Sunday, November 30, 2008

Feliz Navidad

One of my goals when starting to blog was to create an opportunity for myself to write about the things in life that are very important to me. With the holidays upon us, probably the biggest things on my mind right now are giving thanks and expressing kindness and love through gift-giving. These same thoughts reside in my friend Katie's mind and heart all year-round, not simply at this time of year. She is a volunteer in the Peace Corps and has been working in small villages in Guatemala for the last 2 1/2 years. An International Studies and Spanish major in college, Katie has always been destined for big exciting and worthwhile work.
Katie's main purpose for working in Guatemala has been to engineer and establish systems for clean drinking water. Along the way, she has found a more focused niche of providing clean water as well as hand-washing stations in communities with schools, and also providing the necessary guidance and education along with those new facilities.
Stunned by the lack of many schools in these villages and the dilapidated condition of the ones that do exist, Katie has embarked on a courageous and inspiring project to raise the money needed to build two desperately needed schools. Perhaps we can do something to help bring her - and the communities and families there - closer to their goal.
A classroom inside a school nicknamed The Chicken Coop.
A school built last year in the village of Xenimajuyu.
The grateful recipients of one of the newly built schools.
A plaque dedicating a new school library.
If you'd like to find out more about the project or Katie's experiences in the Peace Corps, check out the links below to her Travelpod Blog as well as her secure donation web site.
Katie is truly an incredible person. She makes friends very easily. She's well-traveled; independent; confident; strong. She's extremely intelligent (hello, she skipped 1st grade), but also a little ditzy, if we're being totally honest here. She's funny. She even stayed my friend and didn't make fun of me when I wasn't allowed to go to her 11th birthday party because it involved seeing a PG-13 movie. And, best of all, when I write her a letter, she writes me back! No kidding!
I've talked (that is, emailed) with Katie just a handful of times in the last year, but undoubtedly when she returns to Columbus this Christmas, we will get together and chat and laugh and hang out exactly the way we did in high school. I am so lucky to have a friendship like ours - one in which we do our best to stay in touch while she is off on some new adventure, but then so effortlessly pick up where we left off the next time we get together. Of course there are new things to learn about one another, but there is never a moment of awkwardness or strangeness between us. I know that is hard to come by. And I am so proud of her, so grateful for her unwavering friendship, and so inspired by the amazing work she is doing for others in a completely different part of the world.

Read Katie's Travelpod blog here.

Read more about the fundraiser here.

(Photos courtesy of La mona feliz's flickr account.)
1/22/09 UPDATE: Katie has reached Goal #1! She has secured donations to cover the costs of building a school for one of the communities she's come to know while working in Guatemala. Hooray! Imagine the committment, work and dedication she's exhibited to get to this stage. Now comes the meetings with the mayor and other community leaders to get the plans really rolling. Good luck, Katie, and Congratulations!!!

Finished Flannel Board

Wow! I started this project over a month ago, and here it is, finally completed! We've been playing with our flannel board since day 1, but just today got around to mounting it to the wall. As soon as it was up, J dropped his tractors and trucks and came over to give it a try. He's multi-purposing those black blobs in the upper right corner; they were jack o'lantern eyes, but as of today they are balloons.
I have the day off tomorrow and I'm hoping to add a few more flannel creations to our bin. We need some more vibrant colors up there! Stay tuned...

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enjoying the excuses to stay inside

hot tea
pumpkin pie

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Saturday, November 29, 2008

10 Random Things

For a project at work, staff were encouraged to participate in this meme. Participants were to list 10 random things about themselves, publish it to their blog, and then send out a Twitter update when finished. The goal was a networking/getting-to-know-you experience.

I've had fun reading others' random things and thought I'd extend the challenge out to those of you outside of the library blogosphere. Have fun!

