Sunday, July 22, 2012

Let's Not Spoil the Fun

We are leaving for our much anticipated two-week pilgrimage to the Holy Land today.  This Holy Land has Mickey Mouse as its Supreme Ruler and sucks the money right from your wallet the moment you set foot on its soil.  Yes, we are leaving for Disney World and the Disney Cruise.

My parents left two days ago as they decided to drive while we chose to fly.  When I say I chose to fly, that means I chose to not be in the car for 20 hours hearing the ever-melodic, “Are we there yet?” and instead will be double-fisting Xanax like a PMSing woman eating M&Ms while pretending for Monkey Man’s sake that being on an airplane is as natural as walking.  Inside my head I will be an absolute lunatic until that plane lands.

We spoke to my parents last night when they arrived at their overnight stop in Georgia.  Monkey Man asked to speak to my mom and when he got on the phone with her, this was the conversation from our end:

Monkey Man, whispering: “Aga, can you hear me?  I need to whisper this,” he said while walking to the other side of the dining room that both his father and I were sitting in.  He then faced the wall and crouched down.

“Aga,” he said still whispering, the way a 7 year-old whispers.  Which is to say, he was talking.  “You can’t hear me? Okay, I’ll talk louder,” he said as he raised his voice to above a regular speaking volume.

“Listen, I need you buy me as many things as you can buy me.”

You have to hand it to the kid.  He didn’t mess around, and went to the source.  If my mom loses her shirt because of this child, I will be sure to buy her a new one that says, “I went to Disney World and all I got was my grandson ripping me off.”  

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

My Little Squirt

Monkey Man had diarrhea for the first time in his life since he could actually remember.  I think he had it when he was a baby, but honestly, other than his life-threatening nut and shellfish allergies, this kid stays pretty healthy.  Must be his mother’s OCD and the fact that we essentially live in a Lysol can that is disguised as a house.

He had a really bad stomachache the other night that came on suddenly.  He cried and I stayed with him in the bathroom.  I just had this stomach thing the night before and it was still fresh in my mind how badly my stomach hurt, so I was feeling extra empathetic for the poor kid.  After the first round of butt-yuck, he felt better and was a little amazed at what had just spewed out of him.

The second round he had his dad in there with him.  The following was retold by my husband, since I did not have the awesome privilege of being in the bathroom to witness…

The 3 Stages of Diarrhea as told by a 7 year-old:

  1. “Daddy! It’s like my butt is peeing out poop!”
  2. “Oooh, my butt is on fire!”
  3.  “Ouch.  It hurts to wipe.”
 Leave it to a 7 year-old boy to not only give a play-by-play of bodily functions, but to cut right to the chase and tell it exactly like it is.  

Monday, July 16, 2012

The End of the (F'in) Innocence

During our car ride to yet another baseball game (Monkey Man has been to 3 minor league games and one Yankees game in 16 days) Monkey Man asked me this from the confines of his soon-to-be outgrown booster seat:

“Mommy, is fuck a bad word?”

The angels of Route 80 must been all around me because surprisingly, I did careen off the side of the road.  Normally, the "F" word doesn’t really cause a reaction.  Yes, it’s annoying to hear teenagers saying it trying to be cool, and sure, I might know someone who blurts it out when she drops something or bangs her toe into the corner of my, um, er, HER wall, but when it comes out of MY 7 YEAR-OLD child’s mouth, it’s a bit alarming.

So I launched my attack.  “YES! IT’S THE WORST BAD WORD THERE IS!” I did not divulge that the even worse bad word is the gross, ugly C U Next Tuesday word.  For now, he just needs to know the basic facts on bad words, not disgusting terms for lady parts.

Then I calmed down and asked him where he heard it, silently praying that it wasn’t when I dropped that huge pasta bowl a few weeks ago and it shattered into so many pieces that I am still stepping on shards of glass weeks later.  And maybe continuing to slip out an “Ooooohhhhh Fuuuudddge” ( a la “A Christmas Story) each time.

