Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Reading for Readiness

There are lots of wonderful authors of books for children. I loved reading books in the Golden Books series and books by Eve Bunting, Tomie DePaola, Louisa May Alcott, Eric Hill (Spot books), Lynley Dodd (Hairy McClary, Slinky Malinki), Barbara Cooney (Miss. Rumphius), Laura Ingalls Wilder (Little House on the Praire), Lynn Reid Banks (Mystery of the Cupboard), and so many more. You can find a list of children's book authors and illustrators here. So, when actors turn children's book author I am automatically skeptical. Jamie Lee Curtis surprised me though.

This morning Jamie Lee Curtis was on Rachael Ray where, among other things, she read from and talked about 'Little People, Big Words', the book she released most recently. I was intrigued enough to visit her website here. Exploring the synopsis' of each of her books, I was pleasantly surprised by the themes and ideas running through all of them. Each of these books is a tool to expose your children to a greater lesson and maybe even engage your children in a greater discussion. There is a point and a purpose to each of the books. The website also provides teaching resources and activities to go along with the books. I found them really well done.

Looking at Jamie Lee Curtis' books, I began thinking about all children's books and questions we should ask ourselves about the messages they contain, the overall affect they have on our children, and how we might use books as a teaching tool and impetus for discussion.

Do you have a favorite children's book? Any thoughts about this post? Don't be shy! Comment!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Bounce a Bye Baby Ball

Luna Lullaby has some great products, but my favorite is the Bounce-a-Bye-Baby Ball. It comes in three sweet designs and has many uses before, during, and after the birth of the baby. I think the best thing about it is the base that it comes with. Since the designs are so cute, it is easy to put the ball on the base in the corner of the nursery, playroom, livingroom, wherever for storage. Plus, having the base increases the number of uses of the ball and offers a safer way to bounce yourself and/or the baby. You can exercise and sooth the baby at the same time! At $52, I think it is well worth the investment.

Check out and, if you want to, purchase the Bounce-a-Bye-Baby...

Soothing Blanket...

Bosom Baby...

and Belly-Ups...

at Luna Lullaby.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

A Subtle Shift

The two readers or less that I have on this blog may have noticed a subtle shift in the content lately. After some thought, I have decided to shift the focus of this blog to child centered issues, general thoughts on nannying, reviews of books and articles concerning nannying, and reviews of baby and child products (including the ones listed in the right hand column). Accountings of adventures with the children in my life may occasionally pepper the blog, but will no longer be the main focus.

I hope you will still stay tuned!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Meme Express - Play-Doh

Meme Express gives daily writing prompts. If you are interested go here.
Today's prompt is Play-Doh.

Did you ever play with Play-Doh?

Did I ever!

What do you remember about it?
It was squishy in my fingers like mud between my toes. I could play with it only after my mom had laid out copious amounts of newspaper on which to work. Now newspaper is not necessary because Play-Doh created the Play-Doh Pickup Stick to remove it from flat surfaces. Play-Doh always had a distinct odor, neither pleasant nor unpleasant, which varied slightly from color to color. I was usually only allowed to get the four pack with yellow, blue, red and white, but every once in awhile I was allowed the Rainbow 8-Pack (it came out when I was 5) and those days were special days. That was back in the 1980's, but now you can get all kinds of colors and cool packs including the Birthday Bucket and the Play-Doh 50 Pack.

What was your favorite Play-Doh color?
Probably red, but I liked to try and mix the colors together to make other colors (white and red to make pink, blue and red to make purple, etc).

What was the most imaginative item you ever shaped from Play-Doh?
I once made kitty cat slippers. Recently I created a whole jungle with C, the little boy I nanny. We made trees, a giraffe, an elephant, a dinosaur, and all kinds of other cool things.

