Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Devote 94 mins to 127 Hours

127 Hours (R, 94mins)

This movie is based on the true story of Aron Ralston (and his book Between a Rock and a Hard Place) and his amazing experience being trapped in a canyon for 127 hours.

The story itself is captivating. Aron is an extraordinary explorer with skills and sanity that just blows you away. James Franco, who portrays Aron, is fantastic in this film...he better be, he IS the film. He is engaging and just captivates the audience.

Danny Boyle directs this challenging story with a nice balance of comedy, drama, and emotion. By using flashbacks and fantasy, he breaks up the tragedy of this experience. It was surprisingly moving (lots of weeping at the end, and not just for the hormonal pregnant woman). The music, by ARR Rahman (a Boyle favorite) is fantastic yet again (please check out his music, its amazing). The scenery is breathtaking.

Overall, I recommend this film on the big screen. I was pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed the film. There are some graphic moments that might not be appropriate for kids under 13.

December! Always so busy!

In being a mom for so long, I have finally decided that December is just one of the busiest months of the year (holiday concerts, parades, extra shopping and baking, parties, class parties, work events, and Christmas, of course!)...so I might as well prepare for it and try to reduce the stress of the month. This is where I probably drive my husband and co-workers nuts with planning so far in advance, but I think it pays off.

Not that we didn't have our extra challenges this year....a big fall on the ice for me, at least one case of strep, putting in new flooring in the kitchen, horrible weather, and being very pregnant....

What I did this year.....
I did most of the Christmas shopping in end of November and first week of December. This year I did a lot of online shopping. I watched the ads and came in with a great budget. However, I have to remember where everything is hidden before the 23rd when we leave for the family visits.

I did most of my preschool gifty/end-of-semester work the first two weeks of the month so I could enjoy the students (and my family) this last week.

I stopped to enjoy the kids, hubby, and take some time to myself. Sleep, read a trashy novel, breathe.

We are trying to get up North a bit earlier so we don't have to run to more than 2 places per day.

Can I say crockpot! Thank you crockpot for feeding us this month.

I baked cookies/candies for the school cookie grab early and froze them.

Thank you for the Snow Day for some extra time to get everything done!

Friday, December 03, 2010

Fitness Friday!!!


Let's talk shoes and clothes.

There are lots of new toning shoes on the market. And now Reebok has a line of toning clothing.


I will start by saying that I have not actually purchased either of these products, however, I still find them ridiculous.

Let's start with the shoes. I actually think that walking in these shoes may help tone and sculpt your lower body and core. But simply having them on your feet, will do nothing. Your butt will not look like the girls in the commercials. You have to walk or run in them, and in significant amounts. Such amounts of activity might help you loose weight and tone muscle regardless of your shoes. If you don't already walk for fitness, I would recommend purchasing a good walking shoe first. If you enjoy walking and would like to make it a regular part of your fitness routine, you might consider these type of shoes. However, at $100 per pair, I would recommend a set of squats and heel raises at the end of your walk instead for free.

Now, the clothing. Just as the shoes, the clothing itself will not help you loose weight or tone your muscles. Regular cardio and strength exercises combined with a reasonable diet are the only ways to truly achieve this goal. (Remember, you should aim to exercise for 30mins at least 3-5 times per week) Simply wearing tight clothing all day, will do nothing. Again, I haven't tried this product personally. As with the shoes, if you are already in good shape, these might help you continue to progress in your fitness goals. Price-wise is it comparable to other specialty fitness appeal ($55-80 per item).

There is no easy fix to getting in shape. You have to put in the work, time, and effort. Instead of purchasing specialty clothing, invest in a gym membership (great deals are around in December and January), a great pair of cross-training shoes and sports bra, and even a couple sessions with a personal trainer.

For affordable fitness apparel, I like Target and Kohls. I do have a several things from Fit Couture, that I LOVE as well.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Good Thing He's So Cute

So our 5yo is pretty cute. Everyone seems to just love him. Let me tell you a secret about our little Prince Charming...its all an act. He knows he can flash his smile and head in for a cuddle and all is forgiven. He is a master of distracting your accusations with adorable dancing or joke telling. Too bad this magic doesn't really work on me or his siblings.

Just this weekend, the boy snuck and ate 4 doughnuts in a day, half a box of candy, and emptied a brand new bottle of his sister's face wash. Last week, I witnessed him come down late at night (I was on the couch), and eat something out of the kitchen and then go back upstairs. The TV cabinet has been mysteriously broken as well.

He does know that if he lies convincingly, he will get off the hook. If he says he didn't do it, what can I do? And he is pretty a good liar. Only when we have proof, can we convince him to give it up.

So beware of this little one...he's good, almost too good.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Harry Potter...at last (kind of)

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I (PG-13, 146min)

Well, HP fans, the final installment of the Harry Potter film series has begun (ending with Part 2 in July 2011). This first part is really that...simply the first part of a 5hr film.

I have read the books and seen all the previous films, so I am very familiar with the world and history of Harry Potter. Although I decided not to re-read the book again before the film, it is very helpful viewing this film with some knowledge of the story (either seeing the previous movies or reading the book). They have a lot to cram in and cram they do into every word of dialogue, background scenery, character, etc. (this is true of the 6th film as well...so look for lots of 'clues' in the Half-Blood Prince).

Over the past ten years, our trio (Harry, Hermoine, Ron) have grown up quite a bit, not only in character but the actors themselves. Which is good since the story demands a lot more precise acting and depth, which is delivered effectively. Additionally, the film is probably 2/3 just them. Which is a bit a shame since the book is so rich in supportive characters but the story is not lost in these omissions. Of course, book readers will find their favorite characters or scenes cut out (such as no Charlie Weasley in the series). These omissions are necessary to make watchable movies but I feel they lessen some of the emotional impact.

As a film, this is the most 'adult' of the series. Watching the first film again....it is a children's movie. This is a film for adults. Not only in content but cinematography (lots of silent, beautiful scenery). There is also more violence...prepare for major character demise.

I can't say that I am disappointed in the film but I want so much more. I felt genuine excitement when seeing the trailers but didn't feel that rush in the film itself. This film is slow and full of story opposed to action. And I felt it kind of just stops (like they said, ok that's been 2 1/2 hrs, stop it!). I felt similarly when I saw the Lord of the Rings films. The film in no way stands on its own (you must have background knowledge and the patience to wait for the conclusion). However, this is ok since the film will continue in several months.

I, of course, recommend it for anyone interested in Harry Potter. I would also recommend seeing it at least once on the big screen...the camera work and locations are too gorgeous to miss. As it is a more mature film, the PG-13 rating is completely appropriate (my kids aren't allowed to see any of the films in their entirety until they have read the books first).

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Catfish

So, we ran over to the Art Theater (ok, we actually drove) to see the documentary Catfish on Monday.

Catfish (PG-13, 87min)
I'd love to tell you about it but I can't really say too much. Part of the excitement of the film is not knowing everything about it before you experience it.

I can say that it is interesting and makes you think, just as the Social Network, about using the internet. And the film maker and main subject, Nev, is adorable and easy to watch for 87mins.

I would recommend you seeing it as it will most likely be nominated for the Oscars however I don't know that you need to spend $7-10 on it. It would be a great DVD rental.

It will run for another week at the Art in Champaign.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

A new family favorite

A new favorite lunch and dinner place for our family is Urbana's Black Dog Smoke and Ale House on Broadway. They've been open for just under a year and are doing fantastically. Find them on facebook here. They are open everyday starting at 11am.

It is a pub so they have all the usual alcohol, etc. But we don't go there to hang out and drink. We go there to eat...and eat well. This is real smoked, delicious pit barbeque (and although you can taste the smoke it is subtle and you won't smell like it when you leave...so a great lunch spot).

They have the usual pork and brisket but also chicken, sausage, and some fish (portabellos and great grilled cheese for vegetarians). The best is, they offer burnt ends (which are the ends of the brisket, re-seasoned and re-smoked). These come in small quantities and go FAST. (tip: try to get there between 11am-12pm or 5-6pm for the best spot at these morsels). They offer sandwiches as well as platters and daily specials. They have some appetizers if you just want something to go with your beer (which, I've been told they have a great selection). Their sides are equally fantastic to their meats...the slaw (which comes on the sandwiches) is perfect and the twice baked potato casserole is perfect on a fall day. My family is also partial to the sweet potato fries. I love the lemonade (real lemonade!). They offer a variety of sauces to appeal to everyone.

