AUSSIE X: OY OY OY!

Last week, our school had a special visit from Aussie X, a division of X Movement, a program geared towards school-age children to promote physical activity and positive thinking.  Through the use of sport, specifically Aussie Rules Football, the coaches engage the students through play and team building.

T-Bone (Phil) and Meatball (Cade) were the two instructors from Aussie X.  We learned that in Australia, many people go by nicknames so we called them by their nicknames during their time with us.  They were at our school for three days teaching classes from kindergarten to grade eight.  On the evening of the last day, parents were welcome to attend the lessons at the school so they could participate in the same fun activities their children did earlier during the week.

We were given a two-hour window where my students were first shown a video about footy.   After a brief introduction, Meatball asked a few questions to make sure they were listening. They discussed the basic skills and rules of Aussie football and then out we went.

The students warmed up with some simple games involving listening skills and partner work.  They danced, skipped around, acted silly, and generally, had a good time.  Afterwards, they tossed the football and learned how to kick the ball properly with their hands in proper position. One of the later games involved them aiming the balls at Meatball and myself.  Not MY favourite game 😛 however, I was lucky that the kids hadn’t perfected their kicks yet.  I left unscathed.

At the end of the session, Meatball handed out some green bracelets and taught them some Aussie high fives, which continued to solidify the friendship between him and the kids.  They liked his cheesy jokes so why not a goofy handshake.  Mix it in with some dance moves and they were hooked.  Everyone left happy and with an accent (LOL).

I had a chance to sit down with the two instructors and picked their brains about footy, X Movement, and life in Australia.

HTM: Is footy the national sport in Australia much like hockey is in Canada?

T-Bone: Yes.  It’s the Australian Football League.

Meatball: AFL.

HTM: What attracted you to the sport?

T-Bone: Everyone’s doing it.  Every town has a league.

Meatball:  You grow up around it.

HTM: Is playing professionally part of the plan for you?

T-Bone: Not for me.

Meatball: When I was younger, it was part of the plan.

T-Bone: Well, you kinda play professionally.  You get paid to play.

Meatball:  Sorta.  It’s not a lot, but yeah, I get paid.

HTM: How old are you and how long have you been playing?

T-Bone: I’m 29.  I’ve been playing since I was six.  The league here is like your little league.

Meatball: I’ve played local league and interleague which is like rep since I was 9.  I’m 20.

HTM:  Who decided to pitch this sport outside of Australia?

T-Bone: The main guy is from Australia, Emile “The Dragon” Studham.

HTM: My husband mentioned seeing this on Dragon’s Den.

Meatball: Yes!  So we were on Shark Tank too.  They came to North America and then expanded.

HTM: Was the focus more on the physical aspect or teamwork for this program?

T-Bone: It was more on the teamwork aspect where everyone is learning a new sport.  All the kids are on equal playing field so to speak.  There are always the kids who are the athletes, some are the artists, etc. Here everyone can learn to kick the ball the same.

Meatball: Footy makes them all equal.  Kids get to shine for those two hours because it’s new to everyone.

HTM: Besides the physical exercise, what do you enjoy about teaching footy to the kids?

T-Bone: Kids can just hang out.  We like the interaction, it’s fun!

Meatball: I like having impact on the kids.  Showing them how to be positive and caring to others.  It’s treating people equally.

HTM: My students wanted a class nickname.  What would you give us?

Meatball: I think something fierce.  Markham Redbacks like the spider.

HTM:  Thanks so much for your time.  Much appreciated.

T-Bone: You’re welcome.

Meatball: No problem.

For more information about Aussie X and X Movement, please check out their website.

Bullet Journal: I LOVE IT!

If you’re a teacher, chances are you love to organize and you love making lists.  Every September, I look forward to purchasing a brand new agenda for the school year.  I colour coordinate school events, personal appointments, kids’ activities and our family social calendar.  Until Christmas, my agenda has perfectly round bullets, neat check marks, and perfect stickers. By Christmas break, it’s no longer worthy of themed stickers and cute doodles.  It’s a mess.

