Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Watching your children grow up is a strange thing. Just six years ago I became a mother when I gave birth to this beautiful bundle of baby boy. I was terrified and elated. And six years later I still experience those conflicting emotions on a daily basis.

He's no longer a beautiful bundle of baby boy. He's up to my chest and long and lean. Though he is still breathtakingly beautiful.

When he was a tiny baby his inner workings were a mystery to me. I did my best to guess when he was hungry or tired. Looking back through the lens of experience I now realize that as often as he was hungry or tired he might have been frustrated or bored.

He's always been a very curious boy. And a very thoughtful boy. Strangers commented on his pensive gaze, what was often labeled "seriousness," almost as often as they commented on his striking beauty. One friendly soul remarked that once he started talking I'd be in for it. "He's storing up all the questions he can't yet ask." I believe she was right.

When he started talking at a year old he did so with a perfection not often seen in such tiny children. By the time he was three, he sounded like a 10 year old. The only two words that he has ever mispronounced were "cholocolate" and "dubya-lu." He still says "dubya-lu" and it melts my heart every time.

He spoke clearly and often. He still has a lot to say. But what is sometimes maddening is that, just as when he was a tiny baby, I still don't always know what he's thinking. He's still a deep thinker. But he doesn't always choose to share those thoughts with me.

It's tough as a mother. I want to know all that goes on inside his little brain. I want to know his hopes and fears, his dreams and worries. It is distressing to me that he doesn't pour his heart out to me. If something is bothering him, he wants me close. He wants my physical presence, but he doesn't want to talk. Maybe this is a Mars/Venus thing. Maybe it's an introvert thing. I don't know. But I have to stop myself at times from bullying him into telling me what he's thinking.

The hardest part is knowing that the older he gets, the less I will know him. For now I have ways of getting information from others. But I won't always be able to ask his friend's mom to get the story from her child. I will have to trust in our relationship enough to know that he will open up to me if and when he needs to. That he will know that I am always there and willing to listen.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

May the Force be with you

We had to run to Target today and while we were there Henry's birthday money finally burned a hole in his pocket. He got a "really awesome" double light saber. I'll admit it's pretty cool. If you're into light sabers.

After Target we stopped at Vitamin Cottage. The kids were pushing their little carts along behind me and as we turned the corner I spotted a little boy, about 8 years old, doing some tricky maneuvers with a Star Wars umbrella. I smiled and wondered how Henry would react when he saw him.

Sure enough, he struck up a conversation about his new light sabers and all the ins and outs of Star Wars and Clone Wars and who were the good guys and who were the bad guys and who were bad guys that used to be good guys.

I let him talk for a few minutes before encouraging him along, and then we ended up in line behind the little boy where they resumed the conversation.

This whole exchange made me smile. It was neat to see my son spot a fellow traveler and approach him to make a connection.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Beet and Chick Pea Salad

I was pretty excited about this and was super pleased with how it turned out. My very own creation!

1 lb beets, roasted peeled and diced
1 can or about 2 cups of chick peas
1/4 red onion minced
2 Tbsp fresh chopped mint

3 Tbsp olive oil
3 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 clove of garlic pushed through garlic press

Assemble salad, toss with dressing. Enjoy!

I served it with baked sweet potatoes and fresh whole wheat bread (King Arthur's easy no-knead version). In retrospect it was a lot of sweetness. Next time I'll serve it with broccoli or something. Oh, I also used multi-colored beets so it wasn't such a beet red extravaganza. I was worried it would look bland, but it still was pleasing to the eye.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Read Any Good Math Lately?

Ooooooh I am so excited about this book!

Read Any Good Math Lately? Children's Books for Mathematical Learning, K-6 by David J. Whitin and Sandra Wilde.

In general, I love teaching from children's books. I find that kids don't feel like they're "being taught" and are less resistant to listening to a story than to sitting down for a math lesson. Once they've made a connection to a concept in such a natural and friendly way, they are much more likely to experiment with the concept on their own and be open to hearing more about it. I'm a huge fan of the Five in a Row "curriculum" and was super excited to find Teaching Physical Science Through Children's Literature.

Read Any Good Math Lately? promises to provide just as much fun and learning. The book divides math into 10 different skill sets including place value and numeration systems, fractions, geometry and multiplication and division. For each skill set it examines a number of ways of approaching the problem and highlights books that represent the problem in that way. For example, the subtraction chapter addresses subtraction as take-away, subtraction as missing addend, subtraction as comparison, subtraction as set-within-a-set and the inverse relationship between addition and subtraction. Books

So you can see this book will take us beyond the basic "count to 10" picture books so popular for young children. (But don't worry, those are included as well!)

After examining varying approaches to the problem, Whitin and Wilde provide examples of how teachers have used books to teach these concepts in their classrooms. Examples of lessons and pictures of children's work are provided for grades K-2, 3-4, and 5-6. You're then given a list of activities for "further explorations." And finally, a list of a dozen or more children's books that will help teach that concept.

The activities are brilliant and include a lot of writing about math. One example is a letter a boy has written to his father explaining the concept of factorials and when and why you would apply this math function. Younger kids have drawn pictures or written their own stories illustrating math concepts. There are many suggestions of how to find math in real life. I love the way Whitin and Wilde show how to use these books to make math relevant to kids. They really help to answer the question, "Why do we need to know this?"

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Junkyard Wonders by Patricia Polacco

Every once in a while I read a children's book that is so good I just have to share it.

Patricia Polacco makes almost every "recommended books" list I've ever seen. When I'm at the library and haven't planned ahead and put some good books on hold, she's on my short list of authors I check for to make sure we take home at least one good book. Which is how we ended up with The Junkyard Wonders. I didn't know anything about it other than that Poloacco wrote it, and the title combined with the plane on the cover made it seem promising.

I should have previewed it first, but I didn't. There is a very sad event halfway through the book.

This true story is one of the most heart-warming and inspiring I have ever heard. It's an especially good story for any child with learning differences, but it in no way isolates the "typical" child. If you want a full plot summary, I'm not going to give it to you. I don't want to ruin it for you. But it follows the "misfits do great things" story arc that is so loved in literature and film.

This is a story of hidden genius, the amazing things you can accomplish when you believe in yourself, and the power of having someone believe in you. Be sure to read the author's note at the end. But have a tissue handy when you do.

I recommend previewing this book yourself before sharing it with your child. One of the children dies halfway through the story and if you're not paying attention (as I wasn't) and you're not prepared for it, it can be a real punch in the gut. As I realized what was happening I couldn't read through my tears. I stopped and told Henry that it was very sad and asked if he wanted me to continue. He did. He handled it just fine, but he's had some experience with death. You'll need to decide if your child is ready for it. It's not what the story is about, and the story doesn't dwell on it, but it is crucial to the telling of the tale. The recommended age for this book is 3rd-5th grade and I think most children that age would be able to handle death the way it is presented in this book.