Magical summers

Many Baby Boomers growing up did not always have their summers planned with vacations. Some went to summer camp and many, like me, waited anxiously for best friends to get home from camp so we could play or create the next adventure. Some of us had no place to go during the summer with the exemption of exploring the neighborhood because we did have full freedom to go outside and play on a nice day.  Full freedom to explore and be back by 6 for dinner or for some until the street lights came on. No fear of stranger… danger!

Sometimes, we would go to the local playground or city park such as Chicago’s Bessemer which had a community pool or Stoney Island Park, which was popular for its ball fields, now known as Jessie Owen Park on the South Side of Chicago. Of course, riding our bikes(without helmets) often doing all sorts of stunts to get there. Many families had plastic, above ground pools in their backyard…not so different as those today.  The backyard sprinklers were are last resort but always fun once turned on. We never got sick drinking from the hoses either. Playing hopscotch, kick the can, red light, green light, red rover, Chinese jump rope, jacks( inside and out.)

I am not sure if it initially came from boredom or just not sure what to explore next but we produced plays, musicals and all sorts of summer shows for our families. One my friends and I did was about Betsy Ross and instead of the infamous lemonade s tand we re-created the Sip and Stir on a front porch which was originally an ice cream shop in Old Town. We made chocolate shakes and decorated the porch with tissue flowers. Though unless we had help from a Mom, we had to make sure that cooler was stocked with ice.

If in junior high and a Chicago city kid, sometimes we would ride the local Illinois Central Train downtown for lunch in the Narcissus room at Marshall Fields. Sometimes we would ride the bus to Evergreen Plaza in Evergreen Park on the west side; one of the first indoor malls.

However, screens did come into play when it was a rainy day. You could select from 3- 5 channels. If it was Saturday morning, you had a variety of cartoons to choose. Prime television was generally in the evening and reserved as a family event after your friends returned home. Board games or blind mans bluff were always an option and some of us had indoor ping pong or pool tables that we were allowed to play in the cooler finished basement since some did not have air conditioning.

Saturday afternoons could offer corny black and white horror movies such as Attack of The Crab Monsters,Teenagers From Outer Space and I Was A Teenage Werewolf. This was all after adjusting the TV antennas which could take some time especially if weather was poor and Mom watching over you while you made Jiffy Pop, the best stove- top popcorn that you loved to gently slide back and forth over the burner and watch the foil expand to new heights. Evenings were always spent with my favorite paint by number set from Bargain Town or reading which was encouraged before I went to bed. We always took trips to the local Chicago Public Library branch. Today, I am an avid reader and love to paint for fun.

Raising children in the 1990’s actually was pretty similar to the 1960’s though there television sets had a lot more channels to select. And they still made Jiffy Pop and my kids loved to help. Personal computers were just showing up in homes and they were pretty bad. So were pagers used mainly for work and more Mom’s needed jobs. I still let my children take over the neighborhood on bikes.Though, they did not have the run of as many blocks like we did in the old days. They did play outside and established some creative plays to perform for parents. Games were similar like tag, Red Rover with the exception of Marco Polo, a new game at the pool. I found sometimes, as parents,we would get too involved in the preparation of games and adventures. Maybe,we should have taken a back seat more often and just watched them build their creativity and love for one another. A very difficult exercise.

Today, just give kids markers, chalk, paper, and even washable paint. Let them go for it outside. Give them boxes, paper towel rolls, saved cereal boxes, tape and let them create their own summer houses, vehicles or forts. Pull out old clothes, dresses and see what they can do. Let them play with their friends and learn together. As far as games,Duck, Duck Goose and Monkey in the Middle seems to be popular. Gathering by themselves to play without you is the best of time for your children during the summer.

But never limit your field trip trips to the local library. You can actually cook Jiffy Pop on the grill outside. And watch the entire shows and movies from the past on Netflix. Maybe true summer fun hasn’t changed that much after all.

