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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Reads of the Week

We got five books at our last trip to the library (which you can read about in detail in my last entry). This is about an average trip for us. Coryn picked out one and I picked out the rest. We had some stellar picks this time (and some exceedingly average ones), but that's the fun of new books. Some you end up reading over and over again and others are once through and done.

Our undeniable favorite was Ladybug Girl by Jackie Davis. Coryn loves the main character, a little girl with a big imagination who is left with the task of entertaining herself and invents a superhero just for the occasion. The book is full of small adventures as she strives to prove, once and for all, that Ladybug Girl is NOT too little. The pictures are bright and pretty and Coryn asks to read it over and over again.

I Want To Do It Myself by Tony Ross was one of Coryn's favorites, but it sort of annoys me. The Little Princess (main character) decides she is going to go on a camping trip and do everything by herself. She, of course, ends up way over her head, but instead of letting her sink or swim and really do things on her own, her servants and parents facilitate a fantasy that she is doing it on her own by slipping things she forgot into her bags behind her back. I'm not into over parenting. I'm also not into dropping kids over their heads. Still, it is just silly to let a kid believe they are doing better than they really are, and the princess comes back from her camping trip so smug I just want to deflate her bubble. It really wouldn't have hurt to let the princess sleep without a comfy camp bed and miss out on a four course dinner just to let her see what doing things by herself really would be like. What makes it worse for me is Coryn doesn't really seem to get the joke that the princess isn't doing everything by herself after all.

Elephant Soup by Ingrid and Deiter Schubert, on the other hand, is completely awesome according to both Coryn and myself. A mouse has a very different, and somewhat impossible, recipe to improve on a bad day. The pictures are fun and the inevitable results of a pack of mice attempting to stew up an elephant are hilarious. It's a short story, but we often read it three or four times back to back.

Polar Bolero by Debi Gliori was one of Coryn's picks and the illustrations are beautiful so I can see why she picked it. The text is actually kind of boring, though, and we didn't end up reading it much. Also, I still can't figure out why the bears (apparently) live in a refrigerator. . .? The idea of dancing to sleep is sweet, though, and it was worth the two or three times we actually read it.

and finally

Clickety Clack by Robert and Amy Spence which I picked out simply because I liked the picture of the train on the front. It is a cute, pitter-patter rhyme about animals taking a train ride. Coryn didn't care for it too terribly much, though she did ask some good questions about the train (I got to tell her what a cow catcher was).

And those are our reads.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Of Books and Noodles

Today was a good day. It had some up and downs, but all and all, today was a good day. There was play group then a trip to the post office and a couple of hours spent in the park. She got filthy in the park, sticky and sweaty and just gross, so park flowed into a bath during what should've been dinner time but ended up being just "slight snacking" and play time.

I didn't want her to spend the evening watching TV or doing something messy which are the only two options for indoor play she consistently likes. Occasionally she plays well by herself with her little toys, but that's only after she gets up set with me for not being a good play mate. I didn't want her falling asleep way too early after her busy day. So I began to fish around for something to do. We could go out to dinner. Matt was gone so if we didn't it would probably be sandwiches or left overs or even frozen dinners for us. Cooking for one and a toddler . . .well, it just sucks. Still, I didn't feel like spending the money just to do something.

So we came up with a library trip. The library on base is open until 9pm on weekdays and is one of Coryn's favorite places on base. We usually go on gray afternoons or when our books are due, but today we just needed something to do. She's been pretty cute lately, sitting in the library chairs looking at books, so I decided to bring the camera. Before the night was over I'd taken 63 pictures (though 21 were deleted for being slightly blurred when I got home and put them on the laptop). . .oh and Coryn took two of those pictures, so I guess, I took 61 pictures. Coryn loves to use the camera.

On the way there we had a minor tragedy. We'd just passed the Crossroads and were about a block from the library when she informed me that she had to go potty. She really really had to go. So we started to walk faster, and faster, and faster. . .unfortunately at the door she gave out a cry of horror and shame and there was a huge embarrassing puddle at her feet. No one was around. Fortunately, she was wearing a dress, so we hurried into a first floor bathroom (the library is on the third floor and the first is offices which were all dark and locked up) where I decided to waste the undies. I had another pair in my purse and no ziplock bag to stick her wet ones in, so out they went. She calmed down and we went upstairs to the library none the wiser (though that puddle outside. . .well, I couldn't figure out anything to do but leave it). Somehow she had managed to keep her dress unsoiled.

