Favorite Quotes:

Child sitting on parachute: "Don't shoot me up too high, okay?"

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

From Kiddies to Kitties: Switching Gears to Discuss Pet Adoption

I just rebooted my laptop. Again. One of my newly adopted cats stepped on the keyboard and put my computer into limbo. The cats have been exploring every square inch of our home; apparently, that includes my C: drive.

My husband and I recently adopted two little ladies from Mary’s Kitty Korner. We adopted Magoo (so named for her perpetual stink-eye look) and Amy to help fill the void left after recently euthanizing a beloved pet. They have indeed filled the void - with affection, crazy antics, and to our dismay, an astonishing amount of flatulence.

-0pkop;l  ← (Magoo says hello)

Located in Granby, Mary’s Kitty Korner is home to several dozen homeless cats and run by kind, dedicated volunteers. Mary’s Kitty Korner has cats of every color, size, and personality. It is surprisingly clean (no small task) and the cats are well tended to. The volunteers were eager to introduce us to the cats and to help us find a good fit.   

If you are contemplating pet ownership, please visit the website for Mary’s Kitty Korner or one of the many animal rescue groups, such as Animal Friends of Connecticut. Countless animals are waiting for loving homes. For every cat you adopt from Mary’s, another is rescued from a high-kill shelter. One adoption saves two cats.

Mary’s requires that those interested in adopting fill out an application. This requirement is understandable - the cats at Mary’s have all been through some difficult times and deserve to go to safe, loving homes. One of our cats had been rescued from a swimming pool, nearly drowned. The other is an orphan. The other cats we met were rescued from abandoned homes, hoarding situations and fires. Others were there because their owner had died or because they had been rejected after not being a good fit in their original home.  

One of the helpful features of the website for Mary’s Kitty Korner is that each cat has the equivalent of a little Facebook profile complete with “Likes” (as in “Likes” Dogs or “Likes” to live somewhere without young children). This helps to ensure that the cats go to a suitable home. In the event that an adoption does not work out, Mary’s has a “no questions asked” return policy.

Age, history, and health information are provided in most cases. Mary’s Kitty Korner keeps all cats up to date with vaccinations, tests cats for Feline Leukemia/FIV, and spays/neuters cats when they are old enough.

Making the decision to adopt a pet was easy. However, deciding which animal to adopt was not so easy. Hopefully, this post will help find homes for a few of the other cats that we had to leave behind.

Other things you can do to help:

-          Do your research before getting a pet
-          Spay/neuter your pet
-          Donate to animal adoption agencies
-          Encourage others to do all of the above

Special thanks to our wonderful veterinarian, Dr. Staudacher of Roaring Brook Veterinary Hospital in Canton.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Power of the Written Word

Notebooks and a variety of writing materials are frequently provided for our students, in order to encourage them to practice writing, regardless of where they are with their skills.  I have found notebooks with several consecutive pages of scribble "cursive", painstakingly and precisely written on each line.

Students in our classes use notebooks and paper to take orders, make notes about things that they observe, write down clues, label items, make signs, write letters, draw, and much more.  Prior to a class during which we use the notebooks, we often tear out the old entries so that the notebooks are fresh.  We find all sorts of interesting entries, but the above is one of my favorites. I keep it in my office, and it always makes me laugh.

With the ability to write comes power.  I remember being sent to my room as a child, and being so angry, that I wrote down the word "cripes" on a piece of paper. I remember thinking that my parents could control what I said out loud, but that I could write whatever I wanted on paper. I sure showed them.  Back to work - I have much to do. Doody doo doo poo!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Toddler Carjacking: News at 10:00

One Sweet Ride

You’ve all seen the red and yellow Little Tikes Cozy Coupes. You may notice when you pass some daycare centers that there is a whole fleet of these vehicles on the playground. The Little Tikes Cozy Coupe is the must-have vehicle of the toddler set, and without enough to go around, things tend to get ugly.

I remember working at a daycare center that had only one of the coveted coupes. It was a great facility, and the teachers were vigilant when it came to keeping an eye on all areas of the playground. However, just as in real life, you can’t always react quickly enough to stop a crime in progress.

One morning our little group of children (ranging from about 18 months to 2 years of age) was enjoying some fresh air when the heinous crime unfolded in slow motion before my very eyes.

