Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Spring Break at Home

My daughter asked me what season came next and I  told her summer. It's already so hot here in Florida that I completely forgot about spring. It's still happening on the calendar and spring break is coming up. As usual, we're staying home for spring break. But I want to try to make it fun for the kids and to keep my sanity (and the TV off). So I have a flexible plan for outings and fun things we'll do over the break. The students get this Friday off plus all of next week, so I have six days to fill with something besides our normal daily schedule (which the Kindergartener declares is "boring!" every time she hears what we did while she was at school).

Day One: Summer clothes shopping!
Okay, the exclamation point might be a bit much. The kids will kind of like doing it because they get to look at all the toys at the consignment shop while I find clothes for them. And I'll have fun up until the point that the baby is no longer happy in the stroller. So after a morning spent shopping, we'll all be good for some downtime in the afternoon.

Day Two: Library, Read-a-Thon, and Movie Night
In the morning we'll go to the library and fill up on new books and movies. In the afternoon we'll throw out all the pillows and blankets on the family room floor and read our new books. Do they have read-a-thons in school anymore? I think some Twizzlers will be necessary. Since we'll all be lounging around anyway, that will be a good night for a movie.

Day Three: Splash Pad Day
We'll tell friends that we're going to be there, but with or without them, we'll be there. When we come home, Mom will be exhausted even if no one else is, so we'll relax in the afternoon.

Day Four: Orlando Science Museum
We have a year pass so it's free--minus the stress of the drive of downtown and parking our van in the parking garage. The girl's could spend all day there, so we'll stay as long as the baby will let us.

Day Five: Cooking Day
The girls want to make homemade peanut butter. I want to try lemonade slushies. It will be good to have a day at home after a day at the museum.

Day Six: Picnic at the Park
We have a park close by. I hardly ever take the kids alone (it's too hot and crowded by the time school gets out). A simple picnic will make this outing seem extra fun--especially if juice boxes are involved.

Ideas for the rest of the time:
Play games
Play with toys (what a crazy idea)
Color or paint
Water table outside (and invite new neighbor girl)
Sidewalk chalk
Make new playdough
Mosaic art

Am I the only one who has to plan out school breaks or risk turning my kids into TV zombies?

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Outfits and Independence

I was recently part of a conversation with other mothers about whether or not to let your children choose their own outfits. Most people agreed that if they saw a child wearing a strange outfit they just assumed they chose it themselves and thought it was cute. But when it came to letting their own kids go around like that, they worried about people judging them as a mother. One brought up a good point that her son has no sense of what goes together and frankly doesn't care, but she guides what he wears to avoid one more reason for kids in his class to make fun of him.

My three-year-old loves picking her own outfits. Her whole life is a game of dress up. I think her philosophy is that if she likes it, it goes with anything else she likes. And an outfit like the one below draws smiles now, but I probably would discourage something like this in a few years when she's going to school.

The conversation made me think about how little my daughters know about fashion because of how little I know. I thought they weren't influenced by me because I had no fashion to influence on them. And then my Kindergartener chose her tie dye school shirt and wanted to tie it up with a hair elastic. All she's missing is stirrup pants. (And to be super cool, she should be wearing two different socks on each foot.) I've heard the 80s are happening again (or happened, am I too late?).

Monday, February 23, 2015

Tiny Monsters

What do you see in this picture? Beauty or terror?

For my three-year-old, walking through a butterfly rainforest was terrifying. Anything that moved scared her. Instead of being awed by the colors, she screamed at every butterfly she saw, certain that it was going to hurt her. No amount of reasoning or soothing could convince her otherwise. She finished our brief time in the exhibit in Daddy's arms, squeezing her eyes closed and hiding her face in his shoulder. Which was probably good because we passed a small dog on the lap of an old man in a motorized wheelchair at the end. And we all know how terrifying lap dogs are.

Wait, you didn't know that? In her world, they are. She ran away from a stone turtle on someone's lawn till she realized it was "just pretend." The huge T-Rex skeleton? Cool. Butterflies? Terrifying. She's also very afraid of monsters and wakes up screaming some nights because of monsters (aka shadows on the wall). I've tried telling her that there are no such thing as monsters.

Then one morning she told me that the night before she found tiny monsters on her pillow--so she smashed them! It's made me think. Should I stop trying to convince her that monsters aren't real? Because to her they absolutely are. That strange shadow on the wall at night is without a doubt a monster. And in a different guise, there are monsters that she will face in the world. Maybe it would work better to help her believe that she can beat the monsters in her life. If you see a monster, you face it, you smash it, because you are brave and you are stronger than the monsters you will face, both real and imagined.

