Friday, June 28, 2013

Kids are Strange

Sweet Daughter: "I don't want pizza. I want cucumber."

Sweet daughter set all of this up for them to sleep. They each got a new change of clothes and a snack before she kissed them and told them goodnight.

Sweet Son: "Oh no! The moon is broken!" (It was a crescent moon.)

After the moon comment, I brought out a couple of books about the moon. We talked about how the moon turns and the phases of the moon. We also learned about astronauts and the moon landing. Both of my kids decided they are going to be astronauts when they grow up. Only Sweet Daughter wants to work on the space station with her friends and Sweet Son wants to go to the moon where it will be quiet (with a very meaningful look toward his sister). Even when they are the same, they are different. haha

He sits at this piano and plays for an hour. That's an incredibly long time for a two year old.

We have been talking about different jobs and what they want to do when they grow up. Sweet Daughter has it narrowed down to a hockey player, astronaut, pig, and ballerina. Sweet Son wants to be a cow, train tracks, astronaut, and book reader. I think those pretty well explain my kids, but draw your own conclusions.

After our chore bootcamp, I knew my kids would need a reward. Since we introduced screen time on the planes to and from Europe, we let them continue at home. Here he's playing a Bob the Builder game, but they also get to play Rosetta Stone Polish.

 This was their first introduction to video games. My first video game was pong on a computer that was huge by today's standards. We have come so far. They are playing Wii Music. The faster they move, the faster the music plays. The bigger the movement, the louder. They enjoy the control this game gives them.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

What is Executive Function?

I attended a multi-day conference on executive function and how it relates to school success. Of course the first place to start should be to define executive function. Here's the problem, no one agrees. There are more than 30 credible definitions and 100s of less than credible definitions. So, here are the most common items included by various definitions:

Inhibition (self-control)
Working Memory (spatial and verbal)
Cognitive Flexibility

If you ask any teacher, these are the types of skills that are the most important in the classroom. It's much easier to teach a child to read than to teach a child self-control. Every Kindergarten teacher would rather have a class full of kids who have self-control, a good working memory, and cognitive flexibility than having a classroom full of kids who can read and do math above grade level. When you are pushing your child to be more academic stop and think about the things that are more important.

Let's look at each of these one at a time. Inhibition is more than just not hitting the jerk next to you (though that is certainly part of it). It's also controlling when you talk and what you say (I'm still working on that one). You also need to be able to inhibit the tendency to be distracted, to quit if bored or offered temptation, etc. I remember a band director once telling us the most difficult parts of any piece of music are the rests. That's the inhibition part of executive function.

Working memory is actually one of the best predictors of academic success. How much you can hold in your working memory and how you are able to manipulate it is pretty much how we define school success. This relates to reading graphs, reading books, following directions, having a discussion, and being able to consider things from multiple perspectives. Without working memory you can't make connections to other things, which is how we build neural connections in the brain. This is how we build all knowledge.

Cognitive flexibility is the most difficult part of executive function. This is being able to make mental, physical, and behavioral transitions. This is knowing the rules are different at school than at home. Pretty much every place we go, the rules are at least slightly different. Even within one place the rules can be different - at home with a babysitter versus a parent - at school in music class versus on the playground. We all know kids, and some adults, who struggle with these types of transitions. Cognitive flexibility also helps with being able to understand multiple perspectives. This is what allows us to have "outside the box" thinking and is crucial for problem solving.

Think of executive function as the director of an orchestra. Your brain does many different things, but the executive function tells it what to do and when. Many disorders start with executive dysfunction - ADHD, Tourett's Syndrome, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Depression, Autism, Learning Disabilities, Anxiety, etc. Ideally, we would test for executive function so we could help improve in all of these areas. Only, how do you test for something you can't define? This is the problem we are currently trying to address. There are some executive function evaluations on the market, however they don't cover most of what we actually want to know. I heard one analogy that it would be like giving an eye test and a coordination test and using that to determine who can drive. Those things are both needed, but there is so much more to driving, just as there is much more to executive function than the current tests evaluate.Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Cleaning Windows and Mirrors

Day 3 of chore bootcamp was for cleaning windows and mirrors.

