Monday, August 29, 2011

Expanding our food choices..take two

Let me start with if anyone has any great school lunch ideas, please throw me a bone.

In an attempt to get healthier lunches and continue to expand food choices we have initiated 3 day a week cold lunch.  This gives the kids a chance to eat pizza a finger steaks two days a week, but still let us get some new stuff in 3 days a week.  Where we are currently struggling with is ideas, what types of good lunches can you send that don't need heating and won't give food poisoning if it isn't in the fridge for a few hours. We want to expand what they are taking. I will not let Thing Two go off to high school only ever having had PBJ for lunch, which he would be totally content with. 

I like PBJ as much as the next guy, but I don't think you can live on PBJ alone.  I am getting the kids to help me make lunches on Sunday and the goal is to make three different lunches. The basics are always there; juice boxes, fruit roll up, and granola bar.  The basics are there for snack and in case the main lunch just doesn't cut it. We are currently having mixed results with this, which is to be expected.  The thing I can't quite figure out is when the kids like or don't like a meal.  The best example was the hummus last week, one ate it one didn't. When I talked about doing hummus again the one who didn't eat it liked the idea and the one who did eat it was indifferent, making me crazy.  I don't deny their won't be lots of PBJ and ham sandwiches, I just want to work on getting rid of the 'I'm not eating that face' when something new shows up.

I have been on the hunt for lunch ideas, without a ton of luck.  I like to wander the net as much as the next guy and I have bought more than my share of magazines lately, but have only come up with about 5 ideas. What are your good, unique lunch ideas?

Thursday, August 25, 2011


To me one of the great perks that is part of parenting is watching your child experience the wonder of a place. A great example is seeing Disneyland for the first time. There are so many times when we can get excited about a place again purely because we are getting to experience it with out kids for the first time.

In late elementary school the Monterey Bay Aquarium become something that existed in my mind. It was one of these amazing places that even though I was a cynical tweener seemed magical. Over the years for some reason that place never lost it's magic to me.

I grew up in the Bay Area and had assumed that even though I didn't live there anymore, I would be visiting often.  This has turned out not to be the case, sadly, and after a five year absence we finally made it to the Bay Area again this summer.  The last time we were there Thing Two doesn't even remember and Thing One only remembers a plane ride. This trip was going to most likely be one of the few trips where there the Things would be able to experience wonder, though they are great sweet kids I know the years of indifference at family vacations are nipping at out heels. This trip though could be a chance to show them the parts I loved about California and I could think of no more important place to take them than Monterey Bay Aquarium. The Monterey Bay Aquarium is a place that I have seen adults in awe of and I hoped this would be the Things experience of it also, I hoped they would love it as much as I did at that age.

They loved it and then some. The Things loves the huge tanks and sea life and mammals they got to see. Thing Two has a deep love of otters, since about 2,  and I think we could have left him by that tank all day and he would have been content. We did the fish feeding tour and though both Things are highly shy they were enthralled learning about what all the different fish eat and how the aquarium goes about feeding them. 

In a moment I was transformed from a strained mom hoping no would would go berserker in the gift shop to all smiles seeming the wonder in their eyes, and sometimes that can be all it is about, the wonder in their eyes.

Monday, August 22, 2011

School Days..Organization

I took last week off writing to rest and catch up and address all the great back to school things that need to be dealt with. School starts today and I am under the delusion that if I can be organized now, the organizational love fest will continue throughout the year.

So what did I do to help us get more organized for school.  First I took the opportunity to email or sit down with both teachers and tell them where the Things are at and what may help them be successful in class. Previously we have done the wait and see approach, until the teacher came to us with something and that just didn't work, bringing issues up in the beginning will hopefully decrease everyones feeling of having to catch up to what is going on with the Things. This also gives me a good chance to gauge how the relationship with the teacher will be and lets me know what I can expected and what they can expect of me.  I also immediately filled out the  piles of paper work.  Next on the agenda will be setting up the meal pay notifier so I get an email when the school lunch account goes below ten dollars. Hopefully getting all this done now will help down the road.

