Those of us in the DC area have been snowed in for
months days. We all love our kids and we all love snow and we all love snow days (keep saying any of those to yourself that you need to re-believe) but after a while, a little diversion is necessary for everyone.
DIY Shrinky Dinkies to the rescue!
Remember, the Shrinky Dinks of your youth? I LOVED them – still do. But I never seem to have enough on hand when I need to shrink a dink. So I scoured the internet in search of ways to do it myself. I was inspired by the work of Aggieland Mommy (howdy, my Texas peeps!). The joy of this activity is that you probably have everything you need already.
- Permanent Markers – Sharpies (are there other brands? honest, question)
- Plastic cups (I used the milky white plastic cups I had on hand but these Solo Cups would be REALLY pretty for this project – I imagine any work)
- An oven (kids, get your grown-up’s help with this, OK? Pinky promise? Deal.)
- A baking sheet covered in tinfoil
- A nonstick spray
Note: I am not sponsored or supported by Sharpie or Solo Cup (but I am open to being sponsored by either or both if that’s possible 🙂 – Sponsoring folks, contact me here)
What to do:
- Preheat that oven to 350
- Spray the nonstick spray on the tin foil (disclaimer, I have no idea if this step is essential or not. Skip at your own risk)
- Color all over those plastic cups, inside and out. Be careful of your work surface, I covered mine with tinfoil just to be safe.
- Whenever a cup is ready, put it sipping side down on the tinfoil and pop it in the oven for 3-5 minutes. You can watch it through the oven door! When it’s a melty as you want it, pull it out (grown up jobs here!), and, if you want, smoosh it down flatter with an oven mit.
Take it to the next level? WHYNOT!
-Use a hole punch to pop a hole in the top. Run a string through and you have a necklace, a light catcher, a piece of a new mobile or whatever you decide it is!
-Can you string a bunch together to make something?
-What happens if you write your name on it?
-Can you make two that are identical after shrinking?
Let me know how yours come out. I love pictures and more “next level” ideas (hint, hint!).
The other day, our family tried something new – Yes Day! A day in which every requests results in “Yes!”
Note: this was NOT my idea. In fact, the thought frightened me on many levels. I mean, really, a day when the kids get whatever they want? It sounds like chaos. It sounds like bedlam. It sounds like a former Kindergarten teacher’s worst nightmare.
The little kiddie corner of me (the part that let’s me write Willa and the WhyNots) was absolutely excited about “Yes Day!” However, the grown-up side of me argued that we have rules for a reason. We have limits and guidelines and parameters to keep the wheels on this here cart that we call life. Get rid of them? Well, that was just plain scary.
We’d been inspired by the totally delightful book “Yes Day!” by Amy Krouse Rosenthal (who, by the way, has an author website that makes me drool and I love LOTS of her books).
My Kindergarten-aged son couldn’t get enough of this story or the idea. For months he pestered me about when we could have our own ‘Yes Day!’ I gave professionally wishy-washy answers (not my first rodeo, folks). I ducked and dodged, knowing full well that the reason we weren’t doing it was because I was the nervous, weak link. When my son suggested that we do it on my father’s birthday, well, all my defenses crumbled.
My dad passed away a few years ago and he was the kind of guy who believed every day should be “Yes Day!” He thought if something was good then more of that was better. He shopped with a strict “We see it, we like it, we buy it” philosophy. Yep, G’dad would have LOVED “Yes Day!” So I caved. “Yes Day” went on the calendar. We counted down the days. Most of us with glee (one of us (me!) with serious concerns).
Now, I’m not crazy. We laid out a few ground rules. No asking for something impossible, like no trips to the moon. No requests for something completely impractical (sorry, no pet monkeys).
But you could ask for things like pizza for breakfast, special deserts in your lunch, and extra fun activities during the day. All ‘reasonable’ requests were guaranteed a ‘yes.’
Even with the parameters, I was a little nervous…
Of course, my boys loved it! Ice cream for no-reason mid-day? Yes! Fresh baked cookies for desert? Yes! Mac and Cheese and Peas for dinner? Yes!
