Thursday, April 5, 2018

Wooden Spoons and Color Mixing

I am just really loving spending time with my kids these days.  They are so fun!  The other night we read Joshua the book Color Chaos.  The next morning we tried it out and mixed our own colors.  Earlier he decided our road needed a more interesting topography.

Like most toddlers, Henry likes to play with wooden spoons, but never ever ever try to give him a slotted spoon.  He will shriek his displeasure.  He has also taken to wearing blocks, an activity that Joshua also loved. 

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Words and Hugs

Henry and I have been going to the library and the park on Mondays while Joshua is in preschool.  He loves playing and the one on one time.  I love the park with the view of the water.  Henry has been bursting with words this week including bye, balloon, wow, pop, bubble, burp, and most surprisingly duck.  I love hearing each new word.

Yesterday, we were a bit late for preschool.  Joshua was eager to join circle time so I rushed him through the handwashing routine and nudged him toward his carpet square.  As I turned to leave he looked up and shouted, "What about my hug and kiss?"  Of course, I headed right back in to give him a hug and a kiss, but I was surprised he cared.  Usually he is so anxious to be involved in class I kiss him on the hair.  He won't be asking this much longer so I will always comply. 

Friday, March 2, 2018

Literary Tourism - Alaska

I can't believe that I haven't read a book set in Alaska that I can remember.  That vast state seems like a literary goldmine.  There are certainly a lot of choices, but somehow, I managed to avoid them.  I have not yet visited Alaska, but this book has increased my already strong desire. 

The Smell of Other People's Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock

Hitchcock weaves the stories of four teens, Ruth, Dora, Alyse, and Hank, together.  They each narrate their own story and are loosely connected through other minor characters.  While each narrator is very different from each other they are all in search of the same thing, family, even if that family does not mean a blood relation.

I picked up this audiobook at the library because it is the libraries "One Book, One Community" pick, and I have thoroughly enjoyed it.  It gave an excellent sense of place.  Most of the book takes place in Fairbanks, Alaska in 1970.  It touches on political issues like Alaskan statehood, relationships between the various native groups and those who moved from other parts of the States, and reliance on Alaska's natural resources for survival.   

Hitchcock did a great job of giving each narrator a distinct voice which was enhanced by different voices for each narrator on the audiobook.  Ruth uses beautiful imagery.  Dora sounds tired and angry.  Alyse is perky and hopeful, and Hank holds back.  Hitchcock also sprinkles little bits of magical realism throughout the story.  I don't want to give too much away, but orcas! 

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Math Minded

I try not to brag about my kids on other social media platforms, but I figure this blog has a readership of about 2.5 so it is a good venue for posting braggy things I want to remember.  I love watching my kids grow, develop, and discover.  Pretty much, I love their brains.

I came home from a kindergarten readiness workshop with some bears and cups to teach children basic math skills.  Henry grabbed the blue cup and proceeded to add only the blue bears to the cup.  I couldn't believe that he knew to sort them.  He has done it since so I know it wasn't a fluke.

Joshua and I have a lot of conversations like:

Joshua:  Yesterday I had 2 vitamins and today I had 2.  That's 4.  Tomorrow, I will have 2 more and that's six.


Joshua:  Mom, I want 5 crackers!
Me:  How many did I give you?
Joshua:  3, I need 2 more.

It is so fun watching these kids grow up. 

Friday, February 16, 2018

The Year of the Dog by Grace Lin

"They say the Year of the Dog is the year for friends and family.  But there's more to it than that.  The Year of the Dog is also for thinking.  Since dogs are honest and sincere, it's a good year to find yourself."

from The Year of the Dog, by Grace Lin

I have been so excited for Chinese New Year this year mostly because the Year of the Dog is my year.  I have checked out a ton of Chinese New Year books to share with the kids.  I am not always sure how to share their Chinese heritage with them, so I do it largely through reading, and Grace LIn is my go to author. 

Pacy celebrates Chinese New Year with her family.  She cleans, helps her mom cook, and keeps a tray of sweets stocked.  But she doesn't get to stay up to welcome the New Year because it is a school night.  At school she is called Grace and has only caucasian friends until another Taiwanese girl shows up and they become fast friends.  Pacy/Grace sets out to find herself and what she wants to be during the Year of the Dog and experiences both successes and setbacks.

This is a simple, fun, and easy book that I find appealing for a lot of reasons.  First, it is a young girl trying to find herself in a way that is relate-able to a large audience, not only Chinese-Americans.  Grace feels Chinese, Taiwanese, and American at different times and in different ways.  She has friends that are both Taiwanese and Caucasian.  She is also searching for her identity in her talents.  She tries acting and art and does her best to be creative and stand out, and she eventually finds herself.

Second, Grace Lin uniquely weaves family stories into her books.  Pacy's parents are constantly using humorous stories from their youth in Taiwan to help her and her sisters navigate the challenges of childhood in America.  I have read a lot by Grace LIn and I am now discovering that these stories are part of her signature style. 

Third, it's a story of a typical girl trying to navigate life.  Many parts of this story seemed to similar to things that happened to me as a child.  The episodes are simple and everyday yet very engaging.  She brings together the cultural elements very well.  Pacy bounces between red egg parties, school plays, Taiwanese conventions and American holiday celebrations.  The book is quick, fun, and really got me excited about celebrating Lunar New Year. 

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Book Love 2018

February has turned out to be such a busy month that I nearly forgot my Valentine's book installment.  This year, I am writing about a book that I love because Henry LOVES it.  Apple Bear Orange Pear by Emily Gravett didn't impress me when I first saw it.  We got it in a welcome bag at our first baby storytime last year.  I was happy to get a new book, but wasn't sure how the kids would like it.

Henry insists we read it multiple times a day.  He points at it and says "ap, ap, apple"  The book is very simple and has only five distinct words, but man does Henry love that bear.  I love this book, because it is so fun to watch kids fall in love with books. 

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Literary Tourism - Maryland

One of my goals for the year is to revisit old, not yet completed goals. And so I return to traveling the United States through literature. Maryland is a state that I visited often in my childhood. I visited Annapolis, the Baltimore area, andthe D.C, suburbs. It is a great state.

Wait Till Helen Comes by Mary Downing Hahn

Molly and her brother Michael are struggling to adjust to life in a blended family.  They feel like their younger stepsister, Heather, is moody and intentionally difficult.  Their mother and stepfather keep reminding them to treat her gently because she witnessed the death of her mother by fire.    They are less than excited to be forced to move from their row house in Baltimore to a renovated church in the country.

Molly is disgusted to discover that the property has a graveyard, but Heather is fascinated with it.  She discovers a gravestone with own initials.  Molly fears that Heather's obsession with the gravestone might have ghostly consequences and sets out to save her.

This book has a decent sense of geography.  The author spends time time contrasting life in the Maryland countryside with life in Baltimore.  It helps that the author lives in Maryland.  I was disappointed that Holwell, Maryland is merely fictional.

This is a light, horror story for children, thus not a masterwork of literature.  Molly seems to have adult tastes like reading Emily Dickinson and Shakespeare.  The parents' characters are underdeveloped and maddening at times.  Besides the characters, the plot is well-developed and spooky.  If you are looking for a light read or an appropriate "scary" story for a child, this is a good choice.