One day, a friend mentioned bullet journaling to me and I couldn’t stop looking at all the results on Pinterest.  This entire phenomena is devoted to lists, creative designs, and jotting down memories.  I can write down future events and happenings.  I can decide my own layouts all the whole using cool new tools like washi tape and stencils.  What!  Where has BUJO been all my life?  It’s also a great place to write down things my kids do (I have a few pages devoted to each kid), wish lists, and future to-dos (a lot of it is for work for next September or for the house).

I came across this new hobby just around the time I turned 40.  Not sure if this is a midlife thing or just another new hobby, but anytime I get into something  (e.g. stamp collecting, Cricut, Instant Pot, etc.), I’m all in.  I mean, I go HARD!  I want all the tools, research all the tips, and Google all the sites – usually in a week.  LOL.

So after purchasing my bullet journal from Indigo on my birthday, within the week, I also had the fine liners, pencil crayons, stickers, and metallic markers.  I also went on the hunt for cute washi tape, correction tape, and the perfect ruler and pencil case.  I began to lay out my monthlies and weeklies, all the while keeping in mind what my friend said.  “Don’t worry if you make mistakes!  I did for the first few weeks and it’s okay.”  Clearly, she knows how Type A I am!  This BUJO not only gives me a chance to design my own layouts and pick my colour scheme for the pages (much like a scrapbook), I also have an exercise in retraining my mind and keeping my mental health in check.  It’s almost like gratitude journal, Smash Book, and agenda all rolled into one.  What fun!

Last week, we were in Niagara Falls so naturally, we hit up Target in the dollar section (my fave).  Amazing finds including mini-stamps (the Starbucks coffee cup got me), washi tape, and planner stickers.  For $3, you can’t go wrong!

Since I started, a couple of my friends are now interested in it and started to gather their materials for their own bujo.  I can’t wait to see their layouts and what other ideas they came up with.  I mostly modify inspiration I see on Pinterest to suit my needs.  Each month, I’ve switched out my weekly layouts to keep it fresh.  I’m going to have this current bujo until the end of 2017 and then get a new one for January (it’s hard – my mind has a Sept to June calendar because of work, but I also work on Jan to Dec time).  My middle child really wants one for her birthday so maybe she will get a Birthday Bujo.  It’s already in my planner.  😛

Toronto Symphony Orchestra: THE HOCKEY SWEATER

Everyone knows the classic story by Canadian author, Roch Carrier, about his experience growing up as a big hockey fan.  All the boys in the neighbourhood wear a Montreal Canadiens’ jersey with number 9, Maurice “Rocket” Richard, on the back.  However, Roch is accidentally sent a Maple Leafs’ jersey instead when his mother orders it from Hudson Bay.  He is afraid to wear it because of what all the neighbourhood kids will think.  He can’t be a Toronto fan!

Before the presentation of this beloved tale, the TSO presented a collection of songs inspired by travelling all across Canada.  From a wolf’s song to a regatta tune focused on the trombone, the melange of short pieces was not only fun to listen to, but educational.  Before each piece was played, the host of the event, Abigail Richardson-Shulte, explained the background of the piece and taught a mini-history lesson.  As a teacher, I LOVED it.  It also helped to see which instruments to pay particular attention to.

Our favourite piece was the farmland song, “Chicken Reel.”  It really got the audience clapping and the kiddies moving.  The musicians spinning their double basses at the side was great too.   Not only did this song get the audience into it, there were several more pieces that allowed for audience participation.  We closed our eyes and imagined The Northern Lights.  The audience did a wave.  It was really fun!

After travelling across our great nation through song (we are celebrating our 150th, after all),  it was time for the main event.  The TSO along with the author himself performed the famous book through narration, drama, and sounds.  Different instruments portrayed special effects such as the naggy mom (woodwind), church (organ), and Rocket Richard (brass).  It was great to see the story unfold right before our eyes.

Once again, the TSO did a great job of educating the young and old alike through a spectacular musical performance.  I loved the classic tale performed live.  My kids enjoyed the short pieces throughout the performance.  They were just long enough to keep their attention.

Have you been to a TSO performance yet?  Check out what’s coming up: https://www.tso.ca/

Fidget Toys: Helpful or Harmful?

