Wednesday, June 30, 2010

July 4 in DC

America is a tune.  It must be sung together.  ~Gerald Stanley Lee

Happy Birthday America!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Happy Birthday Alazar!

Four years ago today we mailed in our application to the adoption agency. Unknown to us on that same day on the other side of the world our son was being born. One year later we were in Ethiopia holding him. And today surrounded by Star Wars and Toy Story toys we celebrate his turning four. What a joy he has been and continues to be to us. We are so blessed.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Wordless Wednesday- Ethiopia, One Pic is Not Enough...

 Three years ago this week we were on a life-changing trip to Ethiopia, an extraordinary country.

The housing

The faces

The scenery

The housework

The market

The reason

Friday, June 18, 2010

Kindermusik for math, literacy, and social skills

The initial view of a music class is that it is directed specifically at children whose parents aspire for them to become accomplished musicians. While musicianship is certainly obtained, Kindermusik actually focuses on teaching math, literacy, and social-emotional skills and it does so through the three different learning styles- audio/verbal, visual, and kinesthetic.

Your audio/verbal learner in music class: Your little singer is given many opportunities to learn and express themselves in Kindermusik class. Each semester your child receives a CD with the entire semesters repertoire. This will probably be their favorite part of the take home materials. They will be introduced to early math skills through singing counting songs musical scales and hearing the complexities of classical music. They will be introduced to the very important skill of active listening by learning about sounds and then listening for them. Active listening and repeating of rhymes is a building block to childhood literacy. Listening to a wide variety of music including music in different languages prepares your child for multilingual literacy as well. Socially your child learns through the ensemble effort of singing together. They also learn the turn taking skill through call and response. The skill of your child's actual singing is secondary to these important life skills.

Your visual learner in music class: Your reader will particularly enjoy the story time in Kindermusik class and their favorite part of the take home material will most likely be the book. They will also like the bright posters on the walls and the colored scarves we dance with. As we sit, stand and move in class your child will be observing visually and will be introduced to early math skills and even geometry as they begin to understand spacial awareness. They will see numbers as we count on our fingers while singing and will notice the patterns as we shake shakers up high for four beats then down low for four beats. In story time they will enjoy looking at the pictures and words in the book, beginning to define the two. They will enjoy matching pictures to sounds and they will learn the early literacy skill of reading left to right. Socially your visual learner will learn to relate with others through turn taking with instruments and having the opportunity to watch other children interact. They will learn social cues like standing when they see the teacher stand and clapping when they see others clap. Important building blocks to your child's success are found in such a class.

Your kinesthetic learner in music class: Your tiny dancer will love all of the hands on time they have with scarves and instruments in Kindermusik class. In fact the instrument they are given as part of the take home materials may be their favorite. Dancing patterns and clapping steady beats are both early math skills your child will enjoy. Counting on fingers, hopping three times in a row, all to fun music instills these math skills. Literacy will be learned through understanding the meaning of words through movement. Up, down, fast, slow will make sense to them as they are actively involved, enriching their vocabulary. Socially your kinesthetic learner will thrive from turn taking, circle dancing, holding hands with other children, and partner dancing. All of these will help your child relate to others in an enjoyable environment. High energy children with a great need for movement are well respected and appreciated in class while learning essential skills.

Kindermusik is an international music and movement program for children ages 0-7 and is the originator of the mommy and me style class. They combine years of research with modern discoveries to create an ideal learning space for your young child. For more information or to enroll in a Kindermusik class go to

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Wordless Wednesday - Tim in Uganda

This is my husband Tim. He has been at an orphanage in Uganda for the past two weeks. I miss him dearly but when I see pics like these, I get it.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Does your child feel loved by you?

I love my children wholeheartedly. With every fiber in me, I love them. But, and that's a big but, I don't always think they know it and definitely don't always think they feel it. So I've been doing some studying on the topic and I'll pass on what I've discovered.

It seems there are some ways that show love to all children and then there is also a breakdown of ways, referred to as love languages, that are more individualized. Every child needs certain things to feel loved and our responsibility as parents is to continually use these. Children who feel loved are more likely to succeed in life and relationships than children who are loved but don't feel it.

