Tag Archives: grandparenting

Shock-a-Bye Baby

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buildingblocksTurn on the music and turn off the noise.
Pull out the building blocks, puzzles and toys.
Stick to the basics and you’ll be okay.
‘Cause rock-a-bye baby, is high-tech today.

                        

Don’t panic: I spotted a friend in the baby aisles of a department store the other day. She had the wide-eyed look of a frazzled shopper in the throes of a panic attack. As I approached her, she hollered at me, “What the heck has happened to our babies?”

False alarm: Well I guess the sales girl and a few nearby shoppers thought this was an Amber Alert in the making – so you can imagine the kerfuffle that ensued. Once the fracas died down and she explained that we in fact had no babies, I took her for a cup of tea to calm what was left of her nerves. It appears she had just become a new grandmother and simply wanted to buy a few things for her grandson.

Gizmos and Gear: My poor unsuspecting friend was completely overwhelmed by the complexity of all the new high-tech baby merchandise that morphs into various contraptions as the baby grows. And as useful as this sounds, I often wonder how the parents of today know when to ‘Snap ‘n Go’, ‘Sit n’ Stroll’, or simply ‘Mop n’ Glo’? What has happened to our babies, indeed!

Looking back: As I hauled my friend out of the grandbaby gap, it brought back a deluge of shopping memories of when I became a grandmother thirteen years ago. It all started in the same way…standing alone in the baby aisles, looking desperate and feeling overwhelmed. But in time, I adjusted and learned to let my daughter do the heavy lifting when it came to making complicated baby-product decisions.

You’ve come a long way baby: Thankfully, we’ve travelled some distance since the days of treacherous baby cribs and toys filled with lead. The better care and feeding of our babies should always be the driving force behind any change to the nursery set. And the new mothers and fathers of today have a plethora of choices to make and many new adventures to behold.

5 Things I learned:

1. Strollers are like hot rods: My first stroller simply strolled with a squeaky wheel or two. Today, babies travel in style in trail-blazing strollers that promise easy release hand-brakes, front and rear suspension, multi-position reclining seats and all terrain wheels. It’s an amazing sight to see how the simple stroller has evolved into a deluxe rock n’ roll system, with the features of a souped-up automobile!

2. Car seats kick butt: Good grief! We didn’t even have car seats! Today, there are forward facing seats and rear facing seats and seats that go by the pound. There are latch systems and universal anchorage systems and space-age cockpit turbo-design booster seats for big kids. And if you purchase the travel model with the handy removable seat, you can jump out of your car – pop the whole ‘kid-and-car-seat’ package right into a  stroller base thingy and jog around the block, while you talk mergers and acquisitions on your cell phone!

3. High chairs collect points: My daughter’s old wooden high chair was as tippy as a canoe! And the removable tray kept sliding out and crashing to the floor. In today’s world, high chair designs have miraculously evolved into 3-point restraining systems, 4-point reclining systems and 5-point height adjusting systems. And, like the car seat and stroller, it can transform into just about anything, if you have an engineering degree.

4. New mothers are brave: Gone are the cold clinical hospital deliveries we had on baby-D-day. Today young women have birthing centres and many employ the services of mid-wives and doulas to have a more natural experience. Even my lovely daughter, who has the pain threshold of a gnat and gets sedation to have her haircut – tried the au naturelle route of birthing at home. But that’s a story for another day when my daughter isn’t reading my blog posts.

5. New fathers are nuts: Back in the day, most fathers kept their distance from mothers and babies and played the role of  being useless very well. Today, new fathers are fully involved in baby routines – from birthing to burping and all things in between. But my son-in-law was a bit ‘two diapers short of a pail’ if you get my drift. Before leaving for groceries one day, he instructed me on how to help my daughter breast feed! My advice: never have a milky-nipple discussion with your son-in-law!

Toys on steroids: Did you know that some of the little-girl dolls of today can give birth, breastfeed and poop? Did you know that some little-boy dump trucks can break-dance in a flashing display of lights and music?  And don’t even get me started on the brand new just released “Hello Barbie” – an interactive doll with artificial intelligence that talks and works using your WIFI. Where is George Orwell when you need him? This is nothing short of just plain creepy!

Just imagine: Children might love these multi-tasking toys. But it raises the question of long term consequences on their ability to focus on a singe task – not to mention their ability to learn language. Most of these types of toys are designed to entertain and distract – rather than engage the child. The imagination is a powerful playmate. And if the toy does too much, the child does too little – and the imagination shrivels up and dies. A very sad death by starvation.

Finding the balance: We live in a complex world. And it’s wonderful to see the new products that keep baby safe, and the educational toys that help baby enjoy an enriched and comfortable environment. We can marvel at the new studies just out last week, that stated nearly every child under 4 years old uses electronic mobile devices to keep them busy. And while we may be grooming them to be masters of the universe, there’s also something to be said for the pure joys of simplicity.

