Thursday, November 10, 2011

Discipline: Part 1

I've been thinking about the word discipline a lot lately, and I think it's worthy of a series of posts.

It started because I felt that we were in need of some major shake-ups in terms of the tools we are using at home with the kids. Nothing was working anymore and we were all feeling frustrated.

The main issue we were having is that J's emotions were really ramping up and he was having trouble reigning them in. The smallest task or correction was becoming an all-out fall-out.

I also felt like our expectations and the consequences we turned to were consistently inconsistent.

After reading a lot, and talking to other parents, I created a Color Wheel based on a system that I know a lot of teachers use in the classroom.

I'll attach it in case you'd like to download a copy and try it. Here's how we use it:

The Color Wheel is printed out and hanging on our refrigerator with a big letter J magnet.

Each day, J begins the day on Green. Green means Go! It means smooth sailing, keep it up. No matter what happened the day before, J gets to put himself on Green every morning.

If J makes some really great choices, or handles a tough situation very well, he gets to move himself to Blue. Blue is his favorite color. Blue means take a second and commend yourself, you are doing awesome! (It truly amazes me how excited J gets when we recognize his good behavior and give him the nod to move to Blue!)

On the other hand, if J's choices are on the path to trouble, he moves himself to Yellow. Yellow means slow down, check yourself. Take a breath or two and focus on what you should do to get yourself back on Green. (I really like to use this space to encourage him to get back on Green, rather than as a warning that he's almost on Red.)

To my surprise, this has been working really well and we have very rarely had to use the 4th quadrant on the circle: Red. Red means, of course, stop. Time for a time-out and most likely a consequence. Our typical go-to consequences are losing TV, a favorite toy, or a sweet treat for that day.

It's not fool-proof and sometimes we forget to use the chart, but overall, I'm pretty happy with it. I think it's very age-appropriate and hopefully will be so for at least the first few elementary years. It reminds me a bit of the old star sticker charts we had on the fridge as kids.

And speaking of sticker charts, a friend of mine has slightly older children, and they have found an iPhone app to be the new best thing for keeping tabs on their boys' responsibilities and behavior. It's the iRewardChart and you can find it here.

Parents can keep track of chores as well as actions like sharing, using nice manners, etc. You then also set a reward system: a certain number of stars equals a pay out of say $2, an extra TV show, a sweet treat, etc. Our friends' kids check in with Dad at the end of the day and tally up their stars.

And, no clutter on the fridge!

What do you think? Can you see yourself trying either of these ideas? Do you have a great system already in place? Please share!

Next up in my series on discipline is how this reflecting ended up turning on me! Setting up expectations for others kind of made me realize I'm not being held to a whole lot myself. Figures, doesn't it?! Just as I'm feeling good about coming up with a creative solution for a parenting issue, I realize... it's not just about the kids!

Oh, and during my many hours of web browsing on this topic, I came across this clip of Jerry Seinfeld on Conan O'Brien, discussing his favorite discipline tactics. Funny!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Elephant and Piggie!!!

Any of you with children under the age of say 10, are no doubt familiar with Mo Willems' mischievous book character Pigeon, who made his debut in the hilarious book Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! in 2003.

Mo Willems
In a word, Pigeon is a sensation. He's the face of his creator's Twitter feed, made the news last week debuting his own app -- aptly named Don't Let the Pigeon Run this App!--, and manages to sneak himself into the many other books Willems has penned with different casts of characters. And, let me tell you, some of these other characters have quite a following too, much to Pigeon's dismay, and are just as much superstars as he.

Take Knuffle Bunny, for example. That bestseller has hit the stage as a touring musical!

There's Leonardo, the terrible monster; Edwina, the non-extinct dinosaur; Wilbur, the naked mole rat, and last but not least there's...


This adorable duo delights and entertains emerging and early readers in a series of books that are simple, but incredibly fun and engaging. Elephant and Piggie are best friends, though they have quite different personalities. Elephant is the shy, bashful and realistic of the two. Piggie is excitable, optimistic and genuinely happy.

What's important about their difference in personalities is that it provides the avenue for conflict and resolution within the stories. Elephant and Piggie face situations very differently, and come up with solutions very differently, but what is ultimately emphasized each time is their friendship and their goal of being happy and having fun together.

I can't say enough about how fantastic this series is. At 4 and 1/2, J loves these books and a coworker's grandson who is in the 3rd grade loves them just as much.

