Favorite Quotes:

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

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thankful for Princesses

It was towards the end of our "Kids Can Cook" class, and our table was set for the Thanksgiving feast. The salad, turkey sandwiches, and pumpkin pie had all been prepared by children 2.5-6 years of age. After sitting down at the table, I asked the children to tell everyone something for which they were thankful. There were some typical responses such as toys, family, dogs, food, and friends. One little girl said sweetly,

"I am thankful for princesses."

Which made me feel thankful that the children at our table were living lives in which they had the luxury of being thankful for princesses. So many children in the world are burdened by hunger, inadequate shelter, fear, and illness. Those children would never even consider being thankful for princesses. It is heartbreaking to think about all of the children that are missing out on the joy of being a child, and are strapped with burdens beyond their power to overcome.

It disturbing that in this day and age, basic care is not being provided for all children. There is more than enough wealth to spread, and while I am no politician, I am sure that there are ways in which we can reallocate funds in order to take care of our children. I am thankful that so many children are well cared for, and hope for a day when all children can be thankful for princesses.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Beautiful or Kind?

After reading a favorite fairytale, I sit the girls down in a circle, and ask,

“Do you think that it would be more important for people to think that you are the most beautiful person in the world, or the nicest person in the world?”

Before anyone can answer, one of the children begins to cough, and it turns into quite a fit. We pause, and I give her some water.

“Are you okay?” I ask, patting her gently on the back.

She nods, “yes,” and then the coughing starts up. First one, then another, and another. Suddenly, everyone is quite ill, and in need of a drink of water and a pat on the back.

“My, everyone here certainly is sick today! Maybe we should stop the class and go to the doctor instead!” I say dramatically.

The coughing abruptly subsides.

“That’s better! So, anyway, what do you think? Think about being the most beautiful person in the world, or the nicest.”

One of the girls says,

“One time I got really sick, and had to take medicine from the doctor.”

Another child offers,

“My medicine that helps me poop tastes really bad.”

There is a brief lull as the children seriously study the girl with the pooping problem, and after a moment, they seem to come to a place of understanding, and let it go.

“I have a boo-boo on my finger,” says one little girl, presenting her tiny, unflawed finger.

Another girl fiercely picks her scab, and then screams,

“Blood! I’m bleeding! I need a Band-aid!”

So I get the kit.

“I think I only have Spiderman Band-aids left. Is that okay, or does it matter?”

“It matters.”

After digging deeper, I find a Dora, and she is pleased. I get a hug around the knees. Me personally, I would rather have everyone see me as the nicest person in the world.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Firefarter Frank

I find that quite often the words that come out of my mouth are quite different from what I actually intended to say. For example, “Argentina” comes out as, “Art-and-Gina.” Or, if I mean to say that I got stuck in traffic, I might say, “I got stunk in traffic.” I often wonder if I’ve used too much bug spray with Deet over the years, or if there’s such thing as verbal dyslexia. Could it be super-early onset Alzheimer’s? A brain tumor? A side effect of my hearing problem? Regardless of the cause, it is embarrassing. Due to the nature of my job, I frequently speak to groups of people such as children, parents, customers, and so on.

One quite memorable verbal fumble occurred when I was reading a story to a group of children during “Firefighter Week” at summer camp. The story was called, “Firefighter Frank.” And so I began,

Firefarter Frank…”

I got no further due to the mass breakout of hysteria. You must admit that it conjures up an amusing image, even if you are over the age of 3. After about ten minutes of mayhem, asthma attacks, and peeing-of-pants, things calmed down. I explained my error, and I started again, carefully enunciating every syllable.

Fi-re-FIGH-TER Frank was on duty…”

More hysteria breaks out, and I am momentarily puzzled, but then a little girl shouts out, “DOODY!!!” slaps her hand to her forehead, and falls backward laughing. Thanks to me, their minds were already in the gutter, and that, compounded with the fact that they were unable to read, led to their interpretation of Firefighter Frank sitting on a pile of, well, doody. That one was not my fault, but nevertheless, everything was chaotic for another five minutes or so.

After things calmed down, we had a quick lesson on homonyms. I was able to make it through the rest of the book after that, but there were several more perilously close calls with the word “firefighter,” and all of the childrens little eyes darted up to my face in anticipation every time I nearly misspoke. To this day, I still have trouble with that one. I am often tempted to go back to the pre-P.C. label of “fireman.” It would make things a lot easier. I think that female firefighters would be less offended if I referred to the occupation as “fireman” as opposed to “firefarter,” but you never know.

