Show-Me-How Story-time with Miss Vivian Travels to Chicago

Downtown from the lakefront, Chicago, IL, USA

Frank Sinatra sang songs about many of the cities that he loved…New York – San Francisco – Chicago.

After a fantastic long weekend in Chicago, I’ll have to echo some of his words (written by Sammy Kahn and Jimmy Van Heusen):

Chicago is one town

That won’t let you down

It’s my kind of town.

I arrived on Friday morning and spent the day relaxing with my son and daughter-in-law at their home.  Visiting with them is like going to a spa…they LOVE to cook “healthy” and every morning they start the day with a bowl of fresh fruit…mangoes, papayas, bananas, apples, peaches…drizzled with a little honey.  For lunch each day, my son made a huge vegetable salad bowl for each of us…cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, celery, mushrooms…all topped with some capers and a splash of aged blueberry balsamic   vinegar.

My book event, Starting School Jitters Be Gone, on Saturday at Lollie, a children’s boutique in Evanston, just 20 minutes north of downtown Chicago, was so much fun!  This shop is an amazing place…filled with many handmade and locally designed clothes and accessories, as well as other unique items for infants, toddlers and children.  The owner is knowledgeable, helpful and a really lovely lady…I know if I lived in the Chicago area, I’d stop in there for any new baby gifts I needed, as well as for birthday and Christmas presents for any little ones on my list.

Of course, Mother Nature had her own plans for 11am, the time the first presentation was to start.  The skies over the entire Chicago area darkened, and the heavens poured forth a torrential rainstorm, accompanied by huge claps of thunder and crackling flashes of lightening. 

Inside Lollie, however, everything was bright and cheery.  A group of young children listened attentively as I read The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn.  As the story about Chester unfolded, the children heard how the little raccoon, anxious about his first day of kindergarten, learned a secret from his mother that helped him overcome his fear and go to school with eager anticipation. 

After the story reached its happy conclusion, I showed the children a sample of the craft project and explained how we would all be making “Kissing Handprints”…deciding who we loved and who loved us and then drawing in the features for each person (or pet or stuffed animal) on each finger.

Parents and children clustered around the craft table and we proceeded to draw an outline of each child’s hands.  The hum of happy children, busily engaged in a constructive activity with their parents, is definitely music to my ears.  “This finger is going to be my mommy” said one little girl.  “And those are my dogs” she added.

The storm had ended by the time the second presentation was over.  My son and daughter-in-law, who had brought me and had assisted during the program, helped me pack everything up.  I’m looking forward to my next trip to Chicago…Lollie’s owner has invited me to come back to do another program, whenever I’m in town.  Show Me How! Build Your Child’s Self-Esteem Through Reading, Crafting and Cooking is available at the shop for those of you who are in the Chicago area.

The next few days were filled with family visits, an afternoon at the beach – unbelievable to have a REAL sandy beach with what looks and smells like the ocean (it’s really Lake Michigan) right across the street from the downtown area of a major city – and an architectural river boat cruise.  It was difficult to leave…I’m already looking at my calendar to see when my next jaunt to Chicago will be.

My next post will be a review of a children’s book, A Reel Cool Summer, written by Martha Rodriguez.  We connected online and she loved my book and did a great review of it.  I brought her book on my trip and was able to share it with my great-niece and great-nephew…they absolutely loved it and were totally engaged in the story…so  in my next post, it will be my turn to tell everyone why they need to run out and get a copy of Ms. Rodriguez’ fun-filled book for children ages 6-9.

Photo credit: Thanks to JCrocker for the Chicago skyline pic.

Five Ways to Ease Your Eyes from Screen Strain

Family watching television, c. 1958

Image via Wikipedia

Did you know that 70% of Americans suffer from computer vision syndrome?

CVS happens when you stare at the computer for too long.

I discovered some valuable insight into this problem from Eye Care magazine published by HealthMonitor.

This type of “near work” strains the muscles in your eyes that focus on near objects and you also tend to blink less, which can dry out eyes.

Symptoms include blurry vision, headaches and strained, dry or tired eyes.

According to eye specialists, there are five simple steps that can help alleviate this.

1.     Follow the two-foot rule: sit about 25 inches away from your computer and tilt the screen to so you look down on your work.

2.     Get rid of the glare: glare from overhead lighting and the sun can reflect off your screen…this contributes to eye strain.  Dim the lights around your workspace and use shades or curtains to avoid direct light.  You could also try an attachable anti-glare screen for your computer.

