Monday, August 30, 2010

Spectacular Southwest

This summer I've ended up having a couple of big trips for work that took me towards the west coast. I had to get to New Mexico by the middle of August, so I took a detour to Colorado first to visit the Rocky Mountain Mama and her family! I brought the boys some gifts. Super Sweet S is going into first grade and is apparently literally reading everything! "Titi," he says, "Do you want me to read the catalog about Halloween Costumes?"

His younger brother, Younger Brother E, is also obsessed with reading books as well. I brought a whole load of books with me as my, "Thank you for having me in your house this weekend gift." Among other books, I brought the boys a new series of comic chapter books, The Dodge Ball Chronicles! Apparently they loved them!

After visiting the southwest, Colorado and New Mexico, I decided I needed to search for my souvenirs for my nephew and Little Moon (who I would be visiting for the second part of my west coast tour after New Mexico). I found some great wildlife books. I found a board book about animals in the southwest, and a beautiful photography book of baby animals from this area. I also discovered a new series of non fiction books from Farcountry- So I had to get, The Rocky Mountain Babies.

I would be remiss if I didn't also pick up a story about the Day of the Dead after being in the Southwest. Luckily I found one by Tony Johnston and Jeanette Winters.

As I made my way from Colorado to New Mexico and then on to Seattle, I both dropped books off and picked new ones up to bring with me as souvenirs of my travels!

Hope your summer has been filled with travels and books! What books have you picked up as souvenirs to help you and the ones you love remember your adventures!

The nephew- Sending Back to Canada

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Reading in a Series in French

I have been building up my nephew's library at home. He now has officially taken over the complete last two shelves (three if you count the stacking of books under the shelves) of my sister's floor to ceiling bookshelf that takes up the entire living room wall. While I feel quite proud, about a third of his library is now in French. My nephew is bilingual. To support his linguistic development in his second language, I have been diligent to find books in French that hold his interest, introduce him to new and challenging vocabulary, and that span both story, poetry, and non fiction texts. I buy him books that his mother (who is fluent in French) and his babysitters can read to him with no problem. I also have bought him books that I can read to him (ones that are a bit simpler for the novice French speaker).

I found many series that he has absolutely fallen in love with that I can read too. Our two favorites are: Crocolou and the Petit Garcon series. Crocolou's books are simple stories all about a little crocodile named, Crocolou. Each book centers around another thing that he loves: Crocolou aime sa mama, Crocolou aime l'ecole etc. With a few re-readings of these books my nephew has been able to "learn" them and fill in the blanks, quickly and easily when i make dramatic pauses for him to chime in. Even as simple as these books are, they still introduce new vocabulary to us!

The Petit Garcon series are fun. Each one is about another little boy enjoying some sort of transportation: Le Train de Bastien, La Moto de Marco, L'Avion de Gaston etc. They also rhyme. This makes it fun for my nephew to listen to but also easier for me to read with the rhythm!

If your kids are bilingual, make sure you have the books in both languages in your house! Read them together! Bilingualism is a gift to be treasured! Spend time in the "not so dominate" language together.

If you are not bilingual, but enjoy languages and want the kids in your lives to enjoy languages too, buy books in foreign languages. Read them with your child. Study the pictures hard! Reading is a great way to learn a language and to develop appreciation for different languages. Be brave! Dive right in! Pick up a children's book in a language you studied in high school or college- practice reading it and then share it with a child! Have fun.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Make Your Own Interactive Memory Book

This year, after visiting my nephew for three weeks, I left with him a 'memory book'. This book I have left blank spaces under each of our amazing things that we have done, for him to fill in the pictures. His drawing has improved so much over the year. He now makes representational shapes that really match the object he is drawing. He made an incredible Beluga Whale this summer that will now hang in my office. Hopefully over the days, until I see him next, he will make pictures that match the things that we did. Fortunately, I also snapped a few photos that I can bring and paste into the memory book as well. But why not make it interactive!