  1. OK, the CML stuff first. I was a Page before there were LSA’s and a Clerk before CSA’s and CSS’s. I’ve been in the system 12 years. (Yes, I realize this sounds like gibberish to all you non-library folks. Sorry. None of the other 'things' will; promise.)
  2. My husband and I met at the library, although he was not an employee. (We’re actually kind of the result of a set-up.) We’ve been married 8 1/2 years. If not for him, I would not have absorbed so much Seinfeld trivia nor developed an interest in the Tour de France.
  3. My retirement dream is to move to Maine, buy an old farmhouse, and open a bed & breakfast.
  4. I have naturally curly hair and it drives me crazy when people ask me about it - I don’t like the implication that I might possibly have a perm!
  5. I love to travel. A few years ago, the husband and I took a cross-country 3-week trip out West, visiting St. Louis, MO; Moab, UT; Sedona, Flagstaff and Grand Canyon, AZ; Santa Fe and Taos, NM before looping back home. The kicker–we made the trip in my ‘94 standard transmission, NO cruise control Saturn. Yeah, that made the Rockies interesting. Still, it’s our favorite trip.
  6. I can’t stand the word ‘whatnot’.
  7. Typos, misprints, grammatical errors, the stuff on Jay Leno’s Headlines are my worst pet-peeves. That’s why I enjoy reading this blog.
  8. Garden gnomes freak me out.
  9. As a child, I was i n c r e d i b l y shy. I hated talking to ’strangers’ like my parents friends, employees at stores or restaurants, doctors, etc., even on the telephone. I’m not sure when I got over all that…maybe not until high school.
  10. I love mail. As much as I enjoy and feel thankful for email, blogging, IM, chat, etc., I still love sending and receiving handwritten notes and letters. Besides feeling special and more personal, one of the best things about mail is that it combines two things that I love/am fascinated by: stationery and people’s handwriting.

Care to share your 10 random things?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tomorrow is Turkey Day! I wanted to have a little something to give to the grandparents and great-grandparents, so tonight J and I made hand turkeys. He loves to color right now and also likes for us to trace his hand, so this seemed the perfect *easy* Thanksgiving craft, since it combines both worlds.

Once I scanned the image, I inserted it into a Word document, shrunk it down a little bit, and added the text, "Happy Thanksgiving!" below it. Copy and Paste a couple times, and voila! Adorable (if I may say so) 4x6 handmade turkey cards to print and sign.

~Wishes for a happy, thankful, and yummy Thanksgiving!

Etsy Artists + YouTube = A New Favorite

Once again, Twitter has clued me into something I never would have wanted to miss. Yesterday I saw a tweet from Etsy complimenting littlebrownpen's YouTube video. Curious, I clicked on over to check it out. Here is what I found:

Isn't that just the coolest? I'm such a fan of stop motion animation and I hope someday I'll have the patience and creativity to attempt one. (And, the music is totally rockin'. I'm going to have to find that on iTunes.)

Aside from how amazing the video is, aren't the cards, calendars and gift tags just adorable? This morning I logged on to the Etsy shop and purchased the 2009 calendar. Within 2 hours, I was printing them out and totally loving them. Little Brown Pen emails you a PDF file of whatever it is you purchase. Then, you print as many as you like and can go back and access the file anytime for more! It's an impressive and inspiring concept; one that's economical, innovative, and environmentally-friendly. Bravo, Little Brown Pen! And thank you.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

the year of the book and another favorite thing

Books are always a big part of the gift-giving I do, and this Christmas is no different, although I think it's a little heavier on the book side than most years. I am really excited though because I got some wonderful titles that I think will really match up with the recipients' personalities.

A HUGE Amazon shipment arrived today, which is another of my favorite things! What is it about the delayed gratification of making online purchases that I just love? Plus, most of the time I forget half of what I ordered so it's like opening up a surprise. :)

So, combined with what I bought at Barnes & Noble last week, I've got an incredible set of books to gift this year. And, with Christmas still a month away, there's a good chance I'll add a few more books to the pile before the big day. Two others that I'm thinking may be just too good not to own are Fifteen Animals by Sandra Boynton and Dinosaur vs. Bedtime by Bob Shea.

