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


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.