Moose’s Lodge

Raising a Moose

Moose’s Passport Montage April 5, 2010

Filed under: Moose — valben @ 2:02 am

We are headed to the USVI in a few weeks, and although it wasn’t necessary, we decided Moose needed a passport. I went to our corner drugstore to take a pic and it was a total disaster. They somehow expected my 2 year old to stand on a tall, tiny, rotating stool unassisted while they took the picture.  The girl obviously never took pictures of a toddler before, because she kept waiting “for a good shot” even though I told her to just click away while he was happy.  I couldn’t have this photo gracing my baby’s passport book for the next 5 years!

I had to meet Ben at the passport office in less than 30 minutes, so I raced home and took a series of pics of Moose in our guest bathroom. They were all so cute, but I could only pick one.

And the winner is…


Great Expectations. . . of a Moose! April 4, 2010

Filed under: Moose — valben @ 2:46 am

When I was in grad school, I wrote a paper about expectations.  I was working as a Technical Supervisor at a production plant.  I took over a crew of about 16 guys. Before I even started working with them, I was given the “low down” on my boys – one of them was quite lazy, one of them was always willing to work overtime, another was slow but efficient, etc. In fact, the first day I walked into my shop, there were drawings on the beams the guys had made, as a way to pick on each other I guess, that highlighted what I was told – here was R. sleeping (lazy), here was S. working like a madman (overtime), here was B. with a turtle shell (slow). My guys were equal opportunity artists – there was a representation of everyone, and although meant to be funny, to them, there was truth behind it.

My first order of business was to make them erase every drawing on every surface. Not because they were lewd and I was offended (believe me, I ain’t that kind of girl!), but because I wanted to erase these labels and expectations. It was a small move, but I will tell you that in just a few weeks, every single person’s performance and attitude improved and we almost doubled our production rate. I would also like to think the guys were a little more confident as well, because they sure acted like it!

The point is, whether dealing with an adult or a child, they will always live up to your expectations. If you set them low, they will rarely exceed, but always meet those low expectations. Some people say, yes, but if you set them too high, you are setting yourself and your child up for disappointment. I have to highly disagree.  You can set yourself up for disappointment if your expectation meets the following criteria:

  • Make sure it has nothing to do with the child or his interests.
  • Do not, under any circumstance, give the child the tools or opportunity to meet the expectation.

A classic example is the parent who thinks Johnny will grow up to be a great doctor but when Johnny announces that he wants to be an artist, the parents will either protest, or they will accept it but still be secretly disappointed. Perhaps if the parent noticed that Johnny had great creative skill, they would have changed their expectation and started cheering for Johnny’s accomplishments as a budding artist. Then instead of being disappointed parents, they would be the proudest parents.

Or say Johnny did have an interest in science and medicine. But maybe school was a little difficult for him, and as much as he would have loved to go to med school, he either didn’t have the grades or he hated school so much he decided it wasn’t worth going to school for 5-10 more years.  The parents don’t understand, and again, disappointment raises its ugly head.

As parents, we have a responsiblity for teaching and guiding our children.  It is only natural for parents to have high expectations for their children – that is how we move forward as a society, you expect your children to be greater than you.  I admit, I love to watch Moose and try to picture him as an adult.  What I see is a smiling, handsome man, but the details of what he is doing changes from day to day.  He loves cars and puzzles – maybe he will be an inventor?  He loves painting and colors – maybe he will be a great artist?  The possibilities are endless.  For now, I will keep my eyes wide open and  teach him all about the world.


R-E-S-P-E-C-T April 1, 2010

Filed under: Moose — valben @ 8:47 am

There are many courses out there that propose you should teach your child to read as a baby.  Initially, I was drawn to the simple nature of Doman’s program.  But the biggest difference between his program and the other books and DVDs out there, is the focus on the relationship between the parent and child.  Although it is important that you love your child (as we all do), Doman’s group also emphasizes respecting your child. 

When you respect your child, you see them in a whole different light.  Everything they do now has a purpose, and you start to understand them better.  When a toddler breaks apart a toy, most parents are apt to yell, tell them to stop, apologize to others and say, he’s just a brute, excuse him.  But when you respect the child, you take note, start looking at things from his point of view, and you realize, hmmm, he has looked at it, touched it, tasted it, listened to it (by shaking), maybe sniffed it, okay, he is trying to figure out how it works – he wants to take it apart because he is curious, not because he is a brute.  A 7 month old who just learned to crawl is trying to wriggle out of parent’s lap and attempt a getaway.  Some parents say, ugh, she just won’t stay still! and put her in the playpen.  The respectful parent thinks, she just learned this amazing new skill, she is dying to try it out, I can finish checking my email later – and gets down on the floor to play with the baby and let her experiment with her newly learned skill.

