Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A Post About the Time I Declared My Love for Snape to (almost) Strangers

Last night I got some advice about blogging, and one of the things that was suggested I do is write a post explaining a little bit about myself.  This is difficult for me to do for a couple of reasons.  The first one is, I don't like to do it.  When I have to do this, I can only think about things that would scare people.  Like the fact that I get really annoyed that the lines on college ruled paper are not as narrow as they used to be.  (I've measured them.)

The second reason I don't like to do this is that I can't believe that anyone really cares.  If you come here at all, you are thinking about books, not about learning that I cried in the movie "Ghost Dad."  Starring Bill Cosby.

However, I might've found a way to address both my love of stories with my apprehension to share.  So here goes.

Last night, we were invited over to a new friend's house for dinner.  She is my new blogger friend who happens to live nearby.  I recently joined the DC KidLit Book Club, which she started, so I knew if all else failed, we'd be able to talk about books. 

Oh my goodness, did I have fun.  She showed me an autographed copy of Jerry Pinkney's The Lion and the Mouse. This year's Caldecott Winner. It's signed not only by Pinkney, but I believe his publisher or agent as well.  "Because," she told me, "I believe everyone has value."  So she tries to get as many signatures on a book as possible. 

She told me she went to Brandeis, and then said that she always gets three responses: "I've heard of it," "Never heard of it," or, "You must be Jewish."  I told her that's what everyone says to me too, when they hear I went to Calvin.  Except that the last sentence is usually "You must be Christian Reformed."  I should've added Dutch to the statement as well.  "But," I added quickly, "that's where Gary Schmidt teaches."  And then the topic turned to his book Trouble.  We both agreed that was our favorite of his books.  "He was robbed of the Newberry,"  she said.  I agreed wholeheartedly.

When we sat down for dinner the discussion turned to Harry Potter.  This woman is a Harry Potter whiz.  Ask her anything about the books, and she can give you not only an answer, but a great anecdote to go along with it.  I was recalling the time I was reading Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince in a coffee shop and I was so worked up when Dumbledore died that someone came over and asked me if I was OK.  This sparked a discussion on how sad this scene was, but how perfect, too.  We all agreed it had to be done and continued to discuss the roles Snape and Malfoy played in this scene, as well.  I then said, loudly, "I love Snape!  I've loved him from the beginning!"  My new friend turned her head and started to laugh, and it was at this point that I realized I probably would've been better off asking whether anyone knew where to buy some appropriately lined college-ruled paper.

But that's what happens when I start talking about books to people who seem to enjoy them as much as I do.  I think Meg Ryan in "You've Got Mail" said something like "When you love a book it becomes a part of who you are", and chick flick movie or not, I agree.

It was a great night.  I even left with copies of Just Me and My Little Sister by Mercer Mayer and Bear Wants more by Karma Wilson (illustrated by Jane Chapman).  I know these will be well read by the H's in months to come. 

I don't think I can write down 100 things about myself, and I certainly can't write down a list of all the books I wrote, which blogger conferences I've attended, or what my Twitter handle is.  But I can say that I love books, and I love to write.  It's nice to meet someone else who does, too.

Now if I could find some nice college ruled paper, life would be splendid.

**You can check out the blogs Wizards Wireless and Booklights to see her in action.  I particularly like her posts in "Booklights" about what a librarian does.  I think my mom would like the one about trying to find a book that has  "a hippo holding a lemon."**

Sunday, July 25, 2010


Hadley never wants to read Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox.  I suggest we read it every couple of weeks, and when I pull it off the shelf she shakes her head and says, "I don't want to read that one."  She won't tell me why.

However, I think the book is excellent, so every now and then I insist we read it.  I usually hide it in between a Fancy Nancy and a Frances story.  That way she's kind of lost in the world of accesorizing or thinking about Chompo Bars by the time I get to the first page of Fox's story. 

The story is about Wilfrid Gordon trying to help his friend, Miss Nancy, find her memory.  In order to do this, he needs to know what a memory is in the first place.  So he asks around and he gets answers such as, "something from long ago," or "something that makes you cry," and "something as precious as gold."  Once he's collected some ideas about what a memory is, he puts together a basket of objects and brings them to Miss Nancy in hopes she will find her memory.

