Thursday, September 27, 2012

Nothin' Like a Marshmallow Crispy Treat!

Today was our 1st half-day for K-12 students at our school district.  Little Man was bummed this morning because he realized he would be missing music (which he LOVES), but quickly forgot about it when he remembered this also meant one of his best buddies would be coming home with him today.  Yay!!

Of course, we needed something to do that would commemorate this next "1st" we were having in our Kindergarten adventure, so Ree Drummond to the rescue!  Some of you may know her as The Pioneer Woman - the writer, blogger, photographer and mother in a ranching family who is now featured weekly on Food TV.  This past weekend we happened to catch the tail end of her show as she was making her Marshmallow Crispy Treats, and Little Man went nuts!  "We have to make these, Mama!  They have sprinkles!"  How could I argue with that?

These were so fun to make with the boys, and the addition of mini marshmallows and sprinkles made these the perfect treat for our special day.  A step above the snack of a similar name that we've all had in our really have to try these!  Seriously.  They're that good.

 A pan full of changing, I tell ya!

Thank you, Pioneer Woman!  Click on the recipe above and give them a try. Tell me what you think.  Better yet, are there any snacks from your childhood that you remember as part of a tradition that just made you happy?  We would be thankful for more yummy ideas!

Monday, September 24, 2012

It's Library Day!!

Although many of us look to Monday mornings with a wee bit of apprehension and maybe an extra cup of coffee, I'm happy to say that - at least so far - Monday happens to be one of the favorite days of the week for my little Kinder.  His fondness for the start of the school week is directly related to his new school's library.  Monday is Library Day!  

It's not that a library is new to him.  We've taken Little Man to our town's library many times.  It's more the idea that there is this beautiful, colorful, bright space just for kids his age that is loaded with all kinds of books - and perfectly sized nooks for sitting and reading them - right down the hall from his classroom that, for him, is beyond exciting.  The last two Mondays he has signed out a book and brought it home.  Each book has been treated like treasure and enjoyed every night with others from his own collection until it has had to be returned.  Every visitor to our home has been shown his book of the week - and some lucky folks have been asked to read it.  Others have been told about the stories, or by the end of the week, have been a kind audience to Little Man reading the book himself.  He is happy, he is proud...and he is sharing his love of books with anyone who will listen.

We talked about this last night as we were reading his newest find, Interrupting Chicken, by David Ezra Stein.  This book has made us laugh all week for so many reasons.  When I asked him what made him choose the book, he told me that he liked the little red chicken on the cover and he knew it would be funny. (The whole idea about not judging a book by it's cover, at least for now, seems to be lost on him.)  Funnier to me was the fact that the little chicken constantly interrupts her papa while he's reading to her...something that happens quite frequently here.  Little Man didn't seem to notice that as quickly as I did.  Hmmm....

Anyway, as predicted, the book was hysterical!  My husband and I both looked forward to story time each night as much as our son did.  Last night, as we said good-bye to the little red chicken and tucked the book into Little Man's backpack for the next day, we were all a little sad.  Yet, remembering the magic of his library, it was Little Man who leaped from the melancholia first to say, "Hey, tomorrow we can start reading a new good book that I will find for us!"  Then he asked, "Will other people know how good this book is?"

Yes.  They will if we keep sharing.  So, here we are.  In honor of the little red chicken, Little Man and I are adding a page to our blog.  Our Favorite Reads is where you can click and find pictures and descriptions of the books he finds and would like to share with a much bigger audience than the small, captive one we have at home.  Feel free to check in there from time to time to get an idea for a book that might bring as much joy to your home as it will have to ours.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Our First Visitor From School

Last Friday when I picked up Little Man from school, his teacher informed me with a smile that there was a surprise waiting for me in our little scholar's backpack.  As we walked to the car he chattered about his friend  - one whom I had never met - but, nonetheless, one he insisted would be joining us on our weekend trip to visit family out of town.  Once in the car I started to explain that we would try a short visit at home with his friend first.  Instantly giggles erupted and out from the backpack came our weekend guest - Homer.  This fuzzy teddy bear was going to be Little Man's traveling companion, and once home, we would write about our weekend in a journal that he was also given.

