Homework is unnecessary and science proves it!

Just read a WONDERFUL article “Homework: An unnecessary evil? … Surprising findings from new research” I already knew this. Anyone who went to school with me knows how much I ABHOR homework and how little of it I actually ever did. I only received lower grades in the classes that required homework and used it as part of my grade (with Physics in HS and Chem II in college being the exceptions). My mom was a working mom and by the time I got home, ate dinner and then started on my homework is was always so late and I never got to spend time with my mom.  I never got to enjoy being home during the week – I always felt rushed and stressed whenever I feel stressed I shut down and become extremely unproductive. So basically, homework helped me to be unproductive, unhappy and stressed.

My older son is a lot like me when it comes to his lackadaisical attitude towards homework. Don’t get me wrong, he likes to learn – no actually he LOVES to learn. But when he feels pressure, he gets just like I do and goes into his own little world and procrastinates on everything.  This is the reason I’m completely horrified by my son having homework. He’s bright, inquisitive and curious, as pretty much all kids are. We should be fostering a love of learning, not a dread of busy work.

Seriously, other than school teachers, what profession has homework every day? What skills are we teaching them with it?

A perfect example of how unessential homework is, is the school system in Finland. Students do not have more than an hour of homework (in high school and virtually none in lower grades) and yet they have extremely high literacy rates and superb PISA test scores (the international tests to compare across different countries). They have an equal emphasis on PE and sports, music, creative arts, drama and cooking and believe that kids should learn world skills that help them be productive members of society rather than just achieving high scores on standardized tests.1 What an amazing concept, huh?

There was a really good write up about the Milestones That Matter Most in the Huffington Post that addresses this very thing. Interestingly, China has already started taking some cues from Finland and are taking steps to compete in “the global race to teach students the ‘new’ skills like collaboration, creativity and critical thinking“. In fact, it seems as though China is taking notes from the US’s old school book.

In a recent Facebook chat with some people, it became clear that learning to cook, doing taxes, learning how and why to vote, balancing budgets and general necessary life skills have been replaced with standardized testing and boat loads of homework. At the end of the day, I want my son to know how to work/play well with others by listening, collaborating and compromising, rather than competing and always pushing himself to win a race that really doesn’t exist and in the end the only real winners are those people that find balance and happiness in their lives.

What do you think the chances are that the US school system will catch up to the scientific research before my son gets to high school?

References:

1. http://www.thedailyriff.com/articles/the-finland-phenomenon-inside-the-worlds-most-surprising-school-system-588.php

 

Posted in Education, Parenting

Mother’s Day is bittersweet

Before you have kids, everyone that has kids tells you how amazing it is to have kids. Of course, there is no way one can understand how incredibly true this is. I love my kids so much sometimes it scares me.

So one would think that Mother’s Day would be full of joy and bliss, but for me (and I’m sure for many others out there) it isn’t. I miss my mom so terribly much ESPECIALLY on Mother’s Day!

I remember as a child sitting in a diner with my mom, grandma and my aunt on Mother’s Day! I looked around at these beautiful women and their smiling faces and I started planning the day I would get to take them out on Mother’s Day. I would pick each one of them up in my car. As I walked up to the door, I’d have a bunch of flowers hidden behind my back and when they opened it, I’d get to see the look of delight on their faces. Then we’d go to whatever place we wanted to eat at and I would get to pick up the bill and treat them to brunch. And to top it off, I’d have my own little girl to enjoy this moment with, too!

But life had other plans for me.

I never once got to treat my mom to a Mother’s Day brunch before she died. I did get to spend a few Mother’s Days with my grandma before she died, but they weren’t the idyllic moments in time as most of them happened when I was going through my tumultuous years and had a hard time appreciating those moments. I haven’t gotten to treat my aunt because she (as she should) spends Mother’s Day with her kids.

After I lost both my mom and grandma, I still kept a dream of spending Mother’s Day with my daughter. But that didn’t happen either. Don’t get me wrong, I really, really LOVE my boys and can’t imagine my life without them. I just still sometimes miss the daughter I never had and the memories I never got to have in order to make up for the moments I lost with my mom.

