Sunday, February 26, 2012


I realize that when you hear 'graveyards' macabre thoughts and images often come to mind, but truth be told, I love graveyards.  I find them peaceful, soothing and full of information, especially old ones - I just love the weathered stones.  And, while I DON'T advocate class trips or holidays spent there with your child, there is actually a lot to be said about visiting them.

Some graveyard tidbits:
  • Graveyards were originally used by families (often of middle or lower social class status) in the 8th-14th centuries who could not afford to be buried inside or beneath the places of worship which administered them.
  • From the early 19th century cemeteries replaced graveyards as burial sites.  Cemeteries are typically not affiliated with a specific church or parish, often for reasons of public hygiene and sharp population rises.

Aside from being serene and full of information, graveyards offer so many educational bends and themes...and one of my favorite kids' books take place in a graveyard:
    Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book - about a boy named Nobody Owens who after his family's murder is adopted and raised by graveyard occupants, and is befriended by a lonely girl, Scarlett Perkins.  Together they learn about life and friendship (and as Gaiman notes, "the glorious tragedy of being a parent"- about growing up and moving on), while being embroiled in the mystery of Nobody's family's tragedy.  It is a great book to be enjoyed by kids and parents, and is similar to The Jungle Book  which could be read with this and be a wonderful point for comparison.

    Some lessons you can build around graveyards:

    Life Lessons - This is probably the most obvious one, but there are so many 'life lesson' angles to chose from:
    • Life and death, cycles of life - from Lion King to goldfish sometimes pets and loved ones die and there are so many ways to say 'goodbye'
    • You can talk about city planning - cemeteries and graveyards take up space - talk about where you usually find them, talk about planning and zoning options people and cities might have.  This allows you to problem solve and look at graveyards from a totally different perspective.
    Math - I love going to the particularly weathered stones looking at dates of birth and death.  Have fun figuring out:
    • How old these people were when they died?
    • How long ago did they die?
    • How many decades did they live (every 10 years); how many scores did they live (20 years..."Four score and seven years ago....) how many dozen years (multiples of 12), etc.  You can even create names for year chunks (is there a term for "8 years" besides '8 years'? If not you and your child / student can coin your own).
    History - Look at the dates on the tombstones, talk about what life was like when these people were living.  You can brainstorm about
    • the political issues and leaders during the life of the times on the tombstone;
    • types of transportation and entertainment - books, stories from that time- they used and enjoyed;
    • what the fashions and homes were like...
    Poetry and Language
    • Look at the language and words chosen to describe the life of the deceased.  Talk about the importance of the wording and how to relate the essence of someone's life in just a few words.
    • Read books and poetry about graveyards.  Here 's a poem by Robert Frost
    In a Disused Graveyard - by Robert Frost
    The living come with grassy tread
    To read the gravestones on the hill;
    The graveyard draws the living still,
    But never anymore the dead.
    The verses in it say and say:
    "The ones who living come today
    To read the stones and go away
    Tomorrow dead will come to stay."
    So sure of death the marbles rhyme,
    Yet can't help marking all the time
    How no one dead will seem to come.
    What is it men are shrinking from?
    It would be easy to be clever
    And tell the stones: Men hate to die
    And have stopped dying now forever.
    I think they would believe the lie
    • Take photographs of the tombstones in different types of lighting; graveyards in different locations and containing stones from different periods in time
    • Go to museums, look for various graveyard works
    • Music - talk/write songs about graveyards.  I always loved Fantasia's Night on Bald Mountain

    How do you feel about graveyards?  Would you integrate them into lessons or outings with your kids?

      Sunday, February 19, 2012

      Frost...For Fun

      In honor of "F" Week at ABCWednesday, I thought we'd have some fun with Frost.  His poetry is so clear on the surface, but so deep - so  much can be 'read' into it.  I say read, and not overanalyze - there's a difference, don't you think?

      Please enjoy the poem below - along with some other 'food' (it is "F" week) for thought.  Please write your impressions, feelings, questions about this poem. On Friday, I will post some professional poets' and literary critiques' impressions (not mine).  I hope you join in reflecting on the poem now and come back and react to the "professional" responses as well. [But, if you don't have time skim the poem, take a look at the JFK inaugural clip, and please leave a comment.]

