ValleyFair

The Ferris Wheel at night, looking through the loop of the Corkscrew!

I haven’t been to ValleyFair for a LONG time! We’re talking, at least 7 years. This past weekend, I went with my boyfriend and his 3 boys, ages 12, 11 and 8. We had such a blast! Experiencing the rollercoasters with them for the 1st time was SO cool!

In line for the Wild Thing, Aspen, 11, went back and forth on whether he was going to go on it. The height of the hill was intimidating… Behind us, there were three people, most likely in their early 20′s. They were holding several stuffed animals they had won (we previously saw them in the parking lot with a huge gorilla that took up most of the bed of their pickup). Aspen really loves stuffed animals, so he started talking to the girl about her husky. They were very nice (and a little drunk). We chatted with them until we got through the line, with Aspen continuing to go back and forth… in the end, it was the girl, Jessica, who convinced him to try the rollercoaster. He rode with her, and afterwards, she gave him the dog for being so brave! Not only did he have a great time on the Wild Thing, I think her giving him the stuffed dog was the icing on the cake to his day! After that, he didn’t even think twice about going on the Corkscrew! That was the ride that, as a kid, I was terrified to go on! I cried the whole way through the hour wait in line when my Dad was going to make me ride it. In the end, I took the Chicken Exit. When I finally tried it, I loved it! I think he had the same experience.

Dysin,8, was a little different. He WANTED to do a lot of rides, but he wasn’t quite tall enough for some of them. Luckily, he was still able to go on several rides “with” an adult! He had no worries about the coasters. When we got buckled into the Corkscrew, he said to me, “I might close my eyes, and I might scream some!” I told him that it was OK, I probably would too! As soon as we got back on the flat part at the end, he said, “I just got over my fear of heights!” We may have created quite a little thrill-seeker in that one!

Nikolai wasn’t big on rides that went off the ground, so he sat a few out. That was OK with us.

One of the coolest things about the day, was the bonding that happened. The day started with Dysin and I having a full hour with just the 2 of us awake. We spent the hour talking, and looking at the pictures I was uploading from my camera. The whole day, he was my little Buddy. He went on almost every ride with me. When we were walking around, he was holding my hand most of the time (though a few times, I suspect it was so I wouldn’t hold his Dad’s hand)!

I also got a chance to really see Jason, the Dad, in action! I loved watching him holding his sons’ hands, giving hugs, etc. It’s hard to fake being a good parent for 11 1/2 hours. I love watching him Father his kids. He is firm, but loving with them, and his kids listen and respect him. We had very few issues the whole day. When we did, we dealt with them, and moved on. His kids knew what the expectations are, and for the most part, follow them…

Spending the day with him and his kids without mine there was nice. I was able to just watch and be, without the distraction of keeping tabs on my kids too. I know how crazy it is when we get all 5 kids together, but with just the 3, I was able to get a new perspective…

Two Identities

The Mom

Me and the kids at the Monkey Business Preschool Graduation

Being a Mom is quite rewarding. I love watching my kids grow, develop, and become their own little people! I love getting hugs and kisses at any random time… Not every lesson I teach them is perfect… not every response I have to different situations is even close to what’s best. I love them with all my heart, but yes, like any other person, I get frustrated with them at times. I even need a break once in a while!

I know people who put their entire life on hold for the sake of their children. Their entire identity is as “so and so’s parent.” As soon as their children come along, all the things that were once important to them, suddenly go away. They say goodbye to their social lives, and goodbye to adult-type fun. I wonder if these people realize the lesson they are unknowingly teaching their children – that you should live your life for someone else… There are many times and situations where saying no is not only appropriate, but sometimes necessary. We do need to think of our children first, but we also need to take some time to do what we have always enjoyed. As a parent, it can be hard to find the line of when to sacrifice our own desires for our children, and when to take care of ourselves.