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       fidget cube       A recent fad has popped up in my classroom: the fidget toys.  Whether it’s a cube or spinner, these little gadgets that grew their following on Kickstarter have become the talk of the class.  Kids who have one fall into one of three categories: they have a medical need so the toy helps them focus, they think it’s cool and popular so they want to be on trend, or they follow their friends who have one and claim it helps them focus.  I say claim because kids who never had problems focusing before now say they need a gadget.  Really?

      Now I’m all for the ones who need it because of a ADHD diagnosis, anxiety, or autism or their parents or doctors recommended it. I’ve asked for parental notes if students are bringing one.  My fear is that kids are bringing it “just because” and it becomes more of a hindrance than a help.  (We all have something that helps them focus.  For me, it’s silence and sometimes tapping my pen.) No problem to accommodate as accommodations are what teachers are all about.  Gross motor movement is shown to help with memory and retaining information especially for students with ADHD.  However, no studies have shown that handheld toys have the same benefit as someone on a stationary bike for memory retention or learning.  Ironically, the toy is actually distracting for those with ADHD who are watching other kids play with it.

From the Sentinel & Enterprise news, “According to Laura Garofoli, Fitchburg State University professor of psychological science, said there’s little evidence these fidgeting devices help children with ADHD. ‘There’s no research on the actual fidget spinners yet,’ she said. “Research on fidgets for kids on their desk at school is actually very spotty.”

Garofoli said studies show physical activity helps children with ADHD concentrate, but most research focuses on the use of large muscle groups, not fine motor skills.

“Across the board more physical activity leads to better outcomes for kids with ADHD in the class,” she said. “The tricky part is does that have any correlation with the fine motor of the little fidgets at the desk? Stress balls, TheraPutty — there just isn’t a whole heck of a lot of data to support that they’re effective.”

       Hence, my concern is for the ones who are getting them “just because.”  (I’ve always taught my students to think for themselves and not be sheep, but that’s for another post.)  I’ve asked some students and they don’t exactly know why they have one or want one other than “it’s fun” or “it’s cool.”  The problem arises when they start clicking and spinning during lessons and they focus on how much they can click in a minute or how fluently they spin this newly discovered gadget rather than focusing on the lesson.  I’ve observed kids walk around the room to visit other kids to see how their spinner works and to challenge each other on how long they can spin. Kids easily miss the important steps to a math problem or what figurative language is when focused on their gadget.  They don’t hear all the instructions or miss the assignment due date.  It’s also become a distraction to others.  I’ve watched students play with their toy during a work period and I’ve seen other kids watch kids as they play.  Heck, I get distracted at times and I have enough to do.  I now have a new job on my list which is observing who is using the toy for need or for fun.  Minutes spent here and there adds up to a lot of wasted minutes in my book and anyone who knows me knows that I’m all about efficiency.

         At the end of 2016, Forbes even called it the “must have office toy for 2017.”  Be that as it may, some adults may have already established great work habits and can afford to use a spinner while leading a meeting or being on an international conference call.  Some schools have banned this toy because of students playing with the toy instead of listening in class.  Young kids are just developing these habits and this spinner fad has sort of blown up not necessarily for the better. I’m pretty sure most of my class did not develop a medical condition over the past two weeks that requires said gadget.

           A few other students in the school have these toys (this is exactly what it is to me), but I have about a quarter of my class with these colourful contraptions.  Hopefully, the students who need one find it helpful and really does keep their attention on the task at hand.  I hope the ones who are using one are doing so for a good reason.  I want my students to develop good learning and study habits and it’s near the end of the year.  E.Q.A.O. (provincial standardized testing) is at the end of the month.  We want all the focus we can get and it all starts with parents knowing which toys are being brought into the classroom.

Reference: http://www.sentinelandenterprise.com/news/ci_30956192/spin-spin-argh

INTERVIEW WITH Sarah Hicks: TORONTO SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA GUEST CONDUCTOR

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Sarah Hicks, the conductor for the Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s Disney’s Ratatouille, was gracious enough to take the time to answer some questions for me about music, the industry, and kids and music.  Here is what unfolded.