What books are going to be part of your gift-giving this year? What are some titles on your own wish list?

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Monday, November 24, 2008

Creative Living

Tonight I dipped into my new stash of library books and read Amanda Blake Soule's book The Creative Family. Soule writes a blog that I've been following, which is how I discovered her book. She is absolutely inspiring. Incredibly creative, mindful, reflective and insightful, inventive, and real. I read straight through the entire book furiously jotting down quotes, reflections, projects, resources, and came straight here to blog about it. Each section of the book opens with a motivating or inspiring quote. Here are a few that really spoke to me:
"Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere."
- Albert Einstein

"The most effective kind of education is that a child should play amongst lovely things."
- Plato

"Every child is an artist. The problems is how to remain an artist once we grow up."
- Pablo Picasso
Soule, herself, is author to some very inspiring words as well. Reading The Creative Family, I felt I was reading part art book, part parenting book, part "green living" book, and part meditation book. Here are some of her gems:
"A large part of nurturing a spirit of creativity comes from being mindful, slowing down, observings, and looking around you at the beauty and inspiration all around. We are blessed as parents to have the best teachers for this - our children." (p. 5)
"Think about letting your child be the guide, director, and teacher, while you try to be the student. Your role is to provide the environment and to watch and learn." (p. 13)
"Practice gratitude - when we feel grateful, we feel full - full of love, full of inspiration, full of ideas, and full of creative spirit." (p. 15)
"Living the creative life is made all the more fulfilling and rewarding when we are creating with, for, or because of others." (p. 191)
Beautiful, no? I am really looking forward to attempting some of her projects and ideas with J this winter. I think they will be excellent learning opportunities as well as creative experiences. And many of the finished products would make excellent gifts.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

these are a few of my favorite things...

At the risk of coming across as self-important and snooty or sounding like Oprah or Martha Stewart, I've decided to go ahead with a blog series called 'My Favorite Things'. I think it could be fun, and maybe it will help some of you while searching for the perfect gift this holiday season. I'll post a handful of things and then continue the series a little on down the road with some fresh new favorites.
And, please feel free to add links or post comments about your favorite things.

        1. Great Harvest bread - especially the cinnamon chip. The principal at my husband's school usually gives a loaf to all the teachers at Christmas and Easter, which I think is a nice tradition.

        2. Elizabeth Mitchell's cd You Are My Little Bird - beautiful folky music that makes me imagine it's Spring.

        3. Bobbi Brown Pot Rouge for Lips and Cheeks - I love double-duty products!

        4. Aveda Hand Relief Lotion - Aveda's signature scent combined with the most amazing moisturizer.

        5. Shopping for Christmas ornaments and handmade gifts at Columbus' annual Winterfair.

        6. Charley Harper's Birds and Words - Intricate and intriguing art as well as funny, tongue-in-cheek descriptions of various birds. Great addition to the library of an artist or naturalist.

        7. Life is Good tote - Fun and functional!

        Silly Adorableness

        I snapped these pics of J the other morning as he ran around the kitchen in circles. I just sat in the middle of the floor and clicked away as he delighted in the silliness of what he was doing. Sometimes he is so easily entertained! Other times...not so much.

        Gosh, I love these pictures. Of course I am biased, but he isn't he just the most beautiful boy in the world? His happiness and delight are so contagious too, that he just becomes even more endearing.
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        little bunny foo foo

        You know how it seems that not a day goes by that kids learn something new? Well, the new feat in our house is the bunny hop.
        Jumping is not only J's favorite way to transport himself around the house and yard, but has also developed into the hilarious new game he constantly plays. Whether it's jumping around the living room, jumping as a dance form, jumping on the bed or sofa, or jumping off of various objects (laundry baskets, steps, chairs), it is the way to go. ;)
        Innovation: make your own jungle gym.

        The balancing act.

        Ha! I'm so proud of myself!

        Get ready, Mama, I'm going to jump!