I think of my daughter… what kind of woman do I want her to grow to be? I want her to be independent (though, I wasn’t prepared for her to be quite so independent at age 9). I want her to be able to think for herself. I want her to end up with a man who treats her right, someone she can truly be an equal with. I want her to be the kind of Mom that raises her children with strong values and a sense of respect! I want her to be able to balance taking care of her family with taking care of herself… I don’t know how to “create” this strong, sensible woman I want her to be, but I can try to be a role model for her.

The Teacher

Hangin' out on the playground!

One of my favorite things about being a teacher, is the love and affection I get from my kids in my class! This summer, I have been spending a lot of time in the 2-3 year old classrooms. That is such a fun age for so many reasons! #1 – they give so much love and affection… ALL the time!!! What a great way to start the day – a little girl running up for big giant hugs, a “Miss Sarah”, and kisses on my cheek!! It just melts me into a puddle!! Those hugs and kisses go a long way, especially on those tough days!!!

As a teacher, we are role models for children, but in a different way. Young children really seem to think we LIVE at school. This is apparent the first time I see one of the kids from our Center at the store or other random places. They truly wonder what we are doing out in public! I think it is good for them to see us outside of school. That said, it also points out that we need to behave in a way that is acceptable. As teachers, we are role models ALL the time. We never know when we may run into someone who is watching our behavior. Those moments when my kids and I are at the store, they are completely out of control, I am past the point of frustration, and I am yelling at them? I hope to GOD none of the families from the Child Care Center are there. It’s embarrassing. I always think the parents are going to see my kids acting like that, and think, “OMG, and SHE takes care of my children???” On the other hand, they might think, “Phew, even her kids have a hard time being in control sometimes!” No one is perfect. We don’t need to pretend to be, but we do need to be aware that people might be watching!

Another way we as teachers have to think about how we are modeling to children, is in our adult interactions. Working with many women (and a few men) over many years, I can tell you, some people are going to gossip, some people are going to complain, and some people just bring sunshine to every moment! Children watch those things… Do we have children in our class who are complainers? Then, we should look at how we are talking around them! Maybe we are role modeling complaining behavior! Are there children who think it’s fun to get other people in trouble? How about the kids who are ALWAYS mean?? …we can’t control what is being modeled to them at home, but we can model how we are talking around the children in our care. We need to think about what we say, before we say it! Wouldn’t it be so much better to be that person that brings sunshine to every moment, in turn, influencing children to follow our lead???

Both of my roles, as Mom and as Teacher, are very important to me! I strive to be the best I can be at both – EVERY day! I’m not perfect. I make mistakes. Heck, some days, it seems like that’s all I do! But, trying, is what counts!

Quick Poll

There is a new Series of books coming out featuring Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield of Sweet Valley High. They are going to be adults in the new series… I kind of want to check it out!

Happy Tails Dog Park

Just a quick follow up on Duke and his building aggression towards other dogs. I have taken him to Happy Tails Dog Park in Hallie a few times now. I have to say, it was a GREAT $20 investment (or $3/day if you don’t get an Annual Pass)!!

The first couple times we went, I took him in the middle of the day, when I knew there probably wouldn’t be other dogs there. Actually, I kind of prayed that there wasn’t! The first time, there was one dog far away, and he didn’t even know it! He was so happy to be off leash, that he just ran happily along.

The last couple of times we went, there were other dogs along the path. Every time he ran up to one, my stomach tied in knots. I was so nervous about how he would react. I tried to remember what I had read, and what my friends who used to foster dogs told me, “Dogs are less likely to show aggression if they are off leash.” I took a deep breath, watched the initial greeting, and called his name. He would finish the sniff greeting, and run along – whew!!!

Duke, running happily along at the Happy Tails Dog Park!!

He is doing great! He checks out the other dogs, and even plays with them some! His hair still stands up some initially, but he hasn’t shown any aggression towards the dogs at the park.

Tonight, I even got a compliment from another woman there on how good he was, and that she would look forward to see us there again!! It’s kind of like being complimented on your kids – your heart swells with pride!

