Tuesday, August 14, 2012

I Love Summer! The Farmers Market


One of my favorites things to do on a Saturday in summer is to head to our local farmers market!  There's live music, a kids corner, artisan wares, and gorgeous food.  These are a few things that typically fill my bag: fresh bread from A Bread Affair, a large carton of blueberries, eggs, and specialty soup/salad mixes (which are great for filling in meals during the week!)  I also couldn't resist the red kale on this particular trip; and though we missed it this time, we love to get a few ready-to-go soups from my favorite restaurant in town, Big Feast!

Do you frequent the local farmers markets in near you?  What are some of your favorite buys?

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Thoughtful Thursday

"Of all created things, the loveliest and most divine are children."
                                                                     - William Canton
Trying Hopscotch!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Parenting is a Heartbreak

Our Exhausted Boy.

There are so many reasons I feared becoming a parent.  I put it off for years, ultimately, because I just didn't think I wanted to face the heartbreak that parenting can be . . . that feeling of always wearing your heart outside of your body because you have so much love for this being you call your child.  It's part of the package and I knew that from the get-go.

Taking the plunge has been life-changing in the best of ways, but there is no lack of those heartbreaking moments I so feared.  Yesterday Beansprout had a peanut challenge at the Allergy Clinic at Children's Hospital.  Neither Matt nor I have serious allergies, so I wasn't at all worried a few years back when we first introduced Beansprout to peanut butter.  To my great surprise however, he had an immediate reaction.  I have to pause for a minute and admit right now that I was one of those people who could never really understand this whole peanut allergy phenomenon.  It did not seem nearly so prevalent when I was a child and I half thought it was due to over-functioning, paranoid, helicopter parents.  I guess the joke's on me.  When we gave peanut butter to him for the first time, Beansprout's lips swelled within the first minute and he vomited twice before we got out of the driveway with our Care Card in hand.  His belly was covered in hives by the time we got to the hospital, which was within 5 minutes  (We live quite close to a hospital!) of his eating the tiniest sliver of it!   Lucky for us, a shot of Benadryl was all that was necessary, but I now completely understand the hyper-vigilance of families with food allergies.  

Fast forward to November of this last year when the dreaded prick test and blood work done at our initial visit with the Allergy Clinic showed only a mild reaction to the food.  Some kids outgrow their nut allergies, so based on the low numbers with the blood work we scheduled an in-office peanut challenge.  I guess science isn't always exact.  Yesterday, Beansprout spent three hours trying a little more Reese's Peanut Buttercup every fifteen minutes, but in the last five minutes of the challenge he vomited all over the Clinic hallway.  Heart. Break.

It's one of thousands, I know.  We have countless heartbreaking moments ahead of us, but that doesn't make it easier.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Thoughtful Thursday

Morning Playtime.

"Every cliche about kids is true; they grow up so quickly, you blink and they're gone, and you have to spend the time with them now. But that's a joy."

                                                                   --Liam Neeson

Monday, July 16, 2012

Home ownership love!?!

Our home.

I have spent the past few months trying to love my house despite its flaws.  I'm sure many of you can relate to the fact that this is often times no easy task.  It never fails that when I sit down at the end of the day and survey the place or, more specifically, when I'm struggling to open or close the kitchen drawer for the zillionth time, I grumble.  I grumble about the kitchen, the bathrooms, the driveway, and the deck - the list could go on and on.  I'm always thinking of ideas on how we could change things, and there are so many things that need to be done.  Admittedly, we totally knew this going in; we knew the house hadn't been updated for 20+years, yet felt we had to have it.  It's unique, it fits.  Hence my resolution a few months back to try to love the house and speak kindly of it.  I figure we're going to be together a long time, so I'm hoping that a loving approach will make things easier on everyone.  

How do you look at your house?  Do you see all that you love or all that needs to be done?  

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Thoughtful Thursday

"Nothing I've ever done has given me more joys and rewards 
than being a father to my children."
                                                                                           --Bill Cosby

Shoulder Bi-plane!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Summer Routine!

Summer Sillies!

I know family and friends back home have been sweating for months now, but Summer only arrived here last week.  Needless to say, we have been enjoying every minute of it!  I love swinging into the summer routine - laid-back mornings, picnics in the park, and early evening bike rides.  This pretty much describes my days with a three-year-old. . . 

