The Biggest Impact: Attitude

I had the privilege of an impromptu conversation with my son’s teacher at my first PTO meeting last week, and I loved getting some light shed on my son’s school-life. It’s hard, isn’t it, to not know exactly what our children are doing while at school all day? Even the most open child can not give us the full picture of their school experience, so the best way to finish painting that picture is to either volunteer in the classroom or to talk to our child’s teacher.

His Kindergarten teacher said that she just loves him. That he is so smart. That he is learning very quickly. That he is participating in class. That he gets along with the other children. And that he has only gotten in “trouble” once, for talking when he needed to stop talking. (I have no idea where he gets the chattiness from, I thought, after I was shushed for talking to his teacher when they were trying to start the PTO meeting…). The only thing that she said that was slightly negative about him was his sassiness, which she made to sound like she sees it more amusing rather than an issue.

She gave me an example of during their “special friend” portion of the day, where they select one classmate to be the friend of the day, and all of the other children get to ask that child questions such as their favorite color, or food, or TV show. My son is really into sports. He watches Sports Center while getting ready for school most mornings. He is constantly playing football, indoors or outdoors. He makes up his own plays and writes them down on paper and keeps a scoreboard on his dry-erase board. He loves all sports, but he has a particular passion for football during the football season. (Incidentally, I was packing his lunch in the kitchen this morning when I heard him yelling and getting upset in the family room. When I went to see what all the commotion was about, I saw that he was yelling, “Come on!! Green Bay HAD that! He HAD the BALL! The Packers should have WON!” at the replays of the Seattle vs. Green Bay controversial touchdown during last night’s game. Even the littlest of fans weren’t happy about that call!) But back to the “special friend” story, my son asked one classmate last week who his favorite football team was, and when the child replied, “The Rams,” my son gave him a “you’ve gotta be kidding me” look and then said with the utmost of sass, “No, I meant, college football.”

Where do children learn this sassiness from? I hear it in my son’s voice all-to-often. I hear it in other children when they play together. And if I’m honest with myself, I hear it in my own voice at times too. We sometimes use that “I know more than you do” tone as parents, so is it any wonder that our children use that it with us or their friends? It’s like a mirror pointing right back at me when he sasses me, saying, “This is how you sound when you talk like this.” As parents, we really have to be careful of not only what we say to our children, but how we say it. Because it all comes right back to us eventually. And sure I can tell him that I don’t like that tone, that it sounds disrespectful. But the best way to curb the sass from our children is to be conscious of the tone in our own voice, whether we are talking to them, or our spouse, or a friend on the phone. We have to model the kind of behavior that we would like to see in our children.

While we are talking about sassiness, there is another kind of attitude that has an even bigger impact on our child’s success, and that is the attitude with which we approach life. I hear a lot of people through social media, reality TV, blogs, etc. who have negative attitudes towards life. Sometimes it’s meant to be comical, and that’s okay for the sake of entertainment. But for some of those people, that attitude is real, and it’s really how they view their lives and the world around them. On any given day, something may go wrong. Sometimes we have a plan for our lives that just doesn’t ever seem to work out the way we want it to. But what has an even greater impact on whether we succeed or fail is the way that we approach the bad stuff. If we dwell on the things that go wrong, that’s just time taken away from the great things that are going on. When bills are piling up, you can’t just ignore them, but you can pay them off little-by-little and know that it’s just money. My husband helps me with that part of life more than anyone. Not only with the fact that he is supporting us financially right now, but that he has the type of attitude of money is just money. We will never have “enough” of it (because what’s “enough” is completely relative anyway), and we can’t take it with us when we go. And I’m starting to embrace it as a challenge instead of a burden. How can I save money? How can we enjoy life without spending money? My mom came to visit yesterday, and we spent an entire day enjoying the beautiful, natural world around us by hiking, talking, skipping rocks, touring visitor’s centers, sight-seeing, and taking pictures at a local lake and state park. It was a lovely day for us, and it cost nothing but a bit of gas to get there and our picnic lunch.

