Monday, January 31, 2005

Big foot

Earlier today I was getting my boots on to go out and felt that something about the shoe wasn't quite right. I looked down and realized that what I had slipped my foot into was not my lace-up black boot but my son's very similar looking one. And the scary thing is, it fit! When did my boy's feet get to be the same size as mine? This little fellow I used to tote under one arm? My little peanut-boy! I've been slowly getting used to the fact that he's getting taller, almost as tall as me now, and bigger around the middle, as his inability to keep his pants snapped makes clear, but somehow it never occurred to me that his feet would be adult-sized. Well, okay, small adult-sized. My feet are really fairly tiny. His used to be, too. I remember that. I remember how the first shoes we bought him when we went to pick him up at the orphanage in Russia turned out to be impossibly large, like twin boats on his teensy little tootsies. That was more than 10 years ago now. Time goes by fast. And feet grow.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Adaptation dread

I'm feeling a fair amount of apprehension about the upcoming movie version of "Because of Winn-Dixie." On the one hand, I adored the book, and am happy for anything that gives it a higher profile. On the other hand, the trailer seems awfully hokey, both girl and dog too cute by half, music and narration suggesting quaintness and quirkiness rather than the emotional truth of the story. I loved the low-key, episodic, bittersweet plot, and worry that they'll have to add artificial crises to make it movie-length and -weight. The one review I've read so far was good, so I'll keep my hopes up; but I'll be sad if the film raises awareness of the book just to turn everyone off to it.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Get moving

News flash: Just moving around burns calories! No, really! A study published in Science magazine indicates that the overweight have a greater tendency to just sit around, while normal-weight couch potatoes at least get up and, I don't know, jog to the refrigerator from time to time. This is excellent news for those of us who were taken aback by the government's recommendation that we all exercise an hour a day to stay fit; unless that directive was accompanied by a government regulation to make each day 25 hours long, it wasn't likely to happen. But "puttering," as the article calls it -- "puttering," I can do. I can get up, walk around, wrestle with children, run to the bathroom, no problem. That's my exercise routine, right there. But the best thing about this study is that the next time school personnel complain about all the extra movement my son does -- jumping and swaying when he's supposed to be standing still, rolling around on the floor when he's supposed to be sitting -- I can say, "Hey! He's puttering! It's a fitness thing!" What, do they want to promote childhood obesity?

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Enough already

Is it just me, or has anyone else noticed a huge increase in the number of spam e-mail messages of the "I am a foreign national with a large amount of money I want to get into the United States and if you will only send me some cash/an airplane ticket/all your financial information I will cut you in on a large percentage of it" variety? I used to have one pop up in my inbox every so often, but lately there's been something like one a day. Did I accidentally leave my e-mail address somewhere that put me on the "greedy, gullible idiot" list? It's hard for me to believe that anybody still responds to these come-ons, if anybody ever did in the first place, but surely having so very, very many of them out there dilutes any impact they might have had. I mean, having five or 10 exotically named people offer up this unbelievable deal in a week, with only a small variation in details, might make even a greedy, gullible idiot suspicious. Diversify, spammers! Show some originality!

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Called away

It's nice to be needed, I guess. Tuesdays are my busiest day at work and today was a particularly bad one, so of course this was the perfect day for me to get a call from the school nurse. My son wasn't sick, thank goodness -- and I say that both out of concern for his health and for what I would have done with him if he'd been sent home from school -- but he did have a, how shall I say it, "bathroom accident," and needed a change of pants. So I rushed out of my office with many apologies, hurried home, grabbed a pair of pants and a shirt for good measure, raced to the school, got myself to the nurse's office ... and realized I'd forgotten to bring underwear. Back in the car, back home, back to the school. I helped my guy get changed, loaded the wet duds in a plastic bag, saw him back off to his class, and went back to the workday chaos. It was, in a way, a nice little break, and a treat to see my son in the middle of the morning. It is nice to be needed. But nicer if he needed me when no one else did.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Book learning

I guess this is a good sign: Fetal Alcohol Syndrome has made it into middle-school health books. Right there in my daughter's textbook, along with information on drug abuse and alcohol abuse and the evils of tobacco was a paragraph or two on how bad it is for women to drink while they're pregnant and how different levels of alcohol consumption during different parts of a pregnancy will affect the unborn child. I tried to slip a little lesson in there about how that's what happened to her brother and shouldn't she just be more tolerant of all his particular weirdnesses now, but she wasn't buying it. I guess it's enough for now that it's at least in the book.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Late for school

