What is Gandalf’s last name?

June 13, 2011


Best show for children?

May 24, 2011

Avatar: The Last Airbender (the TV show, NOT the movie). It was on Nickelodeon, is pretty much in constant re-runs, is out on DVD, and is available for instant streaming on Netflix.  I would say it’s good for children around 7 and up, and grown-ups might like it too (my husband and I both loved it).  There is some violence, as there is a war going on during the series, but there are wonderful lessons about friendship, kindness, choosing peace over violence, listening to your inner voice, working hard, determination, forgiveness, protecting the earth and love.  It really helps to watch it in order, and to make sure you see the entire series (there are three seasons).

I cannot say enough good things about this television show.  In fact, I would like to say thank you to Michael Dante DiMartinoBryan Konietzko, everyone that worked on the project, including Nickelodeon for putting this series out.  I am not exaggerating when I say that I hope my son will carry the lessons of Avatar: The Last Airbender with him for the rest of his life.  Also, as if all that wasn’t enough, there are fabulous chapter books that summarize the series, and are at a reading level of around 6-9.  Here is my review of one of them: Earth Kingdom Chronicles: The Tale of Aang.


Great parenting book?

May 18, 2011

NurtureShockNurtureShock by Po Bronson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Nurture Shock was the best parenting book I’ve ever read. Admittedly, I haven’t read many. I don’t tend to like them, but I have read a few. On the cover, there is a quote from Good Morning America which calls the book “The Freakonomics of child rearing…”, with which I completely agree. If you liked the way Freakonomics challenged conventional wisdom (and conservative wisdom – ZING!) with science presented as a fast-paced, quippy narrative, then this book is for you. So, why didn’t I give it five stars? I gave it four stars because I felt there should have been more recommendations, given how many fascinating findings there were. However, I don’t think that recommendations were necessarily the goal the authors had in mind. Overall, I really liked the book, it challenged my way of thinking about children in some ways and reinforced things I believed on my own that are unpopular (such as Baby Einstein videos and “educational programming” for very young children is more than a waste of time, it is BAD).

Here are the brief version of my notes from this book (please don’t let having a list of takeaways discourage you from reading the book, because I think this is a VERY important book for parents to read and the notes below don’t even come close to capturing the most important points of the book):

1. Don’t EVER tell a child he is smart.

2. Praise has to be incredibly specific, and based on the child’s efforts.

3. Kids need more sleep than they usually get. Not having enough sleep messes up everyone’s brains, but in kids, it is exponentially worse.

4. Don’t let the sleep schedule slide on weekends.

5. Take a specific and proactive approach to discussing race with your child. Platitudes such as “everyone is equal” are useless at best. Talk about skin color specifically and how people discriminate based on that and why that, specifically, is wrong.

6. Effective lying demonstrates a specific kind of intelligence. Children often lie just to please their parents.

7. Intelligence testing / testing for gifted programs prior to second grade is completely, utterly useless and is far more likely to identify the wrong children as advanced at early ages.

8. Ignoring the fights between siblings is a really bad idea.

9. If your teenager argues with you, it’s probably a good thing.

10. You can teach a kid to have self control and focus, even at fairly young ages (such as kindergarten). How I wish my son went through the “TOOLS” curriculum they so lovingly discuss in chapter 8.

11. Watching Arthur will most likely cause more aggression in children than watching Power Rangers. Baby Einstein is not just useless, it’s often detrimental to a very young child’s vocabulary development.

12. Having a zero tolerance toward bullying and other acts of aggression is most likely ineffective and can cause some unwanted and unexpected results.

13. Talking to your baby is not as important as reacting appropriately and correctly to his attempts at vocalization.

14. Babies cannot learn language from any sort of recorded medium.

15. I loved learning about the “Hedonic Treadmill” theory, which was explained on page 228 as “… we have to keep working hard just to stay in in the same relative place in society. Even when our situation improves, the sense of achievement is only temporary, because our hedonistic desires and expectations rise at the same rate as our circumstances.” This means “…lottery winners are not any happier, long-term, than non-winners…”

16. Trying to get a child younger than 12 to do a gratitude journal in order to help them realize how lucky they are and how much they have to be thankful for can really freaking bite you in the ass. Don’t do that.

