Weekend Links: November 20th

cornucopia

Photo by billaday

It is less than one week until readers in the U.S. celebrate Thanksgiving, so your weekend reading links will reflect this theme.

I know many of you are creating all kinds of wonderful holiday crafts, recipes, and traditions at this time of the year.  If you have a spare minute, won’t you send me a note about what your family is up to this holiday season?  I would love to feature your ideas in our weekly Showcase!

Simply Practical

Crunchy Domestic Goddess: Reducing Holiday Stress for Your Kids
Simple Mom: How to Host a Memorable Holiday Cookie Swap (column from Aimee of Under the High Chair)
Imagination Soup: Free online learning games for kids

Simply Delicious

Family Fun: Sunrise Pre-K Fruit Turkey
Mixing Bowl Kids: Ham Sandwiches on Sweet Potato Biscuits
Make and Takes: Homemade Roasted Pumpkin Puree
A Field Journal: Apple Cider

Inspired Projects

Alpha Mom: Thanksgiving Crafts for the Kids’ Table
Two looks at a thankful tree – Playful Learning: This Year’s Grateful Tree and A Soft Place to Land: A Thankful Tree
Mother Nature Network: Thanksgiving crafts for teens and tweens
Pink and Green Mama: Bubble Wrap Printmaking: Thanksgiving Corn
Cluck and Tweet: Addicted to Freezer Paper

What We’re Reading: Catherine Gilbert Murdoch’s Dairy Queen (and more!)

Three beautiful books await your discovery today, thanks to our SK Book Review Team!

Preschool

from Amy (Girlfriends Get Real, Unforgettable Childhood)

deepintheswampA couple of weeks ago my daughter had a book fair at her preschool. She found a few books that grabbed her attention. As we were browsing I saw the book Deep in the Swamp by Donna M. Bateman. At first glance, I thought that it would be a good addition to our home library. On the cover was an alligator. My daughter has been intrigued by alligators since our trip to Hilton Head Island. We saw them sitting in the backyards of people as we were on a bike ride through town and they have become a favorite in our house.

I did not read through the book at the school so I was pleasantly surprised by the rhyming story that also focused on counting. As you explore Okefenokee Swamp in the story you see a variety of animals in their swamp habitat. The beautiful illustrations show an animal with their babies surrounded by swamp plants like water lilies and cattails.

My daughters favorite page turned out to be the Marsh Rabbits. Here is an excerpt from this page:

Deep in the swamp, in a thicket on the shore,
Lived a mother marsh rabbit and her little bunnies Four.
“Snooze!” said the mother. “We snooze,” said the Four.
So they snoozed all day long in their thicket on the shore.

A wonderful addition to the book comes at the end. There is a glossary with each animal and water loving plant with facts. My three year old even wants me to read this section. Living in the Midwest on the prairie it is fun for all of us to learn more about the animals in the Okefenokee Swamp.

Early Elementary

from MJ (turnitupmom)

Fly Away HomeAs we approach Thanksgiving, I thought it fitting to share a story that prompts me to count my blessings every time I read it. Fly Away Home, by Eve Bunting, is the story of a homeless boy and his father who live in an airport, ducking in and out of different terminals to avoid being sent out on the streets. Ronald Himler’s blurred watercolor illustrations nicely compliment this father and son’s life of anonymity.

I love that this story is told from the boy’s perspective. We learn that a typical day includes wearing blue, sleeping sitting up, washing in the restroom, and eating in the cafeteria. No matter what he’s doing, the goal is always to blend in and go unnoticed. And naturally, the boy experiences a range of emotions, including fear, sadness, and anger.

While this may seem like a heavy plot line, it is also a story of hope. One day a wounded bird is caught in the main terminal and the little boy encourages it to fly free: “Don’t stop trying . . .Don’t! You can get out!” Bunting revisits the bird motif on the final page: “And when the bird left, when it flew free, I know it was singing.”

This story is a must-read for every child. It increases awareness about the plight of the homeless and dispels the commonly held belief that if you’re working, you can pay rent. We are all worthy of a place to call home. May you have a healthy, safe, and warm Thanksgiving!

Upper Elementary

from Diana (Holes in my Shiny Veneer)

dairyqueenMy pick for this month is a bit older than some of my previous recommendations:  Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock was named an ALA 2006 Best Book for Young Adults.  Perhaps I’m recommending it because it’s another seasonal pick because Dairy Queen is, at first glance, about high school football.  You’ll know that this isn’t your typical book about high school football, though, as soon as you realize that the protagonist, D.J. Schwenk is a girl.

