Friday, November 30, 2012

LC Draws a Home and a Hurricane

LC: "This is a hurricane. Lots of wind and rain. It's dark outside and there are no people...because they're in the home. They can't be outside, because there's a hurricane."

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Corrugated Cardboard Collage

Clearly, kids don't need anything fancy to make art. Give them corrugated cardboard (pre-cut for preschoolers, older kids can have safety scissors to cut their own shapes)...kids will enjoy peeling apart the corrugated pieces! Then they can layer the shapes on a cardboard square...brushing glue on the bottom of each piece so it all sticks together. Of course, they can brush on some paint for a nice touch of color. LC's artwork from a Collage Lab session at Brooklyn Design Lab:

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Homework...More Harm Than Good

Homework takes up so much time...endless drills, busywork. Kids lose valuable time with their families and their friends...and precious time for themselves, as well...to create, to imagine, to play. Kids (and parents) get stressed out keeping up with the piles of homework. It's a shame that schools do not realize that children are burned out from the tests and homework by the time they hit middle school...and there's no improvement in achievement. The fact that all this starts so early these days...when a child is merely five or six years old is the biggest shame of all...let's give kids back their childhood.

Homework: New Research Suggests It May Be an Unnecessary Evil
by Alfie Kohn, Education Expert:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alfie-kohn/homework-research_b_2184918.html

The essay itself is worth reading...do studies show any meaningful benefit to all of this homework?

The first footnote of the piece nails it on the head...how many parents (including myself) feel about this topic: "It's important to remember that some people object to homework for reasons that aren't related to the dispute about whether research might show that homework provides academic benefits. They argue that (a) six hours a day of academics are enough, and kids should have the chance after school to explore other interests and develop in other ways -- or be able simply to relax in the same way that most adults like to relax after work; and (b) the decision about what kids do during family time should be made by families, not schools. Let's put these arguments aside for now, even though they ought to be (but rarely are) included in any discussion of the topic."

If that's not enough...click on the below link to find out about a book written by two Brooklyn moms, Sara Bennett and Nancy Kalish, The Case Against Homework: How Homework Is Hurting Our Children and What We Can Do About It.

Is Homework Getting Out of Hand:

http://www.newyorkfamily.com/schools-giving-students-too-much-homework/

It's very difficult to believe that parents can change the mindset of those running traditional schools. I doubt there will be a reduction of homework and tests for elementary school children. There was parental opposition to public kindergarten going from half days to full days, that didn't stop it from happening in NYC a while ago. There was parental concern regarding the compulsory school age being lowered from age 6 to age 5 in NY, and yet politicians pushed it through for 2013 (with hopefully the promised waiver for those parents who do not want to lock their five year olds in school for 6 hours a day). Soon, pre-k will become mandatory, I bet...with tax payer money funding the full-day childcare (to rush parents back into full-time jobs to keep the economic wheel spinning) and more parents feeling pressure to start children off on the hard-working path to academic success. After all, this isn't Finland...kids performing supremely well with "school hours cut in half, little homework, no standardized tests":

http://news.stanford.edu/news/2012/january/finnish-schools-reform-012012.html

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Dollmaker Mommy

I never thought that I would be making a doll...I have no experience with doll making. But when LC became so excited at the thought of her mommy possibly making her a doll, I had to step up and do my best to give my daughter a handmade doll as a gift. She received it yesterday and cherishes this toy. She wanted to bring it with us everywhere today...and this is the second night she is sleeping with it. I spent about ten hours on this project and this is the doll I created:


The cool thing is that every part of this doll is made of reused materials, so I was happy LC witnessed not just how I was able to dive in to learn something new...but that we could hunt for stuff around the home and give these items a second life. The head/body/arms are made of a knee-high purple sock LC loved that no longer fits. The legs are made of an old pair of tights she wore twice before she outgrew them. The doll's dress is the sleeve of a size 3 sweatjacket LC adored...I just had to cut holes for the doll's arms and turn the top a bit to make it look like a cowl neck style. I took the felt flower off LC's old hair clip and put it on the dress. After looking at many buttons on her old outfits...I chose these large ones from the pink sweatjacket. Then, we have the hair...lots of it...I put that yarn in strand by strand...that took quite a while. I used up all the rest of the yellow yarn (which is the color LC requested) and then I had to use some pink yarn, because I couldn't leave the top of the head hairless. To stuff the doll, I had LC choose one of her old stuffed toys she no longer wanted and used the cotton (with a small screwdriver to push it into place without tearing the doll apart).

After cutting the sock...I did start off initially with thread and a small needle to sew it up properly...but that didn't work out well. No matter how big the knot...the ends would keep going through the sock and it would fall apart, when I tugged at it a little.


