Thursday, October 24, 2013

Our Top Ten Favorite Dogs From Children's Picture Books

The Little Miss J is obsessed with dogs, which you may or may not have noticed by the abundance of posts that include books with dogs. Given that my nights are spent reading and rereading books that contain dogs, I thought I might share our top ten favorite dog characters in children's picture books.

10. The Poky Little Puppy, by Janette Sebring Lowrey and illustrated by Gustaf Tenggren - This is the quintessential book about a dog that you most likely will remember from your own childhood.

9. Clifford! I featured for this post Pumpkin Patch Puppy by Danielle Denega and illustrated by Barry Goldberg. I choose this book in particular in the spirit of fall. We have so many Clifford books in our house! Years ago, at a library book sale, there was a pile of old scholastic books. I purchased the entire pile, and they have found a second home at our house. 

8. Marley! If you have read Marley and Me by John Grogan, you will love his adaptations for children's books. We have been giving Trick or Treat, Marley by John Grogan and illustrated by Richard Cowdrey quite a few reads as we lead into Halloween.

7.Biscuit! Biscuit is clearly the favorite at the present moment for the Little Miss. The simple text and multiple places to include dog "woofs" make this book perfect for the youngest of readers. We purchased Biscuit Is Thankful by Alyssa Satin Capucilli and illustrated by Pat Schories when we visited Page after Page Bookstore in Elizabeth City, NC. What a perfect way to teach gratitude as we near Thanksgiving!

6. Rover. If you have never read Move Over, Rover! by Karen Beaumont and illustrated by Jane Dyer, please head straight to your library and borrow it. The rhythm of this book is infectious, and the story is lighthearted and fun. Little Miss J often signs "More" when I get to the end of this book.

5. Harry Harry the Dirty Dog by Gene Zion and illustrated by Margaret Bloy Graham is a classic book. Published in 1956, this book remains timeless.

4. Mirabelle! From classic to contemporary, we fell in love with Mirabelle at the Decatur Book Festival this year. Our favorite of the three books about Mirabelle is Mirabelle and the Bouncy Red Ball by Michael Muller. The illustrations are a combination of artwork and actual pictures of Mirabelle, the author's Boston Terrier dog.
Isn't Mirabelle the cutest? 

3. Snuggle Puppy! OK, really all Sandra Boynton dogs are big hits in our house! From her book Doggies to Dog Train, we love Sandra Boynton dogs; however if we had to choose a favorite, Snuggle Puppy would win.

2. Big Dog ... Little Dog by P.D. Eastman. P.D. Eastman captures the heart of what a little child loves about dogs in both Big Dog...Little Dog and Go, Dog. Go! A throwback from my childhood, I am thrilled to relive them through my daughter's eyes.

1. Skippyjon Jones! OK, I know what you are thinking, "Skippyjon Jones is a cat!" You are right, but nobody dreams of being a dog more than the dear Skippyjon Jones. Judy Schachner struck gold when she created this lovable and hysterical character. You and your child will be in stitches as you read the adventures of this creative pup, ahem, I mean cat.

What are your favorite books that have dogs in them? Leave a comment below. I am always looking for new books with dogs to read to my toddler.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Beautiful Butterfly Costume

We are big fans of Eric Carle's The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Little Miss J loves to stick her little fingers in each of the holes on the pages where the Hungry Caterpillar eats the different fruits and vegetables. We had the Decatur Book Festival children's book parade to attend in early September, and my oldest thought it would be fun to have the Little Miss go as the Hungry Caterpillar. She wanted to be a princess, but we settled on her going as the butterfly in the end. She didn't want to be a multicolored butterfly like in the book. Ever the scientist in training, she had to go as an actual butterfly. Getting into the Halloween spirit, since we are going to reuse the costumes we made for that parade for Halloween, I thought it would be fun to share how they were made.

To create the costume, I turned, of course, to Pinterest for sweet inspiration. That is where I found a very creative Hungry Caterpillar costume to use as a starting point. I love this costume, but my Little Miss is far too short for it to work. Instead, I decided a pillow case style dress would work great as an alternative. So, I found this pattern on Pinterest to use: The butterfly costume was a bit more complicated, but I will get to that later.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar Costume
What you need:
I am not a super crafty person. Actually, I had to teach myself how to thread my sewing machine to do this. So, if I can do it, so can you.

To make the hat, I used a loom to knit a hat out of the red yarn. The loom kit I purchased from the craft store had instructions on how to make a hat that were very easy to follow.

The hardest part of the hat was figuring out how to make the eyes, nose, and Antennae. So this is how I did it-
Eyes- Two layers with a bottom yellow and the top a multicolored yarn. With the yellow- I cast on four purl stitches, and did two rows of four, then four rows of six stitches, two rows of eight stitches, four rows of six stitches, and then two rows of four stitches. I did this twice to make two eyes. For the multicolored pupil of the eye, I cast on four stitches, did four rows of four, four rows of six stitches, and then four more rows of six stitches. Finally, I sewed them together and then onto the hat. (Make sure to put the hat on your kid before placing the eyes though, because it will make a difference on how it looks on their head.)

