Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Helping Children and Families When a Parent is Away

*This is for my good friend Tracy and her daughter Grace while their husband and daddy is away*

Ideas for Helping Children and Families When Parents Are Away

Whenever parents are away from home for more than a day or two, the separation may hurt. Children with family members deployed or awaiting possible deployment in the military are in a very different situation and need support and reassurance that their loved ones will be safe and return home soon. All children benefit from our planned activities and rituals that celebrate the relationship and help them to stay connected to their loved ones.

Staying Connected Before the Separation:
Plan how to stay connected, in communications and in spirit, using some of the ideas below.

1. Take lots of pictures to carry with you
2. Celebrate the time before the departure
3. Plan a homecoming celebration

Staying Connected at Home

While you are away, your child (with some help if needed from another family member) can:
Create "While you are away" journals and portfolios. These could be “What I would tell you or draw for you today if you were here” collages, collections of objects found today, and photographs.

1. Create a gift jar filled with special items to give you as a homecoming present.
2. Mark a calendar. This will help connect both of you (and becomes a math activity). Circling the return date, if known, creates a sense of journey with an ending.
3. Communicate via e-mails, phone calls, and notes.
4. Plant a flower, tree, or garden.
5. Keep track of where you are on a map. Your child can also track where they are (home, school, at Grandma’s, etc.)
6. Put together a photo or video diary of life at home to share with you when you return.
7. Store “treasures” in a keepsake box to show you when you get back.
8. Do chores around the home to help out.
9. Read the same book as you and share their thoughts with you by e-mail, phone, or notes.
10. Use special stationery to write notes to you.
11. Track the weather where you are.
12. Send you mementos for you to carry.
13. Hang a bird feeder and keep track of the different birds that come while you are gone.

Staying Connected While Gone
While you are away, you can:

1. Send or collect little inexpensive gifts.
2. Collect coins, photographs of places or people, postcards, flags, natural materials such as stones, pinecones, etc…or anything that has a sense of place for your child.
3. Look at your child’s picture and/or a special memento from your child every night before you go to sleep.
4. Tell your child a story (when and if you can communicate) over the phone.

When you are Back Together
1. Create rituals around the activities you chose to do while separated: the collections, the diaries, the gift jar and so on, and make each activity special. Spread them out over a few days.
2. Allow for some special time alone with each family member to welcome you back.
3. Have some family meals where everyone has a role in preparation (and clean up).

Final Note
Easing the pain of separation is possible with some planning and effort. But also remember that we can go overboard, and sometimes the best laid plans can fall apart or aren’t always possible to carry out. We may need to relax to avoid “are we having fun yet?” attempts that become so emotion-laden they can create stress and have the opposite effect of that which is intended. Humor and perspective are keys to success.

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Happy Earth Day!

Celebrating Earth Day!

Wednesday, April 22, is Earth Day; a day intended to inspire appreciation for and awareness of our earth’s environment. It is a great opportunity to teach our kids about the value of the earth and to instill respect for our natural world. It is important to make Earth Day meaningful and valuable to children. After all, the future of our earth is in their hands.

The first Earth Day took place 35 years ago, and Americans’ concern for the global environment has steadily grown since then — especially in the face of increasing pollution and environmental threats. However, recent studies have shown that today’s children are spending less and less time outdoors, which means they have less time to experience and appreciate nature firsthand.

According to a study by Hofstra University, 71 percent of mothers across the country reported that they played outdoors more often than indoors when they were children, while only 26 percent said their own kids do so today. Instead, much recreational time is filled with video games, TV, and the Internet. It’s up to parents to reinforce the value of getting outside and enjoying the natural world around us.

Earth Day can be a fun day to educate children about respecting the earth and all of earth’s inhabitants, be they two-legged, four-legged, furry, slippery, or feathery. Extend this earth-friendly mindset beyond Earth Day, and make everyday Earth Day in your home. Earth Day can also serve as a catalyst to engage children in nature-oriented fun. Here are a few ideas:

  • Virtually adopt an animal: Check with your local zoo or other nature-oriented organization, such as the Save the Manatee Club. Your child can look at pictures and read about his or her new “pet.”

  • Take a nature walk: Bring an insect and plant manual and see how many plants, flowers, and bugs you can identify.

