Category Archives: eagle mom

You’ve Got To Sing When The Spirit Says Sing – Music, Child Development & Raffi

Photo Credit Jon BenjaminSome say the first language of babies is music as they experience it in the womb.  From this early exposure, babies learn to love rhythm.  I noticed Bobby’s special connection with rhythm from the first moments of meeting him.  He was a bit of a fussy baby.  So, a constant dance-like bounce was all that would soothe him.  Once that stopped working, he would calm by listening to Yo Yo Ma.  The drastic impact music had on Bobby got me thinking about the relevance of music in his development.  I’ve learned that a connection with music plays an important role as the foundation for literacy and other social and cultural development.

Why is Music Important?

“The necessity of music in human intellectual development has been discussed as far back as ancient Greece, in the 6th century B.C. In Plato’s Book of Laws II, a discussion is presented between an Athenian student and his teacher, Clinias, that describes the ancient Greek views on the importance of music education.

Athenian: So, by the uneducated man we shall mean one who has no choric training; and by an educated man whose choric training has been thorough.

Clinias: Exactly.

Athenian: And, mark you., the choric art as a whole embraces both dance and song.

Clinias: No doubt.

Athenian: Thus it follows that a well-educated man can both sing well and dance well.

Clinias: So it would seem.” CITE

Many advocate for continuing a child’s early exposure to music.  One such group of experts explain: “Early musical training helps develop brain areas involved in language and reasoning. It is thought that brain development continues for many years after birth. Recent studies have clearly indicated that musical training physically develops the part of the left side of the brain known to be involved with processing language, and can actually wire the brain’s circuits in specific ways.” (Cite)

Music At Our House

Continuing Bobby’s exposure has been a bit tricky.   At 3.5 years old, he seems a bit young to sit through lessons.  But music is still on his mind.  The other day, he was in the backyard with two sticks.  One was double his height.  He held it upright in one hand and took another stick and began to strum the larger stick.  When asked what he was doing, he replied that he was playing the cello.  Later that night he pretended to play the flute.  And, his little brother, who we call Bam Bam due to his love of banging on everything and everyone, used two sticks to beat the ground.  Future drummer?  Maybe.  So, we had a delightful time singing songs amidst the trees.  After all, in the words of Raffi, you’ve gotta sing when the spirit says sing.

The favorite song these days is Baby Beluga. Thank you Raffi Cavoukian, the superstar of kids’ music, for creating this charming song that introduces lil ones to the wonders of the ocean.  Singing Raffi with my kids is nostalgic for me as I remember singing his songs with my six younger siblings.

The All Time Children’s Superstar, Raffi

Haven’t heard of Raffi?  Well he has been creating classic children’s music since the 70s.  I’ve been a fan since probably the 80s when his tunes entertained me and my little brothers and sisters.  For me, it is wild that now, I am enjoying his music with my own children.  What’s wilder than that? Well, letting them experience Raffi in concert.

Raffi will be on tour this year.  He will be in Berkeley on April 6, then hopscotching around the country.  Interested in more details, then check here.  The concerts will benefit Child Honouring, an organization founded by Raffi based upon a Covenant for Honouring Children, an absolutely inspirational movement to help make the world a better place for all children.  Check back for more information about the Covenant for Honouring Children as it more than warrants a separate discussion.

Ways To Introduce Your Kids To Music

There are so many ways to introduce young kids to music.  From streaming music in the background, asking them what they think of it, singing, dancing and playing instruments or sticks as the case may be.  In addition, concerts are a great way to let them gain another perspective.  Raffi’s concert is one such event and should be amazing!  But if you can’t make that, then check out your local community.  Consider attending a high school performance, church choir concert, music class or youth symphony.  Library storytimes also can incorporate music as well.

Thanks for reading!   Wishing you and your little ones magical times making music memories!

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Pat Benatar Had it all Wrong – Birth is a Battlefield

birth is a battlefieldAfter months of anticipation, and ages of waiting, motherhood arrives.  Whether it is a scheduled C-Section, induced or natural labor, after all of the waddling it is here.   An intense journey that fully pushes us to our limits and shows us that we can do things we had no idea we could, we meet our prize.  Intrigue, love, wonder, amazement at the process and the joy.

