Monday, April 18, 2011

A Post for First Book

I wrote this post for the First Book Blogger Book Club. "First Book provides new books to children in need, addressing one of the most important factors affecting literacy – access to books. An innovative leader in social enterprise, First Book has distributed more than 80 million free and low-cost books in thousands of communities." (Taken from the First Book website.)

There's a story I love to tell that happened one evening while my friend Alison and I were studying in the library.  It was during finals and the library was understandably crowded.  Unfortunately, the only table that was available was one next to the copy machine.  Apparently several students at Calvin that evening decided it would be a good idea to copy their entire textbook in order to study for finals.  The sound of the copying was driving us crazy and we were getting nothing done.

"There should be a 'No Copying Hours' time around here." Alison said.

"Or an 'Out of Order' sign for it." I responded back.

Alison lifted her eyebrow slightly like I was on to something.  Or perhaps I was daring her to do something a little wicked.  During a lull in the copy marathon, Alison took out a piece of paper and wrote "Out of Order" in her gorgeous script, swiveled around in her chair, then slammed it on the copy machine.

She never made eye contact with me after that.  Highlighter in one hand, and eyes on her book, if you hadn't been watching her the last 2 seconds, you never would've known what just happened. 

But I saw her.  And as much as I wanted to giggle I did my best to follow suit.  I looked down at my notes and tried to concentrate (Alison had, after all, fixed our problem), but waited excitedly to see what would happen when someone went to use the copy machine.

It wasn't long before I had to leave the library because I couldn't control my laughing.  Student after student walked up to the copy machine with their 450 lb textbook, paused to read the sign, then let out an overwhelmed gasp as if to say, What am I going to do NOW?!?!?! 

Alison never laughed.  She kept right on studying (which is probably why she's a doctor now).  And this made it even more funny for me.  The fact that she so quickly wrote the "Out of Order" sign, put it on the copy machine, then went back to work without so much as a "Hee! Hee!" was incredible to me. 

Perhaps it's not the greatest anecdote, but to me and Alison, it's hilarious.  When I remember that evening I get the giggles at how quickly she acted, and how stoic she was.  I smile because we got away with it, and I laugh (even if it's a bit of a guilty laugh) at the students' faces when they learn they can't use the copier.

I thought about this incident several times while reading the book The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart.  The main character, Frankie, is a 16 year old girl who starts dating Matthew Livingston, a seemingly charming fellow who's in a secret all-male club.

I feel disresptectful to write that Frankie is desperate to be a part of this club.  I worry it makes her sound as though she might be interested in it because of her boyfriend, or perhaps she doesn't have any friends of her own.  While these statements might have some truth to them, I think what makes Frankie desperate to be in the Loyal Order of the Basset Hounds is the need to want to be in on something. 

I get that.  Even if the bond is because of pranks that are being pulled, I understand the need to want to be in on the joke, and I wonder if that's how some of the great friendships start.  What Frankie discovers through observation (a.k.a. spying) of the Bassets, as well as reading (after stealing) The Disreputable History of the Loyal Order of the Basset Hounds is this: "...the sense of togetherness.  The king usually wrote most of the entries, but Bassets edited each other's writing, scribbled in comments, and took turns telling stories as well. They planned to know one another when they were ancient and gray....." While Alison and I and my other close friends in college liked a good laugh, we also were forming a bond. These girls who made me laugh uncontrollably were also the girls who saw me cry because I was homesick, or throw books at walls because I didn't understand that darn math assignment.  They're the women today who understand my stuggles with motherhood, and through all of that, they can still make me laugh.  I think that's what Frankie is looking for.
I feel for Frankie while at the same time admiring her.  She becomes a criminal mastermind and it is such fun to watch her lead the Bassets around on a leash.  Plus, I love that they have no clue it's her who's doing the leading. But I feel for her too because she's trying to prove to these guys that she can be one of them.  The thing is, they aren't interested in this proof.  This club is for boys. It reminds me of the story Best Friends for Frances  by Russell Hoben that Hadley and I read together frequently.  Hadley gets so angry when Albert tells Frances she can't play baseball with he and Harold, as does Frances.  The boys' reason?  "This is a no-girls game."  And Hadley loves Frances even more when she creates a "Girls Only" day that Albert cannot be a part of.

I liked a lot of things about The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks.  I thought the dialogue was hysterical and spot on with how teenagers speak to each other.  I enjoyed the parts where the narrator seemed to take a step away from the events of the story and reach out to the reader as if we were sharing some gossip over a mani/pedi. What I think I like the most, however, is that this story got me thinking about the great friendships in my life, and how they started.  Pranks are bad.  Breaking the rules is not something we want to encourage our kids.  But laughter is so, so good.  And while I want to be very careful in what I write here, I also want to express that it was in some of the not completely stand up things that I shared with my very good - best friends, I also found a part of myself.  We shared many late nights of side splitting belly laughter, and because of that I am able to come to them with more serious things. 

I hope Hadley and Harper read this book.  I want them to enjoy it.  I want them to root for Frankie, but I also want them to grow with her.  I hope they see that one of the greatest things she did in the book was figure out who she was, and who she wasn't.  "It is better to be alone, she figures, than to be with someone who can't see who you are.  It is better to lead than to follow.  It is better to speak up than stay silent.  It is better to open doors than to shut them on people." I love that Frankie figured this out pulling some of the greatest pranks in Basset Hound history. 