One little man was going about his business in the coupe. He stopped briefly, and the moment he did, some other little man came and muscled him right out of his car. The perp opened the little yellow door, grabbed the driver by the jacket, and pulled him out of the vehicle. He then promptly got in, slammed the door, and drove away as quickly as his little Fred Flintstone feet would go.

The driver lay stunned on the ground. The diminutive innocent bystanders, who had stopped to watch the crime go down, resumed their activities.

Fortunately, the perp was promptly apprehended, and the vehicle was returned to its rightful (albeit temporarily rightful) owner. I am pleased to report that the driver suffered no injuries.

I have also seen children try to “tip” another child out of a Little Tikes Coupe. It’s like that scene from the original Superman movie, during which mini-Superman lifts a car by its rear bumper. The tipping method is not as effective in removing the occupant however, and by the time the aggressor is able to get the car off of the ground an inch or so, the law is on site to intervene.

What to do about this alarming trend in toddler crime? Does the Cozy Coupe need a panic button? Door locks? Solutions, anyone?

Sunday, February 28, 2010

On Resembling a Muppet

So, how do you know when it’s time to get your hair cut? A few weeks ago, when I was a bit overdue for a trim, one of my 3 year-old students sized me up as she munched on her snack. She said, 

“Miss Angela, your hair is kind of furry on top.”

Hmmm. No misinterpreting that.

It was just an ugly coincidence (or was it?) that when I got my hair cut later that week, I asked my hairdresser to trim my bangs a bit more, and she ended up cutting them super-short. I went around looking like Kristy McNichol for three weeks, (am I dating myself?) which is fine for looking like a “fox” in 1978, but not so much in 2010.

A different student inquired of another CreativeWorks teacher,

“Why do you have hair like a boy?”

I think that it would be a good idea for hair salons to have 3 year-old consultants on staff. That way, when the hairdresser asked if you wanted a little more off the top, you could get a truly honest opinion. (“No, you might look like a boy.” “Yes, your hair is too furry.”)

For a number of years I took my birthday party gig on the road, and for the fairytale theme parties, I came dressed as a princess character. Then came the day of truth, when I was told,

“You kinda look more like a queen than a princess.”

Not long after that, I hung up my glass slippers and pursued other characters. Granted, I am sensitive to begin with, but you know, these kids are telling the ugly truth, whether you want to hear it or not. The princess critic was like a little image consultant: “You know, this look isn’t working for you anymore. I don’t think that your customers are buying it. Let’s try something else.” All she needed was a Blackberry.

When children are very young, and are still working out the kinks regarding tactfulness, there is an interesting developmental period during which they call ‘em like they see ‘em, and there is a lot of adult cringing that goes on before things smooth out.  

Of course, in my classes, if an "inappropriate" comment is made, I address it, and we discuss when it is acceptable to say something out loud, and when it’s better to “keep your words in your head.” We talk about how and why certain comments affect people's feelings. But really, I'm okay with looking like an old Queen with a hairdo like Bert/Kristy McNichol. Really.

For a related story, read Fair Weather Friends.  If you have a related incident that you'd like to share, please leave a comment.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Thinking Outside of the Bag

Photo and sculpture by student/architect
Kapla Blocks
What might it be? (I'll start: A Fairy Hotel)
Respond in the comments section after this post.

One sensory activity that I like to do from time to time is a guessing game that challenges children to identify objects using only their sense of touch.

During this activity, a student reaches into a bag (without looking) and grasps the first thing that she touches. The student then tries to identify the item prior to removing it from the bag.

I make a point to include items that are familiar in shape, so that the children will be successful. For example, I may include a pair of sunglasses, a cup, a brush, a teddy bear, and so on.

Upon asking one of the students what he thought his object might be, he replied,

“A hole.” He then pulled out a bangle bracelet. A hole! Far out, dude.

We go around the circle: Spoon. Paintbrush. Paper Plate. Block.

Then we come back to the same little boy. He reaches in, pauses, and says,

“General Grievous.” I love it. (For those of you not in-the-know, General Grievous is a a bizarre skeletal robot from Star Wars). The boy then pulls a metal race car from the bag.

Hmm. Perhaps he was taking the question “what do you think it might be?” literally. It’s not nearly the same question as “what is it?”

It is a child’s natural state to “think outside of the box.” They are born outside of the box. Adults are the ones buying them the boxes, sticking them in there, and paying for rush shipping. It’s hard not to. We live in a giant UPS store. (Alright, enough with the box metaphors).