Finding a way to look at the hardships in life as a blessing takes some serious effort. The CF community amazes me with this everyday. Would they choose to go through what accompanies having cystic fibrosis? Definitely not. It was a sad weekend in the CF community, because a beautiful young girl died at the age of fifteen due to CF-related struggles. (RIP, Lucy) And although many young people with CF felt very sad for her and her family, they keep doing what they need to do to keep themselves healthy. It’s a daily battle against the odds for them, but most of them approach the disease with an “I won’t let it beat me” attitude. They have a deeper appreciation for life than I can imagine. They find things to laugh about instead of things to complain about. As a parent of a child with CF, this is so important to embrace a “you have CF, but it doesn’t have you” attitude. No amount of complaining is going to take the disease away, and it would only give him a poor outlook on his life.

The more bad stuff that life chucks at you, the harder it is to keep a positive attitude. But I know that it’s vital to our health, our mind, and our well-being to stay positive. Sure, sometimes something happens that knocks us down for a while. A death of a loved one. A serious illness. The loss of a job. The loss of a home. But we can’t let any of those things keep us down, not only for our sake, but for the sake of our children. Because our children can’t be at our side forever, and once they start venturing out into the world without us, we can’t be a constant protection from the bad stuff. They are going to get hurt, get sick, get their hearts broken, lose a friend, struggle with schoolwork, get bullied. As parents, we need to show them that it’s okay. That we may get knocked down by life, but that we get back up again and find something to smile about.

My boys learn everything from me. I need to cut out the sass, and stay focused on the good things in life. Because if you ask me, my life is pretty darn good, and I want them to see life that way too.

How do you encourage a positive attitude?

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Play the Part: Parents are a child’s best teacher

Folks, it’s Friday, and I usually keep it light. I like ending the week on a little note that’s short and sweet, so that I can spend most of the day preparing for the weekend. But something happened yesterday that really touched my heart, and I need to share it with all of you.

Now I realize that I can get a bit preachy at times, especially when it comes to a parent’s responsibility to their children. So I need you to bear with me and understand three things:

  1. I write about parenting and children, because I care about the kids. My kids. Your kids. Kids that I see in public. Kids that I hear about in articles or on the news. Kids that I have never heard of. If I were to be defined my one “passion,” it would be all about the children.
  2. These are just my thoughts and opinions, but I do read a lot of research-based articles that help me form these opinions, along with the collaborative thoughts, comments, and observations that I witness in parents that I see all around me (including my husband and myself).
  3. I am not a perfect parent. I mess up as a parent all. the. time. I get frustrated when my son has asked me the same question five times, when I have answered at least four of those times with the same response, leading me to believe that he is simply not listening to me. So I might lose my patience and snap, “Son! If you would LISTEN to me after you ask the question, you would only need to ask it ONCE!” I have been known to give him a sugary snack right before bedtime (during last year’s football season, we had a tradition of Sunday Night Sundaes… Mmm… I think I might bring that tradition back…) My husband and I will argue about the best way to parent. I usually think I’m right. He usually thinks he’s right. But we try our best to meet each other in the middle.

What I strive for on this blog is to reach others while I am simultaneously reaching myself. To keep all of us parents on the right track.

Now that we’re all in the same boat, I have to get back to sharing what happened yesterday. Yesterday was my first PTO meeting. And it got me a bit fired up about our job as parents when it comes to our children’s education. In our small school of just over 400 students, I think I counted four or five parents that attended this meeting that were not also part of the school’s faculty or staff. That’s it? Yes. That was it. And that was including myself. It was my first PTO meeting, and I didn’t know what to expect, but I was completely shock by lack of turn-out from parents. I’m sure this is not always the case, and I know that we can’t do everything that we would like as parents. We are moms and dads, not Wonder Woman and Superman.

But as I listened throughout the meeting… Fundraising goals falling short. Need more volunteers. Help us raise more money. And it’s not about raising money for luxury items. They need the money for tables to accommodate the students. They need grants to help support the children that come from low-income families (we are one of those families). And it’s not just about the money.

The majority of the PTO meeting was spent listening to the principal and teacher reports. Reporting on how the school year is going so far. Reporting on what is going on in the classroom. And the one common request… plea… that I heard from every teacher, reading coach, math coach, etc?

