Friday, April 22, 2016

Kinder, the best school choice for us!

I can't believe the end of Kindergarten is almost here. I mean she was just a newborn the other day! We have our last parent/teacher conference on Monday and I am already getting teary eyed thinking about graduation on May 25th.  How did it fly by so fast?  And don't get me started with the amazing things she has accomplished this year at her school.  We are so overly happy with our decision to send her to our neighborhood private school, Highlander.  I went back and forth on sending her to our area public school, to a montessori school, to a few other private schools, and we can say without a doubt she has flourished so well at Highlander and have no worries we did the right thing.  I can't say enough good things about this school and how it has made our family even happier!

Trying to find the right school was so hard.  I am kind of a picky and high maintenance parent when it comes to education. :) I love our area public school, but it was just not a good fit for her.  After lots of searching and with her being on the younger side (and also on the smaller side), sending her off to part-time kindergarten was the best decision for her.  She is in a class of 13 children, with a lot of one-on-one attention.  While touring around, I found that our neighborhood schools had become over-crowded and even some private ones as well going up to 22 and 25 kids with one teacher.  We knew that our daughter would get lost in the shuffle.  She is a bright child, but being our first born, she is also very sensitive and on the quiet side.

We heard from lots of previous teachers that large class sizes are hard for young children, especially the quieter ones, in that the teachers' attention is often placed on the 'more attention seeking' children and then others are often not paid enough attention.  It's a hard balance for them and classroom management is difficult and I totally get it.  But at the end of the day these teachers would go home and say "oh I wish I had given that poor boy more attention today" but then they get stuck again and again with the harder to manage ones, and the cycle goes on. Not that my child doesn't get in trouble for talking out of turn, because she does and is not perfect. But a lot of schools have general education mainstreamed in (which has its pros and cons- not going to debate that here) and the teacher has to manage all children with all diagnoses in one classroom (autistic, ADHD, ED) without an aide or an assistant.  So those poor children suffer even more.

I also love how Highlander still teaches reading and math like they did in the 1950's.  They are a Carden school and still use the old readers. I say don't fix what doesn't need fixing!  The old school reading and math teaching methods have worked for so many years. Now there are new ways to learn math and reading and some don't even teach phonics, which to my reading specialist sister, is the worst way to teach a child.  And some area schools are not teaching multiplication tables, they make you say/write "8 plus 8 plus 8 equals 24" instead of memorizing 8X3=24.

Another issue in education these days is the lack of recess in elementary schools.  Research has shown how play is crucial to learning and so is outside play time!  Our public area school district is trying hard to get them to change it from 10 minutes to 30 a day.  I am so glad that Highlander has daily recess and DAILY PE classes. Yes, that's right, our elementary school grades have PE EVERY day!

This has also been a hard year for me as a parent because I struggled with the whole red-shirting debate about holding back my 5 year old daughter, who won't be 6 until May 13th.  The poor thing keeps asking why she is one of the youngest in her class.  But she has been doing great with her school work, with learning to read, spell and do math! It's amazing to me because I didn't learn any of those things until 1st grade.

I have been watching her all year and keep double checking to make sure we made the right decision with sending her on to Kinder vs holding her back.  And why not? I mean when I was a child, most kids were not held back. In fact, most were sent on early. A lot of my high school friends started Kinder at age 4.  Now the trend is to hold back and some as young as February birthdays.  When I delivered my child, I was happy she was a May birthday because I knew I didn't have to worry about the whole summer birthday issue (I was a July 27th baby and was not held back), and had no idea I would be faced with this decision 5 years later!

But with all of the drama of holding back vs not holding back, I am so happy we found the best school for her!  I am confident she is ready to move on and she is in a good place. I don't have to worry about her moving forward through the grades.  Highlander is such an amazing school where the teachers truly care about each student, and the children care about each other too.