This is my favorite part - Miss Nancy looks at each of the objects Wilfrid Gordon brings to her and says, "'What a dear, strange child to bring me all these wonderful things,'....Then she started to remember."

Perhaps this is why Hadley doesn't like this book.  Because when I get to this part, sometimes my voice starts to crack.  I might start reading more slowly, or quietly, or I'll stare at the pictures where Miss Nancy is remembering an event in her life from long ago.  Hadley doesn't want me to get all sentimental.  "Just read the story, Mom" is what I'm pretty sure she's thinking. 

The other night we read Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge together and when we got to the part where he is trying to figure out what a memory is, I asked Hadley if she could think of a memory that went with the prompt in the book. Mrs. Jordan tells Wifrid Gordon that a memory is "something warm."
"Can you think of something that is warm?" I asked her.
"Yea, coal."
"Yes, coal is pretty warm." I replied.

Mr. Tippit told Wilfrid Gordon that a memory is something "that makes you cry."  I asked Hadley if she could think of a memory like that and she said, "Sometimes I get sad." 

When I got to Mr Drysdale's answer, "something as precious as gold", Hadley asked Jesse, "Do you have a memory of something that is precious as gold, Daddy?"
"I do." he said.
"What is it?" Hadley asked.
"The day you were born."

Hadley might never enjoy this story, but I like to read it because I like to see Miss Nancy get a little of her memory back, and I like to hear what it is that she remembers.  The memories are painful and funny and sweet, and I like to think that by remembering some events in her life, she is remembering a little bit about who she is.  That's how I see it anyway. 

I went through a pretty long phase of insisting that a certain character in a horror movie (that I should've never watched in the first place at a birthday party sleepover) was going to kill me if I fell asleep.  I don't even want to write his name down now because it freaks me out.  I have sympathy for those in the Harry Potter books who don't want to utter Voldermort's name.   Anyway, my parents could count on me coming into their room at some point in the night asking if I could sleep with them.  On one night, my mom walked me back to my room and sat with me for a bit.  I told her I just couldn't stop thinking about this guy.  He was so scary.  She said, "Try and think about something good.  Try to think about something you like to do."

So I thought about riding my bike.  And ice-skating.  And singing songs on the radio with a pretend microphone.  I thought about my homeroom teacher whom I adored.  She wore high heels but didn't pound them on the floor while she walked around.  Her footsteps were quiet and soothing.  I would practice walking like her when I played school.

This guy I was so scared of eventually stopped dominating my thoughts at night, but I still tend to think of scary things now and then.  However, I do what my mom says and think about something good.  Something I like to do.  A lot of the memories that I like to think about come with pain, or hard work, or tears.  They are still nice memories, and each of them tells me a little bit about myself. 

I can't explain all this to Hadley right now, but I know she has memories of her own, and I know she'll recall them when she needs to.  And if she doesn't want to read Mem Fox's book, I'll read her a Frances story and we'll talk about how hard it is to wait for our birthdays.  We'll discuss how many months until she turns 4, and I"ll tell her that yes, tomorrow when she wakes up, she will still be 3 and 1/2.  Or we'll read Fancy Nancy, Bonjour Butterfly and we'll talk about the time we went to the Butterfly Garden and saw all the butterflies.  We'll also probably talk about how butterflies start off as caterpillars, and Hadley will bring up the time Harper stepped on a caterpillar and how sad that was.

I'll walk with Hadley and remind her of these events in her life until she can do that for herself.  I'll watch and help her and her sister figure out who they are as they grow.  I hope that I can provide good stories to read along the way.

Friday, July 23, 2010

A Day at the Beach

Well, it wasn't really a day at the beach, but this morning we had another book club and I made it into a beach day because we read The Seashore Book by Charlotte Zolotow.  This is a book I would definetely want to own.  The pictures are lovely, but the writing, in my opinion, stands on its own.  Zolotow uses words like "swishswashing" to describe the sounds of the waves, and writes, "the cold water makes your skin feel like peppermint...."  If I were still teaching, I'd use this story as an example of great description using all five senses.