HTM: Welcome to Toronto!  You picked a great time to make your debut as Winterlicious (annual food event in Toronto where popular and high-end restaurants have special lunch and dinner prix fixe menus) just wrapped up.   Is cooking something you enjoy?

SH: I loooove to cook.  I grew up with a mom who went to cooking school in her youth so I picked up a lot of pointers growing up.  I love the tactile and meditative qualities of chopping and mixing and sauteing.  And, of course, eating is fun too.

HTM: How did you choose Ratatouille as your next performance?

SH: Conductors don’t necessarily get to choose what they’re going to do – at least I don’t as I’m booked all around the world to conduct various films as orchestras want to perform them.

HTM: That’s amazing!  Did the movie that appeal because of the food aspect?

SH: Pixar stuff is so genius.  And Michael Giacchino writes the most charming scores!  Have you seen UP?  That’s his music too.

(*I have seen UP and some scenes were particularly difficult to watch due to past health reasons).

HTM:  You trained at Harvard and have spent many years travelling around the U.S. and being a part of different orchestras. You’ve also worked in Korea and overseas.  Is there a particular city you’ve enjoyed the most and can you tell me a bit about it?

SH: It’s too hard to choose a single favorite, but I’ve most recently really enjoyed working in Prague with the Czech National Orchestra on a Frank Zappa project.  They’re a great group, the music was really out of the box, and being in that beautiful city is always so special.  (I lived there in the 90’s for a year, so that’s part of it too).  Film side note:  did you know that “Amadeus” was filmed there?

HTM: I’ve watched Amadeus numerous times as a child.  Some scenes were just embarrassing to watch with my family, but it’s a great movie.  (Ha ha.)  I’ve read that you started out with piano, but due to health reasons, you turned to conducting.  Your dad told you to “stop crying” and “you can still hold a stick.”   How did you manage to accept that harsh reality and turn that into a positive?

SH: I think kids are more resilient than we think – certainly looking back at my 17 year old self I give myself credit for being able to bounce back from disappointment, but I also think of it as accepting a new challenge;  I’m always looking for things to master or conquer or kick butt at, so I think that had a lot to do with it.

HTM: Perseverance is a virtue I always try to instill in my students and yours is a real-life example.  I’m not sure how the conducting world works.   Tryouts?   Have you ever missed out on the job you wanted?  What did you say to yourself to bounce back on your feet?

SH: Conducting is a tough profession.  In my early days, I certainly went to tons of auditions (there can be a hundred candidates for a single spot).  It’s challenging from a practical standpoint because if you think about it, an orchestra may have 100 musicians in it, but there is only a single conductor.  So jobs are pretty scarce.  I’ve certainly not gotten jobs I wanted.  And often you have little choice in where you end up living because you need to go where the gig is.  Very few conductors make their living simply conducting – many also teach or play or have non-performing jobs as well.  I feel lucky to be doing this full-time.  As for getting back on my feet after a disappointment, I remind myself “this is the life I chose.”  It ain’t easy, but the rewards for me are worth the disappointments and rejections.

HTM:  That’s a wonderful attitude to take.  You’ve been great at merging pop and classical in the past working with artists such as Sting. You present yourself as not only as a strong conductor, but I feel someone who is very comfortable in her own skin, a bit of a rock star.  Are women growing in this industry as conductors and not just musicians?

SH: Absolutely.  There’s a ton of young female talent out there, so different from even a generation ago.

HTMHow have you been treated as a female conductor? 

SH: Musicians generally don’t care what you are as long as you know what you’re doing, but I have gotten a lot of comments on what I wear (sleeveless tops) and my hair (I don’t put it up, ponytails give me headaches and I like it long and down).  I don’t think men would garner the same sort of attention for their appearance.

HTM:   I can totally see that.  Have you faced any challenges in the profession in general?

SH: I think men and women have different approaches to leadership.  Not to generalize too much, but men can get away with being a bit more authoritarian – if a woman behaved in the same way she risks the backlash of being called “difficult” or worse (b**** comes to mind).  I tend to lead more by persuasion and consensus and with the understanding that everyone has their own individual responsibility and my job is to create a cohesive vision out of it.  It’s a slight different approach than some are accustomed to, but generally people start to understand my groove pretty quickly when I’m working with them.

