Monday, December 12, 2011

Grandma Verry's Bunnies

My Grandma Verry used to have a thing with bunnies. Being peaceful herself, I think she truly valued the gentle grace and sweetness of these creatures. As a child, we would walk in the field near her house in the hills of Pennsylvania and then wait and watch for bunnies to hop around. Whenever I see a bunny, I feel like she sent it to me for luck, support, and love.

This theory was going great. When I made the decision to throw my hat in the ring for the Reading Intervention position that became open at a school close to my home, I saw this little guy waiting by the sign as Claude and I walked home from a birthday party:

Little Bunny on the brick border!
This seemed like a sign to me, which is funny because I am not very superstitious. I had some worries about wanting to go back to daily work with students before Claude was in Kindergarten, but this seemed to me like Grandma was telling me this is a good thing, like I was supposed to be there. Bunnies are good luck.

In the past weeks, we've spotted a sweet bunny hopping through our yard; I was happy to host him. It felt like a gift to catch a glimpse of furry tail and hoppy paws. But now Colby has found a new delicacy: rabbit poop. She's crazy for it, seeming to prefer it chilled with the dustings of snow we keep getting. Today after I did a (dog) poop scoop in the yard, I was stunned to see so much rabbit poop. I scooped as much bunny scat as I could- but it was very plentiful and very pellet-ous. Seriously, what is this rabbit eating? How much does one rabbit poop? Perhaps this rabbit needs some bunny Milk of Magnesia. There's really a lot of pooplets.

Also, now I am horribly confused about what my Grandmother is trying to tell me.

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Baby Whisperer

Last night I was picking photos for the holiday card.  (Yes, after a 3 year hiatus, I am sending a holiday card!  I do write a yearly letter, but have not actually mailed one since Claudia was born in 2008.) While I was combing through pictures, I came across a video from Christmas when Claudia was 1½  and Francis was 5 ½. I watched it a few times and I was amused by Fran’s Christmas excitement and nurturing of his sister and I was in absolute awe of what Claude was able to do at that young age.  In watching the video, I saw how much more she was talking than what I remembered.  And her voice.  It was so sweet. I had forgotten it.

Her voice is still sweet, And she is still little.  But I do wish we had taken more video of her along the way. (I think we did a better job with Fran.) We were always so busy. Maybe I am really starting to get old, but I am just stunned by how fast it all goes.  I can’t believe these little people won’t stay little forever. I love watching them grow and change, but it was nice having them be little.  (Really little.) And I miss that.

Little Missy stuffing her face with animal crackers at stocking time, 2009.

Fran posing with a stack o' presents, 2009.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Star-Crossed Readers

I recently just finished "The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie" by Wendy McClure. I absolutely loved it. I loved that it was about Little House. I loved the love of Laura.  I loved the author's voice and vision. Also, I  am completely convinced we would be dear friends if she lived in Ann Arbor. (Why did her book tour skip my town? I would have hosted on our deck, passing out tin cups, pennies, and peppermint sticks!)

And then I found out that all the while that  I was reading about Little House and entering Laura-land, Claude was, too. She had been enjoying the My First Little House Books Series with her teacher, Pat. I had always poo-pooed this series as "not-quite" Little House books. Cheater books, really-- like Little House Cliff's Notes. Shamefully, I admit I never even read one before this dismissal.
Then Claude started bringing them home and I was asked to read them. And being as sweet as Ma Ingalls, read them I did. Was I ever surprised! The books are so lovely; the pairing of illustrations in the style of Garth Williams and simple text that rolls off your tongue and captures the essence of Little House in a way that a small child can understand is just delightful. Being 3 1/2, Claude's grasp of days long past is not terribly developed, but she gets these. She gets Laura.

I like to think that Claude and I are are perhaps reading soulmates, and wondering if perhaps Blaine and I should have named her Laura rather than Claudia.

How incredible that all these feelings started with a book.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Kangaroo Krazy


Last month, we escorted Colby, a Guest of Honor, to the Hands On Museum Creature Feature and met this lovely lady:

After that, a lot of things changed around here.  First, Claude switched from wanting to be Madeleine to wanting to be a Kangaroo for Halloween. This was quite fortunate; we actually owned a Kangaroo suit in her size since Fran dressed up as Roo when he was three.  (And then I was off the hook as dressing up as Miss Clavel...) It also sparked a new book study project for Claudia: Kangaroo Books!

Here are some of Claude's Favorite Kangaroo Books:

Blue Kangaroo Series by Emma Chichester Clark (These are her absolute favorites!)
Pouch! by David Ezra Stein
Katy No-Pocket by Emmy Payne and H.A. Rey
Elmer and the Kangaroo by David McKee
I Love it When You Smile by Sam McBratney
A Kangaroo Joey Grows Up by Joan Hewitt
What Do You Do With a Kangaroo? by Mercer Mayer
Does a Kangroo Have a Mother, Too? by Eric Carle

Little Kangaroo, cheeks stuffed with jelly beans.

