Are you going to be yelling at your TV tonight and want your kids to understand why? Here are my picks for some great election and political books to start talking to your kids about what it means to live in a democracy. (And no, you don’t have to start with negative campaigning, although it appears that’s a big part of it now…)
The Wizard of Why is loving the reading right now. It’s so cute. He gets so excited when he sees a word on the street that he knows. He loves asking me “why does that say —-” and then getting my crazy reaction of “WHAT!? You can read that?!” He’s a long way from reading his own books, but the process is so amazingly fun to watch. And just thinking about the whole world that opens up when you start to be able to read…I’m just so excited for him!
I found this book at the library recently and we loved it. It’s definitely for a slightly older crowd (I believe it was written with spelling, not reading in mind), but since he’s into looking at words right now it was perfect for him. It emphasizes suffixes, word endings, which you wouldn’t think made for a fun book, but it does. The story is fun: a class of kids are about to go for summer vacation but first they need to complete the last lesson of the year on suffixes. This proves more difficult when the suffixes hear the teacher say the class is going to “tackle” them after lunch and they go into hiding.
The illustrations are bright and fun and the whole book is written with the suffixes bolded and colored:
He pointed at the board The he stared. “Good grief,” he said. “This is the craziest year of my teaching life! No summer vacation until the words endings are found! Seriously!”
I highly recommend this book for kids learning to read and older kids learning to spell!
Everyone else has WAY cooler blog names for their family than I do. Ironic Mom Leanne Shirtliffe calls her twins Thing 1 and Thing 2. Kathryn Apel, children’s writer and author of This is the Mud, interviews a young writer named Squashed Cupcake. And Chase McFadden blogs at Some Species Eat Their Young while referring to his four children as Slim, Perpetual Motion, The Hellcat, and Tax Break #4.
After a lot of brainstorming with my husband, I’d like to introduce my family. Although it’s only fair to note that my husband did NOT agree to his own nickname. Tough luck on that one.
Middle School Crush: My husband, whom I met in seventh grade, likes to fuel my enthusiasm for my own writing with comments such as “what was your book about again?” And a personal favorite, said not too long ago as I was plotting out my chapters on sticky notes all over the walls, “Is that really helpful, or is it like rearranging deck chairs?”
The Wizard of Why: My 3-year-old makes me realize how much I don’t know about the world with all the questions he asks. Things we’ve talked about in the past 24 hours:
- whether or not robots live in outer space
- why robots don’t “live”
- why some robots don’t have faces
- why trains don’t need steering wheels (this was upsetting)
- why large cats with sharp teeth eat meat and what exactly meat is (also upsetting, but not as much as not steering trains, partially because he doesn’t believe me about the meat)
- why a T. Rex eats “real meat” and why that may or may not be made from animals (this was a heated discussion)
- why an hour is 60 minutes and why a minute is 60 seconds and how long that all takes exactly
- why the dashboard of my car tells me how much gas we are using
- why some cars use a lot of gas
- why using too much gas is bad for the planets like Earth
- why Gyroscope’s birthday comes before his, even though Gyroscope is younger
Well, I think there was more, but you get the picture. Plus, to say we are obsessed with the Wizard of Oz is a huge understatement. We are coming up on the one year anniversary of that obsession, so that will be a good 25% of his life. So that’s the reasoning behind that one.
Gyroscope: Gyroscope, who is almost one, hasn’t stopped moving since he entered our lives, which he did as quickly as he does everything else (a mere 3 hours after announcing his intentions and a short 30 minutes after we crawled (he and I, that is) into the hospital). Favorite activities include: playing with anything the The Wizard of Why is currently playing with, crawling on the dining room table, standing on his head in a downward dog position.
So–even if you don’t have a blog, what would be your blog names for your family?
I remember the first time procrastination caught up with me in a big way. 7th grade. Native American Indian paper. A late night. Two not very happy and tired parents.
I remember this night, and give you some advice in case you see this tendency in your own children, in an article published in Northstate Parent.
If you want to read other articles I’ve published, check out this page.
I don’t remember my first day of kindergarten. I remember second grade, when I met the principal for the first time and I wrote my age (7) backwards. I had to ask for an eraser because my pencil didn’t have one and I was mortified, but he didn’t strike me dead with a lightening bolt so everything turned out okay. This book is about the first day of kindergarten, but it’s a great read for any kid at almost any point in the school year.
Title: Polka-Dot Fixes Kindergarten
Author: Catherine Urdahl
Illustrator: Mai S. Kemble
Genre: Picture Book
Ages: Perfect for 3 and up, or anyone going to preschool, kindergarten, summer camp, or anything else!
