Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Spreading Kindness

Right now, we have a complaining problem in our house. My leg hurts, my head hurts, I had a bad day at work, so-and-so wouldn't play with me today on the playground....and on and on.

We are all guilty of engaging in what I would refer to as the "Debbie Downer Syndrome." I don't really notice it, and then when I notice the complaining it glares right back at me with a dramatic eye roll. In recognizing this problem, I have told myself each day for about a month now that I would make it through the day without complaining...

True story- I have probably made it to 6:22 am before the first complaint rolls off my tongue each day, at the latest.

But, yesterday I was invited to join a Facebook event that was created by a friend of a friend. It easily could have been ignored, but I was enticed by the title, "30 Days of Compliments."  The creator, Mr. Douglas Heavisides, whom I do not know, is on a mission to create a little more positive energy in the world to displace the negative news stream by tasking all his friends, and their friends, and their friends to just compliment one person a day for a month. Wow. What a simple, but beautiful idea.

It reminded me of Pollyanna, by Eleanor H. Porter. In the book she wrote, "The influence of a beautiful, helpful, hopeful character is contagious, and may revolutionize a whole town....People radiate what is in their minds and in their hearts. If a man feels kindly and obliging, his neighbors will feel that way, too, before long." And that is exactly what is happening. I am two days in, and I am getting so much positive energy from all the posts.

Kindness is contagious. And with kindness comes joy and happiness. Imagine that.

And isn't that what we want out of life?

Don't we want to share and spread kindness? Because it feels these days that sarcasm, anger, hate, intolerance, and stress is what most of us spread to each other. Don't we want to be remembered as being a good, kind, tolerant, helpful person? I know that is what I want for my girls. When I really think about what I hope for my daughters, being successful or wealthy doesn't top my list. I, instead, wish that they grow up to be kind, caring individuals that help others.

A couple days ago, after I put Miss J to bed, I came into Miss M's bedroom and found her sitting at her desk writing. This is what she wrote:

She was writing a story of kindness.
And that made me a proud mommy.

And so today,  I began to think about how nice it would be to share 30 days of stories that promote, foster, or teach kindness as a way to extend this 30 days of compliments exercise to our children. One book a day for 30 days. Can I do it? Not without your help.
What books do you think foster and promote kindness?
Join me in creating a list of books about kindness.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Read Every Day, Lead a Better Life Campaign

I wanted to share this message from Pam Allyn for parents everywhere about the Scholastic Read Every Day, Lead a Better Life campaign. I couldn't agree more with what she has to say about reading to your kids.

For our family, we are busy. We are up an running by 6 am every morning, and then it is a mad dash for the rest of the day.

....The bus comes at 6:50 am, then it is a race to daycare, a commute into the city, a day at the office, what seems like 9,000 emails requiring a response, a commute home, pick up two hungry kids, a mad dash to make dinner, throw two messy tired children into the tub....

Sometimes life can feel like a cross between being a hamster in a cage or a full-time marathon runner. Either way, as Ferris Bueller says, "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."

And that is what reading is for our family- it is what grounds us every day and forces us to stop and look around. Every night, without fail, I will snuggle into bed with my little love bugs and read. Sometimes it is only one book, and some nights, we will read chapter after chapter because we can't stand to put the book down. Either way, my girls know that they are guaranteed a quiet time to reflect on the day over a good book EVERY DAY.  Through reading, I have shared my favorite stories from my childhood, discovered new adventures with my daughters, and engaged in discussions about topics ranging from how many people live in China to whether Giants eating children is any different from people eating pigs.

I never expected it, but reading aloud together as a family has created a set time and place for sharing about our days and dreaming about our tomorrows. I am a firm believer in read every day, lead a better life.

Check out the Scholastic page.
My favorite resources on the site include:
The Family Guide for Ages 0-6,
The Early Literacy Milestones list,
And the booklists by age:
Ages 0-2
Ages 3-5
Ages 5-7
Ages 8-10
Ages 10-12
Young Adult/ 12+.

  What does reading every day mean to you?

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Mattie Spyglass and the 8 Magic Stones- A Review

From www.mattiespayglass.com
In  Mattie Spyglass and the 8 Magic Stones," the story of an 11-year-old girl with frizzy hair unfolds into a race across and through time in an exhilarating adventure filled with magic, mystery, and more history lessons than you would ever expect from a children's literature novel.