The way Claude has hooked into Blue Kangaroo books is just amazing.  She's like a 3-year-old- walking minilesson on strategies for having books on deck: read around a topic, read about a character, or follow a series...

Her love of kangaroos has made me very "hoppy"!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

That's Funny

A conversation at our house:

Claude: Pretend you're my mom.

Me: I am your mom.

Claude: (Looking at my like I am a moron.) I know...but 'tend I am a girl and you are my mom.

Me:  I can do that, but it's a little funny because you are a girl and I am your mom.

Claude: (Pauses and looks at me without speaking.  Sighs.) Just 'tend that you're my mom.

Me: OK. I think I will be good at that.

Claude: (Nods and walks away.)

Friday, November 11, 2011

Jan Brett

Jan talking about her new book at AADL.
Tonight we went to see Jan Brett and Hedgie at the downtown library.  We got there early and had great seats, right in the front.  Having thought so much about Katie Ray's In Pictures and In Words (illustration study in writing workshop), I loved hearing (and seeing) Jan's demonstration about the power of eyes in a story.  She did a quick demonstration where she would turn around, make an expression, and cover her face before turning around to reveal only her eyes.  The kids in the audience were all yelling out what expressions she was making- by seeing only her eyes.  It seems like a small thing to consider, but grounding stories and characters with their emotions is a powerful strategy all writers can try- even 6 year-old writers.

Fran and I meeting Hedgie.
She talked a lot about making art accessible with some how-to's and tips. I tucked the drawing tips away for future writing lessons: starting something with a shape, planning a picture (leaving space for antlers!), drawing something part by part, studying something to draw it, working on drawing every day, holding a picture in a mirror to check the image for balance and composition, considering materials (pencils for shading, watercolors, markers), how different kids of lines have different effects (especially helpful with fur), and adding details until the work feels complete- like it's all ready for you to step into the scene.

Claude...simply enthralled.

Getting our book signed!

It's amazing how much teaching was tucked into her conversation!  Thanks, Jan Brett, AADL, and Nicola's Books!

Don't forget to check out the Swedish moose antler!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Caught in a Lie

I think it was Jane Yolen who once said that her children had expressed such gratitude that Jane "never skipped any words" when she read to stories them. This is the standard to which I think we should all hold ourselves. Unless the book "Arthur's Halloween" and your kid is yawning and you've read enough Halloween books today to cross your eyes.

So tonight when I was reading to Claudia, I read the first and last sentences off a page in the aforementioned Arthur book.  But it was a segmented picture- 3 parts.  She knew enough about books and stories to recognize that I only talked about one of the parts.  How could I have been so careless? After she busted me, I feigned confusion and read the whole page.

After this page, Claude watched me like a hawk, making sure I said a lot of words when a page had a lot of words on it. How silly for me to try to get away with it. And her sideways glances made me feel guilty, even though requesting so many Halloween books was clearly a hostile action on her part...

This is the page in question from "Arthur's Halloween".

Thursday, September 22, 2011


Fran and Claude at the door to the soft opening of the 7-11.

On the way home from school today, we stopped at the new 7-11 and Fran and Claude got Slurpees!  Fran also pocketed the coupon sheet for the Grand Opening Specials next week.

On the way to pay at the register, Claude sipped her Slurpee, looked around, and said, "I want to eat here."

"What?" I asked. I was a little horrified.

She looked around at the prepared convenience food and said, "I want to get something to eat here."

I shook my head and we paid.

We bought Michigan Honeycrisp apples on the way home to detox from Slurpees.

Thursday, September 15, 2011


Claude really loves wolves. Big, bad ones. So we have been reading Wolf Books. It all started when she fell in love with Fairy Tales, especially "The Three Little Pigs". She's the kind of kid that likes the versions when the wolf eats the pigs. She heard "Little Red Riding Hood" and then we were on a mission to read as many Wolf Books as possible. We were doing this all summer. Then low and behold, the NY Times Book Review was talking about wolves this month! Clearly, Claude is a trendsetter.

For your reading pleasure, I gathered a list of Wolf Books that Claude enjoyed:

"Wolf's Coming" by Joe Kulka
"There's a Wolf at the Door" by Zoe B. Alley and R.W. Alley
"Little Red Riding Hood" by James Marshall
"The Three Little Pigs", James Marshall and Paul Galdone versions
"Wolves" by Emily Gravett
"Where's the Big Bad Wolf" by Eileen Christelow
"Big Wolf and Little Wolf: The Leaf That Wouldn't Fall" by Nadine Brun-Cosme and Olivier Tallec
"The Chicken Thief" by Beatrice Rodriguez
"Small Bad Wolf" by Sean Taylor
"Big Bad Wolves at School" by Stephen Krensky
"Nicky and the Big Bad Wolves" by Valeri Gorbachev
"The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig" by Eugene Trivizas and Helen Oxenbury

Some of these books were parodies, which Francis really enjoyed.  Claude just loved the copious wolf exposure.  In addition to general wolfery, any fairy tale by Paul Galdone and James Marshall was gobbled up in this house.

