Posted in Education, Family, health, Mental Health, Opinion, parenting, Social Change, teaching, teen, toddlers, Uncategorized

They’re after me Lucky Charms!

There are three things that I am very passionate about. Three things, that if I were asked five years ago would I care about them, I would have probably answered with “eh not so much”. Simple living used to mean being boring, education used to mean finishing college- didn’t really care about the general education system, and nutrition meant making sure I ate something in between my three daily energy drinks.

Now these things mean so much more to me.

I would like to start with a nutrition post. I know I’ve already lost some of you, but I promise I have good reason!Image result for nutrition meme

Growing up, I knew what healthy was. I still know what healthy food is. Everyone knows what healthy food is. But do you know just how unhealthy the unhealthy food is? And do you know how unhealthy some of the healthy food is? And do you know why we don’t know these things? How are we all not dead yet?

Well, it sounds like we’re speeding up to it. I heard a quote recently that I cannot for the life of me remember where I heard it, but in short it said; our generation of children growing up now, will be the first to not live as long as their parents. THAT’S TERRIFYING.

There are plenty of areas to pick on: fast food, sodas, processed foods, etc, etc. But what I accurate breakfast cereal cocoa puffs box changedam going to focus on is a food that hurt me. It hurt me deep.

I grew up on bags of off-brand sugary cereals. We also had the “healthy” cereals like Cheerios, Corn Flakes, etc, but those usually got topped with a spoon full of sugar. All of these were mixed with skim milk, so you know, totally healthy breakfast.
accurate breakfast cereal froot loops box unchanged

This probably sounds pretty normal to most of us. Without these sugary cereals I probably wouldn’t have made it through college. Most poor college kids ate Ramen noodles, I ate Captain Crunch. My pregnancies were both a blur of doctors appointments, insomnia, getting fat and swollen, and Fruit Loops. Then I discovered Fruit Loops with marshmallows; forget about it! I could go days just eating that.

*Before I start savagely ripping into cereal companies I want to say that I am only picking on them so hard because I felt the most duped. Yes sugar is blatant but the rest…eh…

Cereal companies are some of the biggest villains in the advertising world. Cartoon characters are featured on almost every cereal that is catered to young children. Why? Because kids like cartoons. They also are easily swayed with brand recognition (hello Disney). Those brightly colored familiar faces are all placed strategically towards the lower shelves where little eyes can see them better. Cereal companies also are great with flowery words that hide some of their horrible ingredients. A few years ago (2013), Kellogs had to pay a few million because they were advertising that Frosted Mini-Wheats helped children focus and do better in school. Obviously that’s an unfounded claim but I bet it was totally believable when you saw it on tv. Kellogs also got busted for claiming that Rise Crispies were beneficial to your health. Eh, not so much.

As I have posted about before, my daughter has had emotional problems pretty much since birth, if that’s possible. I have an autoimmune disease that is steadily getting worse it seems like with no plausible cause or cure other than medications that I refuse to take. Both of us seem worse off when we have cereal in the morning. Is that science? Not really, but it did make want to do some research.

Youtube brought me to a gentleman who introduced a chemical to me that I had never heard of. Trisodium Phosphate.

Image result for trisodium phosphateImage result for trisodium phosphate

I checked my own box at home, and sure enough this isn’t propaganda. It was right there in front of me.

“As the cereal maker noted repeatedly, “TSP itself is safe and the amount of TSP in cereals is tiny. It’s a water-soluble salt that helps adjust acidity.”” This was taken from an article defending General Mills. I understand that as a counter argument but I just can’t shake the feeling that I shouldn’t be eating a chemical cleaner. Now, it has been compared to baking soda, which can also be used as a chemical cleaner but is found in many baked goods. Possibly the same? I don’t know, I’m not comfortable with it because I don’t know. And I feel like most people weren’t aware of this either.

They are supposedly removing artificial coloring from their cereals slowly but surely so there’s that. As of now though, a lot of cereals still have these artificial coloring in them. Let’s look at those shall we?

They are known as the Southampton Six by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (which have been pushing for the removal of these dyes). The Southampton Six include: Red 40, Ponceau 4R, Yellow 5, Yellow 6, Quinoline Yellow, and Carmoisine.