Why I loved it and how to use it with kids:
There are a lot of reasons to love this book. Here are some:
- Her name is Polka-Dot, which is the best nickname for Dorothy I’ve ever heard
- She lives with her grandfather, and I think books with non-traditional family structures are really important to show kids.
- She’s spunky and wonderful and afraid of her first day at school.
- Her grandfather fixes everything with duct tape, polka-dot bandages, and runny soap.
- He gives her a mini fix-it kit with all three of these things to take to kindergarten and she uses all of them. The runny soap doesn’t fix the mess she makes with the paints, and the bandages don’t help when she’s really sad, but the duct tape does help an enemy turn into a friend, and it saves the day, as duct tape always should.
Not only does this book have wonderful characters and absolutely gorgeous illustrations that would help any kid visualize school, but it gives parents and kids a really good idea. For those children who are too old for a binky or stufftie, or too practical for either, making them a small fix-it kit to take on their first day of a new activity might be just the thing to help them feel in control. Giving kids a sense of ownership and power is often all they need to feel a little less anxious. Maybe this is just what you need for that first day back from winter vacation! Here are some of my own ideas of things you could include in your kit:
- duct tape of course
- stickers, if you have that kind of kid (that likes to put stickers on everything to brighten up his/her world)
- small rocks or shells or feathers if you have that kind of kid (that likes to feel them in their hands to calm down)
- a small card that says how much you love them
- a photo of family
- a card with phone numbers on it
What about you? Any memories, good or bad, from your early school days? And any ideas for a back-to-school kit?
If the holidays aren’t a time for cooking, I don’t know what they are for! And my 3-year-old seems to have sensed the vibe, because he’s been spending an average of 30 minutes a day in his play kitchen recently.
He loves to cook, and I love cooking in my own kitchen while he putters away in his mini-version right next to me. As I simmer away the tomatoes and onions, he chops his velcro and wood fruit, mixes them in his mini pans and sticks them in the oven. Then he brings it over to me for a taste or insists that I sit down for a more formal meal.
And it’s even more fun when he gets up on his “learning tower” to cook along with me. So when we got this cookbook to review from OwlKids, we were both really excited. My son was very proud to show his dad that he has his very own cookbook, and it’s provided us with fun, great times together, and some really good food.
What to do with the kids:
These are simple, easy, and yummy recipes. Let your kid pick one out: the pictures will allow even kids who are too young to read to choose for themselves. Then take them to the store (or a farmer’s market if it’s summertime!) and let them help buy the ingredients.
The first recipe my son chose, much to my surprise, was the meat pie. I don’t eat red meat, and I don’t usually cook with it at home, so we used Field Roast Apple Sage sausages (which are meat-free, soy-free, and dairy-free and absolutely great). It was delicious! It was even better smothered with some Apple Butter. Hey, it’s the holidays, right?
Writing about girls and science and stereotypes and all that is wrong with the world at ParentMap.
“Look, look at that one!” my son screams from the back seat. “And that one. It’s Very, Very, Very beautiful!” There is nothing my son loves more than the fall colors on the trees, and nothing could make me smile more than to hear him wax on about their beauty. Introducing my children to the world they live in is something truly important to me, and it’s something that can be too often overlooked.
In addition to instilling an appreciation for nature in my children, it’s also important for me to bring nature into the home. Right now, I’m on somewhat of a crusade to buy natural items. I consider it an important part of creating a healthy home. Alway in the back of my mind are two things: a responsibility for the planet that seems to have been ingrained in me since growing up in the 90s (when people cared about such things) and the memory of my mother dying way too young from a disease about which we know way too little. I remember the oncologist telling her she couldn’t have conventional strawberries anymore and she should try to eat organic as much as possible. I think about that conversation almost every time I’m at the grocery store, wondering if the $3/pound apples are really worth spending the entire paycheck on. These two thoughts are always with me and since having kids they’ve been percolating, growing, until my desire to buy natural has become somewhat of an obsession.
For example, my kids don’t have a lunch box without at least an hour on the internet trying to find the safest material to transport food. Those plastic cups he used to like to drink from? Sorry, they had BPA; they are gone. And the other ones, without BPA? I’m just going to stay a step ahead of the research this time and get rid of them, too…what are the odds that there is a kind of plastic that is actually healthy for us?
No new purchase is safe from scrutiny: I recently spent probably no less than five hours researching puppet houses and puppets as a present for the kids from their great grandmother. It’s frustrating to me that I can’t find out exactly what things are made of. I finally chose one theatre because I saw a reference to “environmentally-friendly wood” and “non-toxic” paint, although I have no idea what either of those things mean. I found some wool and felt puppets to go with it.
As I take my role of nurturer more and more seriously, I find myself going further and further back to nature. Today, it’s a stainless steel lunch container. Tomorrow, it’s chicken-farming in the backyard. (My husband is really excited about that one.)
