It looks like a lilac to me

During the spring, it stood in the east outdoor corner of my childhood yard. Probably the most healthy of the plants that grew there. I couldn’t wait for my Mom to cut a large bunch, wrap them in tin foil during Springs mornings before school and give them to my favorite teachers; usually for my kindergarten, first grade and my fourth grade.

Then, I had no idea that the elegant smelling lavender lilacs would not last very long. Old Moms did not know the tricks in getting the beautiful fragrance to last more than a day.

Even when I became a Mom, I did not have a lilac bush at home so I would steal my neighbors lilacs at night. He was a great, longtime friend watching his tree dwindle but never said a word. I scattered them in vases throughout the house knowing not to send them to school with my little ones. Not because they were stolen…but knowing they would fade quickly.  My own children didn’t seem to be that interested anyway in brightening their teachers day with flowers from the garden.

My neighbor moved and I was scared to steal anymore so I  planted a lilac tree in our backyard. As it grew, my developing children pressed their noses into the tree while filling my vases inside and out.

However, I still liked my neighbors tree better; the fragrance was more overpowering reminding me of my youth. Occasionally, after many years, I will race down the street with scissors in hand when no one is watching.

Helping lilacs live longer:

If you want to give it a try, take a cutting from a healthy lilac and place the stem in a clear or amber glass or jar with 1 to 2 inches of water. Be sure to strip the leaves from the part of the stem that will be in the water to keep the cutting from rotting. Add fresh water as needed.

Though she did not know my love for lilacs, a first grader gave me one of the best handmade flower that looks like a lilac to me! That especially reminds me of the gratitude towards teachers that is still expressed and appreciated today. Thankfully those virtues remain.

I will be sure to wrap my flower carefully…maybe in tin foil….and take home from school to celebrate my summer vacation. The flower can sit beside me in a protected vase during the early months of summer while I lounge outside………under my lilac tree.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Sucker Tree

My grandfather’s whitewashed farmhouse was located in small town, central Illinois framed by an ever-changing horizon and guarded by cornstalks.  Each had grown tall with gangling arms, restive and ready to capture their trespassers, twisting their leafy fingers round and round, threatening to arrest me. I was only six years old then.

I quickly made my way inside the chipped picket fence, protected from the grasp of the tawny soldiers.

The screen door creaked and cracked like the bones of an elder, opening and shutting again as Granddad reached for me with outstretched arms of endearment.

Behind the thick panes of his spectacles, his narrow eyes glistened with delight.  His face flushed with excitement, the color of the early autumn foliage that vividly shaded his home that day.

“I have another surprise for you, little one,” he spoke in a whisper.

Of course, I was expecting this and returned his words with a huge grin.  Once again, Granddad had not let me down for my visits were always greeted with something truly wonderful, a phenomena for the entire world to see but, unfortunately, allowed for Granddad and my eyes only!

He slowly took a seat in his polished, Hitchcock rocker and I piled into his lap, anxious to listen.

“Out back, only a few feet away from the house, my child, something very special is happening,” he said.

“What is it, Granddad?”  I responded, eyes wide with childhood curiosity.

He paused for a moment to gather his thought, clearing his aged vocal cords as well.

“A tree is just starting to bloom!”

……….Granddad had topped himself with amazing stories this time!  I wondered if his mind had taken a wrong turn somewhere, the grownups called it senility, I think.  Anyway, I was always considered bright for my years and knew better to believe that trees did not prosper during this particular season!  Leaves transformed from green to brown, then withered and fell to the ground to be either raked away or covered with blankets of snow at the onset of winter weather.  It didn’t take experience in years to attain that knowledge so what was this man fabricating now?

I was extremely disappointed, to say the least.

“Granddad, trees don’t bloom in autumn!”  I said in defiance.

“This one does,” he answered confidently.

Granddad had never lied to me in the past.  Did he really know something that the rest of Illinois and I had not encountered.  It was certainly possible.  In fact anything was possible.

“What kind of tree is it?”  I asked, attempting to pacify Granddad, giving him the benefit of the doubt.