We've had a pretty good year so far with the snow days here in our little northeastern city. Our former superintendant used to cancel school if there was a rumor of snow anywhere in an 100 mile radius, but the current holder of that office requires that there actually be an appreciable number of flakes on the actual ground before disrupting everyone's routine. This is much appreciated by parents, but not so much by teachers, who had become accustomed to days off and no bad commutes. The current school day has seen a few flurries but no snow days, and over the past week, I heard not one but two teachers trying to enlist students in an effort to get one -- in one case, by advising pupils to go to the superintendant's house and demand one, and in another ordering kids to perform a "snow dance." Whether either of their efforts had any influence I couldn't say, but we did get a regular dumping of snow over the weekend, and we do have a "delayed opening" tomorrow. "Delayed openings" are, I suppose, a sort of compromise, halfway between a snow day and a normal one. But in my parental book, it's still disruptive, and I still have to make all those class parent phone calls. I hope the teachers are at least satisfied, though I suspect this will just encourage them to come up with better demands and dances.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

It's rough being a kid

Add something else to that list of adult ailments that are now being visited upon kids, like heart disease, obesity and high blood pressure: repetitive stress injuries. Computerized schoolwork, Web surfing and video gaming are putting kids at risk for carpal tunnel syndrome, cervical radiculopathy, disk compression and other grown-up sounding ailments -- and isn't that just a terrible comment on today's society? Let's get those kids moving, outside playing sports, so they can get Little League elbow and swimmer's shoulder and shin splints instead.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Not my kid

One of the teacher strategies I'm most uncomfortable with -- both back when I was a kid, and now as a parent -- is the "blanket condemnation," wherein a whole class gets yelled at and punished for the transgressions of a subset of students. Even if most of the class acted up, it's hard on the kids who didn't to get lumped in with the trouble. It presses all of a child's "unfair!" buttons, and I've got to believe that mutes the teacher's message, as much as I can sympathize with how hard it must be not to lose your temper when faced with a mob of unruly children. My daughter is usually one of those who was not causing trouble, and yet she's also the one who takes the threats most to heart. Many times over the past couple of years she's come home all upset because a teacher threatened the whole class with failure, or detention, or repeating a grade, because some kids couldn't pay attention and do their work. It's a hard situation, because you also don't want the teacher saying, "You're all in big trouble -- except you, my one wonderful student, you never cause me any problems, dear." Better to be yelled at by the teacher than branded teacher's pet.

A similar situation happened when I was in the library the other day, with a fourth-grade class getting taken to task by the librarian for not listening to a guest speaker, and then again for being noisy while getting their books, and then again by their teacher when she heard what had happened. I was full of sympathy for those kids who got in trouble by association, because while many, many of the kids were loud and disrespectful, some were paying attention and checking out their books and keeping their heads down. I don't know how I would have reacted if my daughter had come home with this particular story of injustice ... but I'm not sure it would have been the same as the parents I heard about today. Apparently the teacher gave the class a homework assignment to write a note of apology to the librarian for their behavior, and a number of parents called the principal to complain because their little darlings had assured them they had nothing to do with it. Never mind that the librarian countered that they were in fact involved -- even if they weren't, are parents sending the right message in allowing their kiddos to blow off an assignment, however unjust? If it were truly punitive, maybe; but an apology note? How hard is that? "I'm sorry my class was so rude in the library. We will try to do better." It's not like they had to write "I will not talk in the library" 500 times. I think I would have told my daughter that it stinks, but out of respect for her teacher she should write the note.

Maybe I'm in the minority here. I remember a couple of years ago, the gym teacher was having a real problem with my daughter's class, and she told them they would all have to stay after school on a particular day. It never happened, though: So many parents complained and refused to allow their kids to stay that she had to cancel it. I'm all for advocacy, and I'm sure I've stood up for my kids in ways teachers thought were counterproductive. But if parents wonder why teachers can't keep control of their classes, they may want to look at the kind of messages they're sending. If mom's going to get you out of trouble, what's to discourage you from getting into it?