But, the real shock was that I loved it! It was this delicious day when I got to say ‘yes’ to all those things that normally I, as a “responsible parent,” felt like needed a “No.” It was a surprising vacation for all of us!
What do you think? What scares you about it? What do you fear your kid will ask for?
If it’s at all interesting to you, give it a go! You may just have more fun saying ‘yes’ than you think!
P.S. YES, this will be a new tradition for us on my dad’s birthday!
P.P.S. Yes, I think he’s very pleased wherever he is.
If you have a daughter (or son), nieces (or nephews), or influence the lives of small children in any way (hint: you probably do!) – take two shakes to look at this amazing video by Dove.
Did ya watch it? (Really? Go ahead. You should It’s worth it.)
If you didn’t have two minutes now, here’s the message –> WHAT IF… LOVE? What if … we love ourselves just as we are? What if we teach our children to do the same?
In this case, it happens to be curls, but one could do this video over and over and over again substituting “curls” with myriad things including body shape, skin color, nose size, toe length, etc.
In theory this is, well, lovely. In practice, it’s hard. TOO hard. We, and our children, are bombarded by images of bodies and hair and skin. I don’t think for one second that I can change ALL that… but what if…
What if… I write one blog post about it and two people read it? (I’m realistic here…)
What if… those two people think about it and one of them talks to someone else about it and they get fired up and tell three more people?
What if… I try really hard for my boys to never hear me say negative things about my body or my appearance? (OK, I’ll try not to think them too, but again – realism, right?) Will that change what my sons value in future significant others?
What if… I talk about what we see in Disney movies and on magazine covers? What if we discuss body images we see and what real people look like and what REALLY matters (hint – none of what you see)?
What do you think?
What can you … what if?
Once upon a time, people got bored. They whined. They moped. They doodled. They flopped. They stared at the wall, or the clouds, or the trees, or the ceiling. They sighed the sighs of the painfully, incurably bored.
Then came ‘progress!’ It came in the form of handheld devices, free wifi, and mobile hotspots. And, TA-DA!! The people never got bored again. They lived happily ever, even as they watched anime in hot tubs.*
Well, yes and no. Yes, we certainly can watch videos in hot tubs, but, no, not so much, in the happily ever after department.
Turns out we, humans, are missing something when we skip boredom. In a study published in May 2014 issue of Creativity Research Journal, Mann and Cadman’s results “suggested that boring activities resulted in increased creativity.” Daydreaming, they say, is a key mediator. You can read the whole article or you can go buy Real Simple and read Jennifer Lindley‘s Feb. article about it but the main takeaway is this: Boredom is creativity’s springboard so if you want to be more creative, make time to be bored.
It’s super hard, however. We a zillion things to do. We have access to internet all the time. Our kids whine when they are bored (and that is a bad, bad, bad sound). Believe you me, I get that. This is a challenge to me as much as to anyone else. So you do you do it? Pray tell – How do you do less? Schedule less? For you? For your kids? For your writing? How are you brave? How are you bored?
*Inspiration credit goes to the un named 20-something I saw in the hot tub at the pool today who was eating a snack and watching an anime show on his phone… in the hot tub.
Do you know this quotation from William W. Purkey?
I love this one. I used it on college essays. It found a home on one strange job application. Then, decades later, without knowing about my affinity for this little message, my Yoga Teacher friend gave me a bracelet with this written on it (Thanks, Pleasance! Everyone- go check out lilomm it’s the best in yoga and community for ALL!). After that, I feel kind of Karmically connected to this little quotation. (Does that even make sense? Can you be Karmically connected? Or should I be cosmically connected?? Let me know if you know the answer – but you get my point, yes?)
This quotation reminds me to quite my (many) internal critics. I think this is KEY when you are writing. It is for me at least. I mean, let’s be honest, Willa and the WhyNots is a romp in my imagination.