For the sake of editing this post with so many titles, logical punctuation was used.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

She's Not a Baby

Yesterday Blaine was changing the linens on Claude's toddler bed.

When he had the old sheets off,  the ever nibby Claudia furrowed her brow and pointed to the word "baby" on the label of her Sealy Baby Posturepedic mattress and said,  "I'm not a baby, I a big girl."

Tonight, refusing help, she got her head stuck in a pajama top.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Dear Kindergartner Parents...

Oh, Kindergarten. I remember it well. Or I thought I did. Recently, a close friend sent her little sweetness to Kindergarten. And all the feelings came back... so I wrote a letter:

Fran on his first day of Kindergarten in 2009.

Dear Kindergarten Parent,

Kindergarten is fabulous. Your child will have a lovely year. But there are a few things to consider.  First, give your child and his/ her teacher a chance. Trust that you have helped your little muffin grow into a beginning kindergartner.  He/she is capable, competent, and cute.  Be very careful about listening to neighborhood "talk"; give you and your child the chance to develop a relationship with the teacher without baggage that isn't even yours. When Fran was in Preschool*, I pretended to be laid back and just waved at pick-up instead of storming the teacher and pumping her for information (as I saw other parents doing.)  I acted normal for at least three weeks.  Also, consider your level of contact. If your child is a typical kid, daily contact is unusual.  When I send an e-mail as a parent- I think, " will this be received?" before I hit send.  But remember, teachers think that important things like dismissal changes and big confusions for parent or child should be addressed quickly.

Next, if the classroom environment doesn't meet your expectations, please remember that it's the first day.  The longer I taught, the less "stuff" I put up.  I trusted the children to create our learning space with me.  Also, a slow introduction of materials ensured their proper care and an understanding of their importance. Wait and watch and see how the environment flourishes once its community members are learning in the space before reacting.

Be gracious to teachers, support staff, secretaries, assistants, custodians, principals, students, and parents. You'll be at this school in this community for a while.  I think there's a saying about crapping and a nest that would fit quite nicely, but I'm trying to swear less.  In addition to having more functional relationships, it just plain feels good to be friendly. Another good tidbit is to avoid gossip- walk away, make an excuse.  Gossip is toxic- and I don't want that around my kid.  Looking at a clock and saying, "Oh, no...I have to run!" is a good excuse for those situations.  (My manifesto about being an advocate for your child might be helpful advice, but there is some swearing, so don't click if the a-word scares you...)

Finally, in my experience both personally as a parent of school-aged children and professionally as a classroom teacher, parents are barometers for children. They will react when pressure is rising. When you blow up, it affects your kid. I know I have a lot of power as a parent to control the climate with my own reactions, expressions, conversations, and feelings.

That being said, jump in.  Kindergarten is wonderful and Kindergartners are terribly sweet.  Enjoy yours... because pretty soon he/she will be a second grader.


Been there, done that...and loved it

* I did send Mrs. Z a note in the first weeks of Kindergarten about an incident at Free Choice.  It was initially 3 pages- so I edited it to 2 and then 1 page.  I watched Mrs. Z read it and then say, "Francis, we talked about this yesterday- is everything OK?" and then- I thought my kid was a stinker and since his teacher was on top of it, he was on his own.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Raising Them Right

I  have excellent daily habits and have modeled these extensively to the children.  I am proud to see our daughter emulating her mother's morning routine:

Seriously, do not talk to me until after I finish this cup of coffee.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Big Mistake

I checked this out from the library:

Now it is the soundtrack of our days.  Yesterday, it was playing in the van. Then it was on in Fran's room while he played Star Wars and Legos on the floor.  This morning it was playing in Fran's room: he swung a lightsaber and Claude was on his bed moving her head to the music, impressed with her brother's lightsaber skills.

Building a rebel base.

Friday, July 8, 2011


Claudia is doing puzzles with her doll.

She told her baby, "I'll do it...I have real hands."

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Butt Chairs

Fran just announced that on page 70 of "Roscoe Riley Rules #1: Never Glue Your Friends to Chairs", the words "butt chairs" appear.  Clearly, a book worth reading for a second grade boy.

Please send on any other book recommendations that involve "butt chairs" to TRWH.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

"Sweet Valley Confidential"

There is a woman who lives in Atlanta that I like to talk books with. She has on occasion steered me wrong.  She singled-handedly provided me with two of the worst books I have ever read:
"The Quickie" by James Patterson and "The Nerd Who Loved Me" by Vicki Lewis. Other than that, I have few complaints with our 13 year friendship.

