Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Pondering Playgrounds

Mrs. Tate, my second grade teacher of blue-grey bee hive often called me by another girl's name. Now that I'm a teacher, I see how that happens. My second grade self sort of smiled when she called me Jennifer Saxe. We both had blonde hair and and generic second grade shapes: gangly arms and legs. Jennifer was a risk taker on the playground. One moment stands in my mind. She had climbed to the top of the monkey bars. These elementary school bars were not a tower affair, instead our monkey bars were a  straight forward line, climb up the ladder, hang on for dear life and see if you can hand-over-hand get across what seemed like 50 yards to my 7 year-old-self. Jennifer decided to climb on TOP of the bars and walk across. Risky! We watched, or at least I did. She fell, slipped, about a third of the way across. After landing her hand at an awkward angle in relation to her arm. She broke her wrist.

To us, it's amazing to happen upon a playground every few blocks. Collin's favorite so far is the Ancient Playground. It satisfied his climb-the-walls drive; he could literally run right up the pyramid wall and the number of "want to watch me..." calls I got tell me he was tickled with himself. Jen mentioned a recent article from the NY Times about how over safe playgrounds may interefere with childrens' emotional development. We learn to first take risks on the playground, after all. When we got home, I searched the for the piece and found it here: Can a Playground Be Too Safe?

Climbing the Walls
In the article John Tierney highlights how playground landscapes have changed as a result of litigation fears and safety concerns. Are we too safety concious? Sure sometimes. As Collin played my only caution to him was to remember that a broken bone or injury might put a damper on his next few weeks of vacation. You can't swim the Hawaiian surf with a cast on your arm, right? The Ancient Playground sports a rubberized floor and though the climbing spaces are many and varied, none topped ten feet, but even with those boundaries, Collin took risks. He dashed, darted, climbed, jumped, ran and lept his way through the space. I wonder what he was thinking?

Cupcake smiles after Magnolia Bakery
with @JenAnsbach, Collin and Noah.
My friend Jen said she had students in her high school English classrooms that were afraid to go away to college. We wondered together how taking fewer playground risks would play out through high school, something the experts in the Tierney article touch on. One of her students got a full ride to a NJIT (New Jersey's version of MIT or GA Tech), but decided to turn down the scholarship citing being afraid to leave home. Of course kids are afraid to leave home! I was too. But it's one of those "you have to do it" risks that in hindsight you appreciate for the transformative experience it was.

We're still 8 years from college, but I can see how encouraging risk (risk at the playground, risk at the dinner table, etc) builds character. We'll be stopping in at more playgrounds this morning and who knows, I may just climb and walk the Park wall myself.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Popsicle People Love

Rick's ready for vacation! He's the fastest packer too. We're heading north to celebrate his parents' 50th wedding anniversary. Though he can't make the celebration, he's coming with us! He has 2 vacation faces: celebration Rick and relaxed Rick.

A few years ago, a friend's family sent her the entire family (smaller that these) for her birthday with wishes written by each family member on the sticks. Isn't that a great idea? She keeps them close to her desk in, standing up in a cup. Such a little thing, but so cute. I can't help but smile when I see her Popsicle stick family. Let's hope Rick on a stick has the same effect.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Learning iTunes Libraries*

A few weeks ago I had to get a new hard drive put into my laptop. Fortunately, I keep ,most of my files on a portable hard drive which is stuck to the back of the lap top screen with Velcro. Unfortunately, I hadn't backed up my iTunes library. Lucky for me I had Florida Digital Educators training last week and there were plenty of people in the room who could help me figure out work-arounds for computer issues. Po, one of our facilitators, did some at-the-elbow-coaching and showed me how to easily copy the library files. 

My former lap top screen bulb burnt out, so it's retired, but I knew I had my iTunes library, if not synced at least semi-populated. So I connected the retired laptop to a desktop monitor and went to my music folder. Then I opened the iTunes folder and copied all of the files. I dropped the files from the retired machine into the My Music folder on my current lap top and voila, my iTunes library is restored. 

After restoring all, I updated all of the iTunes on the home machines and turned on home sharing. Home sharing with iTunes 10.3 allows you to share music across 5 computers if all of the computers use the same iTunes account. Find it under the Advanced tab in iTunes. Once you turn it on, everyone in the family can share music over our wireless network. Love it! 

*Cross posted at Portable Teacher, my teaching & learning blog.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Lessons from Lilly

Lilly 1995
I used to have a pretend dog. Shasta was her name. I would pretend to walk her, talk to her about my Mom when Mom was in the room--dogs are handy for indirect communication--I  snuggled up with her on the couch to read. She didn't eat much but she served her purpose. I really wanted a dog, but at the time I had returned to the parental nest. It wasn't feasible, until I got married.

The other resident of the master bedroom and I got Lilly when we returned from our honeymoon.  A black and white Shih Tzu, Lilly was the runt and only girl of the litter. Sitting on the kitchen floor of the breeder's house, puppies barking and running all around me, Lilly came and laid her head on my leg and sighed. That was it for me. She picked me.

Lilly is 16 now. Still living, still playing (sometimes), still teaching me. I've learned a lot of lessons from Lilly. Here are a few:

1. When someone comes over get up and greet them. You don't have to lick their toes or nip at their ankles, but show them you're happy to see them: smile and hug.

2.Communicate. Tell people what you need when you need it. A friend of mine used to dog sit for us and the first time she did it, I was zooming out of her door to the car when she said "Wait, wait, how much should I feed her? When does she eat?" Stopped in my tracks, I turned and said "she'll tell you." I had to explain that one, of course, but Lilly tells us when she wants to eat by making growly sounds at her food bowl. She'll stand across the kitchen, stare it and make a little noise. If we ignore her, she'll eventually give us a short, high pitched bark. That bark is like the "right now" Mom used to add to a command.

3. Comfort people when they're hurting or sad. In 1999 I was terribly sick--Epstein Barr Virus, ovarian cysts. About to drop my basket, I collapsed on the kitchen floor. No one was home. I was in pain. Hurting and feeling sorry for myself, I sobbed and sobbed. Lilly nudged and pushed and licked and encouraged me until I had the wherewithal to get up and call the doctor. She stayed right by my side and has since.

Lilly, Christmas this year
There are many more lessons Lilly teaches; those are a few. Today Lilly is teaching me about patience and aging. She is deaf (mostly) and though still trim, not as agile as she once was. She doesn't jump up on the bed or sit up high, cat-like on the back of the couch anymore. She's also starting to having bathroom issues. Every time I get frustrated (when she has an accident on the floor or on the porch) I have to stop myself. Seriously. How do I want to be treated when I start to fail? How do I want to treat my parents as they age?  We had hard lessons ahead, but if I pay attention, keep my eyes and heart open, Lilly will teach me.