At the library when she realized I had a camera she began to pose, and pose, and set up little scenes for me. She asked for me to take her picture sitting at the kiddy table. She asked for me to take her picture with the Cat and the Hat toy that sits on the library shelf, and she made a bed out of the cushions and pretended to sleep . . .and of course asked me to take a picture. We picked out a bunch of books. She sat in the chairs and looked at a picture book about rubber duckies. We had a lot of fun. By the time we finished up it was after 7:30.

A little bit hungry (and Coryn had already asked about Taco Bell a few times), so we went straight to the Crossroads and she got her chicken soft taco and I went to the Soba Express and got some Udon Noodles, just because I hadn't tried them yet and I've had just about everything else you can eat on base. They were okay, but they had rice crispies in them. . .yeah, the puffy cereal. I have no idea why. I guess this is somewhat normal in authentic Asian udon. A friend in Korea told me that's pretty common over there. Still, to me it was unexpected and I found myself picking around them. As they got mushier and mushier and bloated this became harder and harder. Fortunately I wasn't really all that hungry.

Coryn inhaled her taco and then wanted to try my food. This is pretty much SOP for Coryn. When she is hungry she can eat as much as any adult. Other times she lives on a glass of milk and a handful of raisins for 90% of the day. I figure as long as she eats until she's full, I'm not going to require consistency. She wanted to eat them with chopsticks but that didn't work out. . .but she really loved slurping them. She decided to lay them on the table, bend down, and slurp them straight off the table's surface. . .it's clean, right? She did this over and over again. I started taking pictures . . .and pictures. . .and pictures. Then she wanted me to slurp up a noodle so she could take a picture of me. We managed to eat up most of the noodles and we headed home.

It was a completely awesome evening. . .until we got home for the last hiccup.She tried to open our apartment door on her own and hit herself in the face with the door knob. The only thing that would make her happy again. She told me, "I'm not happy anymore!" while she bawled about her hurt face. "I need a blanket and a movie!" So my TV-free evening ended with twenty minutes of the Wonderpets dvd we'd gotten from the library. .. though we did follow up by reading all five books we got from there too. At least she was happy again. As we prayed good night she reminded me of all the fun things she had done. That makes it a pretty great day.

Three More Awesome Books

I actually got five books from the library this week, but I'm only bothering to recommend three of them. Two have the rare distinction of being books Coryn actually asks to read again when we reach the last page, up to three or four times in the row in the case of the first,

Mucky Duck by Sally Grindley, illustrated by Neal Layton.
Mucky Duck lives in Oliver's back yard and plays lots of games with him, but whatever game they play Mucky Duck manages to make them both filthy. Mucky Duck gets herself (and Oliver) into all sorts of dirty predicaments as they garden and paint and play. Every example ends with the exclamation "Oh you Mucky Duck!" which Coryn loves to shout out herself. The pictures aren't my favorite (Pictures I feel I could draw annoy me as a general rule), but Coryn doesn't mind them, and the story is a real winner.

One Cold Night by Claire Ewart, on the other hand, has pictures I would frame. Coryn likes to re-read this too, though not as frequently as the mucky story. The simple, sparse text tells a story of how the Snow Woman tucks a country cabin in for the winter, scurrying all the wild animals into bed and dusting the world with frost. She meets some resistance from a stubborn black bear, is aided by misty "cloud coyotes," and finally sees the little girl and her cat inside the cabin sleeping soundly as the snow falls about them. I like the way the author chooses friendly but still mysterious looking personifications for the elements of Winter. I'd actually consider buying this one.

And finally we have

Walter the Baker by Eric Carle. This isn't my favorite Carle story but it is a good one and tells the story of how a baker invents the pretzel to get himself out of a difficult situation with an angry duke. Carle's pictures are as always the stars. There's a mischievous cat (which is always a plus) and lots of busy scenes. It does, however, sort of make me hungry for pretzels.

Well, it's time for another library trip soon. Can't wait to find more stories.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Coryn's Reading List, cont.

Though we've always made regular library trips, recently Coryn has started enjoying simply going to sit on their chairs and to look quietly at picture books. I always feel silly going to the library and leaving without checking something out (even though it is my general policy to return our current check outs before I take out new ones), so we've made several small trips where I've just picked up one or two new books.

I've already reviewed the absolute favorites from these last few trips, but here are some others that made the cut.

oH! by Josse Goffin is a rare "wordless" find. Every page starts with a simple picture that folds out into a completely different picture. My thought when getting it was that Coryn would enjoy turning the pages, which she does, but some of the pictures are items she is not really all that familiar with (an old fashioned tobacco pipe and a paddle ball racket, for instance), and that kind of confuses her. The book is a quick read, though if your child isn't inclined to be careful when turning pages, this probably should only be read while carefully supervised as the fold out format makes for easy tearing.