Red 40: comes from petroleum distillates or coal tars. Mmmm yummy. Red 40 can cause allergic reactions in “some people”. No big whoop, a lot of things do. They can also cause hyperactivity in children especially if they have ADHD or ADD. *Collar pull* eh okay, I mean so can sugar and stuff so go on…it also contains “p-Credsidine, which the U.S. Department of health and Human Services says is “reasonably anticipated” to be a human carcinogen.” Ah…well…shit.Image result for red 40 coal tars

On studies done on poor little lab mice, Red 40 caused immune system tumors, lower reproduction success, decreased brain weight, and lowered the chances for their offspring to even survive. The argument is, as usual, it’s okay in small doses. The problem is, on FDA labels there is no guidelines that makes companies list how much Red 40 is in their products. Ergo, you have no idea how much you are eating. I think just skipping it entirely would be your best bet. Red 40 can also be called Allura Red, Allura Red AC, and Red No. 40. The other problem is some foods that are not red or orange still contain Red 40. Pickles, dressings, BBQ sauce, and some cheese may have it in there.

Yellow #5 or Tartrazine: I remember in high school hearing that guys that drank Mountain Dew had lower sperm counts.

Image result for uh what gif

Apparently, this view was widespread enough that the Wall Street Journal ran an article about it and Dear Abby advised her readers to not use Mountain Dew as birth control. The culprit is tartrazine. Again, tartrazine has been linked to hyperactivity in children. In 2010, the FDA actually released a memo that stated “for certain susceptible children with ADHD and other problem behaviors, the data suggest that their condition may be exacerbated by exposure to a number of substances in food, including but not limited to, artificial food colors”. Of course this is only going to effect a small number of consumers who have ADHD, ADD, or other mental disorders. There have also been studies done on allergic reactions to Yellow 5, particularly with children on medications, and their inability to fully get beneficial treatments because of it. Yellow 5 is already banned in some European countries.

Image result for jacked up on mountain dew meme

But what about the sperm issue? Apparently there was a study done in 2009 in Algeria and another done in 2010 in India that showed reduced sperm count in mice when they were given tartrazine. Just slightly, mind you, so I wouldn’t bank on that for safety.

Blue, dabbodedahboodah: Blue No.1 & Blue No. 2: “Brilliant blue” was originally made from coal tar like red, but now a lot of places are able to make it from an oil base. “Indigotine” is a textile dye. Again, these are both relatively safe when ingested in small amounts but have been linked to hyperactivity. Blue dyes have a unique set of worries because their dangers have been linked more to skin absorption and entering the bloodstream via tongues. A study using pigs and the blue dye showed the dye did indeed enter the bloodstream. This was worrisome because “several studies show that these dyes might inhibit cell respiration”.

In addition to dyes there is the ever present argument of sugar and high-fructose corn syrup. Sugar is obviously one of the main ingredients in most children breakfast cereals. There is a laundry list of problems associated with excess sugar consumption: liver damage, diabetes, hyperactivity, obesity, metabolic dysfunction, even things like depression can worsen with too much sugar. It has been proven that sugar is as addictive, or more so, than cocaine. Again, the problem with sugar being on the ingredients list is you are given the grams. So, let’s say Golden Grahams has 14 grams of sugar per serving which is probably a cup, or half a cup. What does that mean to you? Probably not much. Food companies are not required to put a percentage next to sugar to show how much you should consume in a day like they do other ingredients. Like so:

Image result for food labels no sugar percentageImage result for food labels no sugar percentage

I do believe that there are motions to put another label under sugar that says “added sugar”. Again though, it will only give you grams, no percentages. It would seem that if they can give you percentages for fat and sodium, they should for sugar too right?

So what am I saying? Do you have to cook a homemade breakfast every morning or risk feeding your kids and yourself poison? No, that would be ridiculous. My daughter loves Lucky Charms. Loves them. Like if a box of Lucky Charms and I were hanging off a cliff and she could only save one I would be worried about my chances for living. However, I will definitely create a better diet that will restrict Lucky Charms, and all the other unhealthy cereals, to very limited consumption. Everything in moderation. So what do you do the rest of the mornings? Here are some things to limit and/or stay away from if you can manage it, and a list of better options:

 

The Good

Puffins cereal

Cascadian Farms

Kix

Kashi

Oatmeal

The Bad

Lucky Charms- the first ingredient listed is whole grains…that’s about where anything nutritious stops. The following ingredient is marshmallows or sugar. However, there is about 3 grams of fiber but there are also color additives. So, it’s a battle for this one but on rare occasions I think I will still allow Lucky Charms in my cabinet.