Do you have a recipe for homemade play clay?
Edible Play-Doh Recipes

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


This morning I sat for C & K for two hours. They slept for one hour and fifteen minutes of that time which is unheard of. Usually K is up within minutes of Mommy K leaving for work and C is up within the half hour. I can only attribute this sleeping to changes. C has gone back to school and is going to school multiple days a week now. School can be exhausting. As far as K, she has to adjust the new, earlier rising, more running around lifestyle of the family since C is back in school AND she is growing taller and leaner every time I see her which can be exhausting, too.

It has been three weeks since I last sat for the kids, but almost two months since I have written about them here. Updates!

C has:
grown taller
learned to play Spiro the Dragon on Playstation
started putting his shoes on by himself without prompting
become even more demonstrative with Kate (kisses, hugs, and giggles)
become better at asserting his feelings, needs, desires as a capable individual
demands privacy when goes to the bathroom and washes own hands
wants more alone time when playing
is better at managing his frustrations and irritations (less whining, temper)
begun riding a 2-wheel (with training wheels and helmet) bike
takes directions
groups toys by categories and sub-categories
and so many other subtly things that I miss because we see each other so often.

C will be five in November and it is hard to believe that I have been sitting for them for 12 and a half months. Getting so big!

K has:
grown taller
thinned out
begun speaking in sentences though they are not always understandable
says "look at that" and "what is this" fairly clearly
begun to understand opposites and is fond of off and on and up and down
feeds herself
grown longish hair
gained independence
an expanding sense of humor
giggles that pierce your heart
a penchant for shoes
identifies family members in photographs
Can match person in photo to flesh and blood person standing next to her
says family members' names
a crush on Elmo who's name she says clearly, loudly, and often
a Dora doll who is her best friend
a tricyle I push her around on. I say "whee" and she repeats followed by giggles
given up one of her two daily naps

Lots of changes around here. They bring me such joy and I am so thankful that their parents trust me with them and allow me into their lives.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Cultivating Compassion

We All Sing With the Same Voice on YouTube
*Image courtesy of muppet.wikia.com

My husband and I live next to a playground and across from a middle school. This means that there are always lots of children around. If we keep the doors and windows closed the noise is minimal, but lately I have taken to keeping the front door open. I don't mind the energy and hubbub of the children and I really love the fresh air, but I am shocked by some of the things I hear the children say to each other. A few days ago, one of these utterances had me close to intervening and even possibly calling the police.

At 2:30, when the middle school students were released for the day, I was sitting in my living room drinking tea and trying to decipher some poetry (I am a student as well as a nanny) when I heard an adolescent male voice loudly emit the following:

"I just want you to know I have a 12 gauge in my basement and I know where you live!"

This brought me to my feet, but by the time I got to the door the street was empty.

In what universe is it o.k. for anyone, never mind a child, to say that to anyone? I am not naive, I am aware that there are people in this world who have committed heinous acts and I am aware that in anger and/or rage people are prone to say some nasty things to/threaten each other, but... my goodness gracious. And I won't even explore the gun issue/people having guns in their house/children knowing where guns are kept/children having access to guns. Instead I will ask the question,

How might we as parents, teachers, and caregivers cultivate compassion in children?

Not sure where to begin, I consulted Wikipedia. The 'compassion' entry in Wikipedia focuses on what compassion means and how it is illustrated in different religions. Religion. I had not thought of that. Today religion, in most cases, does not play a large part in our daily lives. Church attendance is dwindling. Many people attend religious services only on major holidays. Children complain about having to go to religious education classes, if their parents enroll them at all. Religion has a lot to teach about compassion. When I look back on my childhood, though compassion was applied in school, school was a place for broadening the mind, religious education was a place for broadening the heart. This gives me pause. Might it behoove us to make religion more a part of our lives and the lives of the children we know?