Final word: So what has happened to our babies? Nothing. Babies aren’t any more complicated than they used to be. It’s this world we live in that’s become more complicated. And I believe it’s up to each one of us to bring back some small pleasure from our own childhood and introduce it to our children and grandchildren. You just never know what simple goodness you might find.

So don’t be in shock on becoming a Grand,
With new-fangled stuff that you don’t understand.
Despite all the gizmos, the gadgets, the gear,
Our babies are babies – the same every year.

 And may I remind you, in case you forgot,
The best toys are those that do diddly-squat!
And books are for reading and shouldn’t talk back.
Just stick with the program – you won’t go off-track.

See you between the lines and on Twitter @PatSkene

Hello Blog? It’s Me, Pat

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I may have left you in the lurch,
I hope I didn’t make you search,
There’s so much back-blog on my plate, 
But first I’ll bring you up to date.

I’m Back: Hello again blogger world – mea culpa! I’ve been AWOL for a few months, but my cyber-batteries are now fully recharged.  A change in routine is always invigorating. It tends to breathe new life into my ever-deteriorating-but-still-breathing  60 something body parts, and puts a sexy shine on my 50 shades of grey hair.

What’s Up? Okay, let’s get down to business. Before I give you something new, I want to give you something old and update just a few of my past post shenanigans. Just click on the post if you need a refresher on what started the rantz in my pantz in the first place.

SCARY WORLD of AGING:
Since I wrote this post, I discovered black spots and cobwebs floating around in my left eye. I keep swatting at the invisible bugs as they land on my book or in my food.  It’s all part of this wonderful world of  aging, I’m being told. And, between Hubsey and me, we have collected a plethora of frequent ambulance-ride-points to the local hospital over the past year. We plan to redeem the points at Christmas for a swanky new fly swatter.

BACK in the SADDLE:
Hubsey got his driver’s license back! Hooray! It took 18 months of wrestling with the motor vehicle department, the medical system, the eye-doctors, the bureaucracy and all the mistakes and delays along the way. And what a test! It was 3 hours long, part written, part cognitive, and part actual driving a car with an occupational therapist and a driving instructor. All this because he lost a minor bit of peripheral vision in his right eye. He’s only been driving for over 50 years. Anyway, he’s back driving with a bad case of wheel-envy because I’ve grown into such an awesome chauffeur during his reluctant absence.

WILD GOOSE CHASE
Well, this is still a big pile of political poop. I did meet with the Director of Parks and Outdoor Spaces, and with my local town councillor. That was in June. Promises were made to address the outdated Bird Treaty Act at the federal level – and to try a pilot project to control the geese, using one of the simple recommendations I made. Nothing has been done to date and the Director of Parks is not returning my follow-up attempts. I’m now in escalation mode and will keep honking until this crappy issue gets some action. TBC…

AS THE CONDO TURNS…
Where do I start on this one? I still spend way too much time and head space – hopelessly trying to change the way things are done here. But I remain relentless in my efforts to lift the plastic covers off the furniture and replace old girdles and corsets with a comfy pair of roomy bloomers. Maybe it’s the latex restriction or pants hiked up to the armpits – that makes these old codgers, dowagers and all things ancient –  pucker their mouths into that soul-sucking-sour-lemon look when I try to make changes. And despite my two-year effort, I’m sorry to report that I haven’t made a pinch of progress with the condo board. But I’m not giving up…so stay tuned.  

FARRELL’S FIRE:
On a happier and more successful note, I am always trying to be the best grandmother I can be and follow the principles I wrote about in this post. I am so incredibly proud of this little girl, now 10 years old. Please indulge an old woman and her pride for a moment, while I go on… 

She’s Kicking Butt: Farrell has been studying tae kwon do for 4 years and achieved her black belt status in June of this year! What a kid! If only she was there to help me, when in self-defense, I whacked a guy in the head with a bag of beans at the Farmer’s Market in Toronto many years ago – or when I punched my boss in the stomach! But I digress – those are stories for another post.

She’s making Waves:  Anyway, I have something to show you. I went through an Emily Carr stage a few years back and couldn’t read enough about this fascinating woman. I bought my daughter a coffee table book of Emily Carr paintings and Farrell was looking at them last month. Without saying anything, she went up to her room and started to paint this picture to give Hubsey for his birthday. 

She’s One of a Kind: It took her 5 days to layer the paint and complete the picture. Emily Carr influence and all – this is an original painting from the delightful imagination of a 10 year old. So I’m very happy to report that the flame in Farrell’s Fire continues to burn brightly for all those around her.

So there you have it for today,
That’s it, that’s all I have to say.
My blogger fingers have been flexed,
Just wait and see what’s coming next!

