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December 2013

The Giving Tree

The Toy Box



Happy Plates 1

Dear Parents... I hope all of you had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday. We have so much to be thankful for here in South Louisiana. I also hope you enjoyed our last issue of Parent Talk! We have had wonderful feedback on our past two issues and look forward to providing you with more information and tips each month! If you are ever interested in sharing stories, projects, or tips for other parent readers, don’t hesitate to email info@ to have your work featured. With the Christmas season approaching and 2013 coming to an end, I hope you can spend some quality time with your kids reminiscing about the wonderful year they’ve just had and an even greater 2014! You may also want to take the time to start a family tradition. My husband’s family had a tradition since they were kids that we carry on with our kids. Every year on Christmas Eve, we spread out the cookie dough and get out the cookie cutters. The kids cut out the cookies, bake them, and we decorate them for Santa. They are also allowed to open one gift Christmas Eve night – Christmas pajamas. The kids love it and look forward to going to Grandma’s every year for this tradition. So start up a tradition, spend time with your family, and enjoy the rest of 2013. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!


Ben Jones Jr Cody Blanchard



Michelle Gautreaux


KARA DOMANGUE Managing Editor

PHOTOGRAPHY Crystal Sanderson Brian Waitz


Kara Domangue 985.209.4933


Copyright © 2013. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form without the written permission of the publisher. The distribution of this material does not constitute an endorsement or an indictation of support by any school district. Distribution of this magazine does not constitute an endorsement of products or services.


Fathom Media 629 East First Street Thibodaux, LA 70301


This Month in 4 The Toy Box

10 The Principal's List

5 Happy Plates

12 DIY With Your Kid

6 the Giving Tree

13 Knowledge Is Power

8 Diary of a Dad

14 Kidz On Computers

9 Let's Get Fit

15 December Events Calendar

Our favorite app, book, & game of the month

Check out these fast and easy recipes for the family

Spending the Holiday Season with Family

When Is The Fair?

Your Child and Sports

Meet Gwen Ferguson of Mulburry Elementary

Cardboard Castle

Is Studying Giving You A Headache?

Be Secure This Holiday Season

See what's going on this month!


App of the Month: Axis Reader

By Axis 360 Free on Apple/Android smart phones and tablets Suggested for all ages

The free Axis Reader is an easy-to-use eReader app for Apple and Android devices that lets you download Lafourche library eBooks and audiobooks for free with a library card and pin, with many popular children’s and teen titles available. You can change the font size and style, bookmark, search within books, highlight, and read or listen to available eBooks with this app. New books are continuously being added for all ages. Download Axis Reader from the Apple App Store or Google Play today and give your child access to hundreds of popular eBooks including those on local school reading lists and new releases.

Book of the Month: Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Hard Luck, Book 8

By Jeff Kinney (ISBN: 978-1419711329) Ages: 8-12 / Grades: 3-7

The Diary of a Wimpy Kid series is a good choice for struggling or reluctant readers that seems to be enjoyed by boys and girls. The latest installment in the humorous children’s series is just as funny and relatable as ever with Greg Heffley experiencing a common middle school crisis: his best friend has practically ditched him. He deals with the loss by trying to find a replacement in even unlikely places. Amidst his search, there are also the familiar aspects of home and school life featuring a science fair, sibling quirks, and a farting dog. When Greg finds a magic 8-ball he decides maybe he should leave his dilemma of finding a new best friend to chance, and tries his luck. This title is available at Lafourche library branches and is also available as an eBook on Axis 360, so it can be downloaded to a mobile device like an iPad or eReader.

Toy of the Month:

Ubooly Educational Learning Toy By UboolyChris Grabenstein Available free for Apple or Android Grades: K-6 (younger if your child is familiar with using apps)

This squeezably cute stuffed animal morphs into an interactive ‘friend’ when a smart phone with the free Ubooly app is placed inside. There is a compartment that holds the phone steady and keeps it safe with a zipper top and bouncy memory foam. The phone screen serves as Ubooly’s talking face that asks questions and riddles, tells stories and jokes, and performs educational interactivity according to educational packs such as math, spelling, vocabulary, animals, etc. that can be purchased within the app. Somewhat similar in appearance to Furby, this toy ‘learns’ your child’s name, birthday, and interests and can have conversations to entertain and educate! Ubooly currently comes in blue, pink, or green and is available at a reasonable price of $29.95 online from the Ubooly store where you can also watch a video on how it works:


-Jasmine Richard, Social Media Librarian

happy plates

Fun recipes for the family.

