Saturday, December 31, 2011

Learning Left & Right

If you're not already doing this, I definitely suggest teaching your child their left from their right. 

When?  Start immediately.  Yes, immediately start introducing these words to your child. 

How?  The simplest way is to start saying these words while you dress them.  Such as, "Left leg" while you grab their left leg to put on their pants, "Left foot" while grabbing their left foot, "Right arm", while putting their arm through a sleeve, "Right cheek" while giving them kisses on their cheek.  The one side is typically followed by the other side.  And yes, often you'll just say foot, and that's ok.  But you'll want to start this as soon as their born.  Yes, they'll get it later in life, but teaching early is helpful for them and you, and if you start right away, it helps put you in the habit for when they really start soaking it in.

Why? It's part of getting a jump start on their intrapersonal awareness.  Before Joey was two, he was well aware of his right from his left.  When he started riding his bike, he was much more aware of looking left and right to make sure no cars were coming.  When he drops something, I tell him that's it's next to his left foot and he finds it more easily.  When we practice sports - soccer, t-ball, football, etc, it makes more sense to me to tell him "ok, now try throwing with your right arm," instead of using the word "other" for everything. 

In the Long Run: Granted, there are plenty of adults who don't know their right from their left and live just fine, but I think knowing makes the process a lot simpler.  And yes, this is a left brain function, but as a parent, any little bit to make their journey a smoother ride, I'm going to try to do.  Hope that makes sense.

Friday, December 30, 2011

1st Steps Towards Weaning Kaelie - Eating Solids

Today Kaelie is officially eating cereal, which means that she is definitely on the path towards being weaned.  It's a bitter sweet realization for me because, although I am growing fonder of the notion of having two more kids years from now, despite having such difficulties with the last two pregnancies and births, the reality is that it's truly only up to God, and maybe Kaelie is the last for me.  Joey is so fun and interesting right now, but really, at least for how I'm feeling as of late, my favorite stage seems to be the year starting from the moment babies can sit on their own.  It's just such an amazing time.  But yes, on reflection, the whole experience of watching a human evolve is quite a curious and wonderous blessing.  But I digress.

Kaelie is eating cereal and food in little mesh pouches and little bits of anything she can convince someone to share. Very different from Joey!  I was quite hormonal with Joey and had to do everything 'just so!'  This meant that he was on a much structured eating routine.  Neither baby was allowed to have anything until after 6 months.  Then, with Joey, he started on brown rice mixed with breastmilk for one serving every couple days.  After a couple weeks, we added oatmeal.  The next month we added one vegetable each week or so and increased the frequencies of introducing solids.  The following month we added fruits.  And then we started adding more solid feedings.  Over time, our nursing sessions were replaced with cuddles while munching on fruit, typically apples.  Our final session to disappear was the first feeding of the morning because I was pregnant with Kaelie and grew too sensitive.  Joey did just fine, though, because we spent the same amount of time cuddling and bonding.

As for Kaelie, I've been much more laissez-faire with her.  I cherish my experiences with Joey, but try not to have them overlap my forming ones with Kaelie.  From in utero I could tell that she was unique, her own person, and I'm excited to get to know her too.  So yes, she's now on her way, but until she's finally weaned, I'm recording the moments in my heart.

Potty Training Joey

When I was pregnant with Joey the rabit hole of research introduced me to the world of ec (early communication) potty learning.  Briefly, in my own words: We are NOT designed to poo and pee on ourselves.  Other cultures realize this and live in a way that supports early potty training.  Our culture, not so much.  We have incredibly long road trips, long times away from a convenient place to take such a wee person, and an often judgmental uncertainty of the unknown instead of an inspired curiosity. 

Well, for me it was inspired curiosity for a number of reasons:  1) being the captain planet child at heart that I am and was, I didn't want to add more trash to the planet with dirty diapers if I could help it; 2) I didn't want to deal with dirty diapers longer than necessary, especially if there was something I could do about it, and 3) it's a whole lot cheaper, less frustrating, and less time-consuming to have your child potty trained as soon as possible.

