Saturday, April 30, 2011

Favorite Books of the Week

The day after we made bug camouflage dioramas, I found the book Insect Detective by Steve Voake in the library.  I am impressed with the way this book presents information about insects in a way that is interesting to young children.  C enjoyed the book more than R, but she sat and listened without complaint.  We all really liked the last two pages of the book where the author provides tips for collecting and observing insects.  

R's favorite book of the week is The Queen of France by Tim Wadham.  A young girl named Rose dresses up and pretends to be the queen of France.  She searches for Rose, but only finds Rose's parents who are very happy to play along.  Later in the book, Rose searches for the Queen of France, but the two never meet.  There is a very sweet series of events that follows.  R really enjoyed this book and she loves the idea of dressing up and pretending to look for herself; I have a feeling that this will be happening a lot around here!  I love the way Rose's parents join in on the make-believe! 

In Clever Jack Takes the Cake by Candace Fleming, a poor boy named Jack receives an invitation to the princess's birthday party.  Jack has no money for a present, but decides to bake a cake for the princess.  On the way to the castle, however, Jack encounters a few problems, and the only present he has to offer the princess is the story of the cake's demise.  If you like fairy tales, you will LOVE this book.  Our borrowed copy is due back at the library soon and we can't even begin to think about parting with it.

What are your children reading this week?  Join me over at Mouse Grows, Mouse Learns to share your favorite, or even not so favorite, books of the week.

Cinderella Ate My Daughter (do you have some time because this is a long post)

After reading the post about this book at Almost Unschoolers, and reading all of the comments on that post, I had to read the book for myself.

If you have not heard of the book, Peggy Orenstein, the mother of a daughter, sets out to discover whether princesses, Hannah Montana, and all things pink and girly are destroying the self-esteem and well-being of the little girls of the world. 

I did learn a few interesting things from this book.  For one thing, did you know that when nursery colors were first introduced, pink used to be considered a masculine color and girls were often dressed in blue because it was associated with the Virgin Mary and also symbolized constancy, faithfulness, and femininity (think Alice in Wonderland, Cinderella, and Dorothy)?  I also learned about how the huge Disney princess craze came about.

Honestly though, I rolled my eyes more often than not while reading this book.  I consider the author to be an alarmist and alarmists give me a headache.  Furthermore, have you read the title of this blog?  We are big fans of princesses in our house.  I don't think they lead to eating disorders, perfection issues, or anything remotely sexual.  I think there is a big difference between playing dress up and performing in beauty pageants.  I have no interest in enrolling my daughter in beauty pageants, but she can dress up like a princess at home whenever she wants and I am not the least bit concerned that it will harm her in any way.  I also don't think superheroes teach boys that violence is acceptable, and I am happy to let my children play with toy guns.  I have plenty of friends who do not let their children play with toy guns and that is their choice, but I often see their boys turning everything else into guns so what is the point of banning the toy?

Back to the book...and the whole concept of princesses somehow harming our children.  Again, I know people who do not let their children have any princess items.  Their reasoning is that the children somehow get hooked on the notion that they have to be perfect and that their sole purpose in life is to find Prince Charming and get married.  Hmmmmmmmmmmmmm....let me tell you that I have very vivid memories of being a young girl and dreaming about getting married and having beautiful children and a beautiful house.  I don't remember having any princess toys though, and I certainly didn't have princess dresses or tiaras.  Why can't little girls pretend to be something they think is just wonderful?  I played "house" a lot as a kid - was it bad that I dreamed about being a grown up and having children?  PUHLEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEASE!  Give me a break.  What should I want my children to play - corporate executives?  What is wrong with fairy tales and happily ever after?  Don't we, as adults, still hope and dream that we will live happily ever after?  I know I do.  How many adults do you know that got all wrapped up in the royal wedding?  Should we worry about those adults? 

We try to keep our children young.  Our daughter is not allowed to get her ears pierced yet or dress like a teenager.  There will be no two piece bathing suits around here.  Our television has not seen the likes of iCarly or Hannah Montana because R is just five and I think the shows are too mature for her.  I know plenty of people who let their young daughters watch these shows and that is their choice, but it is not right for my daughter.  On the other hand, I think princesses are just right for her, and I don't think her Barbie dolls will cause her to have body image issues.  I only mention my daughter in this paragraph because it doesn't seem that little boys try to be older than they are; it is definitely more of an issue for girls.

That is the key, what is right for your family?  What do you want your children to believe?  Nothing else matters really.  Just because I don't want my daughter in a two piece bathing suit, doesn't mean it is wrong for your daughter.  What is right for me, is not necessarily right for you, and if only we could get past that notion, the world would be a much better place.  