The process is physically and mentally taxing.  At times, I think that Mother Nature is cruel to place so many physical requirements on the mother.   The pregnancy, the birth, and then the physical care of the newborn.   Add to that the physical requirements of a postpartum body, needing simultaneously to recover, restore and supply for a baby.  The entire process is nothing short of amazing and draining.

This may sound like a bit of a rant.  To be honest, it is.  There is a point to it.  There are things us moms can do to take care of ourselves and prepare ourselves for this journey.   As moms we often forget about ourselves.  In a life where getting a shower is a luxury, can we really take care of ourselves? Well, maybe not to a level we did pre-kids, but there are things we can do to get off on the right foot.

Before having the baby, plan & prepare.  Stock your freezer with prepared or purchased meals.  Collect lists from your favorite take out restaurants.  Make lists of things that folks can do to help you when they visit.  Plan help – friends, family, neighbors.  And, check out my article on the gear to have on hand.

Get back up.  Plan who is going to help you when you get home from the hospital.  Don’t end up like me after my second child.  My first day home, my husband was back at work and I was taking care of both boys.  My older son was in the process of weaning off a medication that caused him to have uncontrollable crazy tantrums.  Sometimes they’d last for over an hour.  No joke.  Anyways, by the end of that day, I was so exhausted physically and mentally.  A friend came by and brought dinner.  I was so grateful and thankful for the mere presence of my friend, but embarrassed that my house was a mess, my son was having a tantrum and the baby was screaming.  That said, her being there was a gift.  Later that week, I asked another friend to come by to help with bathtime.  Again, I was grateful beyond belief.

My point is simple – secure help.  If you don’t have family in the area or if they were like mine unavailable, then call upon friends to come help or if you are in a position to hire help, then hire as much as you can afford.

When you are in the hospital, get all the help you can.  There are tons of resources while you are in the hospital.  From lactation consultants to the nursery, there is a huge support network there to help you recover.  My biggest advice is to utilize the professional babysitters and get some sleep.  It could be months or years until you’ll get to sleep for more than a couple of hours at a time.  I’m sure Dr. Sears, the proponent of attachment parenting would disagree with me, but seriously, adjusting to life with a newborn and taking care of one is so difficult.  Why not get some sleep?

With my first son, I kept him in the room with me the entire time.  I felt a duty to care for him every minute (and I still do).  But with my second son, I still feel this connection but knew that I’d be going home to taking care of two boys.  So, I took advantage of the newborn nursery.  The first time I sent him, I was a little hesitant.  But as soon as he was wheeled out, I crashed.  He was brought back in three hours later.  And, then after a bit he went back.  I crashed again.

Use a lactation consultant – Another huge resource at the hospital are the lactation consultants. Before I tried nursing, I had friends who made it look so easy.   It was like something out of a movie – the baby  calmly and happily latched on.  Mom had a conversation while nursing.  Then baby detached in a happy milk coma.  With my first son, I had major issues getting him to latch properly.  Nursing was a bloody and painful experience.  Who knew it didn’t have to be that way? I sure didn’t.  With my second son, it was much easier, which I attribute to the refresher course given by the lactation consultant while I was in the hospital.  Whether you’re a veteran nursing mom, or not, using a lactation consultants is totally worth your while.

Going Home

No one talks about it.  So here goes – You go from being able to control your schedule to having to spend endless sitting on the couch, laying in bed or rocking in a chair feeding baby.  When you’re not feeding the baby, if you have a fussy baby, you are soothing the baby.  With my first son, this meant spending hours bouncing him on an exercise ball. The ball was fabulous at first as it made him so happy, but as the months went on, I began to loathe that ball. It was a bit like a prison, but the only thing that made him happy.  So, anyone who came to visit took a turn on the ball.

How do you make this easier?  Well, why not have books downloaded on your kindle or smartphone so that you can easily access them during those late night feedings.  You’ll eel more connected anyway.  In addition, like I said above, plan for help.  One of my girlfriends put it best when she said get all the help you can afford.  Whether you hire a nanny or swap I owe yous with your girlfriends, there are tons of creative ways to make it work.

