Saturday, December 12, 2009

Of All the Characters, We Choose to talk about Herod?

This year I wanted to try and teach Hadley the Christmas story. I made a little "Countdown to Christmas" calendar and put together a little basket of Christmas books that she and I could focus on during the times we read together.

Teaching the Christmas story - or any story in the Bible for that matter - is tough stuff. I find myself being disappointed at the basic plot of these children's books, and at the same time I'm relieved I don't have to delve into more of the specifics. Why do Mary and Joseph have to leave Nazareth? What is an angel and how/why did he suddenly appear? (We have enough problems with sleep as it is; I'm not sure I want Hadley thinking Gabriel could make an appearance at any time). Why did Jesus come in the first place? What is sin?
Right now, Hadley thinks Jesus is a really great baby, and I think she identifies with him as much as she identifies with Harper. And as with all the books Hadley and I read together, it takes a few days for the story to sink in, and then little snippets of it will sneak out as she and I talk throughout our days. (In the fall we read a book about airplanes and Hadley sat next to me listening, usually without comment, but intently looking at the pictures. One day when were walking outside she said, "Look, Mama! That plane made a sky scratch just like in the airplane books!")
The person she has the most questions about is King Herod. In every book we read, we must pause and discuss Herod. Why is Herod mad? Why is he jealous? Why isn't he smiling in the pictures? This disturbs me for two reasons. One, of all the characters in this story, Herod is the person she wants to talk about. Two, of all the characters in the story, Herod is the one I find I can answer the most questions about.
I can't say I identify with his plot to kill babies, but I know what it feels like to be angry, and I know what it feels like to be jealous. It's almost a relief to me that Hadley chose Herod to talk about because I have no problem bringing everyday examples of anger and jealousy to her level. "He doesn't want to share. We know how hard it is to share, don't we?" or, "He's angry because he doesn't want other people taking away something he has."
I remember being terrified of Mary's predicament when I was younger. Is it true she was only 12 or 13 when this happened? When I was that age, I was mostly concerned about my upcoming floor hockey game, or whether or not I would be able to watch Unsinkable Molly Brown for the ten thousandth time. And Mary, after hearing what was about to happen just said, "OK."?!?! How does a person that age have that kind of faith? I don't know if I have that kind of faith now.
Maybe I'm shooting low, but for me, and maybe for Hadley too, characters like Herod jolt us a little because we know the kinds of emotions he had all too well. And maybe it's not my job to tell Hadley that she has to aim for being like Mary so much as understand and accept that Jesus came to take away our sin no matter what it is we've done. And when we understand the severity of our actions, but the depth of Jesus' love for us, maybe our faith will get stronger and doing things like saying, "I am the Lord's servant. May it be to me as you have said." won't be so scary.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

Apparently October is "National Pasta Month" or, that's what I learned from The Best of Totline, a book filled with activities for 3-5 year olds that I found in the library. The book suggested a bunch of activities having to do with pasta that I thought Hadley would enjoy, and I thought I'd try and tie them in with the book Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett.

I told Hadley we were going to make pasta necklaces, but we had to color the pasta first.

We poured the pasta into Ziploc bags.

Then we dumped water and food coloring into the bags.
Then you shake the bag up.
We had to wait for the pasta to dry, so I suggested we read Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs while we wait. Hadley thought this was a fine idea.
One of the things I like about Hadley getting older is that we can read more books with advanced plotlines. It's a lot of fun to talk with Hadley as we go through stories with characters and events that she has questions about. One thing she almost always comments on is characters' facial expressions, especially when they aren't smiling. On the very first page of the story today, the two children are sitting at the breakfast table having a competitive conversation over who can eat the most pancakes. Hadley wanted to know right away what was going on with these two kids. Throughout the book we paused a lot to inquire about people's facial expressions. The worst one was explaining why one man had a piece of pasta on his head (it fell from the sky). I don't think Hadley was too keen on seeing a man walk around with pasta on his head. Who would, really?
Another thing Hadley wants to know about the characters in the books we read is their names. In this book, the girl is telling the story, but I don't think we ever find out what her name is. I was able to tell Hadley that the boy's name is Henry, but Hadley had to know what the girl's name is as well.
"I'm not sure, Hadley. Why don't you name her?"
"OK. I'll name her Goofy."

Hadley really liked looking at the pictures in this story. There's a lot going on on each page and she had fun pointing out things she recognized. Her favorite page was the page with the Sanitation Department's clean up truck. It has a large fork and spoon attached to it with an enormous bowl on the back to put the leftover food in. Hadley loved this page.

Hadley wanted to read the story several times (a sure sign she likes a book) which was a good thing because the pasta took awhile to dry. Once it did, she and I sat down to make our pasta necklaces.
This activity was a little difficult for Hadley because it was hard to put the string all the way through the pasta (I used penne). I think I should've used a smaller pasta so Hadley didn't have so much to feed through. Despite my help, she still had fun playing with the pasta, and she loved her necklace. She wore it the rest of the day.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Pumpkin Day

At Hadley's preschool conference, one of the things her teacher told me I could work on with her is sequencing and matching. So I created a few activities to do with Hadley that might help out with these concepts.