And, sadly, my inner critic can get pretty preachy about everything that happens there. It can be too little, too much, too silly, not whimsical enough… I mean, I MADE IT ALL UP. So it’s all subject to criticism and change. But I’m trying to push past that.
So, in this new year, I’m sharing this little tip with you – WRITE LIKE NO ONE IS WATCHING. Seriously, just write – just get the words down. Maybe, MAYBE, turn the critic back on when you get to rewrites, but for now, just get it down.
Happy New Year,
I want to discuss the problem of gender stereotype defined toys. It’s a real deal. A big real deal. But I need to warn you, if you are going to be horrified that I (rarely but occasionally) let my kids eat at McDonalds, you should probably stop reading right now.
Hi! If you are reading on, I assume you are tolerating my occasional nutritional slip or, at least, you are able to see past it for the big picture here, which is what our toy marketing teaches children about themselves and others.
Here’s my recent trigger:
Not too long ago, I ordered a happy meal for each of my boys. The teller asked, “Boy toy or Girl toy?” Now this fine person was just doing her job, but her question sent a little jolt through me. It decidedly hit a nerve with my kindergarten teacher self, my mom self, and my author self who all feel strongly that we need to revamp the way we “market” being boys and girls in America. I tempered my temper and, hoping that my response would totally change her (and the entire McDonald’s empire’s) outlook on gender, I said, “The car toy, please.”
“What?” She blinked back.
“The car toy.” I repeated. She kept blinking. I don’t know if she didn’t know what the toy options were beside ‘Boy’ or ‘Girl’ but even with subsequent exchanges, I couldn’t make any headway. Finally, I sighed, resigned myself to not changing the world before lunch, and, mumbled “the boy toy.”
How did we get here? It would be easy to blame marketing companies with their big bad budgets and amazingly influencing add campaigns. But they just do what works. How did we let it get to a point where this works? Where we are so OK with overarching gender stereotypes that too many of us don’t even blink when we buy a Happy Meal? Where we answer a gender instead of a toy?
If you’ve ever walked into any toy store in America, or shopped on line where you are prompted to filter by gender, then you know that American toys are marketed heavily to one gender or another. There is a pink section and a not pink section. I am not the first to write about this and I hope I’m not the last (unless this lil blog post stops all gender stereotyping in toys, which would be AWESOME!). You can read (and should) great articles from the Let Toys Be Toys Campaign, from scholarly journals like Educational Psychology, from children’s advocacy agencies like the National Association for Education of Young Children, from brilliant, dedicated minds like those of Soraya Chemaly, and many other places all over the web. Heck, in April the Huffington Post even reported that this may not happen at McDonald’s any more – except it still does.
The research is clear:
“Strongly gender-typed toys might encourage attributes that aren’t ones you actually want to foster. For girls, this would include a focus on attractiveness and appearance, perhaps leading to a message that this is the most important thing—to look pretty. For boys, the emphasis on violence and aggression (weapons, fighting, and aggression) might be less than desirable in the long run.” (from Professor Blakemore)
It’s also clear that we are sending really strange messages to kids about who and what they should be.
What’s not so clear is that is not just a girl issue or boy issue. This is something that does damage to BOTH our sons and our daughters. When we teach children that boys are only valued when they fit an old fashioned male stereotype, we simultaneously tell all children that boys who are sensitive, like pink, or feel disinclined to fight are somehow lesser. The same is true in the reverse for girls. We need to teach children there are lots of valuable traits (like kindness, caring, empathy, bravery, toughness, strategic thinking, etc) that are good for anyone to have.
This is part of the reason I’m so thrilled to have Willa and the WhyNots being published by In This Together Media. Both boys AND girls need to read stories with strong, realistic, diverse characters (female and male).
How do we solve this? I don’t know… Lots of dialog, discussion, and a firm message sent to big business. For now, I propose a coup. A little one perhaps, but from now on, when you find yourself asked if your kid wants a “Boy Toy” or a “Girl Toy” opt out. Don’t click that filter on Amazon.com.
Don’t Google anything like that. Just opt out. Choose children over gender stereotypes. (And hope they know what you are trying to say).
