Friday, May 29, 2009

Synagogue retreat provides up close and personal view of modern plagues

Last weekend we enjoyed a relaxing, completely unplugged retreat in rural Wisonsin with families from our synagogue.

I got about 20 mosquito bites as did every other member of my family. West Nile, anyone?

One of the moms noticed a tic on her daughters leg after a hike in the woods (of which we took several). Let's hear it for Lyme disease!

Finally, earlier a teen from the retreat was diagnosed with swine flu. To her credit, the girl's mom sent out a warning/apology along with a helpful information on the virus.

Oh, and then the boys came home yesterday with a letter from school informing us about two potential cases of swine flu in the kindergarten.

I'm off to swipe my keyboard and cell phone with disinfect wipes. Have a good weekend!

Monday, May 25, 2009

I'm down three pints of blood

Or so it seems. Surely, I'd be exaggerating if I said I got a million mosquito bites during our weekend retreat in rural Wisconsin. In reality I got about 15, maybe 20. That's not inconsequential. I have three itchy lumps on my scalp, and I was up much of last night involuntary and furiously scratching my legs and ankles.

I expect to spend much of the week Googling the symptoms of West Nile Virus.

Thursday, May 21, 2009


There's a lot of debate and confusion over the definition of giftedness. What does it mean to be gifted? That question must be answered before we can define who is gifted.

When Smartypants, as a first grader, was spelling words like "hieroglyph," and zooming through chapter books I knew something special was going on in his brain. It helped that the school had, through a fluke, provided IQ and achievement testing when he was in kindergarten. My boy clearly possessed academic talents beyond those of a typical child his age. And though his teacher cringed every time I said it, I had no problem tossing around or labeling my son with the G-word.

I've been giving the term a bit of thought and so has Jeanne, a mom of gifted children who also cringes at the G-word. (Click to read her thoughts.) Oh, and Switched on Mom has a few ideas about gifted labelling as well.

I'd like to invite more guest bloggers into this space. When it comes to folks like Switched on Mom, Jeanne or IRL Julia, I have a sense of the moms and their kids, the impact of giftedness of their families, but what about people I don't know as well?

Does it matter if a guest blogger has a child who is eager and bright (a good student) instead of quirky, socially awkward and/or scary smart gifted? (Not rhetorical. I'd love your opinions.)

Just to give us some common vocabulary, I'll share a few definitions of giftedness:

According to a 2008 definition from the National Association of Gifted Children:
A gifted person is someone who shows, or has the potential for showing, an exceptional level of performance in one or more areas of expression.

Michele Kane, Ed.D. shared this definition during a recent lecture on temperament and gifted children (via the Columbus Group, 1991):
Giftedness is asynchronous development in which advanced cognitive abilities and heightened intensity combine to create inner experiences and awareness that are qualitatively different from the norm. This asynchrony increases with higher intellectual capacity. The uniqueness of the gifted renders them particularly them particularly vulnerable and requires modifications in parenting, teaching and counseling in order for them to develop optimally.

According to the Illinois School Code (pasted from the site) "For purposes of this Article, "gifted and talented children" means children and youth with outstanding talent who perform or show the potential for performing at remarkably high levels of accomplishment when compared with other children and youth of their age, experience, and environment. A child shall be considered gifted and talented in any area of aptitude, and, specifically, in language arts and mathematics, by scoring in the top 5% locally in that area of aptitude.(Source: P.A. 94‑151, eff. 7‑8‑05; 94‑410, eff. 8‑2‑05.)

The middle one (Columbus Group) speaks to me and my experiences as a parent-intensity, asychrony-welcome to my world.

The Illinois State definition and its reliance on local scores confuses me. A child can be gifted in one school district but not another. More likely, a child from an affluent school will likely be considered gifted where ever he attends, but a child from, say, an inner city school, not so much.

What do you think? Even if you don't want to guest blog here, I'd love your thoughts on these definitions.

More musing on raising and education gifted children.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Marketing to Mom Bloggers: Influence, Power and Responsibility

I'm going to try something a little different this week: crowdsourcing a blog post. I've been mulling over a few thoughts on blogger influence, power and responsibility, but this week I'm pressed for time. Also, I'm continually impressed by the thoughtful comments you leave here, so I thought I'd throw out a few questions this week and use your answers (always giving credit and sharing links, natch) and mine to put together next week's post.

As mombloggers, we're offered treated like divas- showered with coupons, product samples, trips and other goodies. Have you ever gotten carried away a bit carried away and crossed the line from blogger to blogwhore*?

Do you think the diva treatment has swelled up some egos and perhaps created a bad name for mombloggers? Explain. (Answer in the sense of the community as a whole. I will not post comments that call out any specific bloggers.)

How has your relationship with swag changed over time?