Kids on wheels can thank a Chicago entrepreneur

By Caryl Clem:

Chicago hosted the World’s Fair in 1933 where businessmen showcased their products hoping for worldwide approval. A young Italian immigrant had first designed a wagon in 1917 named Liberty Coaster to honor his first impression of landing in New York. He came to Chicago hoping to own his own business, working his way up in the world by various jobs that including washing celery to sell.  By the 1930’s in Elmwood, his manufacturing firm was expanding producing his renamed wagon, The Radio Flyer.

Antonio bravely risked most of his money to grow his business as he made plans for the Chicago World’s Fair. He and another immigrant friend constructed a giant boy and his wagon for his exhibit. Antonio Pasin passed out toy wagons for 25 cents each to future customers interested in his product.  After this business venture, he became famous and firmly established his company’s image to be part of every child’s future.

Through the decades, this wagon worked its way into parents and kids worlds mixing fantasy and reality. Radio Flyers had featured specials from Disney star specials to the 1950’s model I used, “Town and Country.” I delivered papers, transported flower pots and found countless uses for my wagon. I even trained my dog to take rides as I pulled the wagon.  Antonio had a flair for appealing to his customer base by clever advertising. I recall a slogan in the 1950’s , “The only wagon to outsell the Ford station wagon”.The product line kept evolving adding scooters, tricycles, and plastic replaces metal by 1994.

The current CEO is a grandson of the Pasin founder who turned a sagging business in the late 1990’s into a powerhouse that still rocks with success selling in the 100 million dollar range.  Robert Pasin enacted product development as the main focus, researching how the product was used by the consumer. In 2011, a Play Lab with a test tract was installed in the Chicago main office. “Radio Flyer offers nice perks: flex time, parties for employees and their families, a wellness reimbursement program, an exercise room, and a garden with a walking path at Chicago headquarters.

Last year, Crain’s Business Chicago ranked the company the seventh-best place to work in the city, calling out its employee incentives and philanthropic efforts. Radio Flyer donates thousands of wagons to local and national charities.

I don’t think you can outgrow the love of a wagon ride so as Spring Days are rapidly approaching, it is time to get your Radio Flyer Wagons out of hibernation.

Are leprechauns real?

For me, it was the Lucky Charms cereal created in the 1960s that first talked of magic and leprechauns. Lucky the leprechaun( he actually smoked a pipe) debuted in 1964 with an expensive marketing approach featuring colored ads and comic books. It worked and the cereal still is magically delicious.

Usually bearded, little old men; leprechauns like to get into trouble. If captured by humans, they are often granted three wishes. Others say that they have to tell you where the pot of gold is. When my son was four now 31, I was traveling on a business trip out of the state but arrived home on St Patrick’s day. It was then that my son’s room was totally destroyed trying to catch a leprechaun in a special shoe box designed for that purpose.  The box was intricately built with string that stretched from box to window but no leprechaun. Even after trying to clean his room together; hoping to convince him that we would eventually find the leprechaun. We did end up with a clean room, better than ever, but no luck with catching this creature.

Now as an assistant in kindergarten last week, there is still Lucky the leprechaun. I have not seen him yet. Last week, he began visiting, secretly watching and left two messages for the teacher concerning the children s behavior which had not been the best. Lucky usually leaves treats at this time but the classroom teacher has said that Lucky has not been real happy with students speaking without raising their hand and not cleaning up after recess.

But last week on a Thursday night, Lucky appeared; making a mess of the room, writing on the board and leaving treats at the children’s tables since behavior had improved the day before. I did not see him which many asked if I had. The children told me that I had to look for a little guy with a hat. If he didn’t have a hat, he was not a leprechaun.

This week, the activities with Lucky continue. We spent one day writing individual designs of traps to catch Lucky and the day after, build traps with tooth picks and marshmallows. From what I have heard, they have not caught Lucky or any leprechaun in the past but remnants of leprechaun life were left behind.