The Huffington Post solves the problem this way:
I love this picture. It’s of one of my sons. I’ll let your wonderful imagination fill in just what he is playing at with his stick (no wrong answers here). I love this picture because it makes me take a breath, to slow down, to register that things go too fast. For better and worse, this here shadow is getting longer everyday.
I dunno about you but I have a tendency to rush, to over-multitask, to juggle. The results are predictably variable. Productive? Sometimes. Disasterous? Rarely (knock on wood). Less than ideal? Yep. (See evidence A, fresh from the washing machine). Factor in the holidays and it only goes faster!
Everything about rushing and multitasking is true in my writing life too. When I forget to find some stillness, my writing stalls (ironically enough). The page stays blank. The muse stays silent. The plots elude me. As I type this, there are 4 tabs open in my browser (a record low, perhaps), at least 5 other applications up and running, and two story snippets waiting to be fleshed out. When I get to the end of a session of “working” like this (and work is a loosely used word both because of my distraction level and my pjs), I know a bunch more about what’s happening on Twitter, have viewed the worlds of well-known and barely-known friends on Facebook, and may have typed a bit here or there but the whole session ends with nothing good written and me feeling drained and yech.
Yech is the newly coined technical term for what it feels like when your actions are inconsistent with your priorities. It’s a sluggish, tapped-out feeling that reminds you more of a dank, soggy piece of toast than a triumphant three tiered cake (yep, I love to eat!).
So I’m working to slow down. I’m working to align my priorities with my actions (and vice versa— shoot I just googled that phrase, did you know it’s latin? I’m NOT doing the slow down and focus thing well now! But I’m working on it).
WHEN I do slow down in writing, my stories are better. My plots have arcs or alternative courses. My characters have more meat.
WHEN I do slow down in life, I feel better. My kids feel better. The important things get done (sorry, dishes). I can notice and enjoy the shadows, even as they are getting longer.
Here is one tiny way in which I’m trying to train myself, and my kids, to take life just a beat slower (The idea/tip you’ve been waiting for!): When we pull up to the house and the radio is on, we don’t shut off the car and rush in. We stay, relax, and enjoy the song to the end. We let it conclude, we don’t rush it. Then we go in. Then we move on.
I have no idea if this makes a world of difference but I will tell you it feels different, we feel different when we do it.
What about you? What are your slowing down tips and techniques? Please share. Goodness knows I need more.
P.S. This is, in fact, the universal premier of the word ‘yech’ used with this meaning. Mark that down, Internet. See you soon, Webster’s!
P.P.S. Please don’t tell my kiddos that sitting in the car and listening to music is a “lesson” of any kind. They love it. Don’t spill the beans and spoil it! Thanks.
The debate about e-readers vs. “old fashioned” books rages on…
OK. I don’t think that’s true.
Sure, there are circles and communities, mainly in academic settings and libraries, where this is a still a hot debate. And, yes, the research about whether or not the formula of “little kids + picture e-book = regular reading value” is still coming in (from what I’ve read, it doesn’t look good – message me if you want more details). But on a day in day out basis, I think most teenagers and adults have made their peace with this debate. Most folks I know do a smattering of both. E-reader often. Real books sometimes too. But recently I’ve been thinking about how I interact with each one. Where I fall on the “great debate.”
I’ve decided this: I connect better, more deeply and more personally, with a real book.
Somehow great reads seep into my soul better when they have a colorful cover image calling me from across the room and heft in my hands. Note: I have no scientific evidence for this. I just know that sometimes, I’ll be reading an e-book that is really delightful and the thought that flickers through my mind each time is “I wish I had the REAL book of this… I bet it would be even better.” Maybe it’s the difference between a pen-pal and a friend you can meet for a cup of coffee. Maybe the physical presence is important to me.
What do you think? Am I off my rocker? (Oh no! Does that I still crave paper books mean I’m old enough to spend a lot of time in said rocker?) How do you feel? Where do you come down on the great debate?