One of the things crucial to all children is eye contact. Looking your child straight in the eye and maintaining that eye contact shows your child that they have your undivided attention. Also, eye contact conveys honesty. Children also need one on one time. This one is harder.  And the bigger your family, the harder yet. Finding individualized time for each of our children is going to take time and sacrifice. I'm willing but don't always feel able. I'm going to have to work hard on this one. The third crucial part for all children is discipline. Discipline is training and setting boundaries. It includes punishment but that's not the main focus of discipline. The idea of discipline is to eventually lead them to self-discipline, self-control. We all know how important that is in our lives. It's our responsibility to direct our children in that and, amazingly, doing so helps them understand that whee love them. So eye contact, one on one time, and discipline are the foundations.

Beyond those basic are the five love languages. Each of us, including our children, speaks and understands a different love language. The five languages as laid out by Gary Chapman PhD and Ross Campbell MD in the book "The Five Love Languages of Children" are quality time, words of affirmation, gifts, acts of service, and physical touch. Though each of these ought to be expressed, one of these speaks loudest to each child.  A child whose language is physical touch will love hugs and kisses, patty cake, tickling, spinning and dancing together and riding piggy back. The child whose language acts of service will really appreciate you making something for them or even doing their chores one day for a special treat. Quality time speakers will really feel loved by the one on one time all our children need. Mommy and me classes are great for these kids. Children who feel loved by words of affirmation will love the cheerleader in you. Saying "I love you" and "great job" or "good try" will mean more to them  than the other languages. A child whose love language is gifts places great meaning in gifts, showing love by giving and feeling love by receiving gifts. Figuring out your child's love language can be done by asking "would you rather" questions. "I have some free-time next Saturday. Would you rather I cleaned your room while you got your nails done (acts of service) or would you prefer we go buy that cute pair of earrings you saw last week (gifts)?" "Do you want me to read you a story (quality time) or play horsey ride (physical touch)?" "Would you rather I told grandma all about your ballet recital (verbal affirmation) or do you want to take the new tutu you received to show her (gifts)?" "Do you want to make cookies for your class together (quality time) or shall I make them while you play outside (acts of service)?" After asking these types of questions over a period of time you ought to know your child's language of love and you'll be more apt to follow through showing it, realizing how wonderful it is to have your child know you love them. I'm excited to get started on figuring out my kids. I have some guesses already but we'll see. What do you think? Do you know how to make your child feel loved? For that matter, do you know your own love language? I'm certain you love your children as I do so let's see what we can do to make them know it!

Suggested further reading:
"The Five Love Languages of Children" 
"How to Really Love Your Child"
"Boundaries with Kids"

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Wordless Wednesday- Fabulous East Coast Adventure

This was a very educational trip a few years back to New York, Philadelphia, Virginia, Maryland, and DC  but clearly we had some fun too. This is our favorite pic from the trip. :)

Monday, June 7, 2010

Where Should My Child Go to School??

We all want what's best for children. Choosing a school may be one of the most important factors in giving our child the best. So how do we choose the right school?

Everyone has an opinion (sometimes a very vocal opinion!) on what the best school setting is. Public school, private school, home-school, and charter school all have advantages and disadvantages. There is no BEST school, only what's best for YOUR child. So what are some of these advantages and disadvantages?

Here are the advantages/disadvantages as listed in Vicki Caruana's "Giving Your Child the Excellence Edge".

1. Public schools are good at reaching out and helping the below-average student.
2. Public schools are driven by common standards and goals.
3. Public schools are free. (Big determining factor IMO)
4. Public schools offer students a variety of social experiences based upon diverse populations.
1. Public schools are overcrowded.
2. Public schools often lack funds.
3. Public schools do not effectively address the needs of gifted students. (Not certain I agree with this one)
4. Public schools have more saftey concerns than the others.
5. Public schools can be more "forward thinking" than many parents might prefer.
6. As is common in politics, "reform" can often mean a previously failed approach repackaged under a new name.

