The Next Debate

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Photo by MBK (Marjie)

This morning, I was conflicted as I dropped my children off at school.  On one hand, I was devastated for the parents who won’t be dropping their kids off today.  My heart aches for them as well as the parents whose children lived through the massacre.  I’m sure they face a lifetime of concerns that we will never have to face.  Like so many others, I can’t imagine the depth of grief that accompanies such a senseless loss.

But I was also struck by how thankful I am for the teachers.  The teachers at Sandy Hook, but also the teachers at my kids’ school.  I know that many of them would have done the same heroic things that we saw in Connecticut.  I have no doubt that they would have shielded our children with their own lives.

And now the nation will begin a debate on gun laws.  It’s a good debate, but one that sadly, I predict the NRA will win.  So instead, I pose this question…why aren’t we paying our teachers more?  We are now asking them to do more than teach and grade papers.  We’re asking them to be first responders.  We’re asking them to protect lives.  And in some cases, we’re asking them to make the ultimate sacrifice.  Yet we pay them as though they are a low priority.

Teachers are not perfect.  Yes, there are some terrible ones out there.  But there are also some amazing teachers who engage and motivate students every day.  My sixth grader has been coming home telling me  all about bacteria, because he’s been studying it with a microscope.  My third grader is learning new tricks for memorizing multiplication tables.  And don’t even get me started on how much my immigrant Kindergarten student is learning every day.  The people behind those lessons deserve more.  They deserve to be treated like heroes BEFORE a tragedy strikes, and not just after.  Let’s debate that, my friends.

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Cloud Dough

I admit it…I browse around Pinterest quite a bit.  This stay-at-home-mom thing still doesn’t come naturally to me, so I have to steal other people’s ideas.  And I’ve seen of lot of pins for Cloud Dough.  There are people who, it seems, do this on a regular basis.  They add different scented oils or extracts – peppermint seems to be the flavor of choice around the holidays – and have different toys in the dough for different themes.  So I figured this was going to a really good time.

I mixed a batch up one morning.  I didn’t do anything fancy…just flour and oil.  I mixed until it was firm enough to stick together, but it was still really soft and fluffy.  And this is where I had my first concern. This is basically flour.  Flour is messy.  So I decided to strip Lucy down to her diaper for this one.  (If you only read these posts to see cute pics of my beautiful daughter, you’re out of luck here, as I didn’t want to post too many naked pictures.)

DSC_0034She started out cautiously drawing in the bucket with her finger.  But it wasn’t long before she was picking up handfuls and spreading them on her legs, like lotion.

DSC_0041She lost interest pretty quickly…I’d say less than five minutes.  But this is the first activity that the cat enjoyed.

DSC_0104Overall, I’d say this was a huge fail.  It was neither interesting or educational, and it was a huge mess.

DSC_0119I don’t know who these people are that are making this stuff by the truckload, but I’m a little bitter that I was led to believe this was going to be so much fun.  It sucked.  And it took forever to clean up, because although it looks like just flour that you could sweep up, the oil made it just sticky enough to require mopping.  UGH.  Never again.

App Review – Pocket Phonics

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We’ve done a lot of apps with letter sounds, but this is one of my favorites.  Although it’s not an app that he normally chooses to play, if I start it for him, it’s one that holds his attention for the longest period of time.

It starts with a small group of letters.  Children hear the letter sound and trace the letter with their fingers.

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Then it gives them a sound and asks them to touch the letter that makes the sound.

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I like the voice – it is clear and easy to understand.  Since the kids just heard the sound when tracing the letter, the probability of success is pretty high.  If they do hit the wrong letter, it disappears from their choices and they get to choose again, so eventually they’ll get it right.

I will say that the graphics in this game are not very exciting, even for me.  A highlighter and a pencil that clap aren’t really that engaging.  So I think that it must be the ability to successfully spell words that keeps Ayub entertained.  He can do this one for quite a while.  I like that it teaches letter sounds, and never mentions the letter names.  He is having trouble distinguishing between the two, so this is more obvious to him.  There are also a ton of parent options and settings that you can control, including how many letters to include, whether to focus on just sounds or also words, and even the writing style (including cursive, if you’re into that).  You can also set how sensitive you want it to be when checking the child’s writing.  Ayub tends to stray outside the lines sometimes, and it won’t let him continue until he gets it back under control.  However, if you were playing this on an iPhone, it might be nice to relax it a little since the lines are smaller.

