Friday, March 28, 2008

My Beautiful Twins

They Grow Up So Fast...

Isn't this cool? I discovered this new site called Animoto.com. You can make one of these little 30-second videos for free, or longer ones for only three dollars! (They have a yearly rate, too, if you anticipate making a lot of them.) You just upload your pictures, pick a song, and they mix the video for you. It's lots of fun!

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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Playing with Imaginary Friends

When my teenagers were little boys, they both had imaginary friends, with the adorable names of Scooter, Tinky and others that I can no longer remember. Now, my four-year-old twin boys have outdone them as they have both created whole new families! Austen’s family lives in a green house; Caleb’s lives in a grey house. They have another daddy and mommy (sob!) there, along with brothers and sisters and an assortment of pets. (Their “other” parents let them have a pet elephant!)

According to Marjorie Taylor, head of psychology at the University of Oregon and researcher of children’s pretend play, bringing imaginary people into their lives is surprisingly common in children. She found that by age 7, almost two-thirds of children had made up at least one friend. Most of these play pals arise in the preschool years, but she was surprised to find that some even arrived after children started elementary school.

These imaginary friends may be boys or girls; human or animal; mean or nice; many or few. In addition to being a lot of fun, they give kids a chance to role-play various issues in life, such as starting a new school, coping with a grandparent’s death or adding a baby sister to the family.

If your children have imaginary friends or family members, there’s no reason to be alarmed that they’ve lost touch with reality. In fact, it’s a very good sign of their creativity. And some studies have shown that these kids have better verbal and social skills. But, on the other hand, don’t be overly concerned if your child doesn’t invent invisible playmates. According to Dr. Taylor, “There are lots of ways to express creativity.”

Source: Goodnow, Cecelia. “Researchers take on imaginary playmates -- for real.” Seattle Post-Intelligencer Reporter, December 7, 2004.

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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Meeting the Needs of a Gifted Child


I often hesitate to tell people that I have “gifted” children because it sounds like I’m one of those competitive moms I hate. I’ve never liked being involved in the “mommy competition,” in which mothers try to one-up each other with stories about how talented or smart or beautiful their kids are. So, at the risk of stimulating a few eye rolls, I have to admit that my boys are gifted so you’ll know why I’d be so interested in reading a book called Keys to Parenting the Gifted Child (3rd edition), by Sylvia Rimm, Ph.D. (2007, Great Potential Press).

I always knew my two oldest boys were bright, but I never really thought of them as “gifted” until they started elementary school . . . and were bored stiff! They’d often find the assignments unchallenging or finish their work early and look around for something else to do. I had the same problem when I was a child, but unfortunately we didn’t have any “gifted programs” available back then. When my parents talked with my teacher about challenging me more in the classroom, she responded by letting me grade other kids’ papers and put up her bulletin boards. It wasn’t exactly what my parents had in mind. By fifth grade, they finally scraped up their pennies and enrolled me in a private school, which had a more challenging curriculum. Fortunately, most school districts have a better option today: gifted education. My second son was sent to a gifted classroom in the middle of third grade. (It took me that long to get up the courage to transfer him to another school away from his friends, but where they had the gifted curriculum.) It was the best thing I ever did for him. He loved his new school, and there was a complete change in attitude and motivation when he felt he was learning and being challenged.

So, how do you know if your child is really gifted? What are the signs? According to Sylvia Rimm, Ph.D., in Keys to Parenting the Gifted Child, “Gifted children exhibit talent early. They may speak in whole sentences when other similar-age children know only a few words. Some observe environmental details that aren’t even noticed by others. Their questions may reveal a depth of understanding atypical of preschoolers. They may construct complex puzzles or toys or take toys apart in a manner that indicates extraordinary spatial understanding. Unusual sensitivity may be displayed. They may learn letters, numbers, colors, and shapes with speed and interest, come to adult-like mathematical conclusions, read spontaneously, have a sense of humor, or show extraordinary musical or artistic talent far beyond that of typical children. All these characteristics indicate giftedness.”

If your child shows any of these signs, I highly recommend that you read Dr. Rimm’s book. She’ll tell you how to have your child evaluated, select a school (whether it’s preschool or elementary), encourage a love of reading, teach good homework habits, communicate with your child’s teacher, and more. She also answers questions such as: Should my child be allowed to skip a grade? Should I homeschool my child? How do I encourage my gifted child if he or she has a disability? Rimm also addresses family issues related to having a gifted child, such as parenting with a united front, sibling rivalry and single parenting. Keys to Parenting the Gifted Child is a very comprehensive guide for families with gifted kids, who often find it difficult to share their joys and concerns with others. This book helps them feel less alone and answers the questions they’re likely to have so they can “unlock the potential” of their very bright children.

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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

My Transformation into a Walker

I’ve been getting an unmistakably strong message lately to walk. My husband asks why I’m out of breath after merely running to catch the phone. My chiropractor has told me to start walking. Even my angels have advised me to take more walks! (My friend is an angel therapy practitioner, and they told her I needed to walk more.) Okay, I didn’t need to be whacked over the head with a brick labeled “Walk!” I started a walking program last week. Who would have guessed how hard it would be???