For the nose, I just made a small square using the multicolored yarn and then stitched it below the eyes. Depending on the size of your hat, it will be about six stitches across and about 8 rows.

Finally, for the Antennae, I stitched large rectangles, purling about 20 stitches across and approximately 26 rows. I took the rectangles and sewed them together to make tubes. The tubes I stuffed with a small amount of poly-fill to help them stand up, and then I sewed the antennae to the hat. 

The dress, as I said, I followed the instructions on the Cute Tutes blog. (And I think I may go out this weekend and make that dress in the candy corn style for Halloween- it was that easy.)

The Very Beautiful Butterfly Costume

This costume was very much a labor of love by both my oldest and myself. To make this costume, you will need:
  • Four wire coat hangers
  • White tissue paper
  • Gesso
  • Elmer's Glue
  • Mod Podge
  • Acrylic Paints and Paint brushes
  • Elastic (for the straps)
  • A fat square of black fabric to cover the elastic for the straps
  • JB Weld (epoxy)
  • Ribbon for the skirt
  • Several yards of tulle (we used black and orange)
  • A leotard 
  • Plain black headband
  • Black Pom Poms
  • Pipe Cleaners

To make the wings-

I took four wire coat hangers and shaped them into the frame for the wings.

My husband wanted to reinforce where I wrapped the "hooks" together in the middle to make sure it wouldn't fall apart, so he used JB Weld (an epoxy) to secure them.

After the frames were made, we took sheets of white tissue paper and carefully wrapped them around the wire, painting Elmer's glue and water (equal parts) on the tissue paper to create the paper thin, wrinkled look of a wing. I allowed the wings to dry over night, and then added a second sheet of tissue paper to make sure they wouldn't tear. After the wings were made, I decided, since I happened to have some in the house, to use Gesso to paint a "surface" onto the wings to accept the acrylic paint. This is really optional, since I am sure the paint would have stuck to the tissue paper just fine. However, I liked the added texture the Gesso added.

Once the wings were ready, we used a picture of a Monarch butterfly to draw the pattern, and then we used acrylic paints to decorate the wings. (My daughter added some glitter, because what would an art project be without the use of glitter?)

Finally, we painted the wings with Mod Podge to protect them from humidity and to add this fantastic shine. These are the finished wings:

To attached the wings to my daughter, I took elastic and measured it around her shoulders. She didn't like how it looked with the white elastic against her black leotard, so we took some black fabric to line the elastic and create a way to attach the straps to the wings.
To make the antennae, we took a plain black headband and wrapped pipe cleaners around it. Then, using a hot glue gun, we stuck big, fat, black pom poms to the top.

Finally, we made a no-sew TuTu for a skirt following this tutorial (which I found on Pinterest). I loved this tutorial, especially the link to the video. It was so easy, and I will be using it again in the future to made other skirts I am sure I will need, since I have two girls.

The day before my daughter wore it, we took the leftover tulle and made hair ribbons and added decorations to the headband.

(Now that I finished this costume, I think I am going to do this activity I saw on My Little Bookcase to make these adorable beads inspired by The Very Hungry Caterpillar.  I LOVE this blog and the amazing ideas she posts.)

What do you think? If you make this costume, please let me know how it works!

Page after Page Bookstore, Elizabeth City, North Carolina

 Last week we had the pleasure of heading to Elizabeth City, North Carolina for a wedding. While there, we spent some time at this adorable indie bookstore- Page After Page.

Tucked in the adorable town of Elizabeth City, right off the water, this bookstore has a fantastic children's books section that includes toys and a train table. The Little Miss loved playing with the "ChooChoo's" while I perused the latest in books.

We left with a bunch of items, but in particular, I fell in love with this "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" Onsie, the Melissa and Doug gears toy, and of course another dog book for the Little Miss- Biscuit is Thankful.
I love falling in love with a new bookstore. We do not have any Indie bookstores in our town, and I would love for one to pop up in our square someday. What do you love the most about Indie Bookstores?

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Giving Tree- An Open Letter to the Amazing Women in My Life

This morning I had a moment. A moment when I thought to myself, after sitting in traffic for over an hour to go only six miles on my morning commute into work, "How did I get here?'
Then I thought, "Damn, I already finished my coffee."
And then I thought, "I really hope traffic clears because I have to go to the bathroom something fierce."
As I sat there in my car, bored and frustrated, with a full bladder, my mind wandered to a passage from the book Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf...
And this morning, I thought..It is very dangerous to live even one day. If Virgina Woolf had lived today, I imagine that the character of Mrs. Dalloway would spend her hours sitting in traffic contemplating life's greater questions instead of a parlor.

It is so easy to get caught up in fulfilling my perceived expectations as a woman, as a mother, as a wife, as an employee that I often loose sight of what my very own expectations of my life were, are, could potentially be...and that is dangerous.

We are so busy rushing around to take care of our kids, our husbands, our homes, our work, and our obligations, whatever they may be, that we forget to take care of ourselves. The women I know give their all to this thing we call life- they worry and fret over every detail from unanswered emails for work to missed recitals at school. 