On Thursday, 21 traps of marshmallows and tooth picks have been built with fake gold coins in the traps. And on Friday, Lucky left footprints and walked over the traps because he thought it was a playground. He also left special treats.

Now is it really Lucky or the teacher? After packing my bag today in an empty room at dismissal, I thought I heard someone laughing at me. No one was in the room. I turned to walk out and heard the tee hee again. And I checked the corners…..nothing. I practically ran to the parking lot!

One more week until spring break!

Dr. Seuss

Sally and her brother watch the rain pour outdoors while Mother is away. They have nothing to do. They have no massive TV, cell phone, computer, iPad and they can’t wait for The Cat In the Hat to step through the door in 1957, written and illustrated by Theodor Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss and published on March 12. As an early reader myself when the book was brand new, I was terrified that the kids, the cat, Thing One and Two, would not clean the house in time for when Mother would come home. I also was so amazed at the massive machine the Cat came up with to clean the home.

As kindergarten students are introduced to The Cat in the Hat today, celebrating Dr. Seuss week, I noticed that the machine isn’t as entrancing as it was for us since households probably have all sorts of vacuums, carpet cleaners and electronic robots to take over the house work just like the Cat.

Geisel created the book in response to a debate in the United first published on August 12, 1960. As of 2016, the book has sold 8 million copies worldwide. Discussions were established about literacy in early childhood and the ineffectiveness of traditional primers such as those featuring Dick and Jane.

It was One fish, Two fish, Red fish, Blue fish that I can’t forget because Dr Seuss truly had a gift with the 1960s rhyming book.  You may not remember the story but always the title. Though I think the kindergarten class today liked the adventures of Jay and Kay. As of 2001, over 6 million copies were sold and in 2007, it was named one of the top books for children .

The next day in the class the teacher read Green Eggs and Ham. I forgot to wear green and I do not like Green Eggs and Ham, Sam I am! I kept whispering throughout the story that he was not going to eat those moldy eggs and ham. The children kept telling me that he was because this wasn’t about bad food, it was about friendship. I was quite amazed at their realization. Green Eggs and Ham was first published on August 12, 1960. As of 2016, the book has sold 8 million copies worldwide.

It was Wacky Wednesday. That is what we read and the children came in wearing all sorts of wacky clothes and shoes. I had forgotten about dressing up since I am just wacky anyway  so one student showed me how he had turned his shirt around and I did the same with my sweatshirt. He was pleased. Wacky Wednesday was originally published in 1974, one of my own children’s favorites.

Actually, Dr. Seuss’s birthday is today, March 2nd, 1904 and his second wife just passed away in December. Probably one of my favorite quotes “Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”
― Dr. Seuss, Happy Birthday to You!

Happy Birthday to you too, Dr. Seuss!

Family time enriched by card and board games

By Caryl Clem:

High spirits evident by laughter and smiles occur the moment you know you have won a game!  Lady Luck was an honored guest by my side anytime I challenged any family member to Gin Rummy, Monopoly, Scrabble, Chess, or Cribbage.  The thrill of risks combined with skill made long winter days fly by as we played taking chances, placing bets, enthusiastically shouting out our feelings. Family gatherings today have many choices blending old game allure with new approaches and situations.

Fascination with trains is evident by train themed exposition shows during the winter. Honoring this American preference is the Days of Wonder brand, Ticket to Ride.  Planning and building a railroad across America from the first showing in 2004, its’ popularity has remained constant. Expanding on the original version, A Ticket to Ride, Europe covers major cities in Europe.  In 2018, A Ticket to Ride, New York City premiered. The rules fold out like a travel brochure, and taxis replace trains as transportation.

For fans of mystery and suspense, Castle Panic challenges the players to defeat the monsters surrounding the castle.  For former lovers of Clue, an updated  card game has come out Codenames (2015) publisher Vlaada Chvatil involving secret agents. Deciphering clues is based on word association experience, young teens on up will enjoy this game.