View all my reviews

Gift for Geeks?

April 12, 2011

G Is for Googol: A Math Alphabet BookG Is for Googol: A Math Alphabet Book by David M. Schwartz
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I actually read this book on my own, I enjoyed it so much. It’s a Math Alphabet book, probably good for matheletes of all ages, starting around 6 or 7. To give you an example of some of the topics, we have A is for Abacus, B in for Binary, C is for Cubit, D is for Diamond, E is for Equilateral and Exponent (they were too excited to just give one E entry), F is for Fibonacci, etc. You get the idea of what level they are at.

Little T and I especially liked “K is for Königsberg” (about the “Königsberg bridge problem), a great example of a network theory problem.

“R is for Rhombicosidodecaheadron” kind of lost us, but we were recaptured by “T is for Tessellate” (when shapes cover a surface with no gaps in between).

View all my reviews

Any miscellaneous stuff you’d like to share?

February 10, 2011

Of course!  I was just reading through my current general moleskine notebook (I specify, because I also keep a current improv, music and datebook notebooks) and I this entry on Monday, April 6, 2009 caught my eye:

“… in times of anxiety it is critical to ‘avoid being idle,’ that ‘business and conversation of friends’ were necessary to give the mind ‘rest from that intensity of thought,’ which will sometimes wear the sweetest idea threadbare and turn it to the bitterness of death.”

from p. 100 of Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin (it’s the very highly regarded Abraham Lincoln biography)

Gifts for ages 1-6?

March 26, 2010

I’ve been coming across so many good gifts lately, that I had to get them all down someplace.

  • Topobo construction kit with kinetic memory.  Big sale at their online store right now.
  • Uno – a card game for any age.  I never get tired of playing it.
  • Ticket to Ride Game – good for whole family play – a five or six year old may have to be on a team with an older person, especially in the beginning, but kids will enjoy it whether they are on their own team, or on a team with someone else.  You have to make very strategic game play choices in this game (whether to use your turn to get more cards, capture a route or go for more destination challenges).
  • Subway map transit puzzle – another good activity for the whole family
  • Blokus or Travel Blokus or any of the many Blokus incarnations
  • Block ‘N’ Roll – really helps if you have Duplos around to go along with this
  • Legos
  • Young Cam Jansen books for 1st/2nd grade level readers
  • Level 1 Henry and Mudge or Puppy Mudge books for early readers
  • Bob Books for non-readers who want to start
  • Gifts for Girly Girls: your old costume jewelry and fancy purses
  • Ultra Tangoes
  • Set card game
  • Fun shaped hot water bottle for a kid that gets stomach aches or often has the achy-painies
  • Razor scooter
  • Jumprope – ultimately portable, great exercise, and this one can shorten to any length
  • Stockmar modeling wax – they have different size sets of this.  Great for kids who like to fidget.
  • Busy Busy Town by Richard Scarry – either the game or the book (the book seems like it is for ages 1-4)
  • Harmonica – get a real one, in the key of C for a beginner.  They have a wide variety of price points, but there are some cheap ones at guitar center
  • Connect Four (don’t need bigger than travel size)
  • Slamwich
  • Chalk – if you’re going to the playground, always have some chalk ready for when boredom strikes!
  • Jenga – especially great for 3 & 4 year olds
  • Geoblocks

You may also want to look at the page for gifts for a four year old.

Favorite quotes?

March 26, 2010

I was reminded of this quote this morning on the elliptical machine at the gym.  Chilly Gonzales sampled this in his absolutely brilliant and enjoyable PIANIST ENVY (link to free download).

Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It is a very mean and nasty place and it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t how hard you hit; it’s about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward. How much you can take, and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done. Now, if you know what you’re worth, then go out and get what you’re worth. But you gotta be willing to take the hit, and not pointing fingers saying you ain’t where you are because of him, or her, or anybody. Cowards do that and that ain’t you. You’re better than that!
Rocky Balboa
Speaking to his son in Rocky Balboa (2006)

This next quote is from Frank Herbert’s masterpiece, Dune, which is one of my favorite books of all time.  I memorized this quote to repeat over and over to myself during labor.

I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn to the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.
— Frank Herbert (Dune)

And, I just love this one because it’s so true.

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.
— Robert A. Heinlein

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