So clearly, I am saddened that the next book I need to add to my "worst book list" was self-selected,  available at no cost to me after a long hold queue courtesy of the Ann Arbor Public Library. The only person I can blame for this book coming into my life is myself. The third worst book in the world is "Sweet Valley Confidential" by Francine Pascal. The book claims to tell the tale of the Wakefield twins at age 27, but since the series launched with 16 year-olds in 1983, that makes those girls 44.

I heard about this book from one of my usual sources, The New York Times*. (I am also fond of author interviews on NPR, Colbert Report, and The Daily Show. Oprah and People booklists have even provided fodder for my reading. I found Nick Hornby by reading a book column in either Mademoiselle or Glamour on a plane.) I am always looking for interesting book recommendations.

This time, I should have known better. If a book series seemed pretty stupid to me as a 5th grader, why would a "look at them now" novel be any different for me at age 37? If I thought the characters were flat as a 5th grader, would 28 years make it better? Clearly, no. Yet, I still read the whole stinkin' thing.

I would post valid criticisms about the writing, but it would be much more entertaining for you (and time-saving for me) to suggest that you peruse  the reviews, where crazed fans write scathing reviews of the new book,  lovingly referencing the old books, savoring and celebrating what they feel was Pascal's literary heyday and contrasting it with her modern-day fall from grace.

Now, 28 years ago,  I only read a few of these books. I admit, I was in awe of the raciness of "Playing With Fire," but I also knew- even as 5th grader- that high school pool parties and Bruce Patmans untying bikini tops was out of my frame of reference and that Pascal's narration of judgement was unsettling. So I went on to read other things. Better things. I wasn't really a SVH reader, but I knew enough to understand it's place in pop culture to make surface jokes about the characters. (I can also do this with the initial cast of 90210, but not with the cast of Saved by the Bell.)

I think what makes me sad is not that I finished this book, wasting plenty of time that could have been spent reading something worthwhile. After all, I have watched the Tori Spelling movie "Mother May I Sleep With Danger" even though it was terrible without any guilt or shame. (Incidentally, her mother said NO to her sleeping with danger, but surprise, surprise she still did and here's the big shocker: she barely got out of danger.  Gripping tale.) What I found upsetting about reading SVC is that my quest for nostalgia was unsuccessful, fueld by truly horrendous writing and the idea that the narrator's angle had also not changed in 28 years: people were still an extension of what they were in relation to their high school selves and then judged accordingly. Oddly, I guess I am a little sad that the Wakefield girls still seemed to be in high school. And now I feel uneasy about attending a high school reunion. Ever.

In a twisted sort of way, I loved finding another worst book ever. I loved telling people how bad it was and watching the look of horror on friend's faces when I told them I read the whole thing.  I loved poo-pooing Blaine (aka Mr. TRWH) when he suggested that I stop sharing with others that I had read it. While I was not embarrassed to tell people I read it, clearly he was.

* Further examination showed the NYT article about the book to be in the Media and Advertising/ Business Day section, not Books.  Aha.  I never would have read that section, but reading the paper blurred the lines...and gave me a bad book recommendation!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

TRWH Michigan Radio Interview Official Statement

In the past weeks, TRWH has been rocked by the Michigan Radio interview situation and would like to make an official statement:

"As you may now, this year Francis corresponded with Mo Willems. He published two quintessential guides: All About Hockey and All About Labrador Retrievers. In addition to personal writing projects, he collaborated with Esther to illustrate a trilogy of holiday books, including The Night Before ChristmasEaster, and the soon to be celebrated The Fourth of July. His current projects include, but are not limited to: raccoon fiction stories, belated birthday thank you notes, and his groundbreaking informational book "How to Wipe Your Butt".* Additionally, his report card indicated that he "is enthusiastic about writing and learning to write." The Reading and Writing House is filled with joy and pride relating to Fran's writing accomplishments.

Much attention has been given to a controversial interview given by Francis, mostly by his mother who can't stop talking about it (even to people who are clearly disinterested) or emailing it to (unsuspecting) people as an MP-3 file. We ask for you to consider his accomplishments in addition to his words. TRWH is not claiming that Michigan Radio reporter Jen Guerra employed "gotcha journalism," just that Francis is a stinker. We thank Ms. Guerra for both her editing savvy and humor in helping us craft a last day of school to remember.

Furthermore, we submit this document, written by Francis mid first-grade:

There it is in black and white, America. He was "iksaided" about writing so much... And he even closed the story with "My hand was so sweaty, I needed a shower for my hand."  Sounds like a pretty engaged writer.