I am not saying there is anything wrong with the parents who do the first choice.  Honestly, it is how most of us were raised, therefore we react the same way.  These parents still fiercely love their children, and they act this way because they are trying to protect their children.  But take yourself out of your big shoes and forget momentarily what is convenient for you, and put yourself in their tiny shoes.  That is when love turns into respect and your baby will grow in ways you never dreamed.


Adjusting Moosie’s Social Calendar March 30, 2010

Filed under: Moose — valben @ 12:35 pm

During my week at the Institutes for the “How to Multiply Your Baby’s Intelligence” course, we discussed socializing your child.  Every single parent, whether they stay at home or work, worries about “socializing” their kids.  I’ve stressed about that issue for Moose’s entire life because we live far away from our families.  We have also moved twice, making me even more stressed out because not only do I have to find friends, but now I have to find friends for Moose!

Since we moved to Indiana, I joined a Mom’s group.  It has been very helpful – I’ve met some great people and we exchange a good deal of information about our kids.  But when it comes to playgroups, it has been a disaster.  Initially, I attributed Moose’s dislike of these playgroups to his tendency to prefer to stay home.  My gut was telling me to quit going, it was more hassle than it was worth.  He would cry and beg to go home while I would watch the clock for 90 minutes.  Then as soon as time was up, I scooped him up and thought, okay, that was our socializing for the week.   He has vague interest in the little babies (until they want to sit in my lap) and zero interest in the kids his age.  Sometimes he watches the older ones, but mostly, if he ever does calm down, he plays by himself or with me.  I had to keep asking myself, what is the point? 

Janet Doman made some points that made perfect sense to me, that put in words what my gut had been trying to tell me all along.  This idea of “socializing” little kids is a fairly recent notion.  What good has ever come out of a group of 3 year olds?  The only thing they learn is each other’s worst habits, whether it is hitting, nose picking, screaming, etc.  For example, Moose has never been aggressive with other kids in his life (even after repeatedly being knocked around by his best friend in Knoxville!!)  But in the weeks since we started going to these scheduled playgroups, he has started hitting and throwing things at other kids, and has even tried hitting me.  Now, I hear hitting is supposed to be a normal part of development, but I don’t think it has to be. 

How can an activity that makes these young kids act so aggressive be good for them?  The only thing I’ve noticed is in the past 15 years since I graduated high school, the schools are only getting worse when it comes to aggression.  You hear many crazy stories about violence in the schools.  Things our parents only used to worry would happen to us OUTSIDE of school.  I am not saying schools are the problem.  The schools didn’t give secret classes on how to beat up your teacher if he says something you don’t like.  And I am positive teachers didn’t give extra credit to the kids who set fire to a fellow student several months ago.

The problem is a combination of 2 things – aggressive kids who find each other and create madness in the schools, and the parents who don’t spend time with their kids to teach them respect and how to act in a civilized society.  I am not that old, but I was raised during a time where you could get smacked on head for talking back to your parents.   And in turn, you would never DREAM of talking back to your teacher, or any other adult for that matter.  And my parents knew all of my friends, and they knew what we were up to and created situations where we couldn’t get ourselves in trouble. 

I am not proposing we beat our kids to make them respect adults.  But if you respect your kids at a young age, they will learn to respect you back.  If you turn off the TV for 2 seconds and start spending time with your young child, it will make it that much easier when they are older to turn off the TV (or laptop or phone or whatever gadget) and see what its like to engage with other people in a meaningful way.

I was planning on enrolling Moose in a second day of a Mom’s Day Out program this summer.  But after what I learned last week, I plan on dropping both days altogether.  I do plan on finding a babysitter to spend some time with Moose so I still have my “me” time.  And I have other friends with older kids who I still plan on spending time with.  But for playgroups with the sole intention of socializing my kid?  I finally have to the confidence to listen to my gut and say, thanks for the invite, but no thanks.