It is very reasonably priced (my husband can get lunch with drinks for about $16, our family got out for about $30 (the boys shared a sandwich)). The service is very friendly. It can get busy during lunch hour but if go other times, it is a very relaxed atmosphere (they have a couple big screens to watch sports, etc.). I will mention the bathrooms are tiny (a challenge for the pregnant mom and a child to share).

Honestly, once we find a place that everyone in the family, especially our picky-7yo, likes, we go there a lot. So get yourself there!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Fitness Friday

Here is what my mom did as a child to keep fit! How about you?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

R&R

So, like anytime this beast is seen or even heard in my life, I contracted a delightful stomach virus this week. And why does it always hit me in the middle of the night? Maybe so I don't have to actually look at anything....just keep the lights out and flush it all away. And no kids knocking on the doors. Anyways. It really wiped me out for awhile so I decided, being pregnant and all (yea, that was an added bonus...nothing like a gurgling stomach with a very active being dancing on top of it), that I would actually take some time to rest, rehydrate, and recuperate.

The problem with this plan was (1) there was nothing reasonable on tv this weekend and I had just finished my latest book, and (2) it is really hard for me to just sit around. But, I did it and I think my body is thankful for it. I focused on sleeping, resting, drinking, and eating all weekend. What a concept? There are other days where I forget to do at least one of those things!

So, as my mom would say (and did), your body just really needed some time off. So, I listened. (next time Body, feel free to send me an email instead).

Friday, October 15, 2010

Its Alright to Cry

After years of parenting and teaching, I've come to a conclusion...it is alright to cry. And, more importantly, it is alright to allow children to cry.

If you simply take a snapshot into my house or classroom, you might see a child crying alone. And I think that is ok....yes, I said it, its ok to leave a child alone when he is crying. This might seem like I am insensitive or unsympathetic but it is actually quite the opposite. I always consider the entire context of the situation and WHY the child is crying. Then I provide the level of interaction the child wants and needs. As an adult, I sometimes want to just sit alone and let it all out...sometimes I want my husband to hold me...sometimes I want to talk about it as the tears run down my face. Children are the same way.

For example, today one of my students was really mad at me for taking her take gum out of her mouth. She cried to express this. After an initial attempt to soothe her, it was clear she didn't want to have anything to do with me and just needed a moment to get her anger out and move on (which she did). My 7yo often gets very frustrated with life and just breaks down and sits and cries. He doesn't want to be cuddled or even really noticed...but just cry and express how terrible his life is. Then he is done and moves on. I also often encounter children who cry when they want something instead of using language to ask for help. There are times when I will go ahead and take care of whatever they need and times when I will wait patiently for them to use words I know they have to ask for what they need.

I try to assess the situation and provide whatever the child might need. If they need to cuddle in my lap, great. If they need to lay on the floor and let the tears flow, fine. I am there to provide whatever they want. I also try to give children the language and coping skills to cope with their emotions and know how and when to ask help.


Its Alright to Cry sung by Rosey Grier in Free To Be You and Me

Friday, October 08, 2010

Fitness Friday: The Power of Walking

Walking is one of the best exercises you can find. Obviously, it is a highly functional exercise (we all walk every day!). It is also low-impact and beginner-friendly....one foot in front of the other--repeat.

I also find it very relaxing. A walk after dinner or in the afternoon while the kids are still at school...delightful. Today at school, we took a walk with the kids to calm them down a little after snack. Just breathe in and out and look around you (or listen to your favorite music). It is an easy way to get in an extra 20-30mins of exercise into your week (you should aim to do something active EVERYDAY!!).

My favorite places in CU to walk are into downtown Champaign (Pakara is waiting for me in the middle!) or Meadowbrook Park in Urbana.

Where is your favorite place to wonder?

This weekend you can walk for a good cause at the annual CU Buddy Walk. This is a free event (donations for the CU Down Syndrome Network are happily accepted) for the whole family to raise awareness and inclusion of children with Down Syndrome. Walk with a team or alone and then stay for family-fun. See here for more details.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Is there a doctor in the house?

When we first moved to CU, we asked around to the few people we knew and happen to hook up with an amazing pediatrician, Dr. Hill at Carle. We just loved him. He really cares for the family as a whole and respects our parenting choices. We were so happy to have him at the birth of our 5yo. Then sadly, when my husband changed jobs, we had to find a new doctor that was covered under our insurance. After a couple tries, we found Dr. Gilpin at Christie. We LOVE her! She is so cool. She interacts with the kids so amazingly and seems to really know our family, again as a whole. Both these doctors valued the idea that a child does not exist in isolation but within a family and community (an idea I hold very dear).

But sadly, Dr. Gilpin is moving. I think I almost cried when I got the letter telling us. And on our last visit, we all had a nice, long hug.

So, now we are forced to find another magical connection with a doctor in town. We have couple in mind but....if you have a favorite pediatrician in CU, let us know.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Celebrity Diets---Don't do it!

Here is an article from today's msnbc.

Basically, you really should only follow nutrition advice from a licensed nutritionist (or your dr, at the very least).

Eat, drink, dance, and be happy.

Fitness Friday: Pregnant Lady Edition

So, I am 20 weeks pregnant and the questions are getting more frequent....when are you going to stop exercising?

With my last baby, I remember heading to the gym the night before my scheduled c-section. And I plan to do the same with this one. I will stop teaching classes after the holidays but I will continue to get in the gym. I had to laugh this week as one of my fitness students said she came into class that day since she thought I would be taking it easy....she was wrong. I am also serving as an inspiration to everyone...'if the pregnant lady can do this, so can I!'

Exercise during pregnancy is very important. Besides being in good muscular and cardiovascular shape is important in everyone's life.....your body is being put through a lot and you need to keep it strong! Not to mention, if you have to labor and deliver vaginally, you will need some strength. If you are having a c-section, you will recover more quickly.

Surprisingly, core strength is really important during pregnancy. Just as your 'core' seems to disappear, right?! Keeping a strong core will help with supporting that belly and relieve some lower back stress. It will also help get back into shape after the baby. Check out some prenatal pilates.

The basic recommendations (see ACSM here) encourage pregnant women to exercise regularly. And basically, if you exercised before becoming pregnant, you can continue whatever you were doing (so yes, I still do some kickboxing). If you didn't, its a good time to start but not maybe the best time to start any extreme sports. A basic cardio program 3 or so times a week such as walking, cycling, step class, or dance as well as some strength such as light weight work or resistance bands and flexibility training such as yoga are good choices. As your pregnancy progresses, you may have to reduce the intensity or modify some exercises.

Always ask your dr or midwife what is safe for you. Stop exercising if you have any cramping, spotting, shortness of breath, or dizziness. If you are taking fitness classes, please tell the instructor (they will be able to give you modifications). Most communities offer specific prenatal fitness programs (check your local hospital) and the library has lots of DVD's and books.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Fitness Friday

My kids have their annual Walkathon fundraiser next week at school. Last Friday, we had a kick off assembly complete with a magician and the local high school cheerleading squad. I ended the assembly talking to them about fitness and how to put into their daily lives. I was a bit shocked to hear how many of them liked push ups! I lead them in a five-minute hip hop routine and yoga stretch.

I did some hip hop since, like most dance, is based on walking. It is also pretty easy for kids (and adults). It was really fun. But now I am 'the hip hop mom'. Here's a secret...I am a white girl from the suburbs of Chicago that can apparently fake enough dance to make people think I am a real dancer (there were rumors around my husband's work that we were professional ballroom dancers!). I have been booked for future engagements.

But what was even better was when I went to school to help our first grader celebrate his birthday. I was greeted with "Hey, I exercised today! I did some push ups!" "I did some dancing last night with my mom." "I have been doing lots of walking!" What? They listened to me? They did what I told them was right? My five minutes of fun fitness translated into a week of wellness? It felt nice to push fitness into their lives and have them so excited about it, that they want to share it with me.