Mac N Cheese

-Katherine Toups, Thibodaux


½ pound whole wheat pasta ¼ head cauliflower, cut up 8 ounces low-fat Cheddar cheese, shredded 1 ounce low-fat Parmesan cheese, grated ½ cup of 1% milk Salt and pepper

DIRECTIONS: Cook pasta according to package. Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil, add the cauliflower, and cook for 5 to 7 minutes, or until soft. Drain. Place the cauliflower in a blender and puree. In a medium pan over medium heat, mix the pasta, the cauliflower puree, the cheeses, and the milk. Stir gently to combine and continue stirring until the cheese is melted. Add salt and pepper to taste. Recipe from

Ice Cream Snowman INGREDIENTS: 1/2 banana 1/2 cup milk 1 tb. honey Raisins, pretzels, and small pieces of carrot

DIRECTIONS: For each Snowman use one large, one medium, and one small piece of banana. Stir honey into the milk and then dip the pieces of banana into the mixture. Build a snowman on a plate with the bananas. Decorate with raisins, carrot pieces, and pretzels. Recipe from


-Michelle Gautreaux, Lockport


hen someone wants to express the joy that something brings usually they refer to it as, “It was just like Christmas morning.” The fond memories you might have of your childhood Christmas mornings flood back warm feelings of happiness all wrapped up in Christmas fanfare.


The lights, the bows, the wrapping paper, the squeals and smiles. You might be reliving some of that now with your own children. You watch as they run to the tree to see what is under there for them. You take delight in watching the glee on their faces as they unwrap each gift and then ask them the inevitable question, “Did you get everything you asked for?” And though you don’t want your family or children to feel guilty about the joys that the Christmas morning unwrapping fest brings; you can’t help but sometimes feel something might be missing. Getting wrapped up in the many activities of Christmas is easy to do. We get excited about the season at the same time as stressed. Overwhelmed by concerts, plays, parties, events, making gifts and shopping, the whole month goes by just as fast as Santa’s reindeer can fly. Then we ask ourselves, “Did that just happen?” Christmas usually begins the day after Thanksgiving for most and that day would be the biggest shopping day of the year, Black Friday. So even on the first day of the holiday we are already hustling and bustling to get the best deals in town whether it is in the store or online. I will truthfully admit I do occasionally check out the sales online and get wrapped up in hours of searching. Thinking: Is this the right gift for him? Will she like this color? Should I just get a gift card or cash? After this big shopping day has ended and your feet or fingers might be aching you know it has only just begun. Now in my family, Christmas is not Christmas without the traditional Christmas movies and even some of the new, geez I need a box of tissue, Hallmark movies. So, of course as the countdown begins we set our DVR’s to record the hundred or so Christmas movies to watch together each night. Then there is the decorating. Hauling out the massive amounts of containers filled with memories of past Christmases. We put on some Christmas music and get started on the tree. After what seems to be countless days, but really only hours we untangle the large tangled mess of lights and test each one (which I think should be a mental test given

to all, because if you can untangle Christmas lights and not lose your religion over it you are truly a mentally sane person). When done we marvel at what beauty and spirit the tree brings to our home. It almost seems to wash over us, like some Walt Disney movie that magically transforms you into another person. Well, maybe only for a few hours and then the kids are fighting again, but you get the point. To keep us in the spirit we again get wrapped up in concerts, church and school plays, cookie exchange parties, office parties and other school and community events. Rushing from one event to another, filling our December calendar with a plethora of Christmas duties. Perusing Pinterest for the latest and best thing to add to our already loaded list. If you know me, you know I stay busy and many times get asked, “How do you have time to do all of that?” To which I answer, “I don’t know, I just do.” But with all of the many things I have added to my December calendar there is one thing that up until writing this article, we only thought to do during Christmas – The Giving Tree. Years ago, I read the book The Giving Tree and thought wow that tree really lived the saying, “give till it hurts.” It really gave the boy everything he had till there was nothing left to give. So then I thought maybe I could teach the kids about giving, the true spirit of Christmas with a lesson involving the Giving Tree. So we then began each December with the idea of creating a paper tree and each day adding leaves with handwritten

