Thursday, December 27, 2012

Sandy Hook

Elementary Schools are magical places. I have the wonderful opportunity to work in a very special elementary school with spectacular students. As a specialist, I pull out groups of students, and I push in to the classrooms to support student reading growth. On any given day, I am in/out of 5 or more classrooms. School is a happy place because of the students and people who fill the classrooms and hallways. Even if I am having a bad morning, the minute I begin teaching, I forget about my own life and focus on having fun with my students. I believe all teachers feel this way, which is why we choose to be in such a great profession.

I thought by this point I would have processed the horrible events that occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School. But, the truth is, every time I begin to think about it, I am filled with deep sadness and heartache for the members of that school community. I don't think I will ever fully comprehend what happened that day.

Schools are safe places. Whenever I begin to work with new groups of children, I always start by building a community where students feel safe. If you can't feel safe, then you can not learn. It is clear the faculty of Sandy Hook made their children feel safe, just read this editorial about the acts of courage that took place to save children.
Good Rose Up Against Evil At Sandy Hook  

I continue to pray for all the victims of this tragedy and hope their families and friends can find peace. I pray we can continue to keep our schools safe places.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Play Kitchens

Santa brought my daughter (1.5) a play kitchen for Christmas. I looked at so many kitchens before deciding on the one I purchased her. When I saw this little kitchen, I knew it would be perfect for her and me!
This kitchen has so much STORAGE! One of my biggest issues in keeping a clean house is toys. I can never seem to have them all away and organized. So, this kitchen offers ample storage, and, it just so happens all the storage containers I put in it were ones laying around the house. I am thrilled with this kitchen and really hope that it continues to store all the kitchen and food items for us! Check it out...

Lesson learned - When buying toys always pick the ones that offer storage opportunities!

Monday, December 24, 2012

elf on the shelf

It's bad enough that Christmas decorations come out before Thanksgiving dinner is served, but what's worse is the growing popularity of The Elf on the Shelf. I don't own an elf on the shelf and I hope I never do. I don't want to scare my kids into behaving by saying constantly, "The elf is watching and he will go report back to Santa tonight."
Also, I am not a good liar. I remember the day I found out that Santa was not real. I was in first grade and my older brother bet me $1 about it. I ran up to ask my mom, and she told me Santa was not real. My brother never made me pay him the dollar, he was satisfied just ruining the secret for his little sister. I remember my parents and aunts would see elves and tell us the elves were watching to make sure we were being good, but we did not own a scary, small elf who could not be touched and who caused mischief while we slept.
The 2 links below support my idea to NEVER have an elf on the shelf...

With that being said, I realize if this elf on the shelf trend continues I might have to give in when my children are older. If I do give in, I want to do it like the people in this link...

Have a Merry Christmas!
oh, and don't forget to put your elves away tonight...maybe even FOR-EV-ER...

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Brothers & Sisters

I grew up with only brothers, and I was always happy about that. My brothers taught me how to play sports, watch sports, and how to have fun. My brothers kept a watchful eye on me, yet let me make my own decisions and be my own person. Even though I was involved in a variety of activities (some they didn't think were cool) they still supported me. I wouldn't change anything about my brothers...

We are fortunate enough to have 2 children. My son is 14 months older than my daughter. They love each other so much, and I pray they are always close. In the morning, Shannon usually wakes up first. She screams Pat's name over and over again. When we bring her downstairs she runs to the foot of the steps and screams his name again and again. She gives Patrick her blanket, and her other treasures.

Patrick loves his sister. Tonight he heard her crying, so he went upstairs, opened her door, and said, "It's ok, Shannon. I'm here. I brought you a train." Shannon immediately began to laugh. Then, Patrick climbed into her crib to hug her. Who needs a mom when you have such a great big brother??? I pray my children are always close and supportive of each other, just like my brothers are for me, and I try to be for them.

Lesson learned - There is nothing better than the gift of siblings.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Using My First Words Books

Shannon takes books off the bookshelf in the family room every night, travels over to the couch and says, "Book, book, book, book, book," until I pick her up nestle her in my lap, then read 3-4 pages of the book. Then, she wriggles out of the grip back to the bookshelf, grabs a book says, "book, book, book until I pick her up to read yet another book.
Right now she loves the "My First" books. These books have pictures and labels underneath them. And, I believe these books encourage vocabulary development. Shannon is learning animals, food, numbers, even family members! We read these books a few different ways.

One way is I point to a picture, and try to get Shannon to say the word.
"Look, Shannon, there's a cow!" (and I point as I say it.) Then, I ask her to point to the cow too. We build on this with animals because then we discuss animal sounds. "Shannon a cow says Moo." Then Shannon says, "Mooo."  Then, I might point to another animal and say "What is this?" Or, "What animal says neigh?"

Another way we read a My First Words Book is by me asking Shanon to find a picture. Toddlers tend to have better receptive language than expressive language. To strengthen the receptive language "Find me a..." is a fun game to play with them.