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Classification confusion

Sometimes I wonder if state special education departments have someone specifically in charge of acronyms. There must be some Senior Acronym Manager somewhere who decides, without apparent provocation, to change everyone's classification every year or two, just to keep us parents off balance. My daughter's learning and language problems have not changed since she was in kindergarten and classified as LLD -- Learning and Language Disabled -- but the alphabet letters designating her classification have changed so many times that I've lost track. Most recently, I've seen MC for "Multiple Classifications" on her IEP, with a parenthetical note indicating that this is different from MD, "Multiply Disabled," which incidentally is my son's classification. His acronym hasn't changed for years, but now it turns out that the acronym for his class is changing. Instead of being in an "MD" class, he will now be in an "LLD Severe" class, as distinguished from the "LLD Mild" class, previously just the "LLD" class, with kids who are classified LLD or whatever they're calling that now. I am assured that my son's class will be the same old thing with a new name, and his classification won't change, and it's all just some new whim of the Senior Acronym Manager. But I don't know. Could calling the MD class an LLD class be a first step to moving MD kids with more behavioral than learning problems into ED classes? Is it really just a cosmetic change? Maybe so. But I have to wonder, what's going undone in all the time it must take to keep deciding on these new designations? Couldn't we just replace the Senior Acronym Manager with, say, a Vice President in Charge of Figuring Out How the Heck to Do Inclusion, or a Director of Parent Satisfaction? We need them more than we need a new alphabet shuffle.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Health food

I have to admit, I'm not crazy about what I'm reading concerning the government's new dietary guidelines, which seem a lot like mom telling you to eat all that spinach, it's good for you. And, I'm sorry, 30 to 90 minutes of exercise a day? I'm sure it's healthy and all, but when was the last time you had an extra hour-and-a-half to kill? One thing I'm really excited about, though, is that snack food manufacturers are actually getting with the program and eliminating trans fats from their goodies. For years I've been the "partially hydrogenated vegetable oil" cop, seeking out that wordy ingredient in stuff I'd love to eat and putting those bags and boxes back on the shelf if I found it. And now, suddenly -- more and more, I'm not finding it. I can eat Triscuits now! And Goldfish! And Oreos! And, um, you know, I'll lift those boxes from the floor to my mouth repeatedly over the course of a half-hour or so. Does that count as exercise?

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Dare I hope?

I probably shouldn't write anything about this 'cause I'll jinx it, but I'm just so excited: My son has started making his bed! Well, okay, what he's started doing is pulling his comforter up so that it covers his messed up sheets, but this is a giant leap from his normal complete disregard for the condition of his bed. And okay, he's 11, so the fact that he's never done it with any regularity should probably be embarrassing to me. But I've never made it a priority for him; mornings are a whatever works time for us, and if he makes it to school dressed and fed most days, that's acheivement enough. So his willingness to make his bed, such as it is, has been pretty much of his own initiative, and I couldn't be prouder. And if it actually lasts more than a few days, then I'll really be impressed.

Monday, January 17, 2005

No-hug zone

What does it mean that neither of my children can bear to see my husband and I expressing affection for one another? Is it normal child squeamishness, jealousy, signs of insecure attachment, garden-variety annoying behavior? If my husband and I hug in front of our daughter, she makes disgusted noises and whines, "Can you please do that somewhere else?" My son, on the other hand, reacts by demanding to be part of the action: "I want a hug too! I want a hug too!" he cries as he wedges himself in between us. We have more group hugs than a bad sit-com. Aren't kids supposed to be happy that their parents love each other? Or is that, like, just too embarrassing for words?

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Make me a burrito!

If you want to see the kind of thing my son and I do for fun (well, fun for him, and fun for me the first time, but maybe not the 23rd or 24th in a row), I've outlined some instructions on my site to Make Your Child into a Burrito. It's along the same lines as the parent-child play in William Steig's book Pete's a Pizza, or the Hot Dog Roll activity outlined in Carol Stock Kranowitz's The Out-Of-Sync Child Has Fun, but it's our own much-practiced version of it, maybe influenced by many many trips to Taco Bell when my son was little. Now, he happens to be a Finger-Sucking Burrito, which is not something I'd ever hope to see on Taco Bell's menu, but ... whatever works, eh?

Friday, January 14, 2005

Early-morning excitement

A police officer rang our doorbell at 1:30 this morning. That'll get you jumping up from the spot where you've fallen asleep on the couch. I peeked out the window and saw four or five police cars crowding our cul-de-sac, headlights shining our way. My husband opened the door, and the officer asked him if we knew who owned the SUV parked in front of our house. Nope, not ours. He apologized for waking us and headed for the house across the street, leaving us to go gently back to sleep ... yeah, right. What could be so important about that car that they'd be ringing people's doorbells at 1:30 a.m.? Was there a criminal on the loose in the neighborhood? Suspected toxic substances? Abandoned satchels are now suspected of containing bombs; what about abandoned cars? The truck's spare tire had fallen off the back and was sitting on the ground, with police flashlights washing over it. What was in there? What was in the truck? What was going on? Police cars came and went, and finally my husband went to stand outside with the neigbors gaping at all the action (because we weren't the only ones who couldn't get back to sleep after a door-to-door search) and find out what was what.