Pocket Phonics is currently $2.99 in the app store, which I think is a pretty fair price for this.  I wish the graphics were a little stronger, but I very much like the concept and the order of activities.  And, since Ayub sticks with it for a while, I think it has a greater chance of teaching him something.

One Year Ago Today

One year ago today, we met our kids.

Always smiling.

Always smiling.

Our first meeting...he kissed my hand.

Our first meeting…he kissed my hand.

I went back and reread my blog post from that day.  Some of our first impressions were spot on, like how Ayub was “…sweet and mischievous at the same time.”  But some of our thoughts turned out to be dead wrong, such as how Ayub had a “quiet, soft voice.”  HA!  He’s the loudest kid EVER.  Andrew just bought a decibel counter so we could literally measure how loud he is.  And we were right…he’s LOUD.  But what strikes me is how far he’s come in the past year.  It’s been amazing to witness how much he’s changed.

The little guy was exhausted after our first day together.  And I've been exhausted every day since.

The little guy was exhausted after our first day together. And I’ve been exhausted every day since.

What’s for Lunch?

It started with Ayub eating peanuts.  Then he would eat peanut butter, but not on crackers or bread.  It had to be on a spoon.  “Peanutbudderspoon.”  But then, I bought some Uncrustables for the older kids. For those of you who don’t know what that is, they are pre-made, frozen, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with the crusts cut off.   We hadn’t had them in quite a while, because they are pretty expensive for what you get, but I was tired of making lunches, so I succumbed.  Ayub, of course, thought this was a pretty neat concept and tried one.  HE ATE IT!!

Now, many people would not be excited to have their son try and like an overpriced, frozen food that is probably filled with preservatives I can’t pronounce.  However, to me, it was the open door I needed to make a change in his lunch habits.  You see, up until now, I’d been making pasta (spaghetti or macaroni) every morning and putting it in a thermos for his lunch.  Yippee for sandwiches!!

Yet, sandwiches still take time to prepare, so I had to streamline this process.  Yes, I am that crazy.  So, if the Uncrustables people can freeze them, why couldn’t I?  Thus, I embarked on the biggest PB&J making event of my life.  Two loaves of bread, laid out on individual baggies.

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Add peanut butter.

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Add jelly.  I have switched to squeeze bottle jelly.  I used to find it disgusting, now I find it time-saving.  Don’t judge me.

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Finally, I put the sandwiches into their individual baggies, then put 9 sandwiches into a gallon sized freezer bag.  I nestled them carefully in the freezer next to the Lean Cuisine and shiro.

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Total time to make 21 sandwiches – 19 minutes.  SCORE!

The next morning, I packed three frozen sandwiches into lunch boxes and asked the kids to report back.  Eleanor said that hers was soggy.  I was crestfallen.  But then she added “but I liked it – you should do that every day.”  Whew…  As for Sam, he didn’t notice a difference.  Boys.  And Ayub?  “I ate it all, Mom.  My tummy growin’.”  Yippee!!

Now, I will admit that there are some down sides to this plan.  First, I had to use disposable bags rather than our cute reusable sandwich wraps.  I feel slightly bad about ruining the environment with more trash.  Second, if you don’t have a separate freezer, you may not have the room to do this.  It did take up quite a bit of space.  However, a few months ago, our freezer broke and everything was thawed, so we have more space than usual right now.  Last, these are great for school lunches because they thaw, but they aren’t something you can just pull out on a weekend when the kids are hungry.   Overall, though, I will definitely be doing this on a regular basis.  It made packing lunches in the morning so much quicker.  I just grabbed sandwiches, some fruit, a drink or water bottle, and shoved it all in.  Since mornings are by far the craziest time of our day, it helps immensely to not be boiling pasta anymore.