        I recently read an article in Wondertime's October 2008 issue about jumping. It had a couple of interesting points about jumping being a developmental milestone, something I hadn't ever thought much about. When J started this jumping craze, I pulled the issue back out to read it again. Here's a portion of the essay:
        Jumping might not seems like a remarkable feat, but clearing a puddle requires balance, strength, and the precise coordination of arms, knees, and hips...
        Kids learn to jump soon after they learn to run, usually starting at about 24 months. First a child tries taking a single step down a stair, says Dale Ulrich, professor of kinesiology at the University of Michigan. Next she'll explore other kinds of objects "that are jump-offable, then over-able and around-able."
        At about 30 months, once kids have the leg strength to defy gravity and the balance they need for landing, jumps become more sophisticated--bunny hops, for instance, that move the jumper not just up but forward.
        Happy hopping...

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        Library Jackpot

        I had to work today and while there I finally picked up the huge stack of reserves that have been patiently waiting for me all week. I am excited to take a look at all of them. There's lots of non-fiction in this to-read stack, and a couple of teen books, including the Printz Award candidate, Paper Towns by John Green.

        The complete list of what I picked up today:
        Beyond Time Out: From Chaos to Calm - Beth Grosshans
        The 10-Day Glycemic Diet - Azmina Govindji
        Reading Magic - Mem Fox
        The Creative Family - Amanda Blake Soule
        Let it Snow: Three Holiday Romances - John Green, Maureen Johnson, Lauren Myracle
        Paper Towns - John Green
        Creative Play for Your Toddler: Steiner Waldorf Expertise and Toy Projects for 2-4s - Christopher Clouder
        My Stroke of Insight - Jill Bolte Taylor
        Apples for Jam: A Colorful Cookbook - Tessa Kiros
        Stay tuned to my Goodreads account for my reviews on these. (Assuming I get to all of them, which I highly and unfortunately doubt.)
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        Saturday, November 22, 2008

        The latest obsession


        J is taking this bundling up thing quite seriously. He begs to go bye-bye and I think it's basically so that he can wear his "mins". He's even content to just run around the house with them on, occasionally stopping to admire or adjust them.

        What are your kids attached to these days?

        Tuesday, November 18, 2008

        "Awwww, I'm telling!"

        Isn't that a common refrain in most childhoods? It certainly was in mine, most likely as a result of having two younger brothers. (Ha ha.) Looking back, it doesn't seem as though we worked many conflicts out between ourselves. We very often resorted to the threat of "I'm telling on you", and then did precisely that.

        Well, considering J is an only child at this point and not even 2 years old, it never crossed my mind that he could have already become somewhat of a tattletale. I don't look forward to mediating his future squabbles, but, so far, his version of telling on someone is actually pretty fun!

        A couple weeks ago, he and I were making our weekly trip to Target. When he spotted the big red balls out in front of the store he exclaimed, "Tah-get!" Then, he went on to say, "Daddy Tah-get. Daddy hot coffee." It only took me a second to realize he was referring to Daddy's secret habit of stopping at the Target Starbucks before grabbing the diapers and dog food (the original reason for the errand). Oh, how I loved busting him out on that one!

        This little incident has taught me two things:
        1. I now know that I need to be careful about letting J in on my own secret habits (also often involving coffee);
        and, 2. I should plan to take him around to all of Daddy's stomping grounds to see what other secrets are divulged!

        Snowy Day Drawing

        Wow, mid-November and it really feels like winter already. It's a shock to the system at first, and it makes me just want to stay cooped up inside. Part of that is probably due to the fact that J and I are both a little sick right now. Yesterday, I kept him in his fleecy pajamas all day and we watched the snow fall and spent a long time coloring. He went through a crayon obsession this past month, but now he is on to markers. Fun! A little more messy, but fun. :)

        He occupied himself for awhile with this drawing, and I flipped through MaryAnn Kohl's book First Art: Art Experiences for Toddlers and Twos, and got some great project ideas for the coming months... easy fingerpaint recipes, a watercolor & crayon resist, printmaking ideas, and a pizza box easel! Once again, I'm thankful for the inspiration and book recommendations from Jean, The Artful Parent!