How to Teach a Moose about Art March 29, 2010

Filed under: Moose — valben @ 10:23 pm

Glenn Doman has a book called “How to Teach Your Baby Encyclopedic Knowledge”.  Prior to taking the course, I wasn’t that interested in this idea.  But after seeing how fun it looked and how much I could learn in the process, I figured I would give it a try.  The only tool you need to teach your baby is a “Bit”.  Basically, it is an 11″ x 11″ card that has a clear depiction on one side of what you want them to learn, and on the back, 10 facts about that idea.  You can teach them flowers, dog breeds, presidents, geography, anything. 

Our instructors at IAHP stressed that it wasn’t necessary to buy the Bits premade because they are so easy to make and you want to customize it to the things your child is interested in.  However, in the interest of those who like premade tools, they created several sets.  I knew when I got back home, I wouldn’t have time to immediately make some, so I bought the “Great Art Masterpieces” just to see how Moose would respond.  I initially showed him 5 cards from the set.  I presented them very quickly, naming the piece and the artist.  After I finished, he immediately said, “You have more?”  So I grabbed the other 5 cards, did the same thing.  Immediately he said, “Again?”  So we did all 10 and I put them away.

Today, he asked to see his Bits immediately after we finished words.  I went through them.  This time, I asked him which ones he wanted more information on.  He asked about 3 of the cards – “Sunflowers” (Vincent van Gogh), Mona Lisa (Leonardo da Vinci), and “Mont Sainte-Victoire” (Paul Cezanne).  We stopped and examined them closely, I asked him to tell me what he saw and what he liked.  When we did the Bits later in the afternoon, he asked about another 3 cards.  During a discussion about “The Hare” (Albrecht Durer), it dawned on me that my 2 year old and I were doing something that I have never done in my entire life.  We were learning about art history and he loved it. 

This led to my immediate search and discovery of a used bookstore in town.  When the owner saw me, she told me children’s books were in the back room.  I said, no thanks, I am looking for art reference books.  I found two gorgeous books that are part of some old Great Museums of the World series – one for the Met in NY, and one for the National Gallery in Washington. 

The books have gorgeous pictures and we will visit these museums someday.  They were only $6 apiece.  As I went to pay for them, the owner said, please tell me you don’t intend on cutting up these books.  I really didn’t have the heart to tell her the truth.  I simply told her I liked the books because they had large, clear pictures and had information about each piece.  And while I have a nagging guilt about cutting up this book, I can tell you this – it was printed in 1968, the spine looks brand new, and there are no marks or folds on any pages in the books.  This tells me they were probably just very pretty coffee table books.  And I am going to transform them into powerful learning tools for my son, my future kids, and most likely the next few generations.

Please understand, I only got back from Philly 2 days ago.  Moose has only seen these Bits 3 times, so we have spent less than 5 minutes total looking at them.  While we were at the grocery store today, he was practicing saying “Michelangelo” and “Picasso”.  Just now, when I pulled up the IAHP online store, he saw the picture of the van Gogh piece and said, “Look!  It’s Sunflowers!”  I’m not grooming my child to be a great artist, I just want him to appreciate the beauty art and know how to have a discussion.  Now excuse me, I have to go play outside with my Moose!


Day 7: Graduation March 28, 2010

Yesterday marked the completion of our 7 day journey for the “How to Multiply Your Baby’s Intelligence” course.  Graduation day.  Back in my working days, I attended numerous workshops to develop my skills – from leadership to programming WonderWare.  At the end of those courses, I received a little paper, certifying I attended the class.  This graduation was a very formal event – Janet Doman and Susan Aisen, our  two main instructors for the week, were in robes.   We were accompanied to the podium, walked across the stage, and after we received our diploma we shook hands with the entire staff.  Most of us were in tears as we walked across the stage.  I’ve walked across a stage 3 times in my life – high school, college and graduate school.  Actually, I think I received my graduate degree in the mail, I didn’t want to waste a Saturday for a ceremony.

I wouldn’t have missed this opportunity for the world.  I learned more in the last 7 days than I did in my last 7 years of post-high school study.  I learned something new every single day, and this new knowledge will continue to be used every day for the rest of my life.  My MBA degree is hanging on the wall of our office.  I’m not quite sure where my undergraduate degree is.  I plan on getting my degree from the Institutes framed and giving it a place of honor in the office.

