Tuesday, February 14, 2012

St. Valentine, I'm All In.

I am celebrating Valentine's Day this year.

For the first time in many. Probably the first time since I've been married.

When I was in high school, I'd obsess over V-Day. Would I get a surprise bouquet of roses? Would I have a secret admirer? How many carnations would my friends send me and would I have more than the chick with the locker above mine? Would that boy I looked at in English class declare his love to me?

In college, when I met my future husband, we'd celebrate with flowers, candy, dinner. It was fun, but we were a bit "above" all that. Our love was deeper than chocolate and romantic dinners.

Then, we were married. We showed each other our love every day. Not just one day a year. Jeez, this was serious... marriage.  We had friends who purposely didn't celebrate Valentine's Day because they felt that it demeaned their marriage - that they would show love on Valentine's Day somehow told the world that maybe they didn't show their love on the other 364 days of the year. Or something like that. "Why should I bring her roses on February 14th when I bring her coffee every morning."

So, we ignored the holiday. I'd make crafts with the kids, cards for their friends. Hand out a coloring sheet. Give my husband a kiss on the cheek and a card. If I remembered.

Then, last week, it hit me.

I need a little cheesy romance!

I've been married to this guy for almost 13 years now. What's the problem with some chocolate, a rose, a big annoying foil card with glitter falling out sprayed with perfume? Is that so wrong? Why relegate this day to the 16-25 year-olds who are just dating... still finding their "one". I've been MARRIED to this guy for 12 years! We have 4 children! We've been through losing a job, the death of a parent, surgeries, miscarriage and midnight feedings for crying out loud. We pay bills. We dream of our children's futures. We plan imaginary trips to Chile and Ireland. Who, if not us, deserves a cheesy day full of love? Just to remember that behind, in front of, and through ALL of this, we do really and truly love each other.

So, I say, bring on the giddy poetry, the pink and red, the roses and movies with predictable endings. I don't mind the world helping me remember who I love. And why.

Yes, I'm all in.

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Thursday, February 9, 2012

Great Books for Children

UPDATED 4/27/12

I’ve compiled a list of our favorite children’s books. This list is for a true reader. I have not included any little children's books or beginner reader books. There are just so many fabulous books out there, so I stayed in the land that I know well – Children’s Literature 2nd – 11th  grade (give or take). I haven't had time to organize the books by order of difficulty.

Here are a few tips to help grow fervent readers:
  • Make them read books! Turn off the TV. Have a set “reading time” during the day.
  • Have them see you read. A lot.
  • Talk about books that you love.
  • Talk about your memories of books - who gave them to you, the first book you loved, what books your teachers read to you, etc...
  • Go to book stores.
  • Meet an author.
  • Read aloud to your children. Even the older ones.
  • Give them books to read of your choosing. For my older children, we take turns. A book that they choose and then a book that I choose. That’s just the way it is, and they know there's no getting around it. But, soon they realize that Mom's books aren't really all that bad! :) And, the books that they choose do have to be approved.
  • Make them re-read books a year or two later. It’s amazing how a book a child thinks is unimpressive or boring one year can be a life-changing experience 2 years later.  Don’t feel bad about pulling out old books from the shelf and having them re-read. There’s something very comforting about reading a book that you ‘know’.
  • Read children’s literature yourself so that you know what is out there and what will touch their hearts. And, face it, most common adult books are written on a grade school reading level anyway, so you don’t have to feel that your belittling yourself by reading children’s literature!
  • Start a book club. I’ve always wanted to do this... over the summer with a few girls and/or boys.
  • Don’t be a slave to A/R reading lists. They’re nice motivation. Points and prizes are great. But, if the book selection is poor, as it often is, let it go. Get a good book list and head to the library. I gave myself a lot of freedom when I abandoned the A/R lists.
These lists are divided up into a few categories. Classics, Series, Favorites, Emelie’s Recommendations (6th grader with a 12 + reading level) and Jonathan’s Recommendations (4th grader with a 8th grade reading level). Then, I give you some of my favorite book lists, so you can do even more research if you'd like.

We love all of these books, but have marked a few for you:
*  Great Family Read-Aloud Books
** Lauren’s Favorites

Betsy-Tacy Series - Maud Heart Lovelace
Anne of Green Gables Series - L.M. Montgomery
Little Women - Louisa May Alcott
The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
An Old Fashioned Girl - Louisa May Alcott
Pollyanna - Eleanor Hodgman Porter
Heidi* ** - Johanna Spyri
Arabian Nights
The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew* - Margaret Sidney
The Little Princess* ** - Frances Hodgson Burnett
The Jungle Book – Rudyard Kipling
The Space Trilogy - C.S. Lewis

Anne of Green Gables ** – L.M Montgomery
Little House on the Prairie  **– Laura Ingalls Wilder
Little Women, Jo’s Boys, Little Men ** - Louisa May Alcott
The Borrowers – Mary Norton
Nancy Drew
Hardy Boys
The Chronicles of Narnia – C.S. Lewis
The Lord of the Rings – J.R.R. Tolkien         
All of a Kind Family – Sydney Taylor
The Box Car Children – Gertrude Chandler Warner
Trixie Belden – Jule Campbell
My Side of the Mountain Trilogy -  Jean Craighead George
Tomie De Paola Chapter Book Series.
Little Britches * - Ralph Moody
Wrinkle in Time Series – Madeleine L’Engle