“We need parents to help their children work on this at home.”

“Parents, we need you to practice this at home.”

“Parents can go online to find out about the data that we are using, the core curriculums that we are striving to meet…”

“We need parents to read to the kids or let them read to you every day.”

The fifth grade teacher had several students that still were struggling with addition and subtraction. My son’s Kindergarten teacher has one child that only knows four letters of the alphabet. There are some children who begin school that don’t even know their full name, just the name that they go by.

Parents, our teachers are struggling, and they need our help. Most likely, if you’re a follower of this blog, you are already involved in your child’s education. And that is wonderful. Some children get homework sent home every night. Some parents make sure that their children complete their homework before dinner. I think that the responsibility of a child’s education needs to fall mostly onto that child’s own shoulders. I’m not suggesting that we as parents need to force our children to sit down and study for hours. But we absolutely need to be involved in their education. We need to set aside a time each day for homework, math or reading practice, or other areas of interest to our children. It doesn’t need to be all worksheets and flash cards either. I am a huge advocate of learning through play, so make it fun! If you make sitting down to work on these skills seem like a chore, then that is how your children will see it, and it will be a struggle. But you can play with Lego blocks and sort them by size, shape, color. Add them together. Subtract them. Sort them into three groups of five, and use multiplication to come up with the answer. Set out twenty pieces and challenge your child to divide them into equal groups (two groups of ten, four groups of five, five groups of four, etc.) Let them play, and they will amaze you with the imaginative and creative ways that they come up with all while working on basic math skills. Go outside with a stick and some dirt, and practice writing sight words in the dirt. There are tons of resources out there that provide parents with thousands of examples on how to help your child’s education at home, and I will link up a few of those at the bottom of this post.

Something we need to keep in mind is that we are our child’s constant teacher and role model. They will learn more from us than they will from any one teacher that they have. Sure, I had several teachers that touched my life and had a great, positive influence on my education. But if you ask me who my biggest role model is? My mom. Hands down. I may not have turned out to be just like her, but she is without a doubt the biggest influence on my life. My son informed me this morning that there are 153 days in his school year (keep in mind that we don’t go to school on Mondays!), which leaves 203 days that they are with us. What we do at home with our children can make such a huge impact on their learning abilities. Also keep in mind that your child’s teacher has twenty or more children whose education is equally important. That’s a big task, especially when you have one child who doesn’t know how to write his own name, and you have other children reading at a first-grade level. How many children’s education are we concerned with? One or two? Four? Six?

Another topic they talked about in the PTO meeting was that teachers and schools are bumping up their standards. The state of Missouri got a waiver on the “No Child Left Behind” act, and what was once considered second-grade material is now being taught in first-grade, etc. Our teachers have high expectations of our children. Shouldn’t we? Some parents take on the attitude of “Well that’s why I send him to school!” or “That’s what I pay his preschool to do!” I’m telling you that it isn’t enough. From the time that children are born, they look to their parents to teach them. Teachers can only accomplish so much in the time that they have the children. It’s up to us to do the rest. And if your child is doing well in school, does that mean that we’re off the hook at home? Absolutely not. Chances are, the reason that they are doing well is because of our past involvement in their education, and we need to maintain the attitude that we can always learn more. Find fun ways to challenge your child. Or if they have the math skills down, give them some paint and a big piece of paper and let them express their creativity instead. If they already know all of their sight words, encourage them come up with a story and write it down on paper. Bind the pages together and help them create their first, original book.

On a side note that was only indirectly addressed at the PTO meeting, we also need to keep in mind that learning starts at birth. Parents As Teachers is a wonderful organization that gets your child on track right from the beginning. I love this quote that they have on the website in reference to a child being prepared for school: “This study says those states that wait to start early childhood education until age 4 are making a huge mistake…by starting at birth, Parents as Teachers starts at just the right time.” –Dr. Edward Zigler If you have a child that is under the age of five, please visit their website and use their “Program Locator” to find the program in your area.

I’m sure that most of you are already involved in your child’s education and their school. I know it has always been important to me. But I also know that I can always do better, and that sometimes I slack. I am challenging myself to step it up a notch. To really be there for my son, for his fellow classmates, for the school, for the community.