I can honestly (and excitedly!) say that I know they are going to play a big role in his learning to read. I'm sensing that he will learn to read this year. Just a couple days ago, he found one of the books that we haven't read yet and asked me what it was. I told him it was called I Am Invited to a Party! and he smiled and took it to the sofa where he began "reading" it. A few minutes later, he brought me the book and showed me a two-page spread on which Elephant and Piggie were jumping up and down, shouting "Party!", and J said, "Look Mom, they are saying party, party, party, party." He's using a combination of letter recognition and visual clues to help him read...books, signs, computer screens, etc. And these books are right on in terms of engaging him and giving him the confidence to keep making these attempts.

A few of our other favorites:

Watch Me Throw the Ball!

I Broke My Trunk!

Are You Ready to Play Outside?

I Love My New Toy!

and the newest installment, just out this month...

Happy Pig Day!

Willems also maintains a fantastic blog, as well as an interactive, riotous website for kids who can't get enough Pigeon, called Pigeon Presents!

If you aren't familiar, you've got to check it out. With just a click of the mouse, kids can help naked mole rat get dressed, watch Elephant and Piggie do a dance routine, or select delectable toppings for Pigeon's favorite food: hot dogs.

I hope you'll check out some of the links as well as some of the books if you aren't already familiar. What other suggestions do you have for early readers?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Fall into a Good Book

Fall is such a beautiful time and such a busy time. There are apples to pick, costumes to create, yummy foods to bake, and parties to attend.

For librarians and book lovers, it's also a great time for new books, especially new picture books!

So here I'll share some great books for the season. Some are old, some are new, and some are my family's favorites.

What's in the Witch's Kitchen? by Nick Sharratt Silly, gross lift-the-flap fun!

The Busy Little Squirrel by Nancy Tafuri Lovely illustrations and simple text for babies and toddlers, but interesting enough for preschoolers.

Leaves by David Ezra Stein This one is so sweet and captivates the innocence with which kids view the world. It received starred reviews from PW and Booklist when it was published in 2007.

Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf by Lois Ehlert The bright, classic and detailed illustrations in this book will inspire you to get outside and examine the leaves in your neighborhood or local park.

Apples and Pumpkins by Anne Rockwell If you plan on visiting a pumpkin patch or apple orchard this fall, read this one before you go. A great introduction to the idea of farms and harvests for little ones.

There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Bat by Lucille Colandro Another silly Halloween-themed read.

I hope you get a chance to visit the library or bookstore in between enjoying the beautiful fall weather. If you read any of these, I hope you'll share what you think or share with us your favorite fall stories.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


Some kids pick flowers for their moms. Mine picks up stones. 

Whether we are taking a walk around the block or exploring a nature trail, our pockets come home a little heavier with rocks and stones J hand selects for us.

Some C and I drop and leave outside. (How many concrete bits do we really need?)

But others we save. 

Both C and I have held on to some of these stones. We cherish them for what they symbolize:

:: our little nature lover
:: hand-picked gifts for mama and daddy
:: his idea of what is beautiful

I'm reminded of these stones as J cheerfully greeted another milestone today.

As I stood outside his classroom door today, my jaw dropped as he bustled in, said hello to his teacher, and hung his backpack up. When he wandered past the door again, I leaped in and asked for a goodbye kiss. 

I asked for the kiss that last year he would never let me leave without.


Thanks again to Stephanie of Adventures in Babywearing for sharing this idea for back-to-school pictures.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Back to School

I'm prepping J big time right now as he starts back to school on Tuesday. He's playing it tough, but I can tell he is nervous. I've been trying to build excitement and interest with this great new picture book from Laura Ljungkvist called Follow the Line to School. The artwork is really cool; it's very interactive; has a sort of "I Spy" quality to it, and it's hopefully helping to alleviate some of those back to school jitters.
I was also lucky enough to run into his preschool teacher at the library a week ago and got the inside scoop that for the first month of school, his class will be doing a unit on dinosaurs. As you know from my previous post, dinosaurs are somewhat of a staple in our home. Knowing a little about what to expect seems to be helping him too. Oh, how I remember those first-day nerves. I'm trying to strike a balance between addressing his nervousness but staying positive and almost sort of casual about it. Maybe the less I make it into a big deal, the less it will be a big deal to him?

For those of you with older children, back to school means back to routines: earlier bedtimes, homework, and possibly a reinforcement of rules that have gone lax over the summer. If this has you stressed (as I'm sure it will have me next year), take a look at this Back to School Contract. Stephanie, known as Ooph on Twitter, covered all the bases here. I'm bookmarking this for the future.