D.J. is a farm girl in small town Wisconsin.  In this first novel from Murdock, we find D.J.  in the summer before her junior year working to save the family farm.  Her older football-star brothers are away on college scholarships and her younger brother is on a championship Little League team, so the farm chores have been laid on her shoulders after her father’s hip injury.  D.J. has sacrificed a lot for her family, but given that her family has more than the usual amount of trouble communicating, she doesn’t exactly feel appreciated.

Things get complicated when she finds herself using her football knowledge to train Brian Nelson, the quarterback of the rival high school.  Things get even more complicated when D.J. finds herself becoming friends with Brian and realizes that she can’t talk at all to her best friend, Amber.  And yes, D.J. eventually decides to go out for the football team herself, meaning that her new friend, Brian, is now even more of a rival than before.

Murdock’s creation of the character of D.J. is truly unforgettable.  D.J. pushes herself to her limits over and over and teaches Brian what it means to do your best.  She comes to grips with her dreams and pursues them, willing to overcome the odds to reach them.  I can’t think of any character I’ve ever met with such a work ethic who still comes across as a flesh and blood teenager.  I’m looking forward to encountering D.J. again in the rest of Murdock’s trilogy in The Off Season and Front and Center.

(Please bear in mind that this is a young adult novel and deals with some more mature themes such as homosexuality and teenage drinking.)

The Power of Seeking Our Children’s Forgiveness

hug1 Photo by lepiaf.geo

One day when our oldest daughter was a baby – maybe nine or ten months old – I was having a particularly bad mothering day. I responded to her with grouchy irritability, using unkind words spoken in an unloving way.

Later that day, I confessed to my very wise Mommy mentor how terribly I felt about my response to Dacey.  She was just a baby, and I had been so harsh!  I couldn’t shake the guilt that plagued me. My friend gave me some advice that has had a profound impact on the way I practice parenting.  She said:

Tell her that you are sorry and ask her to forgive you. Of course, she won’t understand your words, but it will confirm the sincerity of the apology in your heart, and you’ll be released from that guilt so you can move forward with your day in a healthy state of mind.

Following that advice marked the beginning of a practice I passionately believe is powerful in parenting: seeking the forgiveness of our children when we have wronged them. As I continue in this practice, I’ve learned three important truths:

1) Parents aren’t perfect.

In the daily-ness of parenting, it’s easy to hone in on the ways we feel our children have wronged us.  A bowl of popcorn dumped out on a freshly vacuumed carpet or a meltdown in the checkout aisle of the market can cause us to focus our energies on the many ways our children aren’t perfect.

Yet I find that when I acknowledge my own shortcomings to my children, it reminds me of my imperfections which inspires a spirit of mercy and forgiveness when their imperfections on are on display. It also allows my children to grow up with a healthy perception of me.  Everyone makes mistakes – even Mama.

2) Forgiveness restores relationships.

All of us have parenting moments of which we are not proud.  We need only access hurtful moments from our own childhoods for a vivid reminder of the power of a parent’s words and actions.  But when we operate under the truth that we aren’t perfect and we will make mistakes, we are encouraged to act quickly to make amends with the child we have hurt – both confessing our wrong and seeking forgiveness.

In most every relationship, the act of asking for forgiveness for a wrong can go a long way towards healing a wounded spirit.

3) Modeling teaches volumes about the power of forgiveness

Both of my daughters (even my two year old) will very often ask for forgiveness when they have acted in a way that is hurtful, upsetting, or against the rules of our home.  I’ve never sat down and taught them how to do this, nor have I ever insisted that they do so.  What they have learned about asking for forgiveness, they have learned from their father and me.

We are very imperfect, and so they have had many opportunities to grant forgiveness to us when we have wronged them.

The older we get, the more difficult it can be to acknowledge when we have wronged someone, and our own stubborn pride threatens to preclude us from experiencing the very healthy process of restoring a strained relationship.  Humbling myself to ask for my children’s forgiveness often involves a very intentional act of choosing what I know is right over what I feel is right. Yet as I see the fruits of compassion and tenderness grow in my children, I am encouraged to continue practicing the act and art of forgiveness.

Have you found yourself asking one of your children to forgive you? What role does forgiveness play in the dynamics within your family?