Archives for October 2009

October 23rd: Weekend Links

Photo by basykes

There’s nothing quite like caring for both a sick child and a sick husband to completely derail productivity for the week!  There aren’t any new submissions for the SK Showcase (more details on how and what to submit can be found in the Showcase FAQ), and my reading this week has been understandably limited. 

Here are a few quick links for your weekend reading:

Hopefully you are following along with the Simple Mom’s 12 Weeks to a Peaceful Christmas series!  Each Friday Tsh shares guidance on how to be happy, healthy, organized, and prepared for a holiday season with as little stress as possible.

Rachel at Small Notebook wrote about Taking the Day Off.  I think this is so important for parents and care-givers – we all need a day to rest and recharge!

When school started in August for our oldest daughter, we were introduced to the whirlwind of papers and paperwork that the school age brings.  Over at The Creative Mama, Thea shared a very practical solution to keep it all organized.

Have you carved jack-o-lanterns yet?  At Parent Hacks, Asha has a tip for making those jack-o-lanterns last!

What did you publish or read this week that you want to share with the SK community? Leave a link in the comments!

Storytelling Day: The True Story of Diddle Diddle Dumpling

Photo by mare.bowe

Our resident storyteller Robin returns today to continue the saga of Little John Diddle.  I don’t know what the weather is like where you are, but today is cloudy, misty, and cool.  It’s a perfect day to curl up with a mug of hot cocoa and let the storytelling commence!  I hope you’ll be as inspired as I am by Robin’s engaging re-telling of timeless stories . . .

Diddle Diddle Dumpling
My son, John
Went to bed with his stockings on
One shoe off and the other shoe on
Diddle Diddle Dumpling
My son, John

Little John Diddle loved his family and their farm, but he didn’t love being the littlest one around. He especially adored his big sisters, and especially didn’t adore being constantly told by them that he was too little to help with milking the cows or feeding the chickens. Little John Diddle spent a lot of time thinking about one thing: he wanted to be bigger.

John tried to grow faster. When he tagged along behind his sister Cara as she milked the cows, he turned a milk pail upside-down and practiced jumping onto it. John hoped he could make his legs stronger so they would grow and Cara enjoyed his company, but the cows didn’t like the clanging noises. He wasn’t good for milk, Cara finally told him. “Why don’t you go play?” she asked him. Everybody was always telling him to go play. Everybody just thought of him as a little kid.

When his sister Sara was gathering eggs from the hen house, John begged her to let him get the hardest eggs. Nobody liked to collect the eggs from the very back of the coops. Anyone who didn’t reach in quickly and retrieve the egg on the first try was sure to get pecked by the hens who did not appreciate having their homes disturbed. Sara didn’t like getting pecked anymore than anybody else, and John was sure that he could make his arms longer, if only he just practiced stretching them enough.  “Please let me?” he begged. Sara couldn’t resist John’s charm and sweet little boy smile for long. “Okay, Diddle Diddle. Be careful- and fast.”

John opened the first coop and stretched as far as he could. An egg! John was pretty sure he felt his arm growing. He opened the second coop and stretched. Another egg- and- OUCH!! “She bit me, Sara!” He pulled his arm back to show his sister the scratch and realized that he had crushed the egg. He knew his sister wouldn’t be happy. “Oh, John,” said Sara. “Let’s clean you up.” She brought him to the spigot. “Thank you for wanting to help, Diddle Diddle, but I think you’re still too little. Why don’t you go play?”

Feeling sad, John walked up the hill to the house. He ran into the kitchen and found his mother. He asked her a question. “Mommy, can I have two vitamins at bedtime tonight?” His mommy turned to face him. “Sweetie, you know you get one vitamin a day. Why would you want two?”

Little John was feeling very frustrated. “But Mommy!” he whined. “What can I do to grow faster? I want to be bigger! I don’t want to be too little anymore.” His mother pulled him toward her in a big hug, and then stepped back. She looked carefully at him. “Oh dumpling,” she said. “You look just the right size to me.”