HTM:  I understand.  It’s still different how men and women are viewed in a leadership role.  Now what do you think about technology?  It is everywhere now.  At school, I came back from maternity leave to a school with whiteboards instead of blackboards, iPads and Airplay instead of overheads and transparencies.  What’s your take on technology and music these days?  Does it take away from the basics of sound or enhances them?   Do you like incorporating technology when you compose?  Does the TSO use it?

SH: That’s an interesting one.  I think of technology and music, from a performing standpoint, as incorporating things like film and amplification.  I think there’s a place for everything.  I’ve even done a piece with a live DJ onstage, which was totally fun.  I don’t really compose anymore.

HTM: That’s too bad.   Finally, my students are really into music.  They are usually into Top 40.  If I could introduce a few symphonies to them, what would you recommend?  Do you have a favourite composer?

SH: In terms of accessible music I think of pieces like Ravel’s Bolero, Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite and The Triumphal March from Verdi’s opera, Aida.  My favorite composer changes a lot, depending on mood.  I love Chopin and Mahler and Bartok and Mozart for different reasons at different times, but nothing cleanses the mind and soul like Bach!

Thanks very much to Sarah for taking the time out of her extremely busy schedule to answer my questions about music and the industry.  Wishing her well in the future and certainly, an open invite to pop into my classroom whenever she’s in town!

Please check out the Toronto Symphony Orchestra here.

EATS REVIEW: Good Catch Boil House

       Had the opportunity to try Good Catch Boil House during their soft opening in early February.  One word: mmm.  Is that a word or more a concept?  Either way, it was delicious and I can’t wait to head back for more.  We decided to forego the Louisiana-style hot boil just because it we weren’t in the mood, but opted for everything fried and salty instead.  Ha ha.  Can you tell it was a dinner with teachers and report card season was FINALLY over?  We needed a little pick me up and this was certainly it.

       We had our eyes set on the lobster nachos, but the waitress said the chef hadn’t perfected the “cheese melt” on it yet so he didn’t want to serve it to us.  Perhaps our puppy dog eyes (and drool) convinced her to ask him again.  Out it came and was it ever yummy (warning, must share with a group of 5 or you’ll never finish it)!   Lots of fresh toppings, chunks of lobster, and ooey gooey cheese.  A friend found it a bit dry, but I used an insane amount of salsa so I was good.

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            We also ordered the oyster sliders to share and they were probably my favourite dish along with their Cajun fries.  The buns had the right touch of sweetness and the oysters from the Pacific were perfectly tender with the right amount of bite.  More fried goodness came in the form of the soft shell crab and torpedo shrimp.  Everything was just awesome and the service was top notch.

            The restaurant actually was inspired by Louisiana yet also calls itself a sports bar.  It is very bright, with high ceilings and feels spacious.  They had a variety of tables and high bar seating areas.  Our booth felt a bit tight due to our huge winter coats so perhaps that is the only physical improvement I can think of.  (I found the Popeye statue at the front a bit odd too, to be honest.)

              Feeling for seafood and sports?  Give it a try at 179 Enterprise Blvd Unit M-109, Markham, ON.

MNO (Moms’ Night Out)

I came across an article this weekend about Moms’ Night Out.  Read it, liked it, and decided to put my two cents in.

Every so often, I want to get out.  In fact, I think it’s more of a need than a want. For my sanity, my mental health, and sure, for all the idle chit-chat.  Whatsapp groups are good, but with everyone all over the place, not everyone is on at the same time.  That’s what makes Moms Night Out so awesome.

You can’t just be 24-7 all work and home.  At least, that’s for me.  It’s the attention you need to give yourself.   In teaching, you give attention to 30 kids at a time.  At home, you have your own lovelies to deal with.  Your brain is wired and you can never turn it off.  With friends however, it’s a different feeling.  For me, if I don’t get out every couple of weeks, I start to get antsy.   I need to get out, do the girlfriend thing, and come back all refreshed.  Otherwise it’s just the same routine.

