Monday, December 20, 2010

The Shoestring Philanthropist |

The Shoestring Philanthropist |

’Tis the season to give, and few people embody the spirit of altruism better than Marc Gold. For 22 years, he has trekked through Asia handing out money to the needy in small amounts, as little as 50 cents and rarely exceeding $500. But even though the dollar figures are small, the impact is big. In Vietnam, a modest donation was enough for a widow to buy a sewing machine and start a business. In Aceh, Indonesia, a fisherman fixed his boat and returned to self-sufficiency.

Compared with global aid organizations and their billion-dollar budgets, Gold’s operation is tiny, but by his own estimate, he has touched over 50,000 lives. An energetic cross between Santa Claus and Johnny Appleseed, Gold, 61, spends four months a year raising funds in friends’ living rooms and the rest on the road finding more individuals to help.

In 1989, while touring India, Gold met Thinlay, a Tibetan refugee, who invited him to his home. Thinlay’s wife, Tsering, welcomed him but kept holding her ears—she was suffering from a painful, deadly infection. Gold found her a physician and bought the antibiotic she needed. It cost just $1—and saved Tsering’s life. Then Gold spent $35 on a hearing aid so she could return to work and her son could go to school. “When I pressed the switch to turn on the hearing aid, her burst of joy burned into my brain,” Gold recalls. “I was thunderstruck, realizing I could restore her hearing for a relative pittance. I thought you had to be wealthy to do such things.”

Returning to the U.S. with a new sense of purpose, Gold wrote to 100 friends, hoping to raise $200 to give away on his next trip. He raised $2000. Today, his donors—through his nonprofit, 100 Friends—exceed 4000. But outside of keeping them informed with a newsletter, he sends no mass mailings and has no paid employees. His mantra is simple: “You give it to me, and I give it to them.”

Five years ago, Gold pared down his belongings to a few duffel bags and boxes. Formerly a teacher in San Francisco, he works out of a Bangkok hotel room and lives off retirement savings and a modest pension. He keeps his expenses—which may include hiring a translator or a van to deliver, for instance, the tools to help a young man open a bike-repair shop—low.

When he meets someone, Gold sits down to chat and maybe shares a cup of tea. Mostly, he listens. He has a knack for spotting people who aren’t on the radar of the large aid groups. One day in Kolkata, India, a rickshaw ferrying Gold broke down, and the driver wept. An interpreter explained that the vehicle was the man’s livelihood and home. Gold paid a mechanic $40 to repair the rickshaw and requested that the driver use it once a month to transport others in need. In Gyantse, Tibet, he saw a girl struggling with a large cart, which held her paralyzed mother. Thanks to him, the mother has a wheelchair and the daughter goes to school.

“Someone once asked me if I was playing God,” Gold says. “The people I help don’t ask questions like that. They only know a stranger is willing to help them.”

While Gold has helped pay for the building of some schools and libraries, the bulk of his giving is small. Rather than expand, he encourages others to become shoestring philanthropists, sharing his experiences and contacts and often giving them their first $100. Arlene Butler, a social worker and minister from Cape Charles, Va., heard about his work in 2006. “I’d saved $300, so I called Marc and asked if he’d help me give it away,” she recalls. Instead, he gave her advice, so she sent out e-mails seeking donations, netting $3000. That year, she went to Thailand and gave the money to sick children. “Now our kids are involved in our philanthropic travel. In Panama, we helped fund the education program of a tribe in the jungle,” Butler says. “It changes you inside when you have a chance to do these things.”

Three More Shoestring Philanthropists
A passion for travel and a growing awareness of global poverty have drawn other Americans to the kind of micro-philanthropy practiced by Marc Gold and 100 Friends. Here are three people who've been influenced by Gold and how they're choosing to give back:

A Fulbright Scholar with degrees in cultural anthropology and international relations, Adam Carter decided to create his own nonprofit after becoming disillusioned with the bureaucracy of large international development agencies. He says, "Marc Gold's lifestyle shined like a beacon for me – here was a guy who carved out this incredible existence, helping so many people yet having an amazing time in the process." Gold mentored Carter on fundraising and methodology, shared his contacts, and donated the first $100 to Carter's new nonprofit, Cause & Affect Foundation. Now Carter, 36, backpacks from village to village through Africa, Latin America, and South America: "I treasure the personal connection to folks on the ground, that immediate contact with people in need. My previous experience was great but I didn't want to be a tiny cog in a gigantic wheel." The best advice he received from Gold? "Don't feel overwhelmed. If you only help one single person you've made the world a better place. Start there." Carter's video shows an exuberant humanitarian equally at home in dirt villages and in the Brazilian slums. His group has brought wheelchairs to amputees ("Once you're mobile you can earn a living") and funded six-person factories and workshops. "By immersing ourselves in the local culture, we seek out the best hands-on way to help local leaders improve their communities, while giving people a chance to climb out of poverty and improve their own lives," he explains. Every summer in Chicago, Carter also mentors inner-city boys from the most violent neighborhoods, and he earns his travel expenses by working as a beer vendor at Wrigley Field. He is currently pursuing humanitarian efforts in his favorite country, Brazil. (

Thanks to Atlanta's Dwight Turner, volunteering in Bangkok is simple. Located in the storied Thai capital, his nonprofit offers travelers a chance to participate in short-term volunteering--and people can even sign up online even before they leave on their trips. Volunteer assignments may include a morning spent teaching English at a school for the blind or visiting families segregated in immigration centers. Turner, 26, went to teach English in Thailand in 2006 but found himself staying on in the country afterwards. Like Adam Carter, he is a generation younger than Marc Gold. He says, "I was inspired by what Marc was doing. I loved his idea that it doesn't take huge organizations to make a difference." He credits Gold with "pushing me to step out and do things on my own," and started his organization with the assistance of Gold and his extensive contacts. "That was important because he has quality information about small grassroots projects that you can only know by going there." Turner's group is called In Search of Sanuk (ISOS) -- "sanuk" is Thai for ‘ fun' -- and Turner dubs his vision "funlanthropy," declaring, "While alleviating the ills of urban poverty in Bangkok, we invite you to make new friends and have fun helping others." Travelers can find ISOS through Facebook and Twitter. Last year, Turner worked with more than 200 volunteers. (


"My dream is to put orphanages on the big tourist map," says Ryan Anderson, 34, who like Turner, is also turning travelers into temporary volunteers. "People come through Cambodia to go see the temples of Angkor Wat. Then, when they see our posters, they decide to visit us too. Tourists like lending a hand, especially to kids." After graduating from Loyola University in 1999, Anderson backpacked throughout Asia, volunteering in Nepal and opening a Mexican restaurant in Thailand. He eventually chose to focus on several Cambodian orphanages for his philanthropic efforts and started the nonprofit Hands on Helping, saying: "I wanted to do more than walk orphans to school and make sure they brushed their teeth. I realized I could start a small, fun charity that would bring me to amazing destinations and let me improve the lives of unfortunate children." What drew him to Marc Gold? "Marc's excitement and energy, how he adds fun to what he does. He's tech savvy; his newsletters for donors are prompt and accurate. And he goes to beautiful, remote areas of the world that often are ignored." Anderson adds, "One thing I especially love is his knack for odd, ‘big-small' gestures. I've put my own spin on it. It could be simple, like buying all the fruit from an old lady at the market and giving it to the orphanage so she can take a day off and stay with her family." Anderson -- who goes by the nickname "Ando" -- would someday like to devote himself full-time to micro-philanthropy. For now, he supports himself by running a boat-cleaning service business in Chicago during the warmer months. (

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Tricks for Getting Sleep in the Newborn Months

BabyCenter moms tell you all their tricks for squeezing in more zzzzs during those crazy newborn months:

"In the morning, stay in your PJs and keep going back to bed until you get enough sleep - even if that means you don't get up until noon!"

"My husband and I slept in shifts. After feeding the baby around 10 p.m., I went to sleep and my husband stayed up and put him to bed. Since I was breastfeeding, I was the one who needed to get up at 2 or 4 a.m. to feed him, so my husband slept through that. I felt better with that extra two hours I got early in the night."

"Sleep when the baby sleeps except for one nap. Use that time to do dishes and laundry."

"Buy a baby swing. They are wonderful for those late nights when your baby is either crying or won't sleep. Strap her in and you know she's safe — then you can catch some zz's on the couch next to her."

"Once I made up my mind that I wasn't going to get any sleep that night, it made it easier to cope. It was when I obsessed about getting sleep that I had problems dealing with the lack of sleep."

"If your partner's habits (restlessness, snoring) keep you from sleeping, ask him to sleep somewhere else for awhile."

"Don't wait until nighttime to catch up on sleep, because that's when your baby wants to be up. I slept at least once during the day when my baby napped, and that made all the difference between being a nice mommy and a mean mommy."

"The first four nights were the hardest, getting up every two hours to go into another room to feed the baby, hoping she wouldn't wake when I laid her down. The fifth night, I took her to bed with me, and we both slept like a dream. Now I enjoy eight hours of sleep a night."

Baby sleep: Seven tips
Seven great tips from parents and experts for getting your baby to sleep.

"Have a lot of pillows for comfort — even if you don't get a lot of sleep, it feels good."

"Don't worry about getting the dishes done or cooking dinner. I lost out on so much sleep because I was trying to keep my house together, and by the time I was ready to lie down, guess who was awake."

"Get someone else to watch the baby while you nap, even if you have to pay a babysitter."

"I've learned after three children not to worry too much if my baby doesn't want to eat every three hours. If her last feeding was at 11 p.m. and she sleeps until 4 a.m., then the best thing to do is enjoy the sleep while you can."