So as I see these sweet posts on Facebook of my friends and loved ones with their kids and all of the smiling faces, I’m utterly reminded of how much I miss my mom. The good thing is, I get to look at my cute little boys and see the silly little things they do and for those wonderful moments, I see my mom in their faces!

Posted in Personal

Let’s Cure Cerebral Palsy March 2014

CP Family Network – Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month

CP Family Network is partnering with LetsCureCP.org to find a cure for cerebral palsy. We both firmly believe that CP families are our children’s first and best advocates. Between now and March 25, you can make a donation to help fund medical research for the advancement of cerebral palsy knowledge and treatment. Please help us stand for a cure by donating to this worthy cause.

Click here to find out how to donate.

Posted in Cerebral Palsy

My son has strep where?

My son has strep in his anus! Whoa! What? I didn’t even know you could get it there.

Apparently, you can get strep just about anywhere and its more common than you realize. In fact, many of the anal infections get misdiagnosed as a yeast infection or diaper rash.

So how did my son get it? Well, you get it when you have strep on your hands (like from boogers or saliva from a sneeze) and then you touch your bottom. I can honestly say I never thought to wash my hands BEFORE assisting my older son in the bathroom. The other possibility was that he’s been a carrier of strep (most people have strep virus on their bodies but are able to stave off infection because they are healthy) and he got a common cold virus which weakened his immune system and thus the strep bacteria had the perfect environment to thrive (warm body, weakened immune system so not so many antibodies flowing through the system). It apparently happens frequently but goes unnoticed.

How did we notice? Well, for awhile now my son would occasionally complain that his butt (inside) was itchy. We assumed he wasn’t wiping that well. So we had started wiping his butt for him again. Yet, he would still complain periodically about his itchy butt. He also would get little bumps on his butt. He wears a diaper at night time so we thought it was just diaper rash. In fact, we had gone to the doctor before (different one than from today) and he had looked at it and said it was probably just diaper rash, too.

A few weeks ago, my boygs got sick – typical virus style sick – fever, sleepy, etc. After the fever went down he had the runny nose thing going on. Of course, our youngest son came down with the same exact symptoms 3-4 days later as is typical of a virus. Nothing out of the ordinary for flu season.

However, the runny nose has persisted. Both boys continued to have runny noses and the younger one seemed to be drooling a lot more. The older one would complain of his ear hurting sometimes. The younger would sometimes get a goopy eye for a little while. Their symptoms seemed to come and go. I’d think they were getting better, then they’d seem sick all over again.

Earlier this week, I was diagnosed with strep throat (I had a horrific weekend and there was no doubt that it was strep). While talking with one of Max’s therapists, she told me about how she had gotten a strep infection on her arm once. That was the first I had ever heard of strep anywhere other than the throat. I’ve had a LOT of strep infections in my life and was totally shocked to learn this.

Anyways, my husband has been sick right along with me but he had his tonsils removed when he was a kid so I didn’t know what strep looked like without tonsils. So this morning I was doing a search to find out what the symptoms were and an article had come up “Why Your Kid May Have Strep and You Don’t Know It.” And I had one of those “Aha” moments. I Knew without a doubt that Milan had peri-anal strep. I did a quick search and sure enough the images matched his rash on his butt and the symptoms were the same.

I also knew that our younger one had it, too. Because just the day before I had noticed one of those bumps on his butt just like his big brothers.

So I made an appointment to see the doctor this morning and she confirmed it. Both boys had strep butt!

In all of the many, many times I had researched my son’s butt rash, not once had strep ever come up in the search. We’ve dealt with our fair share of viruses, rashes and other typical childhood illnesses. I never once heard about strep in the peri-anal area. Well, that’s not exactly true. I do remember getting tested for it when I was pregnant. I remember the nurses telling me its actually quite common for women to have strep in the vagina or butt areas and that its important to treat it before they give birth.