In the end, it was anticlimactic. A hotheaded kid, the boyfriend of a girl at the closed end of the cul-de-sac, had a fight with said girlfriend, hopped in his red sportscar, and floored it as he spun around the corner and toward our open end of the cul-de-sac. Unfortunately, his display of righteous speed was cut off by a wet, slick spot in the road, which caused him to lose control and hit not one but two parked cars (including the SUV in front of our house). It's interesting to note that my husband was asleep on the couch by our front window, right outside of which this undoubtedly noisy accident occcured, and did not even stir. But he gets points from me anyway for going out into the dark night to gather gossip. The SUV belonged to a friend of our neighbor's daughter, and was not involved in any criminal activity or Homeland Security risks whatsoever. It was, however, now missing a side mirror and some paint. The speeding boyfriend had apparently panicked and drove away, then panicked some more and called the police to report himself, bringing them swarming into our little neighborhood in the wee small hours. Why it all couldn't have waited until daylight, I don't know. My son, who loves cars, is going to be mightily disappointed to have missed the excitement.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Stupid talk

Had a bad moment yesterday during the 6th-grade reading group I lead at my daughter's school. As I've mentioned before, I have a group of five boys, and although the conversation does sometimes get rambunctious, I generally like these guys. We were discussing the book "Skinnybones" by Barbara Park, about a scrawny boy who's picked on by a bigger boy who's a superior athlete, and doesn't quite triumph in the end, but finds his own kind of success. I asked the boys at my table if they'd had any experience with bullies, and a number of them mentioned a boy that I happen to know of -- he was in my son's special-ed class when they were both three years old, and although they've been on different tracks since, his sister went to my kids' school and I had contact with the family there from time to time. I really don't know much about the kid; I do know he's physically big, and according to the majority of boys at my table he's a big bully. Hearing him mentioned with universal disdain set my "picking on special-needs kids" alarm ringing, and I should probably have taken the opportunity to change the subject quickly.

If I'd been a little faster with the redirection, I wouldn't have had to hear this comment from one of the boys: "He's mean. He always calls people stupid. He's in special-ed, and he calls other people stupid." My soft mama's heart wounded, I jumped in then and said, "Hey, I have kids in special-ed. Let's be nice." What I should have done was turn it into a teaching moment about how making judgments about people is bad, even if they're making judgments about you. What turns someone from a bully into a victim, and vice-versa? In a book we take delight in seeing kids turn the tables on bullies, play little tricks on them, make them look foolish. But in real life -- and when the kid in question has learning disabilities or language disabilities that make appropriate social interaction difficult -- to what extent does picking on the bully become bullying? My daughter and I are reading "There's a Boy in the Girl's Bathroom" by Louis Sachar right now, and it's on pretty much that exact topic -- making us feel sympathy for the kid all the other kids hate. Maybe I should suggest that one to the book group.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Phone home

British researchers have raised the alarm: Don't give kids cell phones! It's bad for their brains! Maybe. They think. Could be. The little gadgets give out little bits of radiation, and little brains are more susceptible to injury, and so it seems prudent to protect them. I hate to tell the researchers, but at least here in the U.S., I think that particular ship has sailed. Given how absolutely commonplace it seems to be for middle schoolers to tote their own phones, I'm pretty sure younger kids -- including those in the 3- to 8-year-old range most at risk according to researchers -- are wired as well. True, I've never seen a toddler text-messaging, but just from watching a group of 6th-graders leaving a religious education class last night, flipping their phones open and immediately going into chat mode, I'm going to guess that their little brothers and sisters don't go much of anywhere without being instantly contact-able.

Now, see, the British get a reputation for being polite and circumspect, and news reports about the researchers' concerns confirm that by hedging the evidence so sincerely. There's no hard evidence that the phones are bad, but the researchers think they are, they're really pretty sure, and shouldn't that just be enough? Whereas if I were in charge of this cautionary message, I might be a little more blunt, and say someting like, YOUR ELEMENTARY SCHOOL CHILD DOES NOT NEED A CELL PHONE! Do not purchase one for them! Do not give them so much allowance that they can purchase one for themselves! Don't be ridiculous! There will be plenty of time for out of control phone bills, endless annoying conversations, and pouting over phone restrictions when they're teenagers. If you think it's cute or fun or modern for your young tyke to trade in her toy phone for one that can actually ring up its very own charges, ask yourself: Is my brain maybe fried already?