"When all else fails, put a blanket (not a comforter, but a flat blanket) on the floor and lie down with your baby. You will get some sleep — maybe not the most comfortable sleep, but sleep nonetheless."

"My husband gets up with the baby first, changing her and comforting her, which gives me time to prepare for breastfeeding (waking up a little, using the restroom, and getting a glass of water). He has been a great help!"

"Catnapping works wonders for new moms. Set an alarm for 15 or 20 minutes. You'll be surprised how much it helps to close your eyes for even a short period of time."

"At night, put the baby down in a separate room and turn the monitor low enough so you can hear a cry but not grunts and whines."

"My nurse advised me to take six-hour shifts with my husband. That way, each of us got some solid sleep. Once we started doing that, we both felt better."

"You know how they always tell you "Sleep when your baby sleeps"? Well, I tried, but I was so overtired and anxious about being a new mother that I couldn't sleep! My doctor prescribed a sleeping pill, and it really helped me get the rest I needed."

For me:
For baby #1, I needed to turn the monitor down because he grunted and made a lot of noise, waking me up every 10 minutes. The car seat was a great place for him too because he would feel snuggled and I sometimes got 3-4 hours of sleep in a row.
For baby #2, the car seat and swing were great in getting me consistent sleep as mentioned before. In the mornings I brought the baby to bed with me to nurse and we would nap for another hour or two. I don't move much when I sleep, so I was comfortable with this arrangement (there is always a concern the parent will squash the baby in their sleep) and it got some extra sleep during those early months. I also started a bedtime routine early on (after 2 weeks of observing what time the baby went down for his deep sleep), and adjusted it as he got older and his needs changed. Once he got use to the routine, I was slowly able to move his bedtime up so by 5 months he was going to bed between 7-8pm like his older brother.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Forget the Joneses Holiday Boot Camp Starts MONDAY

I have decided to join this blog forum to see how I can save $ and spend quality time with my young family. I look forward to reading from other participants as well. You can join too!

Nov 21 (my youngest is 7mo old today!)
Camp was supposed to start Nov 15, but I never got an email like I thought I would. So I grabbed a couple of minutes today and looked "boot camp" on and found some postings. We are supposed to create a holiday budget with an example spreadsheet the author created. I keep our household budget on an excel program and I created a projected budget for completing house projects, but I never thought about creating the same system for holiday expenses. Perhaps this is because I don't have a regular list of expenses. We have a fake tree, we don't buy a lot of gifts for ourselves or the kids (the oldest is 2 years old) and I don't buy extra decorations until after the holidays when they are clearanced at 75%. Sometimes the best deals come around the holiday, like Glen Ivy Day Spa gift cards, $75 for $100. So I tend to stock up for the year (as presents for the holidays or special occasions like birthdays and mother's day). We only buy presents for our close family and a few friends. This year I am also making presents like flannel pajama bottoms, jam, jewelry, and decorative ornaments. So I am hoping to make the holidays more affordable and special by making my own crafts (although finding the time with 2 kids might be the real holiday challenge for me). However, since I signed up for the holiday boot camp, I will attempt to create a spreadsheet anyway.

Waiting for Superman? Not so Much.

"Waiting for Superman" presents a very biased view of education and charter schools. A colleague presented this article to me which shows a more neutral explanation of what's happening in education and what "Waiting for Superman" is not showing us.

Ordinarily, documentaries about education attract little attention, and seldom, if ever, reach neighborhood movie theaters. Davis Guggenheim’s Waiting for “Superman” is different. It arrived in late September with the biggest publicity splash I have ever seen for a documentary. Not only was it the subject of major stories in Time and New York, but it was featured twice on The Oprah Winfrey Show and was the centerpiece of several days of programming by NBC, including an interview with President Obama.

Two other films expounding the same arguments—The Lottery and The Cartel—were released in the late spring, but they received far less attention than Guggenheim’s film. His reputation as the director of the Academy Award–winning An Inconvenient Truth, about global warming, contributed to the anticipation surrounding Waiting for “Superman,” but the media frenzy suggested something more. Guggenheim presents the popularized version of an account of American public education that is promoted by some of the nation’s most powerful figures and institutions.

The message of these films has become alarmingly familiar: American public education is a failed enterprise. The problem is not money. Public schools already spend too much. Test scores are low because there are so many bad teachers, whose jobs are protected by powerful unions. Students drop out because the schools fail them, but they could accomplish practically anything if they were saved from bad teachers. They would get higher test scores if schools could fire more bad teachers and pay more to good ones. The only hope for the future of our society, especially for poor black and Hispanic children, is escape from public schools, especially to charter schools, which are mostly funded by the government but controlled by private organizations, many of them operating to make a profit.

The Cartel maintains that we must not only create more charter schools, but provide vouchers so that children can flee incompetent public schools and attend private schools. There, we are led to believe, teachers will be caring and highly skilled (unlike the lazy dullards in public schools); the schools will have high expectations and test scores will soar; and all children will succeed academically, regardless of their circumstances. The Lottery echoes the main story line of Waiting for “Superman”: it is about children who are desperate to avoid the New York City public schools and eager to win a spot in a shiny new charter school in Harlem.

The movie asserts a central thesis in today’s school reform discussion: the idea that teachers are the most important factor determining student achievement. But this proposition is false. Hanushek has released studies showing that teacher quality accounts for about 7.5–10 percent of student test score gains. Several other high-quality analyses echo this finding, and while estimates vary a bit, there is a relative consensus: teachers statistically account for around 10–20 percent of achievement outcomes. Teachers are the most important factor within schools.

But the same body of research shows that nonschool factors matter even more than teachers. According to University of Washington economist Dan Goldhaber, about 60 percent of achievement is explained by nonschool factors, such as family income. So while teachers are the most important factor within schools, their effects pale in comparison with those of students’ backgrounds, families, and other factors beyond the control of schools and teachers. Teachers can have a profound effect on students, but it would be foolish to believe that teachers alone can undo the damage caused by poverty and its associated burdens.

Guggenheim skirts the issue of poverty by showing only families that are intact and dedicated to helping their children succeed. One of the children he follows is raised by a doting grandmother; two have single mothers who are relentless in seeking better education for them; two of them live with a mother and father. Nothing is said about children whose families are not available, for whatever reason, to support them, or about children who are homeless, or children with special needs. Nor is there any reference to the many charter schools that enroll disproportionately small numbers of children who are English-language learners or have disabilities.

The film never acknowledges that charter schools were created mainly at the instigation of Albert Shanker, the president of the American Federation of Teachers from 1974 to 1997. Shanker had the idea in 1988 that a group of public school teachers would ask their colleagues for permission to create a small school that would focus on the neediest students, those who had dropped out and those who were disengaged from school and likely to drop out. He sold the idea as a way to open schools that would collaborate with public schools and help motivate disengaged students. In 1993, Shanker turned against the charter school idea when he realized that for-profit organizations saw it as a business opportunity and were advancing an agenda of school privatization. Michelle Rhee gained her teaching experience in Baltimore as an employee of Education Alternatives, Inc., one of the first of the for-profit operations.

It bears mentioning that nations with high-performing school systems—whether Korea, Singapore, Finland, or Japan—have succeeded not by privatizing their schools or closing those with low scores, but by strengthening the education profession. They also have less poverty than we do. Fewer than 5 percent of children in Finland live in poverty, as compared to 20 percent in the United States. Those who insist that poverty doesn’t matter, that only teachers matter, prefer to ignore such contrasts.

If we are serious about improving our schools, we will take steps to improve our teacher force, as Finland and other nations have done. That would mean better screening to select the best candidates, higher salaries, better support and mentoring systems, and better working conditions. Guggenheim complains that only one in 2,500 teachers loses his or her teaching certificate, but fails to mention that 50 percent of those who enter teaching leave within five years, mostly because of poor working conditions, lack of adequate resources, and the stress of dealing with difficult children and disrespectful parents. Some who leave “fire themselves”; others were fired before they got tenure. We should also insist that only highly experienced teachers become principals (the “head teacher” in the school), not retired businessmen and military personnel. Every school should have a curriculum that includes a full range of studies, not just basic skills. And if we really are intent on school improvement, we must reduce the appalling rates of child poverty that impede success in school and in life.

There is a clash of ideas occurring in education right now between those who believe that public education is not only a fundamental right but a vital public service, akin to the public provision of police, fire protection, parks, and public libraries, and those who believe that the private sector is always superior to the public sector. Waiting for “Superman” is a powerful weapon on behalf of those championing the “free market” and privatization. It raises important questions, but all of the answers it offers require a transfer of public funds to the private sector. The stock market crash of 2008 should suffice to remind us that the managers of the private sector do not have a monopoly on success.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Bill Gates - What I've Learned About Great Teachers

I found it interesting that Bill Gates learned "teachings hard." But says that teachers are not improving overtime. And after going over all these cool things he "taught" his kids, he didn't explain how he was going to modify these cool things for students who were ELL, RSP or SDC. How he plans to adjust his lesson in case of disruptions, lack of student materials (like pencils), daily procedures, and discipline. Or how schools were going to pay for all those wonderful field trips he took his own kids and how we are going to make sure all classrooms have access to the technology he found useful. And I'm not really sure how he came to the conclusion that it's the teachers who have gotten worse over time. He doesn't explain what research or observations he's made, other than to say the inner city kids are dropping out and it is a crisis.
I believe there are other parts to the education system that are being overlooked. Administrators (including district personel) and parents. Administrators control the money flow and create the community environment with their leadership. Parents are role models and are part of the educational process. I'm surprised that these documentaries and studies coming out lately only look at teachers. If a teacher had as much power as these videos and articles give them credit for, I think the education system would be a lot better off.

