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!

What was your best or worse Halloween costume?

For me, it began when my son was only two and hated being a clown. That’s because the face Mom had painted on his delicate skin was way too scary for Halloween. He scared himself when he looked in the mirror and trick or treating was just out of the question. Mom’s first costume attempt was not too good and thought he would forever be damaged by a poor holiday experience. But it did get better when the following year he liked being a beggar, carrying his stick of wrapped clothes in a scarf though when I think about it, maybe that wasn’t a good choice either.

As a child, I loved autumn with the breathtaking color of the season, pressing leaves in scrapbooks, spending hours selecting a costume and, of course, carving a pumpkin with, for me, Dad. It was his job to cut but I scrapped away the innards. The only time I liked kitchen duty. And I remember being a gypsy, Little Bo Peep with a crooked staff that eventually gave way to the wind on Halloween, and a date girl wearing a beautiful wide skirt with mini calendars attached. Among the many dressed as Super Man, witches, Bat girl, Sleeping Beauty and Minnie Mouse, cowboys and Indians, and of course, Casper, with silly masks to match our attire back in the 1960s. Dressed in a white sheet or a Frankenstein mask was about the extent of what was scary. Maybe a devil took you by surprise as well.

And the neighborhood was packed with children trick or treating; knowing the adults that answered their doors. If we didn’t have an appropriate trick or treat bag, a pillow case would do and besides the candy bars, suckers and bazooka gum with comics, we would get even more like a popcorn ball. Sometimes we would worry about the occasional razor blade showing up in our candy but candy being spiked with chemicals was rare.

In the nineties, as my son and daughter celebrated the season each year, costume decisions improved after the first fiasco to include Robin Hood and a court jester, a baby. a Power Ranger instead of Super Man and a nerd with a huge dictionary….not a computer… Though there was one Halloween, that costumes were trash bags since the rain was incessant for trick or treating. That didn’t stop us. We also decided that a carved pumpkin was not enough so the house was dressed with lovely rust and yellow floral arrangements and a yard filled with ghosts, signs, funny gravestones, and spider webs throughout.

Now, though there are no grandchildren, nothing has changed with the exception of less children knocking on the door on October 31st. Though the signs have become faded and the gravestones totter, new additions such as a family of scarecrows have been added, floral arrangements refurbished and my 20 plus daughter coming to spend a pre-Halloween weekend, carving the best pumpkin ever, while munching on roasted pumpkin seeds and home-made pumpkin bread.

Once a child, forever a child and another year of adding more pictures to that scrapbook or should I say, Facebook page instead.

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.

Unemployment can be a blessing

Since the early beginnings of the millennium, I had been in more than one job followed by doing time on unemployment. Being a single mother at the time and sole provider, I had always taken the first job offer to put food on the table.

For most, becoming unemployed is a serious professional crisis that depletes energy, reputation, self-esteem, health and, of course, money but unemployment can be a gift.

Unemployment offers quality time to be there for others in our life who may be suffering from crisis that is much worse than our own. Our purpose is not what we do but what we can do for others.

Maybe it is in the divine plan that we are forced to take a break and focus on what is important. If not a coincidence, then how do you explain the repeated stories of individuals losing jobs only to find themselves taking care of aging and ill parents during their unplanned sabbatical?

One friend admitted about being able to spend time with Mom located in another state, planning and celebrating Mom’s 90th birthday and experience her passing shortly after.

Three months after her mother’s death, she was offered a job better than the one before her unemployment.

One of my own unemployment stints allowed me to travel daily and take care of my son who was hospitalized and my Mother, who was in a nursing home, all at the same time. My mother passed away in the month of August and I was offered a position a month later.

Maybe we are rewarded with our return to the workplace because we utilized our vacation time without pay to extend our hearts; a gift of love that keeps on giving love to others.