First of all, when it comes to just about everything with Joey, the mantra was (and still is) "By the time he's 20."  So everything was approached as a learning experience that if we succeeded, great, and if not, no worries because he'd be on track by 20 lol.  In person you'd often hear me saying things like, "No worries, he'll be walking, talking, reading, potty trained and eating on his own by 20.  He may be in someone else's bed, but he'll be out of my bed and definitely off my breast by 20!" And it is with this approach that we've tackled the last couple years with Joey & now with Kaelie.

I didn't stress myself out!  I read about people who wake in the middle of the night to put their infants on potties.  While this works for them - I need ALL THE SLEEP I CAN GET in the beginning.  For the first 9-12 months Joey slept with me and weaned at night because I was informed by La Leche League that nighttime feeding is actually what babies are designed to do.  While this sacrifice I'm ok with making, attempting to catch pee in a potty that could spill is not my cup of tea. 

First step for us: I bought a little potty and put it on a table next to the rocking chair where I would typically feed Joey.  The logic: after he eats, he needs to excrete ;-)  Also, it's a lot easier for a post c-section momma to handle a moving baby at waist height instead of trying to bend down to the ground. And most importantly, I did this because it was in my face - a visual reminder to keep me on track.  And so, I proceeded to put Joey on as I thought of it and had the energy to do so.  I found it to be a bit frustrating yanking off his diaper and putting it back on, so then I realized that the important thing was to get him used to the act of sitting on the potty, especially while he was going - simple enough: keep the diaper on and change it after he's gone, which, in the beginning, could take some time of waiting.  Also, you have to be sure to give lots of positive rewards in the way of smiles, kisses, cheering, etc.

As Joey got bigger and was able to walk easily (9 mo), I put potties just about in every room .... sometimes more than one per area and let him walk around without a diaper at home.  In order for me to teach Joey to communicate with his body effectively, I had to learn his body habits too and be sure to give positive reinforcement immediately following.  So, he was allowed to watch his learning videos on the potty and play on the potty.  If he had an accident, he was put on the potty immediately so that he could understand that the potty was the appropriate place for this.  The older he got, the more consistent we became with this, and started to incorporate the bathroom toilet into the mix.  Joey wasn't scared of the toilet, and I think this was for two main reasons: 1) he was always around us and well aware of when we were in the bathroom and saw that we flushed the toilets, so the sound didn't startle him, and 2) we kept his flashcards by the toilet, so we played with him while he was on the toilet, as well as while he was in the bath.  As I've read of other parents who teach their children early, Joey too was a HUGE fan of flash cards and always begging for "cards! cards!" and asking for more.  It was always us who had to turn him down to finally leave lol. 

Often I wondered if this would make Joey have problems with going to the bathroom later on in life.  It probably has nothing to do with it because the result was a little boy who was potty trained well before his 2nd birthday.  Granted, his bladder couldn't handle certain things like naps, night time, and car trips, and his mom (yes, me), couldn't handle things like having to take him into a public bathroom, so he wore diapers while out and about, but right around the 24 mo mark he no longer needed them for naps, and shortly thereafter he graduated to not needing them in the car or at night.  Yes, I also graduated and have started taking him to the bathroom while out in public, but JUST IN CASE he still wears diapers at night.  What's interesting is that he knows that he's allowed to go in his diapers, so although he doesn't use it at night, if he's feeling too sluggish to go to the bathroom in the mornings, he'll go in his diaper.  Not a big deal because he takes it off, throws it in the trash, and gets in the shower first thing in the morning with Kaelie and me and we play.

Benefits of early potty training: ~ not having to change his diapers ... sometimes it's like WHOA in there! lol; ~ not having to buy diapers ... those things are expensive, especially with two kids ~ knowing it's better for the planet - yay; ~ i know it makes him feel better ... joey reasons with us, negotiates, etc.  if his hands are dirty, he doesn't like it, how would he like a dirty diaper? 

Neat aspects of teaching Joey early:  Joey understands his body!  If we're in the car, he'll say he needs to go pee, or poop, or both.  I'll tell him how far away from our destination we are and if he can wait ... and he tells me!  Once, the poor little guy held it more than 20 minutes.  I kept asking him if he needed me to stop and he kept telling me he was ok until we got home.  As soon as we got home and rushed him to the bathroom and sure enough he went - a lot! lol but I thinik it's amazing that he has that control at such a young age.  I know there are parents who do it even younger, but until you do it yourself, it seems unbelievable ... but it's real.