Whether you have 10 readers or 10,000 followers, describe the responsibility (if any) you feel toward them

I hope this little experiment works.

I'll be spending my day sampling chocolate and other fine confections as well as enjoying lunch with an interesting new group of bloggers and writing about it on Scrambled CAKE. If I return to find a bunch of comments here, it will be the icing on my milk chocolate filled Lindt Truffles. And if there are no comments, well, I'll drown my disappointment in those same truffles. They don't really need icing, anyway.

In Recovery

I am in recovery from a busy weekend that started with a school breakfast last Friday morning at 7:30 and didn't, make that won't, let up until I get a 1500 piece mailing to the post office (hopefully) later today.

I've got a few posts brewing and I hope at least one of them up today because tomorrow is that ideal blend of work and pleasure that is the All Candy Expo.

Wednesday would be my day to catch my breath except that it's an early release day at school. I'm taking advantage of the early release to take the boys for their annual physicals. Yeah, that's why I'm the Fun Mom. Wednesday evening is a school concert and on Thursday I'm free and clear.

I'm reminding myself what a gift it is to have a full and busy life.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Friday Fun: Baby-making action like you've never seen

Smartypants recently had the traditional 5th grade puberty trip, but now I'm going to mess with his hormonal little mind by showing him this hilarious video, How to Make a Baby: A Short Educational Film.

Hat tip to the fabulous PR pro, @nancy_martira for this one.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Gifted kids, differentation and self-contained classrooms

Parenting Gifted Kids has a great post up sharing compelling reasons for gifted children to be placed in self-contained classrooms. Teacher Sarah Robbins discusses the academic as well as social-emotional benefits of such an arrangement.

It's quite possible that if I didn't have kids on the leading edge of the bell curve, I'd be a vocal advocate for heterogeneous classroom grouping. I'm not. I think the broader the grouping, the harder it is for the teacher. The arrangment does not serve the students well, either.

There's a common perception that a class is taught toward the middle, but I've heard it's more realistic that the teacher, of necessity, directs most of her energy, pacing, etc. to the bottom third of the class.

Curriculum differentiation? Puh-lease. Tell me about a a positive experience you and your gifted children have had with this and I'll feature it in an upcoming post.

Back during that horrible first grade year, Smartypants had a teacher who gave him a personalized weekly spelling lists. His words were challenging- I needed a dictionary to spell some of them (i.e. loquacious).

But apparently he needed a dictionary, too.

Part of his weekly spelling assignment involved looking up words and recording their definitions. It wasn't until the Spring teacher conference that the teacher mentioned she didn't have a classroom dictionary advanced enough for Smartypants to look up his words. #differentionfail

And it's not just about the teacher. As Sarah points out, "All children can tell when someone is different. And gifted kids are intuitive enough to sense these differences. They feel isolated, alone, misunderstood and set apart in the mainstream classroom." I think many otherwise caring and smart educators are unaware of the the social-emotional burdens of gifted children. But that's a post of it's own.

So again, differentiation for highly or profoundly gifted kids? Maybe you've had a more positive experience than we have. Maybe your child was working at a level above, deeper or beyond his classmates. Maybe. Tell me about it.

More musings on parenting gifted children.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Homework with my son

Later this week my 5th grader's class is hosting "Colonial Days." It's more like Colonial 1.5 hours, but still there are many preparations to be made. I'm not clear if the social studies teacher is slow to leak details or if Smartypants shares the assignments on an as-needed basis, but yesterday, he came home with several requests that need to be filled by Friday. Make that Thursday.

This morning we made what we hope will be look like an aged Colonial diary. We soaked a couple of teabags in hot water and ran the dripping bags over sheets of office paper. (Is it bad I'm saying we?) Ideally, the papers will dry to look about 200 years older than they actually are.

Oh, and then I am told we are to singe the edges of the paper for an even more "authentic" look.

We have three days to assemble an outfit befitting a Colonial architect. He thinks maybe overalls would be appropriate. I think he needs to spend a little more time with Google. And honestly, I don't even know where to get overalls for an 11-year-old boy. They're not exactly in style here in the Chicago burbs.

Any ideas?

edited 5/13 by popular request (sort of) to change the formerly inappropriate post title.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Marketing to Moms, the Nielsen Power 50 Moms

Last week Nielsen released a list of Power 50 Moms, highly influential women of the blogosphere. The first clue that I'm not on it is that it came out last week and I'm first blogging it days later. Heck, the newspapers might even be covering the story by now.

Lists like this always make me antsy. Every now and again I appear on one. I was on Alltop from the beginning, I'm listed on the Parent Power Index; I get around for what it's worth. But I'm not sure it's worth much.