Book: The Three Ninja Pigs
Author: Corey Rosen Schwartz
Illustrator: Dan Santat
Oh how I love this book. It’s plain old genius people. It’s the three little pigs tale that you know and love, updated, refreshed, and renewed. Corey Rosen Schwartz struts her masterful rhymes in a way that make me giddy. Dan Santat’s illustrations make the action come alive. And the punchline… oh the punchline – the subtle, wonderful, not overdrawn point that the third pig, who happens to be a girl(!), is able to best that ole wolf because she worked hard and stuck with it… cue the trumpets! I love this book. Fans of this work should for sure check out the “sequel” Ninja Red Riding Hood. My review for that beauty is on my Goodreads page.
“And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.”- Roald Dahl
My friends, this and a giant dose of gratitude is what I strive for daily. I don’t want to get all mushy on you, especially for those of you who are just finding my page, but the world around us is astounding, magical, and grace-filled. The trouble is, we tend to race past it. We hurry to the car, we zoom to our destination, we hop out, and we rush in (usually so we can accomplish a task and hurry off somewhere else). We miss the magic along the way. Believe you me, I don’t get this right everyday – not by a long shot. But I do aim at it. Every day I look for the commonplace wonder. Sometimes it’s a blue jay just outside my window. Other days it’s a “pocket moon” peeking out during the day. And often, it’s the lilting giggle of my boys (usually over a fart or butt comment, but let’s look for the magic OK?). Witnessing and experiencing those moments is key to good writing – maybe even good living. I hope Willa & the WhyNots! will inspire folks to look little harder for everyday awesomeness. Fantastic things happen all around us. Where do you see it?
Book: The Five Sisters
Author: Margaret Mahy
All children love good stories. Not all children crave high drama, high action tales. The Five Sisters is a lovely book from a prolific author who is under appreciated in the U.S., if you ask me. I remember when my wonderful school librarian directed me to this title. I was looking for a new chapter book to read aloud to my class that had interesting female characters. We’d done some classics and action tales and I wanted to shift up the pace. This was the perfect book (Thank you, Tina!). If you are ready to change things up in your house/classroom, to present refreshing heroines with vastly different characteristics, and to read a book full of wonder, then this one is for you!
As a classroom teacher, this book begs for a follow up art and writing activity in which your student make their own chain of paper doll characters, each with unique strengths, fears, and interests.
Author: R.J. Palacio
So you’ve probably heard of this one, but I could not resist putting it up on my reviews and recommendations list. In my mind, Wonder should be required reading for all children (and their parents). At it’s core, Wonder is the story of being different and how people think and feel about folks with differences. It challenges readers to think about how much they judge people based on outward appearances. It’s a great book for conversations about “other.”
If you are a middle grade teacher, I think you’ve got to find a way to get this story into the hearts of your children. If you are a parent, read this and then read it with your kids. Take the time to talk about it, get your children’s reactions, work together on your own experiences of being “other” and seeing “other.”
Book: Professor Wormbog in Search for the Zipperump-a-Zoo
Author/Illustrator: Mercer Mayer
~BIAS ALERT!! This is a book I have loved since my own childhood. In fact, my mother was clever enough (and enough of a Mercer Mayer* fangirl) to save my own copy, so I even get to read my own copy to my children. So this book holds a very special place in my heart.
Now that I’ve gotten the Bias Alert out of the way, you need to know that this book holds up. The illustrations are everything you expect from Mercer Mayer – they are detailed, wonder-filled, imaginative, and full of additional jokes. The story is of funny ole Professor Wormbog, beast collector extraordinaire, who is searching for the final piece of his collection, the Zipperump-a-Zoo. He searches high and low, far and wide and, of course, faces mishaps along the way. If you really want to push some kind of curricular connection, this book is about persistence, inventiveness, and a spirit of adventure. But, frankly, I think this book is just worth loving all on it’s own.
*Did you know Mercer Mayer hails from Little Rock, Arkansas? (just like my mama!)