        Sunday, November 16, 2008

        Motrin vs. Babywearing

        Today, some of my fellow Twitter Moms alerted me to a new Motrin ad that targets babywearing mothers and the supposed pain they suffer. It's a pretty shocking ad, and very disappointing to see a company attempt to sell products by denouncing babywearing as a pain-inducing fad.

        Mothers (and fathers and caregivers) across the globe have been wearing their babies for CENTURIES. And (Motrin, this is addressed to you) slings and carriers positioned correctly will evenly distribute baby's weight and put less strain on a mother's back than carrying a baby in her arms. All the literature out there on babywearing warns that if you feel pain or discomfort you have the sling positioned incorrectly.

        When J was an infant, my husband and I both used sling carriers with him. In the sling, J seemed more of a participant in whatever we were doing than while riding in a stroller. The hands-free functionality of slinging was also a great benefit. Going for a walk or making a trip to the store, I had less to lug in and out; I had two free hands; and I was still snuggling my baby!

        Luckily for me, my good friend Margaret was experienced with slings and babywearing, so she was able to help me choose comfortable slings and positions. Dr. Sears' books and web site were also very helpful resources to me while I got the hang of it. Here are a couple facts from Dr. Sears's web site about the importance and benefits of babywearing:
        • Sling babies spend more time in the state of quiet alertness . This is the behavioral state in which an infant is most content and best able to interact with his environment.
        • Sling babies are intimately involved in the caregiver's world. Baby sees what mother or father sees, hears what they hear, and in some ways feels what they feel.
        • Carried babies are intimately involved in their parents' world because they participate in what mother and father are doing. A baby worn while a parent washes dishes, for example, hears, smells, sees, and experiences in depth the adult world. He is more exposed to and involved in what is going on around him.
        • Carried babies become more aware of their parents' faces, walking rhythms, and scents. Baby becomes aware of, and learns from, all the subtle facial expressions, body language, voice inflections and tones, breathing patterns, and emotions of the caregiver.
        • A parent will relate to the baby a lot more often, because baby is sitting right under her nose. Proximity increases interaction, and baby can constantly be learning how to be human.

        Christmas Cards

        Results of Round Two of my Christmas-card-making Spectacular! ;)

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        Wednesday, November 12, 2008

        Pumpkin Play

        To get J interested/excited about Halloween and pumpkin picking/carving, I made a few Jack'o'lantern flannel pieces. It's kind of fun coming up with different combos!

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        Flannel Board Fun

        A month or so ago I made a flannel board for J and started making a collection of flannel pieces that he could manipulate and play creatively with. If my experiences presenting storytimes taught me anything, it's that kids FREAK about flannel stories. They are just drawn to them and you can see in their little faces how hard they are trying to stay seated and resist yanking all the pieces off the board. (But, of course, that inevitably happens sometimes, too.)
        Well, true to my experiences, J is really taken by the flannel board. (And Daddy and I are too!) We had a few friends over last week for a playdate, and all the kids (from 1 1/2 to 5) were very interested in it. This winter I am hoping to make a lot more pieces. So far, we've basically just got a starter set of a few animals, a tree, a sun, and a moon.
        The flannel board is a 20 x 24 artist's canvas that I covered in brown flannel with spray adhesive and some upholstery staples. Once we borrow my dad's masonry drill bits we'll mount it to the wall in the playroom. Easy peasy.
        I chose the canvas as the backing because I found one really cheap. I also considered using heavy cardboard, foam-core board, or even a piece of mdf. (Although, for the latter, I probably would have covered it in some batting before stretching the flannel over it.)
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        Gettin' Crafty!

        I've been on a roll the last two days cranking out some Christmas cards. I'm toying with the idea of trying to sell some... It's been fun working on them during J's naps, and if I could make some money off them, then I may feel less guilty about slacking on the laundry.