October 16th: Simple Kids Showcase and Weekend Links

This week’s Showcase comes to us from Mary Beth of My Girls:

Our family’s helper jar is a fun way to engage our kids in the entire process of giving.

From saving to delivering–with shopping and packaging sandwiched in between–we gain much from giving in this small way. We never miss the amount of money that we collect (both times we’ve been surprised at just how much we’ve managed to save). Instead we gain the experience of helping people enjoy something that we often take for granted.


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Join us, won’t you?.  Read more about how to get started here!

Thank you, Mary Beth!  If you would like to see your family featured in the SK Showcase, send your submission via email to me at simplekidsblog at gmail dot com.

The month of October is just bursting with all kinds of inspiring reading!  Here are just a few of the treasures I have come across this week:

Simply Practical

fantastic, practical, real-life parenting advice at Parents Ask (via Mariah of Playful Learning, one of many contributors to this parenting community)

the Happiness Project: Seven Tips If You’re Chronically Late (via Parent Hacks)

Simply Delicious

More Than Burnt Toast: A Recipe for Orchard Apple Salad . . . a taste of autumn
Under the High Chair: Playing with Pumpkin: a worthy recap
Phe/MOM/enon: Homemade Chocolate Hazelnut Spread

Inspired Projects

This Vintage Chica: Make Your Own Spiderweb
ABC and 123: Bats and Spiders
The Crafty Crow: Where the Wild Things Are :: Crafts and Treats ::

Inspired Images

Holy Experience: Slow Down: looking for gold

Inspired Words

A Worthy Life: the very definition of insanity
Clover Lane: What NOT to Regret

May your weekend be full of happiness and health!

What We’re Reading: Sam McBratney’s You’re All My Favorites (and more!)

Three timeless, lovely, and adventurous books have been chosen by the Simple Kids Book Review team for this week’s What We’re Reading Wednesday:

Preschool

from Amy (Girlfriends Get Real)

allmyfavoritesAt Christmastime we are always looking for new books for our girls. Last Christmas we came across the book You’re All My Favorites by Sam McBratney. With three girls in the house trying to get attention from Mom and Dad, this book was perfect.

In the book three baby bears want to know, “Which one of us do you like most? Who is your favorite? We can’t all be the best.” Mommy and Daddy Bear try to explain that they are all the most wonderful baby bears in the whole world. However, the baby bears start to doubt that they can all be a favorite. In the end Mommy and Daddy bear explained that each of the bears is different and they love them equally.

This book illustrates how each child in your family can be unique and different, but our hearts are big enough to love each one the same.

Early Elementary

from MJ Wieland (turnitupmom)

The End of the BeginningThe End of the Beginning: Being the Adventures of a Small Snail (and an Even Smaller Ant) is an amusing chapter book that chronicles the adventures of Avon, a small snail, and Edward, an even smaller ant. Newberry Award winner Avi writes with such wit and wisdom that even the most reluctant reader will want to journey with these entertaining characters.

Avon, the snail, has never been on an adventure of his own; he has only read about them. And adventures, he concludes, are the key to a happy life. So, he sets out on a journey with his neighbor, a small but self-assured ant. Along the way, the spirited pair gets lost, writes poetry, encounters a “dragon,” and meets other wise and weird creatures, including a worm who cannot determine his front end from his back end.

Avi writes with a dry sense of humor that appeals to all ages. When Avon reluctantly fights a famous “battle” (against another ridiculously slow snail), and Edward asks if he’s won, Avon replies, “I don’t know. It all happened so quickly.” Avi’s play on words and clever use of language leaves both kids and adults giggling their way through these silly adventures.

While this story is humorous and at times nonsensical, it is also philosophical and profound. Avi gives deeper meaning to the ordinary and even dull events that transpire, and the more mature reader will experience this tale on a different emotional and intellectual level.  Embedded in this adventure are thought-provoking statements such as this: “Getting yourself lost is easy. Happens all the time. It’s finding yourself that’s hard.”

Ultimately, the end of the beginning is the start of a beautiful friendship between two unlikely adventurers. Tricia Tusa’s pen and ink illustrations are the perfect complement to this charming little tale. If you’ve enjoyed Frog and Toad, I think you’ll find this pair to be quirky and oh, so lovable!

Upper Elementary

from Diana (Holes in my Shiny Veneer)

zorgamazooMy pick for this month is a seasonal one – Zorgamazoo by Robert Paul Weston.  I say seasonal because it has just the right amount of macabre and fantasy for the upcoming Halloween festivities.  Fans of The Series of Unfortunate Events will delight in this tale which finds Katrina Katrell, our luckless heroine, being pursued by her guardian for a lobotomy.  The impetus for this impromptu brain surgery is Katrina’s sighting of Morty the Zorgle in a subway tunnel—such “imagination” is intolerable to the narrow-minded Mrs. Krabone.