Tomie's Little Mother Goose by Tomie dePaola
Coryn selected this board book (she tends towards the board book shelf because it is smaller and easier to explore). It has a lot of classic nursery rhymes with sweet dePaola pictures. Some of the rhymes are a little different than the ones I grew up with, so sometimes I just go ahead and replace the reading with my own version.

Old Hat, New Hat by Stan and Jan Berenstain was a favorite of mine as a child. A bear goes into a hat shop to replace his old hat with a new hat only to find that every hat there is imperfect in one way or another. One is too flat, another too tall, some too big,and some too small. . . Some of this provides a good grasp of different shape words and opposites. It is also fun to try and come up with a voice for the hat that is "too scratchy" or a silly voice for the silly hat.

No Foal Yet by Jos. A. Smith
Bonnie the horse is due to give birth to a new foal but in spite of careful watching from Nora and her grandparents, the foal just doesn't seem to come. This is a sweet story especially if your child likes horses . . . or animals in general. The illustrations of farm life are also very appealing.

The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton
Ms. Burton's books usually involve steam shovels and trains and so were a favorite of my brother's when we were growing up. This little classic, however, is aimed at a softer crowd. The little house watches the country around her change to city, always curious but devoted to the rural setting where she was originally built. Parts of the book are very sad. As the countryside turns to metropolis Coryn asks me where the daisies in the house's yard went. Of course, the house ends up happily ever after after all.

Tickly Octopus by Ruth Galloway was a new find. I was drawn to it by a couple of reasons: A. The sea creatures involved are some of Coryn's old friends from "Finding Nemo;" B. The octopus is a tickler, and tickling is one of Coryn's favorite jokes. She likes to taunt me into tickling her whenever possible, so whenever the octopus tickles I have an excuse to tickle her.

A House for Hermit Crab by Eric Carle
I wasn't sure how Coryn would receive this book because it can be a little bit wordy, but it proved to be a winner. Illustrated in classic Carle style, the Hermit crab wanders about the ocean floor finding sea creature friends to help him decorate his new shell. The book introduces all sorts of interesting marine life and if a child is curious there are more detailed descriptions of the animals in the back of the book.


Who Wants To Be a Poodle, I Don't by Lauren Child
Coryn likes the Charlie and Lola cartoons, so I wanted to try out the books. Unfortunately our library does not have a large selection of these, so I decided to try a book by the same author involving a puppy, since Coryn is very into puppies right now. Trixie Twinkle Toes Trot-a-Lot Delight is a pampered poodle who does not want to be a pampered poodle. She has every comfort but is not allowed to get muddy or run around barking like other dogs. . .and her name is just silly. Coryn likes this story and the colorful, graphic pictures. Ms. Child's style of laying out text in fonts that twist and twirl about the page can be confusing for the reader, however. Still, if your kids likes dogs or is a girl torn between tom-boy and princess, this is a charming story.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Coryn wants a puppy

Today we were having lunch at the Crossroads (a food court on base with a small selection of fast food outlets), when a Military Working Dog escorted his Marine and a commissary employee to the bank with (what I assume) was a deposit. Coryn was entranced.

On the way out, however, she held the door open for me and then kept holding it. There was nobody nearby so I told her to come on.

"Someone's coming, Mommy," she said, very seriously. I looked and way across the food court, the dog and his team were on their way back. Seeing how much she really wanted a closer look I let her stay, telling her that this was a working dog, not a pet dog, and she could look but she couldn't pet him. She watched in awe as that dog went by and asked over and over again on the way home if she could have a puppy too. Maybe someday, Coryn.

Baby Homework

I suppose this isn't a secret anymore. . .it never really was "a secret," its just with big news you want to make sure some people don't hear second hand. . .but we're currently awaiting offspring number two. Of course, it will be a long wait. I'm due in late January. Still forever until we can even find out whether it is a girl or a boy. I think Matt really wants a boy.

I'm not sure if Coryn understands or not. I went out of my way to get some "mommy is having a baby" story books, and we've read them a couple of times.

I'm a big believer that parents should choose when and how and how much little kids learn about the "facts of life" or other issues that may be difficult, but carefully chosen stories can be a big help. Just make sure to read through before you read aloud. Sometimes librarians have "issue books" in a separate section. There will be books dealing with death and divorce an other things that might come up and be potentially difficult for kids.

Personally, I don't think a good book needs to explain too much, just to tell the story of a kid who experiences what your child is in for . . . Kids will ask their own questions. They're good at questions.