3.     Take breaks: follow the 20-20-20 rule…every 20 minutes, look 20 feet across the room for at least 20 seconds.  In this way you will be activating your distance vision.  Blink often and take mini-breaks away from your desk.  Close your eyes briefly and practice deep breathing which also helps relax the eye muscles.

4.     Check your prescription: if you or your children wear glasses, make sure the prescription is up-to-date.  Eyes do change and it is important to see your eye doctor on a yearly basis, especially if you wear glasses.  If you or your children are having eye problems whether you wear glasses or not, please make an appointment…our eyes are so precious and they are not replaceable.

5.     Moisturize: staring at a computer screen, especially in an air-conditioned room, can lead to dry eyes.  Use artificial tears or a desktop humidifier and remember the 20-20-20 rule…look away and blink.

Many of us do lots of close work and when you add up the time children spend reading books and doing homework assignments, playing or working on the computer or other electronic devices and watching TV, you’ll agree that it’s really important for them to follow these simple steps as well.

Now that school is starting, many preschoolers will be left at home without older brothers or sisters to play with them.  If you’d like to provide great activities for your young child (other than sitting in front of a TV or computer monitor), please visit my websitewhere you can purchase a copy of Show Me How! Build Your Child’s Self-Esteem Through Reading, Crafting and Cooking at 50% off the cover price.  This award-winning resource for busy parents will provide you with 100 picture book story suggestions and summaries and gives you an eco-friendly craft activity and a child-friendly recipe for each recommended title…FRESH IDEAS FOR A NEW SCHOOL YEAR!  BTW, it’s also available on Kindle!

Are Electronics Hurting Your Child’s Eyes?

WHR's computers

Image via Wikipedia

Yesterday I had an eye doctor appointment.

As I sat in the waiting room, I noticed a small magazine entitled “Eye Care”.

It’s published by HealthMonitor.com and is packed full of valuable articles and information.

I know that many parents wonder about any dangerous effects that electronics…and their children’s use of things like mobile phones, iPads, 3-D handheld video games and laptops…might have.

Are electronics dangerous to your child’s eyes?

According to Dr. Benjamin Ticho, a pediatric ophthalmologist and associate professor at the University of Illinois:

There are no studies showing permanent or long-lasting visual damage from these types of devices.

But are there any temporary problems that can crop up from staring at portable game devices, surfing online or watching TV for prolonged periods of time?

The answer to this is YES!  Strain, fatigue and dry or scratchy eyes can result from doing anything up close where our eyes are doing too many things: focusing, coordinating and moving close together…this can cause the eye muscles to get tired.

What can parents do to help avoid this?

  • Put a daily time limit on electronic devices.
  • Remind your child to get up frequently while engaged in a task or game.
  • Encourage your child to participate in outdoor activities or sports each day.
  • Use time playing video games or going on the computer as a reward for completing homework…that will insure that eyes are tired out before homework is done.

Tomorrow I’m going to share: 5 Ways to Treat Screen Strain…for all of you out there who blog. 

TAKE A KID FLY-FISHING – POSITIVE PARENTAL PARTICIPATION IN ACTION!

Father and son make a great fishing duo...watch out, Mr. Trout!

I have a passion for using picture books and positive parental participation to help build self-confidence and create a life-long parent-child bond.

So I’m always thrilled when I find a book that encourages parent and child to participate together.

Thanks to Kirk Werner, parents have not one, but a series of THREE amazing books that can be enjoyed by children from preschool to puberty and beyond!

Olive, the Little Woolly Bugger is the first book in this series by author and illustrator, Kirk Werner.  It details the experiences of Olive, a woolly bugger fly used in fly-fishing.  Olive attends Camp Tightloops to learn how to become a fishing fly and meets many other flies…some who are bullies and snobs and others who are friendly and helpful.  Children of all ages will connect and identify with the engaging characters.

According to Kirk, “On the surface, my fly fishing book series for kids may just appear to be children’s stories set against the backdrop of fly fishing. While true, there’s much more to them than that. The intent of my books is to introduce kids to fly fishing through a series of fun stories that are both educational and entertaining. For kids lucky enough to hail from an angling family, no encouragement is needed to get them outdoors with a fly rod in hand.  But kids who may not have the guidance of an adult angler in their lives are really the ones who stand to gain the most from my books.  In other words, my books are for all kids (and frankly, for adults as well). But the goal of my books is also bigger than just fly fishing – it’s about getting kids outdoors.

As I mentioned in a previous blog entry, according to a study by the Outdoor Foundation fishing is the #1 “Gateway Activity” to launching kids into many other outdoor pursuits such as camping, hiking, boating, etc.  All are excellent ways to get kids away from their video games, off the couch and into the great outdoors for some good, old-fashioned recreation. 