Eight Cousins and it's sequel, Rose in Bloom ** – Lousia May Alcott
All Creatures Great and Small **- James Harriot
The Singing Tree - Kate Seredy
Adam of the Road - Elizabeth Janet Gray
Tom Sawyer - Mark Twain
Huckleberry Finn – Mark Twain
The Railway Children – E. Nesbit
Arabian Nights - Anonymous
Homesick ** – Jean Fritz
Where the Red Fern Grows – Wilson Rawls
Cheaper by the Dozen ** – Frank and Ernestine Gilbreth
Con of Misty Mountain – Mary Theresa Waggaman
Heidi * ** - Johanna Spyri
The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew * ** – Margaret Sydney
Turn Homeward, Hannalee – Patricia Beatty
The Westing Game - Ellen Raskin
Thimble Summer -  Elizabeth Enright
Gone Away Lake -  Elizabeth Enright
Sing Down the Moon - Scott O’Dell
Just David ** - Eleanor Porter
The Hobbit – J. R. R. Tolkien
Tomie de Paola Series
Pippi Longstocking – Astrid Lindgren
The Bronze Bow – Elizabeth George Speare
The Corn Grows Ripe – Dorothy Rhoads
The Good Master – Kate Seredy
Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry ** - Mildred Taylor
My Side of the Mountain - Jean Craighead George
Island of the Blue Dolphins **  - Scott O’Dell
The Endless Steppe  - Esther Rudomin Hautzig
Caddie Woodlawn – Carol Ryrie Brink
Sarah Plain and Tall – Patricia MacLachlan
Little House Series * (read aloud, especially Farmer Boy) – Laura Ingalls Wilder
Carry on Mr. Bowditch – Jean Lee Latham
A Lion to Guard Us * - Clyde Robert Bulla
The Courage of Sarah Noble -  Alice Dalgliesh
Sarah Whitcher's Story – Elizabeth Yates
The Borrowers  – Mary Norton
Julie of the Wolves – Jean Craighead George
The Indian in the Cupboard -  Lynne Reid Banks
The Sign of the Beaver ** – Elizabeth George Speare
Johnny Tremain – Esther Forbes
The Cabin Faced West ** - Jean Fritz
Walk the World's Rim – Betty Baker
Shiloh – Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
Our Only May Amelia ** - Jennifer Holm
A String in the Harp – Nancy Bond
A Single Shard – Linda Sue Park
The Kitchen Madonna** - Rumer Godden
The Diddakoi (The Gypsy Girl)** - Rumer Godden
An Episode of Sparrows ** Rumer Godden
The Dolls' House - Rumer Godden.
The Winged Watchman * **  Hilda Van Stockum
The Borrowed House ** - Hilda Van Stockum
Little Britches: Father and I Were Ranchers ** * – Ralph Moody
Shadow Spinner (for olders girls) – Susan Fletcher
Island of the Blue Dolphins – Scott O’Dell
The Great Gilly Hopkins – Katherine Patterson
The Good Master – Kate Seredy
Just So Stories * Rudyard Kipling
The Incredible Journey * - Sheila Burnford
The Master Puppeteer ** (A Japanese Robinhood Story) – Katherine Patterson
Little Lord Fauntleroy - Frances Hodgson Burnett
Mrs. Mike** - Nancy and Benedict Freedman
Mama's Bank Account** - Kathryn Forbes

Emelie Recommends (with her own parental notes in parentheses):
From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankwielder -  E. L. Klonigsburg
Indian Captive  (Indians kill her family) – Lois Lowry
A Lion to Guard Us  - Clyde Robert Bulla
Watership Down ** (hard to read and some killing of rabbits)  - Richard Adams
A Single Shard – Linda Sue Park
The Endless Steppe  - Esther Rudomin Hautzig
Kira Kira (sister dies and she was really sweet) – Cynthia Kadohata
Walk Two Moons ** (book is about her mother leaving) – Sharon Creech            
Ruby Holler  - Sharon Creech
The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle # (murder mystery) - Avi
Eight Cousins ** – Louisa May Alcott
An Old Fashioned Girl ** – Louisa May Alcott
Secret Garden ** – Frances Hodgson Burnett
Matilda – Roald Dahl
Tale of Despereaux – Kate DiCamillo
Arabian Nights *
Around the World in 80 Days – Jules Verne
Journey to the Center of the Earth – Jules Verne
The Chronicles of Narnia Series – C.S. Lewis
A View From Saturday  - E.L. Klonisburg
Mara, Daughter of the Nile – Eloise J. McGraw
The Golden Goblet– Eloise J. McGraw

(The difficult thing about having advanced readers is finding challenging books that are appropriate for a younger child. That's where the classics will save you. There are so many wonderful, exciting classic stories out there that are on a challenging reading level. They may have been written 100 years ago, but no worries. They'll fall in love with timeless favorites!)

Jonathan Recommends:
The Trumpet of the Swan * - E. B. White
Along Came a Dog – Meindert DeJong
Twenty-One Balloons – William Penne Du Bois
The Borrowers Series *  - Mary Norton
The Phantom Tollbooth – Norton Juster
My Side of the Mountain * - Jean Craighead George
Shadrach – Meindert DeJong
Robinson Crusoe * – Daniel DeFoe
The Castle in the Attic – Elizabeth Winthrop
No Talking – Andrew Clements
White Fang – Jack London
Hardy Boys Series
Castle in the Attic and Battle of the Castle - Elizabeth Winthrop
The Adventures of TinTin
Robin Hood -

Other Great Reading Lists, Articles and Links:

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