Frosted Flakes- Anything that says “frosted” you should probably not consume in high doses. Frosted Flakes is fat free and all that jazz but high is sugar and carbs. I don’t think any dyes to speak of though, so an occasional bowl is probably okay.

Cinnamon Toast Crunch- Surprisingly, this cereal has a little less sugar than it’s siblings. I think maybe the cinnamon flavoring helps? I don’t know but they are made from whole grain with only 28% of it’s calories being from sugar so that’s better than some. Still very high in carbs.

Corn Pops- A little less sugar, a little more fiber, but does contain hydrogenated oils. So not an everyday cereal by any means.

The Ugly

Honey Smacks- Used to be called Sugar Smacks but they wanted to sound a little more healthy. They have one of the highest sugar levels of all the breakfast cereals available. No fiber to speak of and an additive that actually makes you overeat makes this one Image result for crying facecereal I will probably not buy again. And this was one of my favorites.

Apple Jacks/Fruit Loops- Huge amounts of sugar, like no fiber, and tons of color additives. Pass.

Crunch Berries- I love the captain, I really do. And apparently most people that make eye contact with him do too (28% of consumers who made eye contact with the Captain bought Captain Crunch). However, I will have to exclude Crunch Berries from my occasional splurge because of the sugar, and the dyes.

Cocoa Puffs- I’ve never been cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs but even the few times I may crave these sweet chocolate cereals I will have to pass. The second ingredient listed is sugar with no healthy ingredients to combat the amount of sugar per serving.

Reeses Puffs- Although not as high in sugar content as some of the others on my ugly list it is high in color additives.

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Posted in Family, health, Opinion, parenting, Uncategorized

How life changes per kid…

I received an email asking to do an article on family life in regards to number of kids within that family. Kind of like a 0,1,2,3 thing. I thought it could be kind of interesting to dig into.

Image result for no children

0

For some, the idea of having babies is something that they have dreamed about since they were still in diapers. They lugged their dolls around the house, carrying them by their feet, from one room to the next; getting them dressed, feeding them, putting them to bed, the whole nine yards.

For others, not so much. Not everyone wants kids. An article in The Guardian claimed that “Once pregnancy is over, you’ve got a small human that you’re responsible for 24/7, for nearly 2 decades. Many are overjoyed by this prospect, which is great, but that doesn’t mean everyone is.” This was a follow up to the argument that women who do not want children are somewhat shunned because we’re inherently supposed to want to procreate. I agree with the author Dean Burnett on that point. Then of course there are those who simply cannot have children. Because of this, please do not question young women about why they don’t have children. It makes me cringe when I hear it, and yes I hear it.

 

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1

One, is the loneliest number…

People with one kid get the best of both worlds and the worst, all at the same time. I think there is still a stigma that once you have one you’re supposed to want more.

Speaking as an only child, there are perks and there are downsides. I had my own room, but I was scared of the dark. I had my own clothes and toys, but I did have to play alone a lot. Luckily, I had a lot of cousins nearby to play with and lived in a community where friends were in walking distance, so that helped some.

No need to get a new car, even your sexy two door can probably hold at least one car seat. No need to worry about bath time, with only one kid, only one bath, no shared water/toys/wash clothes.

Traveling with 1 kid is a whole different ball game than having multiples. Traveling with any amount of kids can be stressful but when you only have the one to pack for, look for, prepare for, and pay for, it’s much easier.

Nap time is actually quiet time. There’s no other noise going on once your one little angel goes down for a nap. Same thing when they are old enough for school, or sleepovers, or summer camps, whatever; when that one child is quiet, the whole house is quiet.

Make sure you have a strong marriage/partnership before having this baby. 1 may lead to others, but not if you can’t make it past 1. That sounds a bit harsh probably but the stress of an added person (not to mention an extremely needy, cranky, always loud person) is something that even good marriages will suffer from.