I happened to read about this novel on Twitter, and I was instantly drawn in by the beautiful cover illustration Dan Ungureanu. After reading an Amazon review that said it was an American Harry Potter, but better- I figured I couldn't go wrong. And that was the extent of the research that I did for the book. I logged onto my Kindle and downloaded it. I am always looking for books to read aloud to my daughter that are adventurous and keep her wanting to come back to them night after night, so I figured this would be a sure thing since she LOVED Harry Potter. However, once I started reading it, I quickly decided that this book is meant for a much older audience (probably 11 and older) because of the complexity of the historical references. I actually started to read it to Miss M., but when I read ahead to see what to expect, I realized that the locations and settings in this book would be far to complicated to explain to my little learner. That all said, I loved the book. How can you tell? Because even after I realized that it wasn't quite appropriate to read to my daughter yet, I kept reading.Yes, I am an adult reading children's literature.

In the book, the main character, Mattie, goes searching for something to bring in for show-and-tell for her fifth grade class and stumbles upon a spyglass in the attic of her home. The spyglass grabs the attention of her friends (Eddie and Geeta), who follow her after school to the local department store, where Mattie is waiting for her mom to get off work. When Mattie shows the spyglass to Herman Biddle, an old man that works with her mother, he is instantly alarmed and insists that she destroy the spyglass because it will only bring trouble. But it is too late, the spyglass has already chosen Mattie as her mistress, and the evil and sinister Uri Gneezy has already figured out who has the spyglass and is out to get her. Mattie, Eddie, Geeta, and Mr. Biddle set off on an adventure through time to figure what is the best path to take to avoid the pure evil of Gneezy.

The book quickly transports the characters from the basement of Sears in 1968 to Hilter's Nazi Germany, to Russia during the time of Rasputin, to ancient Mesopotamia, and to so many other locations that your head will spin as you take a virtual world history lesson. The characters must follow the path of the eight precious stones, which represent fear, hate, anger, bitterness, envy, duplicity, greed, and despair, in order to ward off evil. Thus, the backdrop of the story is the classic tale of good versus evil, but the author is able to weave into this story the complexity of multiple world religions across the span of thousands of years. She does not pit one religion against one another, but instead shows how the goodness of humankind can work in concert to fight evil.

The author uses a complex vocabulary that is stimulating and refreshing in children's lit, but I imagine that this book might be a little overwhelming at first for the young reader given the sheer number of characters and settings. I was happy that I had the novel on my Kindle because I am ashamed to admit how much world history I either forgot or never learned. I kept looking up and cross referencing things in the book to decipher what was fact and what was part of the fictional novel. That said, this is a well researched novel. The book packs a whole lot of accurate historical information while maintaining the intriguing, whimsical mystery of the adventure.

I am excited to read the next book in the series to see where Mattie Spyglass will head to next.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Library Book Sale Finds

One of the reasons why we have so many children's books in our house is because I love to frequent yard sales and books sales in the search for a classic book that we don't have in our library yet.

Saturday, the girls and I ventured out to our local library book sale. I let Miss M. venture around the sea of books, while I went on my treasure hunt with Miss J in the baby Bjorn. There were rows and rows of boxes full of old books just waiting for a new place to call home.

By the numbers:
We picked 10 books total.
-9 hardcover books
-1 paperback
-Cost- $9.50!

A few highlights of the finds include:

The Cricket in Times Square by George Selden , and  Garth Williams . The edition we found was printed in 1960 in the USA and is in pretty great condition. Think I might keep this one on my bookshelf until we are ready to read it.

The Wild Baby Gets a Puppy- by Barbro Lindgren , Jack Prelutsky , and Eva Eriksson

Petey's Bedtime Story by Beverly Cleary. Well, we have been reading tons of Ramona books, but I never realized Beverly Cleary has picture books. We didn't get to this one today, but hoping to read through it soon.
A Pizza the Size of the Sun poem by Jack Prelutsky and drawings by James Stevenson. About a week ago Miss M found the book New Kid on the Block, and sat in the kitchen reading the poems aloud as I made dinner, which made finding this book so great.

Where do you like to find books for your library?

Saturday, March 9, 2013

The Little Mother That Could

This week both my daughters were sick. 

Stomach churning, toilet bowl hugging, blow-out diaper sick. 

And then, it happened- I got sick.    

At one point, I found myself lying on the cold tile floor in the bathroom. My husband was at work, and I was alone with two sick kids. There were no bathmats in the bathroom at this point. They were piled high in the laundry room, as was probably every other article of clothing in our house, waiting for a turn in the washer. 

I was immovable. My 9 month old baby was crying in the Pack 'N Play, and I could hear her stomach churning from a mere 6 feet away. I knew that I had to change her diaper quickly. If she sat back down, the diaper would leak, and I would have to change the Pack 'N Play sheet, in addition to her outfit.