Before we read the book, I asked the kids what they knew about the beach.  They threw out words as fast as I could write them, and we compiled a list of what we know about the beach.  I tried to get the kids to think of color, texture, sound, things to do, etc.

After I read the story to them, the kids each got a bag and I told them they are going on a "beach hunt."  They needed to find seashells that I hid around our home and put them in the bag (I just printed out pictures of seashells and taped them all over our place).

(Don't know why this picture is flipped, sorry!)

Once the group found several seashells, I gave them each an empty "beach scene" (a brown grocery bag with a piece of blue construction paper glued to it) and told them to glue their shells on the beach and create a picture with whatever else they wanted to draw.

Here's Hadley's finished product:

I realize the shells are just a wee bit out of proprotion to the "ocean" and the sand.  Oh well.  Math has never been my thing.

After we made our pictures, we all went down and played at the water table for a bit.

Once we all got nice and hot, we went inside to have popsicles and drink juice.  At least for me, book club is turning out to be a lot of fun!

Monday, July 19, 2010


Today I want to talk about wild things and where they are.  When I became a mother, I realized that they are everywhere.  They're on the road.  They live next door.  They're in my house.  I don't know exactly what to do about them, or how to come to terms with the fact that my daughters kind of like the wild things. 

So I turned to the source for answers: Where the Wild Things Are  by Maurice Sendak.  I was nervous about reading this story to Hadley because the monsters are so scary!  Especially the part with the Wild Rumpus!  Just the word "rumpus" sounds scary to me.  And the pictures during this part take up the entire page.  It's as if Hadley and I are part of this world of Max's.  There are no words on the page; nothing to focus on but the Wild Rumpus. 

It reminds me of these parties we used to have in high school.  They took place in the woods.  If that's not a setting for a short story, I don't know what is.  Anyway, you'd be sitting in class on a Friday and someone would say, "Party in the woods tonight."  And you'd get a little tingle of fear and excitement.  Should I go? Who else will be there?  What should I wear? What if it gets busted? Where, exactly in 'the woods' is it?  Oh yes, fear and excitement indeed. 

We'd park in the parking lot of McDonalds and run across a huge intersection.  How this wasn't a tip off for kids doing something they weren't supposed to be doing I'm not sure.  Once we entered the woods, we walked down (what I think I remember was) a long path.  You couldn't hear much, but you knew something was coming, and it was going to be pretty wild.

I look at Hadley out of the corner of my eye while I'm reading Where the Wild Things Are and I see how enthralled she is at this scene with the monsters.  She wants to join in.  I don't blame her - there's something thrilling about the Wild Rumpus.  The stomping of the feet.  The laughing too hard.  The chance to be someone different for a bit.

The more I read the story, the more I like that Max tries out life with the wild things.  He has fun with them.  Great fun.  But when the party ends, and he smells something delicious, he wants to go home.

And I hope that, like Max, Hadley knows how to get back on her boat and sail home when it's time.  I'll always have her dinner waiting for her. 

And it will still be hot.

**On a side note, a HUGE thank you to A Fuse #8 Production for the kind things that were written about my blog.  There was definetely a Wild Rumpus going on when I saw my blog mentioned in your post.  And for a little bit, I got to feel like a "real" writer.**

Friday, July 16, 2010

First "Sit A While" Book Club

One of my favorite things to do when I was teaching was Book Club.  I hoped it was a chance for students to sit together and just talk about the book they were reading.  Today, I hosted a Book Club at my house and we read Watermelon Day by Kathi Appelt.  This is a charming story about a girl who waits and watches a watermelon grow and ripen so she can eat it. 

Hadley was quite excited about this activity.  Partly because she saw me making cookies and green and red frosting, and partly because she got to wear a name tag.
The child likes stories, but I guess sugar and name tags were more exciting. 

We read the story together, and except for Harper who was saying things like "The End!" and trying to slam the book closed, the three girls seemed to be interested.  The pictures in the book are great, and I love the description throughout the story.  The main character, Jesse, tastes the watermelon after a long wait and thinks that it's as "sweet as the summer rain."