7:00: wake up
7:30: breakfast
8:00-10:00: read books, clean up, pack for outing
10:00-1:00: meet up with friends for picnic at playground, spray park, or someone's home
1:00-3:00: nap (YES!  He's still napping, shhhhhh.)
3:00-5:00: read lots of books, play in sandbox or with Aquaplay
5:00-7:00: prepare dinner, eat, evening walk or bike ride
7:00: Three-year-old's bathtime!
8:00:  Three-year-old's bedtime!
9:00: ahhhhhhhh . . .  three-year-old is asleep!
9:00-11:00: time for ME!

Things differ here and there and I have to count the sometimes morning and oft afternoon episodes of Cat in the Hat or Max & Ruby or Franklin and Friends.  In any case, I count myself lucky.

Do you have different routines in the summer?  What is your favorite part about the switch-over?

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Month in Photos - June 2012

June Favorites
In and Out of the Sandbox.
Helping with the plumbing.
Reading with Momma.
Line 'em up with E. and C.
"I need a tis-u!"
Storytime with Tracey.
Daddy time!

It's amazing to see how different Beansprout is just since January.  He is always talking and not afraid to chat with anyone who will listen.  He often mentions his "friends" and loves to have play dates!  Though not as independent as some, he is expanding on his independence every day.  On the other hand, he still enjoys mimicking things we do and I love that he is just as cuddly as ever.  (I will hold on to that for as long as I can!)  I lamented last summer that it was his last year of babyhood, but I'm just as thrilled with this stage.  He is all BOY, but he still loves being reminded of when he was a baby and he doesn't have any reservations holding on to some "baby" ways.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Friday Favorites

On Daddy's lap.
(Love those curls!)
We're Going On a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and illustrated by Helen Oxenbury is one of our all-time favorites!  A classic.  I'm thrilled to know that it's a book that Beansprout's cousins also enjoy.  The way I read this book with him is borrowed from my sister -- she reads with an almost chant, adds knee claps, and uses some great animation.  It is one of my favorite memories, watching her read the book to my nephew :)  This picture is from last summer, but it's still a book on our shelves and will be for a long time to come.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Thoughtful Thursday

Grammy's Handmade Books

So please, oh PLEASE, we beg, we pray, Go throw your TV set away, And in its place you can install, a lovely bookshelf on the wall. 
                                                                          - Roald Dahl, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Recorded Readings

It's so much fun to listen to my sister read these stories!  I'm just as hooked as Beansprout!

In an effort to be present in my nephews' lives while being so far away, I decided to record myself reading books for them.  When I moved out here from Michigan, it was one thing to maintain a connection with my oldest nephew, but only seeing the younger ones once or twice a year felt a real challenge to me.  The CDs have been a huge hit!  Not only do the boys still enjoy listening to me read to them as they fall asleep, but I was also able to make an instant connection with my nephew whom I had only met once before.  On one trip home, it made us all laugh when my (then) 2-year-old nephew gave me this wide-eyed stare when he heard me talking.  You could almost see the light bulb going on in his head as he made the connection between me and the "Aunt Shell" on his CD.  

Our latest read from Auntie!

Lucky for me, my sister has since done the same thing for Beansprout!  He and I will often listen to her stories when we're sitting around playing - I especially like to put them on when I'm feeling a little bit homesick.  Just as it did with me and my nephews, listening to my sister read aloud had really helped Beansprout make a connection to who "Auntie" is.  He can name everyone by their picture, but I love that he also has a voice connection to her and can recognize her even on the phone.

To do these recordings my sister and I both used Audacity.  It's a free download and it's pretty easy to use, even for people who aren't extremely tech-savvy.  It's something I highly recommend for anyone living far away from family!  

Hallmark Recordable Stories are easy to use and a great way to keep in touch!

There are other options that have been really fun for us, too.  The grandparents have sent recordable books from Hallmark, which we love!  At Beansprout's age the nice thing about these books is that he can control flipping the pages and listening to the story.  He often goes back and forth between one or two pages listening again and again.  I get the feeling sometimes that he is just trying to soak in their voices.  Only yesterday he said, "Momma, Grandma's going to read me a story," which is what she says in her introduction to reading the book.  Soooo sweet!  I am really grateful that we have these small ways of helping Beansprout stay connected to the people who love him so much!