      Some Background:
      Lawrence Rabb, (Morris Professor of Rhetoric at Williams College and an award-winning poet), discusses "How to Pay Attention to a Poem."  He notes that:
      "Any best read with what Henry James called "the spirit of fine attention," It's about noticing, and then noticing what you notice...
      "A good poem resists paraphrase, refuses to let its meaning become too simple..." 
      "No good poem, especially one as mysterious and reticent as 'Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,' ever exhausts itself, even as it turns itself over to you, the reader. So you may secretly carry it around, discovering - perhaps by surprise... remembering it as a kind of revelation and finding it has changed, since you yourself have changed."
      A few things to keep in mind:
      • Lawrence Rabb also provides a slew of questions to focus on while reading this poem.
      • Frost typically repeats the last line of the poem - his way of telling us its complete.  Does this send us an additional message?
      • Keep in mind the visual and musical imagery relayed through the words he uses.
      • In a letter to Louis Untermeyer, Frost called this poem, "my best bid for remembrance." Why?
      Extra tid-bit I couldn't resist:
      A clip of JFK reciting Frost at his inauguration, discussing the role and significance of poetry to statesmen and an incredible glimpse into a world gone by.

      The Poem:
      What images come to mind? What do you think it's about?  Any surprises, questions, insights? 
      Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
      by Robert Frost
      Whose woods these are I think I know.
      His house is in the village though;
      He will not see me stopping here
      To watch his woods fill up with snow.
      My little horse must think it queer
      To stop without a farmhouse near
      Between the woods and frozen lake
      The darkest evening of the year.
      He gives his harness bells a shake
      To ask if there is some mistake.
      The only other sound’s the sweep
      Of easy wind and downy flake.
      The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
      But I have promises to keep,
      And miles to go before I sleep,
      And miles to go before I sleep.
      For educators and parents:
      • This type of exercise is wonderful for building what Levine termed "Higher Order Cognitive Functions" or what others might refer to as analytical thinking.  Asking readers to think about the poem, however, not only builds cognition, but a more acute awareness of language, rhythm and rhyme, while helping to focus attention to details.  Savoring poetry provides great 'games' to play with kids of all ages as they explore language, thought, and the world around them. 
      • Not always providing immediate answers is a typical Piagetian (after Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget) approach to helping learners progress to higher levels of understanding.  When intellectual challenges are presented, the thinker must devise 'rules' or 'schema' that are tested and reconstructed as needed.
      In closing: 
      The Dead Poet's Society:

      Have a great few days, I hope you return after Friday for Part II which will be filled in below
      In the meantime, please leave your thoughts, insights and comments.

      Frost's "Stopping by Woods..." Part II
      (to be posted on Friday...)

      Here now, are more morsels and tid-bits to help reflect and understand this poem:

      John T. Ogilvie (from "From Woods to Stars: A Pattern of Imagery in Robert Frost’s Poetry." South Atlantic Quarterly. Winter 1959) reflected:
      Frost relays a recurrent image of "the world of the woods...offering perfect quiet and solitude" that  exists "side by side with teh realization that there is also another world, a world of people and social obligations.  Both worlds have claims on the poet."
      " We are not told, however, that the call of social responsibility proves stronger than the attraction of the woods...the poet and his horse have not moved at the poem's end.  The dichotomy of the poet's obligations both to the woods and to a world of promises... conisists in the way the two worlds are established and balanced.... What appears to be 'simple' is shown to be not really simple, what appears to be innocent not really innocent..."
      Reuben A. Brower (from The Poetry of Robert Frost: Constellations of Intention. New York: Oxford UP, 1963. Copyright © 1963 by Reuben A. Brower) wrote:
       "The dark nowhere of the woods, the seen and heard movement of things, and the lullaby of inner speech are an invitation to sleep - and winter sleep is again close to easeful death... [Forst's] poetic suggestions are in the purest sense symbolic...though we feel their power. There are critics who have gone much further in defining what Frost 'meant'; but perhaps sleep is mystery enough... Frost might be described as a poet of rejected invitations to voyage in the 'definitely imagined regions' that Keats and Yeats more readily enter."
      Richard Poirier (from Robert Frost: The Work of Knowing. Copyright © 1977 by Oxford University Press) wrote:

      For greater depth of discussion and reference, please see:Modern American Poetry: On "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening"

      Have a great weekend and come visit again soon! 

      Sunday, February 12, 2012

      Express Yourself!

      E is for "Express Yourself!!!!!"

