Monthly Archives: March 2010

Googling the Great Outdoors With Kids

At a recent trip to the nursery I spotted a plant I had been eyeing off for a while heavily marked down.  Something had been nibbling on one of its large, ornamental leaves but apart from that it was fine.  What I didn’t realise was that I would be bringing the very-hungry-something home with us!  The next day I noticed the second of the plant’s large leaves eaten, and by the following day the plant was almost annihilated!  I decided it was time for some detective work, and wasn’t really surprised to find a huge caterpillar tucked out of view down inside a stalk.

The kids and I retrieved the sneaky culprit and put him in a box for further investigation.  We talked about the caterpillar’s colour and markings.  We watched the way it moved.  We took note of its size and the funny “tail” at the end.  We talked about what colour butterfly it might turn into and wondered how we could find out…?

So then we pulled down an enyclopedia. Oh hang on, no – that’s not what we did.  We googled it.  Here’s how I guided Little Miss 3 through an internet search:

Me:  We want to find more information.  Google can help us find information.  What information do we want to find?

LM3:  We want to find out about what our caterpillar will turn into.

Me:  That’s a lot of words.  Can you tell me one word?  We want to know about…?

LM3:  Caterpillars

Me:  Ok, let’s type c-a-t-e-r-p-i-l-l-a-r-s.  That says caterpillars.

LM3:  That sure is a big word Mum!

Me:  Do we want to know about AAALLLL the caterpillars in the world?  Or just the caterpillars where we live?

LM3:  Just where we live.

Me:  And where do we live?  In B…

LM3:  Brisbane!

Me:  Ok, let’s type B-r-i-s-b-a-n-e.  There.  So now we’re asking Google (point) to tell us information about caterpillars (point to word) in Brisbane (point to word).  Can you click here?

I’m not fussed on young kids playing heaps of computer games, but I think there is a lot of value to be had in early, purposeful use of technology.

We found a couple of useful sites and looked at various pictures of caterpillars to identify our own.  There was so much fantastic language involved in this process as we eliminated images.  Too green.  Too spotty.  Too hairy! Once we found some caterpillars that were similar we could look at more subtle detail like the four yellow spots, and the funny “tail”.  Eventually we found a match… we think!  Our best guess is that our very hungry caterpillar will become a Hawk Moth…

My daughter enthusiastically took her caterpillar to kindy today and shared her new found knowledge with her classmates.

We love learning together.  Did you learn something with your kids today?

Hair Clip Board

You might have noticed the decrease in activity posts here at SquiggleMum this year.  Now that my daughter is a big kindy girl, her world is full of indoor and outdoor activities when she is not with me.  Her needs have changed.  What she is desperate for at home at the moment is down time!

I have missed spending special one-on-one time with her though, so on the weekend we did a girly activity together.  We had seen cute ribbon boards for hair clips at the markets, and thought we’d have a go ourselves.  To be honest I wasn’t really sure how well it would work, but I figured the process would be more important than the product anyway.

I didn’t buy a single thing for this project.  We used a piece of polystyrene from the recycling bin and trimmed it with a stanley knife as it was a little bigger than we needed.  We covered it with some fabric from the material box, pinning it at the back with dress makers pins pushed almost horizontally.  (I tried the staple gun first but that was a disaster!  Pins worked much better.)  Next we raided the ribbon box and my daughter chose colours to match.  (Ok, so I might have talked her out of bright blue and into chocolate brown…)  I cut the ribbons into lengths and let her space them out on the board.  Then I simply pulled them tight and pinned them at the back.  Super easy.  We added a little bow at the bottom to finish it off.

I was really happy with the way the board turned out.  We made it using things we had at home already and it was a lovely mother-daughter activity.  The end product is something pretty and practical, and it’s already getting lots of use!

Mums With Cancer: Hope, Healing and Helping

Hope.  Healing.  Helping.  These three words are on my mind this week for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, the truly beautiful Stacey Charbachi sent me a copy of her book Climbing Mountains.  Wow, what a story.  Stacey first discovered the lump in her breast while pregnant with her second child.  Like most of us would she assumed it to be just a blocked duct, only to be diagnosed with cancer shortly after the birth of her son.  Stacey pours her story out, and though it is a heartbreaking read it is also full of hope.  She shares her private journey from diagnosis, through various treatments, and then reconstruction.  Along the way she shares bible verses which pulled her through her darkest times, and openly talks about her faith in God and His ability to answer her prayers.