Do you live far from family?  What are some ways you try to keep your family close?  

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Guest Post: Helping Children with Their Internal World

I'm so excited to have my first guest post today!  Deanne Yalkin has been working with children and adolescents for over 15 years and has a wealth of knowledge on how to help children understand their inner emotions.  I feel so lucky to have her wisdom in my life and I know that you will take away something valuable from her words today!

Photo Courtesy of D Sharon Pruitt via Flick Creative Commons

Kids, teens and adults (all humans, really :) ) use stories to help them make sense of our world. Sometimes this means the world around us - but often times it means our INTERNAL world - a world teeming with thoughts, feelings, wishes, desires and intentions.  EVERY child's internal world is under initial contruction - shifting, stretching, and developing by way of wonders & fears, joy & disappointment, learning & refining, connecting & misunderstanding, confusion & 'knowing'.  This internal world is crucial to the development of a sense of self in childhood.

One of the greatest powers we have as parents is the power to ACKNOWLEDGE and HONOR our child's unique internal landscape.  Books can help provide a child with a verbal map - one their child can use to begin to share their internal world. 
Many parents find it helpful to use books to introduce basic terms and definitions of feelings.  Learning to identify and verbalize internal feeling states lays the foundation for important life skills like impulse control, problem solving and conflict resolution. 

The following early childhood books are particularly effective at introducing terms and desciptions of basic feeling states.  Young children seem to appreciate the fun, playful and creative way these authors present human emotions!

     The Feelings Book by Todd Parr
     Lots of Feelings by Shelly Rotner
     How Are You Peeling?: Foods with Moods by Freymann & Elffers
     The Way I Feel by Janan Cain
     My Many Colored Days by Dr. Seuess

Deanne Yaklin, LCSW Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist

Monday, June 25, 2012

Children's Books Adults Love

There are so many great books written for children and youth that adults can really enjoy.  The titles I'm thinking of will come as no surprise, especially with so many of them being book-turned-movie material.  I feel they warrant mention in any case.  If you haven't read these books, most are real page-turners with some truly wonderful universal themes on life.

Oh, The Places You'll Go! by Dr. Seuss
Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
Twilight Series by Stephanie Meyer
Hunger Games Series by Suzanne Collins
The Golden Compass Series by Phillip Pullman
The Hobbit Series J.R.R. Tolkien
The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

There is one book I would add to the list, that I haven't seen popularized the way I feel it should be. Before Beansprout was born we went to a talk by author, David Bouchard.  He spent a lot of time talking about the importance of reading to boys and expressed how determined he became to read more himself so he would be a role model for his own boys.  When one of the audience members asked him for some of his favorite reads we were frantically writing them down.  However, he spent time a bit of time explaining his experience with one book in particular, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, by Kate DiCamillo.  He wasn't lying when he warned that you shouldn't read the book in public - I cried big sobs at the end.   This is a wonderful book for older children and would make for a great read aloud (except that I would never get through it with all of my tears!)  It's book I highly recommend and one I think adults will also really enjoy!

It's so hard to write these lists, knowing that readers must have wonderful lists of their own!  I would love to hear what you would add -- what children's/youth literature have you enjoyed as an adult?

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Ten Tips for Finding Books at the Library

I always wonder how people approach the overwhelming number of books at the library.  The pressure is almost daunting.  Here's a little system I've found that works for me:

1. Judge a book by it's cover.
A number of years ago, I bought The Incredible Book Eating Boy, by Oliver Jeffers.  I bought it for my nephew because the title really caught my eye.  When I opened it up to check it out, I found it was easy to read aloud and a fun story. Of course there may be times you miss out on a great book if you only use this method; but often it helps, especially if you find yourself trying to do a quick scan of books to grab as your toddler wrestles at your leg.
2. Go to the bookstore first.
I always get ideas for books at the bookstore!  I often just take a picture with my phone or  write a few titles down to check out at the library.  I wish I could say that I have a highly efficient way of managing this, but it never seems to work that way.  The reality is that having it in my phone has been the most useful, so I can just pull out my phone when I'm at the library and find what I need.
3. Check out Bestseller and Award-Winner Lists
The New York Times features a picture books and a chapter books bestseller list.  I also check magazines -- Parents magazines specifically features a page for children's books and  is a great place to find music for kids too!  I find there's no losing when you look for the award winners!  In North America you can check out the following:  Newbery, Caldecott, Canadian Library Association, Governor General's Literary Award.
Here's another great link from the University of Calgary for book awards from other countries: Children's Book Awards.  
4. Follow go-to authors.
I mentioned that Beansprout is really enjoying Melanie Watts' Scaredy Squirrel books, so when I saw You're Finally Here by the same author, I knew we had to check it out.  It's usually a safe bet that your child will enjoy another book from a great author!
5. Talk to your librarian.
It seems obvious, but the librarians in the children's section are incredibly helpful!  When we first started with wordless picture books, our librarian was wonderful at helping me find more that we could enjoy.
6. Use the HOLD system.
If your library has a hold system, this is the best way to get your hands on the books that you found from #3.  Everyone wants these books, so I find putting a hold request allows us to get them much more quickly.  This is also a huge time-saver when you don't have time to browse.
7. Ask a friend
I'm always checking out the bookshelves of our friends.  I often talk about with friends about what they are reading, so it's a great idea to ask what they're reading with their children too!  You're sure to get a few great titles!
8. Pick a theme
This takes a little more planning, but even if you're in the library for a quick visit, you can usually find at least one section where books are featured by themes, especially during the holidays!
9. Go to story time
Our story time librarians always have a table of books out when we walk in.  I have grabbed books off of there a number of times.  I've also found that checking out the book the librarian read during story time is not only a great way to revisit the book, but these books are always easy read-alouds!
10. Revisit favorites
There are times when I've gone out and bought a favorite book we read from the library, but that can tend to get expensive.  Checking out the book again on a separate visit to the library makes a favorite-read new again!

Any tips you'd add to the list?  What's your favorite part of going to the library?  (Is it obvious Beansprout is more interested in the toys than the books from the picture above?  He does enjoy sitting down and reading, but the toys are the first thing he goes for!)

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Learning and Understanding Feelings Through Books

"Mom, I'm bored."

The last few months Beansprout has surprised me by reciting entire lines from some of our books as if they are his own words.  It started with a line from one of the Berenstain Bears books, Sister Bear is home sick and says, "Mom, I'm bored.  Can I watch some TV?"  When he repeated this line verbatim, I must have given Beansprout the oddest look!  It seemed like he was actually talking to me, but he had never used the word "bored" and has never asked to watch "TV" - he usually asks to watch the iPad or specifies his favorite show.  I was completely dumbfounded.  After a second, I realized where it came from and played my part as Momma Bear by replying, "Are you sure you're feeling well enough to watch TV?"  We've rehearsed these lines a few times, and since then I've noticed that it is typically the lines about feelings that he enjoys playing with.  "I'm lonely," is one of the more recent ones.  At first my heart starts to break and then I realize he is referring to the story by Jamie Lee Curtis, Today I Feel Silly and Other Moods that Make My Day.  Phew!

Today I Feel Silly and Other Moods That Make My Day by Jamie Lee Curtis

I guess he's trying to understand the tone and the feeling that matches these words.  The line about feeling lonely usually comes out at night as he's getting ready for bed.  I'm not sure if he is actually having some of these feelings or if he truly is just trying the words on for size.  In any case, he doesn't even realize how spot-on he is with some of his word choices -- I have to laugh when he borrows another line from Curtis' book, "This family is weird!"  

I Was So Mad by Mercer Mayer

It's fascinating that simply reading stories to him can help him gain the vocabulary he needs to express himself.  Covert emotion coaching at it's finest!  We love reading the story from Mercer Mayer, I Was So Mad!  We use our best pouting/angry inflection and have him fill in the lines every-few-pages to make it even more fun.  That's the appeal of so many of the stories from Mayer and the Berenstains- they provide the context to refer back to when Beansprout is struggling with his moods.  Whether he initiates or we do, I love the power of storytelling as a parenting tool.

What are some of your favorite stories dealing with emotions?  

Friday, June 22, 2012

Friday Favorites - Sara O'Leary

Where You Came From by Sara O'Leary

I don't know why I'm surprised, but little people tend to have rather big opinions.  When I think of all of our favorite books, I realize that though we have some of the same favorites, often times our lists differ quite a bit.  There are plenty of books and stories we own that Beansprout always enjoys and that I, quite frankly, try to avoid.  