      The the more you do it, the better you get.  And in our world today, there are SO many options and ways to express ourselves.  When you think of it, it's breathtaking...

      ...and yet there is so much misunderstanding.

      Aside from the obvious messages when expressing ourselves, an understated part of expressing and communicating is incorporating verbal and nonverbal cues; to listening to what IS said or portrayed, and to what IS NOT; to carefully selecting visual objects or words while keeping in mind length, message medium, and the audience involved.

      HOW DO YOU EXPRESS YOURSELF???  Here are some examples - enjoy them and leave your expressions in the comments.

      Whether you express yourself with the faces you make, or the images you create

      ... be they comics
       ... photos

      ... or paintings, drawings, sculptures, etc.

      The songs that you sing...

      OR The way you move your the body and gifts you were given -as this Dance clip at Central Station, Antwerp Belgium shows..

      And this Martha Graham clip expresses:

      Or the words you share...Be they:
      (Kenneth Branagh's) Shakespeare's Henry V Speech on the Eve of Saint Crispen's Day
        Or. (Taylor Mali's) Slam poetry, relaying bravery, passion, and pathos
          Others may take a completely different approach and express themselves through cooking, baking, decorating...
          From: djssugarshack

          The keys to successful expression are:
          • experiment in multi-modal means of expression
          • practice with others
          • practice in front of a mirror or tape yourself
          • keep track of others' reactions to your various means and modes of exprssion
          • put your whole 'self' into it
          • embrace it and have fun!
          Some interesting tid-bits on expression:
          1. Slam poetry is a multi-modal means of expression. While it is a verbal-visual-vocal retelling involving words, facial expressions, body posture and movement, voice volume adjustments,  and visual body cues.
          2. Comic books are another means of multi-modal expression integrating visual and verbal communication.  While the writers select the essence of the story, artists enhance the message as readers integrate the art and word with their own stores of knowledge and experiences to construct the entire story.
          3. Music and science:  Michaeleen Doucleff in Saturday/Sunday (Feb. 1-12, 2012) Wall Street Journal article, "Anatomy of a Tear-Jerker" notes that science has uncovered what in music evokes emotional reactions - in this case why Adale's "Someone Like You' makes listeners cry:
          Twenty years ago, the British psychologist John Sloboda analyzed properties of songs that made people cry and found they contained an "appoggiatura" - a type of ornamental note that clashes with the melody just enough to create a dissonant sound, which when resolved releases a 'feel good' feeling.
          "'Someone Like You' which Adele wrote with Dan Wilson is sprinkled with ornamental notes similar to appoggiaturas....[and] during the chorus, Adele slightly modulates her pitch at the end of long notes right before the accompaniment goes to a new harmony, creating mini-roller coasters of tension and resolution" said Dr. Guhn, psychologist at the University of British Columboia who co-wrote a 2007 study on the subject."
          Martin Guhn and Marcel Zentner found that 'chill-provoking' musical passages shared at least four features: (1) "They began softly and then suddenly became loud. (2)They included an abrupt entrance of a new 'voice'. (3)They often involved an expansion of the frequencies played (ex. the voilins jump up one octave to echo the melody). (4) They contained unexpected deviations in the melody or the harmony.  Music is most likely to tingle the spine, in short, when it includes surprises in volume, timbre and harmonic pattern."

           Regardless of the mean or mode of expression, do it as Taylor Mali says..."with authority!"

          Monday, February 6, 2012

          Developmental Milestones ... more like guidelines

           Two of my three kids NEVER crawled!  True.

          Doctors told me that if they did not crawl and go through each of the stages of motor development they would have serious coordination issues later.   True, doctors told me this but their advise was FALSE - there were never any issues. One danced her way through college and the other won national fencing (sabre) championships.  No motor problems there!

          One of my daughters missed the kindergarten cut-off date by four weeks.   We were told she would have to wait another year to begin.  I told the school that while I recognized and would honor their policies, I wanted them to meet her.  IF they still had any reservations that she was not socially, emotionally, or intellectually ready for kindergarten (she was reading already), I would accept their decision.  The principal told me "You know, every mother thinks her kid is a genius"  I asked them to interview her nevertheless.  She passed, went to nursery and at the end of the year, they wanted to put her in second grade.  I REFUSED!  

          True:  We as psychologists, educators, medical professionals, and parents follow the course of our kids' (and students') development watching for progress and emerging stages of skill acquisition.  This is essential for learning and growth.

