Sunday, October 6, 2013

Hunter, The Princess Bride & A Pit Of Love

This morning, I called Hunter over to the couch to tell him about the book I've been reading. It's not a book appropriate for preschoolers so I took the liberty of glossing over the numerous attempted murders and more mature details of the story. I simply told him that there was a girl named Buttercup and a boy named Westley who were friends when they were teenagers. One day Buttercup is captured and Westley chases after the men who took her. I told him about climbing the Cliffs of Insanity, the sword fight and when Buttercup falls into the snow sand. In my copy of the book, there is a map that depicts the Cliffs, the Fire Swamp, and other elements of the story I chose not to mention(Zoo of Death)! He was fascinated and we talked about that story and looked at the map together many times throughout the day. This new found interest lead to one of the best conversations I have had with my second born nephew.

Auntie Jenn: 'Westley and Buttercup fell in love! Do you know anyone who's in love?'
Hunter: 'No!'
AJ: 'You do! Mommy and Daddy are in love!'
H: 'Did they fall?'
AJ: 'Yup. They fell in love.'
H: 'Did they get out?'
AJ: 'Nope, they're still in love.'
H: 'Still?! How did they get to our house?!'

This is where I threw it over to Shannelle, who had overheard our conversation. I can only assume from his line of questioning that he believes you actually fall into a pit of love. And really, if you're stuck in a pit, how are you getting home? Completely reasonable question.

I love seeing his mind at work. I hope I can keep having these candid conversations about books and about life for years to come.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Tell Me A Story

The girls and I often tell stories at lunch time, and snack time, and really any time during the day. When I first starting telling them stories they all had the same format:

One day, (insert name of Friend #1) & (insert name of Friend #2) were walking through the (insert landscape) one day, when all of the sudden-they heard a noise! It sounded like this! (insert random noise). They didn't know what it was, so they kept walking. And then all of the sudden-they heard ANOTHER noise! It sounded like this! (insert different random noise). 

The friends heard a few noises and then found the source of the noise. It was usually a typically scary thing(bear, giant, monster) eating something that was gigantic and silly(bowl of ice cream, popsicle, corn on the cob), who turned out to be a nice guy. In the end, they all become friends and live happily ever after. The end. No matter how many different types of stories I tell, this is the format the girls request most often. They've even started telling stories themselves. It is brilliant. To listen to these girls tell stories from their imaginations, is, by far, one of my favorite things to do. They have such expression in their voices and faces, I could listen to them all day long.

Telling, reading and listening to stories is a definite highlight of my week. One of the primary places that takes place is at Monkeyshines Children's Books. Every Thursday they have story time, where the lovely Sue reads three kids books to a group of adoring children. There are days when I think, if the girls could, they would go home with Sue. She, and all the Monkeyshines staff, are wonderful.

Before we started going to Monkeyshines, I was a bit of a children's book addict, primarily picture books. Going for our weekly visit to the bookstore has sent my addiction into overdrive! I have shared in the past about books I would recommend for the preschool set, but I thought I should update the list, as Monkeyshines has exposed me to all sorts of fantastic books!

1. Otis and The Tornado(Loren Long)
This book is a daily read when we have it out from the library. The girls love it and have most of the words memorized. We've read it so many times that now, when they're playing, they don't get scared, they 'shake in fear!" I love the vocabulary the Otis books have! This book is a great book to spark conversations about friendship, kindness and first impressions.

2. Willoughby & The Moon(Greg Foley)
Willoughy & The Moon has marvelous illustrations. They're entirely black, white and shiny silver, which I love. Thankfully the story is equally fantastic. Willoughby is scared of the dark and one night ventures into his closet to find-the moon! There, Willoughby meets a giant snail and discovers that even when you're scared, you can still do something brave. This book can start conversations about being adventurous, trying things when you're unsure, and, of course, great imagination stories about the moon!

3. A Home For Bird(Philip C Stead)
Philip C Stead(author), and his wife Erin(illustrator), have a tendency to put out completely endearing children's books that I immediately fall in love with. A Sick Day For Amos McGee is incredibly sweet and won the 2011 Caldecott Medal. Bear Has A Story To Tell is just as charming! A Home For Bird, is, however, a solo effort by Philip and matches the loveliness of the collaborations he has had with his wife. A story of friendship that never gives up!

4. Grumpy Goat(Brett Helquist)
 Brett Helquist tells the story of a grumpy goat who's never had a friend. The other animals on the farm try to befriend the goat, only to be rebuffed at every turn. After the goat discovers a bright and beautiful flower, he begins to soften. In the end, another story of friendship and opening up your heart!

5. Little Cub(Olivier Dunrea)
Little Cub tells us of a little cub living alone near the forest and of an old bear living alone in the forest. Both lonely and wishing for something more. One day, they stumble across each other's path and find their missing piece. A beautiful story for parents and children, especially those who came together through adoption.

6. Quiet! There's a Canary in the Library!(Don Freeman)
Don Freeman is most famously known for Corduroy, a children's classic to be sure. I was delighted to find this book on the shelf at Monkeyshine, having never heard it of! A great book about a girl named Cary and what she would do if she were the librarian! Liberal doses of imagination and lots of animals make for a great story!

7. Penguin and Pinecone(Salina Yoon)
I see a pattern on my kids bookshelves at home. They're filled with sweet stories of friendship. Penguin and Pinecone is no different. Penguin and Pinecone's friendship spans the years and shows that, "When you give love, it grows." Simple illustrations, not too many words, a new favorite.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013


I hate clutter. It bothers me to the point of distraction. I call it visual noise. This is why I sleep so much better when my house is tidy. My sleep, after I do my dishes and clean my kitchen, the oft ignored room during my tidy regiment, is a beautiful thing. I know I'm not alone in this. However, my need for clutter free spaces generally applies only to spaces I can see. My counter may be clear, but please don't look in my cupboards. Sadly, one of the deterrents from cleaning out my cupboards to set them straight is that I'd have to make the spaces I can see a mess before the inside cupboards are orderly. I just don't want to endure the visual noise of it all.

Another place that my clutter rule does not apply is my mind.

My mind is always running. Often, it takes a detour into Crazytown(What was that noise? I think I'm about to robbed. And murdered. Ah man, my place is a mess-the CSI guys are going to think I'm a slob!), but mostly it's just running with white noise. Things I have to get done, major life decision, that boy I liked in Grade 3*, how much soup I still have in my freezer, that email I have to sent, the time I got a perm, that other email I have to send, the dishes that have been sitting in the sink for far too long, that fictional character I care too much about, that other major life decision. It's endless.

This fact has not helped my writing. It has not gone unnoticed by me that I haven't written a thing since October. That's a far cry from my 'every two weeks' goal from July. I have things I want to write about on a weekly basis. Some things often come back to me repeatedly. For example, I wrote the title of this post in November. I've been thinking about the nuthouse that is my mind, since November, if not before. However, the other clutter that occupies my mind gets in the way of writing the posts I want to.

I was talking with a friend a couple weeks ago about insomnia, something we both struggle with, and she commented that it sometimes stems from stressors in her life. Not big news, but it made me think about my life and the stressors that may be keeping me up. The clutter makes it difficult to identify the things that are really bothering me. On occasion, when I do identify a stressor, it's just simpler, but certainly not healthier, to leave it in among the clutter. Like my cupboards, I'm afraid of the mess I might make trying to put the inside in order.

*His name was Cole. He wore a florescent green shirt and his house key around his neck. He had brown hair and was the handsomest boy I had ever seen.