Me and my kiddo

Me and my kiddo

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Manners for Sensory Seekers

You're at the restaurant and he's under the table, clinking the glasses, or talking like you were a football field away.  You're introducing her to a friend's child and the first response is a tackle hug.  When you have a kid with sensory issues, you can walk into any room and the smell, noise, light or whatever aspect of the sensory environment can push them into the red zone.  So... what can you do?  

Manners are still important.  Decompensating into screaming fits would not be the coping mechanism you'd pick for you child, so the first thing I try to do is always find constructive outlets.  If my kiddo is finding the quiet or the stillness highly stressful, I look for a sensory stimulus to address those needs.  It takes one sandwich bag with a folded piece of parchment paper and a mini-playdough to give that soothing experience for their hands while protecting the restaurant's table cloth.  Even with prep work, they may still need an audio book to listen to to keep their vocal volume acceptable.  If you know you're meeting a new person and you know you've got a sensory seeker you can discuss meeting them at the park and get there fifteen minutes early to help the greeting glee be less overwhelming.  Manners usually require a great deal of control and sensory seekers are especially needful of strategies that can help them regulate their keyed up neurological system.

The second idea I try to keep in mind is humor. I go over lots of fun situations in this post, but the key is using this tool to keep things pleasant.  I might eagerly ask my kid under the table if there were any other moles under there since the chef was looking for something to cook.  So often, the grin can move things back to a positive zone as the head pops up to discuss the situation.

Finally, I keep in mind my child's current regulation abilities and respect his challenge by... not pushing it.  If my son has reached his sensory limit, we take a walk around the restaurant parking lot (or a skip)!  It leaves us both happier and lets him learn.  He can't grow when trapped between a disregulated body and a scolding parent.

This post isn't about the wonderful ways for motivating kids to learn manners by pointing out the consequences of actions.  Nor is it about the extensive practicing, modeling, and discussion that goes on beforehand to set your kids up for success.  This is litterally the process I go through when I see or predict a sensory issue.  I offer an alternative.  I provide a humorous, non-threatening way to return focus.  I discuss the choices and we move forward.

And... when I'm caught unawares, bowled over, sometimes literally knocked flat in the sand... I try to laugh and to remember how joyous it is to have a child that loves me so much, that  he wants to fire every neuron in his brain with the feeling of being close to mommy.  

It has taken me years of practice, but I know when I achieve that response in myself, I've achieved something pricelessly precious in my parenting.

(Ocean Shores, Washington.  It is a great joy to me that my husband caught one of those moments on film. It's a big picture, so double click on it for an extra smile :) )

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Movie Keepers

Continuing on with my response to Heather's question, I decided to tackle the movies category.  I'm focusing on young kid movies, but these do get a little longer at the end.  I was highly successful with watching longer movies in half hour blocks when my son was younger.  Sometimes, we'd watch the first block multiple times before moving on.

I don't find nearly as many movies as books that I would categorize as "gems".  There is almost always some drawback, but that can spur fascinating conversations, now a days.  I found it much more frustrating when my son was younger and I had fewer concepts availble to explain i.e. he just didn't have the context to understand so many issues.  I have gone through our library again though and picked out those that I'd put in the "keeper" category :)

Animated shorts:

Three of my top favorites on one disc!  "Peter and the Wolf" is great for teaching musical instruments (each character has a musical theme which is stated in the introduction) and it's also valuable for discussing different points of view.  "Susie the Blue Coop" is just endearing and was powerful for my son in helping him grasp how even when something (someone?) looks "used up" effort can still turn things around.  Finally, "The Brave Little Taylor" was a lot more inspirational than I would have expected.  I think the key is that he perseveres and keeps thinking while in peril.

This is another compilation and I think the best one is "The Three Little Pigs".  It's a classic for planning ahead and, as we say in my house, "jiffy thinking".  The Grasshopper and the Ants and the The Tortise and the Hare are also good tales for starting discussions.

I love two on this compilation and they're both treasures.  The Andrews Sisters sing the story of "Little Toot", a great tale of tugboat who goofs, feels terrible, and makes good in the end.  (I just wish they hadn't added the lightening!)  I have had so many discussions about the feelings involved and the redemption in this story and it's really delightful to listen to again and again.  Also, "Lambert the Sheepish Lion" (in the bonus section) is the sweet story of a lion who discovers his strength after being, well, sheepish.  It is fanciful and fun and a great springboard for discussing teasing.  It was one that I purposely went out and bought the book and recorded it because my son so loved the story.

Many of these shorts are just OK, but The Sorcerer's Apprentice has been a favorite in this house.  The music perfectly matches the actions and we can talk about the mistakes that both the grown up and the kid made.  As a bonus, here's a link to my husband reading the book with a kid-endearing Mickey voice (Audio File).