What I've Learned About Great Teachers |

"In almost every area of human endeavor, the practice improves over time," says Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates. "That hasn't been the case for teaching." This month, Gates is sounding the alarm about public education in Waiting for "Superman," a new documentary from An Inconvenient Truth's Davis Guggenheim. "He has this amazing capacity to drill really, really deep," Guggenheim says of Gates. "He has an infectious curiosity." PARADE sat down with the software mogul turned philanthropist to talk about the movie, the American education system, and his own school days.

PARADE: Why did you decide to appear in Waiting for "Superman"?
BG: Our foundation has picked education as a priority in the United States, and we've spent over $4 billion on various projects. So when I heard that somebody who's done great documentaries was doing one on education, my interest was to share some thoughts and say, "Hey, don't get too depressed."

PARADE: Depressed? Do you think people will find the film pessimistic?
BG: Most people don't realize how bad the situation really has become. They think, Geez, if half the kids in the inner city were really dropping out, wouldn't somebody declare a crisis? The movie shows how bad the system is, and that's a downer. But you also see that there are great schools, and kids in the inner city can succeed. So that's a very hopeful thing.

PARADE: In the documentary, experts say there are too many bad teachers in America and not enough great ones. Why is that?
BG: Very little is invested in understanding great teaching. We've never had a meaningful evaluation system that identifies the dimensions of great teachers so we can transfer the skills to others. The Gates Foundation has learned that two questions can predict how much kids learn: "Does your teacher use class time well?" and, "When you're confused, does your teacher help you get straightened out?"

PARADE: As a student, did you have one teacher who really influenced you?
BG: I went to a public school through sixth grade, and being good at tests wasn't cool. Then my parents switched me to the Lakeside School [a private school in Seattle]. A teacher there, Mr. Anderson, was pairing people up by ability for a geography quiz, and he put me with this kid I didn't think was very clever. I thought, Wait, he thinks I'm the same as this kid? Man, oh, man, there's something wrong.

PARADE: How did you turn yourself into a different kind of student?
BG: When I was in eighth grade, I scored the best in the state on a math exam. After that, my math teacher let me go off and do independent study and computer stuff. I also became good at relating to adults. When I'd meet a teacher, I'd say, "Hey, tell me your 10 favorite books." I'd read them, and then I could talk to the teachers about something they knew a lot about.

PARADE: You and Melinda have three school-age kids. Are you involved in their education?
BG: Last year our family traveled for three months, and we did some home-schooling. I taught math and science. We went to the Large Hadron Collider, the giant particle accelerator in Switzerland. We went to a toilet-paper factory, a garbage dump, an aircraft carrier, and a coal plant. I also found great educational material on the Web, including short videos at

PARADE: What did you learn from working with your kids?
BG: Teaching's hard! You need different skills: positive reinforcement, keeping students from getting bored, commanding their attention in a certain way. I'd be better at teaching the college-level stuff.

PARADE: Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, has criticized Waiting for "Superman" for focusing too much on charter schools as a solution. What do you think?
BG: She points out that, on average, charter schools don't do better than other public schools. She's right. But it's a strange point to make: "Hey, they're as bad as we are!" The fact is, we're failing those kids. Ms. Weingarten represents the teachers' union, but say there was a students' union. Might they ask that the dropout rate be lowered? Might they stay at the negotiating table until it was below 50%? We ought to ask kids whether they think the status quo is working.

Waiting for "Superman" has triggered a national debate about the quality of teachers in America. School districts from Washington, D.C., to Washington State are demanding more accountability from teachers, tying salaries to students' performance and firing educators who fail to make the grade.

But teachers -- and their unions -- are pushing back. They argue that struggling teachers should receive additional training, not a dismissal notice. They also contend that students' test scores don't accurately reflect teachers' skills.

"If we measure teachers or students by standardization alone, we're left with a culture of sameness that creates mediocrity -- not equality," says Sarah Brown Wessling, National Teacher of the Year.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

How You Can Sleep In

I think this article may save my life. I've never done well without sleep and this is helping us to deal with our 2 year old, 6am riser. Many baby articles and magazines deal with trying to get your baby to sleep through the night. But what about your toddler that does sleep through the night, they just wake up really early? This article has some great tips.

If you have a toddler in the family, like I do, chances are you're woken up way too early every morning, roused by the voice of a tiny child who's burning with energy and hungry to boot. And you probably already know that sound machines, room-darkening shades, and bedtime adjustments won't necessarily solve the problem. Young kids are wired to wake up with the sun.

Step 1: Teach Her About Time

The first things your child needs to learn are when it's okay to get out of bed and when it's okay to come wake you up.

By the numbers Put a digital clock in your child's room, then put masking tape over the minutes (so it's less confusing). Tell her, for example, that she can get out of bed and play quietly in her room once there's a 6 on the clock, but she can't leave the room until there's a 7. Too young to recognize numbers? Draw a picture of the right times on a folded index card and place it next to the clock so she can match them.

To a tune If telling time is too difficult, set an alarm clock to play the radio or your child's favorite CD at, say, 7 a.m., suggests Sarah Hansel, a mom in Eldridge, IA. When her 3-year-old twins wake her too early, she brings them back to their room, saying she'll see them when the music starts. "The first couple of times, they cried," she says, "but we stuck to it, and it only took a few days before they got it."

By the half-light Try putting a dim lamp on a timer, so it won't wake your child if she's sleeping. Or check out the Good Nite Lite (; $34.99), a product designed by a dad whose child kept getting up at 5 a.m. It glows like a sun when it's okay to get out of bed and like a moon when it's still nighttime.

Step 2: Keep Him Entertained

Some especially self-reliant children might be able to find ways to amuse themselves, but most will need a little inspiration.

Wake-up-time toys Fill a bin with quiet playthings, such as puzzles and sticker books, and rotate them so there's always something interesting. Explain to your child that these are "special morning toys" that he can play with only before he wakes you up. Then sneak into his room after he's asleep and leave the box waiting for him on the floor.

His own "play" list Make a digital recording of yourself reading your child's favorite stories or singing songs he loves, get an audiobook from the library, or pick up a podcast online. Then show him how to turn on the player himself.

A craft surprise On the weekends, Ridgewood, NJ, mom of four Nicki Bosch puts out the supplies for an easy-to-do craft project. "I tell them that when they wake up, there's going to be a super-secret project in the kitchen for them, and that they can surprise Mommy and Daddy with it once they're done," she says. "They're so excited about it that they go to bed happily the night before, and it affords us at least an extra hour of sleep."

Step 3: Start the Day (Without You)

Since mornings are often hectic anyway, motivate your kid to tackle some getting-ready tasks on her own.

Dressing up Pick out a few outfits that your child can put on herself, and set them out the night before. Tell her she can choose any outfit she wants, but she can't wake you until she's dressed (this will also save you getting-out-the-door time).

Chowing down If your child is usually ravenous when she rises, leave a "wake-up tray" in her room with a bowl of dry cereal and a juice box, as well as an activity to keep her busy.

Invite her in If you try all these strategies and she's still waking up too early, she just may not be ready. Instead, let your child come into your room and play quietly while you doze. Elizabeth Pantley, author of the No-Cry Solution book series, suggests creating a fort in your room by placing a blanket over some furniture, putting a few toys or books inside, and calling it her "morning nest." Got a TV in your room? Turn a fave show on low and let her cuddle up next to you.

And remember, on those days when you're desperate, you can always resort to pure, unadulterated bribery. Once when we knew we were going to have a particularly late night, we told our early-rising 2-year-old we'd give her ice cream for breakfast if she stayed in her room until 7 a.m. It worked!
Is Your Child Ready for Morning "Alone" Time?

Yes if...

* During the day, he can play quietly by himself for 20 to 40 minutes if you're on the computer, making dinner, or taking a shower.

* She understands it's okay to wake you if she gets hurt or something spills, but it's not okay to surprise you by cooking breakfast.

* He's able to wait for things, such as when you tell him he can have dessert in five minutes.

* She can follow multistep directions, and her preschool teacher or other caretaker describes her as a rule follower.

* He wants to do "big kid" things.

No if...

* He thinks it's funny to turn on the appliances or leave the house when you're not looking.

* She has separation issues and cries or gets anxious when you leave the room.

* He has trouble with self-control. If you tell him to eat his sandwich before his cookie, what will he do when you leave the room?

* She has trouble playing by herself.

* His preschool teacher or caretaker describes him as "demanding" or "mischievous."

But here's what you may not know: Just because your kid's awake doesn't mean you have to be. Experts say that, depending on their temperament and maturity level, many kids are able to fend for themselves in the morning, at least for a short time, by age 3. In fact, even some 2-year-olds can play quietly in their rooms. You've simply got to train them.

My sister-in-law, who has four children, has done just that. Her littlest ones, ages 4 and 2, know they can't leave their rooms until there's a 7 on the clock. Then they find bowls of dry cereal waiting on the kitchen table. Tiny stickers show them which buttons to press on the remote control to fire up their favorite movie. And Mom, blissfully, sleeps until 8 a.m.

To get to that point, you'll have to do a bit of work, and take some precautions. Most important, says Ari Brown, M.D., author of Toddler 411, before you start, ask yourself: Do I trust my child when my back is turned? Think about whether she always follows instructions - and so might be ready for a little more independence - or tends to get into mischief, in which case it might be best to wait. Make sure you childproof the area where your early bird will be, and that she understands it's okay to wake you in an emergency. Then let the training begin.