Do unto others as you would have done to you.
The Golden Rule. Something we can share with children without sitting them down for a lesson or directly talking about it with them. How?
Simplified example: Child 1 walks into classroom and is wearing glasses. Child 2 giggles, points, and calls Child 1 "foureyes." Other children laugh, too. Teacher says, "Children, I know Child 1 looks different today, but how would you feel if someone giggled, pointed, and called you names when you walked into the classroom? Maybe, instead, we should ask Child 1 to tell us about why he/she got glasses and what it was like to get them." and conversation continues.
In this way we can help children to train their brains to think in a compassionate way so that they begin to act compassionately.

Be more aware of our own behavior. Children are watching adults all the time for clues as to how to act. They absorb everything we do, every reaction we have, every word we say. Changing our behavior in the every day in even the smallest way can help children to learn compassion. Know the other day when you were driving down the street and that guy cut you off and you yelled and screamed and generally went bazerk? Your kids, yeah the ones in the back seat, they absorbed that. None of us are above frustration at times, but maybe next time you could say nothing at all or could say "Well, that man must be in a very big rush to disregard my feelings like that. I hope his day gets better." Hard to do in the moment, but definitely a display of compassion.

So, those are a few ways I think we might be able to begin to cultivate compassion in the lives of the children we know and love. I would love for you to share your ideas for cultivating compassion in children with me in the comments section.

When I ran to the door to see what was happening it was because my compassion for the potential victim kicked in. After, I could not stop thinking about the child who was doing the threatening and I felt compassion toward him. I wondered if anyone ever tried to cultivate compassion in him, what feeling inside him prompted him to say such an awful thing, why he was unable to find a healthy way to channel that emotion, what might be missing in his life. I wanted to find that boy, talk to him, and find a way to help him, help him to help himself. Talk about compassion. Though it is unlikely that I will ever have the opportunity to talk to that specific child, I do have the opportunity to cultivate compassion in myself, in the children I nanny, in my nieces and nephews, and in my yet unborn just-a-twinkle-in-my-eye children. So do you. Think about it.

If you are interested in other musings on compassion:

The Dalai Lama on The Meaning of Compassion in Every Day Life

In Character Magazine Spring 2008 issue on Compassion

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Stephanie "NieNie" Nielson and Family

On Sunday I learned of a remarkable story and remarkable family. i wrote a post about them on my Brainy and Beautiful blog. I was thinking today that I should post it again here to further spread the word in the hope that others will pray for them and pass on their story to others and so and so forth. So, here it is:

Be Grateful

Be Grateful. This is the gentle reminder I received this morning when I went to A Cup of Jo and read this New York Times story. Then I went to Nie's blog, NieNie Dialogues, and fell in love with Nie. Nie, 27 years old like me, and her husband, Christian, who have 4 beautiful children ages 1-6, were in a plane accident on August 16, 2008 and are recovering from severe burns. Their amazing family, including CJane, are caring for Nie and Christian's children and organizing fundraising efforts, alongside all of Nie's blog friends, to benefit the children and keep Nie and Christian's life going while they recover.

Nie's family:

On her childrens' birthdays, Nie has them write wishes, attach them to balloons, and let them go into the universe. Across the globe, people have done the same for Nie and her family in their time of need.

I wrote a letter to CJane and a separate letter to Nie and a separate letter to Christian. In CJane's I enclosed a lucky penny for each of the children. Nie and Christian each get one, too. As Nie always illustrates through her blog, it is the little things, the simple things in life that really matter.

So, in honor of Nie, today I ask you to be grateful for all that life has given you and for the little things. I think Nie would be proud.

Things I am Grateful For Today <3
my husband
my health
the warm kitty purring next to me
my home
fresh picked Maine blueberries still warm from the sun
my family
my friends
soft sheets
my faith
second chances...and third...and forth
the five year old still boldly alive inside me
dark chocolate
vegan cupcakes
cotton clothing
rocking chairs
the icecream man
the swish of a basketball through the net
birds chirping
the perfect pair of jeans
the smell of tomato sauce simmering on the stove
the flowers I clipped from the rose of sharon in the backyard
and oh so much more

Oh, and, after counting the things you are grateful for today, if you could send just a dash of that positivity into the universe aimed at Nie, Christian, their children, their extended family, and their friends both physical and virtual, I would be extra extra grateful. Thank you!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Nieces Rock My World

Usually I write about my nannying charges here, but my nieces have been in the forefront of my mind lately so I feel compelled to write about them. I must preface this by saying that Yes, I love their three brothers and my other sister's two boys, and the time will come when I write about them, too.