Author/Illustrator: Barney Saltzberg
Beautiful Oops! is the book my perfectionist childhood self needed (OK, I still need it). It’s a book for artists and creators and those who feel like they are always too far from the image in your mind. It’s a book that pushes the notion of failure aside, replacing it with a challenge to make something wonderful from the mistake (classic lemons into lemon aid). The book itself is a structural work of art with 3D elements, pop-up surprises, and peek-a-boo images that your imagination unfold with the book.
ALL teachers and parents should have this one in their arsenal.
Author/Illustrator: Peter Brown
This is one of those magical picture books that relays different meanings to different age groups. To little kids, it’s a fun story about silly Mr. Tiger who gets… wait for it… naked (or “nakey” as my boys call it). Oh the joy, hilarity and shock of a nakey character! Huzzah! For older audiences, it has a deeper message about social rules and conformity. One that asks you to question what societal rules put pressure on you, why, and which ones with which you think you can and should live. The illustrations are thoughtful and effective.
A great book for parents or teachers to use to talk about standing on our own feet.
Author: Ingrid Law
You know those books that you just want to dive into, hang out with all the characters, and live in their world? This is one of those. I adore this book. I recommend it to everyone I see (OK, that’s an exaggeration but if we get to talking Middle Grade fiction, then this is usually the first recommendation out of my mouth). This is a great book about figuring out who you are and how you fit in your skin that is told with a distractingly wonderful story and cast of characters. Mibs Beaumont, our heroine, is perfect, especially in all her imperfections, confusion, and bravery. The fantasy in this book is right on the edge of our reality and so likely that you believe it could be true… maybe even of your family.
This is a great classroom book, especially if you are trying to boost your gender diversity or if you want to spark discussion about what makes each of us special and how we find and honor that within ourselves.
If you don’t teach, get this. Read it to your kids or just to yourself. It’s delightful.
Author: Tara Lazar
Illustrator: James Burks
A monster story for anytime of year. Tara Lazar’s clever plot combine with James Burks’ appealing illustration to make a delightful read that spooks without scaring. Poor Zack, our hero, has trouble with his Monstore purchases and his problems snowball as he runs up against a fiendishly bad customer service policy. OK, that last part didn’t sound so kid friendly but this book is just about as kid friendly as they come. It address the serious challenge of siblings in a silly way and it launches kids imaginations. In a classroom, I’d use it to as a springboard into a writing exercise in which kids come up with their own monster and give him/her particular powers and delightful details.
This one is about a raccoon that loves pizza so much he will go to extremes to get it (Why not, I say!). The plot line itself is zany enough that you might want to learn more, especially if you, like me, LOVE pizza. But Adam Rubin and Daniel Salmieri take this fun story and make it sing a loud, lovely vibrato kind of bring down the house song. My first favorite line said by our narrator after being too loud: “Sorry, pizza smell gives me the happy screams.” My second favorite line again by our narrator: “Sweet sassy molassy, look at all that pizza!”
You may not find piles of curriculum connections with this one, but it’s good for a laugh on a rainy day and perfect for a pizza party story.
Author: Linda Urban
Illustrator: Henry Cole
You know I only post about books I enjoy – but man, do I enjoy Mouse Was Mad. This is a spectacular book from all kinds of angles. The text is adorable. It has a particularly lovely repetitive line that kids love to recite with you. The story is relatable for any human who has ever been steamin’ mad (so it’s for EVERYONE). The illustrations bring Mouse and his raging emotions to life. And the message that it’s OK to be mad and to figure out how you need to handle it is subtle and spot on!
Great for a classroom. Great for a home library. Just plain great.
It’s summer. It’s hot. Use that to your advantage? Why not!
Today’s Wactivity comes to us from a FABULOUS blog called Ciburbanity. My ole classmate and bud, Charlotte Martin, runs this thing and if you don’t follow it yet you should! It’s inspiring and fun and funky and honest and downright refreshing. You can find Ciburbanity on twitter, instagram, Facebook, the web and probably a bunch of other e-places. For a taste of their goodness and this week’s wacky activity, click on the link below and enjoy!