Wednesday, March 31, 2010

This Is It! Last Day of March...

So this is it... the last day of March. The day before April. And do you know what April is?


Rencently I signed up for a poem-a-day challenge through a network I belong to, KidLitosphere. So that means every day in April I will need to write a new poem, and post it to my blog.

Why am I doing this? I'm not a professional writer, but I love to write. I teach writing to young children, and every day I teach them that writing is public and social. We display kids' writing on bulletin boards and in hallways for other children and teachers to see. But do we adults ever display our writing for all to see? Not usually. So I am doing this in part so that I will be able to say, honestly, to the five and six (and seven and eight, and nine and ten... and twenty and thirty and forty) year olds that I teach, "Writers share their work with others--- even when it isn't perfect."

So let the imperfection begin! Readers, I hope you'll be patient, kind, and forgiving!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Baby's Rainy Day Play List

Rainy days can be just a little bit sunnier with some songs and nursery rhymes to help build your child's vocabulary. Try singing your favorite rainy day song over and over-- pretty soon your little one will recognize it and she'll light up when she hears the familiar tune!

1. Itsy Bitsy Spider
9. It's Raining It's Pouring
10. Rain, Rain, Go Away

One of Baby L.'s faves is Itsy Bitsy Spider. We sing it in the bathtub every night (plus on rainy days, of course). She smiles at the words "Itsy Bitsy" because they sound funny to her, and she loves it when I use my fingers to make the spider crawl up her tummy.

She also LOVES Drip Drip Drop Little April Shower. She heard it for the first time today when we were listening to Pandora and dancing around the living room. Her little face lit up at the sound of all the voices. Who needs the sun when you've got an adorable toothless smile to brighten your day?

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Life-After-Baby for Doggy: Another Small Moment

Indigo smells. He smells worse than he as ever smelled before. Ever. Do I dare guess what he smells like? Dead animal? Vomit? A combination of the two?

He looks sad. His big brown eyes gaze up at me through his wiry fur. I feel a pang of guilt. The last time he went to the groomer was when I was home on maternity leave. Baby L. is five months old now, and I've been back at work since January. He's looooong overdue. His sleek, short fur has been left alone so long that he now resembles a small bear.

And he STINKS. Oh, I feel terrible for him. Poor Indigo. I don't think he's been getting much sleep. Ever since L. started sleeping in her own room, he doesn't know where to put himself. He starts out in his old spot at the foot of our bed, then moves to his own doggy bed in our room, then out to the floor in the hall between the two bedrooms, then finally out to the couch in the living room, where he's more comfortable. Right now he's dozing on the floor in the hall between bedrooms, sprawled out, all four legs out straight, like he's playing dead.

What IS that smell? Ew. I look at Indigo. I can't help thinking he's hit the doggy version of rock-bottom. His fur is matted in a few places, poor dog. I know what I need to do. I need to look under his tail in case, well, you know why... I check, and sure enough. Leftovers from his last bathroom break are stuck in the fur under his tail. Ack!

I scoop him up, tell him I love him, and stick him in the shower for a good long doggy bath. He presses against my arms to hug me while I wash his back. I think it's the most attention he's had since the baby was born. I have plenty of time while Baby L. is asleep, so I give him a good long scrub, with the nice smelling doggy shampoo. I dry him off with his special green towel that we only use for him, and I brush him for a long time. He shivers with happiness at each brush stroke, and licks my hand to say thank you. By the time I'm done with him he looks, and smells (thankfully) like a brand new dog.

** Picture taken after his bath **

Friday, March 26, 2010

Playing With Food: A Small Moment

“Oh boy! Peas!” I sing to Baby L. as I fly her special infant spoon in for a landing, right between her little pink lips.

She leans forward, eager for the pureed peas.

“Mmmmm, yummy!” I say.

The peas disappear into her tiny mouth for a second. She looks straight at me, pauses to consider the peas, and then furrows her brow. The peas reappear, dripping out of her mouth slowly, onto her bib.

Then she suddenly lights up and lets out a screetch of delight. She reaches her hands out and leans forward slowly, searching out another bite.

“Want some more?” As I scoop out another little bite of peas, I laugh as she bends her head down carefully to suck on the tray of her highchair without bonking her head.

“Lily… want some more? Yummy yummy bright green peas!” I say.

She takes the spoon in her mouth and sucks vigorously. She looks confused for a second. The peas are gone. She smiles a gummy smile, just for me (and the peas). Success.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Brooklyn Author Melanie Hope Greenberg!

Everybody knows that Brooklyn is the coolest of the five boroughs in NYC. We have the best pizza, the best of the NYC bridges, the best artists, the best rappers, and the best authors!

I was lucky enough to meet one of Brooklyn's finest through my neighborhood mommy-group, online. (Mommy groups are another one of reasons why Brooklyn is awesome).

Melanie Hope Greenberg is the author and illustrator of many must-have books, including Mermaids on Parade, A City Is, and Good Morning Digger. You can also collect her beautiful artwork by visiting her original art sale blog. While you're online, you should also visit her Student/Parent/Teacher Blog. Did I mention that it was selected “100 Best Book Blogs for Kids, Tweens, and Teens?" You can also visit her webpage, and even become become one of Melanie Hope Greenberg's Facebook Friends!

I had the opportunity to interview Melanie, online. Check out what she has to say about being a writer.

Me: You’ve illustrated some lovely children’s books, most recently Mermaids on Parade. What projects are you currently working on?

Melanie: Right now I am juggling various book projects to sell and publish. Even though I have published before, there is no guarantee that I will publish again. Markets change, trends change. I am trying to do my best and hope my ideas fly with a publisher.