"Consistency is the main thing," advises Lawrence Shapiro, Ph.D., a child psychologist in Norwalk, CT, and author of A Parent's Guide to Getting Kids Out of the Family Bed. "Try it three or four times, and most kids will learn to love it."

The benefits, he adds, won't only be yours. "This is not just about Mom and Dad sleeping for another hour," Shapiro says. "It's about giving your child a chance to learn how to entertain himself, how to make breakfast. That's good for him."


Tips for the Under-2 Crowd

If your baby is still in a crib, you obviously aren't going to be setting up morning craft projects. But there are a few things parents of tiny ones can do to get a little more shut-eye:

Don't rush to get her If your baby wakes up early and she's not crying, leave her in the crib, says Atlanta pediatrician Jennifer Shu, M.D. "She may drift back to sleep or at least entertain herself until it's a more reasonable hour."

Turn off the monitor Or at least turn it down. If he wakes and starts playing, you don't need to hear every coo and squeal. Unless your room is very far from your baby's, you're going to hear him when he really needs you.

Trade off with dad Why are you both losing sleep? Even if you can take turns only on weekends, that one morning of extra sleep can make a difference.

Find an early-morning sitter When you really need to catch up on your zzz's, ask Mom or another relative to spend the night and wake up with the kids. Or hire a sitter to arrive at 6 or 7 a.m., then go back to sleep for an hour or two.

Use clip-on crib toys... From simple plastic mirrors to elaborate activity centers, there are dozens of toys that attach securely to crib rails. "A musical toy with a button a baby can push over and over is great entertainment," says Dr. Shu. (Be sure to take down hanging mobiles, which can be dangerous once your child can sit up.)

...and inside-the-crib toys Once your child is 1, you can sneak in and leave a few age-appropriate toys inside the crib, Dr. Brown says, as long as they have no small pieces and your child can't stack them and climb out. Try soft blocks, a baby doll, or board books (great for reading and hurling over the rail). Rotate the toys so your baby will always have something new.

Put a playpen in your room If your baby isn't happy unless you're nearby, set up a play yard in your room and fill it with a few favorite toys. Practice during the day first, then once he's comfortable, try it in the morning - while you snooze a little longer.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Five classic classroom blunders—and how to avoid them.

Nobody's Perfect

By Mary Ellen Flannery

Mary Modder was student teaching in Silver Lake, Wisconsin,w hen the school nurses came to deliver “the talk” with her 8th-graders. She recalls that the principal said students might have questions afterward and teachers should be open and honest in their responses. So when one girl asked about contractions, Modder tried her best. She told all about her son’s birth and the necessary role of contractions.

That child listened politely and then asked again, more specifically, about the uses of isn’t, wasn’t, can’t, don’t, etc., for her language arts assignment. Modder’s mistake? Assuming too much.

Everybody makes mistakes – and not all are so funny! But you can avoid the worst and learn from the missteps you’ll inevitably make anyway. With that in mind, check out our list of five of the most common mistakes and your colleagues’ advice for steering clear of them.
1. Taking it too personally

Some sweetheart in the back row tells you that you’re the worst teacher he’s had in his life. Your class is BOH-ring! Like totally irrelevant. And, half the time your assignments don’t even make sense, at all.

Now, maybe you’re a tough guy and you think,’re really pushing your luck today. Or maybe you’re a Mr. Softee and you just think, “I will not cry! I will not cry!” Either way, you can’t take the irritating things that students (or parents) say and do personally.

“With experience, you realize that taking things personally is a mistake, because not only are those things not meant to be taken personally, it will just wear you down too much if you do,” says Illinois teacher Jackie Quitter.

Consider that a student might have a legitimate beef – even if it has been offered offensively — and you may learn from it. In her “Ask the Expert,” discussion board, NEA Today’s discipline expert Kate Ortiz suggests speaking directly, privately, to that student who shouts, “I am so bored!” Say you’re interested in becoming the best teacher you can be and would like to hear his suggestions. In similar situations, Ortiz also has told students that they’re not required to “like” her class. But disruption won’t be tolerated, and they are required to do their work.

Also consider that a student’s comments or actions may reflect his problems, not yours. When a kid says he’s bored, for example, Ortiz notes that it may be because he’s actually not capable of doing the work. Sometimes students make comments because “they are hurting – not to attack you,” says Heidi Sagendorph Coffey, an alternative education teacher in New York.

Same goes for parents. “You can be the best teacher ever.and you will still have parents who complain about you. A lot of times they’re having their own issues with life or the child,” says California teacher Valerie Barnes Doyel.
2. The Superhero complex

First there are the lesson plans – you need to write them. (Life’s mystery: why does it take 45 minutes to write a 30-minute lesson?) Then, there are the student papers – you need to read them, grade them. Parents must be called. Paperwork must be filled out. And then there’s the small matter of the upcoming benchmarks. So, when your a.p. says, “We think you’d make a wonderful debate coach next semester and, oh, we’ve also got a slot for you on the school’s technology committee – and, hey, let’s just sign you up to chaperone prom, okay?”

You do not say, “Hooray!”

You say, “How nice of you to think of me! But I really can’t right now.”

The truth is: You actually can’t do everything – and do it well.

“Don’t try to do it all,” warns Washington teacher Martha Patterson. “It is okay to say no to chaperoning dances and organizing fundraisers. Remember you’ve been hired to teach.”

And forget that backpack that you’ve stuffed with papers to bring home each night. Teachers deserve personal lives too. For Patterson, it works better to get to school early or often stay late, but she leaves work at work. She also reminds her colleagues to make time for themselves – “exercise, read for fun, do a craft, hang out with friends.” Otherwise, you’re taking the straight road to resentment and burnout, she warns.
3. The “I’m not political” syndrome

So you think political advocacy is irrelevant to your teaching life. No, no, no, that’s a big mistake!

Look around your classroom – the number of students, the SmartBoard in the corner, the day’s test-prep lesson on the board, and even the ratio of wall posters to undecorated space – it’s all dictated by law. How much are you paid? Did you or a colleague get a pink slip last year?

And you still think politics is irrelevant?

Monica Mixon, an education support professional (ESP) in Pennsylvania, wasn’t always a political animal, she admits. She voted because her grandmother told her to. But in 2008, when her colleagues encouraged her to participate in a phone bank, she did – and she caught the bug. Now she enthusiastically calls her colleagues to encourage them to vote for pro-public education candidates and she meets with her state legislators in the hopes of informing their votes.

For her, it’s a matter of protecting her job and her colleagues’ jobs. “I’m an ESP – and you know ESPs are always the first to get cut,” says Mixon, a classroom aide in Montgomery County.

With technology, it’s easier than ever. Check out for its direct links to Congressional inboxes!
4. Getting stuck in a rut

After a few years on the job, you might start looking at your 401K or 403B statements with a wistful eye. It’s hard to imagine staying on the job for another 5, 10, 25 years. It’s hard work, isn’t it? Exhausting, even. But it’s a mistake to think that a lack of enthusiasm is inevitable. Many of your colleagues know the secrets to staying excited about education – and they’re willing to share.

Here’s one: Be a learner!

“I take new classes as often as I can, so that I do not lose sight of the humility required to learn something new,” says South Carolina special educator Ann Nichols. “Allow yourself the pleasure of continuing to learn.”

“Every year, I’m surrounded by a new group of unique human beings, whom I respect,” says Mississippi high school English teacher Renee Moore, “Every year they help me learn something new about my subject, about how to teach, and about myself.”

Many experienced teachers keep fresh by going for National Board Certification, a challenging process that will keep your brain cells firing.
5. Sweating the small stuff

In case you didn’t catch it earlier, allow us to say it again: Everybody makes mistakes. Expecting that someday you’ll get everything just right might be the biggest mistake of all!

Listen to your own advice, suggests Dianne Cox, a middle school teacher in Kansas for 22 years. You probably have told your students, repeatedly, as Cox does, that you actually expect them to make mistakes. It’s part of the learning process. (When they understand that message, you’ll find they raise their hands much more often in class, Cox predicts.)

“I tell my students we’re all human. If we didn’t make mistakes, we would be aliens,” Cox says – and the same goes for you. Relax, take a deep breath, and learn from your mistakes.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Lost Custody

Divorce is difficult for both parties involved. I believe there are both great fathers and mothers. I like how this article presents the changing times and the problems with the court systems in regards to child custody; and how to better prepare for a custody hearing.

Working Mother magazine December/January 2010
By: Sally Abrahms

Are more women facing the impossible choice between keeping a career that pays the bills and living with their children? When it comes to heartbreaking custody wars, people inside and outside the courts say that the growing number of stay-at-home dads and breadwinner moms means more working mothers are fighting an unprecedented uphill battle.

Getting ready for court that raw, overcast Monday morning two years ago, Julie Michaud dressed carefully. She chose a warm pink sweater and tailored black skirt, before slipping on her good luck charm, a necklace engraved with her kids’ names. She helped Daniel, 7, and Sophia, 5, get dressed, packed their school snacks and kissed them goodbye. An hour later, the petite brunette walked into a family probate courtroom.

A judge was deciding whether Julie, then 40, the owner of a beauty business in Boston, would get what she’d requested: joint custody of her children. Her husband, Mark, who’d been unemployed for five years, sought primary custody—a shock to Julie. Still, she was feeling confident. She’d worked hard to support her kids and was deeply devoted to them. Her lawyer assured her there was nothing to worry about, and Julie believed her case was strong.

