Super WHY! Activities: Day 3 Princess Presto!

I apologize for careening back and forth between the PBS track and the recession track — I’ve had certain deadlines to meet with the recession stories — however, both discussion threads are germane to raising children, so hopefully it hasn’t been too jarring.

Back to the wonders of Super Why!  For today’s activities, you will need:

If your child does not want to watch the same episode again, that’s fine, just watch another episode of Super WHY! and pay special attention to Princess Presto’s role.  Frankly, at this point my kids were pretty fed up with the masks as well.  They were, however, quite interested in having wands, pretend or prop.

My observations: JavaBoy once again whizzed through the first worksheet, matching the correct letter to name of the object.  JavaGirl wanted to color the objects first, then do the letters.  In her artist’s mind, I guess, it was important that things looked “pretty” before they were appropriately labeled.  Then she was fine with picking out the letters of them — much more compliant than in the previous day’s exercise.

But the real fun was when we were able to put the letters on objects in the room.  The kids had so much fun with this (although I’ll admit that “G” stumped even Mom and Dad for a while).  Both kids thoroughly enjoyed this activity and we still have letters up now, some of which keep getting relocated.  They did a very good job of finding homes for the letters.

The “wands up” game was not really a hit because my son knows how to spell his name, and it is really long and hard to spell on paper much less in the air, and my daughter does not yet know how to spell her name.  But we changed it around to just spelling random letters and short words and that was more fun for them at this point.  JavaBoy is already an accomplished reader for someone not yet in K and JavaGirl is just barely 3 so there’s a bit of a gap between their abilities.

I think this might have been their favorite day!

Super WHY! Activities Day 2: Wonder Red

2009-05-15_0001Ready to roll with Word Power?  Today’s Super WHY! activities are focused on using auditory or visual discrimination to create and decipher between all words.

For today’s activities, you will need:

If you want to do the additional activities, you may want to have a music CD handy.

My observations:  JavaGirl had a harder time with these worksheets.  It’s not so much that she didn’t understand the concepts overall, as she found the worksheets themselves limiting.  I pointed to the ball and said, “what’s that?”  And she would say, “A soccer ball.”  So I’d say, “well, yes, but let’s try just ball, what letter does BALL start with?  Find the letter that BALL starts with.”  And she got mad and said, “No, Mommy, not BALL, that’s a SOCCER BALL, S, SOCCER ball.”  I went through the same thing with the “BRICK wall” and so on.  Does this mean something about JavaGirl?  I have no idea.  Teachers, can you tell me?

JavaBoy whizzed through his sheets.

I couldn’t find my Super Why! music CD, but JavaBoy knew WonderRed’s rhyming word’s tune so we sang along to that for a while.  Then we just put on some music while I called out various -ALL words (for which they would FREEZE) and the episode-specific non-ALL words (red, pig, wolf), for which they’d keep dancing.  They had a great time!

Overall I’d say JavaBoy likes the worksheets and either JavaGirl is just not a worksheets kind of a girl, or these worksheets in particular aren’t for her.  I really haven’t done a lot of worksheets with her, partially because she seems more interested in coloring them than doing them, whereas JavaBoy has ALWAYS loved doing them even from a younger age.

Tell me about your experiences and remember — posting gets your name into the drawing for a DVD from PBS!

Children of the Recession: We Have to Act NOW to Save a Generation

I wept.

After not allowing myself, a former television reporter, to watch the news for weeks because I found the doom and gloom about the economy too stressful, I watched several CBS news clips from the Children of the Recession series online, and when I watched as an emergency room pediatric nurse practitioner showed the x-rays clearly depicting the multiple injuries of a young child — TWO broken arms, TWO fractured legs, I couldn’t hold back the tears any longer.  And neither could the reporter on the story. 

There is a marked rise in child abuse in the country and it is being attributed to the stresses related to the economy.  But that is only one of the many ways that our most precious resource in this country is being harmed.   As you can see in other segments in the network-wide series by CBS, children are being harmed psychologically, they are not receiving the medical care they need, they are ending up homeless or separated from families.  This is not the life any of us dreamed of for our children, or for anyone’s children.

What are we going to do about it?

Yes, I said we.

Your children and my children may be in their warm beds tonight with healthy food in their bellies, but they are going to school with children who are not.  What are we going to do about it?