Yet Katrina was not imagining.  She really did see a Zorgle, whom she eventually encounters again.  As she joins Morty’s reluctant quest to discover what happened to the missing Zorgles of Zorgamazoo, the two of them are eventually kidnapped and taken hostage on the moon with all sorts of other fantastical creatures that have gone missing from our world:  griffins, yetis, dragons, and more.

Katrina’s tale of cunning and escape is quite a remarkable novel.  Remarkable not only because it is Weston’s first, but because the entire novel is written in verse!  Imagine Dr. Seuss writing nearly 300 pages and you’ll get an idea of how incredible this is.  Naturally, Zorgamazoo is the perfect candidate for a read-aloud. In fact, it was given a 2009 E.B. White Older Reader Honors award. You can hear the first few chapters read aloud on Weston’s site if this little tidbit isn’t enough:

So if you’re a person who’s tired or pooped
if the edge of your mind has been drearily drooped,
then of course you’d ignore any zorgally face,
that perhaps you would see in some shadowy place.

So if you’ve no time for the whimsical things,
for pirates and gadgets and creatures and kings,
if you spurn the fantastic to never return,
then PUT THIS BOOK DOWN…for it’s not your concern.

* * * * *

Congratulations to commenter Cary who is the winner of the Crafting Fun and Cooking Fun giveaway.  She shared about her favorite childhood memories of creating:

“My favorite cooking memory with my mom as a child was making rice crispie bars.  Our recipe used the microwave rather than the stove so she would let us do most of it ourselves encouraging us all the way.  My favorite cooking memory with my dad is helping him make scalloped potatoes and ham from scratch which was a huge treat.  We would help measure out all the ingredients, and he would have us 1 1/3 the recipe or 1 1/2 the reicpe just to test our math skills.  My favorite new memory with my little ones is our tradition of making breadsticks every Sunday night.  Great fun and they help with everything!”

Thanks to everyone for such wonderful comments.  I hope you’ve been inspired to add Rae Grant’s lovely books to your home library!

Designate a Day to Show Unexpected Gratitude

gratitudePhoto by psd

Our two year old may be an absolute handful, but she is also one of the most grateful children I know.  What a  treat to hear “Dank you, Mommy!” many times throughout the day.  Whether I’ve refilled her juice cup or gotten her precious tricycle unstuck, her thankfulness is always enthusiastic, pure, and authentic.

Receiving spontaneous, unexpected gratitude nourishes the spirit and affirms our work. But it’s easy to get caught up in the daily-ness of life, and in doing so, we may forget to extend appreciation to the people around us.  Active families need a simple system to make sure gratitude receives the honor it deserves in our lives. A very simple solution is to designate a day to express gratitude to recipients who won’t be expecting it!

1. Pick a date and mark it in pen on the family calendar

Our family is going to choose the 14th of the month to show gratitude.  The 14th is when our rent is due every month, so that day is already circled on our family planner and it will be easy for me to remember.  Maybe your family would like to designate one day a week, or perhaps once a quarter would work better for you.  Think about the systems your family already has in place, and make a small adjustment to make a place for gratitude.

2. Keep a running list of those who have blessed your family

Start your list with the people you interact with most frequently – parents, grandparents, teachers, clergy, etc.  Once you open your eyes to the way others bring helpfulness, joy, encouragement, and guidance into your life, you’ll find your list will overflow with ideas.

  • Perhaps you could add the doctor, midwife, or doula who assisted you in bringing your children into the world.  Maybe there is a special child care provider or other family support person who has played a meaningful role in the life of your family.  To keep a family healthy and well-functioning requires a little outside help sometimes – don’t neglect saying “thank you” to those who have helped your family.
  • What about the people in your community who work tirelessly to create a happy, healthy place to live?  Firefighters, police officers, city officials, librarians – these are all people in our community who deserve our gratitude.
  • Consider the leaders of special groups to which you belong (homeschooling or local food co-ops, organized playgroups, even message board administrators).  Serving in a leadership role is often a time-consuming and thankless job, and words of appreciation can go a long way towards inspiring motivation to continue.

I think you find once you get started, you’ll never run short of people in your life whom you want to bless with gratitude.

3. Invite your children to be an active part of the process of extending thanks

This is much easier as your children get older and are able to communicate more effectively about who has had a positive impact on their lives.  Older children may want to keep their own running lists to draw from on Gratitude Day.  For younger children and babies, parents may want to take a moment to think about who their children would say “thank you” to if they had the words to express their thanks.  This may be a special teacher at church or child care, or perhaps another mom from a playgroup who always takes time to engage with your little one.