As she surveyed the crowded courtroom, Julie fought to remain steady against a sudden riptide of emotion: The heartbreak of a ten-year marriage in shambles. The fear of not being the one to tuck her kids into bed each night. The anger at her husband for failing to help support them. “I couldn’t work any harder,” Julie says. “I begged him to get a job.” In court papers, Mark, a graphic artist by training, said he had agreed to stay home with the kids so Julie could build her business.

It took hours for the case to be called. Then a female judge flipped through the stacks of paperwork and announced, “There are so many motions here, it would take three hours to get through them all. I’ll give each lawyer three minutes.” Julie was stunned. “I’ll never forget it,” she remembers. “Three minutes!”

Mark’s lawyer argued that because Mark had not worked since their youngest child was 1, his “marketable skills have decreased,” limiting his opportunities to find work.

Julie’s successful career was portrayed as so demanding that she neglected the children. But she felt some relief when the judge admonished Mark for pulling Sophia out of her arms when she’d gone to console their sobbing daughter about their upcoming divorce. “You won’t do that again,” the judge warned. At that moment, Julie felt the case sway in her favor.

Julie was at work two days later when she saw her lawyer’s number flash on the caller ID. This is it, she thought as she picked up the phone. “I have very bad news,” her lawyer began. Julie felt the blood leave her body. “The judge gave Mark temporary primary custody. You get Wednesdays, Fridays and every other Saturday.”

There was more: Julie had to pay $850 a week in child support and $450 a week in spousal support. She stopped listening. All she could think was I’m being punished for supporting my kids, while there’s this guy who refused to work.

Custody cases like Julie’s are increasingly being played out in family courtrooms across the country. A shift in the courts’ focus, a limping economy and dramatic male/female role reversals in many nuclear families are leading to nontraditional outcomes. Not long ago, men usually paid the child support and doled out the alimony. Moms (working or not) almost always got the kids in messy divorce wars. Years of changing diapers, wiping noses and kissing boo-boos gave them the edge. But now the tide is turning.

The “tender years doctrine,” a court presumption that mothers are the more suitable parent for children under 7, was abolished in most states in 1994. And, due in large part to the recession, women are poised to outnumber men in the workforce for the first time in American history. Job layoffs affecting more men than women have yielded a burgeoning crop of Mr. Moms.

“Men are now able to argue that they spend more time with the kids than their working wives do,” says veteran New York City divorce attorney Raoul Felder. “This is one of the dark sides of women’s accomplishments in the workplace—they’re getting a raw deal in custody cases, while men are being viewed more favorably.”

Indeed, Julie sat helpless as Mark’s lawyer argued that he was the one who arranged the playdates, took the kids to the pediatrician and volunteered at their schools.

Affidavits from teachers and neighbors attested to his hands-on involvement in their daily lives. Meanwhile, Julie’s long hours at work meant that people in the community didn’t witness just how much parenting she did out of view. No one saw the lunches she packed every morning, the all-nighters she pulled when the kids were sick. “If I could have done things differently,” Julie says today, “I would have made myself super-visible.”

The Shifting Landscape
There are about 2.2 million moms in this country like Julie, moms who don’t have primary physical custody of their children. And the number of working moms who lose primary custody has been rising steadily. “A mother’s career can be a liability in custody battles,” says Laura Allison Wasser, a Los Angeles–based lawyer who has represented Britney Spears and Kate Hudson in high-profile divorces. “There’s a huge influx of women who have full-time jobs. Judges want to know who the hands-on parent is, who spends more time with the child. I have made that argument myself: ‘Mom’s not home—she’s out working.’”

Today, it’s not uncommon for fathers seeking sole custody in a contested case to prevail at least 50 percent of the time. And Dad is asking for joint or primary custody more and more: Over the past decade, the number of fathers awarded custody of their children has doubled, according to the latest data. In the current generation of dads, gender doesn’t dictate who changes a diaper or consoles an infant. And as fathers become more entrenched in their roles as cocaregiver, they’re less willing to hand off that role when a marriage breaks down. Women are now also shelling out more child support and sometimes paying alimony. Today, one in every four wives earns more than her husband, compared to one in five 20 years ago. “It’s become a whole different ball game,” observes Rhode Island Family Court Judge Howard I. Lipsey.

Faced with time constraints that make it virtually impossible to get to know the families who appear before them, judges rely on certain assumptions. “When a judge sees a mother who’s working longer hours to support her family, the judge will have a harder time awarding her primary custody,” says Randy Kessler, a prominent divorce lawyer in Atlanta and vice chair of the American Bar Association’s Family Law Section.

“If she’s working that hard, the presumption will be that she’s largely absent from her kids’ lives.”

The current climate in family courts is surely worrisome if you’re a working mom weighing the possibility of divorce. Some would argue, however, that it’s fair. After years of favorable bias toward mothers, the custody battlefield has been leveled. A demanding career “is a potential liability for whichever parent is working more outside of the house,” asserts Jeff Atkinson, a professor of law at DePaul University College of Law in Chicago.

But if the custody status for working moms is code yellow today, it may soon ratchet up to code red. There are some 30 million mothers working now, yet economists expect that number to rise as the recession continues to roil unemployment rates. Female-dominated sectors such as education and health care are growing even as male-dominated fields such as finance and construction are being hit hard by layoffs. By mid-2009, men had lost 74 percent of the 6.4 million jobs that disappeared since the recession started. Forced out of the workforce, more dads are enjoying their role as primary caregiver.

Forced into the workforce—or into the primary breadwinner role—more moms are spending increased hours outside the home to pay the bills. Now collateral damage of the recession, will these women ultimately be penalized if it comes to a custody battle?

Kim Voichescu believes the answer is yes. The 35-year-old former civil engineer turned law student has spent tens of thousands of dollars trying to get physical custody of her two teenage sons. “My ex’s attorney questioned my ability to care for my children based on my extensive work schedule,” she says. “During the trial, he called into question my mothering abilities and asked, ‘How could someone who is so career-oriented be a nurturing mother?’ ” After the lawyer raised these doubts about her devotion to her kids, Kim had to ask the court for a break to compose herself. “We supposedly live in a modern age, and yet I had to justify my nurturing abilities because I have a job?”

What we’re seeing is more than a simple role reversal, notes Charlotte Goldberg, a family law professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.

As progressive as we think we are, the courts haven’t fully grasped the many roles of working mothers. “Culturally embedded attitudes and roles are hard to change,” maintains Diana Dale, founder of the Houston-based WorkLife Institute. “Sometimes it takes three or four generations to make the attitude and behavior shifts.”

Today’s working women still face pressure to function in the traditional mother mode—even after a day at the office, says Ken Neumann, PhD, a New York City psychologist and divorce mediator. “Working mothers have a really bad deal because they have to do everything,” he says. “We don’t put that kind of pressure on men except in unusual circumstances.”

What’s a Working Mom to Do?
Struggling to find their footing on this new custody battleground, many women are at a loss. Heartbreaking stories of moms who’ve lost primary physical custody of their kids flood the Internet. Support groups and blogs such as Mothers Without Custody, Mothers Apart from Their Children and the National Association of Non-Custodial Moms

have sprouted up to console and enlighten. Although the process of deciding where a child will live is inherently agonizing, experts agree that there are concrete steps a working mother can take to protect her rights even before a custody battle begins.

Stay out of Court
Though the U.S. divorce rate tends to dip during economic downturns, it continues to hover at 50 percent. Experts estimate that each year, more than a million children experience their parents’ divorce. How to minimize the damage? Family court judges and divorce lawyers say that the smartest move is to avoid the courtroom. “Hash it out on your own,” advises attorney Felder, who’s witnessed the turmoil these cases can cause during his 40 years in practice. Don’t presume that because you couldn’t find a middle ground to save your marriage, you won’t be able to compromise in divorce for the sake of your kids. “Couples often fight over the children because they’re so angry at each other,” says Goldberg, the family law professor. “That’s a huge mistake. They should opt for mediation to work out the custody issues.”

Indeed, the American custody process has spawned a large number of cottage industries—not only mediators but forensic accountants, appraisers, evaluators, psychologists, child custody coaches and law guardians.

“They all feed off the carcasses of people fighting over the kids,” says Felder.

Many of us are looking at custody the wrong way, maintains Barbara Glesner Fines, a noted law professor at the University of Missouri–Kansas City School of Law. “The question shouldn’t be ‘How can I get or win custody?’ but rather ‘How can I make sure this re-formed family will function in a way that is good for the kids?’ Divorce is just the beginning of a lifetime of parenting your children with this other person. You’ve got to make that work.”

That’s what Portland, OR, life coach Lori Chance, 33, did— via mediation and parenting classes that showed her and her now ex-husband how to keep the kids out of the fray. Things got easier when they followed advice to keep the emotion out of the process. “We were told to look at the other parent as our business partner,” she says. “We hammered out an agreement without a judge making the decisions for us.”

Work Together

What Lori was eventually able to see is what many divorcing parents forget, says L.A. attorney Wasser: that your ex can still be your best ally in raising your children. “This is the one other person in the world who cares most about your kids,” she says. “If you can find a way to cooperate, you’ll be able to serve as backup child care for each other, and this will be better for everyone.”

Mental health experts reinforce the importance of two loving parents in a child’s life. New research from Arizona State University (ASU) in Tempe shows that kids rought up with shared custody or spending equal time with both divorced parents are physically healthier as adults than those living primarily with one. Other ASU studies find that the more time a child lives with a parent, the better the child’s long-term relationship is with that parent. “Even in high-conflict families, research shows it’s still better for the children to have a relationship with both parents,” asserts William Fabricius, PhD, a psychology professor at ASU who worked on the studies.

Good to know:

Legal Custody refers to being able to make decisions for the child, such as medical, educational and
living-arrangement decisions.