Wish us luck on Tuesday! Check back for a first day of school pic of J. I was inspired by another Stephanie's series of back to school pics of her kids. I love these First Day Pics on Adventures in Babywearing! Plan to try it with J bright and early on Tuesday morning.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Dinos for Dummies

Taking advantage of the back-to-school sales, I bought J a composition notebook to encourage him to spend more time doodling or writing his letters and numbers. So far, it's been pretty successful--much more so than giving him blank computer paper or construction paper and asking him to write.

Last week as we were drawing, we were talking about his favorite subject (aside from LEGOs): dinosaurs. J was recapping the latest episode of 'Dino Dan'--about a baby dinosaur who hatches from an egg and then chases the dog. I took the pencil and paper and this is what I drew.

And this is the conversation that followed:

J: What's that?
Me: A baby Pterodactyl.
J: There's no such thing as a Pterodactyl.
Me: Yes, there is. It's one of the bird-like dinosaurs.
J: No, Mom. There's no such thing called a Pterodactyl.
Me: Well, then what is this?
J: Well... there is a pterosaur called a Pterodactyl-US, but not a Pterodactyl.
Me: Oh. Then this is a baby Pterodactylus.
J: Cool.

Well, excuuuuse me, Mr. Walking Dinosaur Encyclopedia! 

And based on what I found after a quick Google search, the little stinker is right. I was shamed not only by my 4 year-old but also by this wikipedia entry that says that use of the word pterodactyl is strongly discouraged and is usually used erroneously by journalists. Damn! No wonder J was so emphatic about it!

Lest you fall victim as well to being uninformed about the modern advances in the field of paleontology, here's a round-up of some of our favorite dinosaur books: 

Dinosaurs, Dinosaurs by Byron Barton This was our first dino book and an excellent starting point for babies and toddlers.
Let's Look at Dinosaurs by Frances Barry Also nice for toddlers, or preschoolers. Lift the flap to find out which dinosaur is hiding on each page.
Dinosaur Vs. Bedtime by Bob Shea Not exactly a reference source on dinosaurs, but incredibly fun! Dinosaur can overcome a bowl of spaghetti and even bath time, but will he triumph over bedtime? Roar, roar, roar!
Dinothesaurus by Douglas Florian These dinosaur poems are clever, funny, and informative. The author includes a Glossarysaurus at the end of the book for older or more curious readers. The illustrations are fantastic. They have a child-like quality, but also contain incredible detail and texture. According to Florian, "the illustrations for this book were done with gonache, collage, colored pencils, stencils, dinosaur dust, and rubber stamps on primed brown paper bags". 

For more book suggestions, check out my Goodreads page.

What topics are your children experts in?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Tell Me a Story

From a child to a parent, there may not be another request that warms the heart more than this one. In that one sentence, there is such simplicity and trust. Take me on an adventure. Let's use our imaginations together. There are no rules. There are no expectations.

I have to remind myself often of the latter. Although I am a children's librarian, I am not a born storyteller. I can build interest and excitement in a great picture book or even a mediocre one, but inventing a story--and delivering it simultaneously--is not my forte. My husband, however, is great at it. Even I occasionally ask him to tell me a story. I love the way he weaves a few little details from our lives into an otherwise fictional tale.

Telling a story is really a gift to the listener, isn't it? A gift of time and thoughtfulness and sharing. There is something magical about sitting back and just listening. There is an openness. Knowing this is not pre-planned or written down in a book somewhere. It is new and personal and alive.

Telling stories or reciting stories is also a precursor to reading. So when J asks me to tell him a story, I am reminded of what a fantastic opportunity it is to continue fostering a love of reading.

Last week at the playground, C and J randomly brought the story of The Three Billy Goats Gruff to life in their play. All J needed was to see that the play structure at Sharon Woods had a bridge before he asked C to play the troll living beneath it. I watched, smiling, as J tried to tiptoe across the bridge without waking the troll. Suddenly C leaped out and boomed, who's that tripping across my bridge? J laughed and then listened intently as C instructed that in order to cross to safety, he had to correctly answer three questions.

Watching them, I was so proud. Unexpectedly proud.

I had expected to see them run around and chase each other. I expected them to play hide and seek. I expected them to have fun and run off some of that 4 year-old energy.