“But I want to be bigger,” he wailed. “I am going to figure out how to grow faster!”

His mommy didn’t answer him right away. Finally, she said, “I remember how it feels to want to be bigger, and I would never want to stop you from trying to do something you really want. But please remember, dumpling, that I love you just the way you are. Please don’t grow too fast.”

“Okay, Mommy,” he said, and walked out, thinking about her words. John headed down to the quiet spot at the bottom of the hill where the creek gurgled and he practiced his music. John sat down on one of the flat rocks so he could think. How could he grow enough so that nobody would baby him anymore, but not so much that his mommy would be sad at him for growing too fast?

John was still thinking when his sister Dara came wandering down the hill. “Diddle Diddle, what are you doing down here? Mommy said you seemed sad. I finished my chores. Do you want to play hide-and-seek?”

John knew that if Dara was worried about him she wasn’t going to leave him by himself to stay sad. He agreed to play. If he could find a really good hiding spot, he’d have more thinking time to figure out how to grow (but not too fast). “Okay, Dara, let’s play,” he said. He thought he’d try to climb up in the hay loft. Nobody would look for him up there.

“Yay!” said Dara. “I’m counting to 100. Are you ready? One…two…three…” John set off up the hill toward the barn. It was a very big jump for him to reach the bottom lip of the open loft door above his head, but since he’d been stretching his arms and legs all morning he thought he might just reach. It took three tries. John grasped the ledge and was able to pull himself up and into the loft. He’d done it!

The loft was warm and quiet. John sat down on a pile of hay to think. He had a great idea. He’d only stretch one part of his body at a time. That way, he couldn’t grow too fast, and his mommy wouldn’t be upset. He took off his right sneaker, and began practicing jumping using only his left leg. The next day, he figured, he’d switch sides. He jumped and jumped and waited for Dara to find him. Satisfied that his left leg was a little longer from all that good exercise, John lay back on the hay and watched the dust float through a sunbeam. This really was a good hiding place, he thought.

John woke up to the sound of yelling. It was dark in the loft and he could hear all of his family calling for him. “Diddle Diddle? Where are you?” “Dumpling?” As he sat up, his father shone a flashlight into the loft and was surprised to find him there. “John! What are you doing? And where’s your sneaker?”

John smiled. He realized that Dara never found him because she never thought he was big enough to climb into the hay loft by himself. As he explained to his relieved family what he had been doing up there, they hugged him and kissed him and promised never to think of him as too little ever again.

Dear reader: my own girls have a habit of taking just one shoe off, and as such this is a favorite nursery rhyme of theirs. Tell me- what rhymes enthrall your little ones but leave you narratively unsatisfied? What tales shall we twirl next?

What We’re Reading Wednesday: It’s Halloween (and more!)

This week, we have four brilliant books to share from the Simple Kids Book Review Team!

Baby and Toddler

from Meghan Armstrong (Out of the Woods)

trainsongI have always loved trains, and I feel very blessed to live a few blocks from railroad tracks. Train Song by Diane Siebert with illustrations by Mike Wimmer would be a delight for any train lover, but is surprisingly perfect for very little ones. Its rhythm mimics the sound of a train as it begins its slow start out of the station, speeds up on the plains and then slows again to pull into town.

It is a blast for the reader and soothing for the listener. You’ll become familiar with all sorts of American cities (it’s fun for us to point out where Great-Grandma lives), landscapes and merchandise. Wimmer’s illustrations are truly beautiful and reminiscent of that train classic Polar Express. I love his depictions of the blue sky reflecting off the tracks and a lone headlight piercing the dark.