The first activity was called "Pumpkin Match Up." I bought a couple of sheets of pumpkin stickers from Michael's and put them on index cards. After setting this activity up, I thought that the difference between the pumpkins was pretty subtle for an almost 3 year old to decipher. All the pumpkins were orange, most of them had triangle eyes and noses, and most of them were the same size. I thought trying to match the pumpkins together would get frustrating for Hadley, but she completed the activity in about a minute and a half.

Here she is still in her "pajammies" working away:

Of course, Harper wants to get in on the action, too:

Later in the day, Hadley and I worked on a "Pumpkin Jack Game"that I put together. Last week, we checked out the book Pumpkin Jack by Will Hubbell. It is the story of how a pumpkin goes from seeds, to sprout, to pumpkin. I thought this would be a great story to use as a sequencing activity, so I drew little pictures from the book on index cards, and then had Hadley put them in order on a large pumpkin I drew on a piece of paper.

Hadley and I read the book as she worked on placing each picture in the correct order. This was a tough activity for two reasons: 1)I think that three year olds can sequence about three events at the most, 2) my artwork leaves a ton to be desired. In the above picture, Hadley is having a lot of difficulty placing the picture nearest her elbow because, in her words, "This picture looks like a zebra or a horse and I don't remember a zebra or a horse in the story, Mama." It's supposed to be a frozen leaf.....

Hadley did know that the seeds came first and the pumpkin came last, which impressed me. The other thing that I was surprised by was that after completing this activity, Hadley wanted to read Pumpkin Jack again. I'm wondering if it is because the first time we were reading the book for information and maybe that distracted her from enjoying the story.

After reading the book, we decorated pumpkins. The book seemed like a perfect excuse for this activity, and certainly the time of year is right. I thought carving pumpkins was probably too dangerous this time around, so I bought materials that we could glue on the pumpkins instead. This proved to be a good choice because Hadley wasn't interested in making a face on the pumpkin. She just wanted to decorate it. When I suggested we make eyes and noses for the pumpkins, she didn't want to do that. The only "humanlike" thing she wanted to do was put a bow on the stems. She wanted to name the two larger pumpkins as well. They are named Tim and Jack. (Tim is the main character in the story Pumpkin Jack).

Hadley's infamous line for a mouth. None of her people smile.

Harper couldn't decorate, but she did wear an appropriate outfit for the occasion:

The finished products:

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A Letter to Hadley

Dear Hadley,

Of all the books we've read together, What Happens on Wednesdays by Emily Jenkins has been my favorite. I love it because the family in the book has so much in common with our family. The little girl wakes up when it is still dark out, the mom drinks coffee, the dad drinks tea. I think that the people in the pictures even look a bit like us.

There's a scene where the little girl gets the paper with her dad in the morning, and it reminds me of our Sunday morning ritual. Still in our PJs, we walk down the stairs to our building together to get the paper. For awhile, I needed to hold your hand and our venture down the stairs took several minutes to complete because climbing up and down the stairs was a new concept for you. But now you bolt down before me, and you carry the Post up by yourself with me trailing behind you holding my coffee cup. One morning there were two free samples of cereal packed in the newspaper, and that was quite exciting. You couldn't wait to get upstairs and try them out.

There is a neighborhood bagel shop that the little girl goes to with her daddy. She gets a poppy seed bagel toasted with cream cheese and "an orange juice with a special straw." One of your favorite places in our neighborhood is the bagel shop. You usually get a blueberry bagel with cream cheese and the ladies behind the counter frequently give you the best little butter cookies with sprinkles.

A trip to the library happens in the book, and I'm not sure there has been a week in your little life when we haven't gone to the library. You used to call it the "waabare" but now it's the "whyberry," and sometimes, if you are concentrating really hard, it's the "library." I suspect you will be saying the word correctly more and more in the future, and while I'm proud that you can say words correctly, it's sad to see part of you go away.

But you love the library. There's a fish tank in the children's section and we always check out the fish first thing. And there are big magnetic letters that are posted to the back of some bookshelves that you enjoy playing with. But mostly you like looking at the books. We spend lots of time reading books together.

I don't know if What Happens on Wednesdays is as significant to you as it is to me. You are really into books with animals, trucks, planes, trains, and books with things only Dr. Seuss could make up. But when we are reading it you sometimes say, "Hey that's just like what we do!" And then we might talk about our bagel shop, or our library. And while nothing fantastic happens in the book compared to a cat with a huge hat coming over to turn someone's house upside down, for me, it serves as a little scrapbook of our life together when you were a toddler. It will help me remember what a fun time I had with you exploring our neighborhood together.


Thursday, October 8, 2009

Great Story - What Can I Do With It?

When Hadley was around 8 months old, her favorite book was Doggies by Sandra Boynton. I'm sure she enjoyed looking at the dogs, but she has never been a huge fan of canines. What she loved is the counting in the book. On each page there is a new number, a new dog, and a new bark, and the reader has the pleasure of counting and barking for 10 glorious pages.