From the depths of my brain came this prayer:
Yea, though I walk through the valley of vomit,
I will fear no virus: For Lysol and bleach art with me;
Ginger-ale and crackers, they comfort me.
Shout removes stains in the presence of mine enemies;
Thou scrub my hands with hot soap and water; My stomach runneth over.

However, I still didn't have the energy to get up. When I ran cross-country in high school, I had a friend that would have said, "You have to dig deep and then deeper." So, I searched myself for motivation to get up. It was then that I began to chant to myself the mantra that so many of us learned as small children at story time, "I think I can." 

I think I can. (Because so many other women just like me have to done this in the past, are doing it now, and will continue to do it in the future.)

I think I can. (Because I am blessed to have running water to wash all of the soiled laundry.

I think I can. (Because I have an industrial strength carpet steam cleaner to disinfect this house.)

I think I can. (Because I have a cabinet full of cleaners that have been shown to kill 99.9% of viruses and bacteria.)

I think I can. (Because my daughter is wearing Pampers Baby Dry. Wait, scratch that. Screw Pampers right now because they aren't blocking a single blow-out from happening.)
I think I can. (Because I am a women. And we can do it!) 
Slowly, I pulled myself up off the floor. I looked in the mirror and was certain that I looked exactly like Garth from Wayne's World. (Don't believe me, ask my college roommate. She can tell you how much I metamorphosis into Wayne when I haven't showered and look slovenly. Party on Garth.) 

I crawled over to little peanut and changed her diaper.
She smiled, and I celebrated a small victory. 

I thought I could, and I did.
My sister has done it.
My mother has done it.

My grandmother did without the beauty of Lysol disinfectant wipes. 
And my amazing mom friends have done it time and time again. They give running on empty a whole new meaning. They find the strength to make sure that their children are clean, dry, and cared for, while still replying to emails and phone calls despite a myriad of illnesses. 

The women I know rock.

I am lucky because it was only about an hour later that my husband got home from work. I was eternally grateful for the ability to hand the children over to him and go to bed. The moment before I promptly passed out, I spent thinking of all the amazing women I know. We are doing it. We are getting it done. We are little engines that could. As we climb our mountains, we find the strength to make it to the top and shout, "Is that all you've got?"

So when you have hit your proverbial wall, what is the mantra that gets you through it? 


Monday, March 4, 2013

Growing a Hunger for Books

Wednesday is World Read Aloud Day, but in our house we read aloud everyday.

Especially today.

Both girls were home sick, and I spent the day with my two special Snuggle Puppies. The day was filled with upset tummies, chicken noodle soup, heaps of laundry, but also stories. For my little one, who is nine months old, I just love watching her eyes light up when we read together.

Board books are such a fantastic way to get children's books into the littlest of hands. I love setting her down near the bookshelf in her room and seeing which book she pulls off the shelf.

If I had to pick the top 5 board books we read in our house, which seems like an impossible task, it would have to be:
5. Good Night, Gorilla by Peggy Rathman
4. Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You? by Dr. Seuss (Which I have read at least a zillion times since having Miss. M six years ago.)
3. Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney
2. Hippos Go Berserk! by Sandra Boynton
1. Snuggle Puppy! A little love song by Sandra Boynton

Snuggle Puppy is hands down our favorite because we don't read it, we sing the story. I have been singing it for six years now. And now, I love to hear my oldest sing it to her little sister.

It is always an adventure reading to little ones. Reading with babies is something that requires all the senses- looking at the pictures, listening to the words, feeling the way the pages turn, and touching the illustrations.

Sometimes, we read the books. Very often, we just look at the pictures.
And sometimes, I am just trying to keep her from eating the books.

Literally, she has grown a hunger for books.

But there are those moments, like today when she discovered that tails can be spiny, her chubby little hand touching the spines on the tail over and over, I know that I am fostering in her a love of books.

(If you don't have it, I recommend Tails by Matthew Van Fleet. Our book is worn with love.)

What are your favorite board books to share with your little readers? 

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Seuss and Grits

This morning when I was going through my daughter's school folder, I fell in love with this assignment. In honor of Read Across America Day and Dr. Seuss's Birthday, her teacher had them come up with an alternative to Green Eggs and Ham. Well if my little Girl Raised In The South didn't put her favorite dish as shrimp and grits. When I was her age I had never heard of grits, let alone shrimp and grits. I am a Jersey Girl through and through, but I am raising a G.R.I.T.S. girl. Imagine that! I had to smile at her Seuss Southern Style. Maybe we will make some "Seuss and Grits" later today.

What are you doing to celebrate Dr. Seuss's birthday?
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