How do you stay involved in your child’s education?

Parenting Resources: (homework help, fun learning activities at home, how to get involved in school, and much more!)


Getting Sticky! Sensory and Creative Art

I love a good, fun mess. I may not love the aftermath, but the process of creating the mess is worth the trouble of cleaning it up afterwards. With that in mind, you need to be a brave soul to try the simple but oh-so-messy sensory and creative art activity that I am sharing today!

When children are very young, creative art is as much about the sensory aspect of it as it is the creativity. For older children who already know how to manipulate a wide variety of materials, art can take on a much deeper level of creativity. They can really focus on what they are creating, because they already know how to create. For that reason, it is vital to a child’s creative expression that they are allowed to experience frequent, simple, and variable creative opportunities when they are small. So far my little guy has used washable markers, crayons, a paintbrush, finger-paints, watercolors, paper, tissue paper and glue during art activities. Today, I wanted to let him explore something really tactile and different. So I made a simple, sticky solution of corn syrup, food coloring, and just a splash of water (to thin it out a bit and make it easier to manipulate) for him to explore.

Stir in just a dash of water with the corn syrup and food coloring. You don’t want it to be too runny.

Then I got my little guy into just a diaper (you could also use a paint smock or old shirt for older children) and put him in his “art” chair. A highchair would work just as well for babies, and older children can sit on a drop cloth on the floor or at a table that is easily cleaned. Keep in mind that the easier the work surface is to clean, the better for you post-activity!

I put some of the corn syrup mixture onto a piece of card stock (you can also use construction paper) and let him spread it around to his little heart’s content!

“Okay, Mom, I’m done. Enough with the pictures.”

A quick scrub in the sink with warm water and soap, and we were sticky-free! When the corn syrup mixture dries on the paper, it’s a really shiny, 3D sort of effect, which is pretty neat to hang on the wall or fridge for them to look at their own artwork later.

**What kinds of creative activities do you and your children enjoy? I’m linking up with the Weekly Kid’s Co-Op, so be sure to check out some of the wonderful activities shared here as well!**


Organizing Your Child’s School Work

Ever since school started in August, my son has been bringing home a small collection each week of the school work that he is accomplishing. This may be letting the inner-geek in me show a bit, but I love paperwork! I still remember how fun it was to do various worksheets at school, to get a sticker or a star or a stamp of approval from my teacher, and then tote it home to mom and dad to show off what I’d done. It was fun to me! (And yes, I was definitely a “teacher’s pet” in school and proud of it!) 🙂 Although my son doesn’t seem to be quite as excited about doing that sort of work at school (It’s more like “Here, Mom,” as he tosses over a stack of papers and runs away in search of his football), he does well in the work that he brings home, and I am proud of it. I’m proud of his accomplishments, big or small. And with this being his first year of school, it’s hard for me not to hold onto every piece of paper that he brings home.

So I began putting them in a neat little pile on our dining room table. And the pile grew. And grew. And grew. It’s amazing how big that stack grew in just one month! And it wasn’t just his stack of school papers that began accumulating. I started adding other piles to the table for insurance paperwork and paperwork from doctor’s visits. Small toys somehow started ending up on the dining table as well. A camera. Playing cards. Batteries. A broken X-Box system. It seems to be a scientific fact that if you add even the smallest amount of clutter to a space, the clutter will just keep multiplying. Our dining table quickly became a dumping ground, and my son’s schoolwork simply got lost in the clutter. I was devaluing something that I truly valued and wanted to preserve.

So this week, I’ve saved my dining table and my son’s  school work at the same time. I purchased an inexpensive expandable folder, and I started going through the pile, choosing my favorite pieces to keep and tossing the rest in the trash. As much as I love all of his little worksheets and art projects, it’s simply not practical to keep all of it. Having a set amount of space to organize his school work is important, because it keeps my paperwork hoarding tendencies at bay.

After I narrowed the paperwork down to the pieces I thought were the most meaningful, I wrote little descriptions and dates on them. Years from now, my son and I may not remember the significance of the pieces or what made us so inclined to keep them, so adding this step will help jog the memory.