Speaking of that, I am going off on another tangent for a minute.  It used to be that working mothers were criticized, and it seems to me that the tables have turned a bit.  Please don't think I am criticizing working mothers - I used to be one and I know plenty of working mothers who manage to work and take care of their children.  But, lately, I find that people are criticizing my choice to stay home with my children.  They ask questions like:  How can you stand to be home all day?  Don't you worry that your children aren't learning independence?  Don't you think that the projects and activities you do with your children prevent them from learning to play on their own?  (so annoying, as if I sit and occupy my children all day long, but I get that A LOT), and here is the one that BUGS ME THE MOST --- WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO WHEN YOUR CHILDREN GROW UP?  Why this is any of their concern, I do not know, but people (lots of people) have asked me that question.  They must worry that my children will grow up and I will wither away, alone without anything to do all day.  So, right now I am going to tell you that I LOVE TO be a mom and I LOVE to stay home with my children.  This does not make me lazy, and it certainly does not mean that I am not willing to work!!!!!!!!!!  I am very fortunate to be able to stay home with my children.  I can bring them to school, I can go to their soccer and basketball games, I can take them to practices, and I can cook their meals and wash their clothes.  I also love being able to take care of my husband (gasp, did I really say that I like to take care of him?  Feminists around the world are already planning an intervention).  I don't claim to be the best mother or the best wife, but I love that I am able to do my best for my family and I really don't think I should be criticized for that.  I love Donna Reed and June Cleaver, and I'm happy to put on my apron and pearls and go about my day. 

In summary (finally, right?) and back to the premise behind the book, I think children need positive role models in their lives.  If a child has parents that are obsessed with perfection and body image, most likely the child will grow up with those same obsessions.  We try to encourage our children to lead healthy lives.  We certainly eat our share of sweets, but we also emphasize the importance of healthy foods.  Exercise is important in our house too.  Our children will ride their bicycles, play sports, and spend a good amount of time running around outside.  That is not negotiable.  If while running around outside, they want to play superheroes and princesses, well then that is just wonderful and I am not the least bit concerned about it.

The Piano

C just began taking piano lessons a few weeks ago.  So far, he really enjoys the lessons and I never have to remind him to practice.  We bought him a keyboard, and I am already impressed with everything he has learned.  I hope he enjoys it for a very long time!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Butterfly Story Hour

I hosted my last coffee shop story hour today.  I may do it again in the future, but right now our schedule is jam packed with an upcoming trip to Disney, R's preschool graduation, R's dance recital, C's piano lessons, T's busy schedule, and come September, I will have a newborn.  Anyway, enough about me.

Today, the theme of our story hour was butterflies.  I read two books:

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle is a book that most people are familiar with, but it features a very hungry caterpillar who eats his way through the days of the week until he wraps himself up in his cocoon and emerges as a beautiful butterfly.  We have owned this book since T was a toddler; it's great for counting practice for toddlers, and the story is fun for preschoolers too.

Butterfly Butterfly by Petr Horacek is about a girl named Lucy who chases a butterfly around her garden all day long.  The next day, she looks and looks but can't find the butterfly anywhere.  She finds a lot of other colorful creatures in the garden, and when she finally decides to lay down in the grass, she notices something wonderful in the sky - her butterfly.  The book is full of beautiful colors that are very appealing to young children, but the biggest attraction in this book is the pop up butterfly at the end.

After reading, each of the children made their own butterfly to take home.  They began by coloring coffee filters with washable markers.

When they finished coloring, each child used the spray bottle to spray his or her coffee filter with enough water to just make the filter damp so the colors would spread out over the filter.

We left the coffee filters to dry for a few minutes.  Then, I cut pipe cleaners in half and used one pipe cleaner (some people call them chenille stems) to wrap around the center of a scrunched coffee filter.

I twisted the pipe cleaners so they would stay in place and then turned the edges to look like antennae.


Thank you to all of my little friends for joining me for story hour every month.  I will miss all of the hugs!  Thank you to the moms for bringing the little friends, and for helping clean up!  Thank you to Cuppers Cafe for providing a great place for story hour and for providing free hot chocolate and juice for the kiddos.

For more art projects inspired by books, head over to stArt at A Mommy's Adventures.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Bug Camouflage Diorama

This week we read Dot and Jabber and the Big Bug Mystery by Ellen Stoll Walsh.  Dot and Jabber, two little mice, are out for a walk when they notice that the bugs they saw a minute earlier suddenly disappeared.  They declare it a mystery and set out to find out what happened to the bugs.  In the end, they learn about camouflage and why bugs and other animals try to blend in with their surroundings.  We are big fans of Ellen Stoll Walsh's books, and we definitely recommend this one.  There is a page at the end of the book that provides great information about bugs and animals hiding from predators, as well as hiding from their prey.