Summer Camp

Some of my favorite memories from when I was growing up were from Summer Camp. I went to Camp Cherith (?) for a year or two, and then went to Trout Lake Camp for several years. I don’t remember much from the first camp, other than that I got to ride horses.

Trout Lake was my home away from home in the summers! I don’t know how many years I ACTUALLY went, but it seemed like my whole life! I had so many friends from camp. I couldn’t wait to go back every year! Some of my friends from church went every year, some from school went, and then there were the same kids that went the same week every year. Those were the ones we couldn’t wait to go to camp to see again! I was even able to reconnect with some of my old Trout Lake friends at Bethel College now called Bethel University (both being associated with the Baptist General Conference, it’s no surprise some of the same people attended both). One of my closest friends from camp was Eric Stevens, whose funeral I attended a few years back… He will be the topic of another blog at a later date.

Besides the numerous friendships made there, Trout Lake Camp was a place where my spiritual life really grew. I experienced God there in ways I can’t even describe! I remember being in Chapel one night, and a bat came in and flew around the chapel… We were all convinced it was somehow Satan trying to send us a message. We started praying, and the bat flew away… To tell the story, it doesn’t sound like much, but I remember the experience so clearly – we were sure that God was in that room, protecting us all from this most likely rabid bat. I can remember being there during the Fall on a Youth Group Retreat; something about the music and pastors speaking impacted me in a way that literally brought me to tears. There was something about the freedom of not having parents there, mixed with the limits put on us by the Counselors, the awesome experiences of Chapel and our small groups, riding horses, making crafts, playing games, the friendships… It was an experience every child should have!

This year, Grace went to camp for the 2nd year in a row! She attended Camp Dellwater, up near Bemidji, MN. (If you click on the link for the camp, and click on newsletters, you will see a picture of my Grandpa and his wife hugging, as well as their best friends, Gladys and Larry)

Last year, Grace and my niece, Tori, went up together. My Mom serves on the board for the camp. Since my Grandpa’s cabin is just past the camp grounds, she stayed there, and helped out at the camp. It was a huge comfort to me knowing that Grace would have a connection to home if she got homesick. All I heard about was how much fun she had, all about her new friends, etc… She couldn’t wait to go back again to see them! Ahh.. just like my experiences!!!

Grace and Tori with their Cabin Mates at Camp Dellwater

This year, she and Tori went again. My Mom was up there again, but spent more time telecommuting from the cabin into work, less time at the Camp. When they got back, I heard about how the girls fought the last day (after camp got out, they stayed an extra night at the cabin). Grace walked in the door, dropped her stuff, handed me a letter she wrote to me, did the same for Michael, and then said, “Mom, can I go to Rachel’s?” Seriously??? Gone for a week, and I barely get a hug and a hello??

So, she went to Rachel’s for about 3-4 hours, came home, and we went to the pool. She didn’t hang out with Michael and I at the pool – she was just off doing her own thing… After we got home, I tried to ask her about camp. She just said it was fun, and a lot of her friends from last year were there… Oh, and they won the Clean Cabin Award, only not the trophy, just a bag of candy. That’s it!!! Hmm… I think I may need to investigate more closely… I’m guessing she was just really tired, and more details will come out this week…

Pray for your children

A friend of mine sent me this link. It lists out several prayers to pray over your children. Praying for your children

I think it is everyone’s wish for their children that they may grow up to be the best person they can be. By instilling the love of God and high moral standards, we can help. We can not do it on our own. Whether you are a single parent, two-parent (or more) family, or you have a whole village raising your child, without God, it will not be enough!

Take a minute to pray over your child today. If you are a teacher, pray over your class too – there may be children in your care that no one else prays for!!