I've read Doggies to Harper a few times, purely out of guilty becasue I don't want her to miss out on a story that her sister loved simply because her mother can't stand the book and would rather do long division with a dull soft lead pencil and no calculator then bark. One. More. Time.

But Harper isn't interested in Doggies like Hadley was. What Harper likes are the books she can do something with. The books that have fur, or the books that beep or honk. Any book with a hole in it brings lots of excitement to our youngest. That's why The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle and Touch and Feel Baby Animals have permanant spots next to the rocking chair where we read books to Harper. I tried switching them with others in our collection. I thought maybe she'd like Jamberry or Whose Toes are Those?, but these books only have words and pictures on them. While reading them, Harper would touch the pages and search for a hole, or some kind of different texture to touch, only resulting in a "squeak" as her hand pushed down on the page. So I brought back the other books and seeing them, Harper laughed and kicked and reached out to her old friends.

I know from reading with Hadley that these simple concepts are how the habit of reading starts. I'm grateful that someone took the time to create books that children under a year might enjoy. I'm also thankful I don't have to bark. For now.

Monday, October 5, 2009

It's Good to Share

In the book It's Sharing Day! by Kirsten Larsen, Dora is going to have a Sharing Day Lunch at her Abuela's house, and as she and Boots make their way to Abuela's, they meet their friends who not only join them, but help them along the way.

The Spanish vocabulary in the story isn't too overwhelming for me. Hola, empanadas, and Abuela are words I feel rather comfortable pronouncing without feeling like a complete WASP. However, I needed to get some help with arroz con leche and Mira. I asked my sister-in-law, who is fluent in Spanish, to help me with the pronunciation. She kindly obliged.

Sometimes Hadley listens to the story as I read it, but sometimes she'd rather look at the pictures and figure out the plot that way. In this book, Hadley was most interested in the pictures, probably because she recognizes the characters from TV. In the story, each character brings something to the Sharing Day Lunch (seems appropriate), and Hadley's favorite item is the cowboy cookies that Benny brings. Not the empanadas or the arroz con leche. The cowboy cookies. There is one picture where Benny is holding the plate of cookies and his mom is behind him sort of helping him carry the cookies. This concerns Hadley. She wants Benny to hold the cookies; not his mom. On the next page, Benny's mom is holding the cookies and Hadley is quite annoyed by this. I told her that Benny's mom is holding the cookies so that Benny can keep up with Dora. I think this was mildly satisfying to Hadley. However, every time we read the story we have to stop on this page and have a lengthy discussion about the cowboy cookies. No, Benny's mom did not take the cookies from Benny. Yes, she is helping to carry them so Benny can walk with Dora. Yes, I think everyone will get a cookie (after all, this is a sharing lunch).

Throughout the book, Boots, Benny, Tico, and Isa all help Dora get to her Sharing Day Lunch. There is even a scene where all 5 of them plus Benny's mom get into a plane to fly off to pick up some rice for the arroz con leche, on their way to Abuela's. At the end, Dora recaps what each character shared in the story, and then asks, "What did you share today?" When we finish the story, I ask Hadley what she shared today and she isn't quite sure what to say. She looks at the last picture and then at me and asks, "Did I share a banana today?" I tell her no, but we talk about how she shared some of her toys with Harper and that is a good thing.

The other day I took the girls to Smoothie King and ordered a smoothie for myself and for Hadley. While we were sitting at the table drinking our smoothies, Hadley wanted to know what kind of smoothie I got. I told her I had a raspberry one. She asked me if it was good, and I said yes. I said, "Hey! I have an idea! We can share our smoothies, just like in the Dora book!" I had her at "Dora." Hadley thought this was a great idea, so we traded smoothies for a bit. Hadley said, "We're just like Dora." And I agreed.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

He Don't Have No Pants!

I found Happy and Sad Grouchy and Glad in the dollar section of Target and snatched it up for three reasons: 1)it was $1, 2)it had the Sesame Street characters in it, and 3)I thought it'd be a good way to talk about the different emotions we have. However, here is the lesson Hadley learned form the book:

While reading through this together the first time, I laughed outloud at the part where Bert is doing a dance and his pants fall down. He says, "I feel so embarrassed in polka dot pants!" Hadley, however, didn't see what was so funny about this, but wanted in on the joke because I was laughing. I said, "Bert doesn't have any pants on!" and then had a discussion about how we usually like to keep our pants on, especially in public.

It didn't take long for this concept to kick. Later that week, every time Hadley took a bath, she'd come running out of the bathroom naked and say, "Wook Mama! I'm just like Bert!" I thought this was hysterical which only brought more giggles from Hadley.

One day while we were shopping at Macy's, Hadley spotted a Calvin Klein ad. More specifically, an underwear Calvin Klein ad. She stared at it for awhile and said, "Hey Mama. That guy's just like Bert. He don't have no pants!" Thank you, Sesame Street.