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Thursday, March 20, 2014

A Book of Questions - Bet You Could Write One Too!

I really need to get started on a list of questions presented to me by my three children at the most interesting moments.  It won't take me long to come up with at least 25 questions that I can compile into a book.  I have written down some of them on odd pieces of paper: napkins, note cards, church bulletins, and even on my hand to avoid forgetting them.  That's how they do it.  Children take you off guard  when you least have access to documentation tools to save the evidence. I'm a writer and I should know better.  Sometimes there's just not enough time to dig out that small notebook buried at the bottom of my purse/back pack.
 
Here are two prime times when children attack with questions that are really hard to answer in a short sentence:
 
1. When you are trying to get everyone ready for school and out the door in a timely manner.
 
2. Bed time (need I say more?)
 
This morning, and I am NOT making this up, my six-year-old confronted me with this gem as I am walking him to the car to take him and his brother to school...
 
"Mommy, are there people who have both boy and girl parts?"
 
Thankfully, years of studying Anatomy and Physiology and working in the health care field allowed me a certain level of comfort answering this question - in a way a six-year-old could understand and not get too concerned.
 
You might wonder how a six-year-old would come up with this question. Stop wondering.  That's just a waste of precious time!  Get over the shock and deal yourself in - game on.  (It probably didn't help that he pays attention to everything his siblings share...including his middle school sister's comment that cockroaches have both male and female parts - a concept she gleaned from sixth grade science class.)  Yeah for education!
 
Parenting is filled with multiple "on the spot" moments where you have to think quickly to avoid being knocked over by shock.  I love those moments.  It activates the memory files that need to be dusted off and refreshes the creative part of my brain.  It helps compensate for the mind numbing tasks that typically take over the better part of my day, like being the only human in the house who has the ability to refill a toilet paper roll or rinse the tooth paste out of the sink.  The questions help me recognize that I am indeed smart and sometimes scathingly brilliant with my quick response times.
 
So apologies to my Social Work professor who had high hopes of me completing my PhD and conducting research with her serving as my mentor.  (I actually attended the MSW program while pregnant with my second child.)  Maybe someday I will return to that goal.  For now...I am taking on a whole new research project and I'm loving it (for the most part).
 
One day I'll write down more of the infamous questions presented by my three little test subjects.  You'll laugh.  You'll cry.  You'll need to be sitting down.  I look forward to sharing those with you.  Keep reading.  Sharing this parenting gig is the best therapy ever!   That's not something I learned in University.  That's Life!
 
 
Today's Book Recommendation for Children
(March is Read Aloud Month - 15 Mins.of Reading Each Day!)
 
 
 
 


Saturday, March 15, 2014

Weekend Reading Adventures - Beyond Books!

Weekends are supposed to be a time for relaxing, family time, and spiritual renewal after a long (and sometimes hectic) week of work and school. Yet we are often required to use these two days of "rest" for running errands:  Grocery shopping, laundry, cleaning out the car,  house keeping, etc...The list could be packed with everything except relaxation.
 
So with all the things on our "to do" list, how on earth can we fit in our 15 minutes of reading with our children?  The key to reading is to realize it doesn't have to be a sit down activity.  Kids have to sit too much as it is when they are in school.  Here are a few ways to incorporate reading into some of the errands you might find yourself doing on a weekend.
 
 House Keeping
 
1. Have everyone read the first sentence they find on the cover of a magazine, newspaper, or book as they stack or re-shelve an item.  OR...see who can find the most "sight words" before putting the items away.
 
 
2. Sing a song as you complete an activity and spell some of the words as you go. You could even create a simple poster with the words to the song. The children can decorate the poster.
 
Example:  Tune of BINGO
 
  It's time for us to clean our room
then we can play outside Oh.....
C-L-E-A-N, C-L-E-A-N, C-L-E-A-N
It's time to clean our room now.
 
 
Let's make our beds and pick up toys
then we can play outside Oh...
Make our beds B-E-D-S
Pick up toys T-O-Y-S
Clean our room R-O-O-M
Then we can play outside Oh!
 
 
Laundry
 
1.  Read the clothing labels, laundry soap instructions, and machine settings as you complete each step.  The children will hear what you are doing, begin to recognize sequencing, and observe you as you read and follow the directions and recommendations.  Yeah...it may seem a little weird at first, but it's a great way to teach children about following directions to complete a project.
 