Hope you are enjoying your summer with the kids in your lives!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Life: Acting Real Life Out

When you ask my nephew what his favorite videos are, he now replies, "Planet Earth, Life, Galapagos (en francais) and T'choupi (en francais aussi). Life, is another version of Planet Earth, narrated by Oprah Winfrey. It is a beautiful display of wildlife across the globe.

My nephew, in true 3 year old form, enjoys acting the different scenes. He gets his animal critters out of the toy box and begins to explore, who hunts who? Hunting and Hunted is his favorite episode. Unfortunately we don't have an ostrich for the cheetah to eat nor do we have a "cheetah deer" for the tiger. Luckily he can improvise. Sometimes he enjoys acting out the videos without props and just take on the animal personalities himself. He ropes in other 'actors', like myself to play different roles.

From Galapagos, one of his favorite scenes is watching the giant predatory birds hunt for iguanas, swimming in the sea.

The videos have been amazing to develop quite a large and specific vocabulary and to introduce the concept of "interdependence". Acting out before, during or after, is a great way to have a 'conversation' with kids about what they are understanding and thinking about while watching videos!

Enjoy the stage with your kids! Enjoy Life!

Sunday, August 22, 2010


Seriously I want to visit here: The Okinawa Churumi Aquarium.
Amazing. Adding it to my international travel I must do with my nephew.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Observation Journals

My nephew, sister and I recently went to the science museum/aquarium in Burlington. There were wonderful fish, frogs and reptiles to observe. There was a wonderful hands on project: dissecting owl pellets. My nephew discovered lots of skulls and bones! In the resource center there were other tanks and animals, along with books and puppets and the like to really get another up close vision of wildlife.

At the tank there was a snake inside. Interesting enough, there was a journal right next to it. It was filled with comments and observations and questions from many different visitors of different ages. We looked and observed not only in the tank but we reread all the comments made across time about this snake. It was fascinating!

What a wonderful idea. You could have a notebook/sketch book set up in your home, next to a plant, a terrarium or aquarium in your home. You and your child could observe and note take. When you have guests come to your house you can urge them to "leave a note" in your observation journal. What a fun thing to keep- just like a real scientist. What a neat thing to look back over and read!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Baby Layal Welcome

I just got to visit with Baby Layal- (The nights).
New Mommy R looks amazing and the baby is just precious!

Super congrats to all!

A song in her honor: You are my sunshine

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Kitty Landers

Check it out- a show for kids!
Interesting themes and original characters.
Online has so much to offer!


YouTube Site:

Saturday, August 14, 2010

One Family Teaching Literacy

Families can make a difference. Read about the Kugler Family working in South Africa for their summer vacation. Inspiring!

Kugler Blog:

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Singing in the Car

Needless to say, on our journey north, we had many hours to 'kill' in the car! No worries, because Auntie brought lots of music to pass the time away. Of course we brought our favorite, They Might Be Giants (1,2,3 and Here Comes Science).

We also brought a new favorite- Pete Seeger's CD- Stories and Songs For Little Children. My nephew "studied" PS in his school. He is one of their 'heroes'. He made a little Banjo and loves to 'strum i' and sing Skip to My Lou. So we definitely took that with us.

We also took a new cd in french, Un Tresor Dans Mon Jardin. A series of beautiful songs and poems all in French. Big Girl Jas and my nephew enjoyed this cd immensely. Even though BGJ doesn't speak French, she appreciates the sounds and languages from everywhere. She too is bilingual, English and Spanish. Since the two kids are both bilingual they had a lot of discussion about languages and translating. BGJ picked out her favorite song on the album- Comptine pour endormir un enfants.

We can't leave home with Father Goose and Dan Zane. So we brought - Catch the Train and It's a Bam Bam Diddly. There is Haitian Creole, Zulu and Spanish! BGJ enjoyed singing and translating that one - Mariposa Ole!- for everyone.