Which is why I loved finding this book at a country store in Mazama, Washington. I grabbed it immediately and flipped through it, but I knew I was going to buy it before I even opened the pages. I’ve already read it more than once. I’ve made the strawberry muffin recipe and purchased the ingredients to make my own lotion. The book is a great reminder that you don’t need to buy all the stuff you think you need. There are so many alternatives for making better, simpler, and cheaper options at home.
Chemicals, be damned. I will be a natural mom if it kills all of us.
And my husband thinks it might.
Summary and Review: This book is part how-to guide, part story of a family, part annotated calendar of a wonderful year. Co-written by the mother and father of a family with four (now five if you read their blog) children, they talk about the beautifully natural ways in which they celebrate the seasons, living outdoors and in concert with nature as much as they can. The book itself is a wonderful celebration of the importance of family and the world in which we raise our families. While there are specific recipes and craft ideas, I found it to be more inspiration than resource.
Follow up with your family:
After reading this book, I’ve been inspired to cook more with alternative ingredients–coconut oil instead of butter, brown rice syrup instead of sugar. I bought BPA-free canning jars and am about to start canning my own food. I now make my own face wash and shampoo, and even though those recipes aren’t in this book, it’s the beauty and persuasion of this book that started me on that path. (And the face wash, let me tell you, is amazing! Here’s a link to another blog that describes a make-at-home oil wash if you are interested.)
I have no doubt that if you read this book you may get something entirely different out of it. Maybe it will inspire you to sew or knit. Or maybe it will just make you smile and appreciate how good the simplicity of life with children can be.
I read a great book this week. It was penned on my living room carpet (the one wearing three years worth of stains from juice boxes and wine boxes, unsupervised sharpie markers, vomiting and potty-training children, and who knows what else).
The book is called “The furious dragon that blows fire and is not nice”. The title, as you can see, tells you a lot about the temperament of the main character. It also tells you a little bit about the temperament of the author, who is currently and lunatic-ly a three-and-a-half year-old. He narrated it as I wrote. I will relate it in its entirety, with commentary:
“First, the dragon gets in his cave. He walks around it and tries to get lions and tigers and bears.* Then the dragon gets very mad and very fast.** Then the knight comes and looks for that dragon. Then he gets on his horse. The dragon looks for that knight. The dragon keeps blowing fire and trying to look for the knight. Then the dragon finally finds the knight. The knight kicks the dragon. Then the knight dashes the dragon down.*** They still fight mean.**** Then they hit each other. Then they stop being mean. Then they hear a noise…”*****
*Scribe’s note 1: Oh my! Yes, we are VERY into the Wizard of Oz. The author is planning to be the Tin Man for Halloween.
**Scribe’s note 2: The author also gets very fast when he is very mad. I think like most first novels, this book is partly autobiographical.
***Scribe’s note 3: I’m not sure the exact meaning of “to dash down” but it is clearly violent and said with a lot of volume and emotion. (Volume and emotion go together in the same way as the previously mentioned qualities, speed and anger.)
****Scribe’s note 4: This page was written after I reminded the author that he only had a few pages left. (We had created and bound the book before writing it.) I think it was his way of saying “So what? you can’t force a peaceful resolution on me!”
*****Scribe’s note 5: Showing that he’s learning something about stories, if not his own temper, he decides when faced with the last page to end the fighting. But not the suspense. You should hear “DUH, DUH, DUH” playing as the story ends.
Follow up with the kids
No, you can’t find this book on Amazon. Not yet, at least. But you could find one a lot like it in your own living room. Sometimes the best stories for finding a connection with your kids aren’t already published and on a shelf somewhere. Sometimes you need to take a stack of paper, punch some holes, tie it together with ribbons (Halloween ribbon in our case) and let imagination fly. Chances are, you will find out something your child won’t otherwise tell you (like the fact that when he’s frustrated and doesn’t always know what to do with his anger he wishes there were a dragon he could dash down).
Writing a book like this with your child not only gives you insight into what they are feeling and thinking, it also helps them practice story-telling skills, using their imagination, feeling empathy for characters, and problem-solving (unless, of course they decide to ignore the problem in their story and just continue the fighting…)
You can be creative about how you make the book. Don’t stop with just stapling (or tying) paper together. If you have an older child who has worked hard on the book, consider scanning in the drawings and printing the book out. Or sending it to a printer as a photo album and getting a nice hardbound copy printed out. (Think holiday presents!)
If drawing isn’t your child’s thing, or they are searching for inspiration, consider cutting magazine photos for the pictures, or printing out family photos for a fun family-inspired story.
Have fun with this! And I hope your knight and dragon, or your princess and unicorn, or whatever the story is, becomes a wonderful family memory.