“Only children are supposed to be spoiled, selfish and lonely. In fact they’re just fine — and on the rise, as more parents choose against having multiple children”

The quote above is from a TIME Magazine article published back in 2010. After the big recession in 2008, people had to stop and think more economically about having kids. It wasn’t just that kids costs more per say, people were making less, and many still are.

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, christmas tree, baby, eyeglasses and treeImage may contain: 1 person, baby and closeup

2

Two children, two parents= seems like an easy way to live. Eh…easy isn’t the word I would choose in that scenario but we’ll go with it. 2.5 is the average amount of children that American families are having now. Going from 1 to 2 is much easier than going from 0 to 1. So there’s that at least.

Time is divided now. It’s not just you and your spouse time, then you and your one and only child time. It’s you, your spouse, child #1, and child #2. They will both have separate needs, wants, and ways of communicating with you. Depending on how far apart in age they are, your first might just be talking when you realize the second is on their way. You may just be getting the glorious feeling of more than 4 hours of sleep when you’re suddenly up again every hour peeing in the night. And pregnant while chasing around a toddler? Not the same as the first time, by any means.

What about twins? Yes there’s two of them, but does that count? It’s one pregnancy, one birth. No age gap. Yes they count as 2, I’m just adding to the arguments I’ve already seen and I think it’s a silly one.

There are general concerns for a lot of mothers though that go from 1 to 2. Will I love them the same? How can I ever love anyone as much as my first? How can I even begin to explain to my first that there’s another baby? What if he/she isn’t happy about it?

I will say, I had some of these pretty common concerns myself. They are not founded in any real life. You won’t love them the same, that’s impossible. You will love them equally but in different ways. It’s hard describe but once you have a second child, everything is different. You also get a newfound love for your first watching them grow into a big brother/sister. It is something magical to watch.

Image result for three children

3

If you Google, number of children you should have, two of the first options that arise are “Why three is the magic number of children for happiness” followed by “why three makes for the most unhappy families”. So, I think there’s some debate on this one?

To quote another article “Why three really is the magic number”:

 “A third child feels like an indulgence; ‘more than the world needs’.”

Ouch.

Irregardless if it’s indulgent or not, the idea that going from 2 to 3 is a hard one to make. Harder, I think than going from 1 to 2. Once you get past 2 kids the car situation gets harder, going to the store becomes even more challenging, and dividing up your time among each kid takes on whole new struggles.

One mom commented to me that going from 2 to 3 took much more time managment than she had expected. “I didn’t think it was going to be so time consuming getting out the door.” For those with 2 thinking, ugh I already struggle with that now, might be something to consider.

This isn’t uncommon either, a survey of over 7,000 moms (which has been quoted in a few different articles) claimed that mothers of 3 children were the most stressed. More than 1, 2, 4, or even 5. Why? Something about the unevenness of 3 children? The going from a kid in each hand to one kid having to be the third wheel? Maybe…

One plus to the third is allowing the baby of the family now to become a big brother/sister (yes I understand this can’t just keep going until there’s an endless chain of babies). Let’s be honest, when you have 2 kids the younger one is babied. By you, and your older child. This will happen to the third one as well but at least it might help toughen up that 2 one a little. Then there’s the dreaded “middle child” syndrome. My own mother will attest that this a real life phenomenon but is it enough to detour you?

A family of 5 is something to be desired however, for those who don’t want a “big” family, but want larger than average family. The chaos that is life as a family of 5 is appealing for many reasons. The holidays, family dinners, the siblings have more options for playmates. Hopefully they’ll like at least one of them.

3 is also the stepping stone to 4, which it seems some women think that is the best number.

Image result for four children

4

Wait, who’s crying? Is it the baby? No not that baby, the baby-baby. The littlest one? No, she’s sleeping, somehow. Is it the toddler? The older two fighting? What is all the noise and where is it coming from!

A quote that stuck out to me from an article in The Express “Three is the “storm” before the “calm” of four. These kind of statistics made me wary of having a third child, resulting in an age gap of seven and nine years between my third and her older brothers.”