  • Make nature creations: Collect a variety of outdoor items, such as leafs, sticks, flowers, and rocks, and create unique art projects.

  • Try “earth painting:” Finger paint with mud on sidewalks or paper — a good outdoor activity!
    Create a trash collage: Use “trash” (paper scraps, labels, junk mail, and other clean items right out of your trash can) and glue to create a multimedia masterpiece.

  • Make pinecone birdfeeders: Cover a large pinecone with peanut butter and birdseed, hang outside your window, and enjoy the sights and sounds of the bird visitors as they feast.

  • Make cleaning up fun: Take your children to their favorite park, woods, or even for a stroll around your neighborhood. Pick up all the litter you can find and see who can collect the biggest bag. Also, take the time to explain the effects litter has on our environment.

In addition to teaching our children about caring for the earth and engaging them in hands-on activities, there are a number of measures parents can take to conserve energy and water and reduce pollution and waste:

Turn off lights, TVs, and other electronic equipment when not in use.

Recycle cardboard, paper, and plastics.

Draw, paint, and write on recycled paper (and use recycled computer paper for your printer).

Buy only paints, markers, and glues that are water based.

Use fans instead of air conditioners.

Bike, walk, or use public transportation when possible instead of driving.

Try to buy organic foods free of pesticides and chemical additives.

Start a compost pile for your food scraps and lawn clippings.

Make a habit of picking up any litter you see.

Avoid using aerosol sprays and Styrofoam.

Reduce your overall use of plastic packaging.

Use your own cloth bags for groceries.

There are many great Web sites that can provide you with more information about Earth Day, the environment, and fun nature activities. Here are a few:

Recycle City is a high-quality Web site for kids, full of facts, games, and activities just for them. Earth’s Birthday Project has lots of great science facts and fun to engage school-age children and educate them about our earth.
Children of the Earth United is a Web site just for kids, featuring ideas for earth-friendly family games and activities, such as making recycled paper, environmental facts, great books, and more.
Kaboose’s Web site provides fun Earth Day and nature activities for the whole family. Plant a tree or garden: Vegetable gardens are especially fun for children, because you can eat the end product.

Pick up a book and read with your children (have an outdoor reading session if the weather allows). Here are some quality books about Earth Day:

I Love Our Earth by Bill Martin Jr., Michael R. Sampson, and Dan Lipow (ages birth to preschool)
It's Earth Day! by Mercer Mayer (ages 4–8)
Earth Day Birthday by Pattie Schnetzler (ages 4–8)
Clifford the Big Red Dog: Clifford's Spring Clean-Up by Norman Bridwell (ages 4–8)
Earth Day Crafts (Fun Holiday Crafts Kids Can Do!) by Carol Gnojewski (ages 9–12)
You Are the Earth: Know the Planet So You Can Make It Better by David Suzuki, Kathy Vanderlinden, and Diane Swanson (ages 9–12)

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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Easter Pictures

Nana has a huge Rubbermaid Bin full of Poly Pocket play toys that she got at an estate sale over 10 years ago....seriously. She said it is because she always knew she would have a granddaughter some day. This year Madelyn is finally old enough to play with them.....these pics are her first look at them.

Here is my girl eating Skittles, the only candy she could have with her food allergies. The funny thing is, she was NOT supposed to have anymore and was "sneaking" them.....she forgot I was there!

Here she is pretending to "shop" with her bag, which was her daddy's Easter basket.

Opening her Spongebob Easter Basket....just one of two Easter Baskets.....SPOILED!

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Creating A Strong Family Culture While Working

Hello again! Madelyn's preschool/daycare puts our email newsletters and I really like this one, so I thought I would share.....again! Enjoy!

Creating A Strong Family Culture While Working
Developing a family culture and growing healthy children is more than sharing information. It is about sharing feelings as well. In The Working Mother’s Guide to Life: Strategies, Secrets, and Solutions, Linda Mason emphasizes that family life flourishes with intimacy and honesty. By showing our children the breadth and depth of our emotions, we allow them to develop a broader range of emotional reactions as well. Sharing life stories, personal interests, and relaxed time with our children can help us appear real and accessible to them. Through this, we create a bond with our child that is based on intimacy and honesty.