Ultimately, being unemployed offered me exploration; time to become aware of my own passions and realize that we are meant to utilize our talents with the sole purpose of sincerely guiding others to a better day rather than spend time off strategically figuring out how to win the lottery. Not knocking those that do. If you have the answer to that one, feel free to share.

What talents of my own could I use to reach those goals? For me, it was by being able to write about my struggles in life and career that could express hope in volatile times.

Unemployment allowed me to develop my writing talent and consistent belief about the price of gold in a positive attitude and becoming a true survivor. It was time for me to write about being a true friend. As a result, I have contributed to several publications but my message remains the same; for my readers to believe in their own greatness.

Maybe we are in transition in our career with a job that is not paying the bills and though we keep applying, interviewing, we just never receive the results we expect. Maybe we are suppose to be in that position, not for ourselves, but for the sake of our co-workers who really need us. Another divine purpose we may not recognize.

Small gestures, smiles, words of encouragement, and determination can define the blessings of unemployment. Helping others will find a place of life-time achievement in own our hearts; more important than any other type of awards we could add to our resumes.

It has been said that most in their final days never seem to reminisce or talk about their career, financial accomplishments and wishing for that bigger house….only the love we have shared with others .

What successful people do

They fail…..more than once.  Because the more they put their effort into a task or project, mistakes will always be made but successful people try to learn from their mistakes. They don’t cling to the error, remain in the past or spend a lot of time focusing on what does not work. They continue to try again with a new approach and positive attitude for moving on.

Successful people have a purpose, a vision and that vision regardless of its highs and lows will keep you productive and producing the effects you want to receive. Although there are no guaranteed route to financial success, many continue to pursue their purpose and find that reward is not the number of dollars you make but in the number of relationships you establish or how you have helped family, friends  and ones you have never expected.

Successful people keep pushing to the next level always challenging themselves to be better. Many set high, almost impossible standards, but tend to come in somewhere in the middle and we respect them for never giving up and moving beyond past achievements.

Successful people truly feel that living a righteous life is key because dishonesty, cruelty and immorality will follow you and far more difficult to erase than any mistake in your business. Never do anything in your life you would be ashamed of seeing in print. Build a legacy of trust, respect and a caring example to others.

Successful people cannot succeed by themselves.  They need to network and open doors for mentors to help them progress if it is nothing more than words of encouragement. Sometimes we surround ourselves with others that are not devoted to our growth and successful people really watch for those who can tear them down. They don’t play games but choose and highlight those that are trustworthy.

Successful people always know how to redefine if necessary since they can’t control everything.  Sometimes they may  have to eliminate distractions but they continue to run their race not comparing themselves to others either. Life happens, but they stay the course and never give up.

Successful people practice a strong consistent routine even concerning their personal activities that include eating, exercise and relaxation. Because they work by the minute, not hour.

Successful people have a unique perception and awareness to help others be successful and find the answers to problems not easily understood. When solving issues or building toward a solution, they focus on the small steps they eventually climb to reach their goals

Successful people take time for mediation , prayer and gratitude.

And most of all, they know how to love.

Ingredients for love and family

 

I thought about her famous recipe.

And beginning in my pre-teen years, I wanted to be just like her. It seems like yesterday that I knocked on the door of her duplex that was located across the street from my family home; introducing myself and asking if she needed a babysitter.

Her voice was articulate but child like, her smile, dark eyes and thick, short haircut, fashionable for the late 1960’s added to her confidence more than most 22 year olds could conceive. There was a playful side on the surface, a sterling intelligence deep inside and a young mother to Marc who was only two years old.  I was only 11.

My first time babysitting was while Marc was asleep not suspecting that his Mom had left him with me. Of course, he woke and cried miserably until she walked in the door; only gone a short time which seemed like an eternity for me. I was sure my days as a babysitter had begun and stopped all in one day but I was wrong. Nothing was ever said about me being more upset than her baby and I learned that I truly had talent; my first job. Finally, I was promoted from an afternoon sitter to evenings and when her second baby came along, Michael, I become an expert in my field at 50 cents an hour.