After 3, I mean hell, what’s one more right? You have all the stuff you need, you SHOULD have at least both genders at this point (if not, I do know some, I pray for you). Having 4 children also makes you lighten up some. “Every busy home will have many moments of stress when plans for apart, homework gets lost (or stolen… yes, would you believe there are “strangers” who love to steal math homework?!) and everything descends into chaos. Adding a big dollop of humor to such occasions can diffuse tension like a magic wand and make all the difference in the world, particularly on those days when the kids want to strangle each other, or you want to strangle them.”

I like this quote from a blog called Mom.me “Four is easier because the kids can pair off. Especially when you have two of each. With three there is one left out. Also when it was three the baby got treated more like a baby for some reason.”

Image result for brady bunch

More than 4!!

So you want more than 4 children…Do you not like things? Do you not enjoy sleep? Do you never want to be alone, ever in your entire life?

No? Oh, well then by all means have more than 4 kids. I’m being extreme obviously, but people on the outside look at families with 5, 6, 7 plus kids and think, “why?”

Well there’s a lot of good reasons. For one, your children always have someone to talk to, even if you aren’t available. Siblings in large families tend to be closer. You would think it would be the opposite but having to share everything with each other does tend to make you closer whether you like it or not. “It also keeps you from spoiling your children. Certainly there are children from small families who are not spoiled, but spoiling children in large families is nearly impossible. I simply can’t (and won’t) buy identical high-end expensive toys and gadgets for my kids.”

The idea of boredom in a house with 5 or more kids is probably not one that comes around often. It’s easy to see why an only child may struggle with trying to entertain themselves, but 1 of 5 can probably find something to get into with one of their siblings. Not to mention there’s always chores to do! And let’s be honest, with 5 kids all pitching in, even though they make a mess, they should be able to clean it up. There is also little helpers when it comes to taking care of the younger siblings. Most large families require the older siblings to step up and help their parents out. Good life building skills.

How do you get anywhere? Well, I guess that depends on who is coming. RV? Two mini vans? Another downside that was brought to my attention is the complete lack of privacy. Yes you have the safety of numbers but you also have a hard time finding a quiet place to be alone.

I’ve also seen mentioned in quite a few different articles about having a large family is that the parents are less prone to end up in a nursing home. At least they hope so.

But how can you afford it? Um hand-me-downs. Your kids may end up wearing things a little too big or a little small but that’s the way it goes with large families.

 

Posted in Family, Opinion, parenting, teen, toddlers, Uncategorized

When I just don’t want to play

 

 

Image result for child growing up

 

I get bored with playing. There, I said it. It’s hard, even as a blogger of parenting articles and other family related activities, to always express my personal life for public use. However, in order to write honestly, I think I have to.

Sometimes, I don’t want to play pretend. I want to just read and tune out. I don’t want to color or play play-dough. It’s too hot for playing tag and too cold to splash in puddles. Sometimes, I don’t want be completely immersed in another person. I don’t want to talk. I don’t want to ask the same question over and over, or give the same answer over and over.  Sometimes, I want to do nothing.

Sometimes, I just don’t want to do these things. But I do them, even if halfheartedly on the rougher days. Coming home from work and transitioning into mom mode isn’t always easy. But I do it.

Because I know there will be a day when I go to start playing and my daughter will say no. That she doesn’t want to play pretend. She just wants to read and tune out. She doesn’t want to color or play play-dough. She’ll say she’s too old to play tag and too mature to splash in puddles. She doesn’t want to be completely immersed in another person. She doesn’t want to talk. She doesn’t want to answer the same question over and over, or give the same answer over and over. She just wants to do nothing.

Mostly, she just won’t need me to do these things like she does now. So I won’t.

That’s what I remember when I have to play house, or school, or doctor, or any of the games that are on constant repeat in our playroom. I try to smile, push through, and ask her “okay, what do you want to play now?”

Image result for mother and daughter playingImage result for mother and daughter playing

 

Posted in Family, health, Mental Health, parenting, teen, toddlers, Uncategorized

Other than hyper…

When you think of a kid with ADHD or ADD, you may picture a small child swinging from a ceiling fan while making loud monkey sounds. Or maybe they’re on top of the kitchen counter trying to jump rope. They are, more or less, always hyper to the untrained eye.