But I didn't expect them to share such a creative learning experience. Role-playing, vocabulary, storytelling. It was all there. Things that are usually tied to books, storytime, or rainy day pretend play.

The inner planner in me was surprised to watch this all come about so naturally and effortlessly. It didn't take any planning. It was simple, but it was fun!

And I'm going to remember that the next time J says, Mama, tell me a story.


Do you have a favorite moment witnessing your child telling stories, or incorporating books and literacy into her play? Please share!

Friday, August 19, 2011

~thank you~

Many thanks to those of you who voted, tweeted and facebooked about the KidsLinked Best Parent Blogger contest. I hope to live up to the role in the coming months!

I'm very, very humbled by this experience. When I started this blog I didn't even imagine anyone reading it except maybe my husband. Seriously! It just seemed like a great creative outlet and a way to wrap my head around the idea of possibly sharing my writing. It has turned out to be a hobby I really enjoy and has enabled me to connect with people I otherwise wouldn't have--both locally and nationally.

I also would like to again thank KidsLinked and encourage you to check them out if you haven't already. I think it's wonderful that they choose to put on a contest like this to celebrate and recognize bloggers in the Columbus area. There is a great crop of bloggers in Columbus who are an incredible resource. Not only do they help alleviate in readers that sinking "am I alone?" feeling by writing from personal experience, but they also promote our city and provide an avenue for discussions, connections and friendships to form among Columbus residents.

Why not take a moment and thank your favorite blogger for a post or a share or a link that you appreciated? I think they'd love to hear from you.

Friday, August 12, 2011

In Celebration of Bloggers!

Hello friends!

Well, this is reeeeallly not my thing, but since there are prizes (for me AND you) involved, I'm going to step outside of my comfort zone.

I 'm honored to say that I have at least one devoted reader who lovingly nominated me for a Best Mom Blogger Award here in Columbus. So sweet, right?!

I'll include instructions at the end of this post in case you'd like to take 30 seconds and vote for me. I'm in among some amazing folks and feel so special just to have been nominated. (So cliche, I know, but it's actually true!)

What's cool about this blogger celebration (aside from the awesome prizes) is that it's sponsored by a local organization called KidsLinked, with whom I wasn't familiar until now. Am I the last to know about them?! I'm really impressed with the way they have organized kid-friendly events and activities, parenting resources and advice, as well as coupons and deals! Check them out.

The other cool thing is that KidsLinked is throwing a big Parent EXPO / Blogger Event at KDB Easton next Thursday. And you are invited! There will be food, games, kid-friendly vendors and giveaways. Check out the Facebook page for details and to RSVP. Giveaway donors include COSI, Fort Rapids and Tiny Turtle Photography.

So, in closing, thanks for your readership and support. It's hard to believe I am coming up on a 3 year anniversary with you all.

If you'd like to, voting can be done here, and apparently you can vote twice a day if you are so inclined! Voting ends Monday, August 15th.

Thank you!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Summer Reading

Though there's still almost a month of summer left, we are already thinking back-to-school and there are even Halloween decorations displayed at stores!

The kiddies have been little fishes this summer, spending lots of days at the pool. We've also been eating lots of ice cream, catching fireflies, and of course reading lots of books.

Here is a sampling of some favorites:

Sister by Rosamund Lupton--excellent storytelling; a suspenseful murder mystery; read it in a day. I gave this to my mom as well as a couple of friends who all agree it's terrific and slightly terrifying!

Before I Go To Sleep by S.J. Watson--Amnesia sets in every night when Christine sleeps. She wakes each day not knowing who or where she is. When she starts keeping a journal at the suggestion of her doctor, she begins to make some nerve-wracking progress while sensing that she should not completely trust her husband.

Archie and the Pirates by Marc Rosenthal--really fun adventure story that J loved for a few weeks this summer. Archie is a monkey who wakes up on a deserted island. When pirates capture his new best friend, he puts a hilarious plan into action.

My Dad, My Hero by Ethan Long--I picked this up at the library right around Father's Day and it lay next to J's bed for weeks and weeks, being read every night. Like many 4 year-olds, he's pretty into superheroes right now, and loved this silly book. (It's pretty clever!)

What are you reading?

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Repurposed Baby Food Jars

We're going through lots of baby food jars over here and I hate to just recycle such nice glass jars. I've been hanging on to them for a few months now, debating what to use them for.

When I hosted a baby shower in February I thought it would be cute to use them as vases and line a few down the middle of my table with a gerbera daisy in each one. (Whoops, I forgot to do that!)