One of the stories that always makes me laugh - Henry's father tells him he was found at the supermarket.
Where You Came From by Sara O'Leary is one of my favorites.  The illustrations are adorable and the story feels like it suits our family perfectly -- young Henry wants to know where he came from and his parents have a series of outrageous little stories they tell him.  There's something about the way the conversation goes back and forth between the parents as they "remember" where Henry came from that reminds me of the teasing ways we have with our Beansprout.  He enjoys the book more now that he's older, but it's definitely more my favorite than his.  In any case, it's a read I highly recommend for anyone, but I think it's especially great for children beginning to hit that questioning stage of where they come from.  

Can you think of any books that perfectly fit a particular questioning stage or any other stages?

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Thoughtful Thursday

"Books are a uniquely portable magic."
                              -- Stephen King

Reading in his chair: March 2010

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Make-Your-Own Books - Part 2

I love that I'm constantly inspired by the ideas I see on all these blogs I read; however, it's easy to just keep collecting inspiration and then never actually DO anything.  (Hello, Pinterest!)  So I was pretty proud of myself when I finally got around to doing a special book for Beansprout.  I love the Modern Parents Messy Kids Personalized Alphabet Book and the DIY I-Spy Book from Delia Creates.  After doing some staged toy scenes for another project, I decided it would be fun to do an I-Spy book with Beansprout's toys!  

Photo book made with MyPublisher

Cars, Cars, Cars!

Trains, Trains, Trains!

I created this book with a 2/3-year old in mind, and even added some numbers in the hopes that it will hold interest for awhile longer.  I love that we have a little book documenting his favorite toys.  Although I'm not thrilled with the photos, (they are way too yellow due to a lack of natural light, as it's nearly impossible to photograph your child's toys when he is awake) I have made myself feel better with the thought that a toddler wouldn't notice the difference.  I hope to redeem myself next time and already have plans to try a little I-Spy series with larger scenes to make it more difficult as he gets older.

Aquarium Picture Book.

It's fun to think of ideas for books for Beansprout, but the I-Spy book involved a bit more work than I realized.  So after a trip to the aquarium, I was happy to be able to quickly put a book together to remind him of our visit.  We enjoy talking about the sea animals again and again!  I also think Beansprout really likes the fact that he shows up in a few of the pictures.  There are no words at all - I simply put the photos into MyPublisher, switched a few things around, and viola!
Beansprout featured in his Aquarium Picture Book.

Am I inspiring you to put together your own books for kids?  For yourself?  Wouldn't it make the perfect gift for a niece or nephew, grandchild, or family friend!?! 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Reading on the iPad

Fish School App for the iPad

I think Beansprout has learned his ABCs from the iPad.  Yep, it's true.  I have tried really hard not to be too "teacher" with the little guy, so I've let all that kind of stuff be - we read together and have fun and that's that.  Yet, I have noticed recently when I ask him which letter comes next, that he knows the answer!  I've had my hesitations about technology with him, but right around when he turned two, we started downloading apps and letting him play around a little bit.  There's a great app that sings the ABC song and has fish and popping bubbles and Beansprout loves it!  So, he's learned the alphabet.

Though there are some great learning apps, I have had a hard time accepting children's books on the iPad.  We've purchased Cat in the Hat, Meet Toby: A Thomas Story, and Dr. Seuss' ABCs, but I'm not convinced Beansprout sees the iPad as a reader.  He's happier keeping the two separate -- doing an interactive thing on the iPad and interacting with me and a book on my lap.  I was intrigued when I saw an article on the subject from Slate magazine.  The author mentions that the iPad offers some pretty cool features, but also isn't convinced that his child likes it more than an actual book.  I think there must be something to the bonding that I discussed in my post the other day.  What children love about reading stories is the attention and the closeness they get from their parents, so it's easy to understand their preference -- as soon as an electronic device is present, the interactions are gone.  

I have always been rather tactile/kinesthetic myself.  I'm the person you'll see touching all of the racks of clothing in the store, just because I want to see how it feels.  So it still surprises me that I've grown to like the iPad reader for myself - I love the feel and the smell and the look of books, I didn't think I could give that up.  I'm still reading printed books, but I've found it's pretty convenient to have books on the iPad, too.  Is it unfair to enjoy it for myself, but not think it appropriate for my little guy?  Maybe when he's older and reading on his own . . .