Rikki Tikki Tavi is a fabulous story for discussing resourceful actions, courage, and just intriguing a kid about a different country.  We enjoyed the book for quite awhile before getting the short which has basic animation, but follows the story well.  I offer the huge caveat that The White Seal (another short on the disc) is a terribly anti-man story, so this is definitely a disc to watch with the kiddos and hold off on that one until your kiddo is ready.  I made the mistake of not clarifying that limit with the babysitter.  My son was old enough to understand the error in the story after lots of discussion, but it's not a good one for regular watching... especially for a sensitive kid.

This is my favorite of the series and offers lots of food for thought in brief snippets.  I'm not a wild Thomas fan, but the brief stories are approachable and a good base for imaginative play with the toys that match.  I'd definitely look for second hand tracks and trains though because this brand name is pricey!

Mr. Rogers talks to kids in a thoughtful, straightforward manner.  I've watched the four DVDs available and I find all of them pleasant because of the solid base in respecting a kid's mind.  In this one, I like that they emphasize that friends and family can have angry feelings while still loving each other.  I haven't found his episodes stimulate deep conversation or do much more than entertain, but I have enjoyed them at that level.

My list used to be much longer here, but I think I like many Disney movies, especially Sleeping Beauty*, Cinderella, and Snow White, because they remind me of how happy I was with fairy tale romance as a kid.  Give it a good happily ever after and you usually had me.  We do have several dozen Disney movies, but, looking at this from the parenting point of view, these are the few that I think are worthy of mention.

Aside from the awesome scene I discussed here, I like that this movie shows an independent kid fighting for his values.  The bad guy is a poacher and I was able to discuss how he was stealing.  Villains like this have really helped my son with understanding how choosing to steal and cheat instead of create values doesn't lead to happiness. That concept is still a work in progress, but this film is a good basis for those discussions.  (If kids are still getting confused by anthropomorphism though, it's worth waiting because the mix of animals with and without human cognition is extensive.)

There isn't one specific thing that makes this movie worth it; it's just lots of little things combined.  The boy King Arthur is hard working and genuinely growing in understanding as the movie progresses.  He relishes the magical experiences Merlin provides.  He is willing to defend Merlin as a friend in a scene that offers so much food for discussion because Arthur loses his temper.  The wizzard's duel is great as a basis for discussing the power of quick thinking.  I also love Arthur for admitting he doesn't know how to run a country and trying to run away!  There is lots of silly and lots of fanciful, but I think this is one that's just plain fun too.

I think the best part about this one is helping kids understand an adult's protective point of view.  Mowgli, like most kids, thinks the protector is being mean or unfair.  Mowgli wants to stay in the jungle despite risks which he doesn't have the context to understand.  But, kids can start to get the edge of this alternate perspective, by understanding how much the panther (grown up) really loves Mowgli and is right to insist on him leaving.  Baloo is an absolutely endearing character as the pampering parent, but his refusal to pay attention to Mowgli's vulnerability is shown.  There are some goofy side scenes, but it's an overall "keeper" in my book.

It's a classic tale of redemption as the beast understands his errors and works to improve.  The idea that choices, the character one builds, are more important than looks is revisited in multiple ways.  I think some of the tangents would be difficult for a younger kid to follow, but this is a beautiful happily ever and for the right reasons.

*I'd pick Sleeping Beauty of all the simple princess movies because of the vibrant characters and Tchaikovsky's glorious music that so captures the romance, playfulness, and violence of the various scenes.

I think this movie is a powerful demonstration of how important it is to be clear about your values if you want to be happy, fulfilled.  There is the acknowledged anti-industrial message, but it didn't take much chatting to discuss how highways were good for somethings and windy roads good for other things i.e. highways are not automatically bad.  Admitting the mixed messages, the delightful personalities and multiple opportunities to learn from the characters' mistakes have been valuable.

Mostly, I think kids will get a fanciful, entertaining story, but there is an underlying support of seriously valuing greatness.  The little boy has one of the best lines in the whole movie.  When his mom says, "Everyone is special." (as a justification for him to not excel), he responds, "Which is another way of saying no one is."

The messages in The Iron Giant can be powerful, but I think they're easily missed by younger kids.  My husband is a huge fan though and, if a kid can understand the point of view of a passionately valuing creature that is so different from us, it can be inspirational.  Similarly, Ratatouille presents a passionately valuing rat, who is endearing with his zest for creating quality food.  I personally find it delightful, but there's a lot going on that a younger kid will likely miss.


It's stunningly beautiful and much more logically put together than many of the productions I've seen live.  I needed to sit with my son and narrate the first time and after that he was mesmerized by the ballet.   Baryshnikov and the music are both enchanting and it literally took two weeks before my son was interested in anything else for his half hour of TV time  as a toddler.

I just have to put this in because it was the first grown-up movie that I really worked through understanding, a little at a time, with my son (we thought he'd enjoy atttending the musical if he was prepared).  The funniest part was writing our descriptions for each character i.e. what was most important about them.  He still says, "Horace Vandergelder thinks women are just for work."  Boy did that stimulate conversation and... he loved seeing the musical!

