Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Power of the Mockingbird

Cover courtesy of
As my kids grew and learned to read on their own, I virtually stopped reading to them. Truth be told, not reading to them became one less thing to do in my day. As their sports and various activities increased, this was a welcome change for me.
In an effort to expand my daughter's reading horizons, I decided to go back to it. Not because she needed help, but because there was a book that caught my eye and as she gets older and her questions become more difficult to answer ("Mommy, what does it mean on the news when they say a body was found by the water?") I find that books make a great platform for talking about difficult subjects.

The book I choose is called Mockingbird, by Kathryn Erskine. The subject matter is intense. The main character is 11 year old Caitlin Smith who has Asperger's Syndrome and has just lost her brother in a random middle school shooting. The story chronicles Caitlin's constant "Working At It" to learn empathy, find closure, and help both herself and her father continue on with their lives.

In our house, we haven't discussed much about Autism spectrum disorders, school shootings, or what it must be like to lose a sibling. However, at almost 10, I felt that these life situations need to be discussed, and discussed early. As my husband and I learned several years ago, if your children don't learn the important life lessons from you, they will learn them from other kids at school. As the "playground news" is unreliable at best, I saw this book as an opportunity to both start reading again with my daughter and open up conversations about Asperger's, empathy, and death.

As with any "new project" there was opportunity written all over this one. My daughter had the opportunity to read out loud, I was able to teach her about symbolism in literature, and she learned about the classic book, To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee. This was such a great experience for both of us that the next book we are reading together is To Kill A Mockingbird.
What I didn't expect: the connection to the Mockingjay in The Hunger Games series. I'm not sure yet if I'm ready for her to start that series, but with the continuing mockingbird theme, it's a possibility. Where it leads us after that is to be determined.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Perfect Picture Books- Not A Box

The collective we who read and follow Susanna Hill's blog were asked to recommend picture books. With three children, I've been through a myriad of picture books. Some fantastic and read until they fell apart, and others not touched more than once. Join us on Fridays as we all share our favorite picture books and how they spoke to either moms or children.

Image courtesy of

Not A Box
Written and illustrated by Antoinette Portis
Harper Collins Children's Books, 2007
Suitable for: Preschool and up
Themes/Topics: Imagination, Adventure
Opening and Brief Synopsis: Why are you sitting in a box? It's not a box. What are you doing on top of that box? It's not a box! Little bunny is constantly being asked what he is dong with his box. He continuously explains that it is not a box, but many, many other things.
Why I Chose This Book:  In my house, the laundry basket is often the "not the laundry basket" and becomes a car, train, tent, or table. This story speaks to the unlimited imagination of children, and I love it.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Whatever, For Dinner

As I was washing the dishes tonight, it hit me like a ton of bricks. I'm not sure why, since it happens at just about this time every year, but still it seemed like a surprise. I am recovering from the two days of no school last week, so focused on the upcoming half days this week, and thinking ahead to Thanksgiving next week, that dinner just becomes "whatever." Whatever I can throw together and whatever is not chicken. One year I actually made a roast chicken the night before Thanksgiving. - Really????? You ask. Yes. It's so easy and requires almost no attention while cooking it seemed like a logical option. I made chicken tonight, but I have exactly 10 days until Thanksgiving actually hits, so I think I'm in the clear. Getting creative over the next few days, and remembering to order groceries for regular dinners, not just Thanksgiving, will require some thought, but can be done. Right now, pasta is seeming like a good option, but 10 days of that can be tricky. Maybe vegetarian? That won't fly for sure. I'm lost, but no longer feeling surprised.

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Never Ending Halloween

I was actually done with Halloween on the 31st of October. However, here I am on November 4th and it's time to celebrate Halloween. Again. We missed it this year because of a freak snowstorm in the Northeast. Everything was put on hold. And then extended. And then recreated.
I'm not cynical enough to say that Halloween is only ever on October 31st, but my kids were "done" with it and ready to move on. So was I, but this was also an opportunity to have a little fun. We decided on an indoor candy hunt that would resemble the Easter egg hunt coming in about 6 months. The plan was all set: order pizza, hang out, and hunt for Halloween candy (whatever was left that we hadn't already eaten through the week), and call it a night. I was worried that having other kids come to our house for trick or treating would upset my kids, but everyone seemed really happy to just hang out and move on. We ordered pizza, but never got around to actually hiding and looking for the candy; we just ate it. Happy (belated) Halloween.