Anyway, I've decided to use them for end-of-the-year teacher gifts. But, first, I wanted to pretty them up.

What you'll need:

glass jars and lids
Goo Gone
decorative paper
ribbon in a coordinating color
multipurpose craft glue (I like Aleene's Tacky glue)
thin paintbrush, for applying the glue
decoupage sealer (I used Aleene's Collage Pauge--Glossy)
foam brush, for applying the decoupage

What to do:

1. Wash jars and lids, removing any labels or stickers
2. If necessary, use Goo Gone to remove adhesive residue
3. With a pencil, trace the lid on the back of your decorative paper
4. Cut out
5. Apply thin layer of glue to top of lid and spread evenly with paintbrush; press and hold paper to lid for a few seconds
6. Cut length of ribbon to fit around side of lid; apply glue to lid; press and hold
7. Let glue set for at least several hours or overnight
8. Apply decoupage sealer with foam brush, lightly coating the edges and top of lid
9. Let dry overnight

And now to fill them!

J and I had fun making a homemade sugar scrub for his teachers. Here's the recipe we used:

1 c. sugar
5 T. olive oil
Squirt clear dishsoap
6 drops favorite essential oil

Once the ingredients were combined, I found that I needed to add another tablespoon or two of olive oil to get a moist enough consistency. I tripled the recipe and it filled 4 baby food jars.

Then I created a label in Word and printed it out on clear adhesive-backed paper. Without the label, I think these would look cute with a piece of twine tied around the neck and a gift tag dangling down.

For the teacher gifts, I'm pairing this with another little gift, which I'll try to post about later. For now, enjoy these last few days of school!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Mad About Making Tees with Etsy Iron-ons

A couple of years ago my friend Margaret turned me on to this Etsy shop: Ella Ba' Della's Handmade Appliques.

Lately, I can't stay away from it. Her designs are adorable, the fabric selection is fantastic, and the prices are very reasonable.

You can purchase appliques as pictured in her shop, or browse her extensive fabric selection and come up with your own combinations. I think I really love these because I don't just feel like I'm making a purchase, I also feel a part of the creative and crafty process.

Love these sweet spring designs. I also have some on tap to make for summer: a shark for J and bright red cherries for N.

This is as easy as you can get, people. Peel the backing off and press and hold with your iron for 10 seconds. Voila!

They wash up pretty well, too. I've used Liquid Stitch to touch up a couple whose edges peeled up a bit. Washing inside-out helps too.

I also bought some Fray Block for another project and have been swiping that around the edges of the appliques once I've ironed them on. Not sure if it's necessary, but I figure it can't hurt.

Those of you who are handier with a needle and thread--or better yet, a sewing machine--could also stitch the edges for stronger bonding and a cute embellishment.

And, of course, they aren't just for clothes. Onesies, baby blankets, bibs, tote bags...lots of possibilities. I purchased these love birds because I thought they would look perfect on a throw pillow.

Last share: doesn't my guy look so dapper in his iron-on Irish tie?!!

Do you have any crafts or projects to share?

Any new favorite Etsy shops that you're stalking?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Green Reads

March came in like a lamb and went out like a lion, and now the April showers are here. Time to start thinking about Earth Day, Easter Eggs, and gardening. Who's got Spring Fever?

If you're looking for ideas or inspiration to get outside or to make some greener changes in your life this spring, look no further. Here are some new books we've been enjoying.

First up, a fantastic book that celebrates Earth Day as well as National Poetry Month:

The Green Mother Goose: Saving the World One Rhyme At a Time by Jan Peck

All of your favorite nursery rhymes have gone green! Clever twists on Jack & Jill, Humpty Dumpty, and Yankee Doodle will have you rhyming and recycling in no time! My favorite is This Little Piggy, in which the littlest piggy cries "Re-re-recycle all the way home".

Think Mother Goose is just for babies? C is reading these aloud to his class of 5th graders and they are enjoying them too. Maybe they'll be inspired to write their own. Check out for more ideas on how to celebrate poetry this month.

Next up, one for curious kids who wonder how things work or are always asking "Why?":

How Things Work in the Yard by Lisa Campbell Ernst

Concepts of science, simple machines, and biology found in your own backyard are illustrated and explained in a non-textbook way. Simple enough for preschoolers but also interesting and humorous so that elementary school-age kids will enjoy. The book is bound and illustrated in a sort of field guide-notebook sort of way. Would make a nice gift for a budding naturalist or scientist.

