Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Read Your Way Through...Winter!

OK, here's the first installment of the new blog series, appropriately about winter since we've been facing one heck of a snowstorm here in Columbus the last few days. These are books that I adore for their illustrations and each of their individual readability.

First up: Oh! (words by Kevin Henkes pictures by Laura Dronzek)

The snow has fallen all night long and now we're invited out to play with all the animals! "The rabbit wants to play. Hop, hop, hop, shy little rabbit." The illustrations so vibrantly capture the brightness and whiteness of the snow. The text is simple, almost poetic, and conveys the wonder and delight that a big snowfall brings. Read this one on a cold winter evening while drinking hot cocoa.


Next: Polar Bear Night (by Lauren Thompson pictures by Stephen Savage)

Little polar bear goes out on a late night adventure in the snow. The stillness of these illustrations remind me of how quiet and calm the world is after a snowfall. Everything is covered in a glistening white and ordinary things look extra special and beautiful. I also love how the book ends, with polar bear returning "home", which is snuggled up with Mama.


Don't Wake Up the Bear! (by Marjorie Dennis Murray illustrated by Patricia Wittmann)
When I first flipped through this book, I thought it looked way long and too wordy for our youngster. But, my husband has a way of really making it work and J patiently enjoys it. It's a fun cumulative tale of all the animals who creep into bear's den to snuggle up against his warmth. Everyone is resting peacefully until a tiny mouse attempts to ward off a giant ACHOO!


Continuing on the bear/hibernation theme is one of our favorites, both for the stoy and the illustrations: Old Bear (by Kevin Henkes)
Take a peek at the colorful and wonderful dreams of bear as he sleeps through the winter. Read this one on a day when you've really just had enough of the winter blahs. J's favorite dream is the one in which it's summer: the sky opens up and it rains blueberries!

And finally, an older book I just discovered: Millions of Snowflakes (by Mary McKenna Siddals illustrated by Elizabeth Sayles)

It's a copyright of 1998 but the illustrations' washed-out colors and blurred edges remind me of books of my childhood. In this sweet story, a young girl and her dog delight in each little snowflake that falls. It's a simple counting book as well, and the text has a nice rhythm and rhyme that doesn't seem forced. "Three little snowflakes melt on my tongue. I eat them up. Yum! Yum! Yum!"

"Four little snowflakes tickle my chin. I laugh. I jump. I run. I spin."

Well, that's it. I hope you're inspired to check out a book or two and that you enjoy them as we have. Next up on the Read Your Way Through series is either going to be Bedtime or Eating (more specifically Picky Toddler Eating). Two biggies for most parents, right?! :)

Monday, January 26, 2009

Battle Ready

We've officially had a 2 year-old on our hands for a little over a month, and let me tell you, it was as if a switch went off on his 2nd birthday and J became an independent, bossy, disagreeable toddler! No, of course all his sweetness isn't lost, but some days he's just a whirlwind of orneriness and combativeness. As the picture indicates, I think he's donned his battle armor and is prepared to duke it out with Mama & Daddy.

So, likewise, we've been forced to create our own little arsenal, stepping up a notch from the stern looks, threats, and soft-spoken mini-lectures. I've recruited family, friends, the pediatrician, books and web sites to help me figure out the best course of action.

Babycenter recently (and coincidentally) emailed me the discipline tool kit for toddlers, which suggests distraction, substitution, offering choices, reducing the amount of times you say "No", and trying to respect the situations in which your toddler says "No". (Yeah, that last one is interesting, huh...)

Among the many parenting, childhood development and discipline books out there, I have found one to be remarkably eye-opening, exciting and helpful. Beyond Time Out: From Chaos to Calm by Beth Grosshans. I wouldn't say that our home has become complete chaos, but the book was featured in PW and I decided it wouldn't hurt to look at it since time-outs haven't been especially working for us. I don't completely buy in to the author's way of thinking (WARNING: she does somewhat knock attachment parenting, co-sleeping and Pleaser parents who tend to talk things out w/their kids all the time), but the book has definitely armed me with some effective parenting tools and taught me a lot about the insticts, motives, and needs of young children. In fact, once I finish the book I could see myself writing an entire post just on the things I have come away with.

Aside from these pointers, I'm just trying to ratchet up the patience! What's working for you?

Friday, January 23, 2009

Flannel Making Frenzy!