6:00 am Wake up.
7:30 am  Drop off the baby at daycare.
8:00 am Get to work.  For me, I like to work through recess and most of lunch so when I’m at home, I get a chance to focus on home.
4:30 pm Kickboxing twice a week.  When I get home, Hip Teacher Dada takes off for basketball practice with Big H (did I mention how I love and hate rep ball?).
6:00 pm Home and it’s a slew of dinner, homework, dishes, lunch prep, and bathtime.  Sometimes it’s vacuuming and dinner prep.
8:00 pm Put Baby C to bed and then the big girls bedtime routine rolls around.  Then it’s watch some TV, do some marking or planning, and it’s bedtime.  A lot of action during the day, but not much time for the brain to chill and body to relax.

MNO are leisurely.  I don’t care about the dishes in the sink and which lunch I have to pack because of an egg allergy in this classroom or a seafood allergy in this one.  I’m not picking up saucy noodles off the floor or wiping up spilt milk.  Does Baby C want to read the same Happy Baby Colours book for the 17000th time?  Sure, let my husband handle that.

MNO aren’t even a big deal for me in terms of location.  It can be a movie, bubble tea, or noodle bar.  Heck, I’m good with a quick lap around the mall.  I just want to chat with my friends and get out.  I also don’t need to get dolled up.  I just need to be out.  Half of my closest friends happen to be teachers so work talk inevitably comes up.  However, the stories become more humorous as the night goes on.  Sometimes even getting together to watch The Bachelor will do it for me simply because it’s a break in everyday routine and something to look forward to at night.

Now don’t take this the wrong way…my girls are my soul, my heart, my everything.  I love spending time with them.  My husband is my best friend and we both love movies, hanging out at Chapters, and going shopping.  We love to watch shows together or hanging out in the basement while I craft and he sorts his basketball cards.  He’s awesome, but giving him some alone time with the girls is great too (he calls them “Boys’Nights”).  Our girls say the funniest things when we play “Restaurant” or board games.  Big H likes to play games together while my middle ones loves to colour with me.  The baby wants her cuddles.  I love those moments too, but sometimes having a night to myself is just as sweet.

I think a work-life balance is important. It refreshes you, destresses you and now you are ready to tackle it all over again.   Ninety worksheets to assess?  Bring it on.  Happy Baby Colours for the 17001 time?  Get it off the shelf.

I Am Not a ROBOT

heartbroken-breakup-quotes-crying         Yesterday I taught the lesson that my students cringe about, giggle through, and try to avoid at all costs.  Yep, it was THAT chapter in Family Life, the dreaded Chapter Three aka How Babies Are Made.  I’ve done the whole “let’s be mature” and “see it through a doctor’s eyes”, but where our lesson paused came suddenly and unexpectedly.

         The students were great and all was well with the naming of parts and the actual science of it all when a student raised his hand and said, “My mom had a miscarriage.  What is that?”  I was ready to turn off my emotions and turn into robot mode, but I am who I am so I couldn’t and there it was…the waterworks flowed. Biting my lip and turning away just didn’t work.

       I briefly got up from my spot in the class (dead centre, of course, all eyes in me) and turned towards my desk, but heck, it couldn’t be stopped.  Tears welled up quickly and soon, I was an overflowing bucket.  Leaks everywhere and no mop.  One boy even stated, “I wish I had a tissue for you.” I remember saying, “Sorry, guys.  Just a second…” when in reality, if they were willing, I could’ve sat there for ten minutes to let it all out.   I looked up and saw compassion and I didn’t feel embarrassed.  They looked worried. Some looked sad.   They know me by now and know I’m an emotional person.   Ironically, we’ve been studying traits of science fiction and had read a story about future teachers being robots.  They all said the good thing about human teachers is that they are able to have feelings and express there.   Well, I’m certainly Exhibit A.

          After a minute’s pause, I was able to get back to it and finish the lesson.   I briefly explained what miscarriage is (though it is in the upcoming pages in the book) and why it was hard for me to discuss (I had three experiences).  We ended the lesson with a slew of questions and genuine interest in the topic of twins and genes and which parent they look like.  They asked more questions at my desk.  Some came up to say they were sorry about my situation (cue the tears).  The student who asked the question was apologetic, but no, I’d never want anyone to feel sorry for asking questions and said so.  After all, that’s how we grow, it’s how we learn.  As I was cleaning the whiteboard, another boy came up and said he felt sad when I cried.