With one out of ten children not being able to get the medical care they need or delaying routine visits, a child near ours is sick and getting sicker.  What are we going to do about it?

With jobless rates around the country anywhere from 7% and higher, a child near ours has one, maybe two parents unemployed and is living in a house full of stress, worry, and maybe worse — violence.  What are we going to do about it?

Families are spread further apart, governmental support systems such as social workers, homeless shelters and state- or county-funded counseling programs have all suffered cutbacks — there are more problems and fewer safety nets.

Non-profit organizations, often dependent upon grants, individual donations and corporate sponsorships are all scrambling to survive as well.  They, too, are trying to help more, but with fewer resources.

As a society we have the ability to more connected than ever with every form of technology imaginable.  But are we using it to help this youngest generation through this tough time?  Are we using it to match needs with solutions?  All it takes is the right person at the right moment and you can change a child’s life.  Do it often enough, and you just may change an entire generation.

At a conference this weekend, I heard that my generation, Generation X, is characterized by a “belief in survival” and jaded by growing up in the shadow of nuclear weapons, divorce, AIDS, and crack cocaine.  What a legacy.  Let’s try to create something better for this generation.  Let’s not let their young lives be forever shaped by the economy, but rather teach them the lessons of compassion and community and doing the right thing.

Through my affiliation with the Silicon Valley Moms/DC Metro Moms, I was able to participate on a conference call with Katie Couric, senior producer Katie Boyle, producer Tony Maciulis, and Sonya McNair, VP of Communications.  During this call, she let us know CBS News (The Early Show, Evening, and Face the Nation) is shining a light on the issues, through a network-wide look at Children of the Recession this week as well as through weekly segments over the next several weeks.  When one blogger asked if she found the task depressing, she said, “I feel it is really important work and I feel there is not enough of this kind of journalism going on…  and I feel it is  higher calling for all of us and yes it is very upsetting and heart-breaking and depressing but the only way that we are going to get these families help is to expose the problem and so I think we feel like there is a higher purpose here and that is why I think we feel really motivated and excited.  I haven’t felt this proud of my work in a long time because we can have an impact.  And that is why we need your help — we can’t do it alone in this fragmented media culture, like my colon cancer work, it can’t be a one-shot deal, we have to keep pounding away at it and be committed to it and keep reminding people.  We’re doing something that ultimately will be impactful and hopefully, really helpful to people.”

I’m no longer a television reporter, and I’m certainly not as powerful as a national network, but what I, a mom and a blogger, can do is this, I will tell you of programs and initiatives as I know of them and either highlight them myself, or invite them to guest blog here.  You are also always free to post comments or email me about groups/initiatives/ideas you think should be put out there.   Will you join me, in looking for ways to help — small or large?   Will you help get out the word on the GOOD things that can happen in these turbulent times?

I hope so.  Because the next time I weep, I hope it is with joy.


  • I know of two programs that are packing non-perishable “weekend lunches” for children who are on the free hot lunch program at school in Fairfax County — because these kids may not get lunches on weekends otherwise.  These two groups are working “under the radar” right now.  If you are interested in helping them, email me or post here telling me you are interested and I will contact you.
  • Louie’s Kids, which helps fight childhood obesity, is just $10,000 short of its goal to bring it’s successful Fit Club Program to a school in Alexandria.  Read about their compelling program and success and see if you know someone who can help them in the final stretch.  Duke University reports that with parents having to buy lower-cost foods, we may see a huge increase in childhood obesity.
  • The Junior League of Northern Virginia (of which I am a member and a leader, in the interest of full disclosure) focuses on helping children in Northern Virginia succeed.  We have many programs, including Back-to-School Health Fairs (immunizations, physicals and backpacks jam-packed with school supplies), an innovative My Life photography program and Kids Can character-based program in local homeless shelters, and the Kids in the Kitchen nutrition program to help fight childhood obesity.  We’re always looking for new members, community partners, sponsors, and donors.
  • Katherine K. Hanley Family Shelter (of which I am on the Community Advisory Board), a Fairfax County shelter run by Shelter House, Inc. is always looking for volunteers, community partners, sponsors and donors.  This shelter has done amazing work in “rapid rehousing” for homeless families, but the need continues to grow in these tough economic times.
  • The faith-based community is “filling in the gaps” — look to your own faith home (church, temple, mosque, etc.) to see what they are doing and how you can get involved.


