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Harry Potter and Mom Make Magic

May 30, 2013 by  
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by Mommy MD Guide Sigrid Payne DaVeiga, MD

I am a huge fan of holidays and gift making, so it is no surprise that April is my favorite month of the year because both of my kids’ birthdays are in April. This year for my son’s eighth birthday, we threw a Harry Potter sleepover. I had a great time learning all about Harry Potter from my son in the weeks leading up to this party and seeing what a literary person he is becoming. We worked through so many details together, and seeing his face light up with new ideas every time we talked about the upcoming party was awesome. We tried to make the experience like an authentic trip to Harry Potter’s Wizarding World, so we made everything for the party ourselves with a little help from some craft and party stores.

This event was so much fun for us that I wanted to share some of the ideas and concepts for throwing a Harry Potter theme–based party. For me, the magic of this event was truly in the details, and I have to say, the kids took note of everything, and every minute I put into this was worth it! I will take you on a tour of this party and will try as best as I can to give credit to any Internet resource I used. I have to give a BIG thank you to all of the other moms and Harry Potter party throwers out there who were so willing to share some of their ideas on the Internet before me. So, here goes…

The children’s party invitation included a ticket to the Hogwarts Express and instructed them to meet us at Platform 9¾. I was shocked to find that every single child actually brought his or her ticket to the party for entry. Our front porch was Platform 9¾, and I made the sign by painting a piece of sheet board from Michaels a dark red and then glued the printed letters and number 9¾ onto the board (www.dirtandsunshine.com). I used a large sheet of red felt and a Sharpie marker to draw bricks to create a curtain within our front door that was cut down the middle that the children could walk through. The children presented their tickets and entered into the Wizarding World. We have an amazing used bookstore near our home, and I was able to find an extra copy of The Half-Blood Prince. I used the pages to create a Happy Birthday sign with overlaid red and yellow letter cutouts.

Their first stop was at our fireplace, which was Gringott’s Bank. The Gringott’s sign was made from large printed black letters printer on watermark paper and cut into small flags and hung on a ribbon, which we strung across the fireplace. Their shopping bags and pots of gold were labeled with the Hogwarts symbol (www.potterpartymania.blogspot.com) and each of their names. They each got a pot of Galleons (cauldrons and gold coins from www.orientaltradingcompany.com) to use for shopping at Diagon Alley.

Next stop, Diagon Alley for their purchases. Here, the children paid a Galleon each for a potion and spell book, magic wand, and a potion jar. The Internet was a huge resource for Harry Potter potion ingredients and spells; I was shocked and amazed at how easy it was to find this information! A great website for this material is The Harry Potter lexicon (www.hp-lexicon.org). I made the spells and potions book myself and divided it into two sections each with a back page for notes after the spells and potions sections. Amazingly, on their own, the kids actually took notes in these books and even wrote essays about their potions class! The magic wands were from www.orientaltradingcompany.com, but we made the white ends black by coloring them with a Sharpie marker. The potion jars were varied ingredients; some examples were Daisies (paper flowers from Michaels), Rat Claws (cloves), Doxy eggs (clear marbles), Beetle parts (broken black foam), Bubotuber pus (yellow goo from Michaels). The kids also received a Harry Potter Hogwarts scarf here. My mother made these for me by sewing together strips of maroon and gold fabric, cutting them long-ways and then ironing on the kids’ initials. These were a serious hit, and some of the kids are still wearing them long after the party!

Once the kids had all of their Wizarding materials, they sat down to eat and get sorted into their Hogwarts houses. For dinner, we served chicken nuggets, chips, and carrots (because my son told me they eat regular food at Hogwarts), but we were able to find these awesome Butter Beer labels at www.serendipitycreative.blogspot.com, which were color printed and glued onto some Boylan Cane Sugar Creme soda bottles for an authentic Three Broomsticks beverage.

I was able to find a great Sorting Hat at www.amazon.com. This particular hat had a compartment in it where we could put a cell phone on speaker, and my husband would say the child’s house into his phone in another room to create the illusion of the talking hat. The kids caught onto the trick fairly quickly, which resulted in a hilarious chase around the house to find out where the voice was coming from. Along with a pin with a Hogwarts house name, each child received what looked like a Marauder’s map (www.harrypotterparaphernalia.blogspot.com) sealed with a red wax seal (wax seal kit from Michaels). Inside the staged Marauder’s map were instructions to locate the lost owls that were in nests all around our house. To do this, the children had to work in their Hogwarts house team to conquer a series of obstacles (written quiz questions) using the spells in their spell book.