Monday, January 10, 2005

Better than Shakespeare

My daughter got her assignment the other day for her big seventh-grade research paper. Her teacher had warned me it was coming at our conference last week, and she was dreading it as much as my daughter was, knowing how few of her students would actually apply themselves, do the work, and turn it on time. This seems to be a real challenge for most kids at my daughter's school, and I'm constantly hearing reports about reports never being turned in, disheartening the teachers no end. Turning things in is one of my daughter's great strengths, however, and I'm sure this research report will be no exception. I'm kind of looking forward to working with her on it, actually. The assignment is to research the life of a famous author, read a few of his or her works, and compare and contrast them. On the list of possible names, along with Shakespeare and a host of usual suspects, I was delighted to see Cynthia Rylant, whose books my children have enjoyed at all the various levels of their reading ability, from "Henry And Mudge" through "Cobble Street Cousins" through "Missing May." I instructed my girl to choose Rylant as her author, and I'll be interested to see what biographical info we turn up. I suspect they want her to compare and contrast young-adult-level short stories, but maybe we can sneak in there with some sort of analysis of the endearing coolness of the parent figures in author's primary-level chapter books. Or do you think that would tip the teacher off that I helped too much?

Sunday, January 09, 2005

IEP season cometh

It's the New Year, so the dreaded IEP season must be grinding into gear. I got my little packet in the mail over the weekend, a meeting announcement and my 3,046th copy of the booklet informing me of my rights. My son's having his three-year testing this year, so he's already had a sit-down with the school psychologist and has more testing ahead, and I have to get together on Thursday with the social worker and talk social history. Since he's moving up to the middle school next year, I've been hounding my daughter's middle-school Child Study Team leader to meet with me so I can strategize all the things I'm going to have to demand for his IEP to make his school year smooth and as stress-free as it can be in a crowded school where they're having classes in closets. I'm ready for all this, I suppose, as well as I can be, but boy it makes me miss the last few years, when things were familiar and the agenda was pretty much set and there was nothing much to think about or fight for. I've had easy IEP seasons recently, but now my time has come. Better get the armor and lance out of the closet and suit up.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Day 8

I've been in something of a writing frenzy over at the Parenting Special Needs site, coming up with an article a day to go with my Realistic Resolutions. Stop by and see if one of those articles might give you the help you need to actually keep a resolution this time around. I've resolved to write an article every day in January, and I haven't broken it yet.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Why gym teachers should get pay raises

Here's one of the many reasons you could never pay me enough to teach middle school: My seventh-grade daughter has health class instead of gym this quarter, and this week they're starting a unit on body parts. Not just any body parts. Those body parts. Body parts that can only be identified by names like "the P word" and "the B word." Body parts that boys and girls in a class together can't study without coming down with terminal cases of the giggles. Today my daughter came home all ablush with the news that they had had to sketch "the P word" in class. "That's so nasty!" she said again and again, undoubtedly echoing the sentiments of her classmates, who probably shared them in endless classroom whispering and gasping. But my daughter does at least have a theory about why kids should study this stuff in school, nasty though it may be: "So when people get married and do 'the S word,' they don't point and say, 'What is that thing?'" Thankfully, in our school district, they don't cover "the S word" in health class until eighth grade. I sure hope there will be no sketching involved.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Teacher tantrums

One of the cool, if occasionally unsettling, things about volunteering in the school library is that you get to see a little bit of the way teachers act when they're not particularly aware there are parents around. There seems to be a certain amount of invisibility that goes with being a regular school presence, and so you get to hear the gossip and the sarcastic remarks and the criticism and the office politics. And sometimes, you get to hear a teacher lose it. That's what happened yesterday when a 4th-grade teacher picked up her class at the library, and was so upset with the way they were carrying on in the hallway that she stopped and started screaming at them. "I've had it with you today!" she yelled more than once, and while I could sympathize with her frustration (as someone who has certainly had it with kids and knows how out-of-control that makes you feel), I couldn't help but observe that as disruptive as her students were apparently being, it couldn't possibly be more disruptive than a teacher screaming in the hallway. I was glad my son wasn't in her class, and glad that he was no longer in one of the classrooms across the hall from the library, because hearing someone yelling in the hallway would have made him crazy. I'll give the teacher the benefit of the doubt and not suspect that she thought there'd be no harm in yelling in front of a bunch of special-ed classrooms, even though that's probably the one spot in the school where it would most freak the students out. At any rate, she made it through her tantrum and trouped her chastised charges back upstairs to her room, where, by the way, she could have tantrummed with far fewer witnesses. No invisible volunteers, anyway.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Beam me up