As a young mother and wife, Stacey did not climb her mountain alone.  Her extended family rallied around her with practical support, her two precious kids were her motivation to go on, and her husband walked every step with her.  One part of Stacey’s story which particularly touched me was when she made the choice to shave her locks, which had been falling out in chunks.  She nervously awaited her husband’s reaction to her shaved head – but when he came through the door at the end of the day he too was bald!  Sometimes actions speak louder than words.

Reading Stacey’s story has helped me to understand a little of what it must be like to battle cancer as a mum, and I know it has also given me renewed perspective.  In her own words, she says:

“Like every other woman who has endured such a mountain, and like every person who has ever faced cancer of any type; we do not know why or how we were dealt the hand we are dealt, but we need to keep on keeping on; faithfully and with hope.” (p107)

If you would like to read Stacey’s book Climbing Mountains I have one copy to give away.  Just leave a comment below saying why you’d like to win.  Aussie residents only.  Comp closes Wed 31st March, 6pm Qld time. If you’d like to buy a copy for yourself or for a friend, click here.

_______________________________

WINNER ANNOUNCED

Congratulations Marthese!

You are the winner of a copy of Stacey’s powerful story Climbing Mountains.


_______________________________

I don’t believe in coincidence.  I think things happen for a reason.  I am quite sure that there is a reason why, at the same time as I’ve been reading Stacey’s story, I’ve also been hearing about the Paint The Town Red charity gala.  Mummy’s Wish is a Qld organisation supporting young mums with cancer.  I considered going before I read Stacey’s story.  Then I saw Mummy’s Wish listed in the back of her book and I knew I had to go.

So I’m going. For Stacey.  And for Gayle.  For every mama who has battled cancer while mothering young kids.  And for every mum who might one day find herself standing at the foot of that mountain.  If you’re a Brisbane mum I’d love you to come along too.  You can buy tickets here.

Happy Holiday Plan (Parenting Aus)

I can’t believe next week will be the last week of Term 1!  I’m so proud of the way my daughter has settled in to kindy and I know she just loves it there.  She does get very tired though, and the holidays will do her good.  I guess these holidays will be the first of many.  I want to have some fun, special times with her – but I also want to make sure she is rested and ready for Term 2.  Over at Parenting Australia today I’m sharing some ideas for planning a happy family holiday.

#1 Holiday Calendar

#2 Special days

#3 Holiday Box

#4 Routine

Jump over to the Happy Holiday Plan post to read more about these ideas.  What would you add for #5?

Other recent posts I’ve written for Parenting Australia:

Imaginary Phone Calls

Both of my kids love playing with toy phones (or old mobiles).  They obviously see me on the phone a lot because they copy my stance and mimic phrases I often use in conversation!  Sometimes my daughter tells me who she is “talking” to on the other end.  Sometimes I pretend I’m talking to a real person too.  This week though the game went to a whole new place.

We had just finished reading her kindy library book for the week, Do Like A Duck Does (by Judy Hindley). The toy phone rang so I “answered” it and pretended it was the mother duck calling.  I improvised conversation based on the text, which went something like this:

“Hello Mummy speaking.  Oh hello Mrs Duck.  How’s your day been?… What’s that?!  You took the children for a walk and a fox tagged along?!  Goodness me!  What did you do? … (giggle)  And you made him quack?  And eat worms?!…(giggle)  Well, it sounds like you taught him a lesson.  I’m glad it all worked out in the end.  Bye for now!”

Of course, my daughter had completely dissolved into hysterics by the end of the conversation and wanted to have a turn too.  The pretend phone rang again and she proceeded to have a similar conversation with Mrs Duck.

The following day she wanted to play phones again.  Building on the success of the day before, I took things a step further:

“Hello Mummy speaking.  Mr Fox you sound terrible.  What’s happened?  Oh dear, you tried to trick Mother Duck? You know she’s very clever and doesn’t like anyone messing with her babies… I understand you’re hungry.  How about you go and dry yourself off and make some nice soup instead?… Ok, I hope you feel better soon.  Bye bye.”

What a powerful tool for helping a child to see different perspectives on the same story.

The Barbie Debate

A few weeks back I posted a pic of the newly released Computer Engineer Barbie on my facebook fanpage, and it caused a little bit of a stir.  I decided to share some thoughts on the Barbie debate here as a couple of readers challenged me to post about it.