Several popular strategy games are available for young adults. Highly recommended with millions sold is The Settlers of Catan Mayfair Games (1996) designed by a German Klaus Teuber where players compete to form a successful colony.  A Worldwide Tournament is held every two years for serious game players.  Pandemic (2008) by Matt Leacock involves a theme of survival as players strive to keep cities safe from spreading diseases and epidemics.  A tabletop gaming series about survival by the same creator includes Forbidden Island (2010) Forbidden Desert (2013) Forbidden Sky (2018). Lovers of Star Trek can enjoy the recent release of New Frontiers by Rio Grande Games engaging players building their own space empire. Scythe (2016) entertains the question, How to conquer Europe without warfare?

As the game horizon has expanded, a new dimension has emerged, teamwork.  Terraforming  Mars (2016) by Jacob Fryxelius  presents the dilemma of trying to survive on the red planet that cannot support life. Players on Mars must change it into a green planet. Strategy requires working together to find a solution, collaboration.  Check newer versions of games for collaboration.

No matter what the weather, playing games will add rays of sunshine from smiles shared while relishing the festivity.  A painless way to build learning skills and practice social interaction, bring on the game afternoon or night!

Halloweens spellbinding customs

By Caryl Clem:

As summer ends on October 31 and fall begins November 1st according to the Gaul calendar, the boundary between the living and the dead dissolves freeing spirits of the past to roam free. Unknown whether a visiting spirit is friend or foe, your logical defense was to dress up like a ghost spirit to camouflage that you are still alive. Food is served for all visitors to spread the message of goodwill. Samhain was the most important holiday for Celts in pre-Christian times.  Later, medieval poor of all ages go door to door begging for “Soul Cakes”, in exchange for praying for the family’s past relatives on the Catholic Church’s All Saints Day.

In Scotland and Ireland, the youth dressed up knocking on neighbors doors entertaining the door opener with a heartfelt song, poetry, or telling a funny story. After a brief performance and review of the costume, a reward of fruit, nuts, or coins would be given. During the potato famine in 1846, over 300,000  people from Ireland and Scotland headed for North America .

The influence of Scottish, Irish and British Halloween customs started to spread across America. By the late 1800’s, it was a common practice. Wealthy families competed by hosting elaborate Halloween parties offering food, games, dancing, and drink for costumed guests. Churches offered parties for the young and old that my grandmother, born in 1885 and mother born in 1908, remembered.

Apples were sacrificial fruit in pagan times.  By 1800’s in the northeastern states. apple bobbing meant  male guests diving for previously marked apples secretly coded by ladies. The coupling between these women and men is believed destined to occur. If a young lady can peel an apple in one long strip, she throws the strip over her right shoulder to glance at the letter the apple peel forms on the floor. The initial formed foretells of a lover nearby with a name of that letter.  At midnight, a maiden can look between a lit Jack O’Lantern and a mirror  to find an image of her future husband.

Halloween is less scary as chubby faced  kids appear celebrating Halloween fun in 1904  by artist Grace Drayton, Campbell Soup kid creator. The postcard craze postcard craze to celebrate Halloween lasted from late 1890’s until 1918. A delightful sample is in this link Brave this bounty of 27 beautiful and bizarre antique Halloween… 

The Depression and a sugar ration dampened Halloween giving until the late 1930’s as communities started to sponsor family/kid friendly activities.

 

Be careful how high you push

My childhood backyard held a yellow and red metal swing set with two straight seated swings, a teeter totter and a slide; the latter I had no use. But how I loved to swing; higher and higher. I never fell. When I visited my South side Chicago home in 2009, after briefly talking to the present owner, she sadly claimed that my swing set had been uprooted to make room for a new garage.

In 1992, my daughter loved to swing, too, at Ruth Powers Park in Downers Grove with her best friend and brother. The swings were rubber without restraints. She did not need the only baby swing. She was three! A big girl and Mom liked to push. However,  one beautiful afternoon Mom pushed; only to have her topple over.