What are your thoughts on the e-reader?  What do you think future reading will look like for young people today?

Monday, June 18, 2012

What's Your Ideal Book Shelf?

Jane Mount's Ideal Bookshelf 439: DCE
I've seen the artwork from Jane Mount mentioned a few times over the last year or so and more recently featured on Apartment Therapy.  She started with an etsy shop, where you could purchase pieces she already had created or commission your own piece -- a painting which imagines all of your favorite books on one shelf.  Such a brilliant idea!  How I wouldn't love to own one of these pieces for myself!  As I looked around for links to her work, I found that she even has a book coming out in November -- intriguing stuff!  Hope you'll check it out!

I've been thinking about the few books I still have from my childhood and decided that the ideal bookshelf for my 10-year-old-self would likely include the following:

Black Beauty by Anna SewellCharlotte's Web by E.B. WhiteNancy Drew Mystery Stories by Carolyn KeeneWhere the Sidewalk Ends by Shel SilversteinLittle House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls WilderThe House at Pooh Corner by A.A. Milne

So the question begs: What do you picture on your ideal bookshelf?  How would this bookshelf have changed over the years?  I can't wait to hear your thoughts!!!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Happy Father's Day!

Father's Day Collage!
I tried to capture a few pics of Beansprout and his Daddy to celebrate Father's Day today.  Lucky for me he was in a photographing mood . . . I couldn't move quickly enough to get my camera when Matt had him re-enacting the frog pose from his newborn days.  Too cute!

Reading Spaces

Reading in his big-boy room!

Some of the pictures I'm most drawn to in magazines and on Pinterest and Apartment Therapy seem to be the cozy nooks people have created for reading.  The hanging daybed on the porch, the window seat turned daybed, and the kids' tents filled with pillows and blankets and BOOKS - all of these images beckon me.  It must be the romantic feel of it all - summer sun, light breeze, glass of tea, comfy spot, and a book.  A little piece of heaven.

Love the shades!

The reality is much more practical when it comes to reading spaces in our home.  Most often the couch and the chair in the living room seem to be the places where we cozy up and read.  I guess this is just the reading habit we've formed - this is where we are, this is where the books are, this is what works.  We do have a special beanbag chair in the playroom that is perfect for lounging back and reading, but for the most part we just tend to pick up a book where we're at and read.

I guess as Beansprout gets older and wants to read on his own, having one of those cozy spots might just be the perfect thing for him.  I know when I'm reading a book I'm really into, I may as well be in a cave, as I am glued to the book and unable to hear anything that is going on around me anyway.  It would be nice for Beansprout to be able to take himself away with a book and I love the idea of it being a special reading place that we've created.

Beanbag chair reading.

For now I'll take the more open spaces - where we're all together.  There is nothing sweeter than hearing Beansprout in his own reading corner reading aloud in a whisper.  I also find myself laughing out loud when I listen to Matt and Beansprout reading together.  It's fun to see how differently Matt might approach reading a book aloud  and he's definitely better at the voices and sound effects!

"Hey, Momma!  Let's read this!"

Do you have a special place for reading?  What are your thoughts on the importance of being able to get away from the distractions of family life to get into a book?

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Boys and Reading

Reading with Daddy 2 months old.

I am grateful my guys have such a bond over reading.  There are horrifying statistics about boys and reading and countless strategies people are using to try and win them over.  That's part of the reason why the Mem Fox book, Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to Our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever, has loomed large for me since Beansprout was first born.  At the end she addresses the concerns and argues not only that we make readers out of children in the crib, but also that we need to assure it is fathers who are reading to their sons (and daughters!)

"It's fathers who need to be there from the start, reading aloud and showing love to their kids from the first hours of their lives; and thereafter as often as they can (or at least at bedtimes) for the next five years."

It's amazing that so much more goes into the whole process of reading aloud with children than simply telling them a story and building their language.  These are moments of bonding and that bonding creates stronger brains and gives children so much more than just a vocabulary and an ability to read.

Storytime with Momma -- 6 weeks old.