I don't know if you've been following the recent news stories about laser beams targeting airplanes, accompanied by fears that pilots might be blinded by them and terrorists might be responsible, but here's a little suggestion: If you or someone you know owns a laser pointer, don't be aiming that thing at the sky. Highlighting stars or UFOs with a pen-sized device in your backyard may seem harmless enough, but apparently that light shines way, way up there, and if it hits something, you could be in major trouble. In our area this weekend there was a big story about a police helicopter that, on a mission to find out who shone a laser beam at a landing plane, saw another such beam and was able to trace it to a suburban home. Pretty much every police car in an 100-mile radius converged upon said domicile and carted the homeowner away with the full force of Homeland Security. The alleged laser-wielder has since claimed that he's just a hapless dad who goofed around with a laser pointer with his kids in the yard, never dreaming it could reach as far as an airplane. Maybe it will turn out he's really a particularly clever evildoer, but I don't know. Doesn't that just sound like the stupid sort of thing that would happen to you?

Monday, January 03, 2005

Turn your back for one minute ...

I've always had a policy of watching my son every minute, sometimes to ridiculous extremes, and it's worked out well for us, getting him safely at least as far as age 11 now. He's had a little maturity leap this year, and so I've been loosening the reins ever so slightly, supervising him less and less while he's safe at home. So when his friend came over yesterday, I let my boy get the door and let his friend in. I could hear enough from my bedroom -- our floor plan is pretty compact -- to know that they were setting up a video game, as they usually do, presumably one of my daughter's racing games. I don't allow anything not rated E for Everything In It's OK with Mom, so as long as there were no loud crashing noises coming from the living room, I figured things were fine and a little less Mom-hanging-over-the-shoulder was socially appropriate.

Silly me. Turns out my son's friend, the little darling, had brought his own video game to play: Grand Theft Auto Vice City, a game I don't even let my kids look at the cover of in the video-game store. If adults want to play it, I reserve the right to cluck disapprovingly, but whatever. Who, though, would think it was a good idea to give it to an 11-year-old? And now here it was in my own quiet living room. I had to resist the urge to spray the Playstation with Lysol. I told the friend in no uncertain terms that he was never to play that game here again, and that any future games would have to pass my inspection before being slipped into any machine in our house. Meanwhile, my son chirped happily for the rest of the day about carjacking and murder. Maybe this having a friend stuff isn't all that great an idea after all.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Getting in the reading habit

How often do you read with your child? When our kids are little and lap-sized and wild about Dr. Seuss, reading regularly is a joy that most parents regularly avail themselves of. But when they get older and engrossed in schoolwork, when the books get longer and more time-consuming to read, and when -- for so many of our kids -- enthusiasm for books gets dampened by reading comprehension problems, reading together too often becomes a chore for all concerned. My daughter hates reading, and has hated it for years. She's likened it to staring at black marks on a page. She even hates Harry Potter, which is something like heresy for a kid these days. But despite her often-considerable resistance, I've managed to keep up a chapter-a-day reading routine with her for the past few years, and although it hasn't magically transformed her into a lover of books, it has enormously improved her skills in decoding and comprehension. Practice may not make perfect, but it makes stronger. If you want to start a reading routine with your child -- or can't imagine how on earth you would manage it -- check out these tips for getting started.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Happy New Year

We had our usual wild and crazy New Year's Eve: Bowling and pizza with the kids at 5 p.m., followed by going to the store and shopping for our New Year's Day party, then putting kids to bed, then watching a movie, then waking kids up to watch the ball drop, then dropping into bed ourselves. Party animals are we, I'll tell you. The bowling alley manager wondered why my husband and I didn't come to the big New Year's Eve bash there -- the one that runs through midnight, not 7 p.m. like the earlier family event -- and I had to admit that we don't go out much as a couple. And really, you know, that suits us just fine. Give me a choice between ringing in the new year with a bunch of strangers with alcohol, or with my son and daughter swinging noisemakers and swilling sparkling apple cider, I'll take the latter every time. The fact is, we were pretty much homebodies before we had kids, too. But it's nice now to have such a sweet excuse.