Kaleigh fell, in shock, holding her arm  and when I looked at her arm, the elbow was not in the right place. We had walked to the park,only a few blocks from home. No cell phones, of course. But we all cooperated, knowing that this was an emergency and ran together. I cradled her arm until we reached our driveway and the nearest car. Later that evening, she had surgery, a cast for everyone to sign and an overnight stay in the hospital together.

Assisting in a kindergarten class, during outside recess this month,  twice a day, my kindergarten friend grabs my hand and walks me to the playground as she says lets swing and picks out her favorite. The same kind of swing from 1992. I told my daughter, who is now 29, about my little partner at school and in jest,she asked me if the five year old knew my history with swings.

Of course not... but I do remember.  Every time I get behind her to push and position myself in just the right spot..just in case, she yells..higher…higher…higher. I tell her to hold on tight….hold on tight….hold on tight. She laughs as her feet try to reach out towards the trees in front of her. As each day passes, she begins to pump a little more. watching her classmates swing next to her. Some of them help me out and push her too. Someday, I can breath a sigh of relief.

Like another child, another season, another day, another moment,she will begin, soon enough, to soar on her own.

 

Back to school

I don’t remember the beginnings of kindergarten though I do remember that my teacher, Mrs O’Brien, at Hoyne School on the South Side of Chicago. She was kind, patient and always encouraging. I had a favorite friend that she would let me sit next to while we sang songs. I loved to watch her play piano and she said I had the hands of a musician. She would tell me that when I would become frustrated with writing. Yes, Mrs. Obrien, I taught and played piano for many years probably because of you.

I do remember beginning first grade because it was at a brand new school that had just been built in 1962 because of overcrowding at Hoyne.  We were the first class at Kate Sturgis Buckingham school; in the second picture (currently closed because of just the opposite problem).

The school was to offer kindergarten through fifth grade. I remember sitting only two rows in the back from the four long windows on my left that hung over the built-in bookcases and heating vents. I remember watching the new playground being built and my teacher Mrs. Fox who invited her entire class to her wedding at St Marys in Chicago. After, she was called Ms. Boz and though I liked her, I was scared in first grade.

In the early 1990’s, when the school bus came to pick up my son in Downers Grove for kindergarten at Indian Trail School, he got on but cried… seated in the first seat. My husband put him on because I was too busy crying too. And my daughter who was next in line, could not wait for the bus to arrive on the same spot to take her to school.

Currently, I am assisting in a new kindergarten classroom. Parent and student orientation was on Tuesday morning and how wonderful it is when parents and students from previous year come to find out what class you are in. So many families found me; telling them how they missed me over the summer, sharing their fears and concerns for a new school year.

Wednesday was the first day of school without Mom and Dad. And I wait by the main door to help monitor bus and parent drop off. That is when amazing things begin to happen. As soon as they exit the bus, many come running and that’s when I hear my name called out like never before. There are several ready to give me my hug for the day; sometimes I have one on either side excited to know that I am here for them anytime, any day and any year. Today, I had parents snapping pictures on their cell phones of little ones beginning kindergarten for the first time and asking me to stand with them. How proud it made me feel!

As teachers, administrators, assistants and all staff within a school environment, we inspire hope, establish trust, ignite imaginations and establish a passion for learning. But most of all, we demonstrate love… genuine love for the children, families and the staff that surrounds us.

And when we stumble out the main door at the end of the day, bleary eyed, muscles aching, voices and thoughts strained after the struggles we will encounter as the year progresses, we can never forget those first days we celebrated on the playground.

And that is why we do what we do!

 

 

 

Jenga® GIANT™ JS7 Hardwood Game

Though I have played the classic block-stacking Jenga with family, friends and students, until recently, after playing a game with my 25+ daughter, I did not realize that Jenga has become a popular event at adult parties! Even bars, breweries and restaurants are offering the game to promising guest challengers! Maybe playing Jenga is a great opportunity to meet that special someone…. with the same interests?