So then I decided to use yarn and the largest needle I had in my case...I had no idea if it would look good...but I had no choice. I don't have a sewing machine, I never learned how to use one. This is all I could think of...grabbing my crochet basket (I taught myself how to crochet granny squares December 2010 and she still wears the hat I made for her) to see if I had any leftover yarn.


That went pretty well... the important thing is to leave one end open on the body, each arm, each leg...so that you can stuff it before closing it up. Since I have no idea what I'm doing...I ended up with rather big knots on the BACK of the doll. I didn't know how else to do it...so it doesn't unravel of course (my greatest challenge with crochet as well). I tried to hide some of the big knots INSIDE the sock...and the doll's dress and hair ended up covering the rest.

With all the parts stuffed and sewn up...I was starting to feel confident that I could finish this project...especially with LC asking every night if this would be the night that she meets her new doll.


So, after tying a piece of yarn where the neck would be...to give the head and body a bit of separation...I attached the arms and legs.


I do regret not taking any photos of the hair in progress. I sorta got into it...and it was so painstaking...at first it seemed like it would take forever...but then I found it to be quite therapeutic. I was in the zone and felt quite calm and I could have done this for hours and hours (I really have to learn how to knit and learn more about sewing and crochet techniques...it is quite enjoyable...one of the few times my mind is at rest). First, I cut the strands at about equal length, wrapping each around my finger (knowing I would be giving the doll a little haircut after it was all done, to even the hair out). I used a crochet technique for the hair strands...though I was using a big needle...by simply hooking a bit of the yarn through the eye of the needle, pulling it through and then getting the yarn strands through the yarn loop to make like a knot. Then, I added the buttons for the eyes...and entered the head from the back and carefully created the smile with the very last piece of pink yarn I had left.


It would be an understatement to say she adores this doll. She doesn't see the imperfections. It didn't come wrapped in plastic or inside a box. She kept thanking me, while I was working on it...and running up to me and kissing me. She actually stated "you're a wonderful woman!" I felt so appreciated, I just had to finish the doll even though it looks so far from professional. After she saw the doll and held it...LC said "it's a great, great dolly!"


The fact that it's made with love seems to mean more to her than anything. As you can see in the above two photos, she is still wearing (as a scarf and headband these days) the crooked red crochet thing I made in 2011.

I spent the first hour of the project checking out a few YouTube clips for inspiration...people are creating awesome dolls. I liked this clip the best for getting a clear idea of how to make the face, body, arms and legs:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IRXc4i9cK_E

And when I was stuck trying to figure out how to make the hair...this Coraline doll making clip did the trick:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CMz3rWkUers

What a great way to kick off the holiday gift making season.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Muslin + Marker = Awesome Big Art

LC enjoyed taking Big Art at Brooklyn Design Lab for two months...and the fall class just ended this week. I loved so much of what she made in the class...but this project (shown below) was my favorite. LC made the drawing with a black Sharpie marker on a large piece of muslin fabric...and she used a water sprayer on paint marks. It looks beautiful hanging on our wall. Amy Yang, founder + teacher, always comes up with the most creative ideas for kids. LC said this is "a cloud, a bird, a sunshine, fairies, waves, a sea horse, a crab, a fish, a dolphin and a shark."

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Being thankful...for all the choices we made.

Am I the only one who is not taking advantage of Black Friday or Small Business Saturday or Cyber Monday? I realize many are indulging in shopping frenzies...in the name of spurring economic growth.

It's not that I find shopping to be in bad taste, while so many New Yorkers are still struggling to find homes and they lost all their possessions during Superstorm Sandy (which happened less than a month ago). I would just rather teach my child that the path to happiness is not about acquiring a ton of unnecessary material goods. Studies have shown that sales result in people buying many items they would not have bought otherwise...so the savings isn't great since you are spending money you could have saved...and most people end up in debt during the holiday season, thanks to the fabulous bargains. Having to use a credit card, because you don't have enough in your budget, to buy a toy or electronic gadget is going into debt...no matter how fast you *think* you will pay it off.

OH, I see...the poll on CNN shows that 85% of 22,304 readers will NOT shop on Black Friday. So, I'm not alone. The media push to buy is really sad...especially in bad economic times...making people feel like they need to do their part and scrape together money to buy, buy, buy. I'd rather save, save, save. I think what I am teaching LC will help her later in life. I'd rather spend money on experiences anyway...moments that will give her meaningful memories...in NYC and our adventures outside of the Big Apple.