So all that leaves is...Go Cubs (but not professional).  And a happy summer to all!"

-TRWH Management

As you may have heard, HTWYB was sent home from first grade when it was determined to be a "home project. " A detailed post and review will be available on TRWH in July when it is expected to be published.  Please tell your friends.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Fran's NPR Debut or "That's Not Going to Be Good for Business"

Francis has had quite a year of literary distinction.

So we were not surprised when he chose to discuss his feelings about writing in addition to detailing his summer plans when he was approached for an interview with Michigan Radio/ NPR last Friday on the final day of first grade. Please listen to his compelling interview, initially aired June 17, 2011, by clicking here.  

There has been much hubbub in reaction this week to this 40 second interview across the country:

"We heard this in the car!  I almost drove off the road!"  
-Martha G., Ann Arbor, MI
"I heard Frances being interviewed on Michigan Radio! So very cute. He said he didn't like writing?!?!"   -Vickie H., Ann Arbor, MI
"Totally awesome!!!!!!"  -Christy M., Atlanta, GA
"What a hoot!"  -Grandma P., Carmel, IN
"We heard you on the radio.  I was so proud of you.  You spoke so clearly.  When is your next Cub's game?"  -Nana R., Phoenix, AZ
"That's very cute.  Way to go, Fran!"  -Jack R., Dexter, MI
"How can he NOT like writing?! He has such great story ideas!"   
-Laura W., Ann Arbor, MI
"Absolutely adorable!"  -Susan A., Indianapolis, IN
"OMG!"  -Laurie P., Hastings-on-Hudson, NY

TRWH will post an official rebuttal to Fran's interview later this week.

Francis and the best teacher in the world, just minutes before the controversial public radio interview.

Book Release

A book release cookies and punch reception will be held at Casa Roderique to celebrate the upcoming release of The Fourth of July by Esther and Francis.  It will clearly be a "Who's Who of Ann Arbor".

Or perhaps a "Who's in Town over the Fourth".

Saturday, June 11, 2011

"I need to practice my jam on biscuits..."

Currently, Claudia is enjoying the "Girl Frances" books and stories, especially Bread and Jam for Frances. She loves the poems and songs Frances sings, especially this one that she says while she jumps rope:

Jam on biscuits, jam on toast,
Jam is the thing that I like most.
Jam is sticky, jam is sweet,
Jam is tasty, jam's a treat-
Raspberry, strawberry, gooseberry, I'm very 
FOND... OF... JAM!

Yesterday she pulled me from the house to the back porch.  She pointed up high.  "Mama, I need that, " she said, pointing to the jumprope dangling from a hook.  "I want to practice my jam on biscuits."

Oh, is she delicious!

Monday, May 16, 2011


Play is powerful. I posted about play in January (here and here), but it just keeps coming back. And this week's NYT article's tales of Junior Kumon, "Fast Tracking to Kindergarten," is disturbing. Who on earth thinks 3 year-olds need to go to a tutoring center to fill in worksheets?

I am stunned by the power of play in my home. At 3, Claudia has elaborate scenes with her bunnies and her baby dolls and dress up. She was just at the beach today (well, really making a beach scene on the big chair). She has smeared hand sanitizer all over the carpet with a hand towel playing Annie. She can recognize her name on her birthday cake. She "reads" books to herself: familiar ones and new ones, sings and tells stories- especially ones with big, bad wolves. She plays with cups of water in the sink, matches socks, and counts the stairs when she climbs. I just don't see what Kumon could offer her. She is already so busy.

And Fran hurried home from soccer today to continue working on his hockey scene: Playmobil men vs. superheroes. He has repurposed several sets of toys and boxes to create this play scene. It is very involved and he is quite busy with it. He came home all upset that fish (instead of pizza) was for dinner- then went to play and bounced back so well. His sustained play may look like a mess, but it's highly organized and purposeful.

Play is so important. And rigor is important. But the play has to come first. Kids need solid skills from play: exploration, discovery, inquiry, elaboration, stamina, self-direction, and the ability to engage with their own minds to meet the demands of rigorous (and, of course, process-based) programs with joy and enthusiasm.

Alphabet Bingo at home?  Sounds fine. (Games, glorious games!)  Making cards or a book for Grandma?  Sounds great. Cooking? Folding laundry? Riding bikes? Gardening? Good, good, good, good.  Hours spent on worksheets and homework- at age 3? I don't think so. Perhaps some fact or handwriting practice in elementary school- but minutes, not hours, so there is still down time for play.

The work of play for preschoolers is simply too valuable to be replaced with rote learning.

Rants you may have missed this year: The Harry Potter Manifesto, posts about the Millage, and of course The Baby Flashcard Manifestodetailing my confusion and abhorrence with the "Your Baby Can Read" (quotes are intended to mock the program in addition to indicate the title) Videos and Flashcards Program and its subsequent lack of authentic activities and organic learning. 