Since I was a Middle School teacher, I came up with activities that would get the kids to discuss the story they were reading.  However, I didn't think that was going to be appropriate for 3-5 year olds.  It was just a hunch I had.  So I came up with some other ideas:

First, we had a craft that had the kids gluing pieces of a watermelon together.

Then we went outside and played kickball.  In the story, Jesse's family invites others over for "Watermelon Day," and while they're waiting for the watermelon they play softball.  I was nervous about doing softball as the activity for two reasons.  First, if anyone is going to teach people how to play softball, it really shouldn't be me.  Second, I thought maybe softball would be too complicated.  With kickball you basically tell the kids to kick the ball and run.  So that's what we did.

Then after kickball, we came inside to eat watermelon and decorate sugar cookies to try and make them look like watermelon.

Note that Harper decided to just go ahead and eat her cookie without frosting it first.  Why wait, really?  The other three girls seemed to enjoy frosting their cookies, and eating the frosting as well.  There was a bit of double dipping goin' on.  I won't lie.

When it was time to go, I made a little "to go" bag of cookies so the kids could have the extras.  It seemed like the right thing to do in case the activities were a complete bust.  At least you could walk away with cookies.

I thought it was a lot of fun, and the girls made some new friends.

Plus, it was the perfect day for watermelon.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Olivia Day

I decided that today would be a day to celebrate one of my favorite characters since I had my girls: Olivia.  I just love Olivia.  I think she's hysterical.  And clever.  I'd love for my girls to make a friend like Olivia.

I signed Hadley and Harper up for a music class that we go to on Wednesday mornings, so before we left for it, I thought reading Olivia Forms a Band would be appropriate.  Hadley liked the pages where Olivia is playing her instruments and the words are all over the page: "PING, KLING, STRUUUM, CLANG, THUMP, THUMP, BWAP!

Both girls got pretty quiet when the family begins to watch the fireworks.  Up until these pages, the colors are classic Olivia colors: white, black, red, and a little blue.  But these pages are dark with beautiful yellows and oranges for the firecrackers.  They seem to sparkle, and it's hard not to feel like you're watching the fireworks yourself (or, at least remembering quite clearly past fireworks shows).

The pages Hadley wanted to focus on, however, were the pages where Olivia decided to put on lipstick.  We read those over several times.  Hadley wanted to know exactly what Olivia was doing, and why that made her mom so mad.  It seems that Hadley has a fascination with the naughty things kids do.  She understands what Olivia did was wrong, but she sees that beautiful smile on Olivia when she puts on her lipstick, and also understands that sometimes something that is naughty is great fun.  It's hard for me not to get a thrill when I see Hadley studying Olivia's actions.  Hadley does the same thing in the book Olivia when Olivia paints the walls of her home and gets a time out.  She knows this is wrong, and yet, it looks so darn fun!  It's almost worth a time out.

I secrectly enjoy that Hadley "gets" Olivia.  It's not that I want her to do bad things, but I like that she sees the thrill in what Olivia's doing. It reminds me of a time in college when my friend Alison and I were trying to study at the library.  We were sitting right next to a copier, and apparently that was the night that everyone wanted to make copies of their entire textbook.  We were getting so distracted by the noise that we put an "Out of Order" sign on the machine.  Of course, this caused even more of a distraction because every time a student would walk up to the copier with their 5,872 page book they wanted to copy, they'd huff and puff when they saw it was out of order, and Alison and I would get the giggles.  It got so we would look forward to the next student that would come to the copier.  I think Olivia would've been in on that with us.

Anyway, we went to music class and then later in the afternoon I suggested we paint the scene where Olivia paints on the wall (I taped posterboard to a window so Hadley got the "feel" of perhaps painting on the wall).

But Hadley was more interested in trying to re-create this scene:

She looks great, doesn't she?

I let girls have at it and here's what they came up with:

I tried to encourage Hadley to not mix the colors up so they make black.  She said, "Everyone has a favorite color, Mom.  Mine is black."  Well, then. There you have it.