Although I was happy and excited to come home, I felt deep sadness when I walked away from the Institute for the last time.  Within those walls are some of the most caring, passionate, intelligent people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting.  The instructors, who are all staff members at the Institutes who developed the techniques, did something so subtle it took us several days to realize what they were doing.  They used the same principles of teaching little children to teach us.  They presented only the facts in a loving, exciting manner.  They showed us great respect throughout the week, reminding us that we were the best parents in the world and there was no better teacher-student combination than us and our children.  They never lingered on a topic for too long, but they presented clear information.  They gave us plenty of time to ask questions.  The funny thing is, when we would ask questions, instead of just spouting out the answer, they would gently lead us to the answer, to make us feel as if we figured out (which we indeed did).  By the end of the week, we were all experts in childhood development.  We went from being “just parents”, to people who were knowledgable in how the brain works and how to help build its capacity.

This is the basis behind the idea of how to teach tiny babies how to read, do math, learn a foreign language, etc.  You present the facts.  You do it in a loving and enthusiastic manner.  You remind that baby that he is already a genius, by far the most wonderful, amazing person you have ever met.  You help build their confidence.  You listen carefully to every question and always give them the path to find the answers.  You keep up with their speed of learning and respect them every step of the way.  If we were this confident after seven days, imagine how your child will be after three to six years.

If you are still contemplating whether or not to read the books, take a chance and pick one up.  If it doesn’t touch your heart immediately, put it down and don’t worry about it.  If you feel a spark and are intrigued, consider taking this course.   Here is my last quick story and I will end this marathon post –

When you speak to Glenn Doman in the hall, he isn’t a man of many words and he speaks very softly.  But he conveys so much to you with his eyes and smile – you feel his excitement because he knows what is in store for you, you feel that he is truly grateful you took the time to learn so you can then teach your baby, you feel love and compassion.  He is in his 90’s.  Age is catching up to him and you can tell he tires easily.  And yet, every morning, bright and early, he came to our lectures.  He would sit in a chair and read from his cards.  If you have read any of the Doman books, they are written very conversationally, so even though he read from the cards, you didn’t feel like you were being read to.  And the energy and passion behind the words. . . if you weren’t looking at him, you wouldn’t know he was reading. 

Anyhow, there were two women in our class who complained on the 3rd day – “This is such a waste of time.  I’ve read all of the books, I don’t need someone to read the introduction to the books at the beginning of each day.  They would save so much time if they just eliminated the first 2 hours of class.”  Needless to say, the rest of us were shocked and enraged by that statement.  I held my tongue because I realized, these girls are here for the wrong reason.  They are looking for someone to give them a recipe.  Their goals are not the same as ours – we are looking for a way to allow our children to reach their full potential, they are looking for a way to make sure their child meets all the right requirements to perhaps get into some fancy preschool.  The Doman way of teaching will never give you a recipe.  They will give you the why, the facts – it is your job to intuit the how to.  Even then, every single person is going to come up with their own program for their child, and it will work because it is unique to that child.

There are very few true innovators in this world who are so willing to share their knowledge.  Most times, when we learn something, it has been watered down and changed over time.  It is rare to learn something from the true source.  You can take a child development class at any hospital where a nurse or some other expert hands you a pamphlet and gives you step by step instructions.  This was no watered down class.  This was like learning the Theory of Relativity from Albert Einstein or getting a lesson in architecture from Frank Lloyd Wright.  If you don’t understand how lucky you are to be sitting in that chair in the auditorium, you don’t belong there.  Needless to say, those two women didn’t come back after Thursday.

Final, final note, and then I promise, I am finished.  I keep talking about this course as a program, and how to develop a program with your children.  What you are really learning is a lifestyle.  You are implementing changes that will change your lifestyle.  It is like trying to lose weight.  You can follow some 10-day program and see a change, but it will only be temporary and you are less likely to stick with it.  Everyone knows, to improve your health, you need a lifestyle change that includes how you eat, how you exercise, how you live.  This is what we learned this week.  It is a lifestyle change where you not only feed your baby’s body, but also his mind.  You plan his intellectual diet as carefully as you do his nutritional diet, and execute it with the same enthusiasm and regularity.  Only then will you be successful, and only then will you realize how easy and fun it is to multiply your baby’s intelligence.


Day 6: Please exit to your left. . . March 27, 2010

Today was the last day of the course “How to Multiply Your Baby’s Intelligence”, where we wrapped up discussion on the Developmental Profile and finished up with “How to Teach Your Baby a Foreign Language” and “How to Teach Your Baby Music.”  At the beginning of the week, when we received our itinerary, I looked at it and thought – only an hour on foreign language?  how can that be!  it is so important! and an hour on music?  we don’t need music!