I sprayed the cleaner (natural, can't harm the kids) on the window. The first child would use the squeegee, which is always fun.

The second child would follow up with a paper towel on the window. We started with the front windows.

Then they traded jobs and moved onto the back windows.

They wanted more, so we moved onto the mirrors. We didn't use the squeegee here, but they could both use paper towels at the same time. This became another favorite job around the house. It might be because it's the only time they are allowed to climb on the counter, but as long as they are cleaning, I don't really care why they enjoy it.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Dusting and Sweeping

As we continue our chore bootcamp, we introduced dusting and sweeping.

For dusting I had the kids put long socks on their hands. It was easy for them to see the dust on the white socks, which encouraged them to continue. (We'll just pretend that I left the dust there to encourage this rather than because I'm a horrible house keeper.)

Then we moved onto sweeping the floor. Most of the stuff on the floor they dropped so it made sense that they should be the ones cleaning it up. They each have their own broom and dustpan that they can easily use. This was the only chore they didn't really seem to enjoy - maybe it's because they were having to sweep the floor 4 times a day. I will say, they did stop dropping as much on the floor though. Natural consequences for the win!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Cooking and Laundry

Summer is a great time for a chore bootcamp. I decided the kids needed to be doing more around the house. We were able to spend time each day learning how to do different tasks around the house.

We have always done cooking together regularly, but this was their first time to be allowed to use a knife. (Yes, they were plastic.) We made banana ice cream - cut bananas into small pieces, freeze, blend until smooth. Much healthier and my kids loved it. (I also suggest mixing in some peanut butter or strawberries for more flavor.)

 The kids seemed to think clean clothes just appeared in their dressers. This was a great time to teach them the process. They had to put the clothes into the washer. I took them out of the washer and they put them in the dryer.

Once they were dry, the carried the clean clothes to put them away. They quickly learned how to put their own clothes away. They may be dressed in wrinkled clothes, but they did it themselves, which means much more to me.

The kids actually enjoyed doing laundry so much they kept asking for more. Being the over indulgent mom that I am, I allowed them to do our laundry as well. Then they got to wash the sheets, towels, and on and on. At one point they did mention that we do a lot of laundry in this house, but they kept doing it.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Splash Park Fun

We love splash parks in the Summer. We would probably love them in the Spring and Fall also, but they aren't open then. There is nothing better to do when it's 100 degrees outside than play in some nice, reasonably cool water. The only thing that would make this better would be some shade to sit in, but nothing's perfect.

 My normally reserved child immediately ran into the water. He was stomping the water down and loved that he can make them stop.

She wanted to do the same thing, but tried not getting wet. It took awhile before she was running through the water and really having fun.

Then they realized they could work together. They were able to get an entire row of the water to stop, thus making the other rows shoot their water much higher in the air. Victory!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Snakes and Birds at the Zoo

I've done many posts about our zoo, but this one will show you parts I've never featured before.

Sweet daughter wanted to bring this guy home with us. She said he could sleep in her room. I managed not to panic at the thought of a snake in our house and firmly told her no.

Normally the like to climb on the elephants for a photo. This time they found a turtle. It was even better because they could get on and off without help.

We waited until the kids were a little older before letting them feed the birds. This way we were able to explain what was happening when the birds started flying toward them.

We did manage to convince the birds to stay on wonderful husband's arm to let the kids feed them.

 The kids were happy in this exhibit for a long time considering they didn't like the idea of letting the birds near them. The loved watching the birds' tiny beaks try to get the seeds off of the sticks.

Apparently no trip to the zoo would be complete without a photo on the elephants. haha

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Baking Soda and Vinegar

Dripping vinegar on baking soda is always amusing, but we decided to make it more interesting. First we spread a thin layer of baking soda on the bottom of a pan. Then, we mixed food coloring with the vinegar. Using eye droppers the kids got to see what happens when they meet.