After the owl hunt, the kids went digging for Magical Creatures in a pot of green slime (aka green gelatin). Each team stuck their hands into this pot and pulled out various magical creatures. These were just small plastic creatures such as a cat, mouse, frog, etc. that might be used for the Harry Potter stories. I found these in a tube set of creatures at Michaels, but I’m sure they could be found at any toy shop.

For potions class, my husband donned a hilarious blue wizard’s hat to play Professor Snape. His potions station was created with a potions sign and Snape’s printable book pages from www.twodelighted.com to look like Professor Snape’s open potions book while he was teaching. The kids mixed one fish bowl of Dragon’s Blood (red cabbage juice) with Dragon’s spit (white vinegar). In a mason jar, they mixed the Dragon’s Blood with Unicorn Horn Powder (baking soda mixed with sparkles). The contents were then mixed together in the fish bowl creating an amazing bubbling-over dark blue mixture, which was Exploding Fluid. The kids loved this, and in the morning decided they wanted to take a potions test when they had to mix these on their own without instruction from Professor Snape.

After potions class, the kids proceeded to candy shop at Honeyduke’s. We created Honeyduke’s by labeling old vases with various candy names, including Bertie Bott’s Every Flavored Beans (Jelly Belly jelly beans), Drooble’s Best Blowing Gum (Target brand gumballs), Chocolate Wands (chocolate-covered pretzel sticks from Asher’s Chocolates), Gummy Worms, and Lemon Drops (one of Prof. Dumbledore’s favorite Muggle candies). The labels were printed and slightly adjusted from www.twodelighted.com. We had a candy price list, and the kids used the remainder of their Galleons to purchase the candies. In a strange twist, kids with leftover Galleons the next morning raided my cabinet and purchased various items, such as Goldfish snacks and cranberry juice. This was unexpected and just cracked me up.

After candy shopping, we enjoyed an amazing Hogwarts cake. The plastic pieces of the Hogwarts cake set were purchased at www.amazon.com. My parents purchased the baked cake layers and then constructed the cake for us. We loved it!

For a game of Quidditch, we painted ping-pong balls gold, red, and black to represent the Snitch, the Quaffle, and the Bludgers. The kids threw the balls through this Quidditch hoop (Nerf Aerobie).

Overnight, the kids were to sleep in The Common Room. After talking with a friend who had held the first sleepover for some of our kids, I followed her suggestion and had the kids split up. Kids who wanted to sleep went into one room, and kids who were not quite ready were able to stay up a little later in a different room.

In the morning, we had pancakes, fruit, and bacon for breakfast. The kids successfully passed their morning potions test and all received their diplomas, though, one little boy shouted, “No! I don’t want to graduate!”

This party was such an amazing time for my son and his friends; and what a pleasure for my husband and I to have been able to participate so fully in this with them. It was such an immense investment of time, thought, and creativity. And honestly, I am pretty sure it took me a week or two to recover. It was absolutely worth it, though, and really felt like magic. One of the children’s Platform 9¾ ticket was faded and folded when he arrived for the party, and his father told us he slept with it every night until the party. Another little boy sleeps with his owl every night after leaving the party. So, it just goes to show, dreams can come true…right in your house. And, my son is already planning for “Hogwarts, Year Two.”

What Is Happening in There?

April 8, 2013 by  
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by Mommy MD Guides blogger Julie Davidson

There could be moments during pregnancy when you want some alone time. Not necessarily because you need time to yourself. More like you want time to let your body do its things without others having to witness such awkward moments.

Did you ever get a pain in your chest? Just above your lungs? Part burn, part pressure. Like maybe after eating a double cheeseburger with the works? I can count on that pain after a shot (or two) of Tequila. Or eating while pregnant. Hello, heartburn.

