Saturday, March 6, 2010

Date night In--X marks the spot

This was a quick, silly, sexy date game.  Minimal preparation.  Maximum pleasure!

You'll need:

  • chocolate syrup/caramel syrup/honey--your call
  • a blindfold
  • a romantic and private environment (we made a bed by the fire after the kids went to sleep! comfy pillows, romantic music, candles, etc.)
  • easily moveable (or removable) clothing
How to play:

  • Blind fold your spouse.  
  • When he can't see, take a sticky sweet of your choice and mark an X somewhere on your body (clavicle, cheek, belly button, palm of your hand, etc).
  • Now your spouse has to find the sweet X by using his sense of smell ONLY.  
  • Repeat with you in the blindfold.
  • If you want to make it a competition, you could use a timer to see who find the treasure the fastest; however, I must admit I loved the anticipation of waiting for the treasure to be found and wouldn't have wanted it sped up!
  • Repeat as many times as you'd like.  Make it steamy or even funny.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Days of Play--Follow the leader

An oldie but a goodie that needs relatively little explanation.

Walk, run, hop, and crawl through the house or yard and have your child follow and mimic you.  Then switch roles.  

For little kids:
With little kids you can do this in a stationary fashion--raise your hand, fake yawn, etc.

For older kids:
Make your movements multi-stepped or more difficult. Somersaults, headstands, etc. (If you can still do 'em!)

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Things I Love--Munchkin Food Mill

So I'm actually crazy about making my own baby food.  With M.E. I spent hours grinding and pouring over organic squashes and sweet potatoes.  I made gourmet fruit mixes like blueberry banana plum.  My baby food processor was my favorite small appliance (well, except for my tea pot).

I started the same process with Mr. Paxton.  The problem is, Pax prefers to eat something with more flavor.  My bland sweet potatoes and chicken baby food dishes don't suit his sophisticated pallet.

Enter my Munchkin Food Mill.  

Whatever we eat, Pax eats.  Seriously.  He's had taco soup, black bean hummus with carrots and rice, chicken stroganoff, southwest beef wraps ...  All I do is throw the food into the Munchkin mill tube, use the base to push it through the grate, and turn the blades.  Presto. Spicy and favorable baby food in minutes.  

If my mill dies before he's need for baby food, I'm totally buying another one (and for $8 I can afford it!).

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

What I Think About: NCLB

Imagine you play on a baseball team and the baseball gurus come out and make this statement--all teams must win.  Even though it's a competition, everyone must win.  Impossible?  Who cares--it feels good to have everyone win so figure it out.  But if you don't win, they'll take away your mitts, and your bats, and your baseballs and finally your coaches.  And if you still don't win they'll tear down your team but don't worry, you can go to another winning team--if they'll take you.  Sound nuts?

Welcome to No Child Left Behind.

Upon first hearing, No Child Left Behind sounds brilliant.  After all, who could possibly think any child should be left behind?  Behind the clever rhetoric, however, lies some glaring problems. 

NCLB has a cynical view of teachers. The law naturally assumes that most teachers aren’t qualified to teach, which likely stems from the assumption that teacher preparation programs are all fluff, and to solve that problem demands that all teachers be “highly qualified.”  While it is true that a great number of students are being educated from uncertified teachers, it is also true that there is a lack of government support to get highly qualified teachers into the places that need qualified teachers the most (read: inner city and poor-rural).  Without increased pay and strong mentoring programs many teachers leave the field.  Many more have chosen to give up their profession because of NCLB’s reliance on high-stakes testing to determine teacher and student success.  Such reliance reduces teacher creativity and the joy of teaching is certainly stripped when teaching is done from a script.

In addition to alienating teachers, NCLB is harmful to students.  Of course the students who suffer the most come from schools that are already under-funded and lack resources. These schools are the first to be labeled as in need of improvement and thus, the already limited curriculum and resources are further depleted as a penalty for not being successful.   Schools that are in academic failure, again deemed so merely by a series of norm-referenced test scores that do not translate to post-school success (and who's the "norm" anyhow?!?), tend to forgo the “frills” in curriculum in order to teach the test “drill and kill” style.  As a result, schools have limited or stopped teaching social studies, foreign language, art, P.E. and other “specials” classes and have also taken away recess and field trips.  Teaching the test, as opposed to “real” learning, has caused a decline in critical thinking skills, general knowledge, and not surprisingly, the love of learning.  Students report high stress when testing which is further exacerbated when labeled members of a “failing” school community.

NCLB harms local school districts.  NCLB increases bureaucracy and makes the process of receiving funding a matter of expensive tedious and burdensome reporting.  In addition, local schools in academic failure long enough are at risk of being completely taken over and run by either state authorities or privately run for profit education companies. To ensure that doesn’t happen, many districts sharply lower standards and limit curriculum.  

So you're asking--some district lower expectations and teach less in order to prove they are successful?  Sad but true.  

In one act, the federal government determined what subjects were relevant, focusing on reading, writing, math and a bit of science while social studies and liberal arts courses were relegated as “frills.”  In addition, the government forced the use of “scientifically based” curriculum even though many of NCLB’s tenants are not developmentally or pedagogically sound (side-note: much of the "scientifically based-research" is funded by the developers of the curriculum NCLB peddles.  Is that fishy to anyone else?).  

With such sharp criticism leveled at NCLB, one is left wondering if anyone benefits from such federal control. The answer to such a question is yes.  Students who have always mattered in the education system—upper class white students (yes, I just said that)—tend to fare well under NCLB.  Wealthy schools have no problems hiring highly qualified teachers and resources are not an issue; therefore, students—and teachers—who have access to these schools benefit from NCLB as more funds are added to their schools along with plaques and praises about being a successful learning community.