        Right after everyone left, I went to my neighbour teacher to tell her what happened.  She reassured me that some days, even on that day for herself, tears are necessary and justified.  The students need to know that we don’t just work and live at school, we are actual human beings.   We feel pain and frustration too.

        A minute later, three other colleagues popped in because they heard what happened (wow, this wasn’t even the power of social media).  We had a brief powwow and they all said the same thing.  Emotion is nothing to be ashamed about.  It was okay.  My students are certainly mature enough to handle it. If anything, it gave them a real understanding about babies and loss.  There is no disconnect between creating a human life and having a life grow inside you for a while.  You love him or her even if the end result is not a baby in your arms.  The bond you have from the moment you find out you are pregnant is indescribable.   I ended the lesson with the fact that they are there meant that God had wanted it just so, it takes just the right pieces to come together.  They are made from a loving union, healthy and blessed.

EDITOR’S PICK: THE STRONG MUSEUM OF PLAY

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  Happy New Year, loyal followers and new readers!   Is everyone ready to start 2017 with a bang?  How about with a new adventurous road trip?

     If you ever wanted to spend an entire day playing with your children and never be bored, The Strong Museum in Rochester, NY is perfect for you.  I reconnected with my inner child during the Christmas holidays and did NOT want to leave the establishment.  In fact, I’m hoping to go back for a spring visit to see which new exhibits will be there.

     From the moment we arrived, we were enthralled with The Strong.  Baby C loved the aquarium and we could hardly tear her away.  She had to convince her that more fun activities would be inside.

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     The first section we went in housed all the classic toys from Barbie to Elmo to I Spy books.  The girls were particularly excited because these were familiar toys.  We enjoyed pressing buttons and playing with a variety of activities.  They didn’t know much about the OUIJA board so I had to explain that phenomenon.  Does anyone else remember that from the 80s?  I remember my friend said her grandmother told her that Marilyn Monroe’s ghost lived in their house for a week.

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         From there we moved onto a section geared towards toddlers and exploratory themes.  Middle A loved putting the rice through a giant circle drum and listening to the tiny tinkling sounds the grains made.  Baby C liked to bring the ball up the different ramps just to run alongside the rolling ball.  Next we discovered the LEGO monitor where moving around gave us the shape of LEGO people.

        Down the way was Sesame Street!  My girls don’t watch that show much, but for me, it was brilliant.  I had to sit on the stoop!  Middle A had a chance to chat with Abby Cadabby via the green screen, we waved to Big Bird, and saw the whole gang on a giant poster.  They role-played with a hot dog cart, cinema, and news stand.  Who doesn’t want to live on Sesame Street?  The girls even took a minute to get cozy in a little reading nook.  If this was near us, I would’ve had a season pass for sure.  Lucky people who are on maternity leave and live nearby!

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     We walked by a phone booth and the girls had a quick lesson on what that was.  Seriously, how times have changed!  Many activities on Sesame Street had the “up”, “inside”, and “under” labels which were awesome!  Not only were those educational, but I felt like the show really came to life.  Does anyone else remember learning prepositions this way?

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    After Sesame Street, we went to Wegmans, which was the girls’ favourite section.  Armed with mini shopping carts, they set out for their weekly shopping trip like Mommy.  I really liked that the girls were given instructions about their three jobs: shopper, cashier, and stock person.  They were allowed a limit of five items (it was a very busy day) and had to put everything back after they checked out.  The girls didn’t get a chance to play cashier, but they enjoyed the experience nonetheless.  The best thing is that you really get a receipt of your items so that is an awesome souvenir.  Baby C actually picked out diapers for herself.  How self-aware!

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       After a lot of exploring, we decided it was time for lunch.  The lunch room had a good selection of foods such as Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, and Subway.  The prices were very reasonable ($5 for a personal size pizza) and you can eat in that area if you were purchasing.  There were separate rooms if you brought your own food.