I go back next week, so we'll see what they have done and what stories they have to share.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Trust in them

I think a key component to my parenting (and teaching) is trust. I trust children.

I trust children to find what they need to grow and learn.
(I can provide them materials and experiences they ask for--and some healthy food).

I trust children to explore and experiment to make sense of the world around them.
(I can provide them a safe and rich environment).

I trust children to take calculated risks and learn from the outcomes.
(I can provide support and encouragement without judgement--and band aids).

I trust children to seek comfort when they are sad or angry.
(I can provide a lap to cuddle in).

I trust children to express their feelings loud and clear.
(I can provide them with space and language to let it out).

I trust children need to be children.
(I can provide them love and understanding for who they are without prejudice).

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

School is in full swing!

"Mom, what day is it?" Its Thursday. "Oh....I don't go to school on Thursdays."--the kindergartener says the second week of school.

By now, everyone in our house is in school (even Dad...online psych class!). My kids always need some adjustment time. After doing this for several years, I think I have figured out most of the tricks of the trade on getting them adjusted.

Although they have all asked, I don't grant sick or personal days the first month of school (this year is the exception as my daughter was actually sick one day). They go, everyday, all day as much as possible.

Expect tantrums, naps, and ravenous hunger after school. They are exhausted when they get home, rightfully so. Our basic strategy is snack immediately and chill out time of their choosing (usually some TV). Maybe even some cuddling. I don't even ask too much about their day (we wait until diner)...just veg time.

Bedtime! Early bedtime! After dinner we might do something...play outside, walk, game, or a quick TV show (if nothing was watched earlier). But then it is bedtime. If they haven't dropped before dinner, by 730pm, the younger ones are drifting off. Don't want to sleep that early, read as much as you want in your bed (this usually amounts to 5-10mins).

As I am very busy as well the first few weeks of school, I try hard to plan dinners ahead so we can eat together and eat well. And have some good breakfast choices on hand for the mornings.

Its take some time but it will fall into rhythm.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Ah, Boys!

I have been reading a lot about boys. I have recommended some readings already but this article from yesterday's msnbc, does a nice job of summarizing current issues and research.

It is worth the read (then some follow ups with the books/articles mentioned).

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Questions from the boys

So, we are expecting our fourth child. And our youngest two, especially our 5yo, have been extremely interested in the process. Each week when my babycenter.com email newsletter comes to tell us what is happening, Coop is right there anxiously waiting to find out what his new sibling is up to. He was especially excited to learn that the baby's body is learning how to pee.

Here are some questions that have come up lately.

*So, is there a wall or something in you so the baby doesn't go all over the place?
*When you belly bump with someone, does the baby like it?
*Why do some mommies have the baby like this (with a pushing movement down from his belly to his knees)?
*How big is the baby now?
*Why do we have to wait so long for her to come out?
*So, when the baby is three that means we can get a dog, right?
*How exactly did the baby get in there (my belly)?
*Does the baby eat what you eat?
*Why would the baby kick or punch you?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Sweaty Sunday (late edition of Fitness Friday!)

Now that most kids are back into school, some parents find some extra time for themselves. This is a great time to add in or increase your fitness routine.

Here are some ways to add that time to your day:
1. Walk your kids to school and then take the long way back (or take walk after the kids head out for the day).

2. Find a park district or gym class. Try something new. Most facilities start a fall session and offer a Free Week or a Free Week-Trail.

3. Find some other moms or dads and take a weekly bike ride together or stroller walk. Plan for at least 30mins.

4. Check out some new fitness DVD's from the library and try them out while no one else is home to watch (and interrupt you).

5. Schedule some sessions with a personal trainer. They can help you start or refresh your workout and give you solid fitness goals that work within your schedule.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

School Days

School starts this week for many children and parents. Two of mine start tomorrow and one on Monday. Many parents find the first day of school sad or sweet, tears well up in their eyes and they struggle to let go of their child's hand so they can walk in the school alone.

I am not one of those parents. I love the first day of school for purely selfish reasons. I can't wait to have the kids out of the house and get some time to myself again. Its terrible but true. I am looking forward to my kids spending time with other people than myself, husband, and their siblings. My boys, in particular, need to spend time apart for each other before blood is shed. I can't wait to have my house stay a bit cleaner and less food need to be stocked up. I also love and need routine in my life and school days bring a delightful routine back into the house. So, I am ready for school to start..bring it on!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Car Seats

Car safety is so important and I am often floored when I see parents who either have no idea what is safe or legal for their child or choose to ignore safety measures all together.

Today, I saw a child less than 2 years old, not only not in a child car seat (there wasn't even one in the car) but sitting on the floor of the front seat as the car went into gear! Really, people?! (see below on how to report such an incident)

Most people know that infants must be in a car seat, most hospitals won't allow the baby to leave until one is present. But what after that? When I was a kid, I surely wasn't in a car seat long. A lot of people just don't know.

So, since I don't want my husband pulling your child out of a smashed up car....I want to share the laws and recommendations.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents, "Keep your child in a car safety seat for as long as possible. When your child is big enough, make sure the seat belts in your vehicle fit your child correctly. The shoulder belt should lie across the chest, not the neck or throat. The lap belt must be low and snug across the thighs, not the stomach. In addition, the child should be tall enough to sit against the vehicle seat back with her legs bent at the knees and feet hanging down. Seat belts are made for adults. If the seat belt does not fit your child correctly, she should stay in a booster seat until the adult seat belt fits. This is usually when the child reaches about 4' 9" in height and is between 8 to 12 years of age."

General guidelines include:
Infants---In a rear-facing, infant car seat until the child is at least 1 year of age and 20lbs.
Toddlers--Can be in forward-facing convertible or other car seat with 5-point harness (most manufacturers recommend staying in a 5-point harness until the child is 40lbs).
School-age children--Can be in a booster-style seat until they are 80lbs, 4"9', and/or 8-12 years old. (my children have not moved into a booster seat until they are at least 40lbs, in elementary school, and can buckle themselves in and out---this is my personal preference).

In Illinois....the Child Passenger Protection Act states:
  • A child under eight years old must be secured in a child safety seat. However, if the vehicle is equipped with lap belts only in the back seat, a child weighing more than 40 pounds may be transported in the back seat wearing a lap belt only.
  • A child between the ages of 8 and 17 must be secured in a seat belt or child safety seat.
  • Children between the ages of 16 and 17 must wear seat belts when they are riding in vehicles driven by people under the age of 18.

Check out your local laws to make sure you are in compliance.

How to report an unstrained child: (put this number in your cell phone (along with a non-emergency police number))

The Children's Hospital of Illinois has designed a program that makes traveling safer for children. The Be A Buckle Buddy! toll-free hotline, 1-888-800-2642, allows the public to call anonymously when they notice an unrestrained child in a motor vehicle and leave a message, including where the incident was observed, date and license plate number of the vehicle involved. The vehicle owner receives follow-up information in the mail from the safety team regarding the dangers to unrestrained children and a list of resources. This public service is provided by the Children's Hospital of Illinois, The Tazewell County Sheriff's Department and Peoria Area Safe Kids.

Be a Buckle Buddy Hotline:

1-888-800-2642 Toll Free (Verizon Customers in Illinois may dial #333)

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

The News

My husband often makes fun of me when I say that I am watching 'the news' as E! News Live is on the tv. My 10pm routine used to be a nice rotation among our local news, CNN, The Daily Show, and E! (now E! News is on at 1030pm). I think I got a very good representation of what is happening in the world this way.

He also thinks it is funny that I read the entertainment section of msnbc.com first as well (this is not always true but often) and consider People Magazine a valid form of information.

Honestly, I keep up with world, US, and local news pretty well. I read online headlines and articles, and check out local and national news programs regularly (hi there, Anderson Cooper). But I also take time to know what is happening in the world of the rich and famous. I don't have to watch The Bachelorette to know what is going on and be able to chat on facebook about it. Unfortunately, or fortunately, we have made these people and stories important....so I try to stay up on things. So don't judge me.

Here is a clip from one of my favorite movies, So I Married An Axe Murderer. Charlie's Mom swears by her newspaper. Enjoy.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Fitness Friday!!!