Well, thanks for reading.  I appreciate having this platform to share tips from the trenches.  I’d also love to hear yours.

Picking a Preschool

The preschool hunt, for some begins as early as they are pregnant, for others long after the child is born.  For me, the thought process began when Bobby was merely weeks old hanging out in a baby carrier.  I was shopping for apples at my corner market in Oakland when a fellow mom stopped me.  She asked whether baby was on a list for school.  A little shocked by the question – I said no.  At that point, I was really thinking about buying produce, not about preschool options for my little guy.   Since Bobby was not even old enough to hold his head up, I thought it was a little early to start thinking about it.  What I learned was that the waiting lists at some schools start as early as when kids are in utero.  Yikes, I was already behind the ball!

Researching Different Options

With this in mind, when I moved to Sonoma when Bobby was six months old, I began the hunt.  In foreign territory as neither child development nor teaching is my profession, I searched for information.  Looking for expert opinions I consulted books and numerous articles (like these 1 and 2) detailing different educational philosophies like Montessori, Waldorf, Emilia.  There is only so much you can surmise from a book though.

The best advice came from local moms at the playground as they had actual experience with kids at the schools.  As I learned that there were different degrees with which the philosophies would be implemented at particular schools.  From strict implementation to lax, from focusing on daycare to the preschool program, there were so many things to consider.

Visiting the Schools

A shopper by nature, I visited the top schools that I had heard about.  Armed with my lengthy list of questions in hand like student to teacher ratio and schedules, I carefully observed what each school had to offer.  As I became more educated about programs, my list of questions evolved.   What were their goals for their graduates? What approach did they employ? How did the school develop confidence in the child? How did they engage children?

Of course, practical considerations like location and schedule came into play as well.  As one particular school that I fell in love had a very short program.  The short program coupled with the travel time to get there was impossible for my work schedule.

The decision involved other things more specific to Bobby like temperament and handling food allergies.  In addition, Bobby’s reaction to the school was key.  This even required a separate visit for some schools.  When Bobby visited, there were some schools where he immediately seemed comfortable.  There were other schools where wanted to be held the entire time.

Factors to Consider

Ultimately, the following factors helped me compare schools and make a decision:

  • Kids – did the kids seem engaged?
  • Teachers – what was their approach to teaching? How did they interact with the kids? How long had they been there?
  • Structure – what schedule did the day follow?
  • Art – what was the school’s approach to art? Was it free form or worksheets?
  • Curriculum –  what was the curriculum? Was it play based, Montessori, Waldorf or a hybrid like High-Scope?
  • Environment – was it organized, bright & cheery?
  • Play spaces – how did the space seem? Was it safe, clean, inviting?
  • Approaches to Discipline – what was the approach to discipline?  Would kids be in timeout chairs wearing a cone of shame? Or is there another more positive approach?
  • Socialization – how does the school encourage socialization?

Shortcut for Sonomans

With so many great options, picking a preschool can seem like such a tough and even overwhelming decision at times.  The good news is that there are resources out there to make it easier.   Cindy Studdert, owner of FarmTots, put it best when she described her decision not to open a formal school due to the great and numerous child centered programs in town.

In Sonoma, the Sonoma Valley Mother’s Club hosts a preschool fair every other year.  As a past coordinator of the fair, I can say firsthand that it is a unique and fabulous event.  Numerous preschools and other kids’ activities attend to showcase their programs.  It is the event where you as the shopper can comparison shop for preschools under one roof.  Take your list of questions and go booth to booth!  It is a fabulous way to start comparing different schools.  This year, the Preschool/Tot Fair is on Saturday, March 16, from 10 – 12 at the Veterans Building.

If you’re outside of Sonoma, check your local mothers club to see if they host such an event.  If they don’t, maybe start one.

 

Thanks for reading and letting me share my musings with you.  I hope this article is helpful.  I’d love to know what helped you pick a school?