Of course I know that bacon, egg, and cheese biscuits and chili cheese dogs do not appear in any list of top 10 healthy foods. But while I was pregnant, they kicked off episodes of heartburn strong enough to make me believe that my child was setting my insides on fire. I mean, who does that to their mother?

But at some point, that heartburn subsides. But not before disguising itself as gas so bad you’ll put your husband and your dog to shame. The point where you realize you don’t have control over major bodily functions starts there.

And be prepared for the possibility that it all just stops. Bowel movements, that is. Yep. You’re eating for two and pooping for none. And now you have this enormous discomfort in your lower half. Which, of course, is complicated by the fact that you also have a baby constantly perched in the same area, putting more pressure on the area that’s backed up. I hate to pile on, but I wonder if this is a good place to mention that this horrible game of dominos could be further complicated with hemorrhoids?

All that might be a bit more tolerable if sleep were on the horizon. My biggest obstacle with sleeping was me. There was just too much of me. By the seventh month, I couldn’t get comfortable. Many nights were spent flopping from one side to the other. I was grateful not to have a water bed because I was certain the liquid-filled mattress would smack me back in the face. Someone suggested I use a body pillow, one that runs almost the length of your body. Bingo. I would wrap my legs around it, and I was golden. Never mind that it must have looked like my overstretched body was humping five feet of stuffed fabric.

Eh, so what. Walk around rubbing your chest and scratching your bottom. Straddle a pillow. It may guarantee that alone time you wished for.

Try This Way

April 2, 2013 by  
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by Mommy MD Guides blogger Julie Davidson

I’m not a prude. But I kinda think that unless invited, people should stay out of your bedroom: figuratively and literally.

But who listens to that, especially when people find out you’re trying to get pregnant. Sure it makes sense to start eating healthy and to quit smoking..

I don’t know where these people come from, but there will not be a shortage of advice-givers suggesting what to wear. During baby-making sessions. Seriously? If you’re trying to get knocked up, you don’t need to wear anything. I was on a mission and didn’t need things like hooks, zippers, and ties getting in the way. That sexy lingerie was at the bottom of the drawer, collecting dust near the socks with the holes in them.

Oh, the other end of the spectrum? The buttinskis who want to talk the mechanics of sex. C’mon people. I took health class in high school, read plenty of smutty romance novels, and had the premium cable movie channels.

Okay, it makes total sense that timing goes into getting pregnant. The whole ovulation thing pretty much demands that. But then people chime in about positions. No, not positions like in baseball or soccer. You know, the sexual kind. If you try this, you’ll increase your chances of having a boy. Or, you’ll be more likely to have a girl if you do it this way.

Okay, so let me get this straight. The egg and sperm are divided into groups that get called up based on the position their host body is in? Very interesting. I was told that if a woman is on top, that makes it more likely to create a girl. Hmm. So what if positions change at the very last second? Do the sperm quickly stop where they were headed and call for backup? Like changing your breakfast order 10 minutes after your server has put it through to the kitchen.

And somewhere along the line, I was told that getting my legs up in the air would be a good way to secure the sperm in place. Hey, why not just have a sandwich bag taped over my lady part afterward? Of course, after my husband and I exhaust half the positions in the Kama Sutra. I mean one of those positions has gotta be a guarantee for a genius. Or an alien baby, right?

What Is Normal Language Development?

February 18, 2013 by  
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by Mommy MD Guide Stacey Weiland, MD

Once we as parents establish that our child is healthy, our next worry relates to our child’s normal development.

We carefully examine the pediatrician’s growth charts, exclaim with joy at the first smile, and call the grandparents when our child takes her first step.

Of course there is a broad spectrum of normal. In the case of my own three children, for example, first steps were taken at 11, 12, and 14 months.

Language development also represents a series of major milestones. And again, although there’s still a definite spectrum of normal, it’s reasonable for parents to have a general idea of when certain language gains should appear, in order to look into possible interventions, if necessary.

Most children begin vocalizations with “babbling.” This occurs at around four to six months of age. They tend to make many repetitive sounds, like “baba,” “mama,” and “dada.” Interestingly, these first sounds are consistent no matter what language is spoken in the home.

By 7 to 12 months, many children are able to form a few one- and two-syllable words, such as “no” or “car” and can ask for each parent by name with “mama” and “dada.”