I then labeled the expanding folder tabs with Preschool-5th grade.

 

And put my son’s school work in the Kindergarten slot.

Since we are only a month into the school year, and there is not an enormous amount of space in the expanding folder, I may need to look through the selection from time to time and pull out more pieces that may not be as significant to keep. Holding on to it for a while first allows me to gain some distance from each piece. For instance, when he brings a cute little cut-and-paste worksheet, it seems like something I have to keep. But as the school year goes on, and we have ten similar worksheets, I will be able to narrow it down to only a couple of worksheets within the same category. By the end of the school year, we will have a nicely organized collection of all of his accomplishments for his first year of school, and my dining table can stay clutter-free!

Do you have a place that has become a “dumping ground” in your home? How do you preserve and organize your child’s school work?


Feel Good Friday: BFFs, Catching Up, and Baby Boy

I’m so happy that it is Friday! My big boy was not wanting to go to school this morning, because his “BFF” was not at school yesterday, and school isn’t as fun without his BFF. But he went off to school anyway, and I even got an “I love you” and a smile before he closed the car door, so I feel good about that.

I was also able to catch up quite a bit on my big boy’s scrapbook this week. I’m slowly but surely making my way through the enormous stack of photos that I have stockpiled over the years, and that feels so good!

Progress!

It also feels good that today, my baby boy is four months old, and he is just as happy and healthy as he can possibly be. We are crossing our fingers for positive reassurance and affirmation coming up at his CF clinic appointment on Monday, so please say a prayer for the little guy this weekend if you think of it!

Happy little fella.

I also received some wonderful news last night that my sister and her boyfriend are expecting a baby boy in February! I’m so thrilled that my baby boy and my first nephew will be only nine months apart in age. I’m sure they will be great little cousins and friends. And that feels so good.

Have a happy weekend! 🙂

What do you feel good about today?


What Subject Is Your Parenting?

Schools across the nation are back into the swing of things. By now, most teachers and students have a handle on their daily routine, and they are beginning to optimize the school day for learning. When I think about being in school, I remember all the different subjects from which we drew to become our collective knowledge-math, science, literature, music, PE, and art. I find myself comparing these individual subjects to different parenting styles, and it makes me wonder, “Which subject am I?”

Am I a math parent? Do I add rewards when I’m pleased with my son, and subtract them when I’m displeased? Do I require a clear and straight result for each task my son performs? Two plus two certainly equals four, as does eating all your vegetables equals dessert. Do I count my blessings and add value to my children’s lives?

Am I a science parent? Do I make a hypothesis on the best ways to encourage my son and test the hypothesis repeatedly? It either becomes a household theory of success, or I take it back to the beginning with a new hypothesis. Is it about experimenting and trial and error? In the same way that modern science is constantly evolving and requiring fresh, innovative ways of thinking, such is the science of parenting. The successful theory of earning a sticker for going to the potty on time for a three-year-old no longer seems to hold up as significant for a five-year-old learning to get himself to bed on time. Stickers no longer work, so we must form a new hypothesis.

Am I a literature parent? Do I pour over the latest, trending parenting techniques through countless, credible sources? Do I read through articles, books, and parenting magazines, in search for the great classics of parenting, such as the importance of good ol’ quality time, or the more modern reading materials that support attachment parenting and “unschooling.” Do we choose our words wisely when speaking to our children, so that they, as our readers, can get the message that we are trying to convey?

Am I a music parent? Do I look for ways to help my child express his emotions with the words that we say and the rhythms of our body language? Do I hit high notes and low notes, and through dedicated practicing somehow come up with a wonderful harmony in our parent-child relationship?

Am I a PE parent? Am I parenting in a way that promotes healthy life choices, such as exercise and eating nutritiously? Do I parent in a way that we are always active and on the go? Am I competitive? Certainly, I want to be a “gold medal” parent, excelling in the sport of parenting.

Am I an art parent? Am I creative in my parenting style? Do I see parenting as both abstract and an opportunity for creative freedom? Do I see my child as a blank canvas, waiting to be given a brush and a dab of paint, letting him splash a bit of color here while I add a shade there, until the beautiful piece of art that we see before us is a unique, creative individual?