This is the Cinderella story from the prince's point of view.  I absolutely adored this movie as a child.  There are the same magical aspects of the original story, but the prince is such an admirable character seeking his true love.  He is playful and friendly and sincere and the whole story just comes off more worthy of a happily-ever-after.  I must add the caveat that the newer version added several scenes which detracted (made both the prince and Cinderella into more vacillating characters).  The scene where he dances in the royal mausoleum is priceless (the song starts cheerfully, "Oh, ho, ho, what a comforting thing to know.  There's a pre-arranged spot in the family plot where my royal bones with go." (Apparently, the price is so high because this isn't being produced anymore, but VHS is cheaper).

I can't do more than say what I did before about Anne of Green Gables.  This movie does the story and the character justice.  It is long though, so definitely one to break up the delight over many days.

This is definitely for the little more mature set and not for a sensitive kid, but I was absolutely amazed by how much value my son gained from this movie once he understood the setting as being within a storybook.  The majority of the humor was lost on him, but he understood that Westley was both a hero that had jiffy thinking and could do lots of jiffy things too.  He was fascinated by the prince and we had long conversations about what it means to be a coward.  I can easily see a sensitive kid being traumatized by the scary beasts and I skipped the scene where "the machine" is on high for the first half dozen viewings because I thought it was too frightening.

Finally, I just want to mention The Sound of Music.  With seven children, there is a kid for almost every child to identify with as they watch.  I loved this as a kid and I've worked on sharing it with my son several times without success.  I've only shared movies here that have passed his test for gleeful appreciation too.

Whew, another huge one and I thought I didn't have many to mention!  I'd love to hear what movies you might add in the comments.  It's been awhile since we've found a new kid one, but I'm looking forward to getting into all my old musicals!  We've seen just a bit of Singin' in the Rain and he loves the tap dancing :)

Friday, April 23, 2010

Bridle Veil Falls

We had a fabulous hike this week that included eight Objectivist friends too.  Bridle Veil Falls was beautiful and we almost made it up to the lake... surprise snow eventually turned us round as my slippery sliding got a bit too scary.

Other things to share:
This week's Objectivist Round Up.

Cute antics:
• getting things for a project we noted he'd need paper and scissors and I mentioned that he'd need hands to which I got a knowing, "I have hands stuck to my body!" (Ah, I guess those don't get misplaced.  Silly Mommy :) )
• returning from the 7 mile hike, he proceeded to do more than twenty laps around the house and told me, "I just walked today.  I didn't run!"

Monday, April 19, 2010

Update: Autobiographical (Episodic) Memory

I implemented the first board this afternoon and it was a full success!  We talked about each picture and compared how he'd changed.  Then, I printed out a 4x6 card to fill in that said:
Look at my hiking pictures!
I'm a person who...

After lots of discussion, we wrote on the the five lines:
tries hard
can hike places most six year olds can't
is getting more independent
learns new things
gets up when I fall, unless I can't 

He has come back to the board several times throughout the evening and moved it to a spot he could see it better.

I'm glowing :)  I ordered a photo album and will slip the 4x6 pictures along with the filled-in card for each month into it so that he can keep them to review and perhaps come back to after further growth.  

Autobiographical (Episodic) Memory

Wow, this is such an exciting idea to play with and I'm thrilled to share it!  The title of the class I attended was "Make It Stick" and the goal was to share ideas for making the social teaching that parents/educators do intentionally for autistic kids (and other kids often pick up on their own) stick. 

The presenter started the class by passing around an old change purse and encouraging people to discuss it with their neighbor for a minute.  Not surprisingly, our conversation was fairly limited to descriptors and function.  Then, she shared that the purse was given to her by her grandmother who was the only person in her entire family who thought that her plan to tour Europe alone was OK.  Thus, the purse symbolized to her that another's belief in her helped her believe in herself.

The key to autobiographical / episodic memory is building those stories of self into a web that supports a person making the statement, "I'm a person who..."  Often, overcoming hardships can lead to a statement, "I'm a person who can overcome difficulties."  One of the participants reported escaping from his native country alone, at the age of 14.  When he got to America, he had persevered through so many challenges, he said, "There was no stopping me."  Children have smaller accomplishments, but they can be just as personally significant and, when focused upon, can provide the foundation for autobiographical (episodic) memory.  So, the key is taking these episodes in a child's life, pointing out the critical aspect of success, and helping them build a web of memories that support a positive self evaluation.

Some key tools in supporting these positive evaluations:

  1. Help the child to clearly understand what is intended to be remembered
  2. Think about how the child learns best (visual, tactile, auditory)
  3. Point out critical issues (kids will often miss this): how they solved a problem, resources they used, observational skills, environmental cues... identify what made a given situation successful.  
  4. Emotions must be involved to cement this kind of memory (the parental goal, in this situation, is to look at the positive spin and, even with a negative outcome, point out what they did well.)  
  5. Use a label or an object to attach the memory: " It's a record!", "best lightbulb changer prize", souvenirs, photo, journal, anything to represent the success or a key moment can help with that cementing process.
  6. Preview/Review: preview situations beforehand when possible so they know what is coming and review them afterwards to highlight what was successful. Remember to place a positive spin on that critical element.
  7. Eventually create a web of related memory to develop a positive sense of self. Categories can help, such as: My winning strategies. What works with friends.  Adventures with family.