FarmTots – Sonoma’s Version of Sesame Street

Last year, a friend of mine introduced me to a gem of a program in Sonoma.  FarmTots at the Studdert Family Farm is the country version of Sesame Street.  Tucked away, this darling farm offers days of discovery for young kids and adults alike.  With sheep, rams and chickens, kids can get up close and personal with nature. Farm Tots Cover

FarmTots Epitomizes What Sonoma Is All About

Besides the activities of this seven acre working farm, the main attraction is Cindy Studdert.  Cindy is a trained Montessori teacher and an experienced mom.   A natural with kids, her gentle manner guides and encourages wee ones to get their hands dirty while having fun and learning a ton.

One example is the way she taught Bobby how to care for plants.   The patience of her approach is nothing short of amazing.  It went something like this – Cindy took out plants for Bobby to water and handed him a small watering can.  Of course I thought he’d drown the plants with water as he is an expert in doing so.  As calm as a clam, Cindy explained to Bobby how he needed to make sure each of the plants had water.  He listened and did so.  After she saw how much he enjoyed waterinFarm Tots Plantsg the plants, she brought our more plants to let him water.  She then explained to him how the plants needed to be put in the greenhouse, but she asked him if the neighboring chickens looked hungry.   You can guess what happened next.

With a barn fashioned as a classroom and playgrounds galore, this farm is absolutely kid friendly.   The classroom decorated with twinkling Christmas lights boasts activities at every corner, including a sandbox.  The play structure has a steering wheel so young mateys can steer ye ship.

How did this jewel start?  It started out as a soccer program for kids.  As the kids became more interested in nature and the farm more developed, Cindy followed the children’s lead and modified her program to focus on farm activities.  Of course, she offers the typical preschool things like counting.  But what this program really offers is a hands on experience where kids can gain confidence in their abilities through working on the farm.  To me, this program epitomizes what Sonoma is all about.

Montessori Roots – Cindy’s model of engaging and interacting with the children lies with background as a Montessori teacher.  She emulates Mari Montessori’s’ tenet to follow the child.  Flexible as can be, Cindy makes space to create activities for what the child wants to do.  If a child wants to play in the garden, it’s available.  If they want to play fireman, then that’s available too.  Of if they want to steer a ship and play pirates, then off to the play structure.  If they ate all of the Farm Tots Mike Iketomatoes, then Cindy helps the kids plant more.

She follows another of Montessori’s tenets which is to teach practical life skills.  For example, kids learn to rake and sweep.  In doing so, they develop not only fine but also gross motor skills.

It also seems to follow some Waldorf principles as well as the program follows and teaches children about the rhythm of the seasons.  With fruit cocktail trees, children are able to enjoy loads of different fruit.

Most of the kids in the program also are in other programs as well.  So, the program acts as a supplement to those programs.  With all of the child centered programs in Sonoma, Cindy didn’t feel a need to open a school.

With a fabulous ratio of teachers to students, sometimes even 2 to 1, FarmTots can nurture children with individualized attention schools with larger ratios are unable to provide.

Sound good?  The Nitty Gritty – FarmTots is now accepting preschool aged and school aged children.  The program for preschool tots, starting at age 2.5, is on Wednesdays and Thursdays from 9:30 -1:00 (during the spring and then again in late August).  The school aged program is on Wednesday afternoons after school.  FarmTots also has a Parent & Tot Class on March 15, 29 and April 19, & 26 from 9:30-11 at a cost of $10.

FarmTots has a summer program that serves kids ages  2.5-10 during the weeks of June 17, 24.  July 8, 15, 22 and 29 (Mondays – Thursdays from 9:30 -2:00pm).

Contact Cindy Studdert for more information cindylane1@sbcglobal.net

Bath-time Commandments

Do tidal waves hit your bathroom too?  It’s amazing that after bath-time there is always water splashed about my boys’ bathroom.  Encouraging fun and water play is important over here.  After all, the boys have such a fabulous time fishing for toys, pouring water and playing water instruments.  That said, I am starting to need to put some limits around this spash zone.

Somewhere between bath-time exploration and the  splash zone has to be a middle ground.  I am waiting to find it.  In search of it, I’ve implemented the following golden rules.  We’ll see how long they last.  I’d love to hear your ideas too!

Bath-Time Commandments

  • Bath toys stay in the tub
  • Water stays in the tub
  • No dumping water on siblings
  • No pooping in the tub
  • And, last but not least don’t drink the water (see above)

2012, Where did you go?