Monday, May 9, 2011

Screens and ADHD- the chicken or the egg?

I think most people know where I stand on screens.

We do not yet have a video game system.  We have computers and some screen gadgets. We have a TV. (We watch it and we admit we watch it.) During the week, we are pretty busy with school and playing and dinner and baths and stories.  Days are full and screens are dark for the kids.

But really, there are so many screens: phones, computers, TVs in stores and restaurants, video games, computer games...It's pervasive. There's even a TV at our teeny neighborhood Kroger.

Today there were some musings about screens and ADHD in the NY Times. It's a chicken and the egg thing: Is increased screen time a cause or a consequence of ADHD?  Or both? Do people with ADHD get more gratification from screens than those without? Although there aren't definitive answers, more and more continues to be learned about brain functioning.

Regardless, it's a good reminder to pull screens from children's rooms, manage content on screens (violence, frenetic activity, etc), and to balance screen time with real-life experiences.

Friday, May 6, 2011

A Prayer for My Daughter

Many have read Tina Fey's "A Prayer for My Daughter" from her new book Bossypants.

Just this afternoon, I have written a little prayer for my daughter.

First, Lord: Thank you for her loveliness 
and her well controlled bathroom skills 
and her love of her little pink potty.  

We have been diaper free for over a year
and it is lovely to no longer experience 
the diaper-poop-tushie smoosh anymore.

But please, can you help her be ready
to try her #2s on the big toilet
instead of her little pink potty
because it's still a little gross.


* Disclaimer:  This is not intended in any way to belittle God, religion, the faithful, power of prayer, or the purposes they play in people's lives. But these words have been going through my mind.  And they are truly from the bottom of my heart.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Voting: Yes! Pedicure: No!

There is a scene in "You've Got Mail" that really hits home. The Meg Ryan character is breaking up with her boyfriend (played by Greg Kinnear), and she admits to him that she didn't vote for Ruth Messinger in the mayoral election because she went for a manicure and forgot to vote. When I was watching this movie, this creeped me out because the exact same thing happened to me. When we lived in NYC,  I also forgot to vote for Ruth Messinger- but I was getting a mani-pedi.  (This movie was also filmed at the school where I worked!)

Well, today, I plan to vote YES in the Washtenaw County Special Education Millage Renewal. I haven't made it to vote yet: I took Colby to Mott, mishandled some work e-mails, volunteered at Fran's school, and stopped by 826 Michigan and the post office. I still need to vote.

But right now, it's happening again. I feel an uncontrollable desire to sneak in for a pedicure before I pick up Claudia from preschool. I do not have time to do this; it's voting day. But my toes could use a professional coat of polish. This home-pedi business isn't working so well. Hmmm... maybe I should see if they can squeeze me in before I go get Claudia. Wait, what was it I was supposed to do again?

VOTE!  Vote yes! No pedicures today- only voting!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Ultimate Birthday Card

Francis loves his Grandma. 
And he loves her birthday.

So he sent her fancy green placemats. 
She loves fancy green placemats.

And he sent her fancy lemon cookies. 
She loves fancy lemon cookies.

He also made her a fancy card with her name on it. 
She loves her name: Roseanne. 
Not Rose Ann. 
Not Rosana. 
Not Rose Anne. 

She told him that she loved her card.

Grandma Roseand looking quite fetching and blowing out her candle.
And green is her favorite color...

"Happy Bithday, Roseand!"  We can't wait to see you!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

What's your Name?

I forgot to post this.

When I asked Claudia where her name was on her "fancy pink cake with pink flowers," she pointed right to C-l-a-u-d-i-a.  She said, "that's my letter," to the "C".

What a big girl.

Birthday Girl!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Manifesto Against Venom and Vitriol or Vote YES on May 3rd in Washtenaw County's Special Education Millage Renewal

I have strong political convictions, but I won't usually make you listen to them, especially in my work with Service Dogs, volunteering at the hospital, on Facebook, working in schools, or on this blog. This blog is intended to celebrate the joy of raising readers and writers. But it started because of politics and

You see, I started blogging and attempting to spread positive energy about literacy and learning because I was shocked and embarrassed about the toxic venom and vitriol spewed against teachers, children, and our schools on (Full disclosure: I am a Community Contributor and have submitted articles to Why are these people so hateful? And why don't these people post under their real names?

But Mrs. Nice Lady stops now. If your kid ever used up more than 1/26th of the teacher's time: vote YES on May 3rd.  If your child uses services like a bus: vote YES on May 3rd. If you think  children who have special needs and their families deserve help from public school systems; vote YES on May 3rd.

The crazies will be out. And they will be voting. I (very) personally understand how this economy takes cheap shots. But please don't let our community hit our schools after Snyder, our state legislature, and the Michigan economy has knocked them down.