I must say up front that I am not a big fan of barbie dolls.  My daughter doesn’t have any, and it would take some serious convincing for me to hand over money for one.  For me, the big problem with Barbie is to do with body image.  I am not a curvaceous woman by any stretch of the imagination.  I was probably in my late teens before I realised I was waiting for curves that would never appear.  Barbie has curves in all the “right” places.  It’s really important to me to teach both my daughter and my son that a barbie-figure is not the ultimate figure.  My figure is just fine.  Ok, so there’s a bit of a jelly belly going on after having two kids, but there is nothing WRONG with my figure.  I’m not sure that having barbies around the house will reinforce that.

In Barbie’s defence, while not much has changed with her figure her career prospects have certainly improved.  I guess that’s why I posted the pic in the first place.  Who would have thought 50 years ago that Barbie would be getting her geek on?  I know, she still has an hourglass figure, unrealistically long legs and blonde hair to her cinched waist – but more brain than we’ve seen her with before.

Mattel hope geek barbie “inspires a new generation of girls to explore this important high-tech industry, which continues to grow and need future female leaders.”  I don’t know.  I kinda think that’s going to come down to the example set by real women.  Without binary code tees or bluetooth headsets.

So I guess the verdict for me is that Computer Engineer Barbie interests me enough to post her pic online, but not enough to buy her for my daughter.  What about you?  Do you think Barbie is finally becoming a more balanced babe, with a brain?  Or is she still just an idealised body shape with a few geeky (pink) accessories added?  (Or – given that she’s just a doll should I stop thinking about it so much and not project my body image issues on to her…?!)

PS – There are lots of other posts around about geek barbie.  I loved this one from Geek Dad and this one from the BBC about making Computer Engineer Barbie more realistic.

My One And Only (Win Tix!)

I believe it is so important for parents to spend time together, without kids!  I know it’s hard to make it happen some times.  It takes effort, and organising, and going out can be costly.  Would free movie tickets help?  I’ve got 5 double passes to give away to My One And Only for SquiggleMum readers courtesy of Hopscotch Films.

Set in the 1950’s, the movie stars Renee Zellweger as Ann Devereaux, a woman on the hunt for a replacement husband.  She hits the road in her cadillac with two teenage sons Robbie and George, but finds the dating scene has changed a little since last she looked for a companion.  Though her quest for a new man is sometimes comical, sometimes unnerving and sometimes tinged with sadness – it is not fruitless.  The film is based on the early life of Hollywood icon George Hamilton.  Here’s a sneak peek:

So, would you like a night out?  The first five commenters will each win a double pass to see My One And Only.  (Aussie residents only please.)  Just leave a comment below saying why you need a date night this week.  Oh, and since it’s kind of a chick flick… make sure your hubby gets to choose dinner, ok?

Rain And More Rain

I don’t know if you’ve heard, but it’s been a bit wet in Brisbane over the last week or two.  Rain, rain and more rain.  I’m all for letting kids have a play in their raincoats and gumboots, but you can only do that for so long before you get soggy children.  So, while the weather has been like this…

We’ve been designing layouts for trains, and narrating our own adventures for the engines (in every story the Fat Controller has to get cross and say, “You have caused confusion and delay!”  Of course)…

…and constructing intricate buildings and block towers like this for the passengers to visit when they disembark from the trains.

On the wet weekends we’ve made inside cubbies big enough for even a Daddy to fit inside (and cushions, toys, shoes, etc) too.

But now that the rain seems to finally be clearing, we’re left with grass that looks like this…!!

What do you do indoors with the kids when the rain really sets in?  (By the way, Damon has totally taken care of the grass situation now.  It isn’t still like this!)

Part of the Blogging Community

I love writing posts for my own blog here at SquiggleMum, but the blogosphere is a community and I also contribute elsewhere as much as I am able.  Community is about giving and not just getting.  Community is about belonging, supporting, encouraging, and coming along side.  (The pics above are of me meeting up with many members of the online community.  Still so many I’d love to meet, especially over there in the west!!)

This week I seem to be everywhere other than on my own blog – but that’s ok, because I’m out in the wonderful community of online Aussie mamas.  Here’s where you can find me this week.  I’d love you to come and be part of the community too by leaving a comment on these posts.