There are times when it is really hard to read that book Beansprout requests for the hundredth time - to put down what I want to be doing and read a book I already know by heart; and so it is in those moments that I remember the message from Mem Fox, drop what I'm doing, and connect.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Friday Favorites - Series Books

Once we find a book we really like, it's wonderful when we learn there is a series!  Usually these aren't quite sequels, rather they just continue the story of the character, but it's wonderful to learn more about them.  Last week I mentioned a few of our favorite board books and some of them just happen to be part of a series -- Bear Snores On and the other books in that series and our other favorite, The Little Blue Truck has been followed up with, Little Blue Truck Leads the Way.

Reading time.

We also own two of the Knuffle Bunny books!  I practically cry every time I read the last one in the series, as Mo Willems writes a little tribute to his daughter at the end.  I think the sentiment that she may have actually given her Knuffle Bunny away and that it could one day come back to her when she has her own child is just too much serendipity for me.  

Reading with Daddy
In the last six months or so, Beansprout has been moving into his big boy books.  He loves the Mercer Mayer series!  I can't imagine how many times I have had to read them to him, so it feels merciful to me that there are at least other stories to be told about Little Critter.  It's also nice that these books come rather inexpensive; we've been known to pick them up more than once for a nice little surprise even at the grocery store.  Bernenstain Bears are also a set of books Beansprout can't get enough of!  The fact that there are little lessons or specific experiences in both of these series has been quite useful with our little guy.  When he had to go to the dentist for the first time, we were already prepared (thanks to our thoughtful good friend!) with Little Critter Goes to the Dentist.  He's still a bit young to really get all of the lessons from Brother and Sister Bear, but we talk about them often and they serve as a starting point for getting Beansprout to do things such as set the table.

Scaredy Squirrel is the latest hit.  At first I wasn't sold on these books, as they seemed a bit too busy for my taste.  However, we have two of the books by author Melanie Watt, and Beansprout and Matt have been enjoying them immensely.  They've even determined that Beansprout would make a good squirrel friend, as he passes Scaredy Squirel's friend test every time.

I can't wait to start series chapter books with Beansprout, but we aren't quite there yet.  Any book series you would recommend for kids big or small?  I'd love to hear what your favorites are!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Thoughtful Thursday

Morning Reading

"Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are."
                                                  --Mason Cooley

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Book Storage

Living Room Book Storage.

Books on the Ottoman.

I mentioned in my first post this month, that we are bursting at the seams with books.  It's a good problem to have, as one of the most important ways to make a reader is to offer him an abundance of things to read.  The trouble is deciding what to do with all of the books!  I have all but one book case left in the living room now, it's the one with the doors where I hide all of our paperwork and office-y stuff.  Every shelf of the other two bookcases was taken over long ago by the toddler in our house.

In an effort to create a sense or order and to make clean-up time a bit more manageable, I finally took some time to organize them.  The baskets now hold his Wild Baby Magazines, his board books, and the soft cover books that tend to be all different sizes, while all the hard cover books take up the rest of the shelves vertically.  And, because our house has that lived-in look, I love how a few books are always on the side table or on the ottoman just waiting to be picked up and read aloud.

More and more BOOKS!
That's just the living room.  I have found that having books in every room is not only good for the reader, but also keeps me from going insane with too many books in one spot.  One of my favorite forms of book storage is using picture rails.  This method of storing books is also much better for children, because they can easily recognize all of their books from the front cover.  I was really excited when we finally installed some picture shelves to hold the books in Beansprout's room (which is now the office).  The fact that the extra special books can be placed up out of reach but can still be seen is even better.  Is it wrong to admit that I am secretly happy these are now part of the office?  I have images of OUR books and MY magazines filling the shelves in the near future . . .

Beansprout's book shelf.
Stool with books.

Though I feel our book storage reality pales to all of the book storage ideas I have in my mind and see on the creative blogs, I like the systems that have developed.  In Beansprout's room, he has the tow truck shelf sitting on top of another little table that also holds a few books and a little stool sits next to his bed with nighttime stories.  As well, the Expedit from IKEA allows us to create interesting shelving displays that hold both books and toys in his room and in the playroom.

Not so fancy under-bed storage.

I don't know if just pushing books underneath the bed can be considered thoughtful storage, but it allows us to have Beansprout books in our room without taking up any drawer or shelf space, so it works for us!