Some sites that I'd check out from time to time where the 'early communication' sites on yahoo groups.  They are quite active and although I never contributed, I read enough to have some questions answered before I had them.  Just knowing that there was a support group out there made it nice.

I would recommend it to ALL parents and definitely plan on having Kaelie on the same track.  Consistency and positive reinforcement are key, as with just about everything at this age, including reading, math, manners, etc. 

Feel free to comment about your own experiences or with questions.  I'm sure I'll post more as we move through the experience more with Kaelie.  Speaking of which, now that we finally started her on solids, I definitely think it's time!! Breastmilk diaper is much more tolerable than everything else!!!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Why I'm Grateful for YouTube

I'm grateful for YouTube because it's free and because it has been a fantastic, simple, rich source of education for Joey these past two years.  Since before Joey could talk, I knew the importance of exposing him to all sorts of knowledge, but I wasn't yet aware of Glenn Doman, nor everything that had evolved since The Institute started its work 50 some odd years ago.  I was, however, well aware of YouTube, and was ecstatic when it occurred to me to create a playlist, first for Joey's intended home waterbirth, but then later for his educational videos.  From the very beginning Joey has been listening to an array of catchy videos, nearly daily.  You can feel free to check some of them out here:  This set is not the only set we use with the kids, nor is it a static set.  I do go through it and update it based on his feedback.  Also, I tend to play these videos in the background while the kids are playing.  Yes, there are days where I may not even play the videos, but more often than not, it's not uncommon to hear them playing for several hours in a day.  The good thing is that so long as they are set to random, it doesn't drive the rest of us crazy because we typically only hear a song once each day, if that.  The interesting thing is how Joey is still picking it up. Since October I've noticed him not only randomly singing and requesting these songs, but also effortlessly chiming in to songs he hears on the radio or while we're out and about.  It's been a long time in the making, but it's exciting to see efforts paying off and learning actually taking place!  Go, Joey! Up next: Kaelie!  :-D

Teaching Joey to Draw and Write Efficiently

This morning I came across the videos at thanks to chatting yesterday with Tonya, author of the blog at Joey has had such an interest in drawing and writing his letters and numbers lately, that I've been trying to find catchy ways for him to properly learn, instead of having him wait 3 more years to learn in school or teach himself inefficiently. 

He was hooked from the moment I shared the first video, attempting to repeat her catchy rhymes and asking me to repeat the videos.

I'm really looking forward to this next stage in his learning and can't wait for him to start sharing books he's written with me! 

PS - In case you're wondering what I mean by 'efficiently' teaching him to draw and write ... I mean doing it in a way that works for him instead of having him trying to figure it out completely on his own, which I think would take considerably longer than if he were shown the proper techniques from the get-go along with a catchy way (short rhyme) to recall and repeat the pattern until it becomes second-nature.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Joey & the Map

For Christmas we got Joey a map puzzle.  Yes, he already had several other map toys, but this one was supposed to be different because it tells him the state and capitol while allowing him to manipulate the pieces.  Well, I was initially a bit disappointed because, aside from it being overpriced (over $25 at the store with tax), the voice is not all that clear and there is no way to keep the pieces in place for storage, so it's easy to lose pieces.  Also, I thought the pieces would be a bit difficult to handle for small hands. 

Turns out, Joey loves it. We came home yesterday and he got it down to play.  Of course, I helped him put it together by gesturing to him where the pieces went and calling out the names of the states and capitols as he handled the various pieces.  Today, more than once, he sought out the puzzle, putting together 9 pieces in their correct places before asking me to help - I'm so proud! 

About the puzzle, again: my initial thought was that a peg on each piece would be better, but it's good for his hands to get the practice and I realize now that for his ability not having pegs is better and helps improve his manual dexterity.  He doesn't have a hard time handling the pieces. 

So, instead of attempting to return it, as was my original plan, I'm considering modifying it by buying double-sided magnetic tape in hopes of keeping the pieces in the board during storage.  I'm a fan of letting him play and discover on his own, so this is important for me, especially because I'd like to ensure that Kaelie can play with it later on too. 