School lunches is another place where we tend to get behind the 8 ball.  Thing One has basically has eaten school lunch for the last two years. With lunch prices going up and two Things wanting school lunch we have decided that the Things can pick two or three lunches a week to buy at school and take lunch the rest of the time. I expect this will be a bit of a fight, so lunch is so much more yummy than anything I can make.  The Things are picky and I can be experimental, so together we are making school lunches on Sunday, or at least that is the plan.  This Sunday I put together all the parts for three lunches per thing, each day is different and hopefully the mix of likes and new stuff will be work.  The big long term problem I see for us is making sure we have enough stuff in the house to make lunches.  A lot of food had to be washed, made, and put in containers and I see us having to make lunch supplies more of a priority when we shop.

Around the house there are other things that needed and still need our attention. Both things cleaned their bedrooms and the playroom. I am playing with making a homework study space out of a nook in the playroom and it needs to be cleaned first.  We have a unused closet that has all the school supplies and that still needs cleaning.  I have to say though I have no idea what to do about the 8 million pencils that seem to be floating around the house nor how we got them all. Additionally,  I clean out closets of things that no longer fit, organized our coat rack to just jackets that are useful right now, and generally attacked the sock pile.

Hopefully this will help to keep us moving an organized, I have also updated the google calendar with everything we know is going on, but if you see the Things running through the neighborhood half dressed screaming about being late to something; it just means the organization didn't stick and we will be back to our harried unorganized life.

Have a great school year!!!!!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Summer Tutoring Wrap Up

Yesterday I had the opportunity to meet with the tutor and counselor that Thing One has been seeing this last summer.  Once again I am left with more questions that answers.
Thankfully the tutor was forth coming and gave her true options.  I appreciated her honest feedback so much. Often people want to give the safe answers, or the best practice, or better yet give you all the options, but not their opinion.  As a provider of a service to children, giving your opinion can be dangerous.  Someone might actually use your opinion, things won't go well and they will blame you.  Telling someone what you would do if this was your child can be a really tough, and being honest sensitive territory.  I appreciated the tutors honestly truly and her sharing her opinions, if Thing One was here did help.
On to the juice parts of this story though, the answers I did get. After completion of 50 hours of tutoring a full battery of educational testing was conducted again.  The good thing is the completion of the hours matched well with the end of our summer tutoring. This testing was suppose to give us a great idea of where we are at now and hopefully we would be able to say Thing One was at grade level and ready to start the school year.  That was not what the testing said though....

Testing showed a lot, but it didn't really give us the answer to the main question we had, is Thing One at grade level.  The preface to all the testing was that Thing One wasn't having a great day and that could be the reason that there were not more significant progress noted.  There were a few pluses to this whole thing though. Thing One now has a 7th grade reading comprehension level (WOW) and her phonics skills are above a 3rd grade level and way above where she started.  There were also some ok kind of moments; Thing One is close to grade level on almost all her reading levels.  Some things stayed the same and though we hoped for better knew that may not be the case. All Thing One's processing scores stayed the same; meaning no improvement and processing will be a long term issue on some level. There were also some completely confounding things.  Thing One's math scores were well below grade level, this is confusing seeing as her school grades were above average.  There are bad days and good days, but some things added up and some didn't so the question is what do we do now, based on this information how do we proceed and move forward?

As parents these are the decisions that some day may kick us in the ass or may not be an issue, but we don't know the outcome now.  The tutor knowing we were wanting to give Thing One a break knew that more tutoring into the school year would be unlikely, but did note that Thing One most likely will still need support on some level. I mentioned the idea of maybe hiring a tutor to come into the house a few days a week to help with homework and she LOVED the idea. She said that even with just the support of a good high school student Thing One may be able to avoid falling behind quicker. She mentioned that even with help, most likely Thing One will fall behind again, but maybe we can move into a situation where she just tutors in the summer so she can be more successful.  Even though there are some things that won't change about Thing One I want to give her a chance to succeed on her own, I want to see if without the intensive tutoring support things can get better.