And... the idea I'm most excited about is helping this process along with a Wall of Fame!  I might not call it that, maybe something like Growing Successes or Challenge Choo Choo (he does love trains).  Anyway, the idea that thinking about this class tweaked for me is creating a bulletin board with a title theme that I change each month and that highlights an area of success. I want to really focuses on building these autobiographical memories, these episodes of self definition, into a positive web.  

So, for example, I have lots of pictures of hiking with my son.  There are ones of him in the back pack.  There's the one of the first time he walked on his own and we made it a grand total of a few hundred feet because he was so fascinated with all the aspects of the forest.  Yesterday, we hiked seven miles together and he learned that jumping into a glacial stream isn't wise (but, not to diminish that learning about reality which is also a parenting goal,)  the hike itself was an intense accomplishment for a six year old which would be a great picture to add to the board!  I am so excited about creating these and pointing out that wealth of positive moments that he can integrate.

How wonderful and positive and joyous to focus on these aspects of success and help him build that web of memories that help him say of himself, "I am a person who tries hard, improves skills, overcomes challenges."  I am once again impressed with how many of the skills I learn to address my son's autism challenges are generalizable to parenting of any child.  If you like this idea, I am intrigued to hear in the comments what techniques you have found to help children grow a positive view of themselves.


Friday, April 16, 2010

Veggie Adventures

I've been deep in some autism research this week, so I don't have antics to share and my update was record brief too.  

Aside from sharing this week's Objectivist Round Up, my one side venture was planting some vegetables.  I'm definitely one of those water-once-a-week-and-nothing-else gardeners, so I have no clue how this will turn out.  But, this is a grand total of less than two hours of effort, including the plant purchase.

The containers at the right have onions.  The big round one below is host to two tomato plants, one cauliflower plant, and a bit of basil.  The small round one has a little pumpkin start.  So... they'll get water and we'll see what happens!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Book Gems

Heather I like your blog. I have read it a few times and it alway reinvigorates my passion for parenting my twins. If you ever have the chance I would be interested to get a list of children's books, movies, songs, etc. that you and your son both enjoy.

OK, here we go!  I've searched through the library and tried to put these in groupings of starting age.  Even the one's that start young are often great for older kids to enjoy reading themselves or understanding at higher levels.  Also, it's worth noting that my age estimates may be skewed high because my son read much earlier than typical.  Finally, I'm not recommending the particular version that I link to here because I wanted to include a picture for each book, so you might find a better deal browsing for a paperback or older edition.  

Toddler Fun:
The combination of rhyming and riddles and playful pictures make this one a pleasure to read.  The baby lama goes around asking different animals about their mamas until he finally asks another lama and they find their mamas together.  It has that highly valuable aspect of surviving many re-readings without getting irritating! Update, trying to find links since all these pictures have disappeared over the last seven years, go figure :) 

While those flaps are easy to rip, this book is a fun story of a kid who writes to the zoo to send him a pet.  He gets some unusual offerings, so this is another book which brings out lots of giggles.Update efforts

Rhymes and basic color education and a mystery all combine in this cute book.  It's particularly engaging for those kiddos building basic vocabulary. Guessing I meant this one.

This one doesn't age well, but for the one or two year old who is actually figuring out what is yummy and yucky (e.g. soup vs. soap), it seems to be a favorite.  It wasn't my favorite to read (so it's an ambivalent recommendation), but I haven't known a kid who didn't both like it and incorporate the idea into their understanding. Update efforts.

An absolutely adorable book about a mouse who loves a giraffe, the way he builds towards her is endearing.  The pages are also different sizes so you can see the tower grow.  It's a fun one :)  Updated link.

Boynton has many delightful works, but this one is particularly fun.  She excels at simple rhymes that focuses on basic areas like getting dressed or other routines.  I also love this other one as a birthday present, perhaps for a little older kid (although I've given it to grown ups before too since it's so fun). This is the birthday one, I don't remember which one I picked before.

Preschooler Play:
 I love both this one and Pancakes, Pancakes as offering Eric Carle's delightful illustrations along with his accessible stories.  This book is a fanciful story of the invention of the pretzel and the other involves the making of a breakfast pancake from threshing the wheat all the way through eating the final product.  I do find many of Eric Carle's more popular books highly valuable too (The Very Hungry Caterpillar The Very Busy Spider Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?, but these two are less well known and just as delightful. I was talking about Walter the Baker.