The great thing about eye droppers is they also build fine motor skills. Holding the tip and squeezing helps build the same muscles that will be used for pencil grip. Also, the immediate gratification of bubbling keeps the kids focused.

At some point he decided just to dump one of the cups of vinegar into his pan. It wasn't nearly as interesting as he had expected, but she was nice enough to let him help her.

In case you don't know what to expect, here's a video of what happens.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Dr. Seuss

Everyone has heard of Dr. Seuss and has their favorite books. Cat in the Hat, Hop on Pop, Green Eggs and Ham, and The Lorax seem to be loved and remembered by everyone. Most people have never even heard of my favorite Dr. Seuss book. Written in 1973, it took more than 2 decades before someone was able to illustrate it. It was not actually published until after Dr. Seuss' death.

"Some days are yellow. Some are blue. On different days, I'm different too."  This book goes through different colors and feelings in a way young children can understand and older children can easily discuss. After reading the book and talking about it, I let the kids each choose a color to paint with and then they had to tell me how it made them feel.

Sweet Son told me "I feel Blue like a happy tiger painting spots."

Sweet daughter said, "I feel Pink like a hungry butterfly flying to the airport."

I love discussing feeling with two year olds. You never know what you are going to get. Have you ever read this book? Do you like a Dr. Seuss book that most people don't?

Monday, June 17, 2013

Magnetic Letters

We have had magnetic letters on our refrigerator for awhile now. The kids move them around and use them as magnets, but hadn't really put much thought into them. Then one day sweet son spent a long time playing with them and when I went to check on him (quiet two year olds shouldn't be trusted), this is what I found.

He wrote "sock" "mad" "runt" and "fil". I offered him praise and took a photo of his hard work. (I love how proud he looks in this photo.) Not to be outdone, sweet daughter wanted to do something impressive with the letters so I would take her photo as well.

This was her way of playing with them. She sorted each by color and lined them up. This is also a great skill for a two year old. :)

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Digital Field Trips

While we love traveling and believe the best way to learn is through hands on, we can't visit everything. I've recently learned about digital field trips. I was given the chance to try it out for free, but all opinions are my own.


I looked at the options: The Desert, The Rainforest, and The Wetlands. I decided to start in the rainforest. After downloading the program to my computer, which was quick and easy, I started exploring. Before any trip, you need to know where you are going. You start with a map of the world and have to find the correct continent. I was headed to Central America. It narrowed it down to the country, region, and finally my destination. I know my geography loving kids will think this is awesome. It also lines up nicely with the Montessori curriculum they use a school.

Once on site, you have many different ways of exploring. I started with the field trip option. There are many markers throughout the trail with interesting things to discover and learn. You get a 360 degree view and can hear the sounds of each area. Spotting animals and interesting plants kept me interested and wanting to click on things to learn more. It builds on curiosity. When you click on an animal it tells you about it's habitat, food sources, and how interrelated everything is in the rainforest. You learn about animal defense systems, the human impact on the area and more. My favorite part is getting to climb the ladders into the trees to see everything that lives in the canopy.

There are many details thrown in that surprised me. In addition to getting to see the rainforest, this field trip also went into a cave, in the river, and in a cabin for lunch. There are games to play trying to figure out how animals and plants are interrelated. There is a map of where current rainforest are as well as a map showing where they used to be located.

For younger kids this would be fun to just let them explore. They can move around clicking on what interests them and they will certainly learn. For lower elementary kids I would create a scavenger hunt. For older elementary or even middle school students I would have them create a worksheet for me to complete. I'm sure they would listen for the most obscure facts and after I answered the questions, they would have to grade it, thus reinforcing the concept in multiple ways.

I'm looking forward to exploring the other two field trips. I highly suggest this program for anyone who is learning about any of these environments and can't take a physical trip. If you can take a trip to the rainforest, the desert, and the wetlands I would love for you to have me come along - you know to help with the educational aspects. :)

You can buy one of these digital field trips for as little as $40 (normally $65) right now through Educents (That is an affiliate link.) You could get all three for $102 (a $195 value).