And, for the crafters:

ReMake It! Recycling Projects From the Stuff You Usually Scrap by Tiffany Threadgould

Cool projects; varying skill levels. Bottlecap Checker game, tissue box photo frame, cargo pants yoga mat bag, iPod case, and more. I like the magazine page envelopes and the newspaper gift bag myself!

Lastly, my friend Cheryl shared this link with me for an Easter Egg garland--an adorable and virtually free craft using paint chips and string. I am making one (or more!) today.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

eBooks for Babies?

I was pretty floored when I read this article earlier this week. I've been stewing on it for a few days and today posted my thoughts in the comments section. The topic is using digital media with children, including babies and toddlers, in order to help them learn to read.

With the incredible boom of options in ebooks and digital media, this is a very important topic to discuss. Technology has a huge role in the way kids learn, and has made enormous strides in terms of access to information since I was in school. SMARTboards, Skype, and YouTube offer great enhancements to classroom learning.


I don't want to sound like a dinosaur, but why do pre-readers need to read books on a computer?

As I stated in my comments (pasted below), I am not a technophobe or a book "purist". I read eBooks. But for babies and toddlers? For them, reading is more about the experience: cuddling with mom or dad or an older sibling and getting some one-on-one time; having the chance to touch and manipulate the book for themselves; being able to flip back to their favorite page or to an image that caught their eye.

In his article, Dr. Gentry does emphasize that reading with babies and toddlers should be a pleasant experince that focuses on the above, and offers suggestions on how to do this using digital media. Robin Raskin writes a blog about raising children in a digital world. Clearly there are parents buying in to the idea that technology can give their kids and educational jumpstart. Hello, Baby Einstein and Leap Frog. And I'm not saying it's all bad.


I may be in the minority, but I do have qualms about the quantity and quality of digital media in our kids' lives. (Remember my recent post about the texting language seeping into homework assignments?) My thought is: kids get enough screen time. When you sit down and read with your child, read an actual book.

I'm really interested in what others think about this. Join the discussion?

My comments on "Digital Media and the Future of Beginning Reading: Brilliant Babies--at the Computer--Reading Words!"

I appreciate the information in this article, and the intent to encourage parents to read with their children no matter what their age. Not only are books so vital for our children's emerging language and reading skills as well as their intellectual and social development, but so too is that "cuddle time" we get while reading to or with our children.

However, I am honestly surprised to see a literacy expert advocating ebooks in place of printed books, especially for babies and toddlers. I realize you are not suggesting we use the computer for every reading experience we initiate with our child, but I am skeptical of the effects of even occasional "screen time" on young children.

I am a children's librarian and one of the most important aspects of my job is to assist parents and caregivers in getting their children ready to read and ready for school. We inform parents how to promote and recognize emerging "reading skills" in their babies, toddlers, and preschoolers. As simple as it sounds, one of these skills is manipulating a book: understanding how to hold a book, turn the pages, and a recognition that the book proceeds from front to back.

In addition, many children, and all babies, are tactile learners. They need to touch and feel and explore with their hands (and even their mouths!) to make discoveries and connections in the world around them.

These are important literacy building blocks that computers cannot facilitate.

I am not anti-computer, a techno-phobe, or anything like that. I spend a great deal of time on the computer. I read ebooks and own a Kindle. My 4 year-old watches TV.

But, I don't agree with babies and toddlers being lumped into the "under 5" demographic that gets an hour of screen time or more each day. An hour a day is fine, and probably a bit on the low side, for a 3, 4 or 5 year-old, but I think that is huge for an infant or toddler.

Technology replaces and enhances many things very well. But, for a young child it just doesn't do justice to a touch-and-feel or pop-up book. I hate to think of the delight of these reading experiences being replaced with a flat screen. I appreciate that we all want the best for our children, but I hope if parents introduce digital media with their young children, they do so sparingly.

Thank you for broaching the topic and providing a forum for discussion.

Sunday, March 20, 2011


Deviating from my "typical" type of posts (do I have typical posts?) to share a family-friendly outing for fellow Cbus-ers.

Local readers may be interested to know that Battelle Darby Creek is the new home to 6 female bison. They come from The Wilds and seem to be thriving in their beautiful new prairie habitat.

We made our first trip to this park last Sunday and had a very enjoyable walk. The 1-mile path is wide and easy and pets were permitted. There are two playgrounds at the trailhead. A park volunteer was on hand at the bison viewing area, taking questions and sharing information. The park is apparently also home to coyote, fox, and of course many birds.