Fortunately, my daughter enjoys making gifts and so do I. She is only expecting one gift from Santa (she wants a harp...and a lap harp, which is the right size for her, is about $35). She is very appreciative and grateful and doesn't desire anything else from Santa. She is hoping I can make her a doll for Christmas (and I'm trying...good luck, Petek) But, perhaps it's easy to raise her to be this way...because she never watches commercials. It was a choice to not own a TV, for many reasons. It feels like we have tons of extra quality time to spend on activities that matter to us. She has many play dates (and makes new friends constantly everywhere we go...like today...a sweet girl named Maya gave LC a beautiful leaf in the park when saying bye, after they played together...a simple leaf means so much to young kids!) and we attend various classes, shows and workshops together all over NYC, where LC chats with other kids...but she does NOT go to preschool (never went to nursery school, daycare etc.) So, she is not influenced by a group of peers who are constantly in need of the latest new toy and showing off what their parents just bought for them.

I just saw this video on CNN, Lose the toys - kids happy with boxes:

http://www.cnn.com/video/?hpt=hp_c2#/video/bestoftv/2012/11/21/wcmh-teacher-replaces-toys-with-boxes.wcmh

"A preschool teacher took away the toys in his classroom and was surprised to receive zero complaints."

Um...yeah. Is that a revelation? Perhaps if more teachers had the experience of raising kids (without electronic gadgets and plastic toys) rather than just reading theory about child development...they would know what I have known for years. LC and her friends LOVE cardboard boxes. They love to pretend the boxes are boats, airplanes, houses etc. They like to decorate them...they like to sit inside them and create their own stories.

Sure, the preschool teacher would feel pretty useless handing out boxes to kids if he didn't claim that these scenarios are important for young children...um, because the young kids show "leadership" skills. YEAH. I was on a bus today and a mom asked another mom's pre-k child how many languages she speaks...she said three: English, Spanish and German. The other mom gasped and said "wow, that will make you so valuable in the business world!" WOW...I think she is valuable just as a human being. And if she likes to learn languages because it's fun and she enjoys expressing herself in that manner, then it's wonderful. She is a creative, compassionate being...rocking her own unique interests and observations. Her worth doesn't have to be linked to the corporate world at the tender age of 4.

I sometimes struggle with how much LC should conform. She recently took a class where she was asked to sing the Gingerbread Man song. LC sang it one week, but then refused the second week. I thought she simply didn't know the words (but I was wrong, because weeks later...out of the blue, she sang it to me perfectly...she wanted to prove that she knew it). The teacher told me that LC wouldn't sing the song. There I was trying to pressure a 4 year old to sing this darn song to please that teacher. And, for the first time, LC looked miserable about singing. She has been composing her own songs for at least two years already...it makes her so happy. She makes up the music and the lyrics everywhere we go (subway/bus riders don't seem to appreciate that ;-) and she sings her own songs, from memory. She performs her songs (gets up on anything that resembles a stage) and hopes that others will learn her songs. Yes, she also knows some nursery rhymes of course...and she LOVES repeating awesome songs she hears from favorite family bands. SO, what was the problem with the Gingerbread Man song?

Well, according to LC: "You said you love me the way I am...I dream that everyone want to sing my songs in the whole world and I want to teach them in class but teacher want me to sing another song. It wasn't a good song. The gingerbread man was just running and running and saying catch me. He need to stop and talk about why he was running, what happened and where he was going. There was a fly in the room that scared me, too, and I stand up to get away from it."

So...I decided this wasn't a good fit for her. There's no need for a young child to feel pressure. We have plenty of it later in life.

In general, with traditional classes...kids are expected to know ONE, RIGHT answer. Everything seems to be geared to multiple choice exams. Whereas, LC is more of an essay person. Same goes for me.

LC has this light from within and I don't want to dim it. The way my light was dimmed when I was a child. I don't want to tell her to sit quiet and memorize what others tell her is important and constantly submit to being assessed. She feels joy when she learns in a self-directed fashion, hands-on...she feels joy when she can interact with kids and adults, without being told that it's not time to be social...and it feels cruel to have such a strict structure with young children in an enclosed space 6 hours a day (telling them when to eat, talk, stand, go to the bathroom...learn each subject upon command, compete against others, waste a lot of time waiting to participate etc.).

She is curious, bright, kind and friendly. I can't imagine us being happier than we are now, with the choices we have made. For that, I am thankful.