Here's a peek at the flannel board pieces I've been working on for the last week or so. These little guys were so much fun to make! I used Clip Art to print out templates in order to get the basic shapes down since I am so NOT able to draw freehand. I enjoyed embellishing them a bit to make them more colorful and expressive. I ran out of blue and green felt awhile ago and finally got around to getting some more at JoAnn's last week. This time I was so excited to find the eco felt (I think that's what it's called.) It's made from recycled plastic bottles. It's a little stiffer than the felt I'm used to using, but for this purpose stiffer is better. I used Tacky glue to bond the pieces together, but I've just discovered Felt glue (also at JoAnn's) and think I may need to give that a try. It looks less messy and it also dries clear.
We've since been reenacting a lot of Brown Bear, Brown Bear (but morphed into our own version based on the animals we have). J also plays with the pieces away from the flannel board -- driving the car on the floor, zooming the airplane through the air, and (my favorite) tucking an animal into his chest so that he can pet it, talk to it, and feed it. Fun fun!
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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

New Blog Series Coming!

Just wanted to get the word out that I'm gearing up to start a new blog series! I hope you'll find it helpful, but also fun...and maybe it will open things up to discussion a bit. I'm really excited by the idea to bring together some of the things I love and am passionate about: kids, motherhood (parenting), books, information-gathering, and story-swapping.

The series will be called Read Your Way Through ____. The blank being some aspect of parenting, toddlerhood, or child-rearing that we are apt to confront at some point. My basic intent to offer reviews and recommendations of books to get you and your child through the sweet, fun, chaotic, silly, special and challenging moments. The focus will most likely be picture books, but who knows... I am quite the "How To" non-fiction reader so I'll no doubt have some "adult" recommendations too, as they apply. Maybe I'll get crazy and throw in a web site every now and then, too!

In my planning, I've arranged a selection of stages, traits and milestones that is pretty lengthy and quite varied, with the intent of keeping things somewhat universal and relevant to many of our lives. Of course, I welcome topic suggestions too.

Stay tuned!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Maisy in my mailbox!

So, I've posted before about my love for Lucy Cousins and Maisy, but a couple of months ago my love grew...

J is quite taken with Maisy and her friends, and often incorporates them into his pretend play. Touched by his connection to these characters, I decided to write Ms. Cousins to express our enjoyment and gratitude of her books. They capture J's attention, introduce new vocabulary words, and nudge him forward on his path to reading. Maisy and her friends do things together that are so applicable to a toddler's life and yet, at the same time, introduce them to new ideas.

Well, the lovely Lucy Cousins responded to my letter! This card arrived in our mailbox one day before Christmas with no return address and postage stamps from the UK! I confess I was giddy when I realized what it was. I'm grateful that my letter meant something to her and that she took the time to write a few kind words to me. And, drawing J his own personal little Maisy waving hello - how amazing is that?!?
I highly recommend writing to an author or illustrator who is meaningful to you. Whether you receieve a response or not, it feels good to take a moment and let someone know that you appreciate their work.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Green Goodness

Lots of New Year's Resolutions have been flying around the past week, and I'm actually not typically one for making them. I mean, I am perfectly willing and able to set goals and make changes, but I've never really subscribed to the idea that you have to come up with a zillion ways to change/improve yourself right at the mark of a new year. Who needs that kind of stress and anxiety-inducement right after the holidays?

However, this year I actually made a couple. And, I'm inspired by Amy's challenge at Crunchy Domestic Goddess to blog about a few of my "green" goals for 2009.

She began her post by taking stock of the green goals she accomplished in 2008 and that seems a good place to start. We made a few small changes at our house that really stuck:

  1. C. planted a small vegetable garden this summer.

  2. I read a lot of books about green living, gaining invaluable amounts of information and ideas. (My favorite "green" book of the year was Healthy Child, Healthy World.)

  3. I switched to Seventh Generation laundry detergent (powedered) and dish detergent.

  4. I rid the house of toxic cleaners and have kept a pretty clean house for the last year with mostly just soap, baking soda, vinegar, and hot water!
In 2009, I plan to keep on keepin' on with these new routines, but also make some other changes that will hopefully have an even greater impact. In no particular order, here goes:

  1. Plant a bigger vegetable garden - tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, maybe a lettuce or two and also create an herb garden

  2. Shop more farmer's markets. This goal will require some help from C. because I work every Saturday. But I know he enjoys shopping these markets, so I think he's up for the challenge. It'll just be a matter of planning ahead a little better.