It's fanciful and funny and just pure silly.  We did talk about the mom's response to the unexpected happenings, but this was mostly one for giggles and talking about what's real vs pretend. Update- researching

Great rhyming and a fun springboard to talk about both teasing and choosing your own path... Gerald the giraffe clearly learns to dance :) Updating this post

An uplifting story about finding the good with the help of warm family support.  The pictures are enchanting as the story between boy and grandfather unfolds above while a family of Beatrix-Potter-like mice are integrated in the illustrations below.  It's a warm color palate that offers lots of smiles and discussion of a different culture too (the poor, Jewish shtetl). UPDATE

This book makes the joy of the seasons so vivid through the cranky fox and the happy bear recollecting memories by the hearth.  It was a staple for years and we still read it in front of the fire. Updated. I still give it as a gift and love it!

This story speaks to respecting a child's choice about their body.  Dudley's family won't listen when he doesn't want to cuddle.  It's just OK as a fun story, but really valuable as a basis for that conversation about choice.  My son doesn't have to accept or give hugs and this book helped stimulate the conversation regarding expressing that preference constructively. Update.

This book is a sheer delight for taking you on a kid's journey of trying something new, failing, and learning.  It's wording and pictures make it a vividly real experience.  I would have liked a bit more to end the story, but this was one of my absolute favorites to share together while snuggled in a cozy blanket :) I'm guessing I meant this one.

Kindergarden and up:
This series is absolutely wonderful for showing how older people can still be young at heart and pursuing their own values.  There are so many of the stories that brought laughter and smiles... this is the series that made "jiffy"an everyday word around our house :)  Update

This is Ms. Rylant's other series that we have enjoyed.  This is just the first book, but I'd recommend scanning the titles for something that would capture your kid.  There are books on Christmas, family vacations, and more.  I recommend them as basic-fun for us, but they'd be a better fit for a family with animals since the key characters are a boy and his dog. Update

While my son loved this as a preschooler, I think it's a bit more advanced.  It is fanciful as Martha, a dog, can speak when she eats alphabet soup (which has both its positive and negative results).  The fun part is spurring conversation about choosing when to speak and when to keep thoughts to yourself. Update

This is one that can be enjoyed again and again because there are so many levels to relish.  The rhyme and pictures made it fun for my son as a toddler, but to really get how clever this poodle is takes an older kid.  It's definitely a good beginning to discussing the ineffective nature of using force too. Update

Bill Peet is so endearing!  His rhymes, his characters, and his illustrations all combine for a slew of unforgettable characters.  I would highly recommend going through his titles and jumping in for many delightful rides. I did find many treasures, but I'm guessing I was referring to this one.

I particularly like the boy in this book who is so independent and such a good advocate for  his friend.  There are the morals of interacting based on trade and overcoming adversity as well.  This is the first of these books that I need to read to my son (currently six years old) and discuss as we go along instead of afterwards. UPDATE-researching

There is no one like Anne for sheer spunk, brilliance, imagination, and joie de vivre!  I am thrilled that my son loves her as much as I do.  She is great for discussing both controlling emotions and acting on your own conclusions.  I cant tell you how many times a week we talk about her choices and the consequences as references for him when choosing actions. Update

It is highly individual, but my son has gravitated toward the detailed rules of this alternate, magical world.  I find the humor engaging, but my prime value is discussing the relationships which can be so instructive due to my son's social challenges.  I also love the lesson that our choices show who we truly are.  My son has found so many benefits from integrating that knowledge. Harry Potter

Whew, I'll get around to toys, movies and music eventually, but that was a big one and now... drum roll... for a surprise!  One of the joys of finding a book that your child loves is that you get to see them adhere to that value. One of the challenges of finding a book that your child loves is that they may wish to adhere to that value via one million parent readings.  So... while we still read them as well, recording some of the top favorites became a joyful experience for both my husband and me.  I am happy to present these recordings as a sample!  While they're not professional and I think copyright would require buying the books for repeated listening, you're welcome to use them or just get a feel for if you agree with my favorites choices!

Down the Road
Fluffy: Scourge of the Sea
Walter the Baker

(When the blog was brand new, this was my original book recommendation post which does have one kid book in it too.)

I'd love to hear about some of your favorite books too!  So many of our warm moments have revolved around snuggly chats with a book on the lap :)

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Large Numbers

400 - The number of Anthem essays Andrew and I graded.
150- The number of cookies I baked for Challenge Air (Cameron has flown with them three times.  That is, he takes the controls, gets a mad look of glee, and shows both pilot and parents he knows how to bank the plane.  I don't usually stay the same shade of green through the whole experience.)

Umph left for doing anything else besides sharing the O round up and antics... zero.

Cute antics:

• insisting that I should be a bus driver so I could get into  where they park the buses at night and search for some jelly beans he dropped.
• informing me proudly, "I didn't cry over spilt milk. I fixed it!"
• starting a conversation with, "I, a lot of times, breathe in my bed." (He continued to tell us that was how he smelled the bit of smoke and knew we were having a fire.)
• choosing a buzz cut because he didn't want to brush his hair
• coming up with some hysterical, um, interpretation of the Jewish story of Purim.  One of the break days, we baked a traditional cookie called hamentashen, named after the bad guy (Haman) who tried to have all the Jewish Persians killed, including Ester:

Rachel: And the bad guy in the purim story is... ?
Cameron: Huffelpuff!

