29 January, 2010



The NFL has come to town here in Miami for the Pro Bowl and Superbowl, and community events emphasizing physical activity are in the spotlight. Yesterday, I was involved as a volunteer at a playground build at a local charter school. The project was sponsored by Bank of America, the non-profit playground organization Kaboom, and the NFL Play 60 Community Blitz. The photo (above) is a portion of a playground wall mural that I helped to paint. (Those big, tall NFL Pro Bowl players eventually painted the top)

True to its name, the NFL Play 60 program challenges children to exercise and play for at least 60 minutes per day. It also encourages parents to provide nutritious meals for their kids. Childhood obesity rates are increasing in the United States, and it is quickly becoming a primary public health concern; for childhood obesity increases the risk for cardiovascular disease, type 2 Diabetes, and a number of other infirmities (CDC, 2010).

The great news is that there are simple things that parents can do to help their children:
1. Turn off the screens. (TV's, video games, hand-held games, etc.)
2. Go outside. Whether it is a park, a playground, the beach, or your own backyard...just get out there!
3. Play with your kids. Don't worry! You don't have to be a Pro-Bowler to play a game of catch with your kids. 
Click here for a list of more ideas to help your children spend their 60 minutes of playtime.

CDC, 2010. Retrieved on January 29, 2010 at http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/childhood/consequences.html

21 January, 2010

A Sketch Is Worth A Thousand Words

Yeah, the scenery in Cesky Krumlov is pretty spectacular, but take a look at this woman. She has her sketch pad out and her pastels, in the midst of a moment of artistic ardor. My six year old daughter (photo, above) was so taken with this woman's method for recording the sights of a new city, that she drew pictures of buildings (photo, below) that struck her fancy in her little Hello Kitty notebook for the rest of our stay.  A little creative inspiration can come from anywhere.

19 January, 2010

Alphabet Letters R Everywhere

"My alphabet starts with this letter called yuzz. It's the letter I use to spell yuzz-a-ma-tuzz. You'll be sort of surprised what there is to be found once you go beyond 'Z' and start poking around!" -Dr. Suess

A few months ago, as I was driving around town with my children, I heard my four-year old shout. "Look! The letter T!" As it happened to be the letter of the week in her preschool class, she was on the lookout for it. So it was that construction cranes, perched atop a building, formed the shape of the letter T. 
Indeed, letters are shapes. And if you just look, they can be found everywhere. Fifteen years ago, Stephen Johnson wrote a Caldecott Honor book entitled Alphabet City. The children's book consists of photographs of objects and architectural elements found in a city that each form a letter of the alphabet. 
Inspired by the book and driven by my youngest daughter's preoccupation with letters, we have found ourselves, outfitted with the digital camera, walking the streets of Miami Beach in search for alphabet letters. What fun it is to look at our neighborhood through a new lens!

15 January, 2010

"One Happy Thing is Every Happy Thing"

You must not seek to add
To what you have, what you once had;
You have no right to share
What you are with what you were.
No one can have it all,
That is forbidden.
You must learn to choose between.
One happy thing is every happy thing:
Two, is as if they had never been.
Histoire du Soldat (A Soldier's Tale) 

My family was seated in the concert hall, waiting for the orchestra to begin. There were muffled coughs, whispers, and a few sneezes. My middle child started getting what my father has always referred to as "froggy". She was plopping her bottom up and down in the very squeaky folding chair. (Why do theatre seats have to fold up like that?) 
Please sit still, I told her.
She sat on her knees and ruffled in her purse for her binoculars.
Please take those out quietly, I urged her.
She shout-whispered, These let me see the stage really close!
Please try to listen to the performance, I begged her.
She told me that she was thirsty. Really, really thirsty.
Please wait for the intermission, I pleaded.
She told me that she was hungry too.
Tears of frustration welled up in my eyes.
Mommy, why are you crying? She said aloud.
As the musicians played I thought. Why did I have this crazy idea to bring my 4, 7, and 9 year old children to this orchestra performance anyway? I remembered the concerts I had attended prior to motherhood. It was hard to recall, but there was a time that I was only concerned about my own hunger pangs. Now I had to carry a shelf from CVS around in my purse every time we left the house. (What is it about being out of the house that makes my children ravenously hungry?)
I spent the entirety of Benjamin Britten's Phantasy Quartet feeling sorry for myself.
It was then that I realized that I hadn't heard a peep for almost ten minutes. I looked around. My 4 year old was asleep on my spouse's lap. My 9 year old was tapping on her thigh to the cadence of the music. My middle child was watching the stage, mesmerized.It was then that I remembered why I had that crazy idea to bring my 4, 7, and 9 year old children to listen to the orchestra.
I wanted to see it through their eyes. 

Newsprint Bracelet

Do you know that simply exposing young children to printed words helps prepare them to read? This newsprint bracelet gives kids an opportunity to not only play with words, but wear them as well.

  • Newsprint, advertisements, junk mail...anything with words and pictures. Comics work especially well.
  • plastic ring from a grocery jar (example: mayonnaise)
  • scissors
  • mod podge

  1. Cut 1 inch strips of newsprint. Trim off the margins. Hint: The more colorful the print, the more colorful the bracelet.   
  2. Wrap paper strip around the plastic ring. Secure with glue or a dab of mod podge.
  3. Continue until the circumference of the ring is covered.
  4. Mod Podge the strips on the bracelet.
  5. Dry. 
  6. Wear.

04 January, 2010

"No Worries"

During winter break, my family and I visited the town of Telluride, Colorado, which is nestled in the midst of the towering peaks of the San Juan mountain range. We came down with both altitude sickness and a new catch-phrase. The first time the surprising words were uttered, my family was riding on the local bus. My four year old was taking a while getting down the steep bus stairs in her ski boots. We tried to usher her down more quickly than she was moving… “No worries”, the bus driver told us. The next time I heard it, I needed quarters for the washing machine. I went into a local place to ask for change, simultaneously giving an explanation of why I was unprepared with the right number of coins… “No worries”, stated the guy behind the counter. Huh?
In the city in which I live, if my foot is not pressing the accelerator the millisecond the traffic signal switches from red to green, I will get honked at. After all, time is money is it not? Or, at least in a capitalist society it is. British economics professor Ian Walker even came up with an equation to support this bit of common wisdom:  V (value of an hour)=(W(wage)((100-t(time))/100))/C(cost of living) (CNN, 2002).
So this is what I’m wondering. Since when did greater society get so harried that it abandoned its rudimentary decency? And why am I buying into it? And more importantly, how can we get some of that unhurried, give-a-gal-a-break mentality back? In the spirit of new year's resolutions, I am going to propose three changes in my life that I hope will reflect my desire to become less frantic and a bit more...patient.

1. I will eat my meals (with a fellow human being, if possible) and most certainly without a humming piece of technology.
Attention! Blackberries, laptops, I-Pods, televisions, radios, and anything else that utilizes lithium-ion batteries or A/C electrical current- you are officially uninvited from my table.

2. I will cancel my cable subscription and wear out my library card, my sneakers, my colored pencils, my board games, and maybe even my crock-pot.

3. I will schedule one-and only one- activity per person per day in my household. I will no longer be rushing from French club to ballet class to flute lessons in one afternoon.

If I lag behind or regress to my old ways a bit?

No worries. I'm going to give this gal a break.

CNN (2002, May 29). Time is money professor proves. Retrieved on January 3, 2009 at http://archives.cnn.com/2002/TECH/science/05/29/time.money/