At 12 to 15 months, children produce many different sounds in their language attempts and imitate sounds said to them by family members. They can also understand and follow simple one-step directions: “Give me the toy.”

By the age of two, children can have up to 50 words in their repertoire and start to put simple words together: “Want cookie.” They can name body parts and familiar objects. They can also follow two-step commands. Their diction may not always be intelligible, particularly to people who aren’t with them regularly. I distinctly remember having to interpret what my children were trying to say when my mother was visiting from out of town.

There is no definite cause for alarm if your child is not verbalizing this much by age two, because some children are better able to communicate their needs through gestures.

Between the ages of two and three, parents often witness a major expansion in their child’s speech. They begin to form simple sentences, can identify colors, and understand descriptive concepts (big versus little). Parents and regular caregivers should understand about 75 percent of their child’s speech by age three.

Is there anything that we as parents can do to enhance our child’s language development? Well, as you might imagine, the best way for a child to learn to speak is to hear speech around them. There is actually data for this. Many studies have demonstrated that children who are spoken to the most develop the greatest “lexical diversity,” have the broadest receptive and expressive vocabularies, and the quickest cognitive development compared with those children who were spoken to the least.

So, in the absence of an underlying language disorder, good parenting is the key to creating a well-spoken child. Spend time with your child. Read to her, play with her, and involve her in whatever you’re doing!

By Design

February 12, 2013 by  
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by Mommy MD Guides blogger Julie Davidson

My parents had six kids. Three bedrooms. Two bathrooms. One income. It was truly a time (or many times) of making do with what you had. I saw photos of my brothers being bathed in the kitchen sink. The same sink that was used to prepare the Thanksgiving turkey. And to house a stack full of dishes plastered with remnants of a day’s worth of Cheerios, pork ’n beans, and casseroles.

And all of us shared a bedroom at one time or another. Cribs? Nah. There were tales of the older kids sleeping in dresser drawers. And I think the decorating theme was, well—nothing.

But each generation has their own way of doing things. And I so didn’t want to be the mom who went over the edge with decorating the baby’s room. But with all the brands, themes, and colors, it can be hard not to. For her twins’ nursery, Mariah Carey had big comfy chairs, ivory-colored furniture, and a pink and green color scheme. Then, there are the rest of us who aren’t multi–record selling celebrities.

We went with all wood furniture. And none of it from the same store. The crib came first, mainly because I pushed my big-bellied self to the front of the line at a USA Baby Furniture store sidewalk sale. Turns out that there were a lot of waddling women out to do the same that day, but no worries as I claimed the crib I had been visually stalking from the parking lot before the doors opened. My plan was to keep the little guy in the crib until he was three. You bet. I intended to get every penny out of it. At 14 months, he figured out how to crawl out of it.

On to the dresser. My advice is to get it delivered. I’m surprised and eternally grateful that my brother still speaks to us. It’s not easy to say no to your younger, pregnant sister. And who knew it would turn into a three-hour journey that involved an SUV, bungee cords, spatial strategizing, shoving, praying, cursing, heaving, pushing, and rearranging.

What ever happened to basic dressers? You know, the kind with the same-size drawers. The one we found was huge. Drawers down the middle. Drawers on the side. A top shelf area to put little knickknacks on. And that nifty little area commonly called the diaper tower. The entire piece was bigger than an entertainment center. But we found out that if you take off that top shelf, take off the diaper pad, and take out the diapers, it serves as adult furniture quite nicely.

No room would be complete without a rocking chair. I figured that would be one thing we would get a lifetime of use from. We paid more than $400 for it. Plus another $65 to fix the arm that broke off after one year. After the second time it broke, we tossed it out. Ironically, the one we bought for under a hundred bucks is in great shape.

We chose to go with a subtle theme—Winnie the Pooh. Should have been easy, but it turns out there are two types of Winnie. There is the one you often see now with a red shirt. And an older one—shirtless and more scruffy. I tried to combine them, but it looked odd. Because the one with no clothes on it made the one in the shirt seem like he was half naked. And the one with the shirt on made the other appear completely naked.

As it turns out, the decorating is much more for us as parents. Because by the time the kids are able to realize the thought, time, and money that was put into decorating their room, they’ll want something like Sponge Bob or [insert girl theme]. Okay, now that whole dresser drawer for a crib thing makes sense.