Image result for child with adhdHowever, having a hyper child doesn’t mean that they have ADHD. Most children, at least a majority of them, have a resource of energy that adults just don’t understand. The phrase “he/she’s been running all day, how is she not tired” could be for any toddler or adolescent.

On the reverse side, not all kids who have ADHD/ADD act out in a hyper manner. Some are very often caught daydreaming or “in the zone” when doing something. Since children with ADHD get distracted very easily, some sufferers need to completely tune into one thing they are doing. If anything else is going on they will lose focus and not be able to complete task. They may not appear hyper but they are struggling nonetheless.

The difference really comes down to, is it negatively affecting your child’s life? A lot of times ADHD/ADD can’t be identified until they are in Kindergarten or older because their limitations of concentration haven’t really been tested. From what I have seen in work and at home, there seems to be three categories that ADHD/ADD symptoms are lumped into most often: Inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness.

Inattention:

  • Difficulty organizing
  • Cannot remember directions and has trouble with completing tasks
  • Seems to not be listening when being spoken to
  • Constantly losing things or putting them where they don’t belong
  • Difficulty concentrating on schoolwork or activity for the amount of time it would take to complete it

Hyperactivity

  • Can’t sit still; fidgets or constantly moves feet when sitting
  • Gets in and out of chair when sitting at table or desk
  • Talks excessively and usually loudly
  • Difficulty playing quietly

Impulsiveness

  • Interrupts, even when you are answering something they asked you
  • Struggles to control physical movements
  • Blurts out answers (if in classroom)

I think it’s important to note (since this is how I realized we may have a problem on our hands) that ADHD/ADD is linked with behavior issues. It’s easy to understand why, once you start to think about how a child with ADHD has to process the world around them. Frustration, anger, fear, anxiety, and low self esteem are all very real feelings for kids suffering through this. Parents may be exhausted and beat down but even when your child is screaming they hate you, they are probably going through more emotional turmoil than you are.

Some other symptoms that are not mentioned as much but still may be a red flag are:

  • Aggressiveness
  • Bold and no fear (meaning they will talk to strangers, climb on anything and not care about the idea of getting hurt)
  • Unable to hop on one foot (up to age 4)
  • Complete loss of control (for parents who experience this, it’s like a tantrum on steroids)

 

I am putting this information out there for parents who may be on the fence about whether or not their child has ADHD/ADD. There is a lot of literature available about how ADHD/ADD does not exist. That it is a made-up disease for pharmaceutical companies and to label overactive children as a way to explain their actions and behaviors. In the past three years, I have learned very clearly that is inaccurate. While medicating a child is a separate topic completely, I think we need to realize that mental illness is completely, 100% real, and that it does affect people of all ages, even children. Until that stigma is gone I feel a lot of children who need help won’t get it.

On the same note, I have said it before, I do think it’s also over-diagnosed as well. Do yourself a favor, if you think your child has a problem, go to a doctor. Not your pediatrician, but a counselor of some kind. They will be able to tell you after a few sessions and talks with you whether your child is just very energetic or if there’s something else going on. There are many natural remedies to some of the behaviors you may be experiencing and with just a little tweaking here and there you may see a huge difference in your child at home and at school.

 