It’s so hard to believe it is January. 2013 – yikes, where did 2012 go? Reflecting on the last year, I was shocked at how much of a blur it’s all been.  It occurred to me that having baby numero 2 created more of a mommy fog than baby numero 1. Why? Well, with two boys racing around – time just doesn’t stand still.  I’m left in the dust behind two roadrunners.

Maybe it’s just me, but time seems to fly faster the more children I have.  It didn’t seem to go as fast with just one child.  Bobby’s first year, my husband and I relocated to Sonoma.  I can vividly remember exploring the town with my then 6 month old Bobby, introducing him to music classes and story-time.  I did similar things in 2012 with CJ, but its such a blur.  maybe it’s that the visits to the parks have taken on a new persona, instead of sitting playing in sand or with leaves, it’s a more interactive experience – playing hide and seek, tag, freeze dance, and chasing after Bobby as he climbs trees or (to be honest) tries to run into oncoming traffic.Again, left in the dust.

The quandary becomes how to slow things down for 2013.  Over the holidays a friend and also a mom of 2 wrote a beautiful piece about slowing things down.  She vowed to create stillness in her life.  To enjoy, embrace and extol the simple moments. Through these moments like reading stories, singing songs, and playing games, she saw her kids shine.

After much reflection as to my own blurry 2012, I do think there is something to slowing things down.  For isn’t it in the everyday moments where we really see our children in a new way.  Letting them explore things thoroughly without the pressures of hurrying about to get to X, to accomplish Y, or to finish Z.  I’m starting to think so anyway.

http://mothering-matters.com/10-tips-for-easier-laundry/The other day when faced with piles of laundry to fold, I tried something new.  Rather than wait until my roadrunners were sleeping, I decided to pull out the laundry baskets and actively engage them in folding. Here’s what happened.  Bobby was thrilled to get to help.  CJ was happy to pull clothes out of the basket and then climb in it.  Rather than get frustrated about the mess and inefficiency of the process, I let it go, trying to enjoy the moment.  I focused on letting the kids just enjoy the process.  After all, did it really matter if it took a little longer to fold?  Or if a towel had to be folded 3 times?  What I learned about my boys in that hour couldn’t be replicated anyother way.

Don’t get me wrong, I won’t be making this laundry folding a daily activity.  Nor will I be slowing things down completely as it’s not in my nature.  But I will be carving out time and creating space to enjoy life in a pure and simple way.

Meeting Reindeer at the SF Zoo

Looking for sometReindeer Romphing fun to do this holiday season?  Consider introducing your tot(s) to some of Santa’s reindeer.  They’re at the SF Zoo.  Just follow the red signs to their location.  Both of my boys loved watching the reindeer prance about.  In fact, we could have probably spent most of the day just observing the reindeer do their thing.

After visiting the reindeer, we stopped by to see the penguins.  Luckily for us it was feeding time which happens at 10:30am and again at 3:30pm.  Bobby laughed as the penguins lined up to be hand fed their breakfast.

We then strolled about for awhile checking out the zebras, monkeys and even the rhino.  Bobby though was most amused by the peacocks that were free ranging along the paths.

We ended up stopping for lunch right near the carousel, which proved to be a great way to encourage Bobby to enjoy some veggies. Of course after his lunch, he got to ride the carousel.  He picked out a pig to ride on and loved trying to figure out how the pig moved up and down.  I totally loved admiring the beauty of the carousel which is made out of wood and dates back to the 1920s.  Total perfection.

Of course a trip to the zoo would not be complete without stopping by the children’s petting zoo with goats, horses and ducks.  My boys loved petting the goats. I loved watching them. For older kids, there is a tack barn with creative activities like drawing for kids to enjoy.  My boys aren’t there yet, and were more into taking the mini tractors for a spin around the grounds.

Tips – If you can swing it, I highly recommend going on a weekday it is a much more relaxing experience. Avoid the first Wednesday of the month as it is the free day for SF residents. I also highly recommend bringing a picnic lunch as well as some extra layers.  Oh and kids 3 and under are free.  So enjoy!