Tomorrow we are going to have a traditional Thanksgiving meal, because that's what LC wanted. She saw that in a Charlie Brown holiday movie. Then, we'll have a nice long walk in a park...and perhaps a visit to the zoo (our Wildlife Conservation Society family membership makes it worth it to go for even one hour). So thankful for a simple, peaceful day with loved ones tomorrow. Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 19, 2012

LC Puts Mom in the Picture

I agree that often moms leave themselves out of the picture. This mom did a swell job writing about the issue...very moving and sincere essay (they said it got about 6 million page views...good going, Allison Tate!):

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/allison-tate/mom-pictures-with-kids_b_1926073.html

LC always asks "why are you not in this picture [or movie] with me?" I think it will mean a lot to her when she grows up to look back and see us having fun together. Even though I don't get in front of the lens much during our countless outings...LC is around every corner of our home with her (low quality, since it's made to be dropped) camera to put her mommy back in the picture:

Friday, November 16, 2012

Two Fairies

LC: "They are the toys that I have of the fairies. I made the two fairies on the same side."

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Goodies and a Game

LC: "Ice cream, lollipop and cookie."


LC: "A game called checkers. I saw them playing checkers on Elmo."

Monday, November 12, 2012

LC's Map

LC made a map of the places she likes to go in NYC and pointed out homes of friends and relatives, playgrounds, family concerts, magic shows, various museums, aquarium, zoos, puppet shows, library, art classes, restaurants etc. on her map.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

fund-raising + fun

There are so many ways that families can still volunteer. Many centers in NYC are accepting donations to help folks recover from Hurricane Sandy. Kids can choose gently used toys and warm clothes to donate, help make meals and deliver them, buy supplies etc.

Recently, we went to Hootenanny Art House for a fun fund-raiser called ART for the Aquarium with Melissa. LC brought a booklet she made (fish, waves, sea horse etc.):





...her booklet will be sent to the New York Aquarium, along with letters from the kids and a collaborative Koi Fish Flag. The New York Aquarium in Coney Island was devastated by Hurricane Sandy and has a long way to go before reopening. Hootenanny also collected money from all of us to donate to the beloved aquarium.




Above picture, on the left side of the wall...you can see LC made another little fish swimming in the water. Melissa will be attaching the koi fish art together and making a flag, which is cool.

Before the workshop, we stopped by a drugstore to buy diapers to donate and LC selected a basket full of art supplies to donate and I carried the bags over to Hootenanny...their art teacher Aria will be volunteering to do art therapy at shelters. After the trauma that was experienced by so many folks...I believe art goes a long way to heal, reduce stress and provide some hope.



That's a drop in the bucket...but I'll see what else we can do. Even though LC is only 4 years old, she wants to do more to help those who lost their homes.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

A Bittersweet Halloween 2012

So thankful for the impromptu Halloween sing-a-long by the always awesome Lloyd Miller of the Deedle Deedle Dees. As you can see, my daughter was the happiest cowgirl in the world.


Today, LC was still talking about how much she enjoyed singing and dancing in costume. Midwood Martial Arts & Family Fitness Center hosted this event for the community and folks donated to the Red Cross. We were happy to bring out the kids who were couped up for days. I admire that Lloyd volunteers his services for so many causes and he has the musical talent to engage with, and easily lift the spirits, of kids and adults. We all had a blast.


With many events in NYC cancelled this week, due to Hurricane Sandy, kids were certainly experiencing cabin fever. Getting out and about yesterday, in costume, pleased LC greatly.



There was sadness that Halloween would be canceled, with so many parades and activities nixed throughout NYC due to lack of power, extreme transportation issues, severe flooding, and very few security and cleanup crews to spare. Try telling innocent young children, who wait for this holiday all year long, that they will have to wait another year. Plus, it's important for children to feel like they are returning to normalcy, to be able to move on. Everyone gathering together was also uplifting. So, LC was thrilled that she was able to march in the West Midwood Halloween parade. One person asked LC if she was dressed as Annie Oakley, very cool. We had more trick-or-treaters this year than prior years and we ran out of treats within a couple of hours.



Some Halloween memories from 2011 and prior years.

The resilience of New Yorkers is evident after the storm...as folks work together to rebuild this beautiful city. Our thoughts are with all the families affected by Hurricane Sandy who have lost loved ones and homes...and we send good vibes. Kids crave routines and so many of the places we enjoy visiting throughout NYC were hit hard...and it's taking a while for everything to be up and running again. It's heartbreaking that the New York Aquarium, one of LC's favorite spots, will be closed indefinitely. LC wants to donate her favorite toys, books and clothes to kids who lost so much this week. She amazes me every year with her generosity in terms of donations and she is gung ho whenever we participate in various volunteer efforts. This is the first time she comprehended that a natural disaster can be so devastating for people...and helping those who were not as fortunate as us is the best way to show that we care.