About Joey learning geography:  In addition to the puzzle, Joey also plays with a floor map of the usa, an interactive map (I usually keep this in the car), and listens/watches various youtube geography videos.  Hope that helps!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Joey Starts Phonics

In October, after the dust settled some following Kaelie's birth in May, I realized that Joey knew all his basic letter sounds. How? Because he was singing his phonics song to me! Yes! He was also singing his periodic tables song, additional Signing Time songs and picking up lines from random songs on the radio while listening to them for the first time. Great! But, oh no! I wasn't prepared for the next steps!  As his guide, I should be certain that he has what he needs ahead of time so that he can continue to develop at his true pace, but he beat me this time.

So, what was next? Phonics, sight words? I didn't know enough to make an educated decision, nor did I have prior experience  aside from recalling how I learned to read. As typical, I started researching and came to the conclusion that we would do a combination of phonics and sight words, with the ability to speed read with comprehension as the goal.

Well, Joey knew the basic sounds for a to z, thanks to the video I added to his YouTube playlist way back when.  And well before Kaelie was born he knew the flash card sight words from his YBCR (Your Baby Can Read) sets that he started when he was 5 months old. But by the time I realized what was happening and started trying to put a plan together, Joey was already 27 months old, and I was barely adjusted to a routine with Joey and Kaelie to give her the same amount of attention as Joey had received.  Of course guilt set in, but necessity to not fall further behind from what his mind was craving and risk him losing interest compelled me to push forward. Kaelie was now 6 months old and because of our adult lives getting in the way, I was not close to having things back in order for the kids' routine. To make matters more difficult, Joey started showing signs that he was a bit over the YBCR videos, understandably so - it's been two years - but without an extra set of hands, now I had to find a separate time for Kaelie to do her YBCR, and Joey was hit or miss with nap time, so most days I wasn't even getting the oh-so-needed break. That, plus interrupted nights nursing, all blend for a pretty stressed and crazy momma who was starting to have doubts and question everything.  Following J's suggestion, I escaped to my mother's in November to try and regroup while she and my grandmother helped long enough for me to sneak in some work calls and down time. Upon reflection and rest, the choice was clear: I would stop trying to work and focus my energy on the kids. 

A weight was lifted and I had focus and desire. Inspiration set in again and things have been coming more
and more into focus ever since. We were blessed to have Lulu help us with Joey when he was 7 months old until he was 20 months old, but now instead of 1 child to 2 adults, the tables had turned on me, leaving this 1 adult with 2 beautifully, hungry and deserving minds. God blessed me with the challenge, and I will admit, I was periodically fighting thoughts and feelings of depression until I accepted the challenge as my priority and purpose. The entrepreneurial spirit woven into my fabric has spurred me onto a new business path, the gifted path, but in truth, it was a journey that I started on many years before college and had put aside and forgotten until my pregnancy with Joey forced me back to it.  Real estate can wait, my baby's cannot.

So, with renewed faith I removed the guilt, resentment and frustration that was starting to creep in,  and rekindled my joy, gratitude, and confidence.  I started paying happier attention to the kids and falling in love with them again, curious once more to experience what new lessons we would learn from each other as the mystery of who they will become slowly unveils itself to me. To follow the path of how new human life starts, grows, is nourished and develops right before you is truly amazing. To be a part of that process and having a positive impact is truly a blessing. To know that part or your purpose is being carried out, making you a part of something much bigger, iw truly rewarding. And to find the means to participate in all of the above with your own child is just short of a miracle in today's world. Our children are miracles, and when we see them as such, and realize that we are both their followers and guides, helping them to unlock the miracles buried as secrets within them, then they will help us unlock the same within us.
So, back to Joey and reading. Instead of being too tired for him or too busy for him, I started listening. And I heard him winging his phonics. I started using moments of interest with him to stimulation his letter sound connection. For example, when Mr Independent wanted to turn the light on or off, I'd ask him to tell me the first letter and he would correctly answer. After two days of this, then I started asking for the last letter too. I made sure to not throw curve balls, like words that end in silent E, but I could ask him what that word started with. I played, and still play, extra games to emphasize position words like first, second, third, fourth, last, left, right, front, back, forward, backwards, upside-down, etc.  He surprised me about three weeks ago by coming up with all the letters in mango, one of how favorite fruits. Speaking of which, lately he's been telling me that he has favorite things! Favorite color: first it was purple, then it changed to red. Favorite other things too, but it's late and I'm drawing a blank.