Fitness DVD Review! Dancing with the Stars: Dance off the Pounds

If you watch the show and want to shed some pounds and tone up that body....this is the best DWTS DVD yet (they are all pretty good). This 45-min workout includes three dances...the three most energetic, calorie-burning ballroom categories: swing, jive, and the quickstep.

The DVD is broken up into four segments (the three dances and a cool down). You can do each section individually or mix them up for a full workout. You can also do each section with or without verbal cuing. Each section builds up simple choreography into a combination that is repeated several times. The instructors, Kym, Lacey, and Dimitri, all teach the moves fairly clearly and repeat each movement several times before slowly adding up to the entire combination.

Although it is pretty beginner-friendly, they do not provide specific modifications to make the workout less or more intense. Additionally, the cool down stretches are not held long enough to properly stretch each muscle group. So, if you are new to dancing or fitness, you may want to start with one dance at a time and build up to the complete 45 mins (ALWAYS cool down and stretch with each workout).

This is a pretty fun and effective workout. I would recommend you check it out!
*The Champaign Library carries this title!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Do-Over!

If I had my child to raise all over again,
I'd build self-esteem first, and the house later.
I'd finger paint more, and point the finger less.
I would do less correcting and more connecting.
I'd take my eyes of my watch, and watch with my eyes.
I'd take more hikes and fly more kites.
I'd stop playing serious and seriously play.
I would run through more fields and gaze at more stars.
I'd do more hugging and less tugging.

--Diane Loomans, from "If I'd have my child to raise all over again."

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

5 ideas under $5 to break through the summer boredom!

Have you hit that point yet? The kids have watched every DVD you own, read each book, can't think of anything else to destroy or dismantle, they've eaten every morsel in the cupboards?

Here's some things to do to finish up the summer!

1. Water/Pool noodles! They are on sale now and cheap anyways. We don't have a pool but our noodles have become anything from a tightwire, swords, fences, massage tools, belts....

2. Package of plastic cups! They can stack them, count them, have a tea party with, tape them up!

3. A pair of scissors! Give them the recycling papers and let them go! Ask them to cut the grass!

4. $5! Give your kids a couple bucks and take them to Walgreens and let them get whatever they want.

5. Homemade playdough! Its cheap, its fun, and its is so much better than store-bought!
* 1 cup salt
* 2 cup flour
* 2 tablespoon cream of tartar
* 2 tablespoon oil
* 2 cup water
* food coloring, kool-aid, jello, or extract
Combine all ingredients in medium pot. Heat over med-low heat and stir until ball forms. Dump out onto counter/cutting board dusted with floor. Allow to cool 10mins then kneed until smooth (dust with floor if sticky). Leave out until completely cool. Store in air tight container.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Guidance and Discipline

One of our local news sources posted a topic for discussion on its facebook page yesterday.

YOUR TURN: Research shows that putting your child into "time out" can hurt them down the road. Instead, parents are urged to coach children through arguments. This will teach kids how to talk through problems and help relationships. What do you think? How do you get your kids to get along?

The 56 comments that followed basically concluded that not only should very punitive time-outs be used to control our children but we all should really just beat children to get them to behave appropriately.

I was shocked, to say the the least. As I read comment after comment, I got more angry. At one point, I thought, maybe I missed something and this is a joke or a test of my profession and parenting. Not one comment suggested anything else. Although I did resist, I had to comment as the voice of reason:

"honestly, I am SHOCKED by these comments. I am a parent and teacher I never use time out. I help kids learn about their emotions and how to express them, give them the tools to cope with themselves and others, and know when to ask for help. Each child is different and needs different things to deal with the world around them."

This, of course, was followed by lots of rude comments that that was ridiculous. My favorite was one person said that the only reason I don't hit my students is because the government doesn't allow me too. I am staying out of it now but I will continue here.

This is a very important issue to understand as a parent and a professional who works with any other human being, really. Actually, I don't even like to use the word 'discipline'. It gives off a very negative and punishing vibe. It also is often limited to isolated, reactive incidents. I do not discipline my children. Just as my course in college did, I prefer 'guidance.' Think about it...everything we, as adults, do guide the children into making their decisions. We are their guides in this strange world they live in, especially as they discover new things and relationships.

I am extremely proactive and emotion-based in my guidance with children. I also try to help them internalize the behavior so that children really make clear connections between thoughts, actions, and consequences (whether positive or negative). I think about it as giving them a tool box or magic kit. I talk, talk, and talk to children about everything and anything including emotions. I always find it interesting that children will know their ABC's but can't identify their own basic feelings. We learn about their own emotions and how to read others' emotions throughout the day (not just when an incident is happening). Once one can identify how they are feeling, you can give them to tools to cope with that emotion.

One of these tools is 'time out'. But not the 'sit in a corner with your head between your legs for an inappropriate amount of time time-out' but a break. This is an extremely useful tool for all ages....walk away, take a breathe, decide what you need to move on, ask for what you need.

Another tool is simple communication...if you are angry with someone, tell them. If you want something, ask for it. If you are happy, let someone know why.

Finally, let children know that things might not always go the way they want. If they ask for a toy, the other child can say no. You may have to wait awhile for a turn. Mom might not let you have another cookie. It might rain and you can't go to the pool. These events might make you angry or disappointed but that is the way it is right now. Give them ideas on things to do to feel better when disappointment sets in (read, draw, jump up and down, run around the house, playdough, watch your favorite show, listen to music....).

You also need to be role model. Use this method for yourself. You will hear me say the oddest things sometimes like "I really don't like when you lick my leg, it makes me feel gross." Or "I need a minute alone to feel better."

I have worked with a lot of children. A lot of different children including those with severe behavior disorders, autism, sensory integration, and children of all ages. Different children need different things to understand themselves and need different tricks in their hats to feel right. But, this works, it really does. This will empower children and make them better adults later in the life.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Inception

I attempted to get some time outside the house without kids...and I did it!

Inception (rated PG-13, 2hr 28min)
First of all, this is a long movie and there really isn't a break in story or action to go to the bathroom, so avoid the extra large tub of beverage. Secondly, make sure to get there on time, you need to see the first second to the last second of this film.

Honestly, I don't even know how to explain this film. Many critics have described it as a heist film (a genre I love) but it is really a lot more. It gets very psychological and philosophical. Leo DiCaprio leads a team including the adorable Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Juno's Ellen Page to, not really steal anything, but plant something in order to satisfy their employer played by Ken Watanbe. However, unlike any other story like it, the action has to take place in people's dreams.

The audience is given a crash course in extraction (stealing one's secrets by going to the source, their brain) and dreams. This is conveniently done through the new recruit, Page. We also slowly learn about DiCaprio's past. It is very complex but I think I stayed with most of the details and layers. Christopher Nolan (who writes, directs, and produces this film as well as Memento, Insomnia, The Prestige, and the newest Batman series) really worked hard on this. Although way out of the box for most of us, he makes it understandable and intriguing.

The acting is on point (including some of Nolan's favorites, Michael Caine and Cillian Murphy). The special effects are really fantastic. They aren't super crazy but fun to watch. I loved the play with gravity.

I don't want to say much more. But I will say that this is a fantastic departure from the usual family/kid films I watch. It is also a film that I want to watch again, and read about, and learn about. I want to figure it out. Christopher Nolan is quickly becoming one of my favorite writers/directors.

I would definitely check out (big screen and/or little).

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Fitness Friday!!!

For me, there is nothing more boring than walking on the treadmill or going for a run outside on my own. I am a social being and I need people around me when I sweat!
So, my fitness tip for you this week is...

***Find a buddy to exercise with!
It has long-been advised to find someone to workout with. This helps you hold accountability for each other. You can set goals for each other such as a local 5K. But more importantly you have someone to gossip with. You could even start a facebook group! Keep track of your friends activities.

***Check out group fitness classes!
I, of course, love classes. It is why we joined The Fitness Center so long ago and now teach classes myself. It is so much fun to workout with other people! Plus, it is great to turn off your brain for an hour and let someone else tell you what to do. You can laugh together, moan together, and get sweaty and smelly together! But also you can meet others who have similar fitness goals and even make some amazing friends. I feel like I am a part of each person's fitness journey as well as all the members being part of mine.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

We all scream for ice cream!