Rachel: And Ester didn't tell the king that she was...?
Cameron: British!

Hmmm, my teaching seems to have gone a bit off course, but he loved the elaborate process of making the cookies and bringing one to each classmate :)

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Bit of a Book Dump

This is just a quick catch up on the books from the last few weeks.  I wanted to get a quick note down about these before starting into a post on recommended kid books for next week.

Kids Are Worth It - I liked the idea of giving a great deal of independence to kids, but I thought the guidelines of saying everything goes except things which are "life threatening, morally threatening, or unhealthy" was rather wooly.  There's a great deal which could be subsumed under "unhealthy" or "morally threatening" which an adult could advise against, but an older kid would likely need to experience themselves to grasp.  I also thought the idea of responding to kids' requests with "convince me" had potential for both valuable, logical thinking and turning everything into a bargaining game.  I'm saving the ideas from this book to ponder later.

Brain Rules - Wow!  This was so fascinating and I'm not at all surprised my engineer husband loved it too.  If you want a solid foundation of the current knowledge regarding how the brain works and how you can use that to your parenting or personal advantage, I recommend this as a fun and intriguing read.

Uncle Tom's Cabin - I listened to the Librivox recording and found it intriguing to have finally experienced this classic.

The Hatchet and The Cay - These were recommended on the Rational Parenting List.  They are survival stories of young teenage boys.  I listened to both with Cameron.  We both liked The Hatchet better, especially noting how the character progressed.  The Cay spurred a conversation about superstitions though and long term thinking. Both stories were good for talking about "crying over spilt milk."

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban- We're almost done reading this and I'm amazed by how much of this fictional world Cameron has absorbed.  He's so visual, but the techniques I've mentioned have helped him pause and question and integrate as we go along.

Voyage of the Beagle - I'm having a blast listening to Darwin's adventures as my latest Librivox download!

We The Living - It may be a bit rough as a bedside book, but my book club just started it and that's when I get the time for personal reading (instead of listening).

OK, on to gathering for a fun post on some of the gems I've found in kid's books which are in the less-well-known category.

Thyroid Update: By Symptom

So... here's where we started and here's where I'm at now:
1. Chronic throat pressure - unchanged
2. Hair falling out- unchanged
3. Cold hands and feet- unchanged or a little better
and.... now for the fun stuff!
4. Ill feeling with headache, nausea, fatigue- rare since Iodine supplementation and none since I added Iron!
5. Difficulty getting to sleep- completely resolved since Iodine supplementation
6. Temperature irregulariy- just as irregular, but I actually get up to normal now.  (Basal temps 96.6 - 98.3 with a shake down, mercury thermometer)
and... one that I hadn't mentioned but should have
7. Gradual weight gain independent of exercise/diet - stopped!  Hooray!  I've been losing weight for the last month and it's such a relief not to be seeing my goals slip farther and farther away each month!

My rheumatology appointment confirmed that I don't have any active immune issues.  The endocrinologist did a few more cortisol tests and decided I didn't have a tumor so she discharged me without followup.  I have the appointment with the Naturopath in a few weeks and I'm planning to get Iron/Iodine level tests too.  Once I gather all that together, I'll hopefully be in a good spot to decide on next actions.  The more I read, the more likely it seems that if I start thyroid medication, it will be very difficult to get off of it.  I wonder if I should just give myself some time with paleo eating and doing Body By Science work outs to see if I can continue to improve without thyroid / adrenal / other hormone replacement.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Beating a Dead Horse

It's his new favorite page in the Idiom Dictionary :)  I know I'm going to hear this expression all over the place now!

"beat a dead horse"

If someone is "beating a dead horse" it means they're talking about something that's already been answered and there's no point in talking about it again.  Usually, if someone is still worrying about something that's already been agreed on, it makes other people frustrated.  They'll say, "Stop beating a dead horse.  Lets talk about something else."  It has nothing to do with beating or with a horse.  Idioms can be strange!

Making Kid Thank Yous Fun!

I've hit on a fun trick for making thank you notes a more playful, positive experience.  Clearly, this is one of those learned skills that takes time.  The infant isn't doing much... maybe a hand print for something special, but it's mostly a parent job to express gratitude. The toddler can participate a little more with some basic drawings, but there aren't many words yet.   I loved to include pictures of them playing with the given toy or experience.  The preschooler can often start writing their name at the bottom of a card and help with the content by sharing what they like about a particular gift.  This has bridged into my current thank you note practice which is lots of fun for both of us.

So, my son gets a gift and plays with it.  The following Saturday morning, we gather at the kitchen counter to catch up on any writing tasks (thank yous, letters, school work).  If we've received a gift, I bring out the construction paper.