C and R made some bugs of their own using play doh and model magic.  The dough also became rocks and moss.

Then we ventured outside to find some grass, leaves, sticks, and rocks and placed them in shoe boxes.

C and R added their bugs to the boxes and helped them hide from predators by camouflaging them in their surroundings. 

We will be sure to keep our eyes open when we are outside to see if we can find any real bugs or animals hiding in their surroundings.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Louisiana Swamp Snack and Books

We are currently studying the state of Louisiana.  I put together a swampy snack for C and R.  The swamp is vanilla pudding with a few drops of green food coloring.  There are a few candy rocks in the swamp, as well as gummy worms and alligators. 

I made the alligators by covering Nabisco sugar wafers with melted green Wilton candy melts. 

For the eyes, I attached tiny pieces of green jelly beans while the green candy was still melted, and added white icing with a toothpick. 

I also used the toothpick to dot on a tiny bit of black gel icing for the pupils.  White icing also worked to make a few teeth on the alligators.

C loved the snack and ate every bite.  R declared it gross (it's a swamp, isn't it supposed to be gross?) and gave it to T.

We followed snack time with two swamp books.

Swamp Song by Helen Ketteman is a fun rhyming book that begins with Old Man Gator tapping his toes.  Soon all of the animals are moving and grooving to a swampy beat.

Catfish Kate and the Sweet Swamp Band by Sarah Weeks is another fun rhyming book.  Catfish Kate and her all-girl band liven up the bayou with their music, but the boys want quiet in the swamp so they can read.  Is the swamp big enough for the girls and the boys?  This is a fun book about compromise and conflict resolution.

Speaking of Louisiana and swamps, have you seen the show Swamp People on the History Channel?  I don't know why, but I am so intrigued by the show.  I can't even imagine spending my life catching alligators on the swamp.  You can watch full episodes about the people who depend on the Louisiana swamps to make a living by clicking on the link in the first sentence of this paragraph, or you can purchase the DVD through Amazon* using my link below. 

*I am an Amazon affiliate and will receive a tiny commission if you purchase anything through my links.  This does not affect the cost of your purchases.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The All-American Jump and Jive Jig

I recently spotted this book by M.P. Hueston in the library and knew immediately that it would be great for us to read.  We are currently working our way through the fifty states, and any book that mentions the states and makes geography fun is perfect for our studies. 

This book mentions many states and geographical regions and associates them with silly dances like the Boston Tea Party dance for Massachusetts, the Brooklyn Boogie for New York, and the Lubbock Line Dance for Texas. 

We sat with our map of the United States and C and R took turns pointing out the different states mentioned as we read the book.  This was a great review of the states we have already studied, and also a great introduction to a few states that we have not studied yet.

The rhyming text makes the book fun to read and we loved the state specific illustrations too.  My only complaint is that Massachusetts (our home state) was lacking any significant illustrations; the page features a young girl dancing with a tea kettle.  I know the tea kettle signifies the Boston Tea Party, but I would have loved to see a few geographical details or state symbols.  For example, the Maine page has a picture of a lobster, a lighthouse, and a fishing boat. 

Overall, we were very happy with the book and I definitely recommend checking it out.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Easter Bunny Was Here

The Bunny ate his carrots and left a filled egg in their place.  
C went right for the book - that made me SO happy!  He sat and read a few chapters before even touching his candy!
R was happiest about the Aqua Pet in her basket.  It has already disappeared; she can't find it anywhere.
I didn't get a picture of T with his basket.  That's what happens when they become teenagers.

Thank you, Easter Bunny!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Happy Easter

C and R had a lot of fun decorating eggs for Easter.  We used three different decorating techniques this year.

First, they used crayons to color on very hot eggs.  The eggs looked really pretty as the crayon melted on them.

Here are C's melted crayon decorated eggs:

These are the eggs R decorated with the crayons:

The second technique was painting using this kit we purchased last year.  The paint was easy to use and the colors were so bright.

Here are the eggs that R painted:

These are the eggs painted by C:

For the last few eggs, C and R dipped bleeding art tissue paper in water and layered the paper over the eggs.

We also used a spray bottle to mist the eggs with water once the tissue paper was in place. 

When the tissue paper was dry, they peeled it off the eggs to reveal beautiful colors.  I think they were both happiest with the end result of this technique!

These are the eggs C made with the bleeding art tissue paper:

R made these eggs and she loved them so much that she wanted to sleep with them!!!

We had a lot of fun decorating eggs this year.  I love trying new techniques!  Have a wonderful Easter!