Again, wrong!  All week, our instructors stressed teaching us the “Why” and minimal time on the “How to” for each topic covered.  When someone would ask about foreign languages, our instructors would smile and say, that’s on Friday.  Friday comes, we are all expecting some grand plan.  It ended up being so simple.  It was really just an extension of everything we had already learned, but easier.  People sell you programs that are very confusing and involved.  But remember, teaching kids is nothing like teaching adults.  And while we are dunces when it comes to learning and retaining new language, as Glenn Doman put it, kids are linguistic geniuses.

I was not one of those mother’s who played classical music to my baby while I was pregnant.  I didn’t really see how classical music could make my baby smarter while he was bouncing around my uterus.  But I did sing to him when he was in there.  Today, Moose loves music.  He sings and dances constantly, hums and scats to wordless songs.   I figured, he already loves music, why do I need to do a music program?  This program is very simple in design and execution, but absolutely priceless in payoff.  I can’t remember the last time I sat and listened to classical music.  Kathy Myers, our instructor, did quick examples of how to teach your baby music, and we listened to 30 second clips of several songs.  When you know the story behind the song, you listen, really listen.  That’s when you get that tingle in your spine, that momentary suspension in time – much like meditation.  That’s when I realized, if I only did one other program besides reading, I would teach Moose how to appreciate music. 

At the end of the day, we got a chance to go around and share the most important thing we learned.  It was a very emotional hour.  I was choked up and bawling when it was my turn, and everyone who spoke was either crying or had really watery eyes.  One woman said the week was like being on a roller coaster – one minute you are up, thinking – yay!  I did something right with my child or yay! I can’t wait to teach my child that.  The next minute you are down, mostly regretting not doing something with your current child or just sad that no one ever shared this amazing information with you.

I had a great “up” moment.  During our wrap up of the Developmental Profile, Janet let us in on a little secret – little babies can talk and communicate, quite clearly.  IF you are willing to listen.  Some people had a look of shock, and indeed we saw it happen in person with the 4-month old we met during demonstrations.  Some babies speak rather clearly – we heard an audio recording of one of the instructors with her own son many years ago – at 12 weeks old, he was clearly saying the last word in each line of “Hey Diddle Diddle”.  Keyden, the 4 month old in the demonstration, wasn’t as clear verbally, but he did respond to you if you asked a question with either body gestures or grunts.  Janet reminded us that many brain-injured or stroke patients communicate in exactly this way.  They have the intelligence to know what they are trying to say, they just don’t have the motor skills required to say it out loud.

This was one of my “up” moments.  One of the common factors behind babies who communicate this way is that you rarely hear the newborn cry (parents know, it is that high, “wahhhh!!” that pierces straight through your heart and gets your attention right away).  There are some toddlers who are still quite skilled at the newborn cry.  Moosie only had that cry on the first day or two of his life.  After that, we developed a little language with him.  He was quite the babbler, and we loved to have conversations with him.  Before Ben would leave for long trips, they would have this intense conversation.  This video was taken when Moose was 7 weeks old.

While I would love to pat myself on the back and take credit for this communication, it really happened by accident.  I was a very lonely in those early days and I would spend my days talking to Moose.  I noticed if I waited long enough, he would talk back.  When he would cry, it was only when he got hurt or was really frustrated, and even then it was never that heart-wrenching cry. 

I attributed this to Moose’s laid back temperament.  In reality, it is a skill any parent can teach their little baby.  It takes respect and patience for the child.  Actually, that is really all you need to accomplish ANY of the topics covered this week.  I’ve discussed respect before.  Too many times we make excuses for our child.  If they do something negative, we slap some label onto the action and it becomes an excuse for the behavior.  There is always a reason.  Respect the child, and they will return the respect.   While it is easy to teach the program, it does require a good deal of organization and preparation.  In the beginning, when you are trying to figure out a rhythm, you need patience.  Once you get going, the child will pick up the information faster than you can dole it out.  That is when it gets exciting.

As I step off the roller coaster of this week and exit to the left, my excitement carries over to the next ride – actually teaching and applying everything I’ve learned.  I know from talking to parents of the kids at the Institute that the key to success is to start small and don’t get stressed with expectations.  My plan is to start with something I know Moose loves, and slowly start adding in more as his interest grows.  My ultimate goal is not for him to be a successful and rich doctor or lawyer (unless that is what he wants).  My goal is for him to love learning and have a huge database of knowledge.  The bigger the base, the more he will know.  The more he knows, the better chance he will have at finding what drives him and makes him happy.  And that will make the ride worth it.