Me: As an author/illustrator, what do you think makes a really great picture book?

Melanie: My belief is that art is always subjective and there are too many people to try and please. I do not think there is a real answer when it comes to loving art and words. Maybe it's the winning combination of talent, skills and where the public is at when that book comes out. I'd much rather go with an overall formula of good writing skills, a story that can be read over and over without it becoming stale, child friendly art, universal human appeal and heart.

Me: Do you have a few favorite children’s books?

Melanie: From my childhood I remember, Lottie and Lisa (the original Parent Trap), Little Witch, Dr. Seuss, and Golden Books. I was exposed to many books at the New York City Public Library-- the Classon Point branch in the Bronx. I hardly look around now since I try not to follow trends but to be true to my own inner visions and stories.

Me: What do you find is the hardest part about writing and illustrating?

Melanie: Waiting... Rejection...Hustling for financial balance while I create....Lack of exposure so that my books are not as popular as they could be or that my original art does not sell and sits dormant in my studio. Quite frustrating.

Me: How is the process of writing the story related to the process of illustrating? Do you write the whole story first, then illustrate—or do you start from an idea for the artwork and let the story develop afterward?

Melanie: I usually start with an idea and a 32 page thumbnail grid "map" on 8 1/2" x 11" paper. Then I can see the whole 32 page book in front of me. The grids are boxes that represent each spread and how the book pages will turn. They are labeled 4/5, 6/7, 8/9 etc. I begin write in the scene sequences with a few notes in each box. Once the story has a basic "spine" I write to fill in the details. Then I add the visuals by sketching larger boxes to create storyboards. Once I like the storyboards I create a 32 page book dummy. The dummy is what an author-illustrator must present to an editor. We are actually creating the whole book (without final art) before we even present it to an editor.

Me: What strategies do you use when you are stuck for ideas for your art or your writing?

Melanie: Research, looking at things other than art to feed me stories about real life, taking a break, putting the project to the side then coming back to it. These things refresh my creative juices. Also marketing my older books while I work on new ideas keeps my name fresh in the public eye.

Me: What can parents do to encourage children to be lifelong readers and writers?

Melanie: Start reading to them while they are very young to develop the discipline of listening and being quiet in order to go inside the imagination. Parents can instill that books have value and to treasure them. Parents can instill the value of listening to one's inner voice, and from that place art and words arise. To honor that place within and to express thoughts and ideas and the authors and artists that show the way.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Top Ten Things to Do With a Five-Month-Old on a Rainy Day

10. Bounce in the bouncy-seat!
9. Walk around the apartment looking at things.
8. Dance to reggae in the living room.
7. Take naps.
6. Go for airplane rides on mommy's knees.
5. Practice kicking at toys in the play gym.
4. Try eating some rice cereal - but most of it winds up on the bib in the end.
3. Change lots of diapers. And a few outfits.
2. Sing our favorite songs (which include You Are My Flower, Ladybug Picnic, and Little Sack Of Sugar)
1. Read our favorite books, of course!

What are your favorite things to do on a rainy day? Post a comment and share!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

How to Play The Woooooooooooooo! Game

I've always been pretty good at being silly. Having spent my entire life surrounded by small children, I'd say I'm pretty much an expert in silliness at this point.

I'm sure you've met people in your life who did not know how to be silly. In fact, you may be one of those people. So, if you happen to have trouble thinking up silly things to do with kids, here's your first lesson: How to Play the Wooooooooo! Game.

Now that Baby L. is almost five months old, she's really developing a great little sense of humor. And one thing she thinks is just HI-LAR-I-OUS is when I say Wooooooooooooooo! You have to start in a low pitch and get higher and higher up to a little squeak.

If you really want L. to crack up, you start the Wooooooooooo! from a foot or two away from her and then zoom your face in closer to hers as your voice rises. She usually cracks up by the second or third Woooooooo! Patience is key.

So, for all you non-silly people, now you know how to do at least one silly thing. When you come up with some more silly things to do, post them in a comment on this page!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Love Letter to Todd Parr

Dear Todd Parr,

Your colorful books grab Baby L.'s attention like no others. She scritchy-scratches her little fingers over the bright smiley faces again and again, trying to pick them off the page!

When I'm reading to L. she loves to hang on to one side of the book with one hand and reach out and touch the pictures with her other hand. It's as if she's discovering what's a picture and what's an object.

No only that, but your books teach all about topics of great importance to babies! Baby L.'s fave right now is The Peace Book. But she also really digs The Family Book, Reading Makes You Feel Good, and It's Okay To Be Different.

I originally bought these books to support the New York State Social Studies curriculum for Kindergarten and first grade. They're the perfect books for the School and Community, Self and Others, or Families social studies units if you're a Kindergartner, or Families and the Community if you're a first grader!

Thank you Todd Parr. We love you!

Mommy and Baby L.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Our Favorite Song Lately

The grass is just as green, the sky is just as blue
The day is just as bright, the birds are singing too
You are my flower, that's blooming in the mountain for me
You are my flower, that's blooming there for me
The air is just as pure, the sunlight just as free
And nature seems to say, it's all for you and me
You are my flower, that's blooming in the mountain for me
You are my flower, that's blooming there for me
So wear a happy smile and life will be worthwhile
Forget your tears but don't forget to smile
You are my flower, that's blooming in the mountain for me
You are my flower, that's blooming there for me
When summertime is passed and snow begins to fall
Just sing this song and say to one and all
You are my flower, that's blooming in the mountain for me
You are my flower, that's blooming there for me
~ Sung by the Carter Family