her to please share this information with the doctor.  Well, she must have done a pretty good job because that doctor's visit went well.  The children got the prescriptions they needed and that evening all children began their treatments.
Like I said, I am not usually prone to parental boughts of hysteria.  I tolerate quite a lot before I begin to crack.  It is times like these that I am grateful for professionals who know how to treat a harried mother of three sick children.  I too have been on the other end of the phone helping families through rough times.  It was heart warming to receive the caring and concern that elevated that on-call nurse to the Christmas Eve Angel I needed. 
During this New Year,  each of us may have the opportunity to be that angel to someone in need...a kind word, a smile, a helping hand, a touch of patience...those things are so simple yet can mean the world to someone who is holding on by a thread.  At some point each on us experiences hard moments.  It's nice when we encounter the positive in others to get us through the challenges.

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