Physical Custody refers to where the child lives, eats and sleeps.

Tracking your Teen

Working Mother magazine, December/January 2010
By: Irene Chang, Photo: Veer

It’s Friday night and you’re trying to be levelheaded as your teen attempts to test some of your rules. You want to know where she’s going and whom she’ll be with. She wants to slink out the door. Okay, that’s the natural order of things (you remember being a teen). The more you ask, the less she shares. You don’t want to rob her of her independence; still, you need to know.

Teens may think they need their parents less and less, but our supervision may be more important now than ever. Research consistently suggests that adolescents whose parents keep tabs on them are less prone to risky behaviors, including drug and alcohol use. But a recent study review shows that better results come when teens voluntarily share with their parents information about friends, activities and whereabouts, says report author Judith Smetana, PhD, a professor of psychology at the University of Rochester in New York. “Parents putting the pressure on by asking more and more questions, being intrusive and laying on guilt is associated with teen depression and anxiety,” she says. “Yet positive behavior control, including clear rules and expectations, negotiating and listening, is not only psychologically healthy for adolescents, it also may lead them to offer more info to parents.”

So how do you find the middle ground? The key is trust—on both sides. When there’s give-and-take between parents and teens, when kids are given room to explain their reasoning and negotiate, a climate of trust is possible. Kids are then more apt to open up and share.

But be realistic about what your child is likely to share with you. There are certain topics teenagers feel comfortable talking about with their parents, and then there are others, says Dr. Smetana. Your daughter is going to tell her BFF, not you, about that cute guy in algebra. Even so, you need to keep communicating: Set clear, consistent rules about her letting you know where she is, whom she’s with and when she’ll be home, and about sex and alcohol and drug use. She also needs to understand risky behaviors, their consequences and how easily peer pressure can promote them. “Kids are trying to negotiate developing independence, but parents ultimately are trying to keep them safe,” Dr. Smetana adds.

Of course, these sometimes conflicting agendas yield a push-pull between parent and child. Regardless, your job is to continually express interest. And if you feel your teen is hiding something, don’t wait for her to share. Ask, but in a gentle, unemotional, non-accusatory way. Hopefully, what she’s hiding is as simple as that algebra crush—and she might just tell you about it over low-fat milkshakes at the mall.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Registering for Your Baby

Here are the basics. I'm sure the list will be updated as needed.

1.Don't register for clothes or bibs. People will get you clothes regardless of what you register for. It's not the same as a wedding shower. People love to buy baby clothes!
2.You need lots of A&D ointment and Desitin (we put some on every diaper to help prevent redness and rashes from developing) bathtub,
4.bouncer (with vibrator,
5.high chair (at least by the time your baby is 4 months although we fed our in his bouncer/rocker for the first two months of rice cereal)
6.stroller and car seat,
7.diaper bag (we got a diaper backpack-check out or Amazon),
8.bath towels, lotion & sunscreen, & shampoo,
10.first aid kit,
11.socks and caps/hats, stock up on infant Tylenol now,
12.Hyland teething tablets,
13.changing table or pack n play with bassinet and changing table (but your back will get sore with the pack n play b/c the changing tables are too low for consistent use),
14. swing (very important for first couple months),
15.bottles and pacifiers can be tricky b/c you don't know what your baby will prefer (we use NUK),
16.crib (if you don't plan on using a bassinet-I waited 3 months after the baby before buying a crib),
17.fleece blankets/receiving blankets,
19.diapers and diaper wipes. (cloth or disposable depending on your preference)

I also did a lot of research on Amazon, looking for ideas and reading reviews. It is overwhelming the first time.

Don't buy:
1.Crib & Mattress Set (you can't use the bumper or blanket for the first year-so save your $)
2.Bottle warmer (you want to serve your baby their bottle where ever you are-car, theme park, park, etc)
3.Fancy Spa Bathtub
3.Pee pee tippis (they fly off when the boy baby pees)

You want your life to be as easy as possible. The more you buy, the more you have to learn how to use it and when to use it. Keep it simple so you can focus on your baby and getting sleep!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Mean Moms Article

This is a great article for moms, dads, and families from Good Housekeeping, October 2009. Many parents feel they are doing something wrong or should be nicer to their children when they say things like "Mom, I Hate You!" However, I agree with the article (as a teacher and parent), you are actually doing something right. Of course, it doesn't make being a parent any easier. Please enjoy the article.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Sneaky Fitness Rescues Texting Tweens

I love using the tips I find from the "Sneaky Chef." You can subscribe to their newsletter for tips and recipes.

Sneaky Fitness Rescues Texting Tweens
By Missy on January 23, 2010

Startling new research reveals that our kids are spending about 8 hours a day in front of electronic devices like computers, TVs and cell phones. Plus, another recent study found that people who spend most of their days sitting are more likely to have health problems of all kinds. With a 17% kids' obesity rate in the US, parents can draw the conclusion that it is extremely urgent that we address our kids' inactive lifestyles immediately!
While everyone knows that it is a lost cause to ban these devices, we can counter these alarmingly dangerous influences with a few simple, Sneaky Fitness strategies:

1. "Walk the talk" – Parents can require that kids pace or walk around the house for at least one hour of their phone or texting time (Burns double the calories of sitting)

2. Parents can replace the computer chair with a simple balance ball (Builds core strength and improves posture)

3. Parents can "plant" items in the TV room - such as mini trampoline, Bosu or hippety hop/balance ball – and can require that kids use one of those items for at least one hour of their TV time (Burns at least 143 more calories than sitting)

4. Parents can make a rule against "chat 'n chew": that is, no eating in front of the TV or computer or while on phone or other electronic device. This will eliminate mindless eating! (research indicates that children consume substantially more calories in a meal if they are watching television while they eat)

Adapted from SNEAKY FITNESS: Fun, Foolproof Ways to Slip Fitness into Your Child's Everyday Life, by Missy Chase Lapine, The Sneaky Chef, and Larysa DiDio (Running Press, Jan 2010)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

How to hire good service professionals

Good Housekeeping Reports
Updated: 02/04/2010 10:53:30 AM MST

The No. 1 rule in hiring any service professional is to get references. Word of mouth from friends and neighbors is the best way to find a good worker who will deliver great results.

Ask anyone you hire about minimum charges, and what might cause the price to go up from the quote. Inquire about insurance (in case of injury, or damage to your or others' property), and about professional affiliations and accreditation. Read contracts carefully and consider these questions:

For plumbers » Do you specialize in repair work or remodeling? Some may do both, but you'll get better rates and results if their expertise matches the job you need handled. Do you charge for travel time? Their hourly rates may include driving to and from your house.

Are you likely to have the necessary parts handy? A plumber worth his or her salt should be fully stocked.

For electricians » Do you need a permit to do the work? They're usually needed only on larger jobs, and require that the wiring be inspected by your city (this can protect you against shoddy work). Discuss who will be filing for the permit, and what it will add to the cost.

Will you buy the fixtures or parts for me? It's generally preferable, because the electrician will then be responsible for the product warranty and any breakage or missing pieces.

For exterminators » Will we need to leave the house? Are there any risks to people or pets? All pesticides should be EPA-certified, but there may be safety steps you or the exterminating crew need to take. How soon before the critters will be gone? Total eradication may not occur after just one visit. Are return visits covered in the cost?

For housepainters » What is included in the service? From masking off of unpainted areas to moving of furniture (for interior jobs), priming and multiple coats of paint, all should be delineated in the contract, as well as what supplies and tools (brushes, rollers) are included.

Can you get a discount on paint? A good painter has a relationship with a supplier to get you the best price.

For roofers » Should I repair or replace? Leaks are often difficult to diagnose, and a repair in one spot may not fix the whole problem. Recommendations will vary, so get three estimates.

Will you be roofing over existing shingles? If the basic structure is sound and leaks will be easy to patch, a cover-up job is far more cost-effective; if you already have two layers, most building codes require removal and replacement. This should be factored into the quote.

Is there a warranty or guarantee? There should be both. The manufacturer backs the materials for defects, while the work may be covered for up to 10 years by the roofer.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Would you volunteer to eat school lunch every day to prove a point? This teacher did.

Found this on the web.
* by Jessica Ashley, Shine staff, on Tue Mar 16, 2010 1:24pm PDT

I will be honest -- I do not love making my son's lunch. Every evening at about midnight, I do it. It's one more task to tick off my list before I fall into bed. I know that it would be easy and less expensive to have him eat the school lunches. For those reasons, I do not judge the parents who choose -- or have to, out of financial or other necessity -- to ensure that that their kids eat a midday meal by arranging for them to have the school lunch. As much as little cups of organic apple sauce cost and no matter how many soy butter and jam sandwiches I make, I just cannot bring myself to let my kid eat what the school is serving.

This is a privileged perspective, I know. Many families rely on school lunches and I am aware that these meals are sometimes the only ones or the healthiest ones some children eat. For that, I am grateful the system allows kids to eat one or several meals before and during school hours.

Still, the question of how to make this system work better, particularly during a time when obesity threatens so many children, stands. How can we feed our children healthfully and economically? And what in the world are we teaching our children when we put food in front of them that has little nutritional value or is high in fat and sodium or that we would not dare eat ourselves?

A teacher in Illinois is illustrating those concerns candidly on her own anonymous blog. I like to think of her as an undercover activist for the cause of feeding our children well -- or at least better. She is spending 2010 eating school lunch every day, documenting photos of the (let's be honest, sad-looking) food on her tray, providing some nutritional information, commenting on the taste, and detailing the not-so-pretty bellyaches she's had since beginning the project. It's all chronicled on her blog "Fed Up With Lunch" and through Tweets.