“A sucker tree!”  he proudly announced.  “When all the other trees and shrubs shed their leafy dress, this tiny tree begins to thrive with lollipops of rainbow colors.  One by one, they pop out like magic with stems and all, dangling from the branches.  When each sucker is ripe and just the right size, they can be picked and eaten.”

As Granddad continued to go on and on, I was mesmerized by his delightful description.  This was too good…..just too good to be true!  However, once again, Granddad had me right where he wanted me.

“Are the suckers ripe now?”  I asked, nearly jumping out of his lap.

“Well, let’s find out,” he suggested as we climbed out of the rocker and quickly headed to the backyard.

He gestured for me to go first and my impatience caused me to slide down the back steps, my bottom sore and surely splintered right through my pants!

I didn’t care because, only a few inches from me, a miracle really was occurring right before my startling eyes.

A young tree, only a foot or two taller than myself, caught my undivided attention.  Its’ trunk looked like any other and it was naked of leaves but, lo and behold, lollipops, approximately four inches round, hung delicately on their stems from each branch.  There were five or six already in bloom and pink, blue, yellow, and green colors swirled in their centers.  Each childhood delicacy gently swayed to the tunes of the afternoon breeze.

“Can I pick one?”  I uttered in a small voice.

This was a sight that would be locked in my memory for all time.

“Why, of course,” he smiled.  “Two, if you like”

My mouth watered as I let my tongue whirl around on the colors, blending the pinks into the blues, creating my own masterpiece and savoring its’ flavor while the sucker shrunk in size, eventually disappearing into my belly.

I hugged Granddad tightly, thanking him for letting me share this fascinating September event.

The following year in early autumn, Granddad had passed to another land and my heart ached for his return that could never be.  I would miss him for many years to come.

After his funeral, I removed myself from the crowd and took a seat on those familiar back steps to gaze on nature’s evolution.  Each tree had changed color and their leaves began to drop to their demise, almost like what had happened to my Granddad.

I then focused on the sucker tree.  Its’ barren branches seemed to stretch wearily toward the sky as if asking God to return my Granddad.  Not one lollipop adorned its’ arms.  The tree was lost without him for only Granddad knew the secret ingredients that could provide the tree with eternal like.  The sucker tree had become a fabric of memory along with my brilliant Granddad sitting beside it.

30th Anniversary of the Rube Goldberg Machine Contest® Live Finals

Registration Still Open For Historic Competition

Thousands of Students Compete to Pour a Bowl of Cereal in the Most Complicated and Comical Way!

New York, NY — Rube Goldberg, Inc. continues to celebrate laughter and invention through their annual RUBE GOLDBERG MACHINE CONTEST®, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary by having its Live Finals relocated to the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago April 20-22, 2018. Registration is now open and students of all ages across the country are encouraged to enter in this year’s contest, which will also premier an Apprentice Division for the first time, aimed at kids in elementary school.

“We’re excited and honored to be at the Museum of Science and Industry for this very special year in our history,” said Jennifer George, the RUBE GOLDBERG MACHINE CONTEST®’s Legacy Director and the grand-daughter of Rube Goldberg. “We’re both committed to creating a fun and engaging experience where kids not only learn a lot about S.T.E.M., they also learn to laugh at the same time.”

Started in 1988 as a college competition, the RUBE GOLDBERG MACHINE CONTEST® uses the iconic invention cartoons of the famous Pulitzer Prize-winning artist, Rube Goldberg as its inspiration. Since that time, thousands of students, teachers, hosts, inventors, museum personnel and Rube fanatics have participated. The competition is also a learning experience which falls in the category of S.T.E.M. / S.T.E.A.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math– and Art) education. Rube Goldberg is often referred to as “the grandfather of S.T.E.M.”

Each year’s contest focuses on a defined task which every machine is designed to accomplish. For 2018, the simple task is “Pour a Bowl of Cereal” and the RUBE GOLDBERG MACHINE CONTEST®’s 2018 Task Sponsor is General Mills. Students from elementary to the university level are encouraged to make this simple task ridiculously complicated and will be judged on their teamwork, creativity and spirit of Rube Goldberg.  Approximately 40-50 teams will be competing in the Live Finals at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago.  The teams which compete at Finals have won regional competitions, where more than 250 teams compete.