2.  We go to the laundry mat to do our wash.  Even if you don't usually take your laundry out, perhaps a trip to the laundry mat could provide creative opportunities for language development.  Children can read the machines, the dispensers for laundry aids, and snack machines.  They can learn to count the coins to activate the washers and dryers then read the amount of time each coin buys.  They can move around while the wash is getting done.
 
Grocery Shopping
 
1.  Let the children help you make the shopping list.  They can either watch as you write down the items or write it themselves if they know how.  Alternatively, you can also encourage younger children to "write" or draw the items any way they can.  
 
2.  Have fun reading labels at the grocery store.  Make up a  "treasure hunt" for words that your children can check off as they find them. 
  Church
 
1.  Help children locate the pages in their prayer or song books.  Encourage then to find sight words and look at pictures to determine which gospel will be read.
 
2.  Pick out items from the church bulletin that are relevant to your child's age.  For example:  An announcement for a special event. Read it together after mass. 
 



Car Rides
 
1. Read road signs and advertisements
 
 
2. Point out familiar landmarks
 
 
3. Play word search games or "I Spy" (I spy a word that begins with M. What sign has an M?)
 
 Play Time
 
You can create "movement" cards and write an action word on each one.  Set up the cards outside or in the house if there is room.  As your child moves from one card to another, he/she can read the card and act out the movement. 
 
Jump up and down
 
Clap your hands
 
Sing a song
 
Time to dance 
 
Hope you have a wonderful weekend!
 
Recommended Reading...
This book will be added to the site
"Baby's Books and Bubbles, Oh My"
 
 
Oh, Baby, the Places You'll Go!
 
 
 
 

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Sebastien's Selections - Fun Books for March Reading Aloud Campaign

Time for some more recommendations from my First Grader, Sebastien.  Reading has become a stress management technique for us this month.  Turns out  that a lot goes on in First Grade, and the end of our day is the perfect opportunity to "debrief" from a long day of school.  Reading a favorite book helps with this process. 
 
Mercer Mayer's "Little Critter" series offers a great selection of stories with topics that are relevant to children.  The illustrations are endearing to parents too.  You can interpret those facial  expressions from Little Critter's Mom and instantly relate to her experiences with her children.  These books bring a smile to my face as I think about my own relationship with Sebastien.
 
Here are a few titles you may enjoy:
 
What a Bad Dream                    Just  Go To Bed                                
 
Just Me and My Mom               The New Baby
 
When I Get Bigger                     I Just Forgot
 
Just Me and Dad                         Just A Mess
 
 
You can check out more by looking on the following link or by visiting your favorite book sites.  Happy Reading and Keep Logging your Selections on Your "Barry the Book Worm" poster!
 
To the Rescue! (Little Critter Series)
 
 
 
 


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Making Time to Work Out - A Never Ending Battle!

I never thought finding time for a healthy activity could be so darn challenging!  I absolutely loved how terrific I felt in my twenties and early thirties when working out became a huge priority for me. I became so involved in my quest for a manageable weight that I  became a Certified Aerobics Instructor.  Later, earning a Personal Trainer/Fitness Counselor Certification fulfilled my need to work out and help others achieve their goals.
 
Getting fit was never easy for me.  I looked to mentors and individuals who could inspire the changes that needed to transpire.  Then...like many individuals who have endured life changing trauma and personal road blocks, I fell away from one of the very things I needed most to manage my stress - Exercise and Healthy Meal Planning.  A failed long term relationship following a long distance move to Texas and a new job all combined to create the perfect storm.  I stopped working out and old habits returned.
 
I went on to marry and have three children who mean the world to me.  After the birth of my last child, I encountered extreme complications following my C-Section and required emergency open heart surgery one week later.  I nearly lost my life.  Thank God a cardiac specialist and surgeon was on call in the ER the day I was brought in.  He assessed the situation and recognized that I had a rare complication. I was in surgery within 3 hours of the call I made to 911.
 
I  give myself credit too.  My understanding of what was happening to my body and the jobs I have held in the health care field gave me the knowledge necessary to provide complete information to my first responders.  I was able to confidently identify what I believed was happening to my body and clearly explained the medical history of my C-Section that lead to a speedy diagnosis.  I didn't panic.  I gave as much emergency information as possible as quickly as I could in the event I became unconscious.
 