Friday, February 6, 2015


Dear Storytime Librarian,

It is possible to read a story and carry your voice so a group of kids can hear you without using a high-pitched nasally half scream that terrifies my baby. I'd love to keep bringing my kids to storytime, but I don't want to scare my baby every week.

Thank you,
Concerned Mom

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Some Favorite Picture Books

To get kids excited about reading, it helps to have books they love. Here's a list of some favorites around our house.

Anything by Mo Willems. If you don't know who Knuffle Bunny is, if you're not friends with Elephant and Piggie, and if you've never had to stop the Pigeon from driving the bus, you're missing out. We love everything by Mo Willems. We always stop at his spot on the library shelf to see if there's anything new by him--or old favorites. A less known Mo Willems that my girls love is Leonardo the Terrible Monster.

King Jack and the Dragon by Peter Bently is a charming story about a boy who fights off dragons with his brother and friend. One of my girls has chosen this book every single night since we got it from the library.

Press Here by Herve Tullet was another favorite library find. Press the button and fun things happen with the dots on the page. I was surprised at how much my five year old loved reading and playing with this book. In an age where she's familiar with tablets and things really do change with the touch of a button, she had fun imagining along with this book.

We're Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen. This book is best read by daddy with lots of enthusiasm. When she was only two, my daughter could recite this book along with him.

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak is my favorite picture book ever. My boy will be Max for Halloween some year.

Other books my kids love:

Pinkalicious by Victoria Kann
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
The Snowy Day by Ezra Zack Keats
Pete the Cat by Eric Litwin
No, David! by David Shannon
Robert Munsch books
Look and Find books

What are some of your family's favorite picture books?

Monday, January 26, 2015

7 Tips for Raising a Reader

About a quarter of American adults don't read a single book in a year (statistic found here). My mom had six children--every single one of us are readers. We have very different reading tastes and some of us read more than others. I was the biggest book nerd and the one that went on to get a college degree in reading books (also known as an English major). But 100% of us read books as adults. That's no accident.

So how do you raise a reader? Some kids are drawn to books. I pretended to read before I learned how to read. As a child I would literally stay up for hours reading books under the covers. But for those who aren't, here are some things I've learned from how my mom raised me and how I'm raising my kids.

1. Own books. Your kids won't read much if there aren't books around. Books can be expensive, but they don't have to be. Yard sales, thrift stores, and library sales are a great place to find books for a dollar or two, often less for kids' books.

2. Let your kids touch the books. I certainly have books that are more expensive and that I keep up high, but for the most part, I let my kids handle books--even my books. Teach them from an early age how to treat books, but don't make books off limits for little hands. Of course, you should wait until they're old enough to know not to try to eat the book, but other than that, let them at it.

3. Read aloud to them. Read to babies, toddlers, and school aged kids. Read books as a family. My mom did this one really well--most days we sat together through a chapter of Little House on the Prairie or some other family-friendly classic. Once, my dad read a book to the family. Summer of the Monkeys by Wilson Rawls. I read the entire Chronicles of Narnia series to my oldest daughter before she turned two.

4. Give books as gifts. In the months leading up to Christmas, I look for books on sale or nice used books. Each child gets a stack of new books for Christmas. A present is exciting.

5. Visit the library. Even better than cheap, library books are free. Story times can be fun, but we go for the books. I let my girls browse the shelves and pick out things that appeal to them. I also look for things I think they'll enjoy. My oldest has recently discovered (by going to school) that some people speak a different language, so I found a book that has lots of different ways to say hello.

6. Create a reading space. We read everywhere, but we have a reading room (we're lucky now, but it can be a corner or a nook--once our books were at the end of the hall). In this same vein, create certain times for reading. Besides reading throughout the day, each girl gets to choose a book to have read to them before bedtime.

7. And last of all--READ. As in you, the parent. You don't have to read as much as I do, but don't be that statistic. Not everyone loves fiction, but find a topic that interests you, that will help you in your career or hobby. Read how to books, read magazines, read cookbooks, read newspapers. My dad was not a big reader, but he loved his Louis L'Amour and even though that's not my usual style, I read every single one he had while I was growing up. I cherish two Louis L'Amour books I have from his collection. Let your kids see you reading and talk about what you read.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Table Manners

We've been working on getting our children to say please and thank you more. So my husband has been saying, "Thank you for this awesome dinner you made, Mommy!" at dinner. I've tried to remember to thank him and the children for any help they did in getting dinner on the table.

It started catching on! All on her own, tonight my five year old said:

"Thank you for the awesome dinner, Mommy. I mean, it's not really that cool of a dinner, you know, but..."

Time to work on tact.

P.S. It was pasta salad. So it was not the most awesome dinner, but it was dinner. And her definition of an awesome dinner would actually be hot dogs.