          But as they say about the code of rules in Pirates of the Carribean: "They're more like guidelines than actual rules." Each child is different.  Most will follow the prescribed ways of learning and developing, but some will not.  And for those who don't follow the prescribed paths of learning and development, it is important to watch them, help them, direct them, but different paths don't necessarily mean incorrect paths.

          The bottom line is that much like the Pirates Rules of Conduct (and I do apologize for the analogy - I do not usually think of pirates when I think of kids), developmental milestones really are meant as guidelines - averages, which help give perspective, but really telling a complete story.

          The same can be said of age cut-offs. I recently consulted with parents whose child missed the kindergarten cut-off date by six weeks. While many schools and districts strictly adhere to these guidelines, they are somewhat arbitrary cut-offs (especially for those kids who miss it by days or weeks).  So many children who "make" the cut are not necessarily developmentally ready for school, and many who miss it, are. Some school administrators will make exceptions, others won't, but IF you have questions - ask, research, speak to a specialist who knows your child. 

          Regarding school admission guidelines...Here are some issues to keep in mind when considering 'pushing' a child ahead or 'holding' them back:
          • Size is an important factor for 'fitting in' - something very important socially to kids as they approach middle and high school.  While it won't make a difference for earlier grades, it will be a factor later.  So will physical changes as kids approach adolescence.
          • Dexterity - fine and gross motor skills are essential throughout school.  The ability to maturely hold a pencil, to cut, to draw, to run and play are all important factors for kids in elementary school.  IF your child is a 'borderline' baby you should factor this into your decision.
          • Mental, emotional, and cognitive control are essential for school functioning.  Kids must be able to control their impulses (be they emotional, attentional, or cognitive).  Kids must be able to control their anger and fear when upset, they have to be able to focus on teacher directions, and they have to be able to focus their thinking and ability to evaluate situations.  These skills are essential for social and intellectual growth and often an extra year of play and preschool can help children make significant gains.
          • Cognitive challenges, are also important.  Kids who are ready to read, who exhibit strong language and critical thinking skills must be stimulated and challenged.   For some this may mean 'pushing' ahead, for others it may mean finding various enrichment avenues without being placed with 'older' kids.
          My advice for parents facing these decisions is to interview at different schools.  Talk to your physician as well as the school's admission personnel, ask them to meet your child. Do this in numerous schools.  Sometimes finding the 'best fit' school will make all the difference.

          Regarding developmental milestones... here are some links to sites with developmental milestones.  These are guidelines, but they DO help you better understand what is expected of your child at various ages and stages of development.  IF you have concerns, it is always wise to speak to a specialist - usually your pediatrician who can refer you further if necessary:
          What have your experiences been like?  Please share your concerns, comments and related information.

          Women and Heart Attack Symptoms

          Dear Friends,

          I received this as an email and am posting it online so others can see.  Feel free to pass it on yourselves:

          What Women Should Know About Heart Attack Symptoms:

          If you've read this before, read it again. If not, this is vital information that could save your life.

          I know this has been around but it's a good reminder for us all.....

          I am an ER nurse and this is the best description of this event that I have ever heard. Please read, pay attention, and send it on!


          I was aware that female heart attacks are different, but this is the best description I've ever read.

          Women and heart attacks (Myocardial infarction). Did you know that women rarely have the same dramatic symptoms that men have when experiencing heart attack.. you know, the sudden stabbing pain in the chest, the cold sweat, grabbing the chest & dropping to the floor that we see in the movies. Here is the story of one woman's experience with a heart attack.

          'I had a heart attack at about 10:30 PM with NO prior exertion, NO prior emotional trauma that one would suspect might have brought it on. I was sitting all snugly & warm on a cold evening, with my purring cat in my lap, reading an interesting story my friend had sent me, and actually thinking, 'A-A-h, this is the life, all cozy and warm in my soft, cushy Lazy Boy with my feet propped up.

          A moment later, I felt that awful sensation of indigestion, when
          you've been in a hurry and grabbed a bite of sandwich and washed it down with a dash of water, and that hurried bite seems to feel like you've swallowed a golf ball going down the esophagus in slow motion and it is most uncomfortable. You realize you shouldn't have gulped it down so fast and needed to chew it more thoroughly and this time drink a glass of water to hasten its progress down to
          the stomach. This was my initial sensation--the only trouble was that I hadn't taken a bite of anything since about 5:00 p.m.