Silicon Valley Moms Post and Round Up:

Good Stuff… Chef Spike Mendelsohn, DC Metro Moms Bloggers and Quaker

Chef Spike with the DC Metro Mom Bloggers.

Chef Spike with the DC Metro Mom Bloggers.

Good Stuff Eatery  is the name of the restaurant Chef Spike Mendelsohn, of Bravo’s reality show Top Chef, launched in Washington DC last year, and it was the setting of the realization of my own good “stuff” — I have been invited to be a part of the DC Metro Moms Blog.  (More on that in a minute…)

The concept behind Good Stuff Eatery (303 Pennsylvania Ave, SE) is a place to get a good burger and shake — Chef Spike wanted to develop a restaurant that had a menu he could eventually replicate into a chain of restaurants.  The burgers include a portobello burger and a turkey burger and bunless versions as well, and there is a salad menu (called “wedges”).  But the real highlight of the menu are the “hand-spun shakes” which are based on a custard that is made each morning with a fancy $30,000 machine.  With names like “Toasted Marshmallow” and “Milky Way Malt” how could a girl resist?  She couldn’t!  So this is what a Milky Way Malt looks like:



If you order nothing else, order a shake!  Warning — they are so rich and so thick,  you may not be able to finish it.  They are THAT good! 

Apparently expansion plans first include more DC spots and then other metropolitan areas… so when I asked him if he’d consider NORTHERN VIRGINIA, Chef Spike said, “Tell me a good spot and I’ll consider it!”  So listen up Northern Virginians… start posting here if you want to see a Good Stuff Eatery near us — I’ll make sure he sees it!

Yeah, yeah, enough about the FOOD, what about SPIKE?!  He was so frenetic on Top Chef that I was expecting him to be even MORE so at his own restaurant.  Quite the opposite.  He was very laid back, almost blending into the walls in his black Vans t-shirt and his quiet demeanor.  Several of us weren’t even sure at first it was him — we all (JavaDad, cover your ears/eyes) thought he was actually much cuter in person than on TV (or as one blogger remarked, “he looked scruffier on TV”).  He’s brash on his TV appearances, and yet, surrounded by 25 female bloggers in his own restaurant, he was soft-spoken, very polite, quietly asking each of us if we were enjoying our meals.  He very patiently indulged us in our requests for photos.  I approached him with a request to help out the Junior League with our Kids in the Kitchen initiative, by possibly appearing as a celebrity chef and teaching kids (and their parents) how to cook delicious food in a healthy way, and he immediately lit up.  Chef Spike, you see, is spokesperson for Quaker, who sponsored our dinner for the evening, gave us swag bags with Life cereal and granola bars (one of which JavaGirl has already greedily consumed) AND generously made a donation to the Capital Area Food Bank in honor of the DC Metro Moms Blog group.  In my journalism days, I never could’ve accepted such generosity — as a blogger, this is a first.  All I can say is THANK YOU! 

And just who ARE these DC Metro Mom Blog women (okay, there are actually a few MEN in the group, too, but only the women showed up)?  Well — this is a group I’ve had my eye on since I began this blog — actually I first new about their parent organization, the Silicon Valley Moms Blog thanks to one of the first bloggers (besides my brother-in-law) who I first started following, Plain Jane Mom (she has no idea who I am — probably thinks I’m a stalker who emails her every few months with blog questions, but she’s been immensely helpful to me, for which I am eternally grateful).  There are about 50 of them in the DC group and they have blogs on a variety of topics – parenting, entertainment, technology, law, and  more – and they range in experience from new bloggers to blogging before blogging was called blogging.  When I launched Caffeine and a Prayer, one of my goals was to one day build this site up enough to be worthy of contributing to their site — and I’m honored that they’ve allowed me to join their group.  I’ll be contributing twice a month (or more, if they let me!), so please hop on over there to read my stuff as well as the terrific writing these women (and men) have.   Monday night was the first time I got to meet them in person and I can tell you, well, okay, first they are LOUD (LOL!) but they are warm and wonderful and lively and fantastic!  I have never been welcomed so quickly and so warmly by a group as I have by this one.   Please be sure to visit their sites — all listed in the DC Metro Moms About Us section.