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Stalking the Veggie Van…

2008-06-04_csa-first-box_0001The  JavaKids love vegetables.

I don’t know how I ended up so lucky… whether it was following my sister’s advice to feed them green beans as their first baby food after rice cereal, some sort of divine intervention, or winning some sort of genetic lottery… but many times, given the choice between some sort of junk food or raw veggies, my kids will pick the veggies.  I have to pre-wash all vegetables before storing them in the fridge because JavaGirl will break into sealed packages of mushrooms and start munching on them when I’m not looking.  JavaBoy can clear out a crudites platter at any party.

So when I first learned about community-supported agriculture (CSA) programs, it didn’t take long to convince me of the benefits.  We ended up going with a very popular local one, Great Country Farms, which delivers the produce right to your door, but also allows you to go to the farm to pick additional bonus items.

We split a share with another family, which means two crates get dropped off at one house each week.  Last year the deliveries went to their house, so we never saw the delivery vehicle.  But yesterday, I happened to be behind a green van on the highway with a sticker that said GCF and the license plate “VggieVan” (or something like that) and I suddenly realized, we had spotted an honest-to-goodness Great Country Farms delivery van.  “Hey kids, look, it’s a Great Country Farms van!  They must be making deliveries!”  It was the first week of CSA deliveries and the kids were excited to see a veggie van — I suspect that their little minds were trying to figure out a way to hijack the van and get all the veggies — without earning a time-out from Mommy.

So perhaps I should not have been too surprised when I woke up this morning to a little boy jumping excitedly next to my bed at an ungodly hour…

“Mommy!  Mommy!”

“What time is it?”

“Mommy! Mommy!”

<JavaDad, standing there, looking slightly guilty, with a Diet Coke for me in his hands, knowing that this is way too early an hour to wake me up.>

“Sorry honey, I tried to hide it.”

“Mommy!  Guess what!  The veggie van came!  Our farm vegetables are here!”

Oh my!  You would have thought Santa Claus had come the way he was carrying on.  About kale, asparagus, spring onions, and strawberries.

And so begins our second CSA summer — we will pick strawberries, blueberries, peaches, raspberries, blackberries, and beans.  We’ll dig up peanuts (THAT was an adventure last year!)  We’ll ride the hay ride.  We’ll talk about all the varieties of fruits and vegetables.

And we’ll stalk the veggie van — hoping to get a glimpse of it like some kids listen for the ice cream truck.  Ah, summer.

I’m always looking for recipes for the fruits and veggies that come from the CSA and I know lots of people in the area belong to the same one — please share your favorite recipes here!  If we get enough of them, I’ll start a separate page for them.  This week I have kale, asparagus and spring onions… and not from the CSA but from my own garden I have lots and lots of basil (purple basil) to use up!

Super Why! Activities Day 4: Whyatt and Post-Assessment

This is the final Super Why!  post and the last chance to enter the giveaway for a DVD from PBS by posting a comment in any of the posts in this series!2009-05-22_super-why_0008

For today’s activities you will need:

For the final assessment you will need the post-assessment questions and your worksheets from throughout the week. 

My observations:   JavaBoy once again whizzed through the worksheets.  However, the extension exercise reminded me of a pad of paper I had bought him earlier in the year that allows you to draw a picture and write a sentence under it (apparently they are called “picture story pads.”)  This ended up leading into a lesson on punctuation rather than word switching as he had recently learned about commas and had gotten mixed up about how they were used so we… “looked in a book!” to see how commas and periods were used (he didn’t believe me that periods were used at the end of sentences, so I showed him in some of his favorite books).

JavaGirl knows the story of the Three Little Pigsquite well, but upon seeing one of her favorite animals, decided she wanted to have a big bad TURTLE instead.  Then she wanted to draw the turtle.  Then she wanted to know the turtle’s name.  And so on.  On the second page worksheet we ran into an issue because of her seeing the multiple pigs and to her, a large quantity of anything is “10.”  So we got into a debate about that.  Not that she’s stubborn or anything. She clearly delineated between the three pigs of the story and the ones on the lefthand side of the page, but she wanted to debate about how many were on the lefthand side of the page.

As for the assessment, I can’t say that I felt like there was much change between the pre- and post-assessments.  HOWEVER, I feel like that didn’t measure the changes we saw/experienced during the week.  We were all more engaged as a family in the total process by having the activities and the kids and I have been singing the songs together in the car and other places (yes, you tend to lose an inhibitions as a parent) since we’ve embarked on this journey.  I have come to learn that although I tend to like worksheets, that my daughter doesn’t.  And that we all enjoy the more full-experience type of activities like the games, dances, etc.

But best of all was when my daughter picked up JavaDad’s copy of  Bruce Catton’s Civil War and flipping through it after dinner tonight.  After listening closely, I realized that she was retelling the story of the Three Little Pigs while thumbing through the book, as if she were reading it from Daddy’s big hardcover book.  Look in a book, indeed!