Find me at:

  • Fat Mum Slim – the gorgeous through-and-through Chantelle has featured me in her Everyday Everybody segment.  Wanna know when I last spoke to a police officer?  Or what time I get to bed?  Or if I can keep a secret…?  (Oh and she did that sweet polaroid thing with my photo.  Love it!)
  • Adventures With Kids – Come on a virtual tour of Australia!  This week it’s Brisbane’s turn, so I’m taking you on a tour of my hometown.  If you’ve ever thought about coming to Brissy for a holiday, check out this post for my tips on where to go and what to see.  There are a few cute pics of the kids and I too.  If you’re a local – feel free to add your suggestions on other highlights in our area.
  • Parenting Australia – I’d really love your comments on this week’s post about setting boundaries with kids, especially boys!  It’s called Letting Go of No. I’ve always been firm with boundaries, but I’m starting to wonder if I need to relax a little with my son.  Any mamas out there with boys older than mine (17mths) like to share their thoughts?  Oh, and if you missed my Parenting Australia post last week on allergies, it’s here.  I interviewed my beautiful friend Beck who deals with her son’s allergies on a daily basis.
  • Connect2Mums – if you’re a blogging mama, a WAHM or a mum with a small business – you’ll be right at home at Connect2Mums.  There are heaps of groups you can join up to, regular chat nights, comps and more.  I write the Connect2Bloggers column and also run the Christian mums group.  You’ll need to sign up, but it’s free.  I wrote about social media for the Connect2Bloggers column this week.

Learn To Sing – Sing To Learn

As an educator I have always had two loves: music and literacy.  I majored in music, but could never bring myself to become a music specialist because I knew it would mean giving up the opportunity to help children fall in love with language!  As a mother, it naturally follows that there is much music in my kids’ world.  We sing as we work, we sing as we play, we sing during bath time and while we’re driving in the car.  We sing with others at church and sometimes even use a microphone.  We sing serious songs, silly songs, story telling songs and our own made up songs.  And I have found it  fascinating to watch my children’s language development through song.

My son is 17 months old, and currently says these words (probably only a mother would even call them “words”):

dadad = Dad

gagga = cracker

nana = banana

ga = car or grapes

gigga = digger

mumum = Mum (this is pretty rare to be honest)

I realise that this selection of words makes my son seem like a stereotypical boy (food and cars)!  My point is that his speech is still at a very early stage.  However, the vocabulary he has through song far exceeds his spoken words.  He can’t quite say grapes (ga), but as we passed the huge melons in the supermarket the other day he started swaying from side to side tunefully babbling something that sounded incredibly like, “I love, you love, watermelon!” (a Justine Clarke song we often sing at home).  He does the same thing when we read Saturday’s page in The Very Hungry Caterpillar.  As soon as he sees the picture of the slice of watermelon he sways from side to side and tunefully babbles, “I love, you love…” all over again.

There is so much going on that little brain!  Not only is he is learning new vocab but he is making connections between objects and experiences, remembering words in sequence, understanding that words are made up of sounds, having a red-hot-go at forming those sounds with his own mouth, communicating his thoughts with others, and enjoying the whole process!  I didn’t sit him down with a watermelon flash card.  I just sang with him.

My daughter is almost 4.  She recently started kindy, but was home with me full time before then and has heard a lot of songs.  At this stage she can read (and write) her own name, and recognise personally significant letters and their associated sounds – but that’s about it.  She certainly isn’t “reading” yet.  However, her ability to recall lyrics is amazing.  This means that before she can even read she has developed her skills in recall and sequencing.  It also means she has an excellent vocabulary for her age, and she transfers words from songs into everyday conversation.

Like many preschoolers she loves to make up her own songs, and has done for some time.  Her songs are quite varied and interesting both musically and lyrically.  Sometimes she sings her own made up story.  Sometimes she sings about feelings.  Sometimes she sings about what she can see.  Often her songs demonstrate her understanding of story structure, rhythm, phrasing, and even rhyme (much to my amusement she sometimes makes up a word so that her lines rhyme as she sings).  Before she starts formal schooling she already has such a good foundation under her – through song.

There are many ways music and literacy complement each other, and several studies have proven these connections.  Learn to sing, and sing to learn I say!  If you’re interested in further information on this topic, try the work of Robert A. Cutietta, author of Raising Musical Kids: a guide for parents (2001). Cutietta claims the patterns of words, rhymes, and tonal qualities inherent in songs are incorporated easily and naturally by children as they learn to speak and eventually to read.  Based on what I see in my own children – I completely agree.

Singing with your kids is bound to boost their language development.  How well you sing is unimportant.  How often you sing is. So to quote The Carpenters (which I can’t believe I’m doing)… “Don’t worry that it’s not good enough, for anyone else to hear.  Just sing, sing a song… la la la la la…”

This post is part of Share A Story – Shape A Future 2010

and is featured over at The Book Chook today.