Bring your camera!

8/23/11 UPDATE: The Metro Parks Facebook page recently posted some tips about bison viewing. During the heat, early morning is best, or after a rain. 

Also, if you take your kids, you may want to swing by the library afterwards to learn more about bison. We always leave nature parks with more questions! The non-fiction area of the library is definitely becoming J's favorite--books about animals, insects, dinosaurs, volcanoes and planets abound!

We are also reading this cute new picture book right now about a buffalo. I need to look up the difference between buffalo and bison...again. I can never seem to get that straight!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Rainy Day Soup

After a week or two respite of Spring-like weather, we are back to cold, blustery winter weather and yet another sinus infection (which may be explained by these huge fluctuations in weather). I've been almost recovering from this sinus infection since Christmas. It's getting old. I'm feeling a little down.

So, today went a little something like this:

woke up (from a dead sleep with a pounding headache and sinus congestion) to the sound of J playing TRIOs, role-playing an elaborate Batman vs. Joker storyline, complete with the Joker's evil cackle (at the top of his lungs)

blow nose; cough; take Sudafed and guzzle water

shush J by wincing and pointing to my head

play LEGOs with J

put together a new birthday toy for N that (thankfully) has a volume control switch

blow nose; shush J

apply warm compress to face, but peel it back every 10 seconds to make sure N is not trying to eat LEGOs

repeat for the next 4 hours and pray I can muster enough energy to tire J out to the point that he'll agree to a nap


As I write this, the kids are napping (at the same time!) and I am lounging under blankets, watching it rain buckets from a bleak gray sky. Blah.

But the good news is that I pulled myself together enough to make a delicious hearty soup that I hope will help. When you're sick, you always want mom's chicken noodle soup, but this is right up there as well. It's my aunt's recipe for a vegetable minestrone, and I'm not sure where she got it. She brought us a pot of it the week we brought J home from the hospital, and it's been one of my go-to comfort foods ever since. It has a very savory flavor because it's made with bacon. Yes, bacon! Unusual, but trust me--it's good. And I'm not one of those people who thinks that everything tastes better with bacon on it. :)

Aunt Kathy's Minestrone

1/4 lb. bacon, cut into pieces
2 garlic cloves
1 large onion, diced
1 t. parsley
1 t. Italian seasoning
1 t. salt
1 t. pepper
32 oz. carton beef broth
16 oz. can kidney beans with liquid
28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
2 potatoes, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 can green beans with liquid
8 oz. can tomato sauce
1 c. uncooked elbow macaroni
grated Parmesan to top

Brown bacon, garlic and onion in large soup pot. Add spices and broth. Stir in tomatoes and kidney beans. Bring to a boil. Add potatoes, carrots, celery, green beans and tomato sauce. Cook 1 hour on medium, or till vegetables are tender. Add macaroni. Cook 30 minutes. Season and serve with grated Parmesan.

Saturday, February 26, 2011


{one year}

 passes so quickly
begins full of hope and promise
is just a fraction of a lifetime
can bring change, change and more change 
cannot be slowed down or sped up
reminds you of the past
inspires you to dream about the future
is the result of a million happy, troubled, hilarious, difficult and miraculous moments
makes you want to go back and do it all over again
begs to be remembered
will always be cherished
concludes with gratitude and celebration
passes so quickly

Thursday, February 17, 2011

P O M P O M S !

Hi there friends! We are making tissue paper pom poms today, in preparation for a baby shower I'm hosting this weekend. I love these as bright, fluffy party decor. The instructions and video tutorials that I found online still left me to do a bit of trial and error, so I thought I'd share what ended up working for me.

Most of the blogs and web sites I came across all referenced Martha Stewart's instructions.

I started out as they suggest, with 8 sheets of tissue paper, sized 20 x 30. Accordion fold to a width of about 1- to 1 1/2 inches, so it looks something like this:
I wanted small pom poms so at this point, I cut the folded tissue paper in half. If you want large pom poms, don't halve it. Next, secure the tissue paper in the center, as pictured below. I used a chenille stem (any color; it doesn't show when finished). Other tutorials suggest using a staple or a piece of floral wire. If you plan to hang your pom pom, now is the time to attach string or fishing wire to the chenille stem. 

Then shape the two ends of the tissue paper. I rounded mine:

Flip your bundle of tissue and fan out one half, like this:

Now, pull one layer of tissue up, towards yourself, as pictured below.