On the other hand, when I don't appear on The List. It stirs up competitive feelings that ultimately don't serve me well. Don't get me wrong. I'm all for competition. You can count me among those who fear we are raising a nation of wimps. I mean, what's the point of awarding shiny soccer trophies to kids who merely managed to show up to a few practices and a game or two? What kind of message does that send?

Competition is good. Competition causes us to try harder, work smarter and push our limits. Competition brings out the best.

But when it comes to the blogging, I'll sit by the sidelines and try to stay in the game for the long term by doing what feels right to me rather than burn out going for the big win. For example, I know daily posting would serve this blog well in terms of building traffic and community, but three or so times a week fits in best with my other projects and responsibilities. And it's sustainable.

And though I do believe competition helps bring out the the best, in all honesty, it makes me crazy when I see mediocre writers who get more time in the spotlight when they deserve because they know a lot of SEO tricks or market themselves incessantly while fabulous writers are dismissed as "lacking influence."

Apparently, your chances of being named a Power 50 Mom influencer are increased if you are white, straight and married. (Though I am all of the above and where did it get me?)

I'm going off on a tangent here, but it would be interesting to see demographic information on the top 50 Power Moms to learn how similar (or different) they are in terms of age, ethnicity, education, household income, marital and socioeconomic status. I'm not going to undertake such a study myself, but I'd read it if it's out there.

My bigger point is that the momosphere is huge and rather than revolving around one bright light, as our solar system does, or even a dozen (or 50) bright lights, there are many communities, many pockets of influence that don't get recognized by ranking lists.

I realize from the brand or sponsor end, numbers are the bright lights. Numbers are an important measure of influence, but I think there's much more to influence than numbers. I've had this discussion before and in fact, there many insightful comments on my post, Mommybloggers, show us your stats!

Who is an influencer?

I mentioned that during my recent office cleaning, a lot of old materials recaptured my interest. When I opened a dusty file folder to a copy of Chapter 11 of Stephen Covey's book, Principle-Centered Leadership, it caught my eye. The chapter title: Thirty Methods of Influence.

Covey asks who how people can powerfully and ethically influence the lives of others. Some of the buzzwords of social media pop into my mind when I read this: transparency, disclosure! but Covey goes beyond that. Well, maybe not beyond. The book was written in 1990 so SM isn't addressed, of course.

Still, if you seek to build your influence online or IRL, Covey has useful advice:

Refrain from saying the unkind thing- avoid impulsiveness, step back and gain perspective before speaking out, use self-control. (Note to self: watch those reactionary Walmart posts.)

Perform anonymous service. (But how will my readers and tweeps know how generous and giving I am if I don't tell them?)

Promises are a measure of faith in ourselves and an expression of our integrity. If you keep promises you make to others, it forces you to be selective about the promises you make. (That reminds me of a few reviews I've got sitting in the queue....)

Give one-on-one time to people. (My husband? Kids? But I. Can't. Stop. Tweeting.)

Focus on the circle of influence- make positive change where you know you have an impact and it will grow from there. (At least I got this one right.)

Allow yourself to be influenced by others. (I'm good here, too. I have a range of fabulous blog friends from whom I seek advice on products, ideas, business, parenting and relationships.)

Covey listed nearly 25 more reflection points, but it's clear I'm only reaching about 1/3 of my potential influence. No wonder I'm not on the list. Or maybe there's a Top 50 Slacker Mom Guide out there with my name on it.

Summary of the Power 50 Moms list with links at Keeper of the Cheerios.
Power 50 Mom Jessica Smith basks in the glow and shares the name a of few Power 50-worthy women who weren't on what is being called the first draft of the list.

More of my musings on marketing to moms.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Friday Fun: Birthday Memories

This week's idea comes from Chicago-area twin-loving mama Shari at Two Times the Fun. It's a site that let's you look up the number 1 song on your birthday. Technically, it's lets you find the number one song on any day in history since Billboard has been tracking that info.

The site has links to Rhapsody and iTunes for most songs, so you can even make yourself or a special someone a CD/MP3 of songs from their special day.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Welcome from MediaPost

I want to give a brief welcome to those of you clicking over from today's MediaPost Engage:Moms column on inviting diversity to your brand's blogger event.

As you will see, I use this site to share personal and professional thoughts. Click over to see an easy-to-read list of my marketing to moms posts. Read the ones that interest you and drop me a note if you have any questions or would like to talk mombloggers, diversity, or social media moms.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Friday Fun: Star Wars Fun

My almost nine-year-old gets credit for this one. He came home from school last week begging me to find it on YouTube.

I'm worried about bogging down my home page with too many videos, so I'm going to send you over to You Tube to watch this amazing, spirited one man quartet a capella performance of John William's Star Wars theme. (Yes, I said one man quartet. Just click.)

My boy can almost sing the entire thing, so maybe I'll post a video of him on the MoldyFam YouTube Channel when he's got it down.