There are so many wonderful ideas out there for book storage!  Just today I saw this link to KidCrave via Modern Parents Messy Kids.  A whole display of fun and unique book shelves for kids.  Do you happen to drool over the same types of storage for books?  Any good secrets you have up your sleeve for organization and storage?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Have a Book Party!

I've been in a book club for a few years now and one of my favorite traditions is our book exchange and children's book donation at our December meeting.  We don't make a special party out of it, but I love the fact that a big bag of books is dropped off to be given as needed and that we keep books circulating by exchanging a favorite off of our own book shelves.

A few of the blogs I follow have had book-themed parties and there are a ton of great ideas for the perfect finishing touches on pinterest!  I thought it would be fun to highlight some of the stuff I've found - maybe it will be the perfect inspiration for your own book party this summer :)

Library Party from Ruffles and Stuff!
Daisy, from Ruffles and Stuff, just threw a library party for her little 5-year-old.  The details are adorable!  She has thought of it all: book invites, reading glasses for the kids, and cute party favors, which all come together to make the perfect party for any age!

I think I really like that there are so many different ways you can add details to book a party!  I've individually linked these pins below - there are some great printables, a wonderful Mothergoose-themed menu, and lots of other ideas for incorporating books into the party decorations!

All Things Books Board on Pinterest!

From left to right:

Pin #1    Pin #2    Pin #3    Pin #4    Pin #5

Pin #6    Pin #7    Pin #8    Pin #9    Pin #10

Hope you enjoy!  Happy Reading!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Parenting Books

At the moment there is one book in particular that I have to talk about if you're at all interested in parenting books!  I think all parents (and teachers) should read this book -- it is well-written and easy to relate to.  The Whole Brain Child, by Daniel Siegel, takes brain research and applies it to kids and their emotions.  He and his writing partner, Tina Payne Bryson, use specific examples of parenting issues such as tantrums to show not only how you can help your child re-group but also how you can use the moments to re-connect.

iPad Screenshot via Kindle

I realize as soon as I write the words "brain research" some people may be immediately turned off, thinking it's too heavy in doctor/psychologist speak, but in reality it is quite the opposite.  Siegel and Bryson break down the important aspects of brain research and apply them in an everyday way that doesn't dumb down the material, but makes it completely accessible.  They include specific strategies you can use to help children fully develop their brains and to integrate the parts of their brains.  They even use illustrations that may be useful in helping your child with those big emotions that occur when our brain isn't "integrated".  

Siegel explains that young brains are constantly being rewired and that the different experiences we offer them will wire it in different ways.  This brain research shows that our parenting directly affects and shapes a child's brain.  I am so excited by how transformational this research can be for parenting and educating!  On the one hand there are many parent-child interactions that feel natural and innate which now have brain research to back up why they work.  And on the other hand, there are some great strategies you can learn that approach parenting a little differently than our own parents may have.  

I highly recommend it to anyone who interacts with kids, as it gives me hope that we can continue to help raise emotionally intelligent young people who are ready for the world.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Beyond Books - Creating Skits

Even when Beansprout had limited language skills, he loved creating skits based on the books we were reading.  I remember one of his favorites being a re-enactment from Bear Wants More, by Jane Wilson, where Bear gets stuck, because he has eaten too much and can't fit into his cave anymore.  Matt and I would "get stuck" in the play tunnel and Beansprout would have to pull us out.  He thought this was absolutely hilarious and wanted to play again and again.  At that time he didn't need much language and it was an easy way to make a connection to his reading.  
Dingo Dog & Officer Flossie 

Beansprout's ever-expanding language skills have helped us keep talking about his books more and more.  The most recent skit we've been working on is inspired by Richard Scary's Cars and Trucks and Things That Go.  This book has been one of our favorites since Beansprout got it for his first birthday, and I find it amazing that it continues to inspire him two years later!  The fun in this skit is the fact that Beansprout, acting as Dingo Dog, is getting away with something.  He commits a traffic violation and Officer Flossie, starring Momma or Daddy, yells after him with a "ticket" in hand.  It makes him giggle like crazy and he yells back, "I'm not stopping!" as he bikes away.  This skit has been adapted for the "gate" in the hallway we've created with a cardboard box, too -- someone goes through the gate without a key and is chased after to be given a ticket.  To Beansprout these are fun games, but in my eyes they really are the beginnings of making something out of literature.  

How have children's books inspired your play?  How do you make connections to their books after story time is over?