Best of all, the motion of this book has been known to put a baby or two to sleep, if you want to know the truth!


from Wesley Jeanne (Mountain Mama)

It’s Halloween by Jack Prelutsky with illustrations by Marylin Hafner

“It’s Halloween! It’s Halloween!
The moon is full and bright
And we shall seen what can’t be seen
On any other night…”

It's Halloween, 1977The air is turning cooler, the darkness coming earlier, leaves are falling. The Halloween edition magazines have been in our house for a few weeks. They’ve been poured over, costume decisions made, preparations underway. But ah, the excitement of of the season has only just begun. It’s time now for Halloween reading at our house, in which we bring out the holiday-themed books (and of course, the Charlie Brown DVD). This year a stroll through the Friends of the Library Used Book Store led us to a great addition to our collection: a 1977 edition of Jack Prelutsky and Marylin Hafner’s It’s Halloween. [Note: The book was updated in 1997 with the same illustrator.]

With illustrations charmingly reminiscent of Maurice Sendak, each of Prelutsky’s 13 poems illuminate the frightful fun of three children and their Halloween night, from preparations (in “The Pumpkin”) to parties (in “Bobbing for Apples”) to tricks (“Tricksters” and “Countdown”) and treats (“Treat”) and finally to bed at the end of the night:

“We’re stuffed with cake and candy
And we’ve had a lot of fun
But now it’s time to go to bed
And dream of all we’ve done.”

It's Halloween, 1997There are goblins and ghosts and haunted houses. Black cats and skeletons, too. The rhymes are simple, natural and catchy enough to stick with you for days (especially once you’ve read the poems over and over again on request). The old-fashioned illustrations show frightful creatures in non-threatening but not sticky sweet ways. My (and my two-year-old’s) favorite is the Goblin outside the window with his glasses on and a very neutral expression, but he’s there, “..still sitting outside/And is waiting for me.”

This book allows children to experience the delightful spookiness and adventure of the Halloween ritual in a fun way, always coming home to “…dream of ghosts and goblins/And of witches that we’ve seen,/And we’ll dream of trick-or-treating/On this Happy Halloween.”

Early Elementary

from Jean-Marie Maier

Vincent’s Colors is a beautiful book to introduce Vincent van Gogh to young readers and budding artists alike. Van Gogh wrote more than 800 letters to friends and family in his lifetime. The majority of those letters were to his younger brother Theo. This book, produced by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, features more than a dozen of van Gogh’s colorful and dynamic paintings and what he wrote about each one, translated and in rhyme, to his brother Theo.

vangoghThe simple, one line of text for each painting is a starting point for discussion, but the topics are endless: What do you see in this painting? What colors do you see? What shapes do you see? Point out some of the lines you see in this painting. What do you think van Gogh was thinking or feeling when he painted this picture? How do you think he painted that sky or those leaves? How did he create movement in his sky? Is this painting a landscape, a portrait or a still life?

From insightful conversations to new creations for your refrigerator, Vincent’s Colors, words and pictures by Vincent van Gogh, has a lot of inspiration to offer.

Upper Elementary

from Elizabeth (Finding Him Bigger)

areyoutheregodOne of my favorite books of all time, and the one I think of first when I remember my early adolescence, is Judy Blume’s Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret? As a young woman I read this book again and again, and each time I found Margaret more endearing than the time before. In many ways, she is one of my earliest heroes.

Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret is the story of Margaret Simon, the only child of parents with very different religious backgrounds who has recently moved to New Jersey.  Along with the usual adjustments that go along with moving to a new place, Margaret is at an age of much personal reflection and exploration. She spends a great deal of time exploring what is normal (and maybe not-so-normal) for a young girl her age. Through her private conversations with God, she begins to figure out and grow more comfortable with who she is. I think that is definitely something most of us can relate to no matter how old we are.

My 11-year old daughter read the book recently and we had some fabulous conversations about puberty, body-image, and her spiritual journey. There is some content that may be questionable to parents because the subject matter is such a sensitive one. But I found that the things I felt most uncomfortable talking about were the things that my daughter and I actually enjoyed discussing most.