I got an ice cream maker for my mixer last year. I made some good (and not so good) batches of ice cream. I tend to forget about it in the winter but since summer hit, it just stays in our freezer ready for action at any point.

The favorite this year has been Chocolate with Tart Cherries and Almonds (altered from Cooking.com). You can make this in the winter as a chocolate pudding.
1 3/4 cups half and half
3/4 cup whipping cream
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup light corn syrup
4 large egg yolks
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate or semisweet chocolate, chopped, melted
1 cup frozen tart cherries
1/4 cup cocoa-covered almonds, chopped
Dark Chocolate Ice Cream Recipe at Cooking.com

DIRECTIONS
Combine half and half, cream and cocoa powder in heavy medium saucepan. Stir sugar, corn syrup and yolks in medium bowl. Bring cream mixture to simmer. Gradually stir cream mixture into egg mixture. Return mixture to saucepan.

Using wooden or rubber spatula, stir custard over medium-low heat until custard thickens and leaves path on back of spatula when finger is drawn across, about 10 minutes (do not boil). Strain through fine sieve if necessary. Transfer custard to large bowl. Whisk in melted chocolate. Cover and refrigerate custard until cold.

Process mixture in ice cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions. Fold in cherries and almonds. Transfer to container and freeze. Scoop into bowls and serve.


This week Recipezaar is featuring ice cream recipes. I love the cinnamon!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Summer Reading

Our 6yo learned to read this past year in kindergarten. For him, and everyone else, it is important to continue to read regularly to keep up one's reading skills. Unfortunately, my son doesn't like to read and only really shows interest in playing video games. I've tried a lot of strategies but I've only found two that have worked.

1. Allow him to pick out books about Star Wars, superheros, and video games (despite the poor quality of the books themselves).

2. For every minute of reading he does each day, he gets to play a minute of video games (e.g. 20mins of reading=20mins of gaming). This has been pretty successful thus far. He has timer that counts up the time he is reading and then can count down as he plays games. (and the 4yo has caught on too!)

If you have any other tips on how to get non-readers to want to read, let me know!

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Toy Story 3

Toy Story 3, rated G, 1hr 45min

I have a very special spot in my heart for Woody and Buzz, not to mention Jesse and Potato Head. I have absolutely loved the first two installments of this trilogy. We are on our second set of DVD's. We have much loved Woody and Buzz dolls (several Buzz's) as well as most of the other characters, a memory game, and a worn-down Buzz costume. This connection to these characters made this last movie very special.

I took all three kids to see it in 2D. The animation is still amazing and beautiful. The usual suspects are all present with the exception of Little Bo Peep. The story takes place as Andy is packing for college and must decide what items to bring to college, store in the attic, donate, or throw away. After some confusion, the group of toys ends up at a local daycare that happens to be ruled by a cute and cuddly yet commanding teddy bear, Lotso. Similar to Stinky Pete, he has been loved and forgotten and misunderstands his original owner's intentions and this leads to a bitter life. Of course, Andy's toys need to find away to escape the daycare and find their rightful place.

My favorite new character is, of course, Ken. Brilliant is all I have to say. And Potato Head delivers with some hilarious dialogue and action. I also liked seeing more of Andy in this film.

My 4yo really loved Buzz's new skills and the 6yo loved the spy aspect of the plot.

This movie is tremendously touching. Because we have invested 15years into these characters, we care so much for them and really feel the joy, pain, and fear with them. I cried, and cried, and cried the last 30mins. The last scene of the film is so perfect. Pixar hasn't gone wrong yet on bringing stories we can all relate to at any age and making us reflect on our own lives. You can believe some toys got some special love when we got home.

I recommend everyone who has owned a toy should see this movie. We didn't pay the extra cash for 3D and didn't feel like I missed anything. I loved it on the big screen but I plan to purchase the DVD as soon as it is available as well. I can't wait to see it again.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Summer Randomness

Our summer has been busy and hot...really hot.

Every summer I try to prepare for the huge, temporary change in our lives. But I never seem to stock enough food in the house, keep the dishes done, or floors cleaned. I also can't escape "I'm bored! I have nothing to do." Apparently, all the toys, books, movies, and games in our house are useless (should I give them all away?). And with three kids, finding time to head to the pool, a movie, or the library in between art class, softball practice, gymnastics, and work is trying.

Overall, we have been doing pretty well. Some fights, tears but lots of laughter and fun as well.

It has also been the summer of broken dreams of the an old house...AC is dead, oven is on the fritz, the car battery got angry after a cross country vacation, and now the coffeemaker is out too. Thanks for the tax refund to get us through these trying times!

Finally, our annual mystery squash has appeared again. I will post a photo as soon as one is big enough so we can all guess. Each year for the past three years, we get some fabulous growth out of our compost but it is always different and unlike anything we put in the compost.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Swagger Wagon

There was a point several years ago, we made it official that we were adults. We purchased a minivan. Although we own a Honda Odyssey....this set of marketing from Toyota existed back then, it might have swayed us.


Monday, May 31, 2010

Chillin'

Central Illinois has been hit with summer a bit early....like two months early. Our temperatures have ranged from about 85-93F with humidity and all.

Fortunately, our air conditioner (which we try not to use until it gets this hot in the middle of summer) has kicked the bucket. So we have had to find ways to stay cool.

We have an ancient window a/c unit in our bedroom and some fans.
The kids have all been in one room with a window fan on the first floor.
We all wear and sleep in as little clothes as possible.
Cool and frequent showers.
Popsicles! Ice Cream! Ice water!
Thankfully, the pool opened on Saturday...we've already logged several hours in.
New sprinkler!
Lights out. Oven off. Curtains drawn.
Linger in public a/c spaces (e.g. library, gym, preschool, coffee shop, grocery store)

Any other tips on how to beat the heat?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Zumba!

I like to dance...a lot. And dance is a great way to get your workout in.

Zumba is a fantastic fitness program that combines Latin music and rhythms into a fat and calorie burning workout that doesn't feel like anything more than the best dance party ever! It is a fantastic cardio AND toning workout for your entire body. This will tone you up and drop dress sizes like they're hot!

Of course, I teach a class twice a week at the Fitness Center in Champaign so I hold Zumba near and dear to my heart. But you can find a live class ANYWHERE! In CU, almost every gym has a class (but I will say the Fitness Center instructors are pretty awesome!).

But if you can't or don't want to take a live class, Zumba Fitness has recently released a new DVD set (Total Body Transformation System). The DVD's include several workouts including some specific for sculpting and abs. You can check out their informercial on tv. You can order this system online here. (the Champaign Public Library does have a set that you can check out before you buy).


ZUMBA TOTAL BODY TRANSFORMATION SYSTEM DVD SET from Zumba Fitness on Vimeo.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Summer is Shaping Up!

With only 7 more days of school, we have finally gotten some summer decisions made! Here is what is on the calendar thus far:

Girls Adventures in Mathematics and Science (GAMES) Camp for our 13yo
Girls' Softball for the 13yo (Go Blue!!)
Summer Art Enrichment at UofI for the 6yo
Farm Hands at Prairie Farms for the 4yo

We also got our reduced-priced pool passes (prices reduced until May 28) and will do our annual trip to Wisconsin. And we have four weddings (and hopefully no funerals).

We will also probably do Vacation Bible School through Faith United Methodist in Champaign and a round of swim lessons for the boys.

Of course, my husband still works in the summer and I maintain my fitness schedule. September will come up on us fast!!

What's on your summer schedule?

Friday, May 14, 2010

Fitness Friday!!!

Why I like being fit and healthy?

If you know me, you know that I exercise regularly and pretty hard. I really enjoy exercise and when the opportunity came up to become a fitness instructor, it really completed part of myself that I hadn't expected. Before my 6yo was born, I really never exercised. Gym class, dance class, fun at a wedding, a long walk.... Although not the best message from my husband, he got us a gym membership for our birthdays one year.

Once I started getting in shape, I quickly learned why I need to maintain this in my life.

*I can breathe! Better, at least. I have asthma and cardio is the best way to improve it. I now know that I can run, jump, and play with my kids while breathing at the same time. I have full confidence that I can sprint after a kid trying to cross the street on his own and have the breathe to tell him he scared the crap out of me afterwards.