        After filling our bellies and regaining some energy, we headed towards the comic zone known as American Comic Book Heroes: The Battle of Good VS Evil.  This was Hip Teacher Dada’s favourite section as his love for all things Marvel is well known.  From giant models of Iron Man and Spiderman to a photo opp where it appears our children are scaling a wall, this area was brilliant.  Colourful and informative, it’s a definite must-see for comic fans.

     We ran into a couple of friends at The Berenstain Bears: Down a Sunny Dirt Road exhibit.  Here, Baby C played with the tangrams and the light table.  She sees this at her daycare so it was a familiar activity.  She had a blast climbing up the stairs to the treehouse and sliding down quickly on the baby slide.  Her sisters enjoyed exploring other parts of the exhibit particularly the learning activities involving sound.

       Now finally onto my favourite part of the museum, Reading Adventureland.  Numerous different fairy tales and stories depicted through buildings, activities, and displays.  It was a dream come true!  This was stuff that Baby C actually knew!  Reading is one of her favourite activities, but for her to see things come to life.  Amazing!

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   We were only there for about four hours and certainly not enough time to explore it all!  For the next trip, we would definitely want to spend the entire day there and hope that Baby C can fall asleep in her stroller while her sisters play.  Better yet, maybe skip nap altogether?  We made the drive from Niagara Falls and thank goodness, Mother Nature cooperated and it was a very smooth drive.  The only hiccup was the parking (it took us about 15 minutes), but we were told that we went on a very unusually busy day.  The friend we ran into gave up after looking for parking for an hour so he dropped off his family and went to the nearby Footlocker instead.  There are nearby apartments, but signs strongly warned us about illegal parking.  Unlike Toronto where Green Ps are abundant, this location didn’t have much choice so circling was our best bet.

    I’m excited to see some new spring exhibits and to explore more parts of the museum.  I’d say the target audience would be age 2 to 12.  Please check out their website for further details.  It is a great way to spend your day with your little ones.

Teacher Gifts: CHEAP!!!

Did I get your attention?  As a teacher, you probably think I’ve got the inside scoop as to the best teacher gifts out there.  This post isn’t actually about that.  I’m not going to suggest how you can get your child’s teacher the cheapest  gift out there because in the end, if you do get something, what you get should be meaningful and come from a place of sincerity and appreciation.  It’s a reflection of what you think of the teacher.

I’ve meant to say this years ago, but other than conversations with other teachers or friends, I’ve never had a forum to do so.  Here it is: I’m NOT crazy about all the “Cheap Teacher Gifts” articles and posts on Facebook.  Moms suggesting a million ways on how to give a $5 gift to teachers who work hard all year round.  I take it personally. I find it insulting, to be honest.

My personal reasons?  If students want to give a Christmas (Valentine, Easter, end of year, etc.) gift because they want to say thank you, it suggests that they recognize and appreciate that teachers work hard for YOUR child then that’s awesome.   By no means are gifts expected, however, every year, I do receive a fair amount.   We also give to our children’s daycare workers and teachers not by obligation, but because we appreciate the hard work.   Do I consider myself a hard worker?  Hell yeah.  I’m at work an hour before the bell and an hour (at least) after.  I do work after the kids go to bed and I do work on the weekends.   My husband brings home an enormous knapsack daily full of science labs to mark and textbooks to read and prep.   We run clubs and coach teams.  I have lunch for 20 minutes daily because the rest of the time (and every recess break) is used for planning, copying, assessing, and tidying up.   I have many teacher friends who do the same.   Even when I’m on Pinterest, most of the time it’s looking for more ideas for the classroom.   We do these things to make school more enriching for YOUR children.   Volunteering during lunch times for Craft Clubs and after school practices are not part of our curriculum.

Teachers care for your child when you are not there.  We solve problems.  We mediate.  We comfort.  We joke around.   We teach life skills.  We nurture and care for your child. Some of my students say I’m their school mom.  If you feel your child has a great teacher, then perhaps give a thought as to what the teacher actually likes.   What would bring a smile to his or her face to show that you truly recognize what they do.   For many of us, it’s a calling and not just a job.  We work hard.   I don’t “like” those Facebook posts for a reason.   Now you know and maybe you’ll stop and think before you do next time.