Technology and Children

I am currently taking an online course called “Accommodating All Learners.” The focus is on dapting curriculum to Today’s students. One topic that has been interesting to me, is the topic of technology. We have had several articles to read on the subject that have really got me thinking and reflecting…

When I was in Elementary School, we looked forward to going to the Computer Lab, once every couple weeks or so. We couldn’t wait to play “Oregon Trail” or “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?”! I don’t remember having any lessons in keyboarding until 8th or 9th grade or so. I don’t even think we had a mouse on our computers back then. Maybe we did, but I don’t remember. I remember taking a class in 9th grade on “Computer Animation” (or something like that). It was done on an old Apple Computer. Basically, we had to program it in DOS to move a certain number of pixels… Very poor graphics, basic language, but we thought we were cool that we could do even that! Of course, none of that class has stuck with me since then, except that I sat by Paul Reidel and we goofed around most of the class!!

Growing up with a Mom who was a Computer Consultant (Systems Analyst to be exact), I was around computers most of my life. I was one of few people that had one at home, but it seemed too complicated to use. It was really just there for my Mom to dial into work, or do work at home, and save it onto her big floppy discs. My Nintendo on the other hand… well, let’s just say, I was pretty good at working it! I could play Legends of Zelda pretty well, and my brother and I could beat Final Fantasy II several times over! We’d spend HOURS playing Nintendo!

I was at the beginning of the technology generation. We had no idea that just a few short years down the road, computers would be such a key part of daily life! It wasn’t until late high school that we had even heard of the internet. It certainly wasn’t available to just anyone! Our research projects meant hours in the library, searching books for just the right information… then, sorting through all our notes, to put it together..

When I was in college, things started changing. My Mom had given me her old notebook computer to use. I remember sitting at Century College, working on papers (with a bad power supply, so I had to save often, just in case). I could also take notes on my computer, though, I didn’t do that much. Research papers became slightly easier, since we could use the internet as a resource. We also could type our notes, so moving around the information we had was so much easier. No more copying and re-copying information! We were limited on how many internet sources we could use. The reality is that there wasn’t nearly as much out there as there is now! With the introduction of AOL, the internet became more available (at least to me)! I loved the social networking available via AOL Chat. Not surprisingly, I became kind of addicted to chatting online, and searching the internet for random things! Things seemed to be exploding technologically, and I loved it! I thought maybe a career in computers would be great for me; that is, until I took a DBA class, and HATED it! It was then I was reminded of my love of teaching!

Today’s youth wouldn’t even know what to do with themselves if it weren’t for technology! Grace, my 9 year old, has been using the computer to play games since she was about 3-4. Michael, my almost 5 year old, has been playing on the computer for about a year. He’s been playing on sites such as NickJr.com and PBSkids.com for as long! He knows which icon to click, how to find the game he wants, and can play them with relatively little help! Grace is learning her way around the internet, can play games, and can even use Word to type letters to her friends! She’s even sent emails, and Tweets to Justin Beiber (the love of her life)! It amazes me that my children can work a computer so well! I, myself, use the computer daily to keep in touch with the outside world… I check my email and Facebook daily.

Children these days not only know their way around a computer at a young age, but also have significant access to them. Computers are available in the schools/classrooms, in most homes, at the library… pretty much everywhere. Children are getting cell phones at younger ages, many of which are “smartphones” that give them instant access to the internet. With even the most basic phones, kids can stay connected to their friends via text messaging. Kids who don’t have phones, can even communicate with their friends through their DS’s…

One of the articles I had to read for my class was all about how teachers should try to find a way to take advantage of the technology kids’ currently have, and use it in their classroom. You can read the article by Marc Prensky, called Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants if you’d like! It’s very interesting… I can see both sides of the debate of allowing students to bring their technology into the classroom. It would be difficult to keep students from using their phones/ other technology for chatting, etc. To keep their focus in the classroom might prove a challenge. On the other hand, if students are expected to sit in a classroom environment that feels completely different from the rest of their world, are they really going to be that successful???

As a preschool teacher, I would not have phones, etc in my classroom. That said, a few years’ back, I asked to have a computer in my classroom with internet access. We had a computer with games, but we were limited by the number of discs we had. By having access to the internet, we were not only able to open up the number of games children could play, but could also have resources galore at our fingertips. I often pulled up pictures, maps, or other useful information that applied to our lessons. We also could find games that directly applied to our topics. What a great tool the internet has become, not only for adults, but for young children too!