Mrs. Q, as she dubs herself on the site, writes that the timing of her project is critical because, "The Child Nutrition Act is being debated in Congress. It's important that people realize that funding for school lunches is vital to children's success in school and in life."

Why is she speaking out pretty loudly but still keeping her identity mum?

"I'm blogging anonymously because I like my job and getting a paycheck. But I'm still putting my livelihood on the line by speaking up. Why? Because I want to raise awareness about school lunch. It may not be what every child in this country eats, but I believe the meal that I am showing represents what most children eat at lunch in the US," she posted in February, just over a month after she launched the lunch project.

Mrs. Q also says that caring about what kids eat for lunch is an investment in their long-term health and the eventual well-being of our country.

"I am not a nutritionist. That being said, I became concerned about what the kids were eating because on the surface, the food doesn't appear to be very healthy. These are the kids who need the good nutrition. My students don't have good food models at home. These kids depend on the school for so much, including good nutrition. And if they don't get it, they will develop bad habits and increase our health-care costs in the future," she told AOL Health.

Mrs. Q's concerns are not centered solely on the food. She says that the time allotted to students for lunch encourages unhealthy eating habits. She reports that students often have only 13 minutes to eat, and that can easily be knocked down to five if the student has to wait in a long line, go to the bathroom, or hunt for a space at a table.

Only a few months into the year, she says she believes healthier meals -- namely stir fries, salads, soups, and casseroles -- could be made in bulk and served in better conscience to the kids. She says she'd also like tater tots to be replaced with roasted potatoes, yogurt and cottage cheese to be added as sides, and to banish hot dogs altogether.

Her blog is a fascinating -- and yes, disturbing -- read. It includes posts by guest bloggers, many of whom are teachers, all of whom have their own take on what is on the trays. Reading it and looking deeper into what she is doing in a very short lunch period every day this year, not only makes me more adamant about brown-bagging it for my own son, but it also makes me want to get more involved in changing the system for kids in schools across the country.

Still, Mrs. Q says she fears being found out, as she explained on her blog.

"I feel a lot of guilt and turmoil about what I'm doing here. I'm waiting for the moment I'm called to the principal's office and let go. I do believe it's a matter of 'when' not 'if' they find out and it's curtains for me and then of course the project.

"I want them to know that the project is not about individuals in one school but about a country full of children who need better food models."

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Rainy Day Activites

Rainy Day Activities for Kids

This website has more links at the bottom and is promoting a book, but I thought it had some fun ideas for families.

Build a Fort

To get set up, all you need are a few blankets (sleeping bags, sheets and comforters all work well) and some cardboard boxes, and you’re good to go! Ask appliance stores for large boxes that can be turned into playhouses. Cut holes for doors and windows and adorn the box with items from around the house: a tissue box can be made into a chimney, fabric scraps can be turned into curtains and artificial flowers can be “planted” in a window box. Give kids tempera paints and allow them to “paint” the house.

* Fill the fort with pillows, blankets, flashlights and lanterns.
* Serve kids lunch or snacks inside their fort.
* Teach kids how to make shadow puppets (search YouTube to refresh your memory).

Create a Time Capsule

Parents know all too well that kids grow up fast. By collecting items for a time capsule, you’ll end up with a fun keepsake that reflects who your kids are at the present moment. No need to buy a container: simply get creative with what you have at home already (decorate a cereal box with contact paper or use an empty margarine tub). Designate a date to open the capsule such as one, five or ten years in the future. Include newspaper clippings, labels from their favorite foods, photos, schoolwork, a mixed CD of their favorite songs, pictures they’ve drawn or anything else kids can think of. Parents can help out by “interviewing” children about their favorite foods, favorite TV show or movie, best friend or what they hope to be when they grow up. Make it extra special by recording it.
Indoor Science

Why not make rainy day activities educational as well as fun? With the help of a few common household ingredients and your supervision, kids can channel their inner scientist. Here are a few favorites:

Tornado in a Bottle: For this experiment, you’ll need two empty two-liter bottles (labels removed), duct tape and food coloring or colored dish soap (optional). Fill one of the bottles 2/3 of the way with water. Add a couple drops of food coloring or dish soap to make the vortex more visible. Tape the bottles together securely with the duct tape at the mouth. Turn the bottle containing the water upside down with the empty bottle on the bottom. The water will slowly drain to the bottom bottle as air bubbles go up to the top. Move the bottles in a circular motion a few times to help the water go down the spout more quickly. You’ll be able to see a funnel-shaped vortex in the top bottle as the air pressure in the lower bottle decreases.

Cornstarch Quicksand: When combined, cornstarch and water create a consistency that sometimes feels like a solid and sometimes feels like a liquid. Combine two parts cornstarch to one part water, adding a drop or two of food coloring for fun. Kids will have fun picking it up and squeezing it so that it feels like a solid as well as letting it run through their fingers like a liquid. Store it in a one-gallon sized zipper storage bag.

Celery Experiment: This is a great experiment to illustrate how plants absorb water. Drop 4-5 drops of food coloring in clear glasses of water (vases or jars also work well). Place a stalk of celery with the leaves still attached in each of the different colored glasses. Kids may begin to notice the leaves of each celery stalk begin to turn color in as little as four hours. See what happens overnight!

Monday, March 8, 2010

2...4...6...8...How Should We Compensate?

Districts that appreciate educators’ knowledge and experience should have a pay plan that shows it. By Mary Ellen Flannery

With all the chatter these days about merit pay for teachers, there’s not nearly enough listening to the educators who have already developed innovative, collaborative pay plans.

From Helena, Montana, to Portland, Maine, local unions and school districts have put together 21st Century alternative pay plans that reward teachers—not for student test scores or subjective evaluations—but for doing the kinds of things that actually improve the learning environment. None are intended to replace a strong, single salary schedule, but to enhance it.

In Helena, educators commit to career development plans. In Manitowoc, Wisconsin, they get raises for taking—or even teaching—professional development courses. “You can’t go through all this and not be a better teacher!” exclaims third-grade teacher Michelle Preusser, who has risen to the top step through three new professional degrees and certifications.

NEA supports these educators in their efforts to find creative solutions to local problems. Losing new teachers? A program like Portland’s, which pays veteran teachers more to mentor their new colleagues and new teachers more for Portland-specific professional development classes, might be the solution.

Can’t find staff for so-called failing schools? Consider the new contract in Evansville, Indiana, where teachers at some inner-city schools will receive additional training on closing the gaps—and get paid for it.

“Our nation has the capacity to make sure every child in every high-needs school has great teachers,” NEA President Dennis Van Roekel told a congression­al committee late last year. “President Obama has called for the nation to ‘treat teachers like the professionals they are while also holding them more accountable.’ Doing so means not only looking carefully at the research evidence, but also listening to our most accomplished teachers and acting on their advice.”

For its part, the White House and its Administration have made merit pay—that is, pay tied to student test scores—a key condition for states participating in the $4.3 billion Race to the Top fund. But educators know that test scores aren’t a direct measure of their ability, and just paying teachers more isn’t going to help students do any better. In one of the most recent studies on merit pay, Vanderbilt University researchers found that a statewide Texas bonus pay program had “weakly positive, negative, or negligible effect on student test-score gains.”

In other words, it didn’t work. Because it’s teacher learning that leads to student learning, educators believe.

“It’s about getting people involved in professional activities that relate directly to student learning in their classroom,” says Karen MacDonald, a Portland middle-school teacher for 30 years. That might mean National Board Certification, it might mean a research project that measures the effectiveness of different reading programs, or it might mean taking a class on how to use test scores to improve instruction—all of the kinds of things rewarded by locally bargained alternative pay plans. (Go here for more about Portland’s pay schedule.)

“Obviously we don’t want to tie our merit to test scores,” Preusser says. “If that happens, I want a dorm in the back of the school where the kids can live 24/7.”

Call it old-fashioned, like Mom and apple pie, but NEA still believes a short and strong salary schedule, with a minimum of $40,000 annual pay for teachers, is best. It rewards teachers for things we know make a difference in teacher quality—knowledge and experience—and, at the same time, avoids the capriciousness of typical merit pay plans.

It doesn’t pay you less when your students are distracted from learning by empty bellies and ear infections. Nor does it pay you more for a class full of native English speakers and supportive, college-educated parents—or for loudly agreeing with your principal at staff meetings! (“Yes, yes, you’re a genius! Now do I get a raise?”) A single salary schedule is fair and transparent, and it’s locally bargained or agreed to.

But alternative pay plans—the ones written by teachers and local Association leaders—can also be fair and easy to understand. They provide creative solutions to local problems, and most of all, they make for better teachers. Read on for a quick look at how some educators are faring under their locally bargained pay plans.

Third-grade teacher
20 years’ experience
Manitowoc, Wisconsin

Ten years ago, Manitowoc didn’t have a single National Board Certified teacher and less than a quarter had master’s degrees. Now, thanks to a contract approved almost unanimously by teachers in 1999, nearly half have master’s—and 21 have won that most rigorous certification.

Michelle Preusser has both—plus a professional development certificate focused on differentiating instruction—which means she has earned the salary rewards for working toward advanced degrees or certification. (National Board? Worth a 13 percent boost.) Now, from the top tier of the salary scale, Preusser surveys a body of professional development that has enriched her wallet as well as her classroom. “There’s something wrong if you come out the other side not a better teacher,” she exclaims. “You’re constantly reflecting on your own practice, the way you see the kids, and the way they learn.”