So, if I happen to be speaking in tongues during a future conversation with you, just bear in mind that this little issue occurs with me from time to time, and take your best guest at what I actually mean to spay.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Chicken Ball Pizza

I dial the number for the pizza shop. After a few rings, someone picks up, and I hear heavy breathing. Maybe they need a little customer service training. I guess what really matters is whether or not the pizza tastes good.

“Hello?” I say. “Is this the pizza shop?”
“Uh, yes, I’d like to order a medium mushroom pizza.”
Hhhu-hhhuu-hhhhh…” CLICK.

Well, no problem, the restaurant is very close by – I’ll just order in person. I arrive and the waiter/chef ignores me, and continues to work on his pizza. Several other waiters and waitresses stand around writing down orders and boxing up pizzas. I go up to the chef and say,

“That pizza looks good. What’s that you’re putting on it?”

No eye contact, he keeps working.

“Chicken balls.”

Uh-huh. Chicken balls. Interesting choice. I politely cough to cover my gasp/laughter. I don’t want to offend the chef.

“Oh. Well, may I please order a mushroom pizza?” I ask.

“No. Chicken balls.”

Ah, a house specialty. Fine, I tell him. Let’s make that a small then.

“So, how long will it take?”

“Forty-hundred-minutes. It’s ready at thirty o’clock.”

This is what happens when pizza shops are staffed by two year-olds. What’s that saying we're always throwing at kids? “You get what you get, and you don’t get upset.”

I don't know that teaching children that "you get what you get, and you don't get upset" is beneficial to their developing sense of self. It's kind of borderline totalitarianism. A better slogan might be,

"Sometimes you get what you get, and you might get upset. It's okay to assert yourself and ask about why you got what you got, as long as you are not disrespectful. If you feel that the explanation that you are given is unfair, then you can make a plea for your case. However, this will not always result in you getting your way, because sadly, life isn't fair."

But then, that's kind of wordy. So I say,

"Are you sure I can't get a mushroom pizza? I really don't care for chicken."

Reply: "Chicken balls."

Sigh. Sometimes life gives you lemons, and you make lemonade. Sometimes life gives you chickens, and you make chicken ball pizza.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Don't Shoot Me Up Too High, Okay?

Do you remember the "parachute" unit in gym class? It was an amazing feeling to be able to manipulate something so huge... so many little arms working together to create a sea of silky waves. Unfortunately, the parachute unit only lasted a day or two. We had to make time for more important things like "four-square." ANY-hoo...

Now that I have control over such things, I bring out the parachute for my own classes from time to time. Parachute games are an excellent way to develop gross motor skills, the concept of teamwork, and listening skills.

One of the activities that I enjoy doing with the children is letting them each take a turn sitting on the parachute while the rest of the class shakes it. So, as I was introducing this activity to one of my classes, I instructed the first student to go and sit in the middle of the parachute. I told him that the rest of us were going to shake the parachute.

The three-year-old child went and sat down on the middle of the parachute, looked up at me, and said,

"Don't shoot me up too high, okay?"

Of course, I immediately clarified the exercise for him, but in my mind I was just amazed. Amazed that this tiny person would have enough faith in me, and his classmates, to allow himself to be launched into the air. It chokes me up just thinking about it. I'm verklempt! (but that happens a lot these days).

Lately, I feel just like that little boy. Bracing myself to be thrust into the unknown, but pleasantly surprised to find that although I am treading on shaky ground, I am supported by those around me. Thanks to all of you out there who are holding onto those handles.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Bitten in the Stomach by a Lion

So there I was, with a lion running straight toward me at full speed, and I was its prey. Time slowed down, and I couldn't help but wonder if I was actually going to be attacked. Sure enough, seconds later, the lion was sinking its teeth into my stomach.

How did I live to tell this tale, you ask? The lion was actually a three-year-old child, fully engaging himself in his character at a Jungle-themed birthday party. Fortunately, there was a thin layer of foam mask separating his tiny teeth from my stomach, or else he may have drawn blood.

I am not sure who was more shocked - me, or my predator. After it happened, I stood there in disbelief, and he did too. He looked up at me, beady little eyes peering at me from beneath the mask, and then he ran off to his pride.

This is just one of the many unusual experiences that I have had over the course of the thousands of enrichment classes and birthday parties that I have conducted for children and families, I have had many wild and wonderful adventures.

I plan on sharing some of the amazing experiences that I have had working with my students, and hope that you will share my blog with others, if you find it of interest.