Now Arriving

February 5, 2013 by  
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by Mommy MD Guides blogger Julie Davidson

Do you remember watching shows about life way back when? I’m talking way back. It astonished me that people had these amazing, full lives without the conveniences we have today. You know, like cars, lights, air conditioning—OBs. And you’d be glued to your seat when a woman went into labor. No phone, no doctor, and no drugs. That alone should have been enough birth control for some of us to never have sex, let alone want to go through childbirth.

But miraculously, there was always some older, wiser woman in the house. Or down the lane. Or across the field. She was the go-to person for big, scary stuff. Like chasing bears off, saving someone from the well, and birthing babies.

I’m pretty sure these days the closest thing to that miracle woman is a midwife. Sort of like a pregnancy pal. She provides advice and guides a woman from pregnancy through birth. Talk about a bond. My thought was that if I had a midwife, I wasn’t letting her go after a nine-month relationship. She’d have to come home and live with us. Forever! Sadly, I found no widwives in our area who were willing to do that.

And what’s more relaxing than a warm bath? So maybe a water birth is more your style. There’s research on both sides, for and against. But taking a bath is like a Calgon moment for me. I just couldn’t get past the idea that soaking in a bath would always lead to a birth. Never mind all that stuff they taught us in health class about what had to happen nine months before that.

Some very brave moms may choose to give birth at home. And we now return to Little House on the Prairie. On one hand, it makes so much sense. It’s your home. The very place you will be raising your child. But on the other hand, there’s something to be said for all the stuff hospitals have that your house doesn’t—like ’round-the-clock trained staff, beds that adjust with the touch of a button, and food delivered to your room. Then again, I was the mom who also thought a plunger would have been handy during delivery.

It’s probably best to consider all your options. Just be prepared that as things evolve, you may need to change it up with a tub of water, your queen-size bed, or that lady who scares the bears away. And keep an eye out for the plunger.

Say Cheese

January 30, 2013 by  
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by Mommy MD Guides blogger Julie Davidson

Demi Moore, Cindy Crawford, Britney Spears, and Christina Aguilara. Celebrities are just like us, right? Okay, they’re all women. And they’ve all had babies. And they all posed nude while pregnant. So much for the list of similarities.

No one asked me to pose nude when I was pregnant. I’m not pregnant now, but sadly, I have a belly. So where’s the sexy? Who took the sexy? Now take a look at a semi-naked pregnant woman. I mean if the occasion presents itself. There’s something striking and sexy about it. Okay, maybe it’s just the fact that she isn’t wearing any clothes. Or maybe it’s because it’s not the kind of naked like on a naughty website kind of naked.

It could be the attitude that makes it easier to be photographed without clothes on. I don’t know where it comes from, but it seems like you have a boost in confidence when you get pregnant. It starts out like Ahhh yes, I’m going to be somebody’s mom. By the eighth month, it feels a bit more like, Yeah, I’m gonna be a mom, and you’re not the boss of me!

Of course it’s entirely possible that women bare their bods when they’re expecting because it’s virtually the only time you can get away with it. It’s no big secret that pregnant women get a pass on things. From opening doors to giving up good seats, people tend to dote on women who are obviously pregnant. So perhaps the thinking is She’s carrying a baby—give her what she wants.

There’s also the possibility that hormones make you do it. Oh please, we blame everything from PMS to poor diet to menopause on them, so why not bare belly shots too? It would be totally acceptable to credit your hormones for keeping you in a perpetual state of euphoria. Those little buggers might very well be in there telling you that you can and should do anything.

I bet if you ask anyone who’s had kids if they struck a nudie preggers pose in front of their mirror fresh after a shower, they’d say yes. We’re women. We turn our feet almost full circle in the mirror when we try on shoes! It’s part of our routine to look at our boobs, butts, and bellies. Being pregnant gives us that much more of them to look at.

And really, no worries if People magazine doesn’t ask you to pose for them. There’re lots of people who’ll see you naked during delivery.