Assistant principal
12 years’ experience
Hamilton County, Tennessee

A few years ago, the Chattanooga urban schools advertised 64 vacant jobs. Just one person applied. So, with the idea of attracting and retaining more great teachers, the Hamilton County Education Association and its district partners negotiated a new contract that provides $5,000 bonuses for moving to “hard-to-staff” schools and up to $10,000 for improving test scores.

LaFrederick Thirkill, a music teacher turned administrator, doesn’t much care for the transfer bonus: “For some teachers it’s merely an opportunity to make more money, as opposed to making a change.” Nor does he approve of the test-score checks that he calls sometimes unfair and often divisive. But Hamilton County also now offers a $4,000 annual bonus for National Board Certification, which Thirkill was the first to earn, and he says the process of certification “had a profound affect on me. I now know how to reflect, as an educator and administrator.” At the same time, as a dozen of his colleagues have followed in his footsteps, “it has changed the perception of inner-city teachers,” he says.

High school history teacher
3 years’ experience
Helena, Montana

Maybe $36,000 doesn’t sound like much, but it’s pretty good for a guy three years out of college, living in Helena, Montana, says Ryan Cooney. It’s also a lot more than new teachers here were earning a few years ago (just $23,000). “Our union has done a heck of a job representing us,” he says.

In 2002, with more than half of Helena’s teachers nearing retirement and far too few applicants at their heels, the local Association and district got together to boost salaries with $1 million freed up from early retirement. They also agreed that educators should present “career development plans” to get raises. For his plan, Cooney concentrated on technology in his classroom, creating a Moodle Web page where students and parents have “24/7 access” to assignments, current events, and research (and their teacher). “If you take [the plan] seriously, you really can better yourself as a teacher,” he says.

Middle school language arts teacher
30 years’ experience
Portland, Maine

After 30 years in the classroom, Karen MacDonald is sitting on top of the salary scale in Portland, but she still hasn’t stopped collaborating with colleagues, helping them become better teachers.

Her latest effort? A series of classes for teachers with three to seven years’ experience, designed to help them learn more about where their students are academically, and how to move them forward. “This is what you need in your instruction,” MacDonald explains.

By taking the Portland-based course, early career teachers can move up along an innovative salary schedule that rewards them for professional learning. MacDonald, a National Board Certified teacher, made her final step up through an ELL endorsement—a key help when nearly 30 percent of Portland’s kids are from refugee countries like Somalia and Iraq. Other colleagues have earned raises through district committee work, curriculum design, and other “above and beyond” assignments.

“I feel like I’m paid as a professional. I also feel the responsibilities that go along with my pay—and that’s good,” MacDonald says.

I thought I also add some concerns and questions teachers have brought up in regards to Merit Pay.
An initiative to encourage teachers to constantly improve their knowledge and strategies is laudable. Even veteran teachers can benefit from ongoing professional development with collaboration and "peer coaching" opportunities in place to determine how well students are able to utilize classroom learning in real life - this is a much fairer measure than multiple choice tests.

So I am a special education teacher in an inclusion setting. I do not "teach", I facilitate. How would the president's program work for me? In Indiana, the "Race to the Top" grant money has been accepted. This should be interesting to see if special education educators, especially in inclusion type settings are overlooked for pay increase.

My concern rests with the teacher who is proficient at differentiating instruction, and therefore gets more children with learning difficulties placed in his/her classroom, or the teacher who works well with children with behavioral difficulties, and has more of those children in the classroom. Merit pay based on test scores would be great if there were any way to have equality of classrooms, but that is an impossibility.

Will there be merit pay for all of the extra duties performed on a daily basis? Duties like spending our own money on new clothes, mittens, hats, snacks and supplies? Duties like potty training 5 year olds because they have been in foster care, and nobody has taught them? Try to measure those things with test scores! People need to remember that we have to take these children from where they are and teach them! Sometimes that means that they will learn to read by the end of kindergarten, and sometimes that means that they will finally know their colors and shapes! Each child comes to us with different abilities, and our job is to teach them. They may not score well on a test, but that doesn't mean that they haven't made progress just the same!

I know that it's unfair when class size reduction teachers don't get a fair share of any grants in our districts. Older, more experienced teachers are being left out when it comes to rewarding hard work, student's success, just because districts want to retain the younger teachers.

Concerns Over Test Scores and Questions

I decided to post two concerns in this blog regarding tests. The first is a comment from two teachers regarding test taking skills and the other is example of the difference in test questions between the US and Australia. Both of these were found in the NEA Today magazine. I just want to get people to think carefully about "Race to the Top" and the direction we are leading our students in with continuous testing.

I found these quotes from teachers and thought it was an appropriate response that sums up what teachers are up against with "Race to the Top."

I have seen more students who can pass [the test] but cannot apply those skills to anything if it's not the test format. I have students who can do the test but cannot look up words in the dictionary and understand the different meanings.

"The Perils of Merit Pay" brings to light that I, a teacher with 27 years of experience, would be paid less [than other teachers] because mine are the students distracted from learning. Mine are the students who experience empty bellies, ear infections, homelessness, or gunshots echoing in the night. I would be the one paid less because I do not have a class full of native English speakers with college-educated parents. Neither my Master of Science degree nor 27 years of experience can, in one school year, make students learn English faster, catch up to the rest, or have experiences in the world like children from more affluent areas. Let the children of our President and his Administration “walk a mile on our side of the tracks.”

I also found some example questions between the US National Assessment of Education Progress and a biology exam in Australia. Which questions are preparing students for higher levels of thinking, college, and preparing them for real life experiences?

First, two questions from the eighth- and 12th-grade science test of the United States National Assessment of Educational Progress.

1. What two gases make up most of the Earth’s atmosphere?
1. Hydrogen and oxygen
2. Hydrogen and nitrogen
3. Oxygen and carbon dioxide
4. Oxygen and nitrogen

2. Is a hamburger an example of stored energy? Explain why or why not.

Next, from a biology exam in Victoria, Australia.

3. When scientists design drugs against infectious agents, the term “designed drug” is often used.
1. Explain what is meant by this term.

Scientists aim to develop a drug against a particular virus that infects humans. The virus has a protein coat and different parts of the coat play different roles in the infective cycle. Some sites assist in the attachment of the virus to a host cell; others are important in the release from a host cell.

The structure is represented below: (not included in the blog)

The virus reproduces by attaching itself to the surface of a host cell and injecting its DNA into the host cell. The viral DNA then uses the components of the host cell to re-produce its parts, and hundreds of new viruses bud off from the host cell. Ultimately the host cell dies.
2. Design a drug that will be effective against this virus. In your answer, outline the important aspects you would need to consider. Outline how your drug would prevent continuation of the cycle of reproduction of the virus particle. Use diagrams in your answer.

Will NCLB ever make sense?

Will NCLB ever make sense

Gloria Salazar, a fifth-grade teacher in Somerville, Massachusetts, welcomed an immigrant child to her classroom last year with a No. 2 pencil. No English? No excuses, say testing advocates—he still has to take the state test.

And stop that crying already!

“It happens all the time,” Salazar laments. “And there’s no way to explain to them, ‘It’s okay, we know that you don’t understand this material.’ They see the formalities and they know it’s important.”

Important, but also impractical—how on Earth could English Language Learners succeed on a standardized test that’s administered in a language they don’t understand?

When it comes to requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act, those pertaining to ELL and special needs students are particularly bewildering.

This year, as Congress prepares to reauthorize the federal education law, NEA asks that it recognize the individual needs of students, including non-fluent English speakers and those with disabilities. More than test scores should be used to measure student learning and school progress.

“I believe in assessment, but I also believe they need to recognize that children are different. We need to recognize those differences and equip educators with tools to help students improve,” Salazar said.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Toddler (Baby & Preschool) Activites by Age

I thought it would be fun to look at the different games you can play as your toddler gets older. (Scroll down to find Baby-Preschool games). Just another reason to join BabyCenter.

It doesn't take much to thrill a kid. In fact, it's often the "small stuff" that makes for the most meaningful childhood memories: your mom pulling off the road to let you climb a tree, being allowed to jump on a hotel bed, splashing wildly in mud puddles in the rain… The best part? Many of these kid-charmers are low-cost or even free.

In that spirit, here's a collection of simple, cheap, memory-making activities that are sure to be a bright spot in your child's day – and yours!

Here are some examples of the games, but you'll have to click on BabyCenter to be find the game description.

13 months old
• Under Cover
• Books on Board
• Fun Land at Home
• Shake Your Shaker

14 months old
• Block Party
• Mirror Me
• Monkey Motions
• Bag of Tricks

Here is another link in BabyCenter with a list of games from Baby to Preschool.

Here are some example "cheap and fun" games from the above link:
5 cheap and fun baby activities

Let 'er rip

Maybe it's that pleasing shredding sound or maybe it's the satisfaction of making a permanent change in something, but babies love to tear up paper. So plunder your recycling box for magazines or junk mail – when you see that gappy smile on your baby's face as she gets to work, you won't even mind the mess.

5 cheap and fun toddler activities

Hop a freight

Toddlers love transportation, especially if it's a departure from the same-old-same-old car seat. Check out your local airport or hospital – many have a free shuttle or tram that you can ride as often as your little one's heart desires. If you don't usually travel by bus, check your local bus system and take a spin around town, enjoying things from a thrilling new vantage point.

5 cheap and fun preschooler activities

Bathing in the pink

Or the green, or the blue… A few drops of food coloring can go a long way toward making bath time something special. It's especially fun to mix a couple of primary colors together, such as blue and red to make purple. And no, your child won't emerge from his bath looking like a grape – a few drops of food coloring diluted in a tub of water won't dye your child's skin.