As weird as all this is. And as cringe worthy as it all is. I felt it is VERY important for me to write this article. Who knows. There might be another mom out there searching for information about the “rash on toddler butt” just like I was and maybe this article will help.

 

Additional Reading:

Why Your Kid May Have Strep and You Don’t Know It

What A Strange Place For Strep

 

Posted in Health, Parenting

MyLifeSuckers.com is a genius

Deva Dalporto, the author behind mylifesuckres.com, has come up with another very funny parody. I rather enjoyed her What Does the Kid Say (What does the Fox say parody), but this frozen cover is by far my favorite!

Enjoy!

http://mylifesuckers.com/let-it-go-mom-parody-video/

 

Tagged with:
Posted in Personal

Being a parent of a special needs child brings unexpected joy

Being a parent of a special needs child is a journey that I had no intention of ever going on. It is exhausting, heart wrenching, full of disappointments, etc. But the one thing I didn’t expect is how much joy comes out of it, too.

I’m not just talking about the joy I get when my son accomplishes something that comes so easily for other kids but I know he has worked, tried and cried to do for a long time. When you have a child that is developing “normally” you barely have a chance to really think about how amazing those seemingly little accomplishments are. Think picking up a piece of cereal between your two fingers and bringing it to your mouth is easy? Well, it is if your brain hasn’t been damaged. Let me tell you, the amount of hard work and determination that is required to rewire your brain is outstanding and amazing.

But that’s not the joy I’m talking about. I’m talking about the joy out of just living.

I read this awesome book called The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment by Eckhart Tolle many, many years ago. I was completely moved by the book and set out to live a life living in the present moment… but that didn’t last long. There was so much to look forward to in life. I always enjoyed working towards some future goal.  When I’d achieve it, I’d move on to the next and the next. I always felt that those moments of achievement or adventure were those Now moments. But they weren’t and it wasn’t until I began this journey that I realized how important living in the present moment is.

When your child “is not a chart,” as one of Max’s therapists reminds me of, and is developing on their own timeline, you have two choices: be in the moment or not. Not being in the moment is probably the most natural state and it is definitely where I was when I began this journey. I was always thinking about the future, what will school be like, where we’ll go on vacation, what we’re doing next week, heck, what we’re doing tomorrow. I rarely just lived in the moment. Of course, when it came to thinking about Max, I definitely couldn’t just be in the moment. Will he ever walk, will he ever talk? Will his life be normal? Will he ever get married? Will he ever know what its like to be in love or be loved? Will he be happy?

Then one day, a switch turned on (I can’t pinpoint the moment but it did happen) and I started looking at where he is at the moment. And I realized, it doesn’t matter if he walks or talks. Who’s life is actually “normal” anyways? I’ve seen my fair share of marriages ending in divorce. But it was when I started thinking about those last questions that really made me think … Will he ever know what its like to be loved?

I realized that he knows it already. I see it in his eyes when he looks at me. I see it in his eyes when he looks at his brother as his brother leans over to give him a kiss or hug. I see it when daddy picks him up. He knows what love is and he gives it back.

I was so worried about will he ever be… that I never stopped to realize that he is. He is loved right now; he loves right now; he is happy right now.

Now is where I have learned to live (although I definitely hop back on the “what if” train from time to time). And living in the Now is a really good place.

When you live in the now, you learn to look at everything for what it is. You get to see moments that would otherwise pass you by. Its just like the old adage to stop and smell the roses. When you are so worried and focused on where you’re going, you never realize how amazing and wonderful life is right where you are.

Although I would’ve definitely preferred to learn this lesson another way, I am grateful that I have learned this lesson.

Posted in Cerebral Palsy, Parenting

Parchment paper or aluminum foil for the environment

I’ve been doing a lot of baking recently so I busted out the big roll of parchment paper that we’ve had sitting in our cabinet. We ran out of aluminum foil and I wondered if I could use parchment paper to line my pan. I was making Moussaka so using some sort of liner is a must. I really don’t understand why lasagna style pans of corners that accumulate a ton of crap, can’t they figure out a better way? Anyways, I digress. I thought about it and I couldn’t see any reason why using parchment paper instead of aluminum foil wouldn’t work. And guess what? It worked wonderfully! Even better than the aluminum foil that we normally use. There weren’t any tears (even the heavy duty aluminum foil always seems to get at least one tear in it).