1. He picks the color.
2. I fold it into a half twice for a card 1/4 size of the paper.
3. I draw a big box on the front with a line under it
4. I draw two lines with a dotted line in the center across the bottom inside of the card
5. He draws a picture in the box and labels it (at this point, he's bursting to tell me all about his picture).
6. He writes his name inside the card.
7. I get the pen and take dictation, "Dear x" and then it's up to him.  I write down some rather amusing sentences!  He knows the format is to thank them for the gift and then to say at least one thing he likes about it.
8. Then he says, "I drew this picture just for you" and proceeds to fill the rest of the card with an elaborate description of his fanciful machines that wash 100 loads of laundry at a time or float / dive the ocean or allow the card holder to travel super, super fast.  I often have to stop him so that I can catch up with writing all the words down!

Last weekend's entry included:
I drew this picture of a copee just for you, and you can share it with your friends.  A copee is very useful.  It can fly backwards, frontwards, sidways, diagonal (in all directions of diagonal- left, right, and everything).  It has no engine, but it can travel 18 miles even though it has no engine.  It's a burning glider which makes it go extra fast, so fast that it can catch up to a jet airplane.  But, it can go much faster than a horse.

Every card is unique.  Every card is personalized and brings a smile.  It starts making the thank you process into a solid, life-time habit and it makes it fun!  I certainly don't always stumble on such playful, easily-successful ways of working habits in (when will he be happy to brush his teeth?!?!?), but this one has been a delightful winner for us!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Bill Peet

I had a sick kiddo this week, but he wasn't so sick that he couldn't delve into the Bill Peet books I picked up at the library.  It's been awhile and I thought he'd like to get back into them so I picked up ten and... he started reading.  He didn't decide he was tired until 312 pages later!  

Honestly, if you haven't read these books, they are worth it!  I think Bill Peet deserves the kind of accolades Dr. Seuss gets, if not more. (A kid's book recommendation post is on my schedule for this week or next week and I'll get more specific then.)

Other things to share-

I've been going through photos as I continue that journey to get the thousands in our library cataloged.  I came across one of me pudgy and pregnant and absolutely gleefully experiencing one of my dreams:

Cute antics:
• making it clear he has no more smell issues... he walked into the house and declared, "Asparagus!" (Okee dokee, guess we can check off that concern!)

• constantly calling the "diary" the "dictionary".  (Key item from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets)
• blowing a dandelion and declaring, "I wished a tooth would fall out."  (Lots are just staying happy a little wobbly.)
• combining two wizards names so that Dumbledore gained some Gandalf with his version of "Grandedorf"
• telling me what he remembered about Bach from Kindermusik.  I had helped with saying, "He's from juh, juh..." and Cameron filled in, "Japan!"  (Try number two, I cued "ger, ger" and we got "Germany!")

and, two pics of my expert baking helper who just forced me to bake for Microsoft twice this week :)

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Objectivist Round Up

Wow, my first hosting of the round up and it's April Fool's Day!

Humor is the denial of metaphysical importance to that which you laugh at. The classic example: you see a very snooty, very well dressed dowager walking down the street, and then she slips on a banana peel . . . . What’s funny about it? It’s the contrast of the woman’s pretensions to reality. She acted very grand, but reality undercut it with a plain banana peel. That’s the denial of the metaphysical validity or importance of the pretensions of that woman. Therefore, humor is a destructive element—which is quite all right, but its value and its morality depend on what it is that you are laughing at. If what you are laughing at is the evil in the world (provided that you take it seriously, but occasionally you permit yourself to laugh at it), that’s fine. [To] laugh at that which is good, at heroes, at values, and above all at yourself [is] monstrous . . . . The worst evil that you can do, psychologically, is to laugh at yourself. That means spitting in your own face.
Ayn Rand during question period following:
Leonard Peikoff, “The Philosophy of Objectivism”

So, clearly we're not going to be out doing nasty pranks, but I think it's fun to make the day a reminder of the value of being playful.
Full of fun and high spirits; frolicsome or sportive: a playful kitten.
Humorous; jesting

I shared a host of cheery ways to add humor to parenting in a previous post and I'm certain there are ways that can add a benevolent smile for those in other occupations as well. So, here's to a day of finding joy in the playful and benevolent!

On with this week's Objectivist Round Up:

Nick Stanley presents Consequences of Government Health Care posted at Rational Writing, saying, "The moral reasoning for free-market health care is well-established; this article is about the economic effects of Obamacare, and where Americans might possibly go for their care in the future.

First time O'ist Roundup participant, O'ist for the last few years. My blog is new, started really as a collection of analytic essays. Really hasn't taken off because I've been very busy lately. In any case, thanks for the opportunity."

Rachel Miner presents I should. I could. I want. posted at The Playful Spirit, saying, "I learned last week that we were allowed to post from elsewhere for the Objectivist Round Up, so I wanted to share this article (with comments) which spurred some thought for me. The developed recommendation for reframing has many positive implication both inside and outside of the parenting role."