In contrast, low-income and minority students do not benefit from NCLB for several reasons.  First, schools labeled as “failing” have a hard time finding teachers, especially those defined as highly qualified.  "Highly qualified" teachers rarely work for poverty-level pay in dangerous or remote locations.  Without such teachers, students cannot be expected to achieve and thus begins a vicious circle of making students fail and then punishing them for it.  Secondly, schools that are labeled as failing are stripped of funding.  Some funding goes to supplemental resources or for transporting students to more successful schools.  The irony is the school that could not afford to have good teachers and resources prior to a fund reduction is now forced to try and boost test scores with even fewer resources.  And regardless of NCLB’s claim that no students are to be stuck in a failing school, many are due to the fact that there are not enough seats in successful schools or such schools are not interested in admitting low-income students who may need additional services to help with language barriers or disabilities and who might very well bring down their test scores (and really, don't even get me started on how damaging this act is to English Language Learners or students with different abilities!). 

Thirdly, the “diversity penalty” suggests the greater the diversity in school, including socio-economic status, ethnicity, race, language, and disabilities, the greater the chance that the school will eventually be labeled a failing school.  Therefore, it is obvious that inner-city schools with great diversity but little funding will obviously “fail” while suburban, well-funded schools with little to no diversity will meet NCLB standards with ease.  Finally, many students in failing schools are simply “counseled” to quit school or are held back with the knowledge that retained students have a higher drop-out rate (Thank you Texas Miracle!).  Many schools simply allow the educational sacrifice of a few students (who bring down test scores) in order to continue receiving funding for other students. 

NCLB’s goal is to provide a good education to all students.  Unfortunately, the act seems to compile the complications of inequality rather than ease them.  I can’t help but defer thought to George Orwell’s Animal Farm where the farm animals notice that the farm had gotten richer without many of the animals being richer—only the dogs and pigs seem to have prospered.  And their community commandments were changed to read, "All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others."  In light of NCLB, such a satire seems prophetic.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

A Giveaway worth mentioning

Frontier Kitchen is offering a giveaway of a cookbook called Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day.

The chef in Frontier Kitchen requested to share a recipe she made from the cookbook and the owners declined (which is totally their right and kudos to Sarah for asking!) BUT they did offer a copy of their cookbooks as a giveaway!


As always I'm grateful that Sarah receives no compensation for hosting the giveaway (and that she bought her cookbook to begin with).

If you want to register to win, click here.

Tuesdays Too Clean Tip--LCD Screens

Here's the fast and easy on TV and computer LCD screens.

First, you should never use liquids such as Windex directly on these screens.
Second, you shouldn't use paper towels or harsh wipers as they can scratch the sensitive screen. Opt instead for a soft cotton washcloth or a dry Swiffer.
Just try to wipe the dust off but don't press to hard.
If you must, make a light solution of rubbing alcohol and water and apply it to the washcloth.  Gently rub the screen.

Good luck not ruining your electronics :)

Monday, March 1, 2010

Time Management Junkie--Skill #3--Organize

For my bestie’s 40th birthday party she had a “Clean Sweep” party.  When the invitation came in the mail, my husband said with some disgust, “who would want to clean and organize on their birthday?”  He looked at me (wearing a cheesy smile which he knew meant I was contemplating an outfit to match my yellow dishwashing gloves) and said, “Nevermind.” 

I know you’ve heard the adage, “A place for everything and everything in its place.”  An oldie but a goodie.  If items are where they are expected to be, life flows more smoothly (and you won’t waste anymore time looking for your keys, phone, purse, etc., if these items are stowed in “their” places).

It takes a lot of time to get organized but the result pays dividends.  My kids’ toys didn’t make it into labeled bins on their own.  I had to do the initial work.  But now when M.E. is done playing with her ponies, she finds the bin, puts the toys back in, and puts the bin away where it goes (ok, she still needs a bit of reminding but it takes way less time to say, “remember to put the pony bin away” than it does to clean up a room filled with random toy sets while holding a crying baby and making dinner for guests that are due in about three minutes).

Confession:  I have a borderline obsessive relationship with my label maker and my fascination with bins is not quite unhealthy but getting there. 

I organize with a bin and label system.  For kids the labels are photo-based so the kids can put toys where they belong (and even dad can look at the bin and say, “that bin is for your baby dolls.”).  Adult bins are either color coordinated fabric bins (Matt is tan, I am brown) or labeled with words (“Honey, where are the bandaids?” “In the bin labeled “first aid.”).  I use small baskets for food (baking spices, cooking spices, baking supplies, cake supplies, etc.).  I use mini-drawers to organize cords for IPods, cell phones, and other technology. 

This can all be very overwhelming and I can hear you saying, “but I don’t have time!”  Start small.  Remember you eat an elephant one bite at a time.  Start with a closet or a drawer and then move on.  Eventually everything will have its own place!
In coming weeks I’ll post photos and tips on organizing but there are a lot of resources out there and I suggest you look into them (google keywords like: organize, de-clutter, clean …).

In the meantime, if you have a problem area and you’d like suggestions on how to organize the area, please e-mail me a photo and I’ll offer suggestions.  If you want me to come organize with you, you pay for the travel for both my label maker and me J

P.S.  I didn’t make it to Kim’s Clean Sweep party because family was in town (but I did make it for dinner).  I was so bummed!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Days of Play--Taste and tell

Get little bowls of several types of foods: sweet, salty, bland, spicy, bitter, sour, syrupy, etc.

Blindfold your child and let him/her taste the foods.  Talk about the different flavors? Which does s/he like?  Which ones does s/he dislike?

Bon appetite!