We are not completely starting the school year with nothing. We are looking into medication to address the ADD and anxiety issues that Thing One has. Our theory is that if she can be more attentive in class she will pick up more information. Additionally with less anxiety she may focus less on her fear of failure and really try.  We also want to get her a tutor a few days a week. The theory behind the tutor is that this will be someone that is not Mom and Dad helping her. That the tutor will be in her corner, have more patience and also be able to hold her to account without it being the homework war. Also, with a homework tutor helping her we can get Thing Two working on his homework.  Who knows this all may be a nightmare or it may work, who knows until you try though, Right??

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Podcasts and Geek Shows..More Critical Thinking

I listen to a lot of Podcasts, alot. I would say about 70% of what I use my Nano for is listening to podcasts, and generally these are nerdy geeky pod casts that provide great information to meet my curiosity or they tell a good story. This is not to say I don't listen to a few I won't ever let the kids listen to, Geek Savants this is you, but most of my podcasts are clean and kid consumable. My love of podcasts is met with the hubs love of River Monsters and Before There were Humans on TV.  Our house has some interesting conversations occurring at any one time due to these separate passions. Besides Mythbusters, How Stuff Works, and Dirty Jobs the Things have never really gotten into any other shows or podcasts, but that seems to be changing and it turns out to be a good thing.

This Christmas, Thing One had A LOT of questions about all the different religious holidays that occur in the Winter, and as generally well read as I can fake, some of it was beyond me. So what does a stumped parent do besides Google and Wiki it? I downloaded the couple Stuff You Should Know episodes dealing with the different holidays. Thing One really liked it and generally I have started using Stuff You Should Know when they have a podcast pertaining to something I don't know a lot about that the Things are asking about.  I like the audio aspect because the kids aren't distracted with the picture on the screen they are listening to the words.

On drives that I am not willing to pull out the DVD player, but also don't want to deal with the radio, podcasts have started coming the the rescue also.  We have listened to a number of Stuff to Blow Your Mind, and a number of This American Life and of course Stuff You Should Know.  Due to the content we have only listened to a limited number of Stuff You Missed in History Class and Stuff Mom Never Told You, but I expect these to become frequent conversation starters in the near future. That is what I like about these podcasts over just listening to an audio book. We all think and listen and can then talk about what we are hearing. Nothing like listening to a podcast about the history and relevance of Christmas and then comparing that to what we experience today.  I love the conversations and the questions that we share in a learning about something together.

Back to some of our TV watching, last night I was watching the History Detectives on PBS.  This is probably one of my top 5 shows, I love history and nothing is better than history with a story you can relate too.  First, Thing Two wanders down and plops himself in front of the TV. I was tempted to turn the channel, but decided against it; this is their history, the story of the country they are being raised in and though it isn't always pretty they should know it and own it. I left the TV on and waited to see when he would ask me to change it, he never asked. Thing One followed about 15 minutes later and she plopped down to watch. I was shocked my two never sit and watch a show that doesn't have freaky fish, something blowing up or cartoons.  As the show progressed we watched a segment on a cane carved at a Chinese internment camp and an artists drawing of pictures inside the shapes of gold nuggets and The Things were entranced.  When the show wrapped up Thing One looked and me and asked if she could watch another, I did an inside happy dance. I said that we didn't have any more recorded but that I will defiantly make sure they could watch it again when it recorded. 

Though TV shows or podcasts shouldn't be a babysitter I am learning constantly that they can be a good teacher. Thing Two learned how footballs were made on one show, and Thing One adored getting to see dinosaurs on another show.  As the parent who initially stated her kids would never watch TV and quickly reneged on that, I am really glad that there are great quality programs and podcasts out there to start a conversation, teach, and tell a story.  That isn't to say that everything on any show should be believed or that just because you hear something it is true.  Though I have to say no matter the logic I don't ever want to do in a big river again after watching River Monsters.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

New iPad App love

I have once again found something that seems to really catch the spirit of what we bought the iPad for, a game that also teaches. The game is called Casey's Contraptions, it is a game that asks the player to create Rube Goldberg contraptions to achieve a task.  This game is definitely more for a trouble shooter kid who is willing to sit and mess around with something for awhile before he achieves it.  An additional tip is make sure the player is at least able to read the basics of the board or you will need to help them as they achieve a new screen, the hints on the screen are important to read at the beginning.