1. Private schools are often church-affiliated and may support your desire to impart faith in your child's education. (Depending on your beliefs this could be an advantage or a disadvantage)
2. Private schools typically have a higher level of parental involvement.
3. A community atmosphere can encourage greater solidarity and discipline among students.
4. Accelerated curricula for gifted students is usually offered.
5. Although some private schools can be over-crowded, they generally have a smaller class size.
1. Although private schools must undergo an accreditation process, some schools and teachers have not earned accreditation.
2. Private schools that have earned accreditation will be more expensive.
3. Problem students sent from public schools may derail opportunities for creativity and classroom innovation.
4. Parents must often transport their own children to school.
5. If a private school is church-affiliated, it may support a denomination with differing doctrinal views from the parents.

1. Because they are publicly funded, there is no tuition cost.
2. They typically offer smaller class size.
3. They may target a specific need of your child.
4. They allow for greater parental input.
5. Due to high parent involvement and visibility, they may have fewer disciplinary problems and safety concerns.
1. They may not be conveniently located, and the parent is usually responsible for transportation.
2. Waiting lists can be very long.
3. With such a high level of parental involvement, disagreements can sometimes disrupt programs.

1. Homeschooling best meets the individual learning needs of children. (This depends on the parents, of course)
2. Home-schooling can create or strengthen the family bond.
3. Parents can set their own schedule and choose their own curricula.
1. Parental burnout can frequently occur in the absense of a strong support system.
2. The financial sacrifice of changing to a one-income family is too great for many.
3. The choice to home-school is still criticized and questioned by many.

When choosing a school for a child you need to know yourself and your child.
  • How much involvement can you afford? 
  • What is your child's learning style? 
  • Does your child need special attention? Ahead? Behind?
  • In what kind of environment will my child succeed? 
  • Do you desire to have input on your child's curriculum? 
  • Is diversity of race and social status important to you? 
  • What are my options if I disagree with something at the school?
 My husband, children and myself have attended all of these different types of school. And each of us has attended at least two of the types. There is no "right answer". And the answer may not be the same for each of your children. While clearly it is more convenient to send all of your children to the same school, this may not be what's best for them. Research the options. Make an educated decision. The remember whatever school your child attends, YOU are still their best teacher! What you do and say in their presence (and out) will make a greater impact than anything else in their lives. If you cannot afford the time or money or driving distance (or whatever hindrance may arise) to put your child in your first schooling choice - don't fret. Your influence and involvement will help your child become the person they are going to be more than any school.

For more questions about choosing a school for your child be certain to see the Department of Education's website.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Happy Birthday Sweetheart!

Happy Birthday to my fabulous husband! Yes, June is birthday month in our house. Three out of five people in our home have a birthday in June. Busy, expensive month here. Add in graduations and Father's Day and I'm beat. Add in that tomorrow my amazing husband leaves for three weeks to Uganda, London, and Berlin and wow I'm exhausted already. But right now it's time to celebrate my husband. He's wonderful, a wonderful husband, father, role model, hard worker, all around great guy. I love him dearly. Happy Birthday babe.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Disneyland Tips

This year my family participated in Disney's "Give a Day, Get a Day" program. They gave out 1 million tickets to people doing volunteer service and we signed up, completed the service and yesterday, for my daughter's 12th birthday, headed over to Disneyland. So here are my tips...

Tip number 1: Wear comfortable shoes and sunscreen. Non-negotiable!
Tip number 2: Dress your family in something easily identifiable. We went with yellow because it's my birthday girl's current favorite color. I advise against red because it's too obvious, every other family there is wearing red. While wearing matchy-matchy outfits may seem super dorky to some (cough cough-my husband) and did get us named the Banana Family by the Jungle Cruise guy, we were thankful to be able to quickly spot each other.
Tip number 3: If money is a concern - bring your own lunch. Despite what the website says, you are able to bring in food and they have lockers in the park to store it. Though I was pleased to see fruit for sale in the park.
Tip number 4: Measure your children ahead of time and check the website for height restrictions. Most ride cut-offs are 40 inches. My youngest is 41 inches so we spent lots of time having him measured. If they are close, teach them ahead of time how to stand up straight, but not tip-toes, for being measured.
Tip number 5: Check park hours. I generally think of parks opening around 10am. We were prepared for this trip and it opened at 8, which gave us two hours to hit up all the big rides before everyone else realized it was open!
Tip number 6: This tip is brought to you by the number 6. Six is the perfect number of members in your group to go to Disneyland with, especially if it's 3 kids and 3 adults. In almost every ride you are seated in either twos or threes. With 6 people it always divides evenly. (There are only five people in our picture because my mother-in-law was taking it.)
Tip number 7: If your kid is into Star Wars, which includes about 97% of you, then be aware of the recently added Jedi training. They do this throughout the day, they pick about a dozen participants and they get to do Jedi Training. I'm not a Star Wars buff but to my almost 4 year old boy this was amazing. Well at first it was tragic because we came half way through. Lots of tears followed so we waited for the next one. Okay, my son and I waited while everyone else went on another ride. We sat right up front. There were already the competitive soccer moms lined up teaching their kids how to best get the attention of the Jedi master in order to be picked. they were practicing clapping and raising their hands. I kind of laughed at them but I also whispered to my son to do what they were doing. Then I found myself actually praying that he would be picked because I didn't want the rest of the day to be ruined. They came out, he clapped and yelled, and right off the bat he was picked. The family behind us apparently did not pray and their unpicked kids cried for the remainder of the show.