So years later, I am still coming to grips with the long term grieving that I have been struggling to overcome.  There are many other details of events that were occurring simultaneously in our family situation.  The heart attack was as much an emotional symptom as it was a physical one.  Two weeks ago I decided it was time to move on.  I have been following the progress of a former colleague and have been impressed by her successes.  Last week my cousin posted that she planned to run two mile per day for 40 days of Lent with 80 miles being her goal.  It's inspirations such as these that propel me forward.
 
I fortunately found a Gold's Gym close to our home that allows me to bring my 11 year old daughter into the workout area where we can use the treadmills, elliptical machines, weight equipment, and heated pool. Since the facility is new we were able to obtain an excellent family membership for a reasonable fee. There are many body types who participate in working out and the environment is non-intimidating...a far cry from the days when I taught classes at Gold's Gym in Texas so long ago.  There are no hard core body builders and the attire is much less revealing.  Yoga pants and more modest t-shirts are acceptable.
 
My 8 and 6 year old sons are excited to participate in the Kid's Club while my daughter and I work out.  I have found that the best schedule for us is to have a light early dinner (right after school) then immediately head to the gym before all the evening classes start.  Monday night we had an issue because my 8 year old is prone to sensory overload.  We arrived too late and the kid's room was packed and already buzzing with activity.  We had to change our plans.  I took the kids to the park instead for 30 minutes then took the boys home to stay with their dad.  My daughter and I returned to the gym to complete our workout.
 
It would have been easy to just go home and not follow through. But I am determined to make this into a habit that the entire family can share.  Tuesday night was better. We had our early dinner, worked out, came home, and I made a small, light snack before it was time to get ready for bed.  Little by little I am finding my way back. Working out is a battle right now. I hope that one day the routine will become as natural and expected as any other part of our family's day. 
 
Until then...I will continue to find inspiration in others who are on a quest to become healthier, happier, and more aware that exercise is one of the strategies that can help reduce stress and raise body awareness.
 
Coming Soon:  A New Blog dedicated to A Healthier and More Active Lifestyle:  "Monkey Bars, Mud Pies, and Movement" for Families with Children and for Adults who Remember the Fun from Childhood.
 

 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Road to Sainthood involves a Mexican, A Very Patient Wife, and the INS Website for Renewals!

I'm sure this post title could be altered to address any nationality.  I am not trying to stereotype or generalize in any way, shape, or form.  Heck...any wife who has ever tried to assist her husband in a task out of his comfort zone is likely to have a similar story.  So before anyone even thinks I am being too judgmental regarding my husband's culture, let me say once and for all...this topic could be any woman's story.  This one just happens to be mine. 
 
Anyone who has any inkling of the level of commitment that has been required regarding my relationship with this man will understand what I am about to share.  Even if you don't know our dramatic tale, you will probably get an idea of how challenging my life can be some days. The more drama involved = the closer this chica gets to assuring her place in heaven.  Next stop:  Sainthood!
 
My husband and I went through a lot to acquire his legal residency several years ago.  There was a significant monetary and emotional investment in the extensive process including legal advice from an Immigration Attorney, several trips to the consulate, a long interview, and countless prayers for patience.  Additionally, I was pregnant with our first child during a few of our trips.
 
Fast forward ten years.  Time to renew the "Green Card."  First we had to create an account before applying for the renewal.  Lesson One:  Make sure you get on the correct freakin' site!  My husband has Zero patience for anything computer related.  So you can imagine my angst when our first attempt to log on was unsuccessful.  He was ready to just give up and leave the library.  I, on the other hand, was determined to get this task completed.

Thankfully, one of the librarians helped me track down the correct web site and reserved a computer for us in the learning lab.  We went through three computers before finding one that allowed us to log in properly.  The learning lab advisor was very helpful and encouraging.  Good thing I had her support because my "husband child" was standing over my shoulder, loudly sighing and rolling his eyes every time I unsuccessfully tried to create a password.

Side Note:  Monday mornings are notoriously busy days at the library.  Additionally, about 50 Jehovah's Witness Missionaries use the library as their "Home Base" where they are supposedly  working on letters, reports, etc.. to document their missionary work.  I say supposedly because nosy husband peeked over one of the missionary's shoulders and spied his report, "The margaritas were great and we found a new prospect."    My husband's continued anxiety punctuated by our verbal fencing resulted in at least 3 missionaries leaving the area.  Perhaps if I had a pitcher of margaritas we could have become friends.  Oh well.