Creating Intimacy In Your Home
Mason writes, “Young children love to be around other people, most particularly their parents, and they are drawn to cozy corners and nooks – intimate family spaces.” Consider the space of your own home and remember that bigger is not always better. To create an intimate setting, Mason suggests creating two small spaces for your young child: a writing area and a book area. This emphasizes the importance of reading and writing and gives your child his own space for these activities.

Writing area: can be a corner of your kitchen counter with a box of pencils, crayons, markers, paper, and envelopes so your child can draw and write whenever she wants.
Reading area: create an inviting book area with a basket or shelf of children’s books and a comfortable cushion or chair.

Television can work against maintaining a strong family culture, or create a diminished culture that misses out on lively interaction. Yes, television can be an educational and relaxing experience, and even create shared family experiences, but it is important to monitor what our children watch. Most anything else that involves physical activity, reading, or social interaction is a better choice. Ultimately, if your child is in a structured child care or school setting, some unstructured playtime at home, without resorting to the TV, would be much better.

However we choose to create a strong family culture – inventing unique family rituals, continuous verbal family bonding, or designing intimate family settings – the real values lie in the focused family time spent together. Such occasions will develop into cherished family moments for everyone.

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Homemade Sidewalk Chalk

Madelyn came home yesterday with Homemade Sidewalk Chalk AND the instructions on "How-To" make, I thought I would share it with you all!

Any excuse is a good excuse to get outside. And Homemade Chalk ranks right up there! Not only will making your own sidewalk chalk bring hours of hopscotch and drawing entertainment, but all sidewalk fun builds hand muscles, which help young kids as they learn to write.
Oh, and did I forget to mention that the "Easter Bunny" JUST brought Maddy a brand new Crayola Box of 52 pieces of Sidewalk, yeah.
What You Need:

Toilet paper or paper towel tubes
Duct Tape
Wax Paper
3/4 cup warm water
Small bucket or disposable container
1 1/2 cups Plaster of Paris
2-3 tablespoons tempera paint

What You Do:
1. If you are using paper towel tubes, cut each tube in half. Cover one end of each tube with duct tape. Cut as many pieces of wax paper as you have tubes. Each piece should be as long as the tube and about 4 inches wide. Roll up each piece of wax paper and slip it into the tube.

2. Pour the water into the bucket. Sprinkle the Plaster of Paris over the water and stir the mixture thoroughly with a spoon. Mix in the Tempera Paint (If you would like pastel colors, you can mix brighter colors of Tempura powder with some white.)

3. Place each tube tape side down, on a level surface. Pour the wet plaster mixture into the tubes. Lightly tap the sides of each tube to release air bubbles, then set the plaster-filled tube aside to harden for a few days. Once they are dry, peel off the tubes and wax paper. Your chalk is ready for action!


*UPDATE* A wonderful blog reader suggested trying Glow-in-the-dark paint.......give it a try!!!

I am also linking this post to the lovely blog Living with Lindsay.

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Sunday, April 12, 2009

St. Louis Handmade

Woo Hoo~~I am so happy, and just smiling ear to ear to see my Featured Artist Profile on St. Louis Handmade!!! Please head on over and take a look, AND of course browse around the site to see MANY other great St. Louis artists!! Thank you so much Tammy for choosing me as one of your artist profiles! I am truly honored!

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Monday, April 6, 2009

Every Other Artist Market


If you live in the St. Louis, Missouri area and want to check out some great artists, please come to the Webster Groves "Every Other Artist Market" that takes place Saturday, April 11th, from 10am-5pm at the Old Orchard Gallery. Todd Tevlin will be selling his photography there, so stop by and say hi to him!

Old Orchard Gallery
37 South Old Orchard
Webster Groves, MO. 63119

The gallery is located across the street from "Highway 66 Roadhouse and Kitchen" restaurant.

Todd will also be selling these Pendants created by Me!

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Friday, April 3, 2009

Etsy In The News

Hello all! My mother called to tell me that she saw Etsy on one of the morning shows this last week. When asked which one (I assumed the Today show, as that is all I have ever known her to watch) she could not I did some searching. Here it is!

With my weird, and sometimes off-the-wall sense of humor, I found it HILARIOUS! Enjoy!

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