Harper gave it a shot, too, but was more interested in trying to destroy what Hadley was working on.  She kept saying, "Harper's turn!" and trying to paint on Hadley's picture.  I'm afraid Harper's going to be the kid that gets kids like Olivia into worse trouble then they might already be in.   I can see her saying, "Sure, painting on the wall is cool, but you know what would be even cooler?  Painting your mom's plants and the bedspread in her bedroom!"

Either way, I'm thankful for stories with Olivia in it.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

If I Had to Choose a Favorite Bug....

It's not that I hate bees, wasps, hornets, or anything that has the ability to sting.  I'm simply out of my mind terrified of them.  This happened almost two years ago, and I still get breathless thinking about it.  That's partly because these fellows still get in somehow, and it always happens while the girls are taking a nap.  All is calm, I am getting ready to enjoy some peace and quiet, but I hear a buzz, and sure enough there is a wasp crawling around on the window. 
I react the same way every time (which is about once a week).  First, I gasp and then say, "OhmygoodnessohcrapohmygoodnessohcrapohmygoodnesswhatamIgoingtodo?" Then I go get a shoe, and text Jesse to tell him there is ANOTHER wasp on our window.  The third step takes forever.  I just stand there staring at it and feeling like I'm going to faint.  A tiny voice tells me that this wasp that I'm looking at is not that big, but I don't believe it.  To me, it's enormous.  It's Animal in the Muppet Movie when he grows so big he busts out of the building  that he's playing the drums in.
Sometimes I take a break from staring at it and text Jesse again to give him an update. "Can't kill it." or "It's so scary!" or "Can you come home and kill it?"  (I have the luxury of knowing the wasp will be right where it is because once they get into our place, they don't fly.  They just walk up and down the same window.)  But it always ends in me having to get closer and closer, then slowly raising my shoe covered hand to eventually crush it.  I hate every part of this, but killing it is the worst.  Afterwords I feel sick.  I have to sit down.  I gave birth to an almost 10 pound baby and minutes later got into a heated conversation with the nurse trying to convince her that "I can totally stand up and walk to the recovery room," but something that weighs less then my wedding ring gives me pause.

But it's summer now so I have to deal with wasps and other kinds of bugs.  It's probably a good thing; facing your fears and all that.  If a wasp was on our window and I was all by myself, I'd probably just leave and have Jesse deal with it when he got home.  Because that's the kind of wimp that I am.

The only bug that does not in any way freak me out is the firefly.  I love these guys.  Who doesn't like sitting outside on a summer night and watching lightening bugs? They don't come flying around, buzzing in your ear.  They don't want a piece of what you're eating. They just fly around lighting up the evening.
That's why, when we saw them for the first time this summer, and Hadley freaked out (a skill she learned from her mother), I was the first to calm her down.  "No, no, Hadley.  These are the good guys.  These bugs are really cool!"  And so we stayed outside and watched them do their thing.  We tried to catch a few so Hadley and Harper could see them up close.  We "oooed and ahhhed" along with the girls.  And then I started wondering if there were any books on fireflies. 

I found The Very Lonely Firefly by Eric Carle that we've been reading at home recently.  Like all of Carle's books, the pictures are great and the story captivates both Hadley and Harper. I, however, am a little sad throughout the entire story until the firefly finds his friends.  I like the last page where he and his friends seem to be having a little party in the night sky.  I thought it would be fun to re-create this last scene with the girls, plus, it gave me an excuse to use the ridiculous amount of glitter I recently purchased at Micheal's.

Here's my night sky:

I traced a bunch of "bodies" for the bugs, along with wings and heads for Hadley and Harper to put together.
I showed Hadley how to put together the first one.  She probably could've figured it out, but I really wanted to use the glitter.  From Hadley's face, you can tell she did, too.

And then I let her give it a try (Harper wasn't too interested at this point).

After we made several, we put them on our night sky.

The finished product:

These guys are hanging in the room that the wasps come in, sort of as an example of the kind of behavior I expect from any bug.  No buzzing.  No flying in my face.  No stinging.  If you can't abide by these rules, I'll need to get my shoe.  That's just the way it is.