When we toured the school this year for the mandatory Kindergarten parent tour, they took us to each classroom and had the teachers explain the goals of each grade.  When we got to the 6th grade, they sat on the floor in a circle and talked about why they liked the school, and by the end I was crying. I looked up and all the other mothers were wiping tears away as well.  It was amazing to hear these children talk so lovingly about each other, what made the school special to them and it was all so genuine and from the heart.  I love how the older children help the younger ones, the 6th grade students get the children out of the cars in the carpool line every morning and my child has a 6th grade 'buddy'.  And when I work lunch duty, all of the children come up to me thanking me for helping, and address me as "Mrs." which I am still getting used to, lol, but I love how they learn social skills at the school too.

I know half day kinder is not for every child and especially for those full-time parents.  I am so grateful I am able to stay home with my children and give my child this gift.  But knowing my child, going full days where you have to focus a lot more than in preschool would have been too much for her.  She goes full days Mondays and Wednesdays and half days Tuesday, Thursday and Fridays. She is so happy when I pick her up and she still gets so excited every time we drive by her school "there's my school Highlander!!" she yells from the backseat :)

I know every school decision is hard, and for some maybe it was not a big deal and was an easy decision. But for us, I know we can all sleep soundly at night not worrying about the next few years (well, until she turns 13 :).
Monday, April 18, 2016

You Look Really Sad!

How many of you have just given up on the tantrums?  Every day in my house someone is crying, not happy and whining.  Some days you just want to give in. "Here, watch Paw Patrol" for the 18th time, to get them to stop crying over some Shopkin that is missing.  It stops the tears, but it's only for a few minutes before it starts up again.

After reading How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk , I've realized that the best thing to do is 'acknowledge their feelings' but how many times do we actually do that when we are tired, frustrated and just can't deal with another meltdown?

But this past week I really have been trying to make an effort to do it more and it DOES work.  I know it's not a normal human reaction when your child is crying, to just stop, think about what your child is feeling/doing, and then just re-stating what you see going on.  But if you think about it as an adult, if someone did the same to you, it would feel so much better and you'd feel understood!

For example:

Child: Bawling because she wanted Cheerios and not Raisin Bran cereal for breakfast

Parent: "It looks like you are feeling sad because you wanted Cheerios and not Raisin Bran for breakfast.  You are crying, and that tells me you are sad and frustrated."

Child: "Uh-huh"

Parent: Hugs child.  "It can be hard to want something really bad, and then not be able to get it"

Child: "Uh-huh" and stops crying.

Now your child may keep at it crying, "but I REALLY want Raisin Bran mom!" or they may be okay enough to have the other choices, or run off and play.

But you can still say what you are seeing and give that choice:

"I know how badly you really wanted Cheerios, but it looks like we are out of those.  You can choose to have Raisin Bran, or Oatmeal this morning, what do you choose?" etc. (and if they don't want any, you can just give a choice of nothing too- you can choose raisin bran or chose not to eat anything for breakfast, the choice is up to you).

But just going through your day, and just stating the obvious of what they are doing, "you are really mad your sister took that iPad away from you and you don't like that!" really helps them feel understood.

Even if you don't agree with them and their reactions, you can still acknowledge their feelings.  It will really help decrease their meltdowns:

"You are sad that your friend didn't play with you today"

"By throwing that toy, you are telling me you are really mad"

You can always then state your limit afterwards like, "But you know toys are not for throwing, let's try to find something else you can hit or throw when you feel mad. Come over here and hit this sofa if you are frustrated!"

But just try saying/mirroring back exactly what you see them doing/feeling, and I promise, it is crazy how well it helps.  Try it this week and let me know how it works for you!

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

A Good Book

I get a lot of questions from parents about book recommendations for specific things their kids are going through.  Death of a pet, anxiety, sicknesses, crime, divorce, loss and grief issues, etc.  And there are lots of good books out there for each topic, but one book that I refer to time and again is A Terrible Thing Happened

It's a story about a little raccoon where something 'terrible' happened.  The book doesn't mention anything specific, but you can talk to your child about what it might be, "I wonder if maybe he is being made fun of at school, etc.?" and fit it to something your child is going through.

It talks about how the raccoon gets tummy aches from it, or has bad dreams from it and then he talks to a lady about what happened and starts to feel better.  Now your child might not be in therapy or have a school counselor to talk to about things, but you can always talk about how telling someone about things always makes them feel better. That keeping things (feelings) inside can cause us to not feel good.

