September 13, 2018 § 6 Comments
My eldest is a walking barometer: his mood reflects the very movement of the clouds, the atmospheric pressure, the veil of precipitation. Such a fine membrane seems to exist between the surface of his skin and the world beyond, that it’s often difficult to tell where he ends and the weather begins. A grey day brings with it fatigue at best and dejection at worst. The threat of storm clouds yields a heightened, agitated alertness. A clear blue sky produces bottomless joy, coupled with a wide-eyed innocence like he is seeing the world for the first time. « Read the rest of this entry »
September 15, 2016 Comments Off on Severe Weather Alert
Tonight’s forecast includes freakishly strong winds, wild fluctuations in temperature, and all forms of precipitation. Power outages possible. Lightning probable. Children begging to hear one more bedtime story guaranteed.
What do you get when you cross real science with monsters?
Easily the most fun educational book about the weather. « Read the rest of this entry »
June 30, 2014 § 4 Comments
JP has decorated his summer journal and is ready to record our adventures (here’s hoping his motivation extends past the first week). Many of these adventures will take us into nature, where there are always metaphors to be discovered about life. Take, for example, our vegetable garden: each morning we wake to budding strawberries, and each evening we return to discover that they have been devoured by the squirrels and cardinals (how dare the latter betray me after I sung their praises right here?!). There’s a lesson somewhere in there about patience and not expecting to get things right the first time. And so we return to bed with renewed hope.
The Dandelion’s Tale (Ages 4-8), a new picture book by Kevin Sheehan and Rob Dunlavey, offers us another metaphor, this one about the fleeting, cyclical nature of life. This gem of a book takes what can be a heavy subject and delivers it in such a subtle, eloquent, kind, and accessible way, that children won’t realize they’re being taught a Great Lesson. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that it stars a dandelion. You’d be hard pressed to find a child that isn’t obsessed with dandelions. A yellow flower that I can pick with no adult getting mad (not to mention wind into chains, tuck behind my ear, or proudly proffer to whatever grown-up happens to be standing near)? A billowy white flower with such delicate seeds that the tiniest puff of breath sends them sailing across the grass? Yes, a child’s love for dandelions runs deep. « Read the rest of this entry »
January 29, 2014 § 3 Comments
My six year old doesn’t understand why Groundhog Day isn’t a school holiday. I tried to explain that, with February 2 being a Sunday this year, it’s sort of a moot point. “But it’s not always on a weekend, Mommy.” So then I tried to explain that the government only picks a few of the most important people in our history (ahem, George Washington, Martin Luther King Jr.) to honor with a school holiday—and that contrary to what he might think with ALL THESE SNOW DAYS, kids are supposed to be IN SCHOOL, learning stuff that their parents don’t have the patience to teach them. “Well, Punxsutawney Phil IS very important because he can PREDICT THE WEATHER.” This is a fair, if debatable, point.
The children’s books on the subject of this Very Important Holiday tend to be either factually straightforward (Gail Gibbons’ Groundhog Day! is usually the teacher’s favorite) or purely fictional (read: silly and unhelpful). But this year, I stumbled upon a find that combines fact, fiction, and An All-Around Good Time: a book titled Groundhog Weather School: Fun Facts About Weather and Groundhogs (Ages 5-9), by Joan Holub, with illustrations by Kristin Sorra. This is precisely the type of book I knew JP would enjoy reading by himself (and, as parents of newly independent readers know, we’re always on the hunt for “that book”). « Read the rest of this entry »
November 29, 2012 § 1 Comment
The best parenting advice I ever received—and didn’t listen to—came when I was in the throes of sleep training my six month old. The advice was: “Make sure you pick a short bedtime ritual, because you’ll be doing it for a long time.” Of course, when you’re knee-deep in sleep deprivation, it’s not easy to see into the future and predict that five years later, your son will still expect a book, water, two songs (one being a made-up “Curious George” song, don’t ask), a hug, a kiss, and a very involved tucking in of the covers every single night. We all get wiser the second time around; and consequently, I have a five year old who takes 45 minutes to put to bed, and a two year old who takes 45 seconds. But one thing remains the same: I love a good bedtime story. The best bedtime stories are filled with gentle, lulling rhymes; jewel-toned illustrations; and ample opportunities for whispers and kisses (see my full list at the end of this post). The witching hours of dinner and bath time behind us, pajamas donned and teeth brushed, our collective bodies relax as the first words are read. No matter what madness has just transpired in the moments leading up to this one, peace is now restored; those big juicy bonds of love can flow freely once more (because, let’s face it, it’s almost over). Recently, Emily has fallen in love with Tell Me About Your Day Today (Ages 2-4), a newly published treasure by the fantastic and prolific Australian author, Mem Fox, with rich acrylic paintings by Lauren Stringer. It makes me chuckle when reading this to my daughter because it reminds me so much of her older brother: the story is about “a boy who loved bedtime,” from “the last kiss” to the “last story” to the “last good night.” Ironically, what the boy loves most is the moment when the bedtime ritual ends, when his mom departs and he can debrief the day with his beloved stuffed goose, horse, and rabbit (so this is what our kids are doing when we hear them muttering incoherently to themselves upstairs in their rooms!) Even the text itself has a kind of ritualistic feel, as the boy begins each whispered conversation the same way: “Greedy Goose…tell me about your day today.” Mem Fox never wastes a word, and here her carefully crafted text can only be fully comprehended with the help of Stringer’s accompanying illustrations. “And Greedy Goose told him about her day—the who, the what, the why, and the way…the whole wild thing…turned out okay.” We read this refrain four times throughout the story, as bit by bit the illustrations reveal the story of the boy’s day with his stuffed animals—a day involving a thunderstorm, a tea party, some puddle jumping, and a Band-aid applied where a rabbit’s tail once was. I can’t think of a better mantra to read to a child before bed. Their days, like our days, are filled with highs and lows, with victories and disappointments, with worries and reassurances. At the end of the day, we get to put it all aside and close our eyes. Now, please go to sleep.
Other Favorites about Bedtime and Sleep:
Time for Bed, by Mem Fox & Jane Dyer (Ages 0-3)
The Going to Bed Book, by Sandra Boynton (Ages 0-3)
Goodnight Moon, by Margaret Wise Brown (Ages 0-3)
Goodnight Gorilla, by Peggy Rathmann (Ages 1-4)
I’ll See You in the Morning, by Mike Jolley & Mique Moriuchi (Ages 1-4)
I Took the Moon for a Walk, by Carolyn Curtis & Alison Jay (Ages 2-5)
Grandfather Twilight, by Barbara Helen Berger (Ages 2-5)
A Book of Sleep, by Il Sung Na (Ages 2-4)
The Goodnight Train, by June Sobel & Laura Huliska-Beith (Ages 2-4)
Tell Me the Day Backwards, by Albert Lamb & David McPhail (Ages 2-5)