A Different World

January 23, 2013 by  
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by Mommy MD Guides blogger Julie Davidson

Life is full of things you don’t pay much attention to. Until you have to. Like when you’re running late for an appointment and you’re 10 people deep in line at the grocery store talking yourself into going to the self-checkout lane. You know why those lines are virtually nonexistent? First, because rarely can you find the right buttons to key in for the produce (how many types of green peppers are there?). Plus, you have to bag your own stuff and as easy as it looks, there is a science behind it. Third, the annoying automated voice keeps telling you to put the item in the bag. Like you don’t already know that was the goal!

The point is, your world is full of things and places that you are familiar with. What’s the point in taking a path that you don’t need to just to see where it leads? Go where you need to go. And honestly, before you have kids, going some places is pretty scary.

Take Babies R Us. Until expecting a child, you were just fine shopping at the mall and boutiques. A warehouse like that is nearly the same as traveling to a foreign country. Which is why a map would be handy. Throw in a translator and a tour guide, and you’re good to go.

The clothing selection alone is overwhelming: clothes for infant girls, clothes for infant boys. Outdoor gear. Bedtime gear. Getups for Christmas, Halloween, and the 4th of July. No wonder babies crap so much. They’re totally on to the fact that they are one diaper away from a costume change.

And speaking of diapers, that place is like an art gallery just for them. It may very well be the only time diapers look so appealing. A whole wall filled with nothing but diapers. And not the kind of wall you have at home. A wall that is just slightly shorter than a football field. From preemies to potty training and plain to decorated, they’ve got ’em. In boxes and bags. I’m so hoping we’ll have such a selection for adult diapers.

But when you get ready to have your baby, you’ll learn how to navigate such places. You’ll see why it’s best to avoid them on Black Friday, eat before you go, and plan an exit strategy.

You’ll grow to appreciate the two rows Walgreens dedicates to pediatric medicines, wipes, and jar food. Not to mention the one that has alcohol too! Every Target store within five miles of your house will be your new favorite place to go (bonus points for the ones that have Starbucks and those slushy drinks). And you’ll be on a first name basis with the pharmacist at Walmart too.

As for the self-checkout lane, you’ve been warned.

Go the F*#@ to Sleep

January 17, 2013 by  
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by Mommy MD Guide Cheryl Wu, MD

My son, like most children his age, makes delaying going to bed an Olympic event. He’s persistent, untiring, incredibly creative, and keeps the prize squarely in his mind’s eye: going to sleep as late as humanly possible. He will delay everything. He will beg to play downstairs a little while longer. He will make sure to stack his train tracks just SO when it’s time to clean up. He will take forever to go upstairs (he is likely the inventor of the world’s most varied footsteps climbing a 26-step staircase). He will find every excuse to not go in the bath (it’s too cold, it’s too hot, it’s not enough water, it’s too much water, he needs two washcloths, he needs more bath salt). He’ll run around naked after his bath. He’ll pick out four books to read and insist on reading them in a certain order. Then after lights out, he’ll ask me to tell him more stories. Then when I tell him (often repeatedly) that he needs to go to sleep, he tells me, “Mommy, it’s so hard to go to sleep!” as he gets into various yoga headstand positions. Koi, in short, embodies the opposite of sleep. The bedtime routine works out beautifully in my household—he knows EXACTLY what comes next, so he knows that he can delay bedtime by a significant amount of time if he delays each step just enough to not get him in trouble.

So the other night, after I finally got Koi to turn off the lights (I’m not allowed to turn off the lights in my own house), after reading him two books, one of them twice, he begged me to tell him a story. Now, when I tell my son stories, he imagines himself right into them; he tells Goldilocks to not break the chair, Cinderella to run fast when the clock strikes 12 (in my version, when she gets to the castle, she decides marriage is not for her and enrolls instead in grad school to get her PhD), and the Ugly Duckling that he’s beautiful on the inside. It’s really pretty endearing. It’s the development of a human mind and its vast capacity for imagination, blossoming before my very eyes. I know I need to nurture that, but not at freaking 10 to 9.