Much like the Flat Stanley that I remember, little Homer will be the visitor of many families in Kindergarten, and our weekend was just the start of his adventures.  Here is how our weekend began:

Homer joins us in the car - bright and early.

"Oh, yeah...ready to roll!" 

Fast-forward 20 minutes..."Are we there yet?!"

Finally, 3 1/2 hours later...

"Yes!  Our exit!"

Once at my sister's, Homer was a welcomed participant in the making of good memories.  With a full, fun weekend had by all, I was curious to see how willing Little Man would be to work together on the journal entry that needed to be done.  By the time we arrived home late Sunday afternoon, we were all tired and maybe even a little punchy, so I was prepared to hold off until morning on reminding him about the task at hand.  To my surprise, as soon as we were unpacked, he was at the table ready to work!  He was excited about sharing his stories and his first experience with a real homework assignment was something that he really felt good about.

Building on this idea, and wanting to encourage his desire to draw and write about his thoughts and experiences, I had another "homework" assignment for my writer when he came home from school the next day.  I showed him a journal that I picked up just for him and asked if he would like to draw or write about just one thing that "made him happy today."  He was so excited because he knew right away what he wanted to write about - it was Library Day.  Below is his very first journal entry:

At this point, of course, we talked about his picture and what he chose to write in the space at the top of the page.  He then told me what he wanted to say under the picture.  When we were done, he read it to me - to make sure I had it right. :)

This 10 minute activity was something he and I both enjoyed, as he was proud of the page he created, and we were both able to see a snapshot of something positive from his day. Win - win! Thanks to Homer, and the wonderful student teacher in Little Man's class who introduced us, we now have a new part of our after school routine that will make us both happy every day.

Any other ways that you provide authentic writing practice for your little ones at home?  It would be great to see some more fun ideas shared in the comments below.


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Make New Friends, But Keep the Old...

At my son's Pre-K graduation, while standing in his miniature cap and gown, surrounded by the children he's known since he was 10 months old, "Make new friends, but keep the old.  One is silver and the other gold," was sung by melodic 5 year old voices.  There he was, standing next to children who had become like brothers and sisters to him, and I wondered if he understood the meaning of the words to that little song.

I've been thinking about the "gold" friendships, the ones that stay true through the passing of time.  We are blessed with many people who come and go throughout our lives, most of whom making our lives that much better for it.  It is, however, the few "gold" friends - the ones who are there for the marathon rather than the periodic sprint - that we hold closest to our hearts.  These are the people that know us best...and love us anyway. :)

Little Man is very lucky to be going to Kindergarten with several of his best buddies from Pre-K.  Thanks to this, the transition to school, at least so far, has been a pretty smooth one.  From the bus to the classroom to all things new...these little peanuts seem to have each other's backs.  It's been a great start!  Our little Kinder, however, is also very aware of the friends who are not with him everyday anymore.  He often asks about them, and sometimes talks as though he will be seeing them the next day - and then remembers that he won't.  This is the first experience he's had with this inevitable part of growing up.

Fast-forward to this past Saturday.  One of our son's best buddies, whom he had not seen in over a week (as they are now in different school districts), was going to be coming with his family to dinner that night. Of course, to us a week is no time at all, but to two little boys who, to my best recollection, haven't been apart that long in over 4 years, it's a lifetime.  Excitement filled our home as Little Man chattered away all day about what he and his friend would be doing.  He could not wait for 4:00 to come; it was much like the agonizing wait for Christmas morning!  Finally, there was the knock on the door.  It opened, and on the other side was a little boy who had felt the same way.  There was a celebratory exchange of screeches, and away they went, as though no time had past at all.

