Back to school!

Kindergarten teacher and children looking at bird's nest in librBack to school! We’re experiencing a cold snap this week, and my kids are complaining that it shouldn’t be this cold on the last week of summer! I agree, but I’m so excited that school is back! I’m a full-time working mom, but the stresses of summer are hard. My kids aren’t on schedules, there is always some party/event/BBQ, and trying to fit in a summer vacation. I’m tired just thinking about it! Especially in Wisconsin, where we don’t have the best weather in the winter so we try to soak it all up in the summer.

As we are getting back into routines, I’m working on setting up some ground rules so our school year isn’t as hectic this year as previous years. Summer has been a free for all at our house, so the adjustment might be rough, but my kids do much better on routines. Continue reading “Back to school!”

Curiosity Unleashed: Wisconsin Science Festival 2014

Our buggy conversation starter at the Wisconsin Science Festival
Our buggy conversation starter at the Wisconsin Science Festival
“Oh wait Mom, look, bugs!”

And she was off. The next thing I knew she had a pale greenish-blue tobacco hornworm caterpillar in her hand.

“I’ve never seen anything like this before.” Nor had I.

She turned it upside down and started tickling its legs with a finger of her free hand.

“What does it eat? What will it turn into? How big will it get?” Rapid fire questions at the student who was manning the table of bugs. “Ooo cool. Look Mom he has a stick bug on his shirt. What does a woolly bear caterpillar become? What’s the name of that beetle? Where does it live? Why is that hornworm so much more active than the one I’m holding?”

We both took a really good look at the beating heart just underneath the dorsal skin of the very active hornworm that was about to pupate.

That was one adventure. There were many more.

Promega was one of many sponsors of this year’s Wisconsin Science Festival: Curiosity Unleashed 2014. Continue reading “Curiosity Unleashed: Wisconsin Science Festival 2014”

Confessions of a Cookie Mom

I decided last year that I would be a troop leader for my daughter’s Girl Scout Daisy troop. I thought it would be a great way to spend some one-on-one time with her, while volunteering for a cause I believe in. It started off positive; I met with the other leader, we had all these great ideas for what we would do! This was going to be so fun! Well, time went on, and the meetings seemed longer and longer;  the craft ideas were getting much less creative, and by the end of the year the girls were playing tag for the last 15 minutes of the meetings because we had run out of things to do. I realized that I really am not the best “traditional” troop leader, but I still wanted to be involved in a leader capactiy. I know! I will be the cookie coordinator for the Girl Scout cookie season! I can use the skills I am much better at (organization, metrics), and not have to be creative or crafty. Perfect!

Maybe I could arrange them into a futon frame or bookshelf?
Maybe I could arrange them into a futon frame or bookshelf?

We are two weeks into cookie season, and I would like to give the job back. I am completely obsessed with cookies. I think about them almost all day; I dream about them at night. I am placing cookie orders, counting cookies, schlepping cookies, EATING cookies. Here is a picture of my family room. This is what it looks like all the time. I have a “cookie spreadsheet”. I have nightmares that it will get accidentally deleted somehow, and that would throw my life into a tailspin. Continue reading “Confessions of a Cookie Mom”

Orchids and Dandelions: Parenting the Flowers and Weeds

My seven year old daughter has a necklace I made her that says “Dandelion Girl” . I made it for her because she remains enamored with these cheerful yellow flowers despite other people’s best attempts to disillusion her. To her they are not weeds, but pretty flowers that turn to a white puff ball that a nature-made toy. Imagine my surprise when I came across an article referring to the genetics of “Dandelion Children”.

The name come from a Swedish expression describing dandelion children as those who can survive and thrive in whatever circumstances they encounter. The opposite of these are “Orchard Children”, children who are highly sensitive to their surroundings and when properly nurtured, blossom, often spectacularly, but when neglected often fail just as spectacularly. Continue reading “Orchids and Dandelions: Parenting the Flowers and Weeds”

Momnesia: The Additive Effect of Extreme Endocrine Events

I used to have a good memory. I could remember friends’ birthdays, anniversaries and phone numbers. I never lost track of project timelines or due dates. I knew where everything was (mostly) and could find it when I needed it.

That was before I experienced two extreme endocrine events — that was before I had children.

If you have children, or know someone who has children, you might guess what happened next. My amazing memory for details big and small disappeared, seemingly overnight. By the time my second child was crawling, I had begun to think I needed a list of those things I shouldn’t forget tattooed on the back of my hand. Unfortunately my hand is really not that big. Continue reading “Momnesia: The Additive Effect of Extreme Endocrine Events”

Intelligence and Medication: Treating the Gifted/ADHD Mind

This past Friday (October 7) I spent the day at a conference hosted by the Wisconsin Association for Talented & Gifted (WATG). I attended in particular because of the keynote speaker Dr. Nadia Webb, whose talk  entitled “Head, Heart and Hands: The Whole Gifted Child” touched on talented children who might also have ADD, ADHD, depression or a learning disability among other things (1). As she talked about the challenges and behaviors of these gifted children, I was struck by how eerily similar what she described was to what I experienced with my son.

