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  1. Summer Fun List Update

    September 2, 2011 by frecklesandsunshine

    Just because a girl goes back to work doesn’t mean she’s all teach and no fun, you know. If we teachers didn’t make time for fun, we would lose our minds.

    And, yes, I realize Labor Day is on Monday and that is the symbolic end of summer. I, however, am giving myself until the first official day of fall to complete as much of my list as possible. For those of you keeping track, that’s September 23rd.

    Until then, here’s an update on what has been crossed off the list in the last few weeks.

    Keep reading…


  2. Summer Reading…So Far

    August 9, 2011 by frecklesandsunshine

    #36 on my Summer Fun List is to read, a lot. I love reading. It is my one of my most favorite things to do. When I was teaching, it was hard to find the time to read between lesson planning, grading, and having some semblance of a life. Reading only happened during breaks or the summer.

    I’d like to say that I could pick up a book during the school year and read just a bit each night before bed. Believing in that idea would mean living in complete denial about what my true limitations are as a reader. If I love a book, heck even if I just kind of like it, it is very difficult for me to put it down. So, picking up a book during the school year was always just too risky. I’d stay up too late reading and be a complete nincompoop as a teacher the next day. Or I’d fall completely behind on my school work because surprisingly a good piece of fiction is way more interesting than 30 spelling tests.

    Now that I’m home with Olivia, I actually have time to read. After she goes down for the evening, I have a few hours to myself and that time is very often filled with a book. I still don’t stay up all night reading. Mostly because the only thing worse that being a complete nincompoop teacher is being a complete nincompoop mommy.

    About the same time I made my Summer Fun List, I posted on Facebook asking for book recommendations. My friends came through, as usual, with some stellar suggestions. Because I trust these people so implicitly, I didn’t really investigate many of the recommendations. I just put them on hold at the library and picked them up as they became available.

    Keep reading…


  3. Go the F to Sleep

    June 28, 2011 by frecklesandsunshine

    Olivia turned 10 months old last week. I can’t believe I am already coming up with ideas for her first birthday party.

    When we became parents last August, Tim and I agreed…there is nothing else like the love you have for your child.

    Parenthood is precious.

    Most of the time…

    Like this…

    And this…

    And, lately, like this…

    But, occasionally, we get a little too precious about parenthood. Because, as we all know, parenting is also about this…

    I am the Chief Bottle Washer.

    And this…

    Spitting cottage cheese. Charming, no?

    And, of course this…

    Aren't you glad I didn't take a picture of the inside?? Or that your computer doesn't have Smell-o-vision?

    When we get a little too precious about parenthood and our children, a little humor usually does the trick. In my world, sarcastic humor is perfect.

    So, when I stumbled over a small package on my doorstep a couple weeks ago I was intrigued. Tim’s dad had emailed to let us know he was sending us a book. I was too busy at the time to look it up. On the day it arrived, I opened up the package and sat there, dumbfounded.

    “Go the F*** to Sleep” Really?? Kinda harsh.

    Then, I opened it up. I soon realized that although it is constructed like a traditional children’s book, it is by no means meant for children.

    The tears began to flow. Between the giggles, snorts, and guffaws, the tears rolled down my cheeks. The kind that only come when I am laughing so hard that I cry.

    The windows are dark in the town, child. The whales huddle down in the deep. I'll read you one very last book if you swear, You'll go the f*** to sleep.

    The story, written by Adam Mansbach, is told from the perspective of a parent putting his/her child to bed. Over and over again.

    Although Olivia is too young to get up from bed on her own, Tim and I can still relate based solely on those early sleep deprived days of parenthood. Sheer exhaustion is the same no matter what form it comes in.

    This is my favorite page.

    The eagles who soar through the sky are at rest And the creatures who crawl, run and creep. I know you're not thirsty. That's bullshit. Stop lying. Lie the f*** down, my darling, and sleep.

    What’s even better is that Samuel L. Jackson did the audiobook. Go here for the free download.

    The next time you feel like parenthood is all about this…

    Read this book, have a little chuckle, and then go play with your kid.


  4. The Hunger Games

    June 10, 2011 by frecklesandsunshine

    I suppose that it is not summer yet. Not technically anyway. Of course, those of you who are currently experiencing 100 plus degree days and wicked humidity would probably disagree.