So that night, I said to Koi, “What story do you want to hear?” He, of course, didn’t miss a beat; “What stories do you have?” I said, “Well, the only story I have is a boring one—you get that or nothing.” He thought about it and decided that a boring story is better than none at all. So I started telling him this entirely made-up story:

“A mouse was really, really hungry, and he’s craving rice. He found this enormous warehouse full of grains of rice. He was super excited and got to work. He went into the house, took a grain of rice, brought it outside, and put it in a pile. He then went back into the house, took a grain of rice, brought it outside, and put it in a pile. He then went back into the house, took a grain of rice, brought it outside, and put it in a pile.”

After about the sixth repeat, Koi exclaimed somewhat giddily, “Wow, that’s a lot of rice!” I said, “Yeah, this mouse was really, really hungry. So…he went back into the house, took a grain of rice, brought it outside, and put it in a pile. He went back into the house, took a grain of rice, brought it outside, and put it in a pile. He then went right back in the house, took a grain of rice, brought it outside, and put it in a pile.”

Koi stopped me again, “It’s the same thing over and over, Mom!” I said, “Well, there’s a LOT of rice in the big warehouse. So he went back into the house, took a grain of rice…” Koi interrupted me again, “Mommy I think the owner just came back, and he’s really mad when he saw the mouse, and yelled, ‘Why are you stealing my rice?’”

I said, “No, the owner’s on a month-long sabbatical in Europe with his family. He just left two days ago, so he won’t be back for another 28 days. So the mouse went back into the house, took a grain of rice, brought it outside, and put it in a pile. He then went back in the house, took a grain of rice, brought it outside, and put it in a pile. He then went back…”

Koi stopped me yet again (I mean, can a mom finish telling a story around here?), and said, “Mommy, there are all these people walking by, and they can see the mouse taking the rice!” I said, “Nah, this little mouse is pretty smart—he made sure to use the side door, and the pile was out back, so there are very few people walking around, and they can’t see him anyway because it’s getting dark. So…the little mouse went back into the house, took a grain of rice, brought it outside, and put it in a pile. He then went back in the house, took a grain of…”

Koi was now yelling, “Mom! This is so boring! Why does he need so much rice? The pile must be so big now!” I said, “Well, you wanted to hear a story; winter’s coming up, so he needs to store up a lot of rice. And besides, grains of rice are so small that it’s not that big a pile yet. Wait, let me tell you what happens next: the mouse went back in the house, took a grain of rice, brought it outside, and put it in a pile. THEN, [acting like it was a turning point in the story] he went back in the house, took a grain of rice, brought it….”

Koi started to beg, “Mommy don’t you have ANOTHER story? What about the Big Bad Wolf? Isn’t he hungry? He’s gonna come and eat the mouse!” I said, “No, he just had Little Red Riding Hood at grandma’s house—he’s good for a while, man. So the mouse went back in the house, took another grain of rice, brought it outside, and put it in a pile…”

At this point, Koi finally gave up and groaned. “I don’t want to hear about the mouse anymore!” I said, “Oh, so you want to go to sleep now?” “But it’s so haaaaarrrrd to go to sleep!!! [extreme whining]” “Ok, so the mouse went back in the house, took a grain of rice, brought it outside…” “Ok Mommy, I’ll go to sleep now.”

Score: Mom. I actually did a victory dance in my head.

Advice to parents—you can use this story, or any variation thereof, if you have one of these children. Basically, find a super-boring story line, and repeat the same four lines over and over and over again. Set it up so it makes sense that you’re repeating the same four lines: scooping water from the ocean with a spoon works well, as does counting blades of grass on a mountain. Make it with a bit of rhythm, so at least it’s fun for you to say.

Now, if you know how to get my kid in the bathtub in under a minute, please let me know. Til next time, everyone.

Dyslexia: Not Just “Backward Letters”

January 16, 2013 by  
Filed under Uncategorized

by Mommy MD Guide Stacey Ann Weiland, MD

One of the most exciting and scary times in a parent’s life is their child’s first day of school. We worry how our child will react and wonder, Will she be happy? Will she make friends? Will she enjoy learning?

It’s a transition time for parents as well. For the first time, we relinquish to another adult the responsibility of teaching our child. We think to ourselves, Will the teacher be kind? Will she model our family values? And most important, Will she bring out my child’s academic potential?

We inspect our child’s papers and homework and compare them with their peers when we volunteer in the classroom. We analyze every scrap of paper we’re presented at teacher conferences, and we listen anxiously to the teacher’s interpretation of our child’s progress.