Pat Skene    

 

 

Reading, Rhyming and Reciting

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When a rhyme is read,
I can tap it in my head.
When the beat is neat,
I can touch it with my feet.
When a word is sprung,
I can taste it on my tongue.

Are children losing the art of language?    

Can we talk? As an author and storyteller, I enjoy a love of language. But, as I visit libraries, and schools in the primary grades, I am saddened by the growing number of children experiencing difficulty with oral language development.

I have learned from parents, teachers and children’s organizations that there are long waiting lists for speech therapy professionals to help children through these problems. What’s happening in today’s world that makes learning to speak more difficult? What can we do to help our children before it reaches epidemic proportions?

Cyber-sitters: I believe the ongoing electronic invasion of television, computers and video games has left little room for old-fashioned communication. We use television as household nannies, buy talking books that teach solitary reading lessons and we encourage kid-friendly interactive games on computers of all sizes, to keep little ones quietly busy.

While the convenience of technology certainly has its place in a busy world, I think we need to take stock of the long-term effects of excessive use of these electronic babysitters on children today. In spite of the myriad of words bombarding our kids, there is no human contact in many of the mass media of messages they are receiving. And that means there is no ‘conversation’ through these devices, leaving more limited opportunities for children to learn the art of language, outside of the classroom. 

Starting early: Speech is the foundation of all social life. Why then, do we take it for granted? Research proves that when pre-schoolers have difficulty with oral development, they could be experiencing an early symptom of reading disability. And, a child’s ability to read is an important predictor of later literacy development and potential for academic achievement. This is very important to know. At no other time do they learn as much as in the first 3-4 years of life, so what can we do to help our children during these critical early years? I believe we should be reading out loud with our children everyday, to develop a love of language – together.

Let the reading begin: Reading is a significant family activity that, unfortunately, seems to be losing its place of value in many homes. But that being said, most parents already know that any shared storybook reading between child and adult is an excellent way to promote emergent literacy. So how do we compete with the more seductive forms of family entertainment and increase a child’s motivation toward book-reading? A good start is to be pro-active and encourage the child to take an active role in the experience.

Ham it up: Some techniques to fully engage the child might include letting them choose the book and the reading location. It’s important to pause occasionally to allow the child to comment or ask questions. To enhance the story in a picture book, we can encourage children to notice small details in the illustrations that are often not included in the story. Allowing them to hold the book and turn the pages will also give them a stronger sense of involvement. Children love it when we ham it up and use various character voices or wear special story-reading hats or capes for the occasion. Many pre-school children also enjoy to ‘pretend-read’ the story of a familiar book.    

Time to rhyme: And let’s not forget the wonderful powers of rhyme to teach our children the rhythm of speech!  Stories and poems told in verse are probably the most important part of a young child’s literacy development during the critical window of phonological learning in the pre-school years. Rhyming skills are, in fact, one of the earliest milestones in a child’s path to becoming a good reader. Well-written verse teaches patterns and internal rhythms that help children connect the dots in the world around them.

Making friends: Rhyme teaches children a love of language through the excitement and anticipation of sound. Each verse is picture-poetry, painting a vivid storyboard for the reader. When I visit schools for storytelling sessions, children often complete the last word of many rhyming sentences before I say them, after hearing the line just once. I have also found that kids seem to form strong affections toward characters in rhyming stories.

Between the lines: Well-written rhyme seems to spring to life and dance in the empty spaces between the words. It often makes young readers feel like they’re bouncing along in an inner tube! Rhyme seems to wire the brain with an internal beat that lives on inside of us, sometimes for many years. I’m sure that’s why so many people can still remember favorite rhymes from early childhood.   

 Powerful stuff: The use of rhyme in teaching children oral language skills can be fun and interactive for parent and child. It’s no wonder that children who can recite nursery rhymes from an early age usually become better readers than those who cannot. So it stands to reason that pre-schoolers who speak clearly are most often reading and producing rhymes.

Great reading: I have always loved stories in rhyme! In addition to the traditional nursery rhymes and wonderfully wacky Dr. Seuss books, I enjoy the creative works of some great Canadian children’s authors like Sheree Fitch, Loris Lesynski and the late Phoebe Gilman, who have all written several excellent rhyming story books that entertain both children and adults.

Hooked on rhyme: I believe strongly in the 3 R’s for teaching children language – Reading, Rhyming and Reciting. It’s important for kids to absorb the world through the ears and not always through the eyes. As children get hooked on listening to the patterns, the rhythms and the way words are put together in a good book – it’s easy to fall in love with the delicious sound of language. It’s all right there waiting to be discovered, inside the scrumptious words of a wonderful story. 

When the rhythm goes deep,
I can hear it in my sleep.
When a sound gets in,
I can feel it on my skin.
When the lines all rhyme,
I can dance along in time.
 

Pat Skene