Saint Jerome
Turns out that the INS website is pretty freakin' particular about the type of characters that must be used in order to accept your password.  I kid you not...it took at least 6 or 7 attempts before we were accepted.  (and you thought crossing the border was hard!)  I swear that by the time I finally showed my husband how to compete the renewal process I was ready to drop kick his ass back across the Mexican border.  This in no way, shape, or form diminishes the amount of love I have for him.  However, I now need a long vacation to recover from the entire ordeal!

Now if I can only convince him it's time to go ahead and finish the process by applying to be a citizen.  I do not want to go through this again in another 10 years. There will be even more technology to decipher and more challenging hoops to jump through.  In the mean time, I think I need to continue to work on my application for Saint Hood.  Now I have "Helped husband renew Green Card" to add to my resume. 

As for those young Jehovah's Witnesses missionaries...I will be working on a letter for you as well.  I will keep several in my back pack for distribution at the library.  Perhaps the real mission could have been to be a positive source of Jehovah's love by making a positive comment or offering to help a frustrated couple.  Instead, you got up and walked away from the opportunity. 

Happy Tuesday!  Hope your week is filled with both challenges and blessings.  Need a Challenge?  Here you go:  How many positive things can you share this week for your fellow humans experiencing frustration!
 
 
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Thursday, March 6, 2014

This site is a Partner for "Read Aloud Campaign" - Mission/Story

 
 
This information was obtained directly from the Read Aloud 15 Minutes non-profit organization.  "Reflections Beneath The Poetz Tree" is a registered Partner for the Colorado region.  Link to the following site for excellent resources and information: 

http://www2.readaloud.org/importance

 MISSION/STORY      

Read Aloud 15 MINUTES is a non-profit organization that is working to make reading aloud every day for at least 15 minutes the new standard in child care. When every child is read aloud to for 15 minutes every day from birth, more children will be ready to learn when they enter kindergarten, more children will have the literacy skills needed to succeed in school, and more children will be prepared for a productive and meaningful life after school.

Reading aloud is the single most important thing a parent or caregiver can do to improve a child’s readiness to read and learn.

By making 15 minutes of daily reading aloud the new parenting standard, we will change the face of education in this country.

History

Founded in 2008, ReadAloud.org is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization. Focused on spreading its message about the power of reading aloud, Read Aloud has participated in the National Book Festival in Washington, D.C., and the Los Angeles Times Book Festival, and has recruited Family Read Aloud authors such as David Baldacci, Mem Fox, Brad Meltzer, Loren Long and Mac Barnett to speak about the power and importance of daily reading aloud.

In 2010, Read Aloud began a grassroots effort called the Big Box of Books, which puts age-appropriate books into the hands of vulnerable families about twice-yearly “reading parties.” To date, more than 1,800 families have participated in the Big Box of Books program, which has a vibrant presence in Northern Michigan, Greater Cincinnati, and the Pittsburgh area.

In 2012, Read Aloud began a decade-long national campaign, the 15 MINUTES movement. Partnering with other organizations and businesses that are invested in child development and education, the 15 MINUTES movement aims to make reading aloud every day for 15 minutes the new parenting standard, and thereby change the face of education in this country.

 
 
Isabella's(Age 11) Book Recommendation
for Thursday
 
 
Judy Moody Goes to College (Judy Moody Series #8)
 
What are you reading today?
 
 

 


Wednesday, March 5, 2014

It's Read Aloud Day - We're Making Books a Worthwhile Habit - 15 minutes at a time

 

There are so many things on our "To Do" list that there is a risk that reading could get bumped to the bottom of the priority pile. We need to make an effort to establish a special place in our daily routine and dedicate at least 15 minutes for reading aloud to our children.  Here's the surprising bonus: Reading aloud is a fabulous stress reducer.  Turn off the electronics. Cuddle up on the couch or in bed.  Add a warm, cozy blanket.  Then just read!
  