So, now I make a point to remember that what was originally a sensory exercise can be used as a tactile challenge or a creativity exercise, depending upon how the question of identification is phrased.

It’s ironic that I needed this reminder this from one of my students when, in fact, I’ve been using a similar creativity exercise at educator workshops for years. During the exercise, I give the teachers a simple object, and they then have to list all of the things that the object might symbolize in under a minute. For example, if they are given a piece of string, they might come up with: a leash, a hair tie, a tightrope, a fishing line…and so on.

We see a star flickering low in the sky, and we know that it’s a star. Most of us have lost that youthful ability to stop and imagine that it is a fairy, a beacon from a pirate ship, or a candle in a castle window. I just heard a series of beeps. It might have been a spy radio signal or a robot, but unfortunately, it was my dryer. Time to get back in the box.

Monday, February 22, 2010

They're All Dead!

I am a dog person without a dog, so I get my fixes where I can. If you’re heading out the door at Target, and you see someone near your parked car talking baby-talk to your dog, it is probably me. Don’t call the police.

The responses that I receive vary. There’s the “I’d be happy to go home with you, let’s go!” whole-body wag, the resolute “I shall ignore you, and avoid all eye contact, for I am waiting for my owner,” and the maniacal bark.

My husband and I are allowed to share a home with a type-A cat who would never permit his territory to be invaded by another being outside of our existing pride. Except for the occasional mouse, which, annoyingly enough, doesn’t faze him a bit.  So for now, we are dogless.

On one of our day-sucking Target-Petco-CVS-Staples-Michael’s-Mobil-Shaw’s-iParty-Bank outings, we passed a new doggie-daycare (a topic for another entry). We decided to go in and check out the facility (i.e., see the dogs) under the auspices of comparison-shopping for a suitable daycare for our beloved Rover.

At the time that we entered, a mother and her son (3 or 4-ish) was entering the building as well. We all went up to the suites/pens/stalls/cells/whatever and peered in at the dogs. One of the suites contained a group of puppies that were lying down and sleeping in that deep sleep reserved for infants of all species.

The little boy surveyed the puppy pile for a moment, and then said in a voice that conveyed part distress, and part utter disgust toward his mother for bringing him to view such a tragedy,

“They’re all DEAD!”

Well, you just never know what your Mom is going to pull on you, do you? One day it’s all ice-cream and playgrounds, and the next it’s viewing a pile of dead puppies. A trip to Grandma’s one day, a stab in the arm the next. Life is full of surprises.

Of course, the mother explained that the puppies were just sleeping (in a rather defensive sounding tone), but I don’t know if her son bought it. Perhaps his mother had uttered one too many white lies.

For example, I have heard:

“I am just ‘testing’ the camcorder.”
“Those gumball machines are broken.”
“It’s a place that sells playground equipment.” (McDonald’s with playscape)

Mmm-hmm. Riiiiiiiiiight.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

It Can't Hurt to Ask

It’s so interesting to witness the budding personalities of the young children in my classes. You can almost pick out who will end up being an authoritative CEO, an eccentric artist, a caring teacher, a persuasive lawyer, or a ground-breaking inventor.

Recently, I was doing a train themed birthday party, and one of the little guests came up to me. She looked up at our new Thomas the Train set, running on a track above the party area, and she said,

“Can I have that Thomas?”

Hmmm. Keep a straight face, Miss Angela.

“I’m sorry, I know that it would be really fun to have, but we need it here.”



“Well, because imagine how other children might feel if they came here to have a train party, and our Thomas the Train was gone. They would be sad.”

She nodded her head, and walked away.

Without the preconceptions that we adults carry around with us about How the World Works, this little girl was able to give it a shot. She truly thought that there was a chance that she would be walking out of there with that Thomas set. It’s more than that though; not every child would approach an adult with such a bold inquiry. I’ve had children ask me if they could take keep costumes, books, stuffed animals, and even party plates. At least they ask. I’ve seen a number of our smallish belongings stuffed into little pants pockets and walk out the door, and have had to pursue the perps for interrogation. I’m not too tough on them though, because I know that they’re still learning How the World Works, and because I know what it feels like to want. We all do. Whether it’s a tangible item or not, we all want something.

A five-year-old boy whispered his request into our wishing well at a Snow White party recently, and I heard him whisper “world peace”. I hope he gets what he asked for, but I don’t think that it’s likely. It can't hurt to ask.