things we had given to others. The rule was that it had to be something given from the heart. So each day they would come home from school and I would ask “what did you give of yourself today?” At first, it was difficult for them to think of the things they had been doing that was considered giving. Sometimes they would think it had to be something big and at times I too would get wrapped up in thinking the same, should we organize a food drive or charity fundraiser adding to my already swelling December list. But then I got to thinking the little things, those things you think might not make a difference like a smile, a hello, a gracious gentleman opening a door or lifting a heavy bag, a polite ‘hey you dropped this’, or even a hug and a prayer can be just as big. That kind of giving reminds you of the good in this world and inspires you to pass it on. And it is not to say that organizing a food drive or raising money for the less fortunate isn’t giving, but sometimes it is not about doing more or what you do; it’s about doing what you do with meaning. Whatever your December calendar holds this year, wherever the month may take you, and whatever you are inspired to do, I hope that the true spirit of Christmas embraces you. That you may give to others not with just a drop of a coin in a bucket, but a smile to go along with it; a gift not just wrapped in pretty paper, but a hug that seems to never end included; or a Christmas dinner to a needy family with a shoulder to cry on. pt


Diary of a Dad

When Is The Fair?

- Robbie Bower, Thibodaux


hen I was a kid growing up in Raceland, I looked forward to our annual Sauce Picante Festival. I can remember distinctly watching the Maw Maw’s and Paw Paw’s cutting a rug on the cement parking lot at St. Mary’s Catholic Elementary School. My Grandmother and Grandfather, who were from Virginia, visited one weekend and watched in amazement as the good people of the Bayou danced, hooped and hollered and otherwise were having a great night out


on the dance floor. My Grandparents were not used to those types of “activities” and looked on in shock. Just imagine my surprise when I turned around for just a moment only to look back at my Grandfather dragging my Grandmother onto the parking lot where the two of them began dancing with all of the locals. At that moment, they felt like a part of the community and they weren’t even from here. They had the time of their lives that night! That’s a snapshot etched in my memory. There were always lots of food, drink, games, and rides but, most of all, a sense of community. As I got older, I looked forward to the days when I could take my own children to the Sauce Picante. Unfortunately, the school festival was shut down. In lieu of some of the old school fairs that are no longer around, there are still plenty of great weekend affairs to entertain the kids. This past weekend, we loaded up the car and headed over to Thibodeauxville: A fair that celebrates Thibodaux’s past and present. It was a gorgeous day on the Bayou wherein one could hear various types of live music, smell and taste all sorts of wonderful foods from around the world (I’m partial to any type of meat on a stick) and you could shop till you dropped with all the unique local vendors selling their goods. There was a petting zoo, face painting, bounce house and more for the kids. Thibodeauxville is an excellent example of how organized fairs can bring people together in the community who normally would never interact. Everyone is given a sense of belonging that is at the root of our culture here in the South. In my opinion, this is the most important benefit anyone could ever get from any of these fairs (even more important than “Meat on a stick”). Hopefully, one day soon, we’ll be able to see more Maw Maw’s and Paw Paw’s dancing at fairs up and down the Bayou making memories for our children for many years to come. pt

Let's Get Fit Your Child and Sports - Joni Bascle, Thibodaux


o your kid(s) participate in sports? Sports of all kinds are a great way for children to get fit in a way that is fun for them. Starting them as toddlers in tumbling classes or swimming lessons is a great way to “get their feet wet”, pun intended! It helps them to interact with other children their age, build important skills, and burn off some of that endless energy that they seem to possess. As they get a little older, usually around age five, your options really open up for fun activities to try. Team sports like soccer and t-ball are very popular in our area, and really encourage children to get moving. If your child doesn’t love the idea of a team sport, that does not mean they are “not athletic.” Some kids prefer solo activities like tennis, dancing, gymnastics, and martial arts. They may still be part of a group or team, but their performances are usually individualized, and for some kids that is exactly what they are looking for. Many kids with additional obstacles like social anxiety, behavioral problems, or just stress in general find sports as structured as martial arts to be a perfect fit, as it is just as much a mental sport, as it is a physical one. The most important things to keep in mind is that there is something out there for everyone, and we should let our children experiment with different activities to find the best fit for each of them. When children find fun ways to stay fit at a young age, they usually continue with it through their adolescent years when it becomes even more important to encourage healthy bodies. Check out your parish’s recreation department for seasons and sign up dates for lots of different activities to try. pt