*Energy! I have a lot of energy and it helps me keep up with the many things going on in life as well as run, jump, and play with my kids!

*Strength! I am very confident that I can pick up and carry a lot of things....children, laundry, groceries, books, chairs, dogs. I can also easily make it up and down several flights of stairs while doing household chores.

*Stress Relief! If I didn't head to the gym or to the sidewalk, my marriage would be a mess and my kids would hate me. I need to physically relieve my stress everyday. I feel so much better after a good sweat or stretch.

For me, fitness makes me a better parent and person.

If you exercise regularly, what keeps you going?
If you don't, what would you like to gain from fitness in your life?

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Babies

My daughter and I went to see Babies on Mother's Day at the Art Theater in Champaign. It made my day!

Babies (Bebes) (79mins, PG)
This documentary follows the lives of four babies from birth to about 18month of age from San Fransisco, Namibia, Tokyo, and Mongolia.

What can be better than spending 80mins eating popcorn and watching adorable babies? Not much.

For someone who loves to study cross-cultural development, I would have been content just watching the babies from Namibia and Mongolia (since their culture is so different from my own). I wanted more from those two babies. But watching all four showed the universality of child development and how each culture tries to impact that development. I loved that the babies in Namibia played with all natural materials (e.g. rocks, dirt, animals, mom's hair) and the American baby is always surrounded with manufactured 'baby' toys.

There has been some---not exactly controversy---but hesitation from Americans about this film, especially for young children. I can see exactly why (there is some footage of breasts and breastfeeding, naked babies including penises, and peeing and pooping). There is nothing in this film that has not happened at my house so I would allow my children to see this film (I did not bring the boys today since I wanted to relax and enjoy some girl time but I plan to watch it with them as well). The theater had at least a dozen young children and none of them really commented on any of the nudity (and some were right behind me). Additionally, one of the baby's movement is restricted in a way that is not common to Americans (but I ask you if it is any different than American's cribs, pack-n-plays, bouncy seats, etc). I think it is a great conversation catalyst for your kids.

I don't think it is our place to judge how other cultures raise their children but use this a way to learn more about it. You can also reflect on your own parenting choices.

I would recommend Babies to any who likes babies. Do you really need to see it on the big screen, not really but supporting the local economy is always great (the Art is the only theater in Central Illinois showing this film at this time).

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Babies! The movie.

I saw a preview for this movie about a year ago and was so delighted that not only is it in Champaign, but on opening weekend! And at my favorite movie theater...The Art Theater. I have spent a great deal of time studying pregnancy, childbirth, parenting, and early childhood development across cultures...so this film is perfect for me. I am so excited.

Come check it out with your kids!

From the Art Theater:

For Mothers' Day (May 9), we will be donating $1 from each ticket sold to the Crisis Nursery.

Also, on May 9 all children under 16 get free popcorn with ...the purchase of any drink. (Even our $1 bottled water!).

Ticket prices:
Kids (16 & under): $6
Seniors (60 & over): $6
Matinee (before 6 PM): $6.50
Students after 6 PM: $7.50
Adults after 6 PM: $9



Monday, May 03, 2010

Food Update

Yogurt

We have stopped buying flavored yogurts (for the most part, they are now a treat) and absolutely no go-gurts and other cotton candy and similarly flavored yogurts. Yoplait now offers Simply Gogurts which are free from artificial colors and flavors but they still contain sugar.

We switched to tubs of Stonyfield Farms low-fat, plain yogurt (and add whatever flavors I want to with real fruit or honey). It is an organic brand. Previously, I would purchase the store-brand.

I have also started eating some Greek-style yogurt. It has more protein which is great for me for breakfast or when I am working out a lot that day. It is also good for my non-protein eating son (he has stopped eating meat, eggs, cheese, and beans). I like Yoplait's a lot and it fits better into our budget (but it is still expensive about $1/cup). Stonyfield also offers varieties (called Oikos) at a slightly higher price (but you can get coupons online). I have also had a Fage and found it too heavy for me...almost like eating sour cream. Like my regular yogurt, I always buy plain and add what I want (that way I can control my sugar, etc).

Most of these brands of offered in most grocery stores including Walmart, Meijer, Schnucks, Jewel, and even small markets.

Eggs

We have decided that we will continue to purchase store-brand, regular, old eggs. We did the research on organic, cage-free, etc. eggs. Meijer does offer an organic option but it is still at least 3X the cost of regular eggs. The amount of eggs we consume (and would like to continue to since it is a good protein source for us), we cannot afford this change.

*We are now focusing on better meat choices. I'll let you know what I find out.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Fitness Friday!!!

Although I am not running in the Illinois Marathon tomorrow, I have been on a marathon of my own. Last weekend, I attended a fitness conference through IDEA. I spent three days dancing, stretching, strengthening, and having a great time. I learned a lot of new things and met some fabulous people.

Some current trends I love!
*Zumba (of course!): this latin fusion class will tone you up while you have a BLAST! find a class near you NOW!
*Beaming: this is a new program that takes current programs such as yoga, pilates, and tai chi and puts them on a foam balance beam. It was one of the hardest things I have done.
*Kids fitness: Using an adventure format, we went through a workout that would be hard for adults but kids will having so much fun, they won't even notice the sweat dripping off their noses (more on this next week)

Summer is a good time to try out new things. A lot of places have shorter programs to try out and fit into your schedule. Additionally, the pool is open!

****The Fitness Center in Champaign, Monticello, and Tuscola is offering a GREAT summer membership deal! $129 for the whole summer! Check it out!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Glee!

If you live under a rock or haven't talked to anyone since September, you might not have heard about Fox's Glee. If you haven't seen it, you should at least check out an episode. Like lots of people in the country, we love it here....and I mean LOVE it!

My husband was a musical theater major for goodness sakes! My daughter is just in the theater/choir/band groove. We love the theater here.

But is the show really any good? Yes. The first couple episodes are a bit disjuncted as they find their way but each show gets better. The fall season was fantastic. I laughed, sang, and cried during each episode. The storylines are very relevant to both kids and adults. They raise social issues such as homosexuality, people with disabilities, divorce, death, teen sexuality, and social struggles. I clearly identified with the young, pregnant cheerleader. The music is great and performance are terrific (I mean the cast is led by two Broadway stars, not to mention the guest stars! and Jane Lynch, of course).

Some of my favorite moments have been:
*Kurt and Rachel's duet of Defying Gravity
*Anything Sue Sylvester says (and now Brittney)
*Single Ladies on the football field
*Imagine with the deaf glee club
*I am Beautiful with the Cheerios
*Fynn and Rachel walking down the hallway during the Madonna episode
*Like A Virgin

And I think I love Matthew Morrison. (if you do too, you should check this out from Legally Brown).

*Episodes and clips are available at Fox and Hulu.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

War Games

Since I have two boys in my home ages 4 and 6, plus some others who come by, plus a good thirty or so at school with me...I have seen a lot of war play (such as fighting, dueling, Star Wars, cowboys, guns, shooting, war, battles, etc).

When I initially became a parent (of a girl), my philosophy was very strict on violence. I tried to exclude any violence from my child including any toys that resembled weapons (including water guns), tv shows (not even Looney Tunes, Tom/Jerry), no talk about violence. I so thought I was doing the right thing. If she never sees it, it doesn't exist. And I almost got away with it too!

My daughter did not show a lot of interesting in making any L-shaped object into a gun or on the constant lookout for bad guys. But violence did happen around her and she had to take notice, especially on September 11th, 2001 when she was 4yo. Although she was a fantastic problem-solver, she really didn't have any experience working out tragedy.

Fast-forward....I now have two boys...full-on boys. My youngest, in particular, is very typical 'boy'....all in the blue section at the ToysRUs. We started in the same place as before but were quickly hit with resistance. First, 'boy' toys are more war oriented (strong, muscular action figures with lots of accessories (axes, ropes, hammers)) and most of the 'popular' toys run in fighting themes (Pokemon, PowerRangers, Star Wars). Additionally, the entertainment is (1) more abundant and (2) more violent. Finally, we are much busier as a family and I am sad to say that I 'give in' much more than with our first.