Although I prefer not to use any extra disposable items, now since I’ve had kids, the time savings and sanity savings is really just too great. But this got me thinking about the environmental impact of using so much aluminum foil. So I wondered … parchment paper or aluminum foil which is better for the environment?
Bake 'N' Reuse
After a quick search it became clear that parchment paper is the clear winner here.

  • The processing required for making aluminum foil, even recycled aluminum foil, is much greater than making parchment paper.
  • A recent study showed that aluminum leaches into the food when used at high temperatures. Definitely not good.
  • Aluminum use has been linked to Alzheimer’s. Another thing that is definitely not good.
  • If you buy unbleached parchment paper that is even better
  • If you buy parchment paper from sustainable sources that is a full knock out!

I also realized that I really need to buy the Silicone Baking Liners I’ve had on my Amazon wish list. If I use those for my baking needs I won’t even need parchment paper!

Posted in Being Green

Coconut Oil for baby = happy mommy

Coconut oil has got to be one of my most favorite things… EVER! Besides all of the wonderful health benefits (like maintaining a healthy weight ie: you lose weight if you’re overweight, you gain weight if you’re under weight), coconut oil is really great for several things related to baby.

  • Diaper rash – I’ve used a gazillion different things for diaper rash and I can say with 100% certainty that coconut oil is my favorite. Milan was a really sensitive baby and would get rashes for just about any reason. Coconut oil was the best for keeping his diaper rash under control. We put some on after every bath and at most diaper changes. Although if you end up with a severe case of diaper rash on your hands, I HIGHLY recommend Bag Balm for severe diaper rash.
  • Nipple ointment – lansinoh and other lanolin based nipple creams work really well. However, Milan (my little sensitive baby) refused to nurse when I used it. He would fuss at the breast. Considering how hard nursing is to begin with adding another obstacle just wasn’t cool. Luckily, I had been using coconut oil as a moisturizer long before I had him, so I tried it. It worked wonderfully AND Milan never fussed at the breast. As an added bonus, it helps keep the yeast at baby that causes candida and thrush.
  • Moisturizer – As I just mentioned, I had been using it as a moisturizer for a long time. But while Milan was little I could not use anything that was smelly – absolutely no fragrances, no moisturizer with strong scents, even cooking onions around him was a no-no. Luckily coconut oil is a really great moisturizer so I was able to keep my skin moisturized without annoying my baby.
  • Cradle cap – Don’t know what it is? Well, its basically baby dandruff. Milan had it really bad until I started using coconut oil on it. It really helped.

 

Posted in Breastfeeding, Newborn

The Snow Queen – Animated children’s movie

Snow Queen on IMDB

Snow Queen

We just watched the Snow Queen on Netflix and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised at how good it was. It was just the right level of action and scariness for a frequently scared toddler. The animation was BEAUTIFUL and the story was really lovely. Apparently its based off of a Hans Christian Andersen story which I vaguely remember reading as a child.

Milan really enjoyed it and I’m sure this will be one of our regular movies we watch.

Posted in Reviews

Pirate Birthday Party

This is a long, long time coming. As my son will be 5 this year and the pirate party was for his 3rd birthday, I’m a bit behind on the posts about birthday parties.  But better late than never, right?

As is now our tradition, we held Milan’s Pirate birthday party at a park. In the end, it probably takes just as much effort as having it at home except you’re forced to clean up when you leave and you get to come home to a clean home (provided that’s the state you leave your house in). For 3 year olds, I find it to be the best because they get to run around and make as much noise as possible within lots of space without driving you nuts! Besides, we live in an apt so my max is pretty much 4 other kids in our tiny place (seriously, just my 2 drive me nuts).