I can imagine some of you rolling your eyes, because don’t all parents think their kids are smart? So let me say this, I don’t know if my son would qualify as “talented and gifted”, but he is smart. From the first grade, he has surprised his teachers with his “depth of knowledge” and his ability to recall verbatim things he has read or heard. He has also been diagnosed with ADHD. I have come to realize that this is how he was meant to be, but that ADHD doesn’t define him. He is still scary-smart; funny; a talented artist; has an amazing singing voice and a kind heart. Perhaps it is because his mind is going ten thousand miles-a-minute and he is trying to look at everything in every direction that he looks at things in ways I would never think of and notices little details that slip right past the rest of us. Continue reading “Intelligence and Medication: Treating the Gifted/ADHD Mind”

A Night At The Museum (In A Father-And-Son Kinda Way)

Roald Dahl’s children’s classic Danny The Champion Of The World is one that deviates significantly from his more usual bent towards the cruel and macabre. Gone are the gruesome un-necessities of many of his other books, replaced as they are by life-applicable illustrations of good parenthood. The five year old Danny idolizes his dad who, being the only adult in his life, has given his every ounce of attention to doing what fathers do best- loving on their sons. And drawing from his deep knowledge of all things car-related, Danny’s dad never misses an opportunity to teach: “A petrol engine is sheer magic..Just imagine being able to take a thousand different bits of metal and if you fit them all together in a certain way…and then if you feed them a little oil and petrol…and if you press a little switch….suddenly those bits of metal will all come to life….and they will purr and hum and roar…they will make the wheels of a motor-car go whizzing round at fantastic speeds” (1, p.15). Oh the joys of teaching children science!

For a parent to see a child’s eyes light up upon hearing facts yet untold is as precious a gift as they come. I learned this in the first weeks of the school year during an overnight cub-scout camp at a museum on the banks of the Mississippi river. Continue reading “A Night At The Museum (In A Father-And-Son Kinda Way)”

Learning to Read: A Brain Changing Experience

High angle view of a girl reading in the grass

A friend and I were recently taking a stroll down memory lane—remembering elementary school in our respective cities in the Midwest (USA). We were comparing notes on having to read aloud to our classmates—remember that? It was a small group activity, and embarrassing when you came across a word you’d not read or pronounced before. I found myself wondering what the goal of the reading aloud exercise was.

Shortly after that conversation, Stanislas Dehaene’s research on “How learning to read changes the cortical networks for vision and language” appeared on the Science magazine’s online ScienceNow. It was time to learn what goes on “upstairs” as we learn to read. Continue reading “Learning to Read: A Brain Changing Experience”

Gold Medal Awarded to Promega Employee (for the Silly Olympics)

So tonight is the Opening Ceremonies of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.  I can hardly wait for them to begin. The excitement of the crowd, the camaraderie of the athletes, the unending coverage on NBC.  I am continually inspired by the stories of perseverance and dedication.  I yearn to be a person who looks pain and fear in the face and says “Bring it ON!” like the competitors do each year. My favorite competitor, Lindsey Vonn, is currently injured and healing herself with cheese.  I’m not making this up. What is there not to love?

I used to have great aspirations about being an Olympian. Unfortunately, I have no athletic skill to speak of.  I have tried snowboarding (face-planting), downhill skiing (leg-breaking), ice skating (ankle-straining), and luge.  I’m actually quite good at the luge,  but that’s another story. I will admit that the photo on this page is not me, but rather Alex Gough of Canada. I’m usually too fast for people to snap good photos.

World Cup Luge

However, my greatest victory is my Gold Medal in the Silly Olympics. Every year, when I was young, my parents used to host the Silly Olympics at our house.  Inspired by a rather famous Monty Python sketch of the same name, my Mom, bless her heart, wanted me to feel like I was good at something.

Our competitions centered around the wheelbarrow races, the egg in the spoon race (note: works better with hard boiled eggs), the silly animal walk competition, and as a clever parenting tool, the veggie eating contest. It was great fun, we giggled until we couldn’t stand it any more, and the prize was a large gold medal on a red, white, and blue ribbon. Later on in life, I learned that it was actually an “honorable mention” bowling award my Mom won in 1974. But to me, it was the best prize ever.

So good luck Olympians. And Lindsey, if the cheese doesn’t work, you can always come to my house for the Stinky Cheese game of the 2010 Silly Olympics. But you really don’t stand a chance to beat this Gold Medal winner!

Thank you NOVA

[picapp align=”right” wrap=”false” link=”term=graduation&iid=5371271″ src=”7/9/4/0/University_Of_Birmingham_ce0a.jpg?adImageId=8902543&imageId=5371271″ width=”234″ height=”332″ /]You could have knocked me over with a feather when, a couple of weeks ago, my sons came running upstairs with great enthusiasm to announce that they had both decided to go to college to study biology. They went on to regale me with facts about differentiation, developmental biology and genetics. This from children whose ambitions up until that point were to become a professional wrestler (#1 son) and to stay at home forever and avoid college at all costs (#2 son). Why the sudden change? Continue reading “Thank you NOVA”