Saturday, December 4, 2010

Great Gift Idea for Any Parent Interested in Education

Fun in education has come a long way since I grew up. Take the above pictured set for example.  I wish they had stuff like that when I grew up!  So what is this you ask?
Combine richly illustrated 'Britannica' produced books with  a SD-X Interactive Reader Pen and let the magic happen. It did in my house. So much so, that the kids had fights over who got to use it when and how long.  We purchased the the above pictured set at Sam's Club for about $25 and it's worth every penny and more.  The set contains 3 books and a 'Reader' Pen which when placed at various points on each page provides hours of additional information and audioclips. We bought the set which has 'EARTH', 'HUMANS' and 'SPACE'. There are, however, other combinations available.  The set is published by PIL Books and here, for your convenience, is a
link to their interactive store. In addition to the hours and hours of interesting soundbites your child can also challenge herself with quizzes.  Now, because this set became the ball everyone wanted to play with in our home I appreciated the added bonus in the headset port available on the pen's top. This was helpful for us as one kid was able to listen to his heart's content to the lessons while perusing a richly illustrated book without distracting his sister who was working on something else at the same time. We simply used the headphones from his I-Pod Shuffle.  I contacted the boss-man of PIL Books in the hopes of getting a 'give-away' arranged but unfortunately my e-mail was ignored lost.  But don't let this stop you from checking out these cool book sets. This investment is a treasured part of our growing home library.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Contemplative Days

I am in a contemplative mood, to say the least. But before I go deeper into my ruminations, let me tell you what brought me here.

Thanksgiving was marvelous. Exhausting but wonderful. My friend went on ad nauseam about her 'new kitchen' but other than that we had a good time. She and her husband come every year.  Since our families live too far away they are our ersatz relatives and the children adore them. The fact that they bring really cool toys doesn't hurt either (*smile*). On Friday we did nothing. No, actually it was NOTHING in capital letters. We bummed around all day recovering from the previous exhausting days. I haven't bummed around like this for years and it was marvelous. On Saturday we went shopping at an outlet mall which is a little more than an hour away. We returned home rather late and the kids went straight off to bed. To decompress I stayed up and played on the PS3. It's my addiction. That and a glass of wine make my day. What can I say, I am a teenager in an old broad's body. I was a mere minute or two from turning off the PS3 to retire to bed when my cell phone rang. I looked at the caller ID and it was the name of one my my employees. At 12:40 AM that could only be some bad news. My young employee sobbed into the phone when I answered 'My Mom's dead, we found her, she's dead.'



I asked what any good boss would ask : 'Where are you? Are you at home?' When she said she was I told her I'd be right there.  Since she lives less than 5 minutes drive from my house I was there within 10 minutes.  And there, my employee of 5 years and her sister collapsed in my arms and cried and cried and cried.  They had found their mother, you see. She had some substance abuse issues and her not answering the phone or calling back only several days later was normal. So when calls on Thursday and Friday went unanswered, the girls went to check on her on Saturday evening. According to the fire department people and the police she had died sometime on Thursday. Autopsy results are pending.  The sad thing here is that the kids are blaming themselves. Without going into details here, I can tell you this with certainty. It was not their fault.  Was this unexpected? No. But in a twinkling these young women lost their mother.

Previous weeks saw me loosing a dear friend. He died suddenly and unexpectedly at the young age of 63.  And then, a beloved family family friend went in from some routine colon cancer surgery and is now, almost 7 weeks later still fighting for his life because of complications and largely due to incompetent doctors. And that's in Germany.  Then my employee's mother fell on the carpet and stayed there. I am also worried sick about my Dad. He is alive and propped up with a stick and the marvels of modern medicine. My mother too has health issues (cancer survivor) But Dad? A bad heart, bad kidneys, a bad liver and claws for hands because the rheumatic arthritis ate his bones and dissolved them. It breaks my heart.

After Peter died (the friend I told you about ) I made sure I sent a heartfelt card to the seriously sick friend in Germany. And thankfully he got it while he could still read. Peter? Well, I always meant to write to him. I always meant to take the time and send him an e-mail but just always found myself too busy.  And now he's gone. And my employee's mom? Gone too.  I learned one thing from this, don't put off letting the people in your life know how you feel about them. There is no 'replay memory' option in our lives, no 'undo' button. As for me? I plan to make good use of the pile of  cards purchased over the years and really send them to the intended recipients.

One more thing about the friends in Germany. Every year since the birth of my daughter they've sent Advents Calendar cards.  And today, even though Rolf is still in the hospital and his faithful wife at least 4-6 hours a day by his side, they sent the children their yearly special cards and me a card to thank me for the one I sent them a few days ago. Even in some of  their darkest hours they still thought about other people. Hours later I still tear up over this.  Stick a fork in me, I am done!

As for me, I am taking a lesson from all of this. Acknowledge all of those who are in your lives. I've always made sure I read the badges of store clerks and use their names when I talk to them. I've always written down the names of customer service I talk to over the phone and use those when talking to them. Now it's time to acknowledge those I've been taking for granted.