Monkey Man responded, “Maybe camp?”  “Or maybe (INSERT FRIEND’S NAME HERE) told me it was a bad word?”  He clearly was either very confused and startled by my reaction or was not ratting out his friend. 

He also asked me what the word means.  I simply told him it’s just a mean and yucky word that people use when they aren’t educated enough to use real words.  Yep, mommy is an uneducated fool who throws around mean and yucky words.  Only occasionally, though, like when that wall gets in the way of my friggin’ foot or some a-hole driver cuts me off.  That’s it.  Really.

It made me sad, though, to have to explain this word to him.  As much as his own mother has let one slip, he has never said a bad word.  He has walked past teenagers in the mall saying them, even had some older kids at baseball camp saying a certain choice word that is a synonym for the more juvenile word poop (I was there to witness it), but he has never repeated a word or asked about the words until now.  I almost want him to start running around the house saying, “Poopy Head” just to bring us back to a more simpler time.  He is 7, going into 2nd grade and I feel my baby slipping away.  And I’m not f’in happy about it.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

School’s Out but Learning is Still In

I have been writing articles for parenting and family magazines throughout the U.S.  This article appeared in Northeast Pennsylvania Family in their June 2012 issue.  Here's the link:

School’s out for the summer and the cheers of children can be heard far and wide. Summer is a time to relax and enjoy the endless days of sunshine and play. It is also a time to reinforce all the skills learned during the previous school year.

According to the National Summer Learning Association, all young people experience losses in learning when they do not participate in stimulating educational activities during the summer. Research spanning 100 years shows that students typically score lower on standardized tests at the end of summer vacation than they do on the same tests at the beginning of the summer.

Maybe parents are somewhat resistant to the idea of summer learning, too, for different reasons. Some parents do not quite know how to reinforce the skills, while others simply do not understand the benefit. “Let kids be kids and enjoy their summer vacation,” some parents might say remembering their own youthful summers full of play. However, according to a study by Dr. Harris Cooper, professor of psychology at the University of Missouri-Columbia, when students return to school after a long summer vacation, they've lost one to three months worth of learning.

“Academic regression is real,” says Dr. Richard Tomko, Superintendent of Schools in a K-12 public school district in NJ and partner of Tomko, Tomko and Associates, an educational consulting firm. “Parents who do not foster plans to extend their children's learning into the summer are usually parents of children who struggle at the beginning of the school year.”

Summer is a time for fun and relaxation, and keeping learning in summer can be just that, too. “It is important for every parent to realize that it is the summer, and summer must be fun!” Tomko says. “Children have worked hard all year and now they feel the payoff is the fun-filled days of summer vacation. The learning component must be incorporated in summer fun activities and cannot be hours in length. Quick learning interventions will help reiterate topics and stall regression.”

Start thinking creatively and allow your child to learn naturally in real-life settings. When you think about the various topics your child learns about in school, you will be pleasantly surprised at how easy and fun it can be to incorporate “lessons” into everyday summer life.

Ready, Set, Read!
Get the whole family involved and start a Family Book Club. Depending on the age of the children, assign 10, 20, or 30 minutes per day (or most days of the week) to read together as a family. “Parents must emulate the learning activities with their children,” Tomko says. “Independent reading is the best source for children to maintain a level of literacy. Parents should make sure that they are also familiar with their child’s book so they can discuss themes, characters, likes and dislikes about the book with their child.”

Elementary school teacher Juliann Meletta agrees that reading is the best way to reinforce skills during the summer. “My number one priority for students in the summer is to read, read, read. There is no other product or procedure that packs more for its punch than getting kids to read independently.” As for her own two children, Meletta says, “I do everything I can to get books in the hands of my kids. We visit the local library and devour as many books as we can before taking a pile home.” In addition, many libraries offer summer reading programs with various incentives for completed reading.

The Write Stuff
There are many creative ways to keep children writing throughout the summer without asking them to write a book report or an essay about the Civil War. Kids can write emails to grandparents about their summer plans and activities. Parents can work with their children on a summer scrapbook and have the child write the captions for the pictures. Even something as simple as having a child write the grocery list will help engage children, especially younger ones, in forming letters and sounding out words.