There are so many different parenting styles out there, that it can be overwhelming at times. Much like a child trying to learn about all of these subjects simultaneously in school, it can certainly be tough for us parents. And a bit confusing. I think you’ll agree with me that parenting is all of these subjects rolled into one, and there is no easy answer as to what works best for all parents or with all children. What I do know, is that parenting is a subject at which we can’t afford to fail, and that we are our children’s greatest teachers.

What is your parenting style?

 


Are you and your children drinking enough water?

We’ve all heard it a thousand times in our lives. That age old talk about the importance of water. We know we can’t live without it. We know it helps our bodies function properly. But do we really know why?

I know I didn’t know the science behind the importance of water, other than staying hydrated, until I read this article that I came across on a post by RunSickboyRun.com. While Ronnie did a fantastic job of highlighting this article, I felt the need to share its message with you as well.

Here are some interesting facts from the artcle that I didn’t realize:

  • approximately 99% of Americans do not drink enough water daily
  • many of the ailments that we resolve by taking drugs can be alleviated by drinking water
  • water is a lubricant for our joints, and drinking enough water can help prevent arthritis or back pain
  • water increases the efficiency of your immune system
  • water decreases clogging of the arteries and therefore reduces risk of heart attack and stroke
  • water prevents memory loss. some scientists believe that Alzheimer’s is contributed by long-term dehydration
  • because water is needed to efficiently manufacture neurotransmitters in the brain, it improves our attention span, and can prevent attention deficit disorder (ADD)
  • water reduces the effects of aging, helping our skin have a youthful glow
  • by the time your mouth feels dry or feel thirsty, you are mildly dehydrated, as that is one of the last symptoms of dehydration
  • drinking more than 6-8oz of water with a meal slows the digestion process, because it washes down stomach enzymes and hydrochloric acid of the saliva, both neccessary for proper digestion of nutrients (this is extremely helpful to know with a child who has cystic fibrosis, but also important for us all!)

In the article, they also provide an easy formula that will tell you exactly how many ounces of water you need per day, determined simply by your weight. Do the math and see if you and your children are drinking enough water. If you have a hard time getting your children to drink enough water, first ask yourself: Do I drink enough water? Our children want to be just like us, and if they see you drinking soda, coffee, tea, or juice, they will want to drink that too. But if they see you counting and measuring and drinking your water daily, and you talk about how important it is for your body, they will follow your lead. Monkey-see, monkey-do is one of the many values of a trusting parent-child relationship!

One issue that we are facing is my son getting enough water at school. I notice that he is almost always thirsty when I pick him up from school, and even though we live just a few blocks from the school, I have started bringing a glass of water with me for him. I’ve asked him whether or not he gets to drink from a water fountain during the day, and he said not very often. In fact, it is apparently one of the rules that they can not ask to go get a drink during P.E. class. I understand that they have only a short amount of time allotted for P.E. class, and it’s very important that the children are engaged the entire time. After all, they spend a lot of the day sitting, and getting exercise through recess and P.E. is vital to a child’s well-being as well. However, when I asked my son if they get a drink of water before going back to class, and he also said no to that. My sister-in-law made the suggestion of bringing a water bottle to school with him, and I think that is a great idea, as long as it’s allowed. I have e-mailed his school teacher and the school nurse to start investigating this issue, and I hope to come to a resolution soon. They are wonderful teachers and staff at his school, and I suspect that this issue will be easily resolved. 🙂

Here are the changes we are making at home:

  1. The game plan for my son: I can easily measure out the amount that he will need for the day, divide it into two water bottles-one for home, one for school. It’s a no-thinking-required way of getting enough water in his little system daily. As long as the two water bottles are empty at the end of each day, the mission is accomplished. If they are not empty before dinner, then he should finish the water that is left before drinking milk or juice.
  2. The game plan for myself: I love the large water jug that I received in the hospital when my youngest son was born. It has lines for measurement up to 32oz, and I have calculated that I need to drink approximately two full mugs per day in order to get an adequate amount of water for my weight. It can’t get much easier than that!

How do you make sure that you and your children are getting enough water? Will you join me in my challenge to make this a lifestyle change?