Once you’ve put a gratitude system in place that reminds you when to be intentional in expressing thankfulness, you can let your creativity guide you in how to show your appreciation. Child-created artwork is always well-received, and it’s hard to go wrong with a batch of homemade cookies.  Write a letter to the editor to publicly proclaim your gratefulness, or slip a handwritten note into the hand of one whose work you appreciate.  Practicing the art of gratitude will often birth new and unique ways you can speak thanksgiving into the lives of others.

Yesterday, our Canadian friends and community members celebrated Thanksgiving. It is wonderful to have a national day to be thankful, but we don’t have to wait for a national holiday to say “thank you!” Does your family have a designated day or way to show thanks? How are you already modeling the importance of gratitude for the children in your life?

What We’re Listening To: Carly Simon’s Into White

Jennifer returns to share a new recommendation of What We’re Listenting To for this month.  As autumn settles in, our rhythms naturally begin to slow down.  This month’s selection provides a perfect soundtrack for the ever-shortening days of fall:

IntoWhitecoverSometimes we just need a little music to soothe our souls.  I know I can really identify with that this month, having recently packed up my home and put myself and my son on an airplane for an extended visit away.  It seems like September faded into chaos as the day to leave got closer, and now that we’re here we’ve started to find ways to settle into a somewhat familiar routine in our home away from home.

One of the ways we’ve done that is by bringing an iPod loaded with my son’s favorite “up-time” and bedtime music (I’m truly thankful right now for technology that allows me to bring so much in such a small package!).  One soothing album I love to turn back to again and again is Into White by Carly Simon.

This album was released just a couple of months after my son was born and just about the time we solidified our bedtime ritual of having music playing as he was being soothed to sleep.  In my new mother haze I somehow caught an interview with the artist promoting this album, and I loved her description of the album as one she put together with children in mind and quickly added it to our family’s collection.  I’m so glad I did.

We have many choices for bedtime music in our house, but this is one of Mommy’s favorites.  I love the simplicity of the selections and the beautiful voice of a truly talented artist.  The melodic rhythm has a calming, centering quality that helps me to relax in that rocking chair at the end of the day just as much as it does my child.

“Into White” has both old favorites you will recognize like “Oh! Susannah,” “You Are My Sunshine,” and “Over the Rainbow” blended with originals unique to this album.  I simply adore “You Can Close Your Eyes” sung with her children Ben and Sally Taylor – the harmony is amazing and beautiful.

For a sneak preview, you can check out a selection of songs Carly Simon’s official website for this album.

This is an album your family can enjoy for generations to come.

October 9th: Simple Kids Showcase and Weekend Links

This week’s Showcase comes to us from Catherine of Adventures with Kids:

I am very grateful for my son’s wonderful grandparents. They provide our family with plenty of help and support whenever we need it.  But the greatest thing that they give is spending time talking and playing with their grandsons and passing on their skills and knowledge.

My mother is a wonderful cook and when we visited earlier this year she showed my son how to make pasta.  They also spent lots of time looking through and discussing the photographs in wildlife books.

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My father-in-law will tinker with anything and he always has time for my son to help and to teach my son how things work (my husband has this talent for tinkering too, but is often more pressed for time when fixing things).

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My mother-in-law loves to spend time with her grandsons and has a great passion for gardening.  My 4 year old son will spend all day in the garden with her, potting plants, raking leaves, mowing the lawn (on a ride-on mower), pruning and pottering around.

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I’m very happy that there is such a close relationship between my sons and their grandparents and to share the raising of my sons with our extended family.

What a blessing for both Catherine and her children to have grandparents so close by who are lovingly involved in the life of their family!

And now, your weekend reading:

Simply Practical

Simple. Organized. Life: Print Books of Pictures, Not All Your Pictures
Steady Mom: How to Teach Your Sons to Express Emotion
Where the Wild Things Are and National Wildlife Federation Team Up for Launch of Be Out There Campaign to Get Kids Outside

Simply Delicious

My Charming Kids: Rainbow Cake
itty bitty fish: waffle crazy
Berlin’s Whimsy: Healthy Snacking: Fruity-Nutty Nibbles

Inspired Projects

Kids Craft Weekly: Five-Minute Crafts
The Crafty Crow: Homemade Party Favors: 40 Party Favors You Can Make Yourself!
The Berblog: Fall Leaf Crayon Resist-Watercolor (via Crafty Crow)

Inspired Images

A Foothill Home Companion: Making
Grass Stained Knees: Right now . . .

Inspired Words

Zen Family Habits: How to be Minimalist with Kids (Zen Family Habits launched this week with SK community member Sherri of Serene Journey at the helm!  This article is one of many filled with inspiration for “simple happiness” in the home.  Congratulations, Sherri!)

*** Don’t forget to enter for a chance to win Rae Grant’s beautiful books Crafting Fun and Cooking fun. ***