The Neighborhood “Mom”

I always wanted to be that Mom – you know the one. The one who’s house everyone wanted to hang out at. The one where the whole neighborhood would come, just to visit, even when my kids weren’t home… I wanted to be the place where kids felt safe, so if they needed to get away, they could come over here for a bit… Well, I got my wish! What I never realized, was what was really entailed in being that Mom!

I live in a cul-de-sac with 22 children under the age of 12. There are also several middle school children. That doesn’t even include all the kids that live in the townhomes behind us that often come down the hill to hang out. As you can imagine, we have A LOT of kid-traffic around here!! I feel a little bad for the one single woman who no longer has little ones, and yet, still has to “deal” with them every time she comes home!

Some of the awesome things about being the Mom that all the kids want to hang out with, is that I have no shortage of people to play catch with (at least, until my shoulder starts to get too sore to throw any more). If I ever get bored, I can pretty much step outside, and be surrounded with people to talk to. I can send my kids outside to play, and know that they will have no problem finding children to play with. I find out a lot of what’s going on through talking with the kids, and the parents (mostly Moms, but I can’t really leave Dustin or Scott out). As soon as my van pulls into the circle, or my garage door starts to open, it seems like there are children right there, ready to hang out!

Some of the not-so-awesome things is that any time my garage is open, the neighborhood kids assume that means it is a free-for-all for the toys in there. I don’t mind sharing, but I get frustrated when things go missing or get broken (especially Michael’s brand new scooter he got for Christmas)! I think it’s partly my fault for allowing them to play with our stuff all the time when I used to always be out there. Now that the kids are getting older, I sometimes take advantage of the time they are outside to catch up on emails or facebook, or sneak in some cleaning. I have been spending a bit more time outside again lately, but sometimes, I just need a minute with no kids around!!

Ah yes, that is a disadvantage of being an Early Childhood Teacher, Mom and “Neighborhood Mom.” Face it, not every day with your own children are all sunshine and roses. For those of you who have never worked with little children, take those days, and multiply by 2-10 kids (depending on the age group you are working with). On the days when it seems like there are lots of crabby or aggressive kids, it can be particularly hard to come home to your own kids who are likely to be extra crabby on those same days! Sometimes, I just have to come home, and shut the garage door (so no one thinks my house looks like a good place to play)… those days also tend to be days when my kids get to watch a little more TV, just so I can have a break…

It might sound like I am complaining, but really, I’m not!! I love working with young children. I love being a Mom, and I like being that person that the kids can come hang with once in a while. I love being able to love up on all the kids I can!! Sometimes, like all teachers, I just need to do a better job of balancing that out with time with adults, or time by myself. I think that is how we adults (who are also parents and teachers) can keep our sanity in check!

When you hope no one is looking

Tonight, I was at the fountain at Irvine Park with the kids. My friend Alison, her husband, and their kids were there too. Michael and Evan are only a month apart, and have been buddies since they were babies. The kids all played great for a couple hours, while we adults chatted.

When they all left, the kids and I walked over to the creek for some playing in the water… I found some wild raspberries, that I was picking for the kids, when they started fighting.

Their fighting escalated into a complete meltdown from Michael, Grace yelling at her brother, and me yelling at both of them. The meltdown continued to the point of Michael sitting on the ground kicking and screaming, refusing to come with… I had to pick him up and put him over my shoulder… the battle continued… I was embarrassed, humiliated really, and beyond frustrated!!! I really hoped that no one was looking, but how could they not notice the family of 3 all fighting, kids crying, etc… UGH!!!

Soon, the kids will be going to bed, and tomorrow will be a new day. Every day, we get a fresh start. We can put the problems from the day before aside. Embarrassing moments with the kids don’t stick with you the next day. Emotionally, maybe, but we can choose to make tomorrow better than today.