“We’re very excited to host the Live Finals this year, as The Museum of Science and Industry, American’s foremost science museum since 1933, has always focused on hands-on, experiential learning. We’re looking forward to seeing the comical, creative and complicated Rube Goldberg Machines come to life in our community,” said Anne Rashford, The Museum of Science and Industry’s Director of Special Exhibitions and Business Partnerships.

Registration for the contest will remain open through March. There are four divisions to accommodate students at all school levels. Participants can go to http://rubegoldberg.com to register and get more information.

ABOUT RUBE GOLDBERG:

Rube Goldberg (1883-1970) was a Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist best known for his zany invention cartoons. Rube Goldberg is the only person ever to be listed in the Merriam Webster Dictionary as an adjective. It’s estimated that he did a staggering 50,000 cartoons in his lifetime. Rube Goldberg, Inc. is dedicated to keeping laughter and invention alive through the legacy of its namesake. Annual competitions, image licensing, merchandising, and museum and entertainment opportunities continue to grow and enhance the brand. At the helm is Rube’s granddaughter, Jennifer George, whose best-selling book on her grandfather, The Art of Rube Goldberg, is now in its fourth printing.RGI is a not-for-profit 501(c)3 dedicated to promoting STEM & STEAM education for students of all ages.

Five of the best Chicago land holiday light presentations

It was called the Christmas Tree House. That’s what my kids called it, anyway, back in the early 1990’s. And you had to wait…a mile long car line on Christmas Eve to see the house in Downers Grove, Il. Neighbors of the Gorsham family also decorated to excess so you were entertained while you moved pleasantly through the neighborhood…your children oohing and ahhing in the back seat.

The Gorsham house had a booth that held Santa and Mrs Claus on weekdays and the house was highlighted with a beautiful train village in the garage and several booths of animated scenes.The crew members would begin decorating in October and the Gorsham’s would end up with an electric bill of 3 to 4 thousand dollars. They finally retired and moved to a warmer climate selling their stock to a neighboring village.

Where are some of the best places in the Chicago land area to view decorations and lights today? The zoos are the first favorites to begin.

Lincoln Park Zoolights 
Lincoln Park Zoo, 2200 N. Cannon Dr., Chicago
On the north side of Chicago, for over 20 years Lincoln Park Zoo has provided a beautiful light display of over 2 million lights. You can also find beautiful ice carvings throughout the zoo grounds and other holiday related activities such as ice skating where you can bring your own skates or rent a pair.

Holiday Magic at Brookfield Zoo
Brookfield Zoo 8400 31st St. Brookfield, Il 60513
Just south of Chicago in Brookfield at the zoo, you can see over 30 years of celebration for the holiday season. Visitors can be dazzled by over a million lights and can enjoy caroling with the animals and special treat with Santa and Mrs. Claus. Several corporations have set up trees set to music and one that you can actually interact.

Aurora’s Festival of Light’s
Phillips Park, 1000 Ray Moses Drive. Aurora, IL 60505
Free admission to the festival in Aurora just southwest of Chicago which is considered one of the largest displays. You can drive through a dazzling mile of lights that are animated and a Christmas Tree that is 20 feet tall and actually sings.

Larsens in Elburn

When he was a senior in high school he was awarded the lawn maintenance contract for the City of St. Charles; a huge contract and from there he went into landscaping and design work.

In 2000, Brian Larsen incorporated County Wide Landscaping, Inc. and pretty much got out of maintenance and concentrated on design work. He went to CAD architectural school and focused on designing outdoor living spaces. Since he has won awards for his work and has designed his own Christmas house since 2006. People have traveled from all over the world to see this show light show during the holidays. Brian uses a little over one million lights and because of how the display is set up, over 20,000 extension cords.

According to the Larsens, inside the house you can’t even tell what is going on outside unless you look out the window. The music is also transmitted to play on the visitor’s car stereo via a FM transmitter so you don’t hear the music.