Of course kids can't always 'talk about' their feelings. Hence the whole play therapy thing and how children express themselves through play verses words. But you can encourage your child to draw their feelings, and to give their feelings a name 'I see you have been crying and that tells me you might be feeling sad.'

Overall it's a good book to have in your library for those times when things come up unexpectantly.
Saturday, March 5, 2016


Sharing is a never ending battle in our household.  I'm sure it started the day my second was born, but I was too tired to notice. Now instead of the jealousy of 'sharing mommy' when they were little, now it's fighting over toys, games and anything they can think of like a napkin at a restaurant. Seriously.

I know that arguing and fighting over things like toys is part of childhood and I talked a little about how to help with sibling rivalry here.  The book Siblings Without Rivalry: How to Help Your Children Live Together So You Can Live Too I referenced in my other post is still the best one out there! I try as much as I can to go by their recommendations, of course not 100% of the time because sometimes after a long day, I just don't have the energy to deal and just end up putting whatever toy they are fighting over in timeout and then turning on the TV. Yep, the TV basically numbs my kids into a drunken stare and creates about 25 minutes of peace (a usual Disney Jr length show).

But I got to thinking about how we treat 'sharing' in Play Therapy and group play therapy.  We don't make kids share in play therapy.  Say one child is playing with a tractor and another child wants to play with it. We don't say "you have to share...take turns...etc".  Instead, we tell the child, "it looks like X is playing with the tractor, and when he is done playing with it, it will be your turn." AND then of course we reflect the feeling: "looks like you are feeling frustrated because you want to play with it, and it's not fun to wait"...

We do this because in play therapy, we believe that kids should have the freedom to express and play as they wish and as a therapist, our goal is to let the child express themselves as much as possible and with as few limits as possible. This allows the child to freely be who they are and to 'let go'.  Just like an adult in a therapy session, we want them to be able to talk about whatever they want and 'let it all out!'

But I know in real life, kids need to learn that we take turns and share. They will have to share at school all day long. They have to learn to wait in lines- no buts no cuts and no interrupts, right?  We need to teach kids that we can't have everything we want. Heck, there are a few handbags I love but know I can't have them all.   And kids need to get used to sharing because they will one day have a roommate in college and get married and then will really have to share things :)

We all learned the appropriate social skills on sharing as kids, and learning that made us survive in this world as adults.  As parents, that's our goal in teaching our kids social cues and how to behave in public.

But I get it. There are times like when I get my new iPhone or a new fun electronic gadget and don't want my husband immediately grabbing it out of my hands and playing with it.  Or a new handbag that I just bought, I don't want my mom coming over and asking to borrow it THAT day!  (sorry mom).

So I realized with my kids, maybe we could practice the same thing.  I now have this rule that when they get a new toy, they get to play with it for a few days and don't have to share it right away.  I try a balance between our play therapy practices and real life.

I've tried to take a more relaxed approach on the whole sharing thing. I've realized that basically they fight over anything the other one has.  Even if it's a toilet paper holder.  Whatever one has, the other wants.  I try not to get involved and let them work it out. Yes, the noise and whining is super annoying, but they need a few minutes to figure it out. If I run to the rescue every time, then they won't be able to learn on their own.  And so far it's been working well.  I even sometimes hear them say, "Belle, you have to share and take turns" and I swear a few times they have come to me and asked me to set the timer on taking turns!  Without me intervening at all.  Seriously!

So for now, this little system is working. Of course we still have 'but she did it first'. Or "I didn't get a turn yet!'  But for the most part, trying to relax on all of it is my goal.  "Work it out girls, work it out"  :)
Sunday, January 17, 2016

Seconds, Thirds and Beyond..

I've realized that I post less, and less and less these days. And less. So I think I am just going to quit apologizing for my lateness and lack of posting.  So is my life.  I just read a great blog on the topic of 'Saying No' and having more free time to enjoy things like blogging.  I wish I could start this new year off by having a clean schedule.  But I am going to try my hardest with what I have already and learn the power of saying no.  I liked the advice of just doing the activities that bring you LIFE and cut out the ones that DRAIN you.  With that being said, I do like blogging about my crazy imperfect Counselor Mom Life so here goes my post for the New Year..