I've also learned many of Shannon's words by watching her point and say on her own. Of course, at this age, one of the most popular words is BABY, which is clear as a bell. Is this true for your child? Both of my kids went through/are going through a phase where any child, (from birth - 10 years old) is a BABY. They point at the child, then scream Baby, which leads me to explain to the parent and child about this phase. Anyway, back to figuring out words...Shannon points and says a word. For example, she will point to a car and say, "A car." Then, she might point to a truck and say, "A car." This is the beginning of learning broad categories. Anything with wheels is a car. With Patrick, all fruit was an apple. I find it fascinating to watch and learn as my children continue to expand their vocabulary by reading books and experiencing words firsthand.

Once all the words are mastered in the picture books, it is ok to go back and revisit them. In a previous post I wrote about the town book, it's a fisher price book. This continues to be one of Pat's favorites. Instead of pointing and saying words, Pat now names the characters in the story, and describes what the character is doing. For example, he points to a little girl who is painting a picture of a flower and he says, "Look Mommy it's big Shannon. She is painting." Then I might say, "Oh really? What is she painting?" Pat: "A big pink flower." Pat's language continues to develop, and I know it all began with the solid foundation of reading the picture books, pointing and learning new words.

Here is a link to some of the books we use.
Flower pot Press

So, we will continue to foster a love of reading in each of our kids, and watch in amazement as their language grows!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Cuddle Your Kid!

Oftentimes my husband sends me links to articles he reads that he thinks I would like.
Cuddle Your Kid!

I loved this article. It made me feel less guilty about laying with my son every night before he goes to sleep. Last year, when I was just coming back to work after my maternity leave, I shared with some teachers that I just couldn't let Patrick "cry it out" anymore. My teacher friend looked at me and said, "Don't you see? He misses you during the day, and this is his way of asking you to spend time with him." Hug him, snuggle until both your hearts are content. I think about this wise woman's response to me often, and now pass along the same advice to mothers heading back to work. There is nothing wrong with cuddling our children - especially when we spend so many hours out of the house.

I passed along this article to my mother, who wrote a poem in response. Thanks, Mom for your beautiful words!

Why can’t we do it…cuddle our kids?
Why won’t we consider that this could rid
    us of problems like anger, violence and drugs.
We could raise loving people instead of mean thugs.
The research is telling…
The message is clear.
If we cuddle our kids, we can banish crime and fear.
A little attention can go a long way…
Have you even thought about reading to your child today?
Sit close together and open that book
Ponder questions as you take your first look.
Enjoy the story, talk about the end, spend  time
With your child and he’ll become your friend.
Love is the answer and literacy is the key.
Cuddle your children and a new world we will see!
                                                                --Rita Kenefic

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Adventures of the Poodle Posse

Chrysa Smith, author of The Adventures of the Poodle Posse Series recently visited my school. This was such an exciting day for the students and teachers.

I love hearing how ideas can transform into stories, and this author had a wonderful message for our students - Stories lie right under our noses! Chrysa Smith combines her love of dogs with her love of writing to create doggie adventures based on her poodles.

She showed pictures of her real poodle posse, and the students could instantly relate to her. The photographs helped the students to see that many fictional characters are based on real people (or pets!) Then, she shared large stick puppet versions of her poodle posse. Our students loved these, and instantly felt connected to Woody, Archie, Daisy, and Bobby! Chrysa Smith explained to students how she took real stories and TWISTED them to make an adventure. Our students understood her simplistic language, and actively participated with Ms. Smith as she told her stories. Many students offered Ms. Smith ideas for future stories for the Poodle Posse, which she willingly accepted. 
Our third and fourth grade students had the opportunity to write with Chrysa Smith. Ms. Smith expertly coached them through many different, fun writing experiences. I have never seen our students so excited to put the pen on the page and write. Creative thoughts, laughter, and encouragement filled our gym as Chrysa invited students to share their ideas with their peers.

Thank you, Chrysa Smith, for sharing your books, personal stories, and creativity with us! Check out her website to purchase her books, or schedule a visit for your school!
Chrysa Smith's Website

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

What could it be?



What would you do if your 1 year old came up to you holding this random piece of metal?

Well, I'll tell you what I did. It was a Friday night. A Friday night before a weekend where we had nothing planned. A Friday night that was supposed to be a great start to a weekend full of catching up. And, just before Shannon's bedtime, she was walking around the kitchen while I finished the kid's dishes. She reached her little hand up to mine, and dropped this horrible, round, rusty piece of metal into my hand. Immediately I thought it was a battery, so I started looking for the other half. Then, I thought maybe it's a magnet, but again, where's the other half? I googled swallowing a battery. I googled swallowing a magnet. I called my husband in a panic and explained the situation hoping for a voice of reason. Shannon seemed fine. In fact, she seemed normal. But, I knew in my heart I had to continue to search for this missing part, and seek medical attention.
    I waited for my husband to arrive home to make the necessary phone calls. (our doctor and poison control) Both suggested a trip to the Emergency room. So, I packed the car, and my little girl and headed to Virtua Voorhees  Children's Emergency. We were quickly checked in. (which is always the case at Virtua) In fact, the staff at this hospital is so great, they even gave me a room with a door when they noticed how much Shannon enjoyed walking around! The doctors and nurses all took a look at the random piece of metal, and NO ONE knew what it was. They put in for Shannon to receive an X-ray, and we waited. Shannon took about 150 laps around the small room, and the doctors came back to confirm that she did not swallow anything!