Figuring something out about yourself can by scary and overwhelming.  Trying to see where you belong might be one of the hardest lessons to learn; and we have to learn that over and over in life.  I hope my girls have the confidence to see what Frankie saw in herself.  Maybe it'll be stories like this that make them see that.  Or maybe it'll be meeting a few great friends that make them laugh so hard they can't breath.  Or maybe it'll be a great prank that shows the Alberts and Matthew Livingston's of the world they can do anything boys can do.

Something tells me that if my girls meet Alison's daughters they'll come up with something way better than shutting down a copy machine for the night.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Kickin' It Old School

Hadley's been quite interested lately in trying to figure out how to sound out and make words.  She likes helping me write grocery lists, and when we read stories together, she tries to find the words she knows like "yes," "stop," or "Euoplocephalus."  I'm just kidding on that last one.  Sort of.

Anyway, she and I were hanging out one afternoon as we often do, and she wanted to play a game.  I decided it was time to teach her how to make a fortune teller, also known as a "cootie catcher" for reasons I do not know.  We didn't talk about cooties growing up.  We were all about "MASH" and these fortune teller thingys.
It wasn't until my adult years I heard other peope calling them "cootie catchers."  Cootie catchers?  Seriously?  What good is that?  How are you going to figure out what kind of car you'll drive or who you're going to marry with a cootie catcher?  Who cares about cooties?  I want to drive a rabbit convertible.

But this is not a post about my issues with material possessions.  This is a post about teaching letters and words to Hadley.


So I creased the paper just like my mom taught me, and showed Hadley how it moves once it's all folded.  Hadley, being the ever practical child asks, "What do you do now?" So instead of teaching her about fortunes or cooties, I came up with a little game that I believe was a stroke of genius on my part.  Read carefully because you're totally going to want to try this at home.

We wrote numbers and letters on all the appropriate folds of our creation.  Then, after moving it the appropriate number of times (called by the number on the fold), we looked to see what letter popped up.

Then we wrote that letter down and after we had several letters, we tried to make words.

It's a great little game to do with kids who are learning how to read and write words.  I had so much fun I'm thinking about bringing it to the next party we go to.

Well, I guess I need to be invited to a party first.

There's the rub.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

A Lot Can Happen in Ten Minutes

I found a blog that quickly has become a favorite.  It's called Seriously A Homemaker and you will be sure to giggle your way through several of her posts.  Plus, her layout is so cute.  I want my blogs to look cute, but I don't know how to do any of that stuff.  People tell me it's "super easy" but they don't understand how technically challenged I am.  For example: last week at the gym I forgot my mp3 player in the spin room.  When I realized what happened I went to the front desk and told the guy, "I need to go back to the spin room because I lost my WALKMAN."  He said, "You lost your what?"

So I'm afraid to do anything other than write and add pictures or the occasional video to my blogs. 

Anyway, the author of this blog has a 10-Minute Challenge this Monday.  What you do is take a mess in your home and, as she writes, "kick its butt" in ten minutes. 

Usually I would put this sort of thing on my "Notes from Naptime" blog, but the thing that I did combines the book Madeline at the White House by John Bemelmans Marciano, an art project, and a little homemaking all in one.  If that's not multi-tasking, I don't know what is.

Jesse brought home a book from Grand Rapids for each of the girls last weekend.  Hadley's was the Madeline book.  I think it is my favorite of all our Madeline books because it's about Washington DC during the Cherry Blossom season.  Last year, Hadley and I went to the Easter Egg Roll and she and I love looking at the pictures of the Egg Roll in Madeline at the White House.  We compare what we did and what Madeline and Co. are doing in the book.

I thought a fun project to go along with this book would be to make our own cherry blossoms.  This idea came from the Queen of Homemaking - Martha Stewart herself. Here's what she suggests. 

I wasn't planning on this project taking 10 minutes.  I figured it'd take 30-45, but the H's weren't super excited about doing this.

"Awwww, Mom!  Not another one of your projects!"
"Just humor her, Harper.  Then maybe we can have some chocolate milk."
You know what Hadley was excited about?  Making this:
We went outside to pick up sticks for our Cherry Blossom project, and in the time it took me to put Harper down for a nap (ten minutes), Hadley made a stick guy. 

Not exactly what I had in mind, but I had to take a picture of it because it is pretty impressive.  Also, Hadley told me the guy is saying, "Hey guys!  Wait for me!"  That's why one of his arms is raised.  I know I'm biased, but I think she's quite possibly the coolest four year old in the world.

Back to the project.

I'm not sure why a stethescope was essential for part of this project, or why Hadley had to wear her ballet outfit for it, but I'm learning that some questions are best left unanswered.

Here's the finished product:

Here's why I think this is a nice "10 Minute Monday" submission.  First, it took 10 minutes.  Second, Hadley, Harper and I created something for our home that makes us happy when we walk into the playroom (despite their lack of enthuiasm while doing the project). Third, I didn't spend one penny on the project.  Sticks? Free. Tissue paper? Leftover from presents that were given to us. Vase? It came with flowers that were sent to us when one of the girls was born.  Most of all, it combines things that I love: trying to bring the stories we read into our everyday lives, making our home a nicer place, and hanging out with the H's. Of course, I also get to blog about it which is a lovely bonus as well.

It seems that a lot of what the blogs I like to read are about is taking something that you have and improving on it - whether that's parenting, homemaking, design, writing, what-have-you.  I like to be a part of that kind of thinking.