At yet another time where Thing Two was bored out of his mind waiting for his sister to finish something I came across a post about this game and immediately downloaded it.  Thing Two took to the game very quickly, but has run into some issues. Like a true little techie in the making he is not one for reading directions, so frequently misses the hints at the beginning that would help him achieve the goal.  Eventually he will cave and ask for help, we always go back, read the little beginning blurb and he is on his way in no time to figuring the 'puzzle' out.  Right now he is really into the scissors on the game and will totally forget what he is trying to achieve because he is distracted by making the scissors do what he wants them to do.  I have to say though for a game that can be as tough as this is proving for him, he is really sticking to it and it is holding his interest. I am more than willing to spend 3 dollars for a number of hours of entertainment that has a good teaching backbone.

I know a some point the love I feel for this iPad and all it's cute convenient Appiness will fade, but until then I will keep letting you know when I find something I really like.

Monday, August 1, 2011

PACKING...and knee issues

There is nothing like trying to get ready for a short vacation when you have a crazy busy week looking you straight in the face. In an attempt to get organized and not be a crazy lady on Tuesday night, when the bags have to be packed, we are working on packing this weekend.

The huge positive is my parents are driving so we get to have more flexibility in what we take and how we take it. The negative is, we have to be packed a head of the trip so we have to plan to not have favored clothes or other items for a few days if they are going in the luggage.

I don't know about your house but for as many times as we try and get the Things to pack everything, things get left behind or forgotten. There was the weekend Thing Two didn't pack any underwear, and the trip where is was 100 degrees and all Thing One brought were jeans.  This time I wrote a list, somehow I imaged a list would help, it didn't.  As I started reviewing bags, Thing One had no socks and Thing Two forgot swim trunks.  I am a big believer in, if all else fails we can buy it on the trip, but we are trying to do this trip a bit on the cheap.  Along with the basic packing we need some nice clothes and getting either Thing to even consider dress clothes yet alone wear them can be difficult.  It was no surprise that the dress pants got forgotten and, somehow a belt couldn't come because of airport security.  There was also a discussion of how we pack the dogs.  Eventually enough laundry got done and enough clothes made it into a bag that I can say we are mostly packed. 
Those are some seriously cute knees

The thing about packing is you can get a pretty good idea of where the kids are at and what they like based on what they pack.  Both Things are opting to leave their long time lovies at home, they are growing up so quickly.  Thing Two is only taking Star Wars t-shirts, I think it is safe to say he is developing a passion for Star Wars.  The thing I found of particular interest was Thing Ones desire to only take pants. We have been fighting her all summer to wear shorts when it was hot, it has gotten so bad we took all the pants out of her room because it was getting so bad. When I reviewed her luggage it was all pants, so I took them all out and made her restart, after a talk. Turns out Thing One doesn't like her knees and has spent much of the summer trying to hide them?!  She is 8, almost 9, and I can't imagine the idea she is already starting to struggle with body stuff. Now I am not worried this will spawn something worse, but it does make me think. Turns out they are constantly bruised, and have freckles. Ends up freckles on the face are ok and the knees aren't, oh well.  Eventually, we talked enough that leggings and long shorts are ok, for now and we will have to see how it all goes.

Now back to packing talk.  The Things have to plan their carry on luggage to and this has again proved interesting.  Thing One selected next to nothing and Thing Two picked scissors. Thankfully I went through both bags and we have a pretty good plan for what to take with us. 

How do get your kids to pack and take everything? Have you ever had a travel oops based on your kids packing?  Happy traveling..