The first day I set out, I lasted about 25 minutes before I pulled a hamstring and experienced serious back pain. I crawled into the house and collapsed on the sofa. Two days later, I ventured out again. The back pain was still there, but the hamstring held up. I’d made a little progress . . . ! Today, I went out for the fourth time. I thought I was doing pretty well! I could feel the burn in my thighs. I was going along at a crisp pace. My back was a little sore, but I could still handle it. Suddenly, a biker rode past me. “You’re going to have to walk a little faster than that if you want to make a difference!” he shouted. I wanted to smack that smart-aleck jerk right off his bike. “If you think you’re Mr. Fitness, why don’t you hop off your ‘arse’ and get on your feet, too?” I wanted to say indignantly. Unfortunately, I was in so much shock and dismay that I just mumbled something about being a rookie walker.

Okay, so I have a long way to go until I can consider myself a “walker.” Perhaps it would help if I had the proper “equipment,” such as an MP3 player. Maybe if I walked to a rousing rendition of Queen’s “We Are the Champions,” I would beat some speed records. For the moment, I’ve just been focused on keeping my head up, like my chiropractor advised, and not tripping over cracks in the sidewalk. And wondering, does any antiperspirant really hold up under a walk in the Florida sun? I don’t think so.

Nevertheless, I will forge on, despite the smelly ’pits, sore back, and obnoxious bikers. Before you know it, I’ll be beating Katie Holmes to the finish line in a marathon! Or, maybe I’ll just go home and read about her in my latest People magazine. I can’t pull any hamstrings that way.

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Friday, March 07, 2008

How Do You Tell the Children That You're Getting a Divorce?

When I went through a divorce more than 14 years ago, my two children were a baby and a preschooler, and thus weren’t old enough to be given too many details. I have often wondered, though, how different it would have been if they had been older. How would I have told them that their father and I were divorcing, and we’d be moving to another home? Would they be scared or cry or begin acting out? Indeed, one of the most difficult conversations a parent will ever have with his or her children is telling them that their parents are separating or divorcing. Children may blame themselves, worry about the future, fear they’ll never see one or both of their parents again, or feel that their safety and security are crumbling before their eyes. So, how can parents allay these fears while imparting such a scary message to their children?

Fortunately, a book by Rosalind Sedacca, CCT, provides a great start. How Do I Tell the Kids about the Divorce? A Create-a-Storybook™ Guide to Preparing Your Children – with Love! is a fill-in-the-blank book that guides parents through making a personal family storybook they can share with their children. The text was designed to convey six key messages to children of divorce:

1. This is not your fault.
2. Mom and Dad will always love you.
3. Mom and Dad will always be your Mom and Dad.
4. You are, and will continue to be, safe.
5. This is about change, not about blame.
6. Everything is going to be okay.

Using the templates provided, parents can customize their book to reflect their personal situation. Parents are encouraged to include stories (and photos) from their family’s history, guided on ways to explain “the problem” without inflicting blame on the other parent, and coached on how to provide a picture of the future and how it will change. Parents can use materials as simple as a photo album or as elaborate as a scrapbook. Two versions are provided, one for kids aged 5–10 and another for kids aged 10–15. How Do I Tell the Kids About the Divorce? also provides advice and insights from six therapists who specialize in family issues.

Divorce is never going to be an easy adjustment for children, but with the help of this book, parents can provide their children with the information they need to be assured that they’re loved and their future holds promise. How Do I Tell the Kids About Divorce? is available as a downloadable eBook at www.howdoitellthekids.com (and also includes some great bonuses!).

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Sunday, March 02, 2008

Feeling Like Peter

I felt sort of like Peter the apostle this week, and not in a good way. Remember how Peter denied his relationship with Jesus—three times in a row? Of course, afterward, he knew what a terrible thing he’d done and he felt horrible about it. But at the time, he just couldn’t seem to stop himself from doing something wrong. That’s how I feel. Oh, I didn’t do something as bad as denying Jesus, but I failed to do the right thing when the opportunity presented itself—over and over again.

First, every day when the twins and I were driving home from preschool, Caleb asked me to take them to the park. And every day, I had a different excuse not to go. The worst one was, “Don’t you want to go home and have your snack?” I can’t believe I was encouraging them to load up on ice cream instead of exercise! Second, Caleb asked me to go outside and play hockey with them. “No, it’s too cold,” I told him. Of course, we could have just put on some jackets! My third “sin” was almost not going to the beach today. My husband had decided to take the twins, but told me I could stay home and work if I wanted. It was a gorgeous day, but I actually debated over my decision. I thought about all the deadlines I had to meet and seriously considered sitting at the computer instead of spending a couple of hours playing with my kids at the beach. Thankfully, I came to my senses and decided to go!

Then, it occurred to me . . . no wonder my teenagers never want to leave the house! They prefer to sit in their rooms and play video games or listen to music. What kind of example have I been setting for them? I’ve been shooing them out of the house to enjoy the outdoors . . . and then heading back inside to sit in my own room. And now my preschoolers will be on the same path if I don’t repent and mend my ways!

If Peter can move on from his mistakes and become one of the greatest disciples of the early church, perhaps it wouldn’t be so difficult for me to head to the park, take a walk, play a little hockey or go to the beach. My boys will only be four once. We’ve only got one life to live in this beautiful world. It’s time to head outside and play more often.


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