Friday, June 14, 2013

A Spring Storm

I asked each of my kids what they did last week.

Sweet Daughter: "The rain was loud and then it was raining inside. The guy was on the roof and now it only rains outside. Daddy's fixing the fence and I got to wear pajamas to the last day of school."

Not how we normally decorate the hallway. We were able to get someone out to put a tarp on the roof that day and fix the roof the next day.

Our fence and our neighbor's yard

That trampoline wasn't there the day before. Actually, we think the trampoline came from a house on a different street. They make really good wind sails.

You can see through 6 yards that used to be separated by fences.

The sign that our neighborhood was hit harder than most? The news truck driving down our small, out of the way street.

They were able to rebuild this backyard play set. Now it has anchors. 

With all of that excitement, what did Sweet Son think of his week? "I ate chicken and salmon. Oh, Pizza and green beans, cereal, strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries. I think that was it."

Thursday, June 13, 2013

How travel changes play

My kids are playing so nicely together. According to them they are taking a car to the airport and then they will take a train to the water to meet the gondolier who will drive the boat to the Colosseum. Not a bad plan from a couple of two year olds.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Problem Solving

"I want it."
"No I want it."
Me: "Ok, pick a number between 1 and 10."
Son: "1"
Daughter: "Purple"
Me: "Well, Son is definitely closer so he gets it."

I wonder how long this method of problem solving will work. So far I've used it twice and they have neither one argued or been upset with the results.

Sweet Son put his shorts on backwards then decided it was too difficult to change them. His solution? He put his shirt on backwards so they would match. I love that he told me he was going to put his shirt on backwards before he did it. I might have tried to correct him otherwise!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013


Sweet Daughter looks at me concerned, "Mama, you look frustrated. Why you frustrated? Is it because we didn't take a nap? Because we moved our mattresses again? Because we climbed up in the window? Because we were hitting and kicking? Because we aren't behaving? Because we tore the window covering? Why Mama, Why?"

Gee, wonder why I would look frustrated. By the way, the window they climbed up in is about 2.5 feet off the floor and has only the tiniest sill that they were BOTH standing on to take down the window covering.

They are still in what we call the prison room. 2 mattresses, sheets, blankets, pillows. Nothing else allowed in the room. No bed frames, no toys, no books, no furniture. It's our attempt to keep them safe, but they continue to find new ways of getting in trouble. Today I was afraid they broke the window from the sudden banging I heard before I rushed in. Frustrated doesn't even being to cover it. (Yes, this is the exact type of thing I could see myself doing as a child.)

Monday, June 10, 2013

Big June Giveaway!

Hosted by Feisty Mom
It's June already! Time for our Big June Giveaway! Bringing you prizes from some great sponsors valued at over $150! Please take the time to visit each sponsor and thank them for donating to this giveaway. We've got some great prizes up for grabs!
Here are some coupon codes you can use right now!
Use Coupon Code FEISTY10OFF for 10% off at Simply Glittered
Use Coupon Code GrandOpening20 at Southern Girl Prints
$10 credit for Simply Glittered
4th of July Wreath from Wreathes & Things
Small Metro Jar from Sensual Delight Scents
DIY digital customized 3 pack wedding suite from Southern Girl Prints
$10.00 credit to The Traveling Classroom
2 Coupon Codes from Crocheted Design
$10 gift code for Itty Bitty Clay Creations
Hair feather headband from Glitzy Glamour Girls
$10 gift code from Cali Couture Tutus & More
$10 gift code from Chelldon’s Inspired Designs
Neon Bow Set, Nautical Bow Set, Wine Glass Set from Bows by Chelsea
Key Fob & Cosmetic Case from The Quilt Handler
This Giveaway is open to U.S. only. Please enter using the rafflecopter form below. Good luck everyone! Giveaway will run from 6/10-6/28. All winners must reply within 48 hours of winning. ALL entries will be verified. I keep a list of all entrants that do not enter correctly. It's not fair to those that do.
a Rafflecopter giveaway