We want to make sure that things are progressing normally. We don’t want to be overbearing, but deep down, we’ll do anything we can to keep our child from falling behind.

I will never forget, for example, a piece of paper that my daughter Abby brought home several months after starting kindergarten. It was a note she’d written herself with her new friend Tiffany’s phone number. She wanted me to arrange a play date. I remember how proud Abby was at taking the initiative, and how she was literally bouncing up and down begging me to immediately put a call in to Tiffany’s mother.

I remember looking down at the crumpled lined paper, and the blood suddenly draining from my face. All of the numbers were backward! Oh my God! I thought immediately, my child has dyslexia!

Equating backward letters and numbers with a diagnosis of dyslexia is a common misconception. In point of fact, graphic reversals are actually a normal stage in the learning process.

Think about it, what are letters and numbers anyway, but little combinations of lines, curves, and circles? Up until this point in a young child’s life, children have learned that there are many ways to draw things. A triangle has three points, no matter how long each side is. A stick figure is still a person, whether the arms go up or down.

What is a “d” anyway, but a line and a circle stuck together. Why should it matter what side the circle is on? Of course it does matter, and most children do eventually learn to make the important b/d distinction.

Now, this is not to say that dyslexia doesn’t exist. In fact, a true diagnosis of dyslexia is estimated to be present in up to 20 percent of children, or one in five! Signs of dyslexia can be identified at a very early age, even in the preschool years.

Okay, so what is dyslexia anyway? Well, technically speaking, dyslexia is a problem that both children and adults can have with a process called phonemic awareness. So what the heck does that mean?

Phonemic awareness is the process by which a person’s brain converts the squiggles and lines of writing into sounds. This ability is a very complex process, but because it occurs so seamlessly and effortlessly in most of us (at least 80 percent), it’s difficult to believe that anyone could have a problem with it at all.

A dyslexic child’s difficulty with phonemic awareness may manifest with other language problems as well.

For example, some dyslexic children may have experienced a delay in speaking. Children normally say their first words at about one year, followed by phrases by 18 months to two years. In contrast, children with dyslexia may not begin saying their first words until 15 months and may not speak in phrases until after their second birthday.

They may have persistent pronunciation problems, with baby talk continuing past the usual time. They may leave off the beginning sounds of words—“lephant” for “elephant,” or they may invert sounds within a word—“aminal” for “animal.”

Another interesting feature is that dyslexic children can be insensitive to rhymes and rhythms and have difficulty recognizing or reciting rhyming words. They may have difficulty using complex words to describe objects and instead use generic terms such as “stuff” or “things” to compensate for an inability to retrieve the proper words.

When dyslexic children reach school age, they may demonstrate difficulty reading common, one-syllable words, such as “bat,” “top,” or “dog.” They rely heavily on non-word clues in picture books. For example, in a book about driving to school, a dyslexic child may read the word “automobile” as simply “car.”

Dyslexic children can have difficulty with sounding out unknown words and have poor spelling and handwriting. Their reading is choppy and labored, and they demonstrate poor reading comprehension. This isn’t due to a lack of intelligence (in fact, many dyslexics have above average to even gifted IQ’s). Rather, the dyslexic child just gets so muddled in his attempts to interpret the sounds of words that their meaning just becomes lost in the shuffle.

Most elementary schools have now instituted tests screening for a child’s phonemic awareness abilities. These include the DIBELS (Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills) and the DRA (Developmental Reading Assessment). These tests measure particular reading skills, including reading speed, the ability to read nonsense words, and comprehension.

While the DIBELS and the DRA cannot diagnose dyslexia in and of themselves, abnormal findings may offer an indication to more comprehensive testing.

In summary, number and letter reversals by themselves don’t represent a diagnosis of dyslexia and are actually a normal part of the learning process. True dyslexia, on the other hand, is a complex problem where children have difficulties with language in general, which can lead to progressive reading and writing difficulties.

Effective approaches to teaching dyslexic children are available. It’s essential for both parents and educators to recognize the features of dyslexia early on, in order to initiate specific phonemic-based therapies.

Dyslexic children have major potential for success, and we owe it to them to put them on the right path!

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