She loved to read one I again remember clearly, James Michners The Source…a story of the history of the Jewish people, her nationality as well, that she could devour in a few hours. A novelist whose writing was based on extensive, detailed research. I could only handle Trixie Beldon and maybe Nancy Drew. I wasn’t sure that I could sit quietly during a read of such depth.

Judy could appear in her husband’s oversized button down shirt with jeans rolled to the knees but when she dressed to go out or entertain, her makeup was expertly designed to compliment her features as if she used none at all and her clothes did the same for her figure; the latest in conservative fashion. But it was her nails that always caught my eye, watching her white hands maneuver the steering wheel of her blue Bonneville 1965 Pontiac. Her nails were the perfect length as we headed to the new McDonalds or Rainbow beach.

Her interior style of decorating was creative, black and white stripes in their bathroom, deep blues with yellow and white accents in her living room and off white dining room with powdered blue French curtains. Her den was made from her own imagination with tall barrels and handmade tops as end tables. The boy’s room had red, blue, yellow and green stars made out of felt decorating the ceiling.

But her real talent was her cooking and, most of all, her pepper steak published in the Chicago Tribune. Her signature smile, turtleneck sweater replacing the usual button down, was photographed as she sat on a stool by her favorite kitchen counter while Julia Child endorsed her work. Throughout the city, she was known for her Pepper Steak where all mothers, including my own, attempted to create the same.

Where was that recipe that sat in Mothers yellow metal recipe box? Where was the box after mother died?

Remember when your dad died?

Yes, I was only 12 and during the ride with neighbors to my father’s wake, I had vomited on my good clothes, remembering a variety of women all shapes and sizes, ushering me into the washroom when we arrived to clean me up the best they could. After spending a few minutes in front of Dad’s casket with my trembling mother, somebody suggested the little family room behind.

My nylons were stained and another lady kindly rinsed them off to hang there. I sat and waited in the small room away from other’s drama…too much toxicity for my own soul. It was Judy and her husband who finally rescued me and suggested that the best place would be at home with them that evening. They had no idea what they had done for me in that small gesture.

In the 1970’s, we all relocated to the suburbs and somehow the years of college, becoming a teacher and then mother became the essence of life; the recipe removed for a different time.

During the late 1980’s, I had heard that Judy had gone back to school to become a lawyer and after locating her law office in a phonebook, I called and explained to the receptionist who I was. Shortly after, I received a call back in that familiar voice to come across and baby-sit with the boys…. for a brief moment nothing had changed. After we met at an old neighbors home for a reunion, this time was with Judy holding my two year old.  Her sons were almost as old as me.

In the 1990’s and 2000s, we had are own intense lives to lead, Judy had become an appellate court judge losing contact with only words and articles in reference to her success on the Internet. The judge was creative, innovative, dynamic energetic, beautiful and charming.

Yes, that was her.

Since divorce, single motherhood, teaching, training and my roles in corporate management, I have bloomed as a writer published in a variety of newspapers, blogs and magazines. Ultimately, an avid reader of all literature. The Source was one of my favorites.

But the thought of Judy’s pepper steak has never been forgotten.

And, of course, one day my search began and, somehow the metal recipe box reared its décor behind an old collection of cook books.  Located in the front was Judy’s pepper steak, neatly written in my mothers handwriting on a significantly yellow card; the original newspaper article not among its files.

After a dinner of delectable flavor with my own family, I journeyed  back to my time of impressions. It does not take much for young children to form impressions. Children as young as 3 tend to judge an individual’s character just by looking at their face. Those young experiences tend to become our own fingerprint as we mature and, hopefully prosper.

As I publish this article today, I realize that it is Judy’s birthday…July 9th. Maybe she , too, approves of the days of old. The days when it was the warm and engaged family dinner that deterred us from the stress of our demons; giving us a more positive view of the future. Being able to enjoy what was important, those that sat at our table, bringing out the best in all of us.