This morning he insisted that he needed to draw and asked for paper - he found the pens on his own. After drawing letters, he proceeded to sound them out. This is very exciting for me, since I'm trying to teach him hoe to read phonetically too. We have started spelling quite a bit too. Like, while he was riding his bike in the neighborhood, I took the time to point out that the stop sign was a red octagon. I aside him to tell me the letters, which he did, and then I made up a little ditty: s.t.o.p spells stop, g.o. spells go, g.o. spells go. I explained the importance of looking left and right, and was consistent about mentioning at every opportunity until he started saying it before me. Now, he reminds me to look both ways wo that I don't get hurt. He tells me everywhere he sees the word stop, whether in the sign or not. He counted the sides of a hexagon the other day, realizing that it was not a pentagon. He is so neat!

And he is cool and considerate too. :)  we visited family today and he was sure to tell everyone good morning. He rough-housed with his older cousins, and when he greets strangers, he asks them their name, tells them his, shakes their hand and says 'nice to meet you'd and if he sees they want to pound fists, he'll pound, sometimes blowing it up and sometimes letting it fizzle. The kid cracks me up!  He's so rough and tumble lately, but he still gives us, especially Kaelie, drive-by kisses, hugs and I love you's, sometimes in ASL. I feel that he would have been trapped inside his body if I hadn't supported his innate ability to communicate early and am so grateful to get to know him like this.

Kaelie isn't left behind either. She is quite the vocal one! I didn't realize until recently all she was trying to do months ago, but now that I know, I am even more excited to be on this path with both of them.

Joey & Kaelie Start Little Reader & Little Math by BrillKids

That about sums it up: Joey & Kaelie started Little Reader & Little Math by BrillKids yesterday - yay!  I'm so excited about what this next year will develop in them. 

Kaelie doesn't pay as much attention as Nathaniel (from this blog:, but I'm confident that in time, she'll get the hang of it. 

Joey was the same way when he started the YBCR (Your Baby Can Read) series two Christmases ago.  I was really winging the last two years with him, and while there's still some of that going on, there's a lot more confidence from having seen results with Joey and also now that I know that I'm not alone in my quest to endow my children with what I feel is my responsibility as a parent and their natural right to knowledge.

I want to take a moment to give thanks to all of you who have been sharing your experiences online - I've finally found you.  And now I hope to give back to others by doing the same.  I love connecting with other parents on this mission for a couple reasons. I'm relieved to see what other parents are doing to help encourage their children to reach their potential through early learning.  It's about seeing what can work and being inspired to try new things too.  I feel so blessed to finally be connected to a group of like-minded parents!

Back to the program: Joey, no doubt because he's older and because hes' used to YBCR, really enjoyed Little Reader and Little Math.  I do math first for both kids because it's shorter and because I know they can get the reading in elsewhere if they run out of interest before it's finished.  Happy to report: I was on cloud nine yesterday when Joey immediately and enthusiastically asked for more!  We did three sessions in a row before he said, "No, I'm ok," after I asked him if he wanted more or if he was ok. I'm so excited that he especially loves math too, and hope that it fosters a love for math in both kids.  Joey already knew his numbers & counting to 100, and I'm hoping this will be a great aid towards teaching him the basics (addition, subtraction, multiplication, division and the operations). 

For early reader, Joey wasn't very interested until I allowed him to touch the mouse keys and space bar to control the speed of it - turns out he wanted it faster, which makes plenty of sense, since the first sessions contain the same words he's used to from YBCR. 

Today and yesterday the kids only did one session because of being on the road and visiting family.

Hanging with the Cousins in NJ Post Christmas

We're in NJ visiting family, yay!  Even before I had kids, I've always loved our family get-togethers, but now there's an added dimension of joy since my cousin also has kids and Joey likes bonding with them.  Even though her children are now 6 & 4, Joey still gets along well with them and watching all the kids have so much fun together is quite rewarding.  Plus, I love to see him play with older children because they inspire him to try new things. 