C.W. presents PARALLELS, NASTY ONES posted at Krazy Economy, saying, "At this point we could see a prolonged recession/depression. Protecting your assets is an important issue. Keeping an eye on things economic is also important."

Leslie Kaminoff presents A Declaration of Independence for Yoga Educators posted at IYEA :: Independent Yoga Educators of America, saying, "This is my first submission to the blog carnival. As far as I know, I'm the only blogging, gun-owning, meat-eating, Objectivist Yoga educator in America (but I'd be happy to meet others).

This article was originally written for the International Journal of Yoga Therapy, but was not published because they did not have a "counterpoint" piece ready by the deadline. It was subsequently published in "Yoga Therapy Today.""

Rational Jenn presents PD Tool Card: Family Meetings Update posted at Rational Jenn, saying, "This is my most playful post of the week, a description of our second family meeting, featuring the *characters* who make up my family! The actual meeting itself was fun for all of us. :o)"

Julia Campbell presents Chipotle Chicken + Salad with Honey Lime Dressing posted at the crankin' kitchen!, saying, "Summer's coming!! (Not intended to be an April Fool's joke, though a snow storm may try to prove me wrong...)"

Diana Hsieh presents Thoughts on Tax Reform posted at NoodleFood, saying, "My thoughts on what we need in tax reform -- and why."

Stella presents We're all vicious, therefore we should all pay? posted at ReasonPharm, saying, "An argument that we should pay for each other's irresponsibilities falls flat."

Peter Cresswell presents New improved Economists Family Tree posted at Not PC, saying, "At the request of some colleagues seeking to introduce rational economics to students at our local university, I've produced a 'family tree of economics' tracing the history and competing schools of economics from the Physiocrats, Mercantilists & Salamanca School right up to the present day.
Comments, advice, and suggestions for further improvement are welcomed."

Jim Woods presents Are You a Good American? Newt Gingrich Will Tell You posted at Words by Woods, saying, "To lead off his 21st Century Contract with America, Newt Gingrich offers to quiz you on whether or not you are a good American."

Atul Kapur presents Left's "Unfair" Attack on Healthcare Industry posted at Wit Lab, saying, "The accusation that insurance companies are being "unfair" is actually a camouflage for denouncing profit."

Sandi Trixx presents On the WARN Act posted at Sandi Trixx, saying, "Besides being another immoral state mandated welfare program at the expense of employers, the WARN Act only serves to destroy company profits, create more unemployment and make politicians look good to those who don't know any better."

Kelly Elmore presents Parenting Toolbox: Validate Feelings posted at Reepicheep's Coracle, saying, "In this post, I discuss how to deal with children's emotions in order to facilitate introspection.""

C.W. presents "Too Big To Fail": Financial Reform posted at Krazy Economy, saying, "This is one of the consequences of the proposed "financial reform" before Congress. Our country's economy will shrink for many reasons and this is one of them."

Paul Hsieh presents Damned If You Do... posted at NoodleFood, saying, "The government had an early April Fools trick to play on honest businessmen trying to comply with financial reporting laws..."

Jeff Montgomery presents NYT: Tea Party Full Of Hypocrites? posted at Fun With Gravity, saying, "This is a post on the common -- and I hold incorrect -- criticism that those who oppose taxation should not benefit from government services."

Rational Jenn presents MiniCon! posted at Rational Jenn, saying, "If you're feeling sad about missing OCON in Vegas this year, consider spending Independence Day weekend in Atlanta with other Objectivists!"

Roderick Fitts presents Closed vs. Open Part 1: Introduction, and the Issues posted at Inductive Quest, saying, "An introductory post on the issues concerning the 1989 Peikoff/Kelley dispute, the epistemological and ethical conflicts that arose, and the question as to whether Objectivism should be construed as "open" or "closed.""

Roderick Fitts presents Part 2: The History of the Dispute, and the Closed and Open Systems posted at Inductive Quest, saying, "A post giving a brief history of the Peikoff/Kelley dispute, a presentation on the open and closed system interpretations of Objectivism, and my stance as a closed system advocate. Identifying the truth and identifying what a philosophy is are two different tasks, as we shall see."

Ron Pisaturo presents Challenges by States Against Obamacare Lack Principle posted at Ron Pisaturo's Blog, saying, "The States object to forcing people to buy insurance policies that those people don’t want to buy. But the States don’t object to forcing people to sell insurance policies that those people don’t want to sell."

Lynne Bourque presents My Reeducation posted at 3 Ring Binder, saying, "Even though it's April Fools Day, my satire is no joke."

Mike Zemack presents The "Violence" of the Dems' Health Care Reform posted at Principled Perspectives, saying, "Amit Ghate's timely essay, FORCE AND VIOLENCE: HOW THE LEFT BLURS TERMS, provides a huge assist in this post. Considering recent events, the title of his essay could read, OBAMACARE AND VIOLENCE AGAINST LAWMAKERS: HOW THE LEFT BLURS TERMS."

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