The Principal's List Gwen Ferguson, Principal, Mulberry Elementary -Michelle gautreaux, Lockport


he average person changes careers ten to fifteen times in a lifetime. As we grow, I’m sure if we counted the amount of times we changed our mind on what we wanted to be when we grew up it would be much more than that. As for Gwen Ferguson, this couldn’t be further from the truth. As a little girl, Ferguson always knew she wanted to be a teacher. Playing school in her room with friends and family was her favorite pastime. She would even go as far as making her own bell schedule, something that has proven to help her today in her new job as the Principal of Mulberry Elementary. After graduating in Elementary Education, Ferguson went on to teach at Grand Calliou Middle, Oakshire Elementary, then on to Mulberry Elementary where she was a fourth grade teacher for ten years. “The pull of wanting to continue to challenge and improve led me to becoming a master teacher (a master teacher works with teachers to help implement curriculum for support) then assistant principal for six years and now as my first year as principal,” says Ferguson. Though she loved working as a teacher and sometimes dearly misses the classroom, Ferguson enjoys the different realm of work she does as the principal of Mulberry. Her walkthroughs and observations sometimes gives her the chance to help a struggling student in the classroom with their work. She states, “the amazing impact you can have on them in and out of the class really makes it all worthwhile.” Mulberry has become home for Ferguson and



the staff, not just teachers and support, but family. The special thing about Mulberry is its’ “dynamic parental and teacher support. They truly care and respect one another and would do anything for the students.” It is this support that has led the school to not only being a successful “A” school but one that reaches beyond the classroom to provide their students with the best education. This year many have discussed the pressing issue of whether Common Core is right for our children. Our schools are working hard to create a new learning environment for our children and Ferguson and the teachers and support staff of Mulberry are taking every opportunity to learn more about such a rigorous curriculum and making it work for their school. “We meet weekly to analyze tests and look over data to be successful in implementing the curriculum to the students. We have all worked together to bridge the gap. Not being informed is scary and we have proven here that it is better to study and understand the strategies instead of working against them,” explains Ferguson. She, along with many others, created a seminar for the parents to better understand the strategies they were implementing at Mulberry. The parents were able to choose the topics they were most interested in and be a part of a mock lesson that involved them acting as students. This seminar gave the parents a firsthand look at what exactly Common Core was all about, what their children were learning in the classroom as well as settling many unanswered questions.

Besides just focusing on the curriculum, Ferguson has continued with Mulberry’s traditions of hosting several school programs. Their annual Veteran’s Day Program and Christmas Program has grown and continues to grow with each passing year. Both of the programs are held at the Houma Civic Center and this year’s Christmas program is called “Mulberry’s Magical Mystery Tour.” “The importance of play is sometimes just as important as an education,” says Ferguson and she couldn’t be prouder than to be a part of the Mulberry family, one that “works hard and plays hard.” Mulberry Elementary is located in Houma & has 997 students and goes from pre-k through sixth grade. pt


DIYwith yourKID Cardboard Castle

- Ben Jones, Thibodaux

What you will need: Various small cardboard boxes A pair of scissors Toilet paper rolls Paper towel rolls Tape Glue This is a fun rainy day project for your child, whether a boy or girl! It’s simple and there are many ways that your child can express his/her creativity and independence. Remember, assist your child with scissors or they can use child safety scissors themselves.


Steps you’ll take:


Using your cardboard materials, create shapes using tape or cornered edges on boxes to create your castle.


Use the various paper towel and toilet paper rolls to create towers and you can even create cone shapes to have pointed tower roofs. Use your imagination!


Once your pieces are securely connected with the use of tape, glue, or any other method you may choose, your cardboard castle is complete. For added detail, use a marker or paint to add windows, doors, or any other details your child may want for their kingdom.


If your little princess would prefer a palace, try painting her castle pink to give it a fantasy princess look! If your little knight would prefer a fortress, try painting his castle gray and adding merlons (square blocks which defenders can hide behind) to the tops of the towers rather than pointed rooftops.