Lily and Marielle, age 11 and age 4, daughters of my oldest sister, are so dear to me. They live in Pennsylvania, 5 and 1/2 hours away from my home and I miss them and think of them every day. A few weekends ago they were in Maine, only 3 hours from my home, and my husband and I went to visit for three days. It was glorious to be in a cabin on the lake, spend our days boating and tubing and fishing and looking for salamanders, and fall asleep to the sounds of the coyotes howling. A welcome retreat and wonderful visit with my sister and her family.

One morning, after breakfast at the local diner, I was quickly led to the back yard near the lake by Marielle. When I asked what adventure she was taking me on she replied "Salamander Searching! Let's go!" Now, mind you, this is the little girl who just the night before had changed into a "swingy skirt like auntie's" for proper dancing around the living room. Multifaceted and complex, my Mari is. So, we searched for salamanders. I lifted every rock in the yard while Mari looked under it. "Auntie, do you know what salamanders look like?" "I think so... Do they kind of look like tiny lizards?" "Yeah... Well, kind of like frogs, but long and thin and sticky." I love her descriptions. Remember, she is only 4. So, after we had exhausted the rocks, I suggested checking under a log, and there he was, a 'sally' as Mari lovingly referred to him (according to Mari, there are only boy sallys). So, for five minutes we played with the sally. He crawled up Mari's arm, swam in the "swimming pool" we constructed for him in the bottom of a sandcastle mold, climbed the stick we placed in the sandcastle mold, and was shown to everyone who would look. Then came time to let him go. Mari was not so sure about this, but I told her we would put him right back where we found him so that we could remember where he was and go back and find him again later if she liked. This seemed to please her and thus, sally was returned to his rightful home.

Swingy skirts and salamanders. Two things I also loved as a little girl. This is when I started catching glimpses of my younger self in my nieces.

It was harder to pin Lily down for one-on-one time, but we chatted over grapes, pb&j, and orange juice. Lily is not so sure about switching from public school to private school this year. I tried to reassure her that she is charming, lovely, brilliant, creative, athletic, and has an innate gift for gab. She said, "yeah..." I told her I believe in her and I am proud of her, and no matter what I think she is phenomenal. I hugged her and she pried her hands out of her pockets and hugged me back. Then I remembered, I too was 10 1/2, nearly 11, when my family moved and I started a new school in the middle of fifth grade. Funny how life works in cycles. Changing schools was really hard and awkward, but I made it through. I must send Lily a little snailmail love note and inform her of this newly found similarity between us. I learned much from changing schools and if she asks I will share the wisdom that comes from having already lived it.

My favorite moment of the weekend was just divine! Mari was eating pistachios on the screen porch while Lily started giving me a manicure on the open air deck. Mari was interested in what we were doing. So, I held Mari while Lily did her nails. Then Lily did my nails. There were giggles and girl talk between us girls ages 4, 10 and 27. I am learning that females are fundamentally the same no matter the age. Mari sat in my lap curling a strand of my hair around her finger remarking how similar my hair is to her mommy's and how my clothes are even soft like Mommy's, too. Then she jumped up and proclaimed that she would like to brush my hair and she did! At that moment I was truly, devastatingly, happy. Really, what more could a girl ask for, but the August sunshine in Maine, the company of girlies she loves, free pampering better than any she has ever had at the spa, her "hairstylist" occasionally alternately popping pistachios and sun-warmed Maine blueberries in her mouth, giggles, and freely given pure love that she is free to purely give right back.

I love my girls <3