Mooseheart Holiday Lights

Holiday Lights at Mooseheart in Batavia is one of  the largest Chicagoland’s light displays! The lighted route is approximately 1.8 miles and has more than 80 lighted displays to view.

New this year is a half-mile extension of the route to include Mooseheart’s farm area for the first time. A live Nativity scene will highlight this new portion of the show on Nov. 30, Dec. 7, 14 and Dec. 21-24.

Even though Santa is extremely busy this time of year, he couldn’t turn down an opportunity to visit Mooseheart! For six nights this year – Dec. 8-10 and Dec. 15-17 – the admission price includes not only the Holiday Lights show, but also a chance to see Santa Claus at the Mooseheart fieldhouse.

Santa will sit for free photos beginning at 5:30pm. In addition to Santa Claus, children can enjoy a crafts, holiday music, hot chocolate, and Christmas cookies at the fieldhouse.

Let’s play Jenga’s Ocean game!

I know all about Jenga.

In the 1990’s, my own children loved to try and stack the 54 hardwood building blocks on a snow day from school with Mom pointing and cheering them on.

Last year, assisting in the fifth grade classroom, we built one of the best Jenga towers, a game of physical skill, which was a favorite activity during indoor recess. However, I am currently working in the a first grade classroom and we used Jenga blocks just yesterday to set up a math game.

Jenga was created by Leslie Scott in the late 1980’s and according to statistics, as late as 2017, over 80 million games have been sold world wide. And over the decades there are number of collector edition Jenga games such as the Walking Dead, as well as so many other variants like the two described below.

Jenga® Ocean™ Game http://www.artsideas.biz/jeng a-ocean-game/

· Jenga® Ocean™ is the first board game ever using plastic recycled entirely from fishing nets.

· This game is a reminder of the urgent need to protect our oceans. Discarded fishing nets have been identified as the most harmful form of plastic pollution in the ocean. Every year, they trap tens of thousands of ocean animals, including whales, dolphins, sharks, sea turtles, seals, octopuses, and sea birds which become entangled and cannot escape.

· Each set of Jenga® Ocean™ game blocks is made from over 25 square feet of recycled fishing nets. The use of this recycled material will help reduce the continuing accumulation of plastic fishing nets in the ocean, helping to protect ocean sea life and ecosystems.

· Ages 6 to adult, MSRP $49.95.

· Available at jengagiant.com as well as specialty retailers.

JENGA® GIANT™ JS7 http://www.artsideas.biz/jen ga-giant-js7-hardwood-game-sta cks-to-5-feet/

· Jenga Giant JS7 is THE largest authentic hardwood JENGA® game you can buy!

· Fun to play and exciting to watch, it’s the perfect addition to any party!

· Key features include 54 oversized, precision-crafted, high quality, smoothly polished hardwood blocks with a Heavy Duty JENGA® GIANT™ Carry Bag.

· JENGA® GIANT™ JS7 is recommended for one or more players.

· Ages 12 to adult, MSRP $169.95.

· Available on jengagiant.com

Experience British Adventures with the Iconic ‘The Famous Five’ with a New App by Kuato Studios

London based Kuato Studios partners with Enid Blyton Entertainment to recreate the adventures of The Famous Five in a downloadable children’s app

Children can immerse themselves in a good old-fashioned English adventure with the launch of a new Famous Five mystery game on the App Store by award-winning app developer, Kuato Studios. The launch of the new app coincides with this year’s 75th anniversary of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five, a beloved British book series. The Famous Five app will be available in the iOS app store beginning October 25, 2017 for $2.99

Regarded as one of her most popular series, renowned British author, Enid Blyton originally planned to write just six Famous Five books but extended the series to 21, owing to reader demand. Now these much loved characters will enter the digital world with Kuato Studios’ new app!

The Famous Five app has been designed with all the positive values associated with the books in mind, including friendship, heroism, adventure, love of the outdoors and daring.  As with all Kuato games in the Tales Maker series, the app nurtures inquisitive minds and develops literacy skills through storytelling and engaging game play.