Even if the millage passes, there is still a 15 million dollar deficit in AAPS. Special Ed services are required by law. The loss of this tax continuation will create a 21 million dollar deficit in our district alone. And the cuts are already starting to fray at the edges.

These services are required by law to be provided; the monies will have to come from somewhere. If you don't like large class sizes and split classes - vote YES on May 3rd. If you don't want to lose more than has been proposed, such as 70 teachers and several principal positions (principals running two buildings!), vote YES on May 3rd. If you think that all children in Washtenaw County deserve good school, vote YES on May 3rd.

We moved to Ann Arbor for the schools. I am shocked by the venom and vitriol on-line. (Who posts hate like this anonymously?  What stinkin' cowards. I'll bet they'd be embarrassed for others to know what lies in their hearts.) Although I am hopeful this is a small and squeaky group, their toxicity makes me very sad about the state of the world. These kids deserve better.

Please- vote YES- on May 3rd.

And I, for one, am hopeful to have my faith in the world renewed by the fine citizens of Ann Arbor when I check the paper on May 4th.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

"Welcome, Spring" Book List

Ahhh...Spring has sprung.  And TRWH has gathered a little list of sweet Spring picture books:

Over and Over by Charlotte Zolotow (This book frames the year with seasons and holidays- a great way o show the cyclical structure of a year to small children.  An oldie, but a goodie.)

How Rocket Learned to Read by Tad Hills   (Bird starts to teach Rocket the dog to read, but goes away in winter.  Don't worry, Bird returns in the Spring.)

The Listening Walk by Paul Showers (An old classic.  I love this one for Spring, for listening, for writerly life.  Also, it's a good excuse to take kids on walk and ask them not to talk for five minutes in a row.)

My Spring Robin by Anne Rockwell (Put Rockwell on it...I'll buy it.  I love Rockwell's simple nonfiction books for little ones!  It's a small moment, it's a just right book, it's a Rockwell!)

Forever Friends by Carin Berger (Last year I saw this at Nicola's and I just loved it.  (Going through the seasons, --SPOILER ALERT-- bunny and bird are reunited in Spring.  Great companion to the Rocket book- both use seasons for structure, but the tone is so different with the art and text.  Great book for studying mood.)

City Dog, Country Frog by Mo Willems, Illustrated by John Muth.  (Mo did not illustrate this book.  This is a powerful book about seasons, life,loving, good-byes, and going on.  Have a tissue.  It is just beautiful.)

Snow Rabbit, Spring Rabbit by Il Sung Na (This book talks about what animals do to get ready for winter, and then shows them in the spring.)

Red Rubber Boot Day and Mud by Mary Lyn Ray (Joyful, poetic prose.  Great for small moment writing, teaching how writers live in the world, and poetry.  And now you'll want red rubber boots.)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

READ MY LIPS: No New Taxes...Keep 'em the same by voting YES to Maintain Funding (as is) for Special Education in Washtenaw County

Vote YES on May 3rd Special Education Millage Renewal.

This will not increase your taxes.

It will keep them where they are and ensure that the 1 in 7 students in Washtenaw County who need special education services will get them. That's 7,000 kids in your own backyard.

Tell your neighbors this is not an increase and YES.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Don't Wake Up Mama!

Don't wake up Mama is a common theme here. First of all, our never-waking-up-before-8 children have shifted to a always-waking-up-at-or-before-7 schedule. Even on weekends. Even when we don't have to go anywhere. Even when we were out late. And I'm a 3-cups-of- coffee-before-we-leave-the-house kind of Mama.

Today this seemed to be a theme.  Fran has decided to write a book called "How to Wake Up Your Mom" over break, with such good ideas as "play cymbals," which, unfortunately, we own. If you heard the title of his *other How-To he tried penning at school, you would understand how pleased we are with this new topic.

Claudia is enamored with those naughty Five Little Monkeys from the Eileen Christelow. We had a copy of Don't Wake Up Mama, which has been retitled Five Little Monkeys Bake a Cake. In this gripping tale, the monkeys make a cake for Mama's birthday- and try to do it quietly. The sentence "Don't wake up Mama." is woven through the text. I was using the two texts in a minilesson on titles- but Claude found them. Now we read them both. Daily. She understands that the story is the same- even though the covers are different. She amazed me. Then today, after reading them both for about a week, she crinkled her nose and said, "I wonder if they will wake up Mama this time." Silly little monkey.

*We are pleased his teacher handled it nicely- and in the classroom. Let's just say it was a "home project."

Friday, April 1, 2011

March is OVER


March is Reading Month is over.  Posting daily was a challenge- and a joy.

But still, phew.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

March is Reading Month, Tip #31: Read to a Dog!

Read to a dog!