Last night I was feeling pretty overwhelmed by some of the many changes that are occurring in our family:  A new job requiring an extra vehicle, children dealing with standardized testing that  makes them fill in tiny little circles ad nauseum, and small living quarters for very active children.  Sebastien, my 6-year-old, is very excited about this month's reading project.  He happily retrieved his library book from his back pack and we settled into the comfy bed to read. 
 
Sebastien read his book first.  It was about Winnie then Pooh characters and the things they could do.  Piglet felt left out because he was "too little."  Pooh helped Piglet realize all the wonderful contributions he made as a friend.  Piglet ended up feeling much better about himself.  I think Sebastien enjoyed reading this book because he could relate to the character. 
 
Next, it was my turn to read.  Sebastien handed me a Dr. Seuss book. "Bartholomew and the Oobleck."  I had actually never read this one and was surprised that Sebastien knew about this book. He even told me what it was about.  His Kindergarten teacher had read this to the classroom last year.  So we began to read.  I even created voices for the characters and Sebastien smiled at my interpretations.  We only got through half of the book and I have to say I can't wait to read the rest of it tonight.  I found myself more relaxed and less stressed after reading.
 
 
Sebastien's Book Recommendation
for Wednesday
 

  
 
Reading to your children just 15 minutes a day has long term benefits for your child and for you too!  Just consider reading as one strategy for your stress management. Creating time for Books is a Worthwhile Habit.  Happy Read Aloud Day!
 
 

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

More Ways to Sneak in Some Reading Time

 
Do you have a "tween" who is not always the most eager to carve out 15 minutes of reading time?  I found a solution to this dilemma last night as I was reading my Face Book posts.  There are many great inspirational quotes, humorous view points, and posts that tug at the heart strings.  I sometimes let out a spontaneous chuckle that often draws the attention of my children.
 
 
Last night my (almost) 9 year old son, Nathan, sat next to me and began reading the posts.  Together we discussed some of them, laughed at others, and worked through the more difficult words.  I realized that this reading was valuable too.  We spent time together.  We became informed on current issues.  We laughed together.  We read together...for more than 15 minutes.

 
Prior to the Face Book reading session I had tried unsuccessfully to have my 9 year old spend a few minutes on a favorite book. (He does read...but it has to be on his terms.)  My 6 year old and I did enjoy our planned reading time...see yesterday's post. So if your older children resist a planned reading time, perhaps a small amount of social media with mom or dad will not harm him or her.  Make sure your posts are child friendly by scrolling to the ones you know are appropriate.

 
I enjoyed reading with my son and I look forward to our family reading time this evening.  Who knows what we'll come up with next.  Hope you are beginning to enjoy your March Read Aloud Project.  I hope to hear from readers as you discover what works for you and what books you would like to recommend.
 
 
Books Recommended by Nathan
(almost Age 9)
Diary of a Wimpy Kid Series

Diary of a Wimpy Kid Collection 8 Books Set Third Wheel, Cabin Fever, Ugly Truth

Happy Tuesday!
 


Monday, March 3, 2014

March - Time to Get Your Read On!

 Your March Reading Challenge:
Read 15 minutes each day!



Reading is fun year round.  But it's extra fun to challenge ourselves during the month of March to see how many different types of books we can encourage our children to enjoy.  Tonight I was happy to see that my first grader had brought a book home from school that was assigned reading.  He was motivated to read to me because it was a "school made" book that had been stapled together.  The inside front cover had a place for parents to sign the book after it had been read.  What a great idea!
 
 
You can create your own reading log using the idea I posted from Friday. (See "Barry" The Book Worm)  or  You can create your own log where you and your child can add a signature or a picture to document your reading time.
 
I also loved that the "school-made" book included a few questions at the end to enhance reading comprehension.  This technique can be used at home with your own story selections too.  Ask simple questions regarding the characters.  Deductive reasoning questions might include:  "Why do you think the duck was sad?"  or "What would you have done if your teddy bear was lost?"  You could focus on the theme of the book and ask, "What was this book about?"
 
 
So many ways to enjoy reading with your children! Here's a whole month to dedicate extra time toward this life long love of dreams, adventure, inspiration, and learning.  Please feel free to share your reading recommendations.
 
Book of the Day
 
 
 
 

 
This is a charming book about a mother's unconditional love for her child.  My 11 year old daughter still remembers me reading this to her when she was younger.  We recently came across it in a book store and I read it to her right there on the spot.   A cool moment!