But, it is difficult in this attempt to take care of those things that we love more than ourselves not to end up as a stump.More times than I would like to admit, I have found myself bleary eyed, sleep deprived, crying in my car at the impossible feats I have to accomplish in one day. And it is in those moments I feel like a stump. 
What do I mean by feeling like a stump? 

First, I have a confession- I simply detest reading The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein.  The books starts off innocently enough when this tree loves a little boy very much more than she ever loved herself. And that is something I think all the women I know can relate to.

We all have something or someone we have loved more than ourselves. The problem is, though, that this tree kept giving so much of herself that by the end of the book she was only a stump.
 And that is stupid.
 I think Shel Silverstein meant for the book to be ironic, but I worry about how the message may be interpreted. Will my girls interpret the expectation to be that we as women should give selflessly until there is nothing left to give? Unfortunately, stump is really no longer any help to herself or anyone else when every piece of her has been cut away.

Thinking of the many times that I have ended up as a stump from spreading myself far too thin trying to be everything to everyone, again my thoughts turned back to Virginia Woolf. My freshman year of college I attended an all girls school where we had to read A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf for our Freshman colloquium. At 18, I understood nothing about having a room of one's own. At 18, I could do anything, and I had no obligations

But years later, I understand. My heart aches for a room of one's own.

Rereading the text, I am struck by how relevant the book is even today. I want to destroy the illusion of what I am supposed to be, what I imagine others think I should be, and what society thinks I should be, and instead somehow find the courage to become the person I know I can become.

 I often find myself saying, "I cannot afford the time to do things for myself." However, I realize I should instead be saying, "I cannot afford to not take the time to do something just for myself."

The other day I went for a run in the woods.
It was a much needed respite for the daily rush- it is my equivalent of a room of one's own.
During my run, I came across this tree.
I was struck by the bent shape of the trunk. I spent some time thinking about the shape of the trunk, and how it appeared that the tree bent itself to be able to reach the sunlight. It was then that it occurred to me that no matter how firmly rooted we may feel in our current situation, even this tree with its roots firmly stuck in the ground was able to find a way to reroute itself to find the sun.

We owe it to all those amazing people and things that we love more than ourselves to take the time to reroute towards the sun so that we may continue not only giving of ourselves but to also show others how to reach for the sun. 

May you find a way to reroute yourself to reach towards the sun, even on the darkest of days.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Read Aloud! Grow, Brains, Grow- 10 Ways to Read to a Busy Toddler

Today marks the beginning of Read Aloud's October campaign to get all parents reading with their kids at least 15 minutes a day. Of course I want to help grow my child's brain! I am completely on board with this message and the organization. However, getting a 16 month old toddler to sit still for a whole book can prove to be quite a feat! In our house we have found some fun ways to keep even the busiest of toddlers interested. Here are the top ten ways I get my Little Miss J to sit still and listen for 15 minutes each night before bed:

1. Begin book reading in the bath. We have this fabulous Sandra Boynton book that is made for bringing in the bath- Bath Time! The best part is the squeaky toy on the last page.
 2. Find books that create play. We have this soft cloth version of Are You My Mother? by P.D. Eastman. There is a little bird that you can make fly all the way through the book. It is great for reading and playing at the same time.

3. Find books that feel squishy. The publisher Usborne makes this fabulous series of books that have all sorts of textures for a child to feel. My daughter loves That's Not My Dinosaur.  Her favorite page is the rough horns of the triceratops.

4. Sing your bedtime story. We have this very old and worn version of Row, Row, Row Your Boat by Pippa Goodhart. If my little one has a case of the wiggles, singing to her is one way to capture her attention.

5. Play peek-a-boo. We love the book Puppy Boo! by Sarah Phillips. Little ones love playing peek-a-boo, and what better way to make reading fun then to shout boo over and over.

6. Make animal noises. My daughter LOVES dogs right now so we read Doggies by Sandra Boynton at least three times a night because we get to make 10 different doggie sounds. Her favorite is howling to the moon.

7. Count the animals. Candlewick Press has this gorgeous picture book One Spotted Giraffe- A Counting Pop-up Book by Petr Horacek. Not only can you count the animals on each page, but there are also flaps that you can turn over to see a large pop-up version of the number.

8. Read books with moving parts. Matthew Van Fleet is a genius when it comes to books with engaging moving parts. We love his book Sniff! My only complaint I would have about this book is there is a picture of a mouse sniffing a peanut hanging from a vine. The scientist in me would be remiss if I didn't mention that peanuts grow underground.

9. Read and build. We received one of the Duplo Read and Build storybooks as a gift. Little Miss J loves to play with the blocks while we read through the book. I think she really enjoys making what she can see on the page; however she enjoys taking them apart even more.

10. Read what they love. My little one LOVES balls and dogs. For this reason, Mirabelle and the Bouncy Red Ball by Michael Muller is our all time favorite book at the moment. We met Mirabelle and Michael Muller at the Decatur Book Festival, and I have been in love with his board books ever since.

How do you get your toddler to sit still and read?

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