This week at school, the students showed me two important things about war play that helped me better understand the importance of this for their development.

*A group of children, noticed a lot of spiders on the wall. They all fashioned weapons and shields out of available materials (sticks, shovels, rocks, buckets, sifters). As a team, they tracked, strategized, and conquered the spiders. The next day, they repeated this activity (making changes in their play to accommodate new players and incorporating more effective strategies).

This shows a multitude of skills (cooperation, problem-solving, imagination, language, creativity, gross and fine motor, memory, self-confidence).

*A student set up some rocks on a play structure. I asked what was going on. He said he was making weapons. I asked him what weapons are. He told me they are things that shoot and destroy things. I asked him they helped or hurt people. He told me they helped people because they got rid of bad guys.

This was a profound moment for me as a parent and educator. I never saw a good side to weapons but this makes perfect sense.

The children are actively processing with all their senses in this type of play. They are taking their natural interests and using them to develop. I have found with my children and students, engaging in war play does not correlate to them engaging in real-life violence. My children do not physically fight each other. They do not assault other children at school. They do want to find the (good) force in themselves, solve problems on their own, and train some dragons.

So is it bad to allow children to be exposed to some violence, fighting, and war? I don't think so. Do I think you should let your children watch anything or pick any toys out? No. But understanding what your children are watching, reading, and playing will help you help them process their play and the world around them.

(For some good books about this topic: Taking Back Childhood: Helping Your Kids Thrive in a Fast-Paced, Media-Saturated, Violence-Filled World by Nancy Carlsson and Wild Things: The Art of Nurturing Boys by Stephen James and David Thomas).

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Starting the Family Revolution

I've been reading and watching a lot of things about living better and simpler including Food Inc., Taking Back Childhood, Growing Compassionate Kids, Omnivore's Dilemma, Food Rules, and Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution.

I've come away wanting to make sure my children and myself eat well, live well, and are socially responsible in as many of our choices as possible.

My main challenge has been to find ways to feed my family with as many pure, local, and organic ingredients as my budget will allow. Additionally, I want to make sure my children (who receive at least one meal at school, if not two, five days per week) are receiving the best meals possible.

So, in the coming months, I hope to find strategies that work for our budget and share them with you. Please add your comments on things your family or community does to get closer to these goals.

In the past weeks, I have:
*Written emails to the school district asking them to remove flavored milks from the schools.
*Stopped buying flavored yogurts (especially go-gurts).
*Trying to buy products that have few and natural ingredients.
*Avoiding as many products with high-fructose corn syrup.
*Turned the TV off and sent the kids outside.
*Buying fresh fruits/veggies that are in season and frozen for those that are not.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Fitness Friday

The pools open in about 7 weeks, so if you have kids, it means you will probably have to put on a bathing suit. So make the most that time and tone up so you look awesome hanging out at the pool and chatting with other moms and relaxing on the lazy river.

1. Those who already work out. Crank it up (a little).
*Try to add 10-15mins of cardio on your workouts 1-3 times per week.
*Do 5mins of each of the following 5-7 days per week: squats, push-ups, core work (planks, crunches, etc.). Those three exercises will tone every muscle in your body.

2. Those who don't workout. Start moving.
*Start doing something active enough to make you sweat 5-7 days per week for 20-30mins. This could be walking, DVD's, dancing in your kitchen while you make dinner, playing with your kids, taking some fitness classes.
*Do 5mins of each of the following 5-7 days per week: squats, push-ups, core work. Those three exercises will tone every muscle in your body.

In addition to the Sparkspeople links above, Exercise TV on Hulu is a great place to find out how to perform simple exercises.

Monday, April 05, 2010

10 Signs of a Great Preschool

The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC)'s
10 Signs of a Great Preschool:
  1. Children spend most of their playing and working with materials or other children. They do not wander aimlessly, and they are not expected to sit quietly for long periods of time.
  2. Children have access to various activities throughout the day. Look for assorted building blocks and other construction materials, props for pretend play, picture books, paints and other art materials, and table toys such as matching games, pegboards and puzzles. Children should not all be doing the same thing at the same time.
  3. Teachers work with individual children, small groups, and the whole group at different times during the day. They do not spend all their time with the whole group.
  4. The classroom is decorated with children's original artwork, their own writing with invented spelling, and stories dictated by children to teachers.
  5. Children learn numbers and the alphabet in the context of their everyday experiences. The natural world of plants and animals and meaningful activities like cooking, taking attendance, or serving snack provide the basis for learning activities.
  6. Children work on projects and have long periods of time (at least one hour) to play and explore. Worksheets are used little if at all.
  7. Children have an opportunity to play outside every day. Outdoor play is never sacrificed for more instructional time.
  8. Teachers read books to children individually or in small groups throughout the day, not just at group story time.
  9. Curriculum is adapted for those who are ahead as well as those who need additional help. Teachers recognize that children's different background and experiences mean that they do not learn the same things at the same time in the same way.
  10. Children and their parents look forward to school. Parents feel secure about sending their child to the program. Children are happy to attend; they do not cry regularly or complain of feeling sick.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Easter 2010

To follow up on the last post, this year's Easter celebrations were fantastic.

Of course the boys wake up before 6am! We kept them content until 8am and then let it begin. The teenager was finding all the easy eggs and the 6yo seemed to only find baskets as the 4yo would just cry when someone else grabbed one he saw (bad flashbacks to my childhood). Oddly enough, the youngest one found the most hidden basket and eggs. Then let the sugar rush begin! We kind of let limits go on Christmas and Easter but I think everyone was restrained today. And no Peeps made it into the microwave yet.

After a day of leisure, we came back together to decorate our eggs for The Egg Games! After a lot of crying from the middle kid about his egg cracking, we finally began.
Each participant selects one game. The games consisted of:
*Egg rolling/throwing (6yo won)--rolling your egg the furthurest
*Tree hitting (husband won)--throwing egg at our baby trees and hitting the trunk
*Egg running (mom won)--running with an egg in between your knees
*Swinging Egg Toss (no one won)--tossing your egg to another player while swinging on the swingset

Always fun! Overall, the day was full of fun and family.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Easter Traditions

Our family has always had very specific Easter traditions. When I was a child, we would dye hard-boiled eggs with the traditional Paas sets** (many years, my dad didn't cook the eggs enough). We also painted blown eggs (always fun to test our peak flow by trying to blow an egg yolk through a tiny pin prick). My mom has all the eggs from our childhood. Just like Christmas morning, we would wake up incredibly early and sit at the top of the staircase and wait until a more appropriate hour to force our parents out of bed. My mom would walk downstairs to make sure the Easter Bunny came. Then when she called up to us, we would run down. My brothers would find most of the eggs and I would end up crying trying to find an egg on my own. Most years, the boys had to rehide eggs for me. Our Easter Bunny would hide all of our hard-boiled eggs and leave our baskets on the dining room table filled with jelly beans, malted milk balls, and books. After our candy-filled breakfast, we would eventually head to my Polish grandparents for beet-red horseradish (to symbolize Jesus' blood) and Polish sausage.

I was sure this was exactly how every other family celebrated this holiday.

Fast-forward to our first Easter as a couple, my husband, unfortunately, had to suffer through years of celebrating Easter completely wrong...all his life, just wrong. He did dye eggs but his Easter Bunny only hid their Easter baskets. No eggs! Maybe we was too tired from hiding them at my house, just 4 blocks away. My husband, his sister, and parents would hide the eggs and then find them. They also didn't eat horseradish, at all, ever.

So we had to settle on some traditions for our own children. So, our bunny hides baskets and eggs...lots of eggs (we dye a bunch as well as use plastic eggs). The baskets are still filled with jelly beans and books, but Peeps are the star (which take their turns in the microwave). Instead of blowing out eggs, we decorate a couple hard-boiled ones with ribbon, pipecleaners, markers, etc. and compete to throw/roll them the farthest. And I have to eat my horseradish by myself.

**Smile Politely has included an article about using natural materials for egg dying.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Dragons are on Fire!