          After it seemed to subside, the next sensation was like little squeezing motions that seemed to be racing up my SPINE (hind-sight, it was probably my aorta spasms), gaining speed as they continued racing up and under my sternum (breast bone, where one presses rhythmically when administering CPR).

          This fascinating process continued on into my throat and branched out into both jaws. 'AHA!! NOW I stopped puzzling about what was happening -- we all have read and/or heard about pain in the jaws
          being one of the signals of an MI happening, haven't we? I said aloud to myself and the cat, Dear God, I think I'm having a heart attack!

          I lowered the foot rest dumping the cat from my lap, started to take a step and fell on the floor instead. I thought to myself, If this is a heart attack, I shouldn't be walking into the next room where the phone is or anywhere else... but, on the other hand, if I don't, nobody will know that I need help, and if I wait any longer I may not be able to get up in a moment.

          I pulled myself up with the arms of the chair, walked slowly into the next room and dialed the Paramedics... I told her I thought I was having a heart attack due to the pressure building under the sternum and radiating into my jaws. I didn't feel hysterical or afraid, just stating the facts. She said she was sending the Paramedics over immediately, asked if the front door was near to me, and if so,
          to un-bolt the door and then lie down on the floor where they could see me when they came in.

          I unlocked the door and then laid down on the floor as instructed and lost consciousness, as I don't remember the medics coming in, their examination, lifting me onto a gurney or getting me into their ambulance, or hearing the call they made to St. Jude ER on the way, but I did briefly awaken when we arrived and saw that the radiologist was already there in his surgical blues and cap, helping the medics
          pull my stretcher out of the ambulance. He was bending over me asking questions (probably something like 'Have you taken any medications?') but I couldn't make my mind interpret what he was saying, or form an answer, and nodded off again, not waking up until the Cardiologist and partner had already threaded the teeny
          angiogram balloon up my femoral artery into the aorta and into my heart where they installed 2 side by side stints to hold open my right coronary artery.

          I know it sounds like all my thinking and actions at home must have taken at least 20-30 minutes before calling the paramedics, but actually it took perhaps 4-5 minutes before the call, and both the fire station and St Jude are only minutes away from my home, and my Cardiologist was already to go to the OR in his scrubs and get
          going on restarting my heart (which had stopped somewhere between my arrival and the procedure) and installing the stints.
          Why have I written all of this to you with so much detail? Because I want all of you who are so important in my life to know what I learned firsthand.

          1. Be aware that something very different is happening in your body, not the usual men's symptoms but inexplicable things happening (until my sternum and jaws got into the act). It is said that many more women than men die of their first (and last) MI because they didn't know they were having one and commonly mistake it as indigestion, take some Maalox or other anti-heartburn preparation and go to bed,
          hoping they'll feel better in the morning when they wake up... which doesn't happen. My female friends, your symptoms might not be exactly like mine, so I advise you to call the Paramedics if ANYTHING is unpleasantly happening that you've not felt before. It is better to have a 'false alarm' visitation than to risk your life guessing what it might be!

          2.Note that I said 'Call the Paramedics.' And if you can take an aspirin. Ladies, TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE!

          Do NOT try to drive yourself to the ER - you are a hazard to others on the road.

          Do NOT have your panicked husband who will be speeding and looking anxiously at what's happening with you instead of the road.

          Do NOT call your doctor -- he doesn't know where you live and if it's at night you won't reach him anyway, and if it's daytime, his assistants (or answering service) will tell you to call the Paramedics. He doesn't carry the equipment in his car that you need to be saved! The Paramedics do, principally OXYGEN that you need ASAP. Your Dr will be notified later.

          3.Don't assume it couldn't be a heart attack because you have a normal cholesterol count. Research has discovered that a cholesterol elevated reading is rarely the cause of an MI (unless it's unbelievably high and/or accompanied by high blood pressure). MIs are usually caused by long-term stress and inflammation in the body, which dumps all sorts of deadly hormones into your system to sludge things up in there. Pain in the jaw can wake you from a sound sleep. Let's be careful and be aware. The more we know the better chance we could survive.

          A cardiologist says if everyone who gets this mail sends it to 10 people, you can be sure that we'll save at least one life.

          *Please be a true friend and copy then paste into new email and send this article to all your friends (male & female) who you care about!*