Posted in Library, literature, Mental Health, Poetry, Uncategorized

Miles to go before I sleep…

The days are shorter, the nights are longer, and the cold seems to bring out the worst in some people.Use this time to reflect on yourself and your family to see how everyone is really feeling. In the midst of January, and “January Blues” season, I wanted to share some insight on one of my favorite poems. After the holiday rush there seems to be a lull in activity for most people.
Image result for january blues
As you may have seen with the circulating Facebook post about people having “a warm bed and tea ready”, this is the time of year when those who are really suffering from depression tend to have the most struggles.
Why is the winter so hard?
There are a lot of reason it’s believed that “January Blues” seems to happen. It’s not just January mind you, it’s winter in general. There’s a mix of cold weather, staying indoors more, less sun, calmness from the holiday commotion that some people do not do well with, and of course need to cleanse yourself from the plethora of calories from the holidays.
I always think of a famous poem by Robert Frost this time of year.
“Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”
Whose woods these are I think I know.Image result for snowy woods
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
Some critique the poem as a suicide note. The claim is that the narrator is trying to persuade himself to keep on living even though it would much easier to stay in the depressed state that he is in. Others look at it as more uplifting. Even though the narrator is contemplating the darkness of the woods he is choosing to continue on. I prefer that latter.
Still others would say it’s a completely over-analyzed poem and it’s just about a guy riding his horse and enjoying nature. I could get on board with that too, I suppose.
Robert Frost wrote this poem prior to winning four Pulitzer Prizes. The man obviously knew what he was doing with words. The sounds and rhythm of his poetry are top notch, even if you aren’t a fan of the possible messages and imagery.
Why is this important right now? Why should I care about a poem written almost 100 years ago?
Well, I think all literature is important and I think it can be used as a great bonding and teaching resource. If you have an older teen or tween who you may suspect is suffering from depression, have them read this poem. Talk about it. I’m sure they are going to be forced to read it sometime in school, but have them do it on their own time. Tell them how you feel about it.
If nothing else maybe this poem could inspire you and your family to log off for awhile. It’s so easy, especially with the cold winds blowing, to stay inside, plugged in, and tuned out. The woods can be a great place for reflection and discovering what you are really feeling. Not to get all spiritual about it or anything, but the woods are one of the best places to just…be.
Image result for snowy woods
Posted in Family, Opinion, parenting, teaching, Uncategorized

Calm Down Box

I have mentioned explosive behaviors once or twice in past posts, and have written about anger in toddlers before, but I also wanted to offer a solution to these breakdowns.

As I mentioned in a past post about discipline, time-outs did not work for us for our daughter. However, the concept behind a time-out (stepping away from your actions and taking a moment to consider them) can be done in a better way. We have a calm down box.

Image result for calm down box

Before starting it, make sure to explain that it isn’t necessarily a punishment, it’s just to help get your child back to neutral. We are working on walking away from anger stimulants (ie someone being mean at school) so my daughter can learn to calm herself as oppose to punching the other kid in the throat (yeah…). I know the anti-punishment movement can seem hippy-dippy to some parents, and I’m not saying certain behaviors don’t require discipline (ie punching the other kid in the throat). The calm down box is simply a way to teach your child how to soothe themselves enough to come back to center before moving on to the next thing.

This has been one of the biggest life savers as far as parenting goes for us. Now that my daughter is 3 and is starting to be able to verbally explain her feelings and emotions better, she realizes that the calm down box is helping her. I have a basic plastic storage box and I rotate the items inside, except for a few standard pieces. Below are some options of things to put in your own calm down box.

Ooooh, the bubbles…

These are still mesmerizing to me, even as an adult. We use one as out calm down timer basically. The sound of a ticking timer can be a little less than calming, so instead we have one of these that I flip over. I tell her she has to play with her calm down box until all the bubbles have fallen. Usually after a few moments of watching them she’s so engrossed in something else she forgets that it’s there. These have also helped with not being able to go to sleep at night occasionally.

 

Stress balls are not just for the office. Kids can benefit from them too. The brighter and the more squishy, I think the better.

 

 

Water snakes are a great sensory toy, as long as they don’t break. I guess it depends on just how mad your kid is at the time…

 

 

I may be the only person the world who still uses CDs more frequently than iPods or MP3 players. For my daughter, the process of finding a CD or Audio Book is kind of part of the calming process. She picks what she wants, puts it in the player, and listens. It’s simple and effective.

 

 

Sometimes the CD player isn’t enough and headphones are required to really help her escape. I think that’s easy to relate to.

 

 

 

 

Music is needed sometimes, but I think audio books are also great to help kids learn how to calm themselves down. They have to focus on what book they want and then really listen to the words that are being spoken.

 

 

Touch and feel books are usually for babies and toddlers under two, with some exceptions. However, if your child is playing alone or learning how to soothe themselves a touch and feel book can be very helpful. The act of “reading” along with the physical processes of touching certain materials, can be very soothing.

 

 

Same token, books like Journey are great because without words the child isn’t intimidated to “read” alone. They just look at the pictures and make up their own story.

 

 

 

 

There are many sites out there with recipes and instructions on how to make your own calm down bottles. They can be a great addition to any calm down box.