The app allows children to explore the iconic world of The Famous Five, a world packed full of English adventure, mystery and intrigue!  Each mystery features unique characters and iconic locations throughout England found in the books, such as the castle ruins of Kirrin Island and Tapper’s Travelling Fair.

The new Kuato game will enthrall Famous Five enthusiasts and those new to the as now, not only can they read about the adventures, but they can also help Julian, Dick, Anne, George and their friendly dog Timmy search for clues, question suspects and solve the mysteries they encounter! With multiple solutions and plot combinations, no single story will ever be repeated and once the mystery has been solved, children can enjoy reading their personalized adventures back in their own game generated storybook!

For Dyslexic readers, there is a section within the Parents Corner where users can choose from accessibility options, including, Open Dyslexic font and color overlays to help readability.

The Famous Five app will be available in the iOS app store beginning October 25, 2017 for $2.99

About Kuato Studios

Backed by Horizons Ventures, Kuato Studios was formed in early 2012 with talent from world-renowned games studios, award-winning education experts and specialists in artificial intelligence. The studio currently has a number of educational game titles: Code Warriors, a coding game for 9-14 year old; and Dino Tales and Safari Tales which were launched in 2015 and focus on literacy skills for 4-10 year olds. The Tales titles have consistently reached #1 in both the Kids and Education charts on the App Store across the world.

About Enid Blyton:

Enid Blyton is one of the world’s best-selling children’s authors. Sales of her books are in excess of 500 million copies, and they have been translated into over 40 languages. Enid Blyton began her career as a school teacher before becoming a bestselling children’s book author, writing over 800 books. In the UK she still sells more than one book a minute and many of her books have been adapted into films and TV series. As well as being regularly voted the UK’s best-loved author, Enid Blyton is the most translated children’s author in the world, according to UNESCO. Her most popular works include: The Famous Five, The Secret Seven, The Naughtiest Girl, The Adventure Series, The Faraway Tree, Twins at St Clare’s and Malory Towers. In 2012, Hachette acquired the intellectual property of the whole of Enid Blyton’s estate (excluding Noddy). In April 2016 Enid Blyton Entertainment was created to represent the fully immersive Entertainment entity.@BlytonOfficial

Are your children safe at school?

On Thursday in the my first grade classroom, we performed a lock down drill to e viewed by the police. Classroom doors must be locked, lights turned off and after practicing with the children before on the seriousness of this drill, I was surprised. When the announcement came to begin the drill, students turned off their voices and moved to the corner of the room designated, moving close to those they may not be quite as fond . They huddled together, boys with girls and they did not make a sound.  In the minutes that we sat, I thought of Vegas, I thought of Columbine, I thought about what if this was real. The look on their faces were fear, wide-eyed and one i held close.

There are almost 750,000 registered sex offenders in the United States. More than 200,000 children are the victims of family abductions each year.  Custody-motivated abductions have increased by more than five times between October 2010 and June 2013.  Eighty eight percent of public schools reported that they controlled access to school buildings by locking or monitoring doors during school hours, and 64% reported that they used security cameras to monitor the school.

Who is Raptor Technologies?

  • Raptor Technologies is the nation’s leading developer of integrated school safety technologies for K-12 schools across the United States.
  • Raptor® developed the first web-based visitor management system designed for schools and monitors visitors, contractors, and volunteers who enter a building.
  • The visitor management system provides instant screening of visitors, contractors and volunteers for sex offender status and custody orders.
  • The Raptor System also tracks students who arrive late or leave early and faculty who sign in and out of the building.
  • In addition, Raptor Technologies also provides a volunteer management system.

In 2017, over 19,000 schools use Raptor’s visitor management software that conducts an instant and automatic screening against an up-to-date national sex offender registry and checks for any court-ordered custody restrictions. Raptor currently flags over 30 registered sex offenders per day attempting to enter schools. This fall, they also unveiled an emergency management application that streamlines parent reunification.