Since we didn't go anywhere for Spring Break, we decided to go something special with everyone. So after shopping with the teenager, I took the boys to see How to Train Your Dragon and even splurged for the 3D experience (after my 6yo begged and begged). We went to a matinee (which is cheaper) and got some kid's combos with popcorn, fruit snacks, and soda (a big treat!). (Note to CU movie goers, the Beverly has raised their concession prices)

How to Train Your Dragon (PG, 98 mins)
First, I loved that the theater had child-size 3D glasses (which I haven't seen before), of course they almost didn't fit the 6yo with his big head.

The movie itself shares the journey of Hiccup as he, and his Viking community, discovers who he is. The main story is not necessarily original but the characters are delightful. The animation is wonderful. The setting and costumes are fresh and funny to the animation genre (I can say I haven't seen a Viking village and its giant, hairy inhabitants before). The dragons are nutty and unique as well. The vocal talents are good with Jay Baruchel's Hiccup clearing standing out.

Overall, the kids loved it! The 4yo liked every part. The 6yo liked the big climax of the movie (which I won't spoil). The grown up enjoyed it.

I think most children over 4 will love this movie, especially if they like dragons at all. My boys loved it! The dragon scenes might be scary for some kids, especially in 3D, and they talk about hunting and killing dragons (however, the story resolves some of this issue). I would recommend it as a treat in the theater without 3D and definitely on DVD for a family movie night.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Shutter Island

I have spent most of Spring Break on the couch recovering from a nasty stomach virus. But today, I finally got out of the house! We went to see Shutter Island.

Shutter Island (rated R, 138min)
This is Martin Scorsese's latest film starring Leonardo DiCaprio. It is presented as a classic thriller, with classical music, flashbacks, rain, dim lighting, and all. From the beginning you know that you need to be watching for clues because nothing is as it seems. The story presents itself in 1954 as two US Marshals who arrive to an island housing a center for the criminally insane that happens to be missing a patient. Teddy (Leo) leads the investigation and finds out more and more about the island's inhabitants.

The story (who is really insane here?) isn't entirely original but I am always up for a new twist and turn. This film delivers that twist. Mostly because Scorsese doesn't give the audience the appropriate clues to pull all the threads together on their own but instead concludes the mystery in one summarative scene. I think the film would have been much better by giving the viewer the information and leaving the ending in the minds of the viewers to figure out....making them want to watch the film again right away and discuss it with everyone. (I will acknowledge the final line of the film attempts to do this but fails) (I will also note that this is my opinion based on one viewing, I plan to watch it again to see what is there up front)

Stylistically, the film does deliver completely. Many film noir staples help to set the mood and mystery. The setting is spot-on. Who doesn't love a good insane asylum, this one based in a Civil War camp. Isolated rooms of white walls, fedora hats, stiff drinks, filthy cells, swinging lights, lots of water (rain and ocean) all contribute to the darkness. The costuming is beautiful. The men's tailored suits are perfect. Michelle William's yellow print dress is stunning. The music is a bit distracting at first but serves its thrilling purpose. The special effects are simple and do not distract from the acting or story.

As far as the direction goes, I think Scorsese decided to go off the usual and make a thriller/film noir and accomplishes this. I think he does mob movies best but this is better than most other current films in the genre (I think young film makers go from thriller to horror too fast). It is a nice throw back to the great films of the 1940-50's.

I enjoyed it and recommend you check it out when it comes out to DVD.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Birth Stories

An article in Newsweek today discusses how although research supports Vaginal Birth After C-Sections (VBAC), doctors and hospital are still resistant. It makes me think about my three deliveries and how I still have strong emotions about each one.

My first baby was positioned oddly (and came with an extra large head, thank you husband), this combined with my young age and three hours of pushing, made a c-section the best choice. At the time, I was like, yes, anything to stop this suffering and get my baby out safely.

When I got pregnant again I was on the VBAC train from day 1 and so was my doctor. I did my research and I did all that I could to prevent another surgery. But a major infection during labor resulted in a change in plans. This one really affected me. I brewed over the situation for years (I still obviously have some regrets). I had such a high fever that I was mentally incapable of delivering the baby on my own will. My husband and mother were scared and wanted it all to end as quickly as possible. I later found out that another mother had very serious complications that night and that may have made the staff a bit more cautious with me. But not one person in the room said, no, wait, she can do this, let's help her, this is what she wants. I needed someone to say that and help me through. But in my fever, drug-induced haze, I did consent to the surgery.

When the question came up for our third child, the doctor did say that he would respect my wishes but he recommended a repeat section. I resisted for awhile but the emotional pain of the second birth experience pushed me to a more controlled situation. It came down to the question of 'should we try a VBAC again and if it fails, will I be able to deal with that failure?' I didn't I think I would. Honestly, the third was the best (as much as a major surgery and recovery can be). We selected the day appropriate with my due date and baby size (I was affirmed a bit when I was having contractions that morning). We had childcare ready for our other children. We knew when and what to expect. Our OB and pediatrician were there and it was lovely...nothing like telling jokes with someone who is rearranging your internal organs. I got to hold the baby as soon as I got to recovery and nurse him. It was great. I was happy to have made that choice.

If I am faced with the decision again, what will I do? I really don't know. I had three c-sections for three different reasons. C-sections happen for appropriate reasons and we shouldn't feel bad if that is how our children entered this world. But we also shouldn't be forced into the decision because of hospital or doctor's fear. I would, however, recommend that anyone who has had a c-section at least consider a VBAC with your doctor and partner. Consider hiring a doula. Make your intentions clear (in writing) beforehand. It is your decision overall but making it in the heat or pain of the moment is not effective in the long-term.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Fitness Friday

The weather is great, so fitness is easy to fit in now!

GO OUTSIDE! and PLAY WITH THE KIDS!

Run around with the kids, and I mean literally run! Try hide-and-seek, chase, running bases.

Go for a family bike ride.

Take a walk! I live close enough to downtown to be able to make a healthy walk out of it and the kids can handle it too. We can also stop at two parks along the way.

Play at the playground! Climb, do the monkey bars, do some push ups!

Jump rope.

Have fun!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Something I never planned on

I think I always planned on being a mom and teacher. I could envision myself playing with children, nursing my babies, watching them running in a field of green grass. I also like pets and always had something growing up and most of my adult life. I enjoy listening to the purring of my cats, watching them groom and care for each other, and chase ridiculous items around the house. In all these blissful images, I never once included poop or pee. Not once but I should have because it is a major part of my life!

I spend a considerable about of time talking and dealing with this topic. I have blogged about it before but today was a very active day. My 6yo wet the bed this morning up to his armpits and had to stay home from school because he was so constipated (he is better now). I had to run to the store at bedtime to get some more pull ups. At school, of course, we are simultaneously potty training 15 children. I am always asking someone if they need to use the bathroom. I am lucky to pee by myself without some at best, standing right outside the door. And our kitten was very angry with us over bringing her to the vet that she needed to mark her territory when she came home. (all this while my husband decided to redo the plumbing in the laundry room).

I'm not complaining, I am happy to help children successfully navigate the bathroom world. Bedwetting happens, no big deal. Animals have natural instincts. Sure, no problem. But I find myself talking about it all day long.

Do you need to go pee? Are you sure? Let's get there quick! Hold it! Do you need new panties? Do you feel like all the poop is out? Push your penis down, please. Do you want to stand up or sit down? Do you need a new diaper? Is that pee I smell? I know you don't feel like it but you have to try. Did he poop today? Is that pee or juice on your pants? You used the potty, awesome!

Do other adults talk like this? I sure don't remember hearing my parents talk like this when I was a kid but perhaps it was perfectly normal conversation even then. I suppose I will get a chunk of time where this won't be at the forefront of my life (until my children are saying the same things to me and my husband) but for now it is.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Sickies, again.

I don't think this sick season will never end!

Since the new year, every living being in the house has been to the doctor. The boys have been there multiple times as well as the cats. I have learned the pharmacy hours around town and which ones have free or reduced-cost antibiotics. And my kids have missed more school this year than all other years combined.

2 have had strep. 1 ear infection. 2 stomach bugs. 1 broken leg. and my favorite, 1 green tongue.

Fortunately, my husband and I have survived with only some nasty colds and allergies.

So, for whatever reasoning, a lot of germs, viruses, and bacteria are breeding all over CU. I hope that warmer weather and more fresh air will clear everything up.