Math Matters
Flash cards might be fun, but don’t forget about everyday activities to engage children in math. Preparing a recipe helps children use measurement. “Asking a child to make his favorite recipe will strengthen his ability to process, create, and complete an important project,” Tomko adds. Encourage your child to do a few chores if he hasn’t started already and to save money for something special. This will help teach math skills as well as necessary life skills in budgeting and financial responsibility.  

Technology Tie-In
Kids love all things techy – computers, iPods, and smart phones are all great ways to keep children interested in learning throughout the summer. There are many websites like and as well as apps available to facilitate learning in all academic areas and for various ages. Kids can practice the alphabet and sounds, review multiplication facts through games, and watch videos about their favorite jungle animals. Simply search academic games according to age or grade level on the internet and get started.

Magical Materials
The most basic skills can be reviewed in creative ways when different kinds of materials are used like sidewalk chalk, fingerpaints and window markers. On a sunny day, sit on the driveway with sidewalk chalk and write a story. “My 4 year-old draws a different picture on each sidewalk block, and then I tell the story based on what I see,” Meletta says. “The best part is that he often disagrees with my story, and he'll say, ‘Mommy, that's not what I mean!’ and then he's using his own vocabulary to narrate his story. For my 7 year-old son, I do the same, but sometimes I change it up with a spelling test, math problems or true and false quizzes. They love these!”

When summer days are gray, camp out by a window and use window markers to write rainy day stories, solve word problems, or play a game of Hangman using rainy day words like “thunder,” “lightening,” and “raincoat.” Even a simple review of addition facts becomes much more fun when kids are writing on the windows!

We all know that a plain cardboard box can lead to hours of creativity. Add construction paper, markers and paints and children have all the necessities to create sets for plays and puppet shows. “Creating summer plays helps younger children enhance diction and interact with dialogue,” Tomko says. “This type of activity can incorporate friends, costumes (as an art component), music, and other learning tools to help maintain and even advance literary skills. One can even use historical characters and stories with this as well.”

The newspaper is a powerful resource for cross-curricular, everyday learning. Where else can you find reading, math, science, history, geography and the arts all in one place?
Children can report on the weather in their town as well as in a city in another state or country, depending on the newspaper. Sports fanatics can look up their favorite baseball team’s most recent batting statistics and keep a record for the summer. The newspaper includes tables and graphs as well as information about cultures not only in their region but around the world.  

With some creativity and a little planning, summer can be fun and relaxing while keeping children’s minds active and enjoying lessons learned in everyday summer settings. With mom or dad as the teacher, summer days can go from hazy and lazy to getting kids yearning for learning!

Real Housewives + Paying Job = Blog Neglect

Please do not call the Division of Mom Blogs on me for wrongful neglect of my cyber-baby.  I am so saddened to see that it really has been three months since I cared for my blog, nurtured it with words of sarcasm, pessimism and snarkiness.  During this unintended hiatus, I would hear my blog crying out to me at night, but I was just too exhausted after a day at my paying job to give it any attention.  That and a few Real Housewives had their season premieres.  So on the delicate scale of cyber-baby vs. Real Housewives of New Jersey, Theresa and mind-numbing dumbness won.

Ah, but my paying job is no more until September as I hold the much coveted title of School Teacher.  People wish they were us in the summer when we can be seen tending to our own children in parks, at pools or at the beach.  While the rest of the working world sits in their offices and cubicles they forget that during the other 10 months out of the year teachers are standing to lecture, pacing to observe, sitting to read, listening to understand, and disciplining to correct in an XXXL cubicle with 20+ children all needing, wanting and deserving our attention in some way.  There is no online shopping during work hours, checking Facebook, or taking an hour lunch plus a few breaks at the water cooler to talk about last night's Real Housewives of Orange County episode. These two months help teachers recharge a much-drained battery that gets sucked dry.  

What recharges my batteries during the summer?  My true passion -writing.  I love teaching, love being in the classroom full of energy and learning and fun, but nothing is better for me than sitting in a quiet room and writing.  So readers, please stick with me this summer and I will try to get some posts published to make up for time lost.