Don’t forget to post a comment after this post or any in the series to put your name in the running for the giveaway!

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.

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Silicon Valley Moms Post and Round Up: http://www.svmoms.com/2009/05/silicon-valley-moms-group-katie-couric-children-recession.html

Super WHY! Activities – Day 1

A, B, C, D… sing with me!  Yep, it’s time to break out the Super WHY! pre-assessment and Alpha Pig activities today!

If you have no clue what I’m talking about, jump back a post and catch up — we’re going on an interactive journey with the characters of Super WHY! this week. AND… if you comment on the PBS-related posts this week, I will put your name into a drawing for a DVD (I’m awaiting its arrival, so I don’t have the title yet) from PBS.  Yes, if you comment on more than one post, I will put your name in more than once. 

So, let’s get started!

First, you will need the pre-assessment questions.  You will also want to go ahead and save and print all the worksheets– you will need these both for the pre-assessment and for the corresponding days of the week.

The pre-assessment, of course, allows you to see where your child is in his or her literacy journey before you begin this whole process.  Please try to remember that this is not a pass/fail kind of a test — there is no winning or losing, this is just to gauge where your child is in his or her development.  At the end of the week, you will do the same exercises with your child again.

My observations:I did these separately with JavaGirl (turned 3 the week we did this) and JavaBoy (5).  JavaBoy already reads, so he basically whizzed through this pre-assessment.  JavaGirl was familiar with the story of  The Three Little Pigs, could point to the letters W-O-L-F,  couldn’t read “wall” but once I read it, could read “fall” and “ball” because she knows her letters, didn’t know how to spell “big” and “pig,” knew the opposite of the word “big” and knew the opposite of the word “bad” and figured out that “good” was the word that started with the “g.”  The problem for me, as a non-teacher, was that I didn’t really know what this meant in terms of where she was in her literacy skills — I just knew that she knew how to do some things and not others — I wished the pre-assessment had a little more info for a novice like myself!

Who Let The Pigs Out?

alpha-pig-day2I have a really terrific photo of  JavaDad wearing the Alpha Pig mask playing Bingo with JavaBoy, while shirtless, but he has threatened to yank my high-speed Internet connection if I post it, so instead you will only see partially obscured photos of JavaBoy.  Yes, he is wearing Christmas pajamas in May.  That’s how we roll here in the Java household. 

Print out and cut out the Alpha Pig mask (this file prints out all the masks or just select one) — color is ideal.  I made a small hole on each side and ran ribbon through, Teach Mama apparently finally put hers on kiddie sunglasses — do whatever works!  By the way, she is a much better mother than I am because she had her children cut theirs out as a bonus activity and I, always short on time, cut the masks out myself while the children were busy with something else.  You will also need the Alpha Pig Day instruction sheet, and the bingo instruction sheet, the bingo cards, and the bingo markers (or if you already have bingo markers, save yourself the trouble, and use those).  Incidentally, the bingo instruction sheet refers to some 17×11 sign — this was never in my kit and I have no idea what they are referring to, but apparently you don’t need it.  I just wrote down the letters I saw on the bingo cards and made my own letters to call out.  Nor do you need 20 bingo cards — just as many cards as you have players.  You will also need the Alpha Pig worksheets, which you have already printed out for the assessment.

Okay — so you’ve printed out a zillion things, now watch the show!  It’s available either in podcast or quicktime format — and today you will pay special attention to Alpha Pig.  After watching the show, follow the instructions on the Alpha Pig Day instruction sheet — transform into Alpha Pig, do the worksheets, and if you have time, sing the song and play bingo!

My observations:We’ve seen this episode before, but the kids enjoyed having something interactive to do afterward.  JavaBoy already knows how to spell his name and was more interested in practicing coloring neatly inside the lines (as this is a challenge he’s working on) as he colored in the letters.  JavaGirl does not yet know how to spell her name (it’s a bit complex even for grown-ups) and she’s still learning how to write letters, but she happily circled the letters when I told them which ones they were and was happy to color them in.  Then we ended up having a little bit of a handwriting lesson, which I was actually glad to have because I only recently grasped the fact that one of the reasons she and I have had some challenges in that area is because I’ve been to dim-witted to realize she’s a leftie!  (By the way, if anyone has tips for a right-handed mother with a left-handed kid, I’d love to hear them — I never realized all the challenges that could present.)  They both enjoyed hunting for letters in Storybook Village, although I think I was the only one who noticed the correlation between the letter and the location (i.e. L was on the library, W on the windmill…)  I missed out on playing bingo because I had to take a phone call, but JavaDad said they thoroughly enjoyed it.

Oh, and yes, you will be humming the Alpha Pig version of the alphabet song all week.  Seriously.  I find myself singing it under my breath at the oddest moments now.