Do this with 4 layers of tissue. Then, flip it over and pull the remaining 4 layers. As you pull these 4 layers towards yourself, you'll be pulling them away from the first set of layers, forming a half circle.

Halfway finished, your pom pom looks like a tree! Swivel it around and do the same thing to the other side. (Note: Pull gently. I found that Hallmark tissue paper was more durable during this process. When I used Target brand tissue paper for another set, it kept tearing. You couldn't tell once it was all finished, but it stressed me out. :) )

Once you've pulled apart all the layers, you have a nice full pom pom, that looks like a flower (or if you're using green, it looks like a head of cabbage!) It may need a little tweaking and fluffing to get it filled out evenly.

A variation on this process makes your pom pom more appropriate as a centerpiece. Instead of pulling 4 layers of tissue up and 4 down, you could pull all 8 up on both sides, forming a half circle. This pom pom will be very full, and will lay nicely on your table since it's flat on the bottom.

My coworker has a favorite saying: Clear as mud? If this seems that way to you, you may want to check out some YouTube videos that demonstrate the process. This one was helpful, although the people talking and shouting in the background were quite distracting.

OK, that wraps up my first ever tutorial post! The combination of these scattered around my kitchen and the 60 degree temperatures we're having is making me think SPRING!!!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Goal: Cook More

One of my recent goals is to cook more frequently and be a better meal planner. Working three nights a week means I'm often eating PB&J in the car or heating up a quick frozen dinner on my 15 minute break. It's not the healthiest and I usually come home at 9:00 hungry. And, it leaves C and the kids up to their own devices. Which is okay; C is a good cook, but without a plan and a recipe, he usually resorts to frozen chicken nuggets or Marie Callender's chicken pot pies.

So, my best friend must have sensed what we were going through, because look what she made me for Christmas.

It's a kitchen-coordinated piece of stationery paper with the days of the week typed on to it. Slid into an 8x10 picture frame and paired with a dry erase marker, it makes a perfect meal planner. It's large enough that it has a presence on my countertop, meaning that I constantly notice it and am reminded to stay on track. At the end of the week, I wipe it clean with a paper towel and make a new plan without wasting any paper. As of today, we are rounding out 3 weeks of successful meal planning. It feels great!

I wish I could give credit where it's friend got the idea from a blog somewhere out there, but can't remember where. So, whoever you are, I'm grateful!

What are your favorite resources for recipes? I'd be doomed without my subscription to Everyday Food!

Sunday, January 23, 2011


Dear Reader,

According to the Tiny Prints blog, today is National Handwriting Day! As someone who's a little obsessed with handwriting and letter writing, I couldn't let the day pass without mention. I plan to take a few minutes and write a friend a letter. I have one consistent "pen pal" in my life. My friend Katie, who is quite the jet-setter and has lived in quite a few different places around the world, most recently Guatemala. Now that she is back in Columbus for graduate school, we're no longer writing each other letters. But, that's silly! There doesn't have to be a great distance to cross in order to warrant writing a letter, right?!

Many have speculated on the demise of letter writing, and with it the dying art of calligraphy or even handwriting itself. The use of email, texting, iPads, Twitter, eReaders, netbooks and tablets means that we are spending less and less time actually writing. And kids are having less time in school devoted to penmanship and cursive writing. This was the focus of the Tiny Prints blog post from yesterday.

I remember being about 8 years old and just laboring over my cursive handwriting at the kitchen table, trying to craft elegant and uniform letters. Even then I was a handwriting nerd. I loved it. What I loathed, though, was that paper we had to use. Remember the extra extra wide ruled paper that was grayish in color and so thin that one little eraser mark made the paper tear? Ugh! We didn't have nuns cracking us over the knuckles with rulers over our penmanship, but still, we took it pretty seriously.

Apparently, kids are not getting this heavy handed (ha!) instruction anymore. What do you think? Is it just no longer relevant? I understand that there are more important things that need to be accomplished during the school day, but it does make me a little sad. Working with kids in the library's Homework Help Center or helping my husband grade papers, I've seen the illegible chicken scratch of kids today. With the safety net of spell check, their spelling is atrocious too. And don't even get me started on how they use "u" in place of "you". I'm not talking about texting; I'm talking IN THEIR HOMEWORK!

But, I digress. And I'm getting a little negative. This was a happy post about making someone's day brighter with a handwritten note. I hope you'll take a moment to jot something down in your own hand.