According to a report by C&NN, children are smarter, more cooperative, happier and healthier when they have varied opportunities for free unstructured play in the outdoors.  I interpret that to mean if you take a kid fly fishing where they can experience a natural setting, walk along the banks of a stream or lake and learn about bugs and fish and other wildlife that benefit from clean water, that child is going to be smarter.  I always thought fly anglers were an intelligent bunch and now I know why!

To sum it all up in a nutshell, outdoor recreation is good for kids in both mind and body, and the outdoors are important to all of us.  So, the bottom line is this:  Get kids outside.  Fishing is a great way to start them off on other outdoor adventures.  While they’re outside having fun they’ll be practicing healthy habits and getting exercise. Furthermore they’ll develop an appreciation for our natural resources, which will ensure that future generations become stewards of the earth.

It may be a lofty thinking on my part, but I believe every child should start down this journey with the Olive the woolly bugger series of fly fishing books. Now, if anyone has an idea as to how I can make sure that every child hears about Olive, I’m all ears.”

Getting ready for a day of fishing!

So, my husband and I took Kirk’s advice (not that we needed any encouragement…we already LOVE fishing and fly-fishing and we took our own children fishing as soon as they were old enough to hold a fishing rod) and last weekend, we took our six-year old twin grandchildren on their first fishing adventure.  Our son had already prepared the way by reading the first book in the Olive series with his children.  When we arrived at their house and my husband showed them the fly box he had filled for them, they eagerly pointed to the flies that they recognized.  “There’s Olive!”  “That’s Randall, the Royal Coachman!”

Choosing the right fly. How about Olive, the LIttle Woolly Bugger?

Our time with our grandchildren and son and daughter-in-law at Rocky Mountain National Park was, to say the least, fantastic!  The day was perfect…amazingly there were no thunderstorms to hamper our enjoyment.  The children took to fishing as if they had been doing it for years.  The first fly they wanted to try was…you guessed it…a woolly bugger!

I’d like to say that we pulled up one trout after another…but even though the children didn’t catch any fish (although we did see several)…they did catch the enthusiasm and joy of being by a beautiful river, surrounded by the wonders of nature.  Their parents take them to RMNP quite often and encourage the appreciation, care and preservation our precious and endangered environment.  After enjoying a lovely picnic, we all got ready to leave and my husband asked our grandchildren when they would like to come fishing again.  One of them replied, “In about three weeks!”  And the other piped up, “No, in about three days!”

Our granddaughter listened with rapt attention to Grandpa's instructions.

According to the Outdoor Foundation, fishing is the top “gateway” activity, spurring involvement in other outdoor activities:

“The future of any sport lies in engaging its youngest members, so reaching individuals in their early years is critical,” said The Outdoor Foundation Executive Director Christine Fanning.

And, even though my book is about reading, crafting and cooking, I’m always encouraging parents to get outside with their children, whether it is to take a walk, go on a nature hike or spend time at a park or playground.

Mr. Werner says, “Fishing is good for kids. And Olive the Woolly Bugger exists for the sole purpose of getting kids interested in fishing. You truly cannot accurately judge a book by the cover, and exploring beneath the surface may yield some pleasant surprises.  Fishing dries on the surface is fun, but an astute angler knows that fish take the majority of their meals under water.  Exploring the depths is what makes the woolly bugger such an effective and popular pattern.  Take a closer look- I think you’ll get hooked on Olive the Woolly Bugger, and by doing so you’ll be helping kids in more ways than one.”

There is so much more I’d like to share with you about this wonderful author and his Olive series.  My next post will explore the organizations he supports with a portion of the proceeds of book sales and a little bit about the other two books he has written.

I’d also like to invite parents, grandparents and anyone who is caring for little ones to a Show-Me-How Story-time with Miss Vivian this Saturday, August 6th from 11am to 1:30pm at Family Christian Store, 7560 N. Academy Blvd in Colorado Springs.  If you are local to Colorado Springs, please stop by for one of the STARTING SCHOOL JITTERS BE GONE! presentations…at 11:30am-12 or 12:30pm to 1.  We’ll be talking about school anxiety, reading a wonderful picture book story and then doing a fun craft project.  There will be a free hand-out for parents on Five Steps to a Smoother School Year and parents can fill in an entry form to win a bunch of craft supplies for their child.  Please email me at vivan@positiveparentalparticipation.com or call the store at 719-598-1500 if you have any questions.