In Chicago and the surrounding suburbs, Bellwood School District 88,  Aurora 129, Joliet 204,  Joliet Public Schools 86, Naperville Cusd 203 are just some of the school districts that implement this technology. After interviewing several parents of school-aged children, they continually wonder if their child’s school is doing everything it can to keep their students safe.  Do they have lockdown drills? Do they have an easy parent-student reunification system in place if students are evacuated? Are they doing everything they can to keep sex offenders out of schools?

Raptor also has many non-profit partners whose mission is to spread awareness on school safety like Safe and Sound, which was created by Sandy Hook parents and the “I Love You Guys” Foundation, created by the parents of a student who lost her life 11 years ago in a school shooting in Colorado. These foundations now go to schools nationwide teaching schools how to effectively deal with on campus emergencies- like lockdowns, active shooters, etc.

After we received the all clear sound, returned to our seats and was told that the police thought we did a great job, I silently thanked God that we were safe. I thanked God for Raptor Technologies. Contact them today!

The Genius of Play shares some of their favorite family play ideas

We all worry about our kids learning to control their emotions. After all, it’s emotions that so often get us off track and into trouble! The Genius of Play, is a national movement with a mission to give families the information and inspiration needed to make play an important part of every child’s life. Fortunately, play can serve as a key tool in helping your child manage their emotions. Play provides children with an opportunity to not only learn how to express themselves, but how to explore and understand their wide range of feelings.

Through play, children learn to cope with emotions as they act out feelings such as anger, sadness or fear, in a situation they control. Imaginative play allows them to think out loud about experiences charged with both pleasant and unpleasant feelings, creating a safe outlet for self expression and self exploration. Plus, by giving children a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction, play can help build their confidence and self-esteem.

Erik A. Fisher, Ph.D, aka Dr. E…TM, Emotional Dynamics Expert at Genius of Play, has been changing the lives of children, teens and adults for two decades by encouraging self-empowerment through play.

He opens our discussion by stating that ” often children take their lead on how they learn about their emotions from the adults that guide them. Many of us received very little education on how to manage emotions or the purpose of emotions when we were children, so knowing what to do with your own kids when it comes to emotion can be challenging. I believe that emotions are all there to tell us and teach us about life. For example, the purpose of Anger is to protect. The purpose of Failure is that it tells us when it is time to learn, the purpose of Guilt is that it lets us know when we have done something to others that we need to fix.”

“Too often, we are taught to ignore what our emotions may be trying to tell us, and all too often, many adults don’t know what to do with the emotions that they are feeling. Unfortunately, when adults do not understand, it is difficult for them to properly educate their children.”

“It is for that reason that I often recommend that parents learn right along with their kids and even let their kids be teachers to them. The Genius of Play is a great way for parents to learn about the value of play in various domains, including emotional realms, and I always encourage parents to take a look. I also recommend my parenting book, The Art of Empowered Parenting: The Manual You Wish Your Kids Came With that discusses power, emotion, and how we can learn to manage these challenging aspects of life.”

The Genius of Play, is excited to share some of their favorite play ideas that focus on emotional development and teach children how to express and regulate their emotions.

Kindergarten

· This is a great time to use role playing and engage imagination to work through emotions. Kids at this age are often playing with dolls, puppets and may be starting to play with action figures. Watch the themes of how they play with these toys and the emotions that they may demonstrate through their play. As they may be playing, be willing to get on the floor with them, play and talk about what is going on with their characters and what they may be feeling. You can also play out some of the challenges that they may be having with others through the dolls and show how they can work out their difficulties by you taking on their role. Ask them what the other characters may be feeling when they may play these roles.

· Many children may be exposed to many of the cards, blocks, images, and emoji that denote various emotions. These images that help children identify emotions can be helpful for kids to visually identify what they are feeling so that an adult can help connect the words with the emotions. As these emotions are discussed, let your kids know that these emotions aren’t bad or wrong. They are trying to tell us something. It is the choices that we make when we feel these emotions that we want to be aware of to change. Understanding protective emotions like Anger, Rage, Hatred, Defiance, Sarcasm, Flippancy and Arrogance are trying to help us look strong when we feel weakness inside.