    When I was still teaching, the arrival of summer meant one very important thing. It was time to read. That first week of break I would head on down to the library and check out a stack of books. Then, I would readreadread my way through the searing Arizona summer. I wasn’t picky. I would read the classics, chick lit, murder mysteries, and Pulitzer Prize winners. There were days that I would just read the whole day away. Many of my teacher friends do the same thing.

    At the end of last summer, I was definitely reading, but I was into a whole new genre. Specifically, parenting and birthing books. Olivia was due in late August, so fiction was off the table for a while. Then, along she came, pink and perfect. Along with her came a potential job for Tim…in Colorado. So, when O was 3 weeks old, we packed up the car and drove up to Denver where Tim had his final interview. (Yes, we took a 3 week old on a 5 day road trip. We might have been crazy. That’s a whole other blog post.) After he wrapped that up, we took the long way home and drove to Steamboat Springs to see our friends, Dave, Jenn, and Bennett.

    By the time we got to Steamboat, I was fried. My body wasn’t healed, my hormones were raging, and I was staring down an interstate move with a newborn to a place where we had no family. I needed  a mental escape in a bad way. While in Steamboat, Jenn asked me if I had read The Hunger Games. Nope, hadn’t ever heard of it. Later, when Dave came in the room, she brought it up again. I think he said something along the lines of, “If you liked Harry Potter, you’ll like this.”

    Even though I love Harry Potter, I was wary. First, there is only one boy wizard for me, thanks. Harry, Ron, and Hermione cannot be replaced or duplicated. Second, someone said the same thing to me about the Twilight books, which I thought sucked. Hard. So, when Jenn took me up to the smallest WalMart ever to pick up some new mama supplies, I sort of felt bad when she offered to buy me the book. What if I hated it and it was a waste of her money? But then my sincere love of books overrode everything else and I said, “Yes, please!”

    When we got back to the house, I dove in. I was hooked almost immediately. The story of Katniss, the heroine, was riveting. She lives in District 12 of Panem, a post-apocalyptic North America. It is a dystopian society made of 12 districts. Yeah, I didn’t know what dystopian meant either. Basically, it is a society which only really benefits one segment of society but is held up as one that benefits all. An anti-utopia. Think Brave New World or 1984.

    Ever year, in Panem, the hunger games are held. Two children are chosen from each district to enter an arena and fight to the death in a televised survival of the fittest competition. It’s part reality television, part Roman gladiator games. Katniss becomes a contestant and the book tells the story of her competition. Katniss is a kick-ass heroine. Although there are romantic entanglements, she is not obsessing over boys. She is self-sufficient, courageous, smart, and wily. Her characterization is one of my favorite things about the book and the whole series. Katniss is a great female character for young readers to be exposed to.

    When I wasn’t caring for Olivia over the next couple days, I was glued to The Hunger Games. Dave was right. Not because The Hunger Games is just like Harry Potter, because it is decidedly not. Instead, Suzanne Collins has done what JK Rowling also did. She created a fictional world that was unique and interesting and believable. This is also a series. After finishing The Hunger Games, I devoured Catching Fire and Mockingjay.

    Lately, maybe because of the Hunger Games movie news, it seems like a lot of my friends are talking about these books. This makes me happy. I love when people love the books I do. If you are looking for a great series of books to dive into, I would highly suggest The Hunger Games. The whole series is a great summer read.

    Pour yourself a glass of lemonade, sit in the shade of a tree, and get your read on.

    Oh, and Jenn? Thanks for the book!


  5. How to Choose Books for Your Baby

    April 14, 2011 by frecklesandsunshine

    I have always loved to read. I’ve had my nose in a book since I was 4 years old. Throughout my childhood, books were an escape. An escape from the summer heat, from school work, from chores (Seriously, I got grounded from reading once. True story.), and from life in general. I loved the adventures I was able to experience when reading. I would solve mysteries with Nancy and Ned, roam the prairie with Laura, and live in the Civil War era with Jo March. The library was, and is still, one of my favorite places to go.

    It was probably only natural that I would become a teacher. Specifically, a teacher who taught reading. I’ve had countless hours of training and experience in helping students choose books at their appropriate reading level. I’ve even trained parents in this skill. “Yes, I would imagine your six year old is having trouble with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. How about Green Eggs and Ham instead?”  When choosing books for my students, I took a number of factors into consideration. How many words and pages did the book have? Fiction or nonfiction? Illustrations or photographs? Would the child enjoy reading about this subject? Hint: dinosaurs are more interesting than electrical circuits…most of the time.