Knowledge is Power


ow do children learn? Step by step. Lesson by CHOOSE A TIME AND PLACE Skill by skill. Some students will be better at Just like adults, children and teenagers work according to certain academic aspects than others. This is what natural schedules. Parents can assist in recognizing when a makes each student unique. student works best and create a study schedule around that



Frustrated parents often fall into the trap of telling their children and teenagers to improve their grades without pinpointing an area for improvement. Maintain a constant flow of two-way communication. Together, with your child, decide what steps need to occur for his or her grades to improve while promoting knowledge retention. Allow the student to take responsibility for the learning process and for individual success. Students may not be aware of the skills that require improvement, but asking them questions may identify their difficulties. Remember that every child is different, with unique needs and learning styles. So, help your child learn in a way that is personalized to best fit his or her needs.


sweet spot. The schedule should include not only time for homework completion, but also reading and recognition of accomplishments. Make a daily commitment to spend 15-20 minutes working with your child to see how he or she is doing. Take baby steps. Work on reading comprehension one day, essay composition or mathematics the next and so on.

The setting for studying can also affect a student’s productivity. Create a homework zone - an area in your home for studying, complete with a dictionary, paper and pens. Make sure the area is free from potential distractions and that study tools are at children’s fingertips to keep them focused on homework. Keep in mind that each individual responds differently to particular environments. One student may work well at a desk with quiet music in the background while another functions better spread out across the floor in complete silence. Be flexible. pt

Generally, people learn in three different ways. Students can be visual (learn by seeing), auditory (learn by hearing), kinesthetic (learn by doing) or a combination of styles. Parents should talk with their children to create a beneficial learning environment. But, it is up to the child to develop study habits that mesh with his or her personal learning style. If you help your children work in their individual styles, they will work more effectively. To determine your child’s primary learning style, visit the “Parent Resources” Area of and take Sylvan’s Learning Styles Quiz. Visual learners prefer to take classroom notes and learn best while reading. To assist these types of learners, parents can utilize charts, create summary outlines and help students highlight keywords in their notebooks. Auditory learners enjoy classroom discussions and verbal instructions. Auditory-focused students will benefit from reciting their notes aloud, tape recording their classes (if allowed by the educator) and participating in discussion or study groups. Kinesthetic learners favor active learning and frequent study breaks. Parents of tactile learners should use touch, action, and hands-on activities during homework time. For example, use flash cards, create games that help with fact memorization and teach breathing and relaxation techniques to help your child focus.


Kidz on Computers Be Secure This Holdays Season -IT-Claude, Houma


ith all of the devices connecting to your home network, are you certain that there are safeguards in place to protect your information? Securing your network is one of the best ways to be sure your information stays where it belongs. The first steps in securing your network are to add a password for connectivity, and more importantly, changing the default ‘admin’ password. All consumer models have a very easy-to-use interface accessible by a browser, which allows you to setup/change those settings. You can access these by typing, or, or into the address bar of your browser. Most require a password and this can be found in the corresponding websites of the router manufacturer. Once you are in, you can manually setup your router and some will have a setup-wizard to walk you through the steps of adding extra security. This ensures the neighbor’s techie-teenager is not illegally downloading music or movies with your Internet connection. It also prevents anyone from changing the settings since the default information will no longer allow access. But, please, put this information in a safe place. IT-Claude


resets his router every year because he gets calls all the time about router issues, and this seems to prevent issues from popping up. Snoop a little more in the settings of your router and you can even block certain websites or activities, such as peer-to-peer networking software and torrent downloads. Better yet, the gamer in the family can be isolated from the rest of the devices to keep from ‘hogging’ the Internet bandwidth. Not getting a good signal in different parts of your home or out in the garage? Add a Wi-Fi extender to your network and this will boost your signal to those areas. Netgear’s Wi-Fi Extender models and Apple’s Airport Express accomplishes this task with relative ease and can be picked up at a local retailer or online. Both integrate with your current setup using the same Wi-Fi password and admin password and can help regulate the traffic with all of the ‘smart’ devices in your family including TV’s, home security, and home theater. Happy holidays and Happy New Year! pt


















Parent Talk Magazine | December 2013