    Well, it's been bothering me that I haven't found the other half of this piece. Until yesterday. Shannon was playing with the buzzer on the oven, and guess what was missing? An old silver button just like the piece that landed her in the ER a couple Friday nights ago.  So, I can finally close the case on the missing metal piece.

Lesson learned - don't give up looking for something that is missing (this can be taken on so many levels)

Friday, October 26, 2012

Pizza Hut

When I think back to my own childhood, I remember countless meals eaten at the Montgomerville Pizza Hut. If I close my eyes I can picture the red and white check tablecovers, the cafe style flimsy chairs, the buffet in the middle of the restaurant, and most of all, my family of 7 gathered around a rectangular table. I remember begging for quarters to play the arcades, and when we got older, to put in the jukebox. I remember the waitresses and how they practically knew my dad by name. I remember the pitchers of soda that inevitably got spilled all over the table and floor. But, most of all, my favorite memory of Pizza Hut was the great times we had while we were there.
Remember this?
Tonight I had the wonderful experience of taking my own children to Pizza Hut for the first time. Although the Montgomeryville Pizza Hut is closed, the one we went to had the same feel to it. We met my dad there. I arrived first, and knew just what to order - Thin and Crispy with Green Peppers. Pizza Hut felt familiar, it felt right. It was so much fun to rediscover a childhood memory and relive it with my kids. And, to reminisce with my dad about our own family, and to watch him build on those experiences with a new generation. To me, this is passing on tradition. This is what having a family is all about. Sharing the past, and living in the moment.

Sunday, October 21, 2012


In the past couple weeks I have heard 2 stories of how people's news has been "leaked" via facebook or text messaging. This is unacceptable. I have embraced technology, and use it often, but I certainly don't abuse the social media. So, I write this post to remind all of us about the importance and sensitivity of news. We all have news to share - sometimes good, sometimes bad. In the case of these two stories, both were about the death of someone. In my opinion, this should not hit the social media until all important family members and friends are notified of the sad news. Then, once everyone is on the same page, the immediate family should be the ones to decide how they want to make their news public. So, my lesson learned? Don't be the one to post someone else's news. And, don't use social networking to pass along important news. Try the old fashioned making a phone call.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A Mother's Instinct

2 nights ago while putting Patrick to bed Shannon woke up. This NEVER happens. Shannon is a sound sleeper, and sleeps through Patrick's tantrums at bedtime. She was inconsolable. So, for about 10 minutes, 10 long minutes, 10 ear piercing excruciating long minutes both kids screamed. And, during this time I had flashbacks to last year. My kids were sick nearly every week last year, and I am terrified the pattern will continue this year. Patrick stopped screaming first, but Shannon was still crying. We finally calmed her down, put her back in her crib (because she'd rather be there than cuddle with us) and she fell asleep. 30 minutes later she was up again. At that point I knew something was wrong, and my gut said Ear infection....
So we found ourselves sitting in the muggy, hot examination room at our doctors. I like my pediatrician's office, but there is a doctor or 2 that I would rather not see, and, of course, today I had one of them.
He walked in, asked me to explain what was going on with Shannon, then gave me this speech (which he gave me last year when I took Shannon in and she had an ear infection)
"Well, we will always look in a child's ears, but I can't make any guarantees that I will see anything. Has she had a runny nose? (no) Well, an ear infection almost always comes after the runny nose. BUT, I will gladly take a look to see if I see anything. Now, I am only looking today. Tomorrow she could develop an ear infection, or maybe in 2 days, so I can only look for today."
He looked in the first ear - "Perfect gray ear." Then looks in the other and says, "Hmm this light seems to have gotten dull, let me go change it." So he leaves, gets a new ear inspector thing, and peers in her ear again. "I'm seeing some irritation and red ear. Hmm wasn't expecting to see that in there."

So....I was right. As a veteran mom, I know my child. Even though she didn't have any other symptoms of an ear infection (fever, runny nose) I just knew by her scream and night waking. The lesson I your instincts. Doctors may know medicine and symptoms, but they don't know your children personally. And, some are pompous about their expertise. This is the second time I've proven this doctor wrong.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Musical Mornings

As Shannon continues to explore new sounds and words (it seems like she has a new word every day!) I thought it might be fun to listen to music as we ate breakfast. So, that is what we did this morning. And we LOVED it! This is such a simple solution to drown out the morning complaints, and bring some energy and excitement to the breakfast table. I have a pandora elmo's radio station that is a nice blend of Sesame Street songs, Bob Marley, and Mickey Clubhouse. Just thought I'd share a nice little morning trick that starts our day off on the right foot.