 

 

 

 

Some other items that help with restlessness and not being able to sit still can also be useful in a calm down box. If you have tried other things that have worked mention them below!

Posted in Education, Family, Library, literature, parenting, reading, teaching, toddlers, Uncategorized

13 Picture Books to Read before 2016 Ends

As much as I love the classics- Where the Wild Things Are, Dr. Seuss, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, etc etc; I feel that there are some great new children’s easy readers (picture books), which have come out in the past few years that get overlooked when parents ask for reading recommendations. Everyone who follows this blog knows how I feel about Early Literacy Education, so even if you are newly pregnant, thinking about becoming pregnant, or just had a baby; bookmark this list to review.

I’m going to already assume you have the essentials and give you some updated book recs for babies, toddlers, and preschool aged children.

This book made my daughter actually lol. That’s hard to do with a book. I love Oliver Jeffers style (The Day the Crayons Quit) and I think kids do too. It’s a colorful, relatable, style that is still detailed enough to really paint vivid images. In this book, a little boy loses his kite in a tree. So logically, the only thing to do to get it down is to throw his shoe at it. Then his shoe gets stuck. So he throws the other shoe. The whole thing just spirals as he throws whatever he can find at the tree.

 

 

Great bedtime story. The transitions from the daytime to the nighttime are really cool. I enjoyed the illustrations of this book more than I did the actual story.

 

 

 

 

I’m a sucker for rhyming. I like to read rhyming books out loud. This is a very cute little story about a mouse, who obviously wants to sit in his chair, but there’s a bear in it. Pretty simple premise but definitely a fun read. Also good for kids who may be having a little trouble with sharing.

 

 

I honestly did not know how my daughter was going to feel about this book. In the same vein as Journey, The Only Child has no words; just pages of pencil drawn images to tell the story. Being they are all black and white I thought maybe she would get bored of it. I was wrong. She loved this book and I enjoyed it too. It was a great way for us to talk about what we thought was happening. Since there are a lot of fantasy elements to the plot we ended up going on some pretty long winded tangents.

 

Like every kid, my daughter has a small fear of the dark. Nothing major but when I saw this book I thought maybe it would help her out. At first she was a little apprehensive of the book. Then after we read it two or three times she started to realize “the dark” was nice. It hasn’t cured her fear but she did ask for this book more than some of the others I had brought home.

 

 

 

This book I actually bought, purely for myself. I don’t cry at movies, but books will get to me. This one definitely did. If you are a new mom I highly recommend this book. And some Kleenex.

 

 

 

This book promotes reading so I liked it (shocker). More than that though, it was a very funny story that I actually enjoyed. The illustrations are simple, cartoon style, but they work well with the story.

 

 

 

 

If you don’t have the Press Here book, get it now. My daughter goes crazy for that book. This one is the same idea. It’s almost magical I think for little kids when they read these kinds of books. “Did they really just make all the dots fall to one side?” Definitely gets kids using their imaginations.

 

 

 

I loved this book. My daughter got a little bored at parts because it is long winded. Basically a little girl goes home from school with a book her teacher gave her but as she walks, words from the book start to fall out. A fox behind her catches them and she creates the stories. Very clever and unique children’s book.

 

 

 

 

If toddlers and preschoolers had to take sociology I would make them all read this book. It’s a cute book that shows you all the different houses people can live in. The art is interesting so I think that kept my daughter’s attention more than anything.

 

 

 

 

This was not at all what I was expecting when I first opened it. Bruce is an old curmudgeon and doesn’t like to be bothered. So of course, due to a series of events, he ends up with baby geese to take care of. The writing is actually really funny and the illustrations are great too.

 

 

I added Finding Winnie onto this list because I enjoyed the book. With that being said, my daughter did not. I tried to get her to let me read it again and she was not having it. It does have a lot of wordage and war history so I think she just lost interest. However, being an huge Winnie the Pooh fan as a child I enjoyed the back story.

 

 

This is my top pick by far. Everyone should have this book in their collection. It’s art and story are amazing. Every picture in the book is made up of words from classic tales like Peter and Wendy and Treasure Island. My daughter liked it because it’s fantasy and she enjoyed the illustrations but I don’t know if she got all the messages in it.