  3. Install a rainwater collection barrel. I'm really impressed with these guys, the Rain Brothers, who are local. They make rain barrels out of recycled plastic. And, what's really cool is that they make deliveries by bicycle whenever possible!

  4. Set up a clothesline - just like Mom used to do!

Lastly, this isn't really a goal, but is something I've just begun to explore. I was invited to join an online community called Moms Meet, a collaboration between KIWI magazine and Earth's Best.

"What is Moms Meet," you ask? This page on their web site explains just that. Its purpose is to be an "online resource empowering parents looking to lead a greener lifestyle". The "Moms Meet" aspect involves setting up a community of moms (or dads, I assume) and sharing and discussing information/tips on green living. It seems the project is just in the kick-off stages, so that's about all I know at this point. I'll update as I learn more.

So, how about you? Any recommendations, tips, resolutions of your own?

Join the Green Goal Challenge here.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Top 5

Here's a handful of the books we've been reading over and over again since Christmas. All of them were gifts and J (and Mama) couldn't be happier. I am so pleased with the little library he has built up in his mere 2 years, and even more pleased that he is such a bookworm! It's very clear that much of his knowledge and creativity and silliness is due in large part to the amount of reading we've done together.
The other wonderful thing about the books we own is the fact that so many of them are gifts from other people. It means more, especially to me, that our collection isn't just due to the fact that I am an librarian. It's so special that family and friends have chosen books that make them think of J. So, I make it a point to help J to remember the connections between his books and the givers. I really believe that there's often a correlation between the gift-giver and the book...kind of like that idea that pet owners often look like their dogs!
Hug by Jez Alborough
Poor Bobo! Everywhere he goes, animals are hugging! Where is his hug? Mama and Baby Elephant escort him through the jungle to find the very best kind of hug.
J pores over the pages in this book and consistently looks concerned when we reach the page where Bobo is crying. (So sweet.) He also points at the word 'hug' on each page, runs his finger underneath it like he's seen me do, and says cheerfully, "Hug!" This is a GREAT book. Incorporates all kinds of Ready to Read skills.

Ribbit! by Bender and Bender
This hilarious book came from J's great-aunt, also a book lover. How cool that the Ohio-grown authors dedicated/autographed it to our little guy?! The crazy mix-and-match costumed frogs make the book appealing to a wide audience.

Jungle Gym by Stephen Krensky
J's Papa gave this book to him on Christmas. It's a cute rhyming, touch-and-feel counting book. Some time ago, Papa made a game out of teaching J silly little exercises, so this was a very fitting gift. Like the animals in the book, J and his Papa do push-ups, jumping jacks, and stretches. Goofy.

Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb by Al Perkins
Another silly rhyming book, this one was given to J from Nina. It's an oldie from 1969, and the rhythm is very Dr. Seuss-esque. When we were growing up, my brothers and I had this book and my mom remembers reading it over and over again. Apparently, when she saw it at the bookstore she could immediately recall most of the text and just knew J needed a copy. Here's a funny excerpt that J has been reenacting randomly while playing.

Kitten's First Full Moon by Kevin Henkes
This 2005 Caldecott Medal winner is just too fun to pass up. Kitten is so adorable, as is the adventure she goes on as she tries to reach that big bowl of milk in the sky.
Which books did you give or receive this holiday season? Or, do you have any current favorites, whether they're gifts or not?
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Thursday, January 1, 2009

At Year's End

* C, J, and I celebrated with family & friends

* I embraced my inner nerd and won a game of Balderdash

* We ate way too much with the intention of making changes beginning Jan. 1

* I "get" (and love) the concept of blogging

* C and I laugh every day at the hilarity of life with a toddler

* I have set writing goals for myself

* C and I have become a rather good book reviewers (if I may say so)

* Our family has made excellent use of "family time" throughout the year. Whether it be FNT (Family Nap Time), cuddling up together with books, using our memberships to the Columbus Zoo and Franklin Park Conservatory, visiting the library, or taking mini-vacations, we've had a lot of fun.

* and, of course, I have some resolutions for 2009. I don't always make resolutions, but the ones I am committing myself to this year really speak to me and seem attainable. Wish me luck!

Happy New Year! Best wishes to all for a happy, healthy 2009.