Don't let the March is Reading Month momentum end! The Ann Arbor District Library/ Traverwood branch is hosting a reading dog EVERY SATURDAY this month. And Colby will be the reader on April 30th...

Keep reading- and enjoying what you read!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

March is Reading Month, Tip #30: Make a Board Game!

Make a Board Game!

At first, this post was just going to be about playing board games. Board games are a fabulous developmental tool: counting, matching, reading, strategy, luck, taking turns. But in light of Fran's recent creation, the "Who Let the Dogs Out" Game, I thought I would share his project.

Fran asks that important question...
Photo by Mary Roderique

Fran really wanted to make up a game. So we talked about what it could be: he decided that it would be a game where dogs would leave their homes and go to a potty spot. He sketched out two possible game boards on easel paper and wrote out directions. Next, we got an old game at the PTO Thrift Shop. I spray painted the game board and box white. I also ordered tiny plastic toy dogs (after I promised him dogs and then learned that Michaels had every tiny plastic animal except dogs) to be used as pawns. Once the paint was dry, he traced little houses for the start and then used post-its to mark the places on the board and traced around them. Next, we colored in the board. The final step was typing the directions and decorating the box. It looked glorious.

When it was done, we played.  And it was fun.

We only had one misunderstanding in the whole process, when I suggested in the very early planning stages that maybe the potty spot wasn't the best ending place, at which point Fran turned to me and yelled, "No!  They go to the potty spot.  And hey- I'm the one who thought of who let the dogs out in the first place." So now you know- you know who thought of WLTDO first...

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

March is Reading Month, Tip #29: Find a Little Drama!

Find a little drama!

Dramatic play can have a huge impact on young children's language development and reading and writing lives. This experience can range from acting out familiar stories to acting our original stories to ad-libbing. Just like puppets can inspire, so can some drama!

I feel lucky to have a drama-queen in our neighborhood who comes over and helps the younger kids all work together to put on some "shows". That facilitating she does sticks- and they do a better job acting out stories even after she has to go home.

Acting out stories can be a huge tool in developing comprehension, especially with understanding a character's feelings and motivation. Claudia and I act out the Three Little Pigs regularly. She has a fantastic wolf growl. Her play is inspired by her love (going on about two years) of the three little pigs and perhaps also our wolf hat. We* also play "Bears," which seems to be inspired by a dreadful Magic School Bus reader. And when Fran is around, we play plenty of Star Wars (typically with new story ideas- maybe he'll write some fan fiction.)

* I am often not a willing participant in the game of "Bears."  For example, on Sunday, I was forced to be "Baby Bear" while "Mama Bear" Claudia shoved pattern blocks (food) in my face. I had to say "Mmmmmm" and stay under the covers (cave) for my own safety.  I think we may have a tempestuous director on our hands.

Monday, March 28, 2011

March is Reading Month, Tip #28: Find a New Author

Find a New Author!

Fran is figuring out that finding an author or a series is a good way to know what to read next. And Fran is smitten with the Froggy books by Jonathan London.  They're easy, Claude will sit and listen to him read them, and they're silly.  And I love that they are sharing a book together.

Now, if you are looking for a new author, this week's hot-author recommendations from TRWH are:

Jan Thomas
Frank Asch
James Marshall
Laurie Keller
Melanie Watt
Lillian and Russell Hoban

Make a decision to find a new author, a new-to-you author, or a knew-but-forgot-about author.  So many books, so little time!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

March is Reading Month, Tip #27: Gather a Book Collection

Gather a Book Collection.

As a classroom teacher, I liked to involve children with setting up the classroom library. There were books organized by level, by author, by genre, by series, and by topic or theme. It was interesting to see that a book could belong to more than one category; with plenty of people using the library, sometimes we needed to look in two baskets to find something. The year I had the kids overhaul the nonfiction section of our library, creating categories that made sense to them, was a year the library worked so well. Since they were invested in it, they took care of it.

My initial goal for this post was to finally create book lists I want (to help support my ever deflating memory): dog books, bunny books, books with characters who write, books with strong grandmothers, funny books, books with interesting structure...

I was planning on gathering the dog books in a basket for my house for the kids. Yesterday, without knowing this, Francis looked up at me said,"You know what? I am really interested in spiders." And the dog books didn't seem very pressing (until my next Colby Dog Story time).

It's just like setting up the library: if kids do it themselves, it means more. I could work my tail off and gather dog books, but right now- he's thinking spiders.  I know I could sell the dog books (with Colby's help), but the spiders will sell themselves. If we gather together, instead of me gathering what I think he should read, we will work together to gather what he wants to find out about, which surely will be more meaningful to him.

So here we are, gathering books about spiders: fiction and nonfiction. (Holy cannoli, could I have asked for a better introduction to reading "Charlotte's Web?")

So- to be delivered soon, a spider book list by Francis.