My life had a sudden 'aha' moment last week when I needed to make chocolate chip cookies for a sick friend.  My older child who normally loves baking, was too busy playing in the other room to help, so I called in my 3 year old, Belle.  She ran right into the kitchen, got the stool out and stood at the counter waiting to make cookies.

I almost teared up because for her entire 3 years of life, I was always baking with my older child and not really giving it a thought for my younger one.  My youngest started making cookies with her older sister when she was curled up in her newborn sling while I 'wore' her around the kitchen.  the next year she was crawling on the kitchen floor while I baked with her sister and I barely payed attention to her.  I just assumed as she grew older that she was 'too young' and 'not interested yet.'

So for the first time last week, I realized I was doing a huge milestone activity ALONE with my second born. Now, some of you may have different gendered kids and maybe had a first born son, so you wanted to start the domestic stereotyped baking activities with your second born, first girl when she was 6 months old.  But for me, I had already done those fun first time girl things with my first born.  Or like when we got out the Christmas decorations, I called in my first born to help decorate the tree, forgetting my 3 year old might be just as excited to help. Sad, right?

I realized at that moment, yes 3.5 years later, that I needed to really give my second child the same attention and motivation that I had for my first. Not an easy task as everyone has told me the seconds, and thirds and beyond just get a little less attention.  They get by without the same rules as the first like the 5 minute rule when things fall on the floor vs. the 5 second rule.

But it's really made me wake up and realize that each child regardless of gender or birth order, really needs a little more time and attention.  So one of my New Years' resolutions is to work harder to give my second born new experiences and extra individual attention.  Just because my older one likes ballet, doesn't mean I need to throw it on my other child.  That new experiences can actually be done with our second born.   That my first born doesn't always have to be the 'first.'
Monday, November 30, 2015

Christmas and Holiday Books and Movies for Kids

It's my favorite season and time of year! And being a book lover, I am ADDICTED to holiday books for my kids. I think I have a whole library I could card catalog for them.  And I have already gotten out our traditional holiday DVD's and started DVR'ing our faves.  I compiled a list of our family's most favorites for young children and if you have any more you want to add, leave them in the comments section.  Happy shopping and reading (and tv watching)!

Christmas and Holiday Board Books: 
1) Clifford's First Christmas (6.99)

2) Doc McStuffins Jingle Bell Doc  (5.70$)

 4) Christmas in the Manger (6.27$)

Christmas Books (Hardcover and Paperback):

2)  Disney Christmas Storybook Collection (13$)

 3) The Christmas Party (Disney Frozen) (4.50$)

4)  Olive, the Other Reindeer

 5) The Sweet Smell of Christmas (Scented Storybook)  (5.35)  Scratch and Sniff!! I had this book as a child and loved it!

6) The Night Before the Night Before Christmas (2.76). We love this author and her series and especially this one! It's a funny twist to the original tale.

7) Latke, the Lucky Dog (Hanukkah) (7.95$). My girls love this book! It's such a cute story of a stray dog adopted by a family who makes messes as he gets house trained.  It's a cute way to explain what Hanukkah is all about.

Movies and TV Shows:

1) Elf on the Shelf DVD! A must in our house. So far my girls have asked to watch this 5 times and it's November 30th.
(9.99)An Elf's Story DVD  

2) Charlie Brown Christmas 50th Anniversary, A: Deluxe Edition  (7.69$) We love this classic show!

3) The How the Grinch Stole Christmas (the 1966 version).  This DVD can be pricey so look on your local channels and DVR it!  We have it scheduled to come on TV on December 2nd.

 4) Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and Frosty!! (16.80$)  The Original Christmas Classics Gift Set can get you Frosty and Santa along with Rudolph.  We love these classic movies!

 5) The Polar Express (6.99).  We go to the Grapevine Polar Express each year and love watching the movie before we go.  My girls now love sleigh bells!

There ya have it! My list of our faves. Of course there are a TON more out there, so leave your most favorite books and shows in the comments section.