Tip number 8: Make a ride plan. Pick everyone's 1st choice and make a sensible plan around it. Let everything else be added fun. Pick calm rides like the Jungle Cruise around usual nap times. Don't force kids to go on rides they think will be too scary. My daughter is terrified of Space Mountain but thinks the Matterhorn is boring. I just have to decide that's okay. My 9 year old was game for anything. My almost 4 year old loved Space Mountain but screamed in terror on the Snow White ride so you never really know.
Tip number 9: Pick a spending amount on food/souveniers  ahead of time. Let your kids know in advance what those guidelines are. If they know what to expect they will be begging for less.
Tip number 10: Have fun! Our last few amusement park trips were disastrous. We really had a great time on this trip. I think having guidelines and expectations discussed in advance makes everyone happier. After all, it's supposed to be the happiest place on earth. And yesterday, for us, it was.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Baby Genius!

Is your baby a genius? Your very own future Albert Einstein? We all want our children to be intelligent, maybe not genius, but certainly intelligent, right? Is it all in their genes or can we do anything about it?

Many studies have shown that playing music, reading to your child, and appropriate loving touch all impact their future intelligence. Each new experience, sound, movement creates connections in our children's brains and repetition helps secure these connections. I have just recently begun reading a book titled "Your Child's Growing Mind" by Jane M Healy, Ph.D. and found in it a great list of "dos" to help your child's brain stimulation. Here are some of the items on the list...
  • Childproof your home for safety
  • Keep playpen time to a minimum
  • Repeat repeat repeat
  • Help baby focus on one sense at a time-sight, smell, taste, touch, hear
  • Place toys just out of reach so they must actively grasp them
  • Bring in new toys one at a time
  • Talk to your child, link language with other senses
  • "Your overall goal should be not to teach your baby, but to help her discover how to organize experience for herself."
With today's pressures remember that our children also need plenty of down time. They need to learn how to relax. Be a good example and learn to relax yourself!

What do we do if we think perhaps our child is not measuring up in their intelligence? First, keep in mind that children develop in a vast variety of time frames. Don't stress over the charts and graphs that say when your child should be able to do such and such. However there are a few things of which to be aware. If your child shows any of these, consider it a warning sign and have your child evaluated by a professional.
  • Always "good", sleeps all the time
  • Consistently poor eye contact with parents
  • Failure to respond to voices and other sounds
  • Right and left sides move unevenly
  • Noticeable delay in many or all of the typical milestones
  • Delay in social responses- doesn't wave goodbye, play peekaboo
  • Failure to develop language
  • Abnormal response to light, sound, touch
Each state has an Early Intervention program and children 0-3 years old showing these warning signs can be tested free of charge and, if needed, receive free learning programs. Our youngest son showed a few of these signs and has been receiving free programming for the past year and a half. The improvement has been remarkable. At a year old he could not yet crawl. Now at almost four he runs through mountain trails without a second thought. He continues to receive speech therapy but everything else is completely up to (and beyond) "normal".  If your child is progressing normally in their brain development encourage new stimulation. If your child is struggling there is no shame, get the help you need and continue being the wonderful parent that you have been striving to be.

For more information about early intervention programs please go to ECLKC.
For an in depth study of childhood brain development check out "Your Child's Growing Mind".