Milan had been talking about having a pirate party for months and he was the one that really wanted it at a park, too. To make it obvious where the party was (its a big park), I bought a big balloon with the number 3 on it and hung up a big pirate flag.

Pirate Party Costumes

I do think the key to make a theme park party successful is the details and in particular providing some form of costume for the kids and parents. Even though there will be some that don’t want to wear the costumes, it really makes a big difference and it allows the kids that don’t know many people to feel automatically included.

20120721-Canon EOS 7D-IMG_4346Of course we started out by buying a pirate costume for Milan although it comes with a hat now but we bought him a separate pirate hat for his costume. It has gotten lots and lots of use and he’s worn it to other pirate themed parties.

The big hit was the bandanas. I went to Jo Ann fabrics and bout 2 yards of cheap red cotton material, 1 yard of pirate material and 1 yard of girl pirate material costing me a whopping $7.  I cut about 8-10 triangles from each of the yards of pirate material and also from one yard of the red material. Then for the remaining yard of red material, I cut a bunch of strips in varying sizes. Some were long enough to be belts for adults, some were small enough to be head bands or belts for kids (with the majority being small since it is a kids party).

We bought some eye patches from Amazon, they looked awesome because they were made from hard plastic and they definitely have lasted through many play dates but to be honest they weren’t very comfortable and really just ended up being decorations on the table.

I also had a bunch of pirate tattoos spread out on the table with a bowl of water and a couple of wash cloths handy.

Pirate party game – Treasure Hunt

Since this was a 3 year old party we really only had one game other than the pinata. To be honest, 3 year olds just don’t have the same attention span as even 4 year olds and since we were at a park they ran around pretending to be pirates for a very long time.

Before the party, I had put together a bunch of plan paper bags filled with a ring light, a ring pop, a couple of candies and a beaded necklace. While the kids were playing, we (some of the other parents and I) hid the bags in an area of the sand box. Then we gathered all the kids together and had them go on a treasure hunt and dig in the sand to find a bag. I was happy to see the big kids helped the little ones find bags of their own. I made several extra so if some couldn’t be found in the sand everyone would have a bag. We used the bags for the pinata right after the treasure hunt.

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Pirate Pinata

I really had wanted to get this pirate treasure chest but alas, when it came time to order it they were out and we wouldn’t have gotten it in time for the party. Luckily, Target had a pirate pinata and was able to get one there. I filled it with the rest of the beaded necklaces, some Rolos since they look like little pieces of gold, Hershey’s kisses since they are silver, some more pirate tattoos, and some other candies. I really don’t like having tons of candy around so it ended up being about 4 or 5 pieces per kid (with the little kids getting less and the bigger kids getting more as is the nature of pinatas).

We had forgotten a bat but luckily someone had come dressed for the pirate party and had brought a pirate sword that was quite hefty and we were able to use that.

20120721-Canon EOS 5D Mark III-5D3_303220120721-Canon EOS 5D Mark III-5D3_3035

 

Pirate Ship birthday cake

Other than being in a pirate costume this was an absolute must for Milan. He kept asking over and over again if he could have a pirate ship cake. I kept trying to talk him into cupcakes with pirate flags or pretty much anything else. He was dead set on a pirate ship. I found some awesome pictures of the Evolution of a Pirate Ship Cake on Flickr that I was planning on doing completely. But as time got closer, I didn’t have the time to bake a cake, in fact I didn’t even have an cake pans even if I wanted to. So a couple of hours before the party, I ran out to Vons (its the closest grocery store to us) and picked up a round German chocolate cake, some cupcakes and everything I’d need to make frosting. Then I transformed the store bought cake and cupcakes into a pirate ship and water. Making your own frosting really makes the cake taste homemade. It turned out great! I know I could’ve added many more details but in the end it really didn’t matter. The pictures (although good) really don’t do it justice. It looked much better in person and Milan was so, so, so happy to have a pirate ship birthday cake!

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Summary

We had an absolute blast and I learned something that I hope to remind myself of in the future, in the end, the kids (especially at this age) really only care about playing with each other, getting something little to go home with and cake!

Posted in Parties