Watching them laugh and play, I couldn't help but hope that this might prove to be a "gold" friendship - the start of the marathon that will be a lasting bond for these boys.  In my life, I have been blessed with a few "gold" friends and each of them is a cherished treasure.  Just knowing that, no matter what milestones I want to celebrate or obstacles I need to face in my personal marathon, I am never running alone is a kind of comfort that has gotten me through the most challenging of times.  That is my wish for my son and his friends.  May they find many treasures in their new adventures...and may a few of them be "gold."

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Too Important Not to Say

Even at five, our little man has been the recipient of many letters.  The first was written before he was born and included things I wanted him to know about how much he was loved from the moment we knew he was coming into our lives.  Then there was the one of thanks from our Bo-Bo Fairy, given to him when he was ready to give up his pacifier (Bo-Bo). It was time to have our Bo-Bo Fairy take it to a new baby who needed it, and she felt he needed to be congratulated.  Since then, letters from us on birthdays and from Santa at Christmas have become traditions in our family.  These letters hold words of love and the recognition of milestones that have been met along the way.  Little Man looks forward to these letters now.  In fact, this past Christmas, truly understanding what an undertaking it is to deliver toys to deserving boys and girls all over the world, he was concerned that Santa might not have time to write a letter since he was so busy.  I felt pretty confident that Santa would come through.

It has become easy to see, that even at a young age when his daddy and I still need to help him read these letters, the written words have had a great affect on him.  He knows we are proud.  He knows his actions are appreciated.  He knows he is loved.  As his mother, I know how important all of this is.  That being said, I'm also a middle school teacher.  After fourteen years with tweens and newly-turned teens, I've seen a lot.  In fact, I've often told my students that they are the subject of a book I've been writing. The working title is The Things I Never Thought I Would Have to Say, But Do In Middle School.  They think I'm so funny!  I'm not kidding.

As my little scholar begins his future in public school this week, I feel another letter needs to be written. This one, however, will not be filled with the warm fuzzies of the others.  This one has a need for practicality and a degree of bluntness that will allow some very important advice - not only for Kindergarten, but for life as he goes through school - to be gleaned.  It will include the following pieces of advice that, as his mother and a teacher, I know he needs to be made aware of and will help him to be successful:

1) Don't feel the need to be perfect.  No one is.

2) Not everything is going to be easy.  Whether it's learning to read, tackling math facts or climbing the rope in P.E. - just keep trying.

3) Please use a tissue.  Please do not use your hand, your sleeve or the paper you are giving to your friend or teacher.

4) You will come across bullies.  It will happen...and most likely it will be when an adult isn't right there to help.  I know this can be scary, but I don't want you to be an audience to this. Don't just let it happen. You don't have to say a thing to the bully.  In fact, I wish that you wouldn't.  He or she probably won't hear what you are saying anyway.  The person being bullied, however, will be straining to hear ANY kindness in that moment.  Be THAT voice.  Be his or her friend.  Will you be best friends from that moment on? Maybe not, but your kindness will be remembered - and on a day when you need it - maybe it will be returned.

5) Use your manners.  A simple "please" and "thank you" make more of an impression than you think.

6) Please revisit #3.  Seriously.

7) If someone asks you to do something that you know is wrong - whether it is unkind or unsafe - say, "No."  If you feel you need a reason, use me.  I'm happy to be the "mean mom" if it gets you out of an uncomfortable situation.

8) School is not a race.  You do not need to be the first person finished to show how smart you are.  Take your time and do things well.  Take the time to show what you know.

9) Part of growing up is realizing that you may not choose to be friends with everyone with whom you have to work.  From peers to adults, I know it can be difficult to work with people when you don't see things in the same way.  Yet, you need to be respectful and willing to work together when necessary.  Your future teachers and employers will find much value in this skill.

10) Mommy and Daddy have spent a small fortune on school supplies.  Please keep them out of your mouth.  Nothing is more gross than chewed up pens, pencils and marker caps that are covered in spit.  Nothing except...well, once again, please see #3.

That's all I have.  If you can think of any gems along the lines of "If I knew then what I know now...," it would be fun to see them in the comments below.  Feel free to add!

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