Written and Illustrated: Making Books With Your Children

The following post is by contributor Robin Zipporah of The Not-Ever-Still Life.
Every so often my oldest child, almost six, will flip through a pile of papers on the lower shelf of my bedside table. “What bedtime story did you read last night?” she’ll ask.

Those papers are all books that she or her sister have made, and it stands to reason, doesn’t it? that if she chooses a few books from her bedside table to read every night, so do I. I love when she asks that question. I love how integrally we’ve made reading part of the rhythm of our home.

With their innate curiosity and creative problem-solving, children are natural storytellers. In our house, we’ve been capturing our kids’ stories and making books from them for several years. They needn’t be fancy; most of the time our tools are just some paper and crayons. And this is a project you can complete with kids of any age:

For toddlers and preschoolers

Even our earliest talkers have big ideas. When my daughters were very young, I’d interview them with a series of two-choice questions and a few open-ended ones, like this: “do you want to make a story about a princess or a monster? Okay, a monster. A girl monster or boy monster or something else? A boy monster! Does he have one head or more heads? More! How many?” And so on.

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Eight Lessons from Hanukkah for All of Us

The following was written by contributor Robin Zipporah of The Not-Ever-Still Life. It originally appeared in November of 2010.

When Hanukkah begins this Wednesday night I’ll light the brightly-colored candles with my family, sing the ancient blessings and traditional songs, and delight in my kids’ enjoyment of the holiday. And then I’ll wash dishes or pay bills or fold laundry, I’ll tuck my little ones into sleep, and I’ll prepare for work on Thursday.

In terms of religious significance Hanukkah is actually a minor festival. We make time in our schedules to remember a long-ago miracle but we move about our regular days. It’s a little sparkle at the beginning of winter. Its significance is conflated because of its proximity to Christmas, but really, they’re not in the same league.

Still, I think there’s something in Hanukkah for everybody:

1. Let your light shine out.

The two-sentence version of the Hanukkah story is that when the Eternal Flame in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem was extinguished, only enough oil to relight it for one day could be found. God made the day’s oil ration burn for eight days, the time it took for messengers to travel and return with more rations. Jews light the Hanukkah candles to remember the miracle of the oil, and they light them in their windows and doorways to publicize the miracle. What gifts can you share with your neighbors?

2. Develop the long view.

We’re commemorating a story that occurred over 2000 years ago. It still matters. Can you imagine what impact your actions will have in 2000 years? How can we add relevance to our everyday lives?

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Getting Down and Dirty: Connecting With the Season

The following was written by contributor Robin Zipporah.

These are narcissus bulbs, just waiting for a dry day to be buried in our flower bed.

They were a gift from another family, dug out of their garden in early summer, when the dad was thinning his flower beds and the world was vibrant with blossoms and thrumming with bees and humming birds and sparkling with radiant sun.

As I type this, it’s been raining for days here in Maryland. Right now, the air is damp and dusk is racing us home each night. Our friends’ summer garden, where we thanked them for excess bulbs and snacked on blueberries straight from the bushes, feels terribly distant.

When my second child was two last year, she was made absolutely distraught by autumn’s arrival and Mother Nature’s decision to close up shop like just another community pool or boardwalk ice cream stand. She didn’t like the disappearance of the fireflies, then of the long evenings, then of sun warm enough to play without a jacket, and with the onset of winter, that final disappearing act: all the world’s color left us.

She was too young to remember that spring always follows winter and color and blossoms and grass and sunshine and sprinklers and ice pops all would emerge again, like a bejeweled butterfly after a long cocoon’s sleep. She didn’t understand, and all of our reassurances could be based only on faith, not evidence.

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Storytelling Day: The True Story of the Tooth Fairy

The following is by contributor Robin Zipporah of The Not Ever Still Life.

It was just a few weeks ago. On the night of her fifth birthday, just before bedtime, our oldest child let out a startled shriek. I thought I knew what had surprised her but I went upstairs to check.

I found her in her bedroom staring at the parcel dangling from the ceiling. She had received her registration packet – she was successfully signed up with the Tooth Fairy Network.

Per the instructions in the packet, this was what I read to her:

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Storytelling Day: The True Story of Groundhog Day

The following story is by contributor Robin Zipporah of The Not Ever Still Life.

You know when spring begins because of your calendar and the weatherman on the television and the app on your mom’s phone, but a long, long time ago, everyone had to wait for the daffodils.

People don’t always notice the workings of nature. They go to work and go to school and go to soccer practice, or the coffee shop. They carry in their groceries and carry out their recycling and always passing over the curb, but never really looking at it, they don’t see the underground efforts to bring the burst of yellow forth.

It’s just, “Look! The daffodils are up!” and spring is here.

But you and I know: that’s not the whole story, is it?

The real story of Groundhog Day occurred a long, long time ago. It began with Philbert the Groundhog, and, of course, it began while he was sleeping.

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