3rd Grade

· Kids have been in school for a few years. They are learning to grasp emotions and experiencing better emotional regulation as their brains also develop. However, the patterns of emotional expression that they learn now can be harder and harder to reverse if they are reinforced and/or if new patterns aren’t learned. While it is always a good time to work on discussing emotions and what they are teaching us, helping to find healthy ways to express them is also important. Charades can be a great game for kids to act out emotions. Making your own game of emotional charades can be a good way to see how your kids view emotions and even to discuss them after a round.

· There are also many board games and books that help kids become aware of various emotions. Exposing them to the uniqueness of each emotion through play and helping them to understand them will be adding to their skill set in real life situations.

5th Grade

· This is a year that kids are still kids, and some are getting closer to adolescence. For some, they are still interested in children’s games, and the same games, cards and emoji can still be helpful to discuss emotions, while for some who want to associate with “older age” activities, they may show no interest in the games of “children”. The issue is that even though kids at this age want to be older, their brains are not developed and they are often playing the emotional games and “writing the emotional checks that they can’t cash”. Making sure that they are processing and understanding emotions is so important at this time of life. Playing games that involve perspective taking, communication, listening closely to how they see the world can help this. Don’t just listen to them when they are aware that you are around, listen when they don’t realize that you are listening. There are many role-playing games that give opportunities to share emotions and see inside of them, as well.

Most importantly, at any age your kids are, Eric suggests that you play with them, and no matter what you are playing talk with them, ask them about how they see life, how they feel about themselves and others, how they feel about you as a parent

It is often when distracted by a game that kids will share more. Listen without judgment, and ask more questions than telling them what to do.

Please click on The Genius of Play for more information.

The child behind the crooked smile

He works for microwave, shredder and sometimes gum. Not chewing the gum themselves but chewing a piece of gum for him.  Sometimes he works for a laugh or cough. He likes that too. Microwaves are not allowed in the classroom since he likes burning pencils and whatever he can add to the mix. But one is secretly unplugged, hidden and pulled out for him to open the door and close it five times as a reward in the special needs classroom.

Another likes to walk constantly. So we walk with him as he may laugh, he may cry but he will stand by the door hitting it when it becomes too much. So we walk inside around the school. He is quiet, he follows and he grabs my arm making sure that I am close. Sometimes, when standing together, he places his head on my shoulder. For him, he likes his movie….a small lap top that is available to him daily with one slide after another of his family, his birthday and his special trips with brothers and sister. Though he does not watch, he listens to the music that accompanies the video. He is happy to be with his family.

As they work on daily lessons of reading and math, some will shout try again as they know the teachers familiar comment when they get it wrong. As one works on learning time, when successful with saying the correct time or number, he asks for the high five sign and the brown chair which indicates a break for him.

One young man pulls at his teeth when having a rough time, jumping up and down with his cries but when we suggest that he work, he sits proudly as the speech therapist helps him identify certain objects and says the words clearly while we cheer him on. He loves when we congratulate him. He loves when we are proud of his accomplishments. Sometimes, I wonder if he does this more for us than him.

Some severely autistic, most non-verbal, others with Downs Syndrome, some physically handicapped,come together in my summer school classroom with nurses as well. Some assistants have worked with the students before, some have not and daily we try to see beyond their smiles, their laugh, their screams and their tears.

There are fights, there are scrabbles, there are break downs and we, as staff, have changing faces, voices and eyes in the back of our heads but we continue daily to make sure they have one more day in their lives that will offer encouragement, strength and most of all, love. And we have nothing else on our minds as we pursue the day. There are no room for cell phones and other talk unless it is about those we care for in the classroom.

And as we walk together to assist them on the bus or parents cars at the end of summer school, we breathe a sigh of exhaustion, yes, but fulfillment that we have helped in ways that are not imaginable in most jobs.  None of our personal problems have credence when we go to work every day….that is why we are here. Someone from the classroom turns to me and says I wonder if others know what we do and my comment ….. a gesture to the one above. She smiles…..I guess that is all that matters.