    So, why is it that as soon as I became pregnant I lost my mind?? I bought all kinds of books, pilfered books from my classroom library, and even unpacked some of my favorite books from childhood. I was consumed with being a good mommy and of course, being a good mommy meant instilling a love of reading in my own child. This meant she needed to be read to every night from birth. She needed to love Dr. Seuss, Eric Carle, Kevin Henkes, and Margaret Wise Brown. Books like Hop on Pop, The Very Busy Spider, Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse, and Goodnight Moon were all part of Olivia’s book collection before she was even born. Everything I learned about kids and books as a teacher flew out the window and I completely focused on what I wanted her to like and enjoy.

    For the first few months of Olivia’s life, all was hunky dory. I read to her from all sorts of books I pulled from the bookshelf in her room. I read to her from board books, cloth books, paperback books, and regular, old hardcover picture books. Books with just a few words and books with lots and lots of words. Our reading was coming right along. I was very satisfied with myself.

    What I didn’t realize at the time was that my baby was a captive audience. Homegirl was a newborn. She couldn’t move, so all she could do was lay there and listen. But, one fine day, she learned how to reach and grab and creep and crawl. Our reading went to hell in a handbasket. When I would try to read to Olivia, she would squirm, turn her head, or arch her back trying to get out of my lap. She would fuss during our reading time and didn’t really enjoy being read to. I wondered: Was she growing out of being read to? Did she not like it? Oh, the humanity!


    Then, one day I pulled out a book my friend, Kirstin, had given me at my baby shower. It was What Does Baby Say? by Karen Katz. “Babies love these books,” Kir said. I thought to myself, “Hmmm. I’ve never heard of Karen Katz before.” As I read Olivia this book for the first time, she didn’t squirm. She didn’t turn her head. She didn’t arch her back to try and move on to something more interesting. She listened. She looked. She reached for the book. She was enjoying being read to. That Karen Katz (and Kir) was a damn genius.

    That’s when it occurred to me. I hadn’t been choosing the appropriate books for her age and ability. 3-6 month olds have zero attention span. They can’t sit and listen to a 20 page book with a plot. I had to reevaluate Olivia’s book collection and figure out what was appropriate for our bedtime stories. I started by looking closely at the Katz book. It had very few large print words per page, flip up pages, and illustrations of babies’ faces.

    Based on this unscientific study, I developed some guidelines for myself when choosing books for a child who is as young as 3 months and as old as maybe 12 to 18 months. Here they are with some photos that illustrate the concepts. Hopefully, these guidelines will help some other mamas so they don’t give up on reading because they think their babies aren’t interested.

    1. Choose well constructed books. Both board books and cloth books are very durable and can withstand gallons of drool.


    2. Follow the Rule of 10. Try to stick to books that have around 10 pages and around 10 words per page. For the purposes of these books I think of a “page” as two pages that face each other.


    3. Look at the illustrations. Simple pictures without a ton of detail are the best. Bright colors are attractive to babies. So are pictures of other babies…the little narcissists!


    4. “Extras” like tactile features that babies can touch and feel or flip up pages aren’t necessary but can go a long way in keeping your little one interested.

    See how the puppy's ear and spot are fabric? Babies love to touch that.

    5. Let go of the preconceived notions. For example, the books for this age are probably not going to have a plot. Too long, too complicated. Don’t think that a book has to be a story. The naming and question and answer formats that these books have help to develop a baby’s understanding of speech patterns as well as vocabulary. Also, don’t tell the mommy police, but for now I don’t read to Olivia every night. If we have a busy day and she’s cranky at bedtime, I don’t push it. I want her to love reading but if I make it a requirement, even at her young age, it could become something she resents later on and that would be my worst nightmare.

    6. Think outside of the bookstore. If you are going to buy books, do your best to buy from your local, independent bookstore. And, although it is ideal to have a well stocked library for your child, the public library is an awesome resource. You can check out books for a couple weeks and try them out to see if your baby likes them without spending a dime. Another great idea is a book exchange with other moms who have babies the same age as yours. Trade a handful of books for a couple weeks and then get together for a play date to return them.

    That’s it! I hope that you are already reading to your child, whatever their age. As a teacher, I can tell you that nothing inspires a child to read more than being read to and seeing their parents reading. Reading with your child can become a beloved ritual and I hope these tips help you get started!

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