Introduced in 1983, Jenga is a game of mental skill and you have to be very careful and strategic on how you take one block or add another. Jenga offers a variety of products that include Jenga Ocean which are blocks made from recycled fishing nets and the Walking Dead hardwood game. The record for the highest known Jenga tower is 40 complete stories and was built in 1985. Jenga is always looking for new records to be awarded.

This year the makers of Jenga® GIANT™have added a competitive component to the popular game. For the first time, the game comes with tournament charts for competitive play; a real sport element.

Manufactured and distributed by Art’s Ideas, JENGA® GIANT™ JS7is THE largest authentic hardwood JENGA® game you can buy! Fun to play and exciting to watch, it’s the perfect addition to any outdoor summer party!

Key features include:

  • 54 precision-crafted polished hardwood blocks
  • Stacks to over 5 feet high in play
  • Each block is over 14 times the volume of a Classic Jenga® block
  • Includes Heavy Duty Jenga® GIANT™ Carry Bag
  • Includes Jenga® SPORTS™ Tournament Charts for competitive play. Winners can print out an award: jenga.com/ certificate.pdf
  • For 1 or more players
  • Ages 12 to Adult
  • MSRP: $169.95

You finally won! Share the news, download a certificate and present another challenge at your next party with Jenga Giant.

What are your children doing this summer?

As a child, with the exception of weekend trips, summer vacation was not always fun for me. Reading alone was difficult and I did receive help when in school but I envied those that enjoyed sitting down on a rainy afternoon with Nancy Drew or the Hardy Boys. I also missed my best friend who went to summer day camp. It wasn’t fair and to this day, I am not sure why I couldn’t go with her. Sadly, I would wait on the sidewalk for the bus to drop her off. Some days were long….very long for me, my dolls and my swing set.

When my own children were growing up, many summers I worked, but I always tried to make every vacation or field trip a true learning opportunity. We always visited museums and trips would focus on their interests. For example, my son loved trains so there was always visits, to unique train shops, museums, and of course, rides on the Chicago Metra. My daughter loved photography and she spent a few days with a photographer to learn more about the working world of that profession; exposing her to possible career choices in the future.

Dr. Pam Roggeman is a proven academic leader familiar with and passionate about technology in progressive education and has extensive experience designing curriculum; preparing teachers in a university setting. She currently serves as the Academic Dean for the College of Education at University of Phoenix. Below, she provides wonderful suggestions for a summer filled with fun, learning, self-improvement skills and essential family time.

Create a “matching agreement.” For every hour spent in front of a screen entertaining themselves, have your child match that time in with a learning activity. Most book stores or a quick online search will have workbooks for math, reading and writing to practice skills. Have your kids do work like this to “earn and accumulate” time they can bank for screen time.

Set “learning self-improvement goals” such as a number of books read, minutes of math tutorials a day, or pages written and then agree on a fun reward for goals attained. Make it more meaningful to your kids by allowing them to decide what they’d like to learn and study. Make it even more meaningful by creating rewards for attaining the goals. These rewards don’t have to cost you anything – maybe they can earn sleepovers with friends, breakfast in bed or “owning” the TV remote for a night.

Summer reading can be essential for students to maintain and continue building their reading skills. This summer, help your children find books that will make the child think on a much larger level. Together, explore your child’s interests and find books that feed those interests.

Encourage your children to keep a journal to regularly document their activities throughout the summer. This is key because kids will start to see their accomplishments on paper. This can be a conversation starter at the dinner table, “what did you do today that will make it into your journal?” When they go back to school and the teacher asks, “What did you do all summer?” they will have the best answer in class!

Look for educational camps and structured social activitiesthat parents can in participate with their children. Make every vacation an opportunity to have the whole family grow and learn together. Maybe visit a different museum in a town nearby that would make a great day trip, or when you take that drive to the local national or state park, take the time to read the information about its origin and why it was established. Be the parent who researches and does the leg work to find the fun, educational activities at your local community center and invite your child’s best friend to attend.

Use the summer to do the kind of learning you don’t have time to do during the school year.