The three books I chose for Coryn's baby crash coarse were:

Sophie and the New Baby by Catherine and Laurence Anholt
There's a House inside my Mommy by Giles Andreae
The Baby Sister by Tomie dePaola.

The first is good because it goes over the full arc: Sophie is told there will be a new baby, endures a long wait for the new baby, experiences jealousy and feelings of neglect, and finally comes to love the baby. However, it does dwell a lot on the negative aspects towards the middle. Jealousy and anger may be a common part of introducing a new child to the family, but by over-emphasizing those in advance of the birth, I worry about Coryn coming to dread her little brother or sister's arrival. She did look a little concerned during a couple of our readings.

The second is a cute poem that talks about the baby growing inside the mommy from the child's point of view. It is cute (not at all medical) but Coryn doesn't care for it all that much. We read through it twice but she doesn't request it on her own the way she does the next (last an best) book on my list.

The Baby Sister is my personal favorite, if only because the little boy involved is so excited about the arrival of his sister. There is still some preparation, preparing the child for a mother's sudden departure to the hospital. The pictures are classic dePaola (one of my all time favorite illustrators).

I'm sure there will be many more library trips before the little one gets here, but these three stories are a good start.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Sally and Daisy, a butterfly poem

The other day Coryn and I came up with a new game where I made her two butterflies out of colored pipe-cleaners (My cat loves these; they're the best possible cat toy and reasonably priced so I always keep a package around). She named her butterfly Sally and I named mine Daisy and they played hide-and-seek and ate flowers that I drew on paper for them to eat. I wrote this to tell about one of their many adventures.

Sally and Daisy are butterfly pals
A pair of adventurous, excitable gal.
They love flowers and flying and all sorts of fun
And they’re outside all day (as long as there’s sun).

Sally and Daisy flew down to the park
Intending to stay from dawn until dark.
They brought picnic lunches of flowers and honey.
The weather was just right: warm, fresh, and sunny.

They sat in the trees
And they danced with the bees
And flew loop-the-loops on the warm summer breeze.

Sally and Daisy, they needed a rest
So they settled down on the side of a nest
A nest with three eggs that were lovely sky blue
The butterflies sat back and admired the view.

You could hear those girls snore
For an hour or more.
It was a sound that was hard to ignore.

Sally and Daisy awoke with a snap.
From the nest came a noise that went rap-a-tap-tap.
Three little beaks poked out of three eggs.
Soon the little chicks stood, stretching their legs.

“Mama!” they did cheep.
They went peep, peep, peep.
Poor Daisy and Sally were in way too deep.

Sally and Daisy were flustered and scared.
For mothering chicks they were hardly prepared.
Then out of the sky a great flapping they heard
And onto the nest landed big mama bird.

Oh how the little butterflies shuddered
Afraid they’d be food to the little birds’ mother.
They held on tight, quickly hugging each other.

But Sally and Daisy had no reason to squirm,
For in Mama’s beak was a big, juicy worm.
She fed her babies with kisses and hugs
And warmly thanked the butterfly bugs.

“For watching my nest,
You are simply the best!”
Said Mama, putting their worries to rest.

Sally and Daisy said good-bye to their friends
And that I’m afraid is where this story ends,
For as much as these butterflies do love to roam
At the end of each day, they always head home.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Ox-Cart Man
By Donald Hall, illustrated by Barbara Cooney

The "Ox-Cart Man" is not a flashy, fancy, or even funny book, but it is an enduring classic that every child should read (or have read to them) at least once, though in my experience, your child will definitely consider it worth a re-read. It is the story of a by-gone day and in a way a small history lesson: a great way to introduce kids to how people lived before cars and planes and amazon.com.

At the beginning of the story the Ox-Cart Man fills his cart with everything his family has worked all year round to produce: garden grown potatoes, hand-knitted mittens, and feathers gathered from their geese; and starts off on a long journey to the large town of Portsmouth where he sells his goods (ad even his ox and cart) to buy presents and necessities to keep his family over the winter. . .when the whole process of making goods to sell begins again.

I love how everyone in his family pitches in to make something for the trip. I love the glimpses this book provides of nearly lost arts, spinning wool into yarn, hand carving birch brooms, things no body really has to do any more. I love the beautifully done illustrations by the peerless Barbara Cooney.

Coryn loves the pictures of the animals (though she always seemed a little concerned when the Ox-Cart Man leaves his Ox behind after selling him at market.). She asks endless questions about the pictures of sheep being sheered . . . and about tiny things not even related to the story like the little girl petting a cat in the foreground of one of the pictures. Her involvement, and the wheels turning in her head, make this book a definite addition to our re-check-out list.