Don't forget your music in the car!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Birthday Wishes: Put on a Play

Mommy R came on vacation and I learned all these great literary events you can have at home with your child. Big Girl Jas is turning 8 this year. She is trying to decide how she would like to celebrate her birthday. Last year, when she turned 7, she decided she wanted to put on a play for her birthday.

I know. When I heard the idea at first it seemed complicated and difficult. But when you get to know BGJ, you see that theater and dance are her passions. Mommy R also shares these passions with her daughter.

So, they decided to give it a try. They first picked a story that they could share with their friends, give everyone lines, and have costumes for everyone. They chose an "Anansi" story to tell. I cannot remember which folktale about the famous spider they chose.

They sent out a quick invitation- asking for an immediate RSVP to see who could make it and wanted to perform with BGJ in the play. They asked kids, Do you want a speaking role or a non speaking role? Then they sent all the kids their lines so that they could practice and 'rehearse' at home.

When the kids arrived to the party, Mommy R and BGJ and all the kids began to do a 'run through' of the play at home. They then practiced with costumes (supplied as best as possible from BGJ's collection of dress up clothes). Kids were in charge, so there were no 'wrong' costumes. Kids could be as creative as possible. Then they did a run through with the costumes on!

Next they ate cake and ice cream! Finally they went to the local ample theater in their local park. (Seriously- they have one. How perfect, right?) They did one more run through on the stage. Then they got to put on their make up!

The parents came to pick up their kids from the birthday. Right before they all left- the kids put on the play for all the parents and care-givers and kids! Quite a celebration, no? For everyone.
What an experience! I love it! Who knows, maybe this year, BGJ will write her own play to perform next!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Telling and Swapping Stories that Matter

In between lake and pool, tennis and shuffle board, we had some time on our hands to share stories. Mommy R loves to tell stories too! But she doesn't just tell any story. Many of her stories she tells, ends of teaching us all something. They all sound vaguely familiar, but are not 'real stories' but certainly ones we can relate to.

Mommy R asks everyone who is going to listen to the story if they want to be in the story or not. My nephew decided yes. Big Girl Jas decided no. All that meant was that Mommy R would tell a story with your name in it. But it was sure to be 'fictional'. One of the stories that Mommy R told was a story about my nephew, and his friend, "Hakim" (aka my nephew's doll's name). It was a story about how "Hakim" didn't like to play tennis. He found it very frustrating. He got very angry. "My nephew's character" had to think of a way to included him and to help him not be frustrated.

Can you imagine a real episode like this? I truly can. It was interesting to see how the two kids listened to this story and how they re- thought about the time we played tennis. Telling stories help you to hold on to memories and to also work out the problems and issues in our lives- no matter how small or big!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Dancing and Singing Your Own Tunes

The nephew, sister and I drove up to Mont Tremblant and we invited our friends, Mommy R and Big Girl Jas with us! Up in our chalet- over looking the mountains and lake we were granted several dancing and singing performances from the kids. An almost 8 year old is heaven to a 3 year old! They had such a blast. BGJ would take the nephew in another room, and "teach him" his steps and the song that they were performing. In about 2 minutes the little nephew had to learn a lot, or just follow her lead. We were serenaded by, "These are a few of my favorite things..." and "I'm am sixteen going seventeen..." and "I close my eyes, pull back the curtain..."

I have to say my favorites were the ones that they made up. BGJ had a few that she sang. One I think was titled, "Swan Lake". My nephew did one in English and one in French, both I believe titled, "Fire Truck"/ "Camion Pompier". Can you imagine what happens in that song/rap? Yes, lots of crashing!

Everyday was a series of songs that we got to watch and appreciate. What a nice time to pass together (and bond!). Writing is a great way to hold on to your memories. You can write your stories down in a memory notebook- or why not your new songs! Who knows, you may have an album in the works!