Joey successfully attempted to draw his first 'C', 'A' & 'P'.  This morning Joey saw markers and asked me for paper to draw.  I couldn't find printer paper, but I had a crumpled paper shopping bag and ripped it open so that he could use the inside to practice.  So while he and his 6 year old cousin had their way with the markers on the paper, Joey proudly stated, "Look, a P!".  Although it wasn't a perfect P, it easily resembled a P, and he received plenty of positive encouragement for the effort!  Shortly thereafter he produced his attempt at both an uppercase A and a great lowercase a, followed by a series of perfect 'C's - yay!  I love seeing his desire to try things grow and to watch his creativity unfold - it's so exciting!

Lately, he's been fascinated with 'drawing' shapes and letters, and I must admit, his accuracy has been impressing me more and more.  Since this blog is new and a purpose of it is to help others who are curious about the process I've taken to increase my kids' potential by teaching them at the pace that they're capable of learning instead of at the pace dictated by our society, then I'll attempt now to explain how his wanting to draw shapes and letters came to this point. 

Joey's been practicing circles since before Kaelie was born 7 months ago.  Well before he was a year old I encouraged his writing by allowing him to squiggle and scribble on a set of dry erase boards that I had in our living room for writing notes.  We have a set of 12 assorted color magnetic dry erase markers that are on the boards and Joey quickly learned to move chairs to reach them.  Last Black Friday we bought him his own magnetic easel, so he's been going to town every since. 

Because of 'life' getting in the way, his guided encouragement slowed down drastically, until sometime last month when he emphatically called out, "Mami, a 2!  Look, Mami, a two!"  Three times he had to tell me before I looked down and sure enough, there was a beautifully accurate number two!  It's been hanging on our refrigerator ever since and I was so excited by it that I went to the parent/teacher store that week and started buying him anything I could think of that would help him fine-tune his shapes, numbers and letters.  Of course, when I came home, I had much more than I anticipated getting, so J suggested to keep a lot of it for Christmas.  I took out one set of shape stencils and had them available for Joey to play with while he doodled away during free play.  It only took a couple sessions before he exclaimed, "Look, Mami, a triangle!"  Sure enough, there was a triangle, and while he doesn't get it perfect everytime, he sure is excited, confident and motivated to keep going.  Last week I re-introduced squares to him while playing in the bath (we have bath markers).  I'm proud to report that a couple days ago he started doing squares on his own! 

For Christmas Joey was able to unwrap what I bought him that day at the parent/teacher store.  Among them a playdough set that came with letter/number cards. I'll post a pic later.  Joey only played with it for a few minutes before his father, my mother and grandparents grew anxious for him to open everything else and we had to distract him, but he practiced a few strokes at the lowercase letter d, which seems to have been all he needed to produce his p and a today.

I feel like there's so much to mention ... he is 29 months!  I suppose my first few posts will be filled with a lot of catch-up, but I'm excited that I'm finally sharing with you and I can't wait to document the rest of my journey guiding Joey and Kaelie UP the Gifted Path :-)

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Shared Inspiration - The Journey Begins

As a child, I was always fascinated by the process of learning, developing, growing, the brain, the spirit, the body, the soul and how all of this makes each of us who we are, and more importantly, connects us to God.  The more I learned, the more my curiosity grew, and the more I felt the need to make sense of so many different interpretations of life, and why we exist, and to recall my mission, my purpose, my value.  Along the way, I came to various conclusions that continued to morph as I meandered and sometimes was hurled into tangents that life throws at us, sometimes forgetting my inspirations, sometimes forgetting my own experiences and sometimes forgetting and questioning my own purpose in life.  Fortunately, today, at this moment, I feel renewed inspiration.  Inspiration that compels me to write, to share, and hopefully to evoke thought, inspire action, and create excitement, preferably resulting in something positive, loving, and of value, ideally for many, but hopefully for at least one - You!

My purpose encompasses everything in my opening line, and has been ignited by my children, guided by my love for learning, and fueled by the love I received as a child, especially from my parents.  A great part of my life I have lived quietly, secretly, privately as if I have little of value to offer to others.  I have come to the conclusion that this is simply not true, and so I must break out of my comfort zone and start sharing my thoughts - to not do so would be selfish and fear driven, not confident and faith based.  I am but a vessel.  If I don't pour over from use, then what I carry will go to waste.

That said, if I die tomorrow and my children stumble across this one day, here's the underlying tone of the messages that I would like to share:God's Love is Our Energy & Our Purpose.  I love you and can't wait to share this journey with you.

It's the wee hours of the night following Christmas, so I'm calling it a night!