Monday, January 23, 2012

Mirthful Monday: Mormon Swear!

This video was pretty funny. I don't do much Mormon swear (I'm of the opinion that you might as well say the real word or avoid the sentiment altogether), but I am guilty of an impassioned "Holy Buckets!"--which is about as Mormon as it gets. And I should probably admit that I am guilty of the occasional cuss, but don't tell my mother because I really don't want to get my mouth washed out with soap. Again.


Anyway, on to the funny:

Happy Monday!


Friday, January 13, 2012

Kids + Books = FUN! (A book club for your elementary school)

All right, so I said I wasn't going to volunteer for anything new this year and thus far--13 days into the new year--I have kept to my promise. But one volunteer opportunity that I've been working on since last fall is finally coming to fruition and I wanted to blog about it.

Feeling like my children needed more extension opportunities (that's teacher-talk for enriching and extra-curricular learning activities; usually teachers mean a gifted and talented program; I just mean something that will encourage my kids to actively think.) I talked my school into investigating the Junior Great Books program, which my oldest had really enjoyed doing at a previous school. They agreed to, so long as I was willing to run the program. I investigated the JGB program, but felt like the cost and required training were prohibitive. And, hey, I happen to have a Literature degree and what does it qualify me for if not to talk about books? I got together with a couple other moms and we put together our own 6 week curriculum--complete with integrated arts activities.

Last Tuesday we had our first meeting and it went great. I plan on posting the details for each week as we go through them. We ended up with around 70 kids (out of a school of around 300)enrolled. We split it up according to grade level. I'm running the group for the Kinders (I have 12 of them), another mom is doing the first graders (a group of 15), a third mom is running the group for second and third graders (she's got 23 kids), and a fourth mom is handling the fourth and fifth graders (there's about 19 of them).

For our opening discussion we had each child bring a favorite book and tell one or two sentences about it. Then we read a fabulous children's book by Ed Young, Seven Blind Mice. I read the book aloud, but only showed the abstract pictures to the children and had them try to guess what it was the seven blind mice had found. Before I got to the end I stopped and read the book again showing all the pictures--at which point it was obvious what the mice had found.

Our discussion question(s) for the week: How does not having all the information about something change the way you look at it? How can we avoid being "blind mice" when we read? The older groups also discussed the proverb at the end and talked about what a proverb is, suggesting their own. They also talked about how their ability to see changes the way they interact with the world.

Activity: For our hands-on activity, I brought a random selection of toys and some bandanas. Without showing the kids I hid the toys under the bandanas and had the kids feel them and try to guess what was under there. Then I put the kids in groups of two or three and had them sculpt stuff out of play doh (here's a great recipe for homemade play-doh; super easy and super cheap!) which they then hid under the bandanas and had the other kids try to guess what they were.

Five-year-olds aren't known for having long attention spans, and they moved through the discussion and activities pretty quick. As a backup plan I brought five or six of my favorite picture books and a bean bag. I had the kids sit in a circle and we passed the bean bag while singing "Reading a Book is Fun to Do". (This tune is a staple for Mormon kiddos, so my daughter was the only one who knew it; but the other kids picked it up after I sang it to them once.) When the song was done whoever was holding the bean bag got to pick a book for me to read. I then did a fairly dramatized reading of the book, encouraging the kids to act it out with me. They chose There's a Nightmare in my Closet by Mercer Mayer (who, BTW, looks a lot like his much-loved Little Critter character). The kids had a great time making scared faces, brave faces, and boo-hooing like the nightmare.

This was actually a ton of fun. Kids will always surprise you with their thoughts and the way the relate to/interpret the world around them.

So, tell me: what are your favorite books to read with your kid? What do you do to make reading fun?

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

New Year's Resolutions (What I'm NOT going to do.)

I'm not a big fan of resolutions. Maybe it's because I'm already really good at stressing myself out, but giving myself one more list of things to do (and they are usually really BIG things) just seems like a prescription for nuttiness--and we all know I have plenty of that already!

Also, I may be a lot like Calvin. I think most of us are. After all, it's always easier to talk about how other people need to change than to change ourselves.

But change is actually something I'm a big fan of. Well, let me restate that: self-induced and self-aware change is very thrilling to me. Change that comes from the outside is usually pretty frightening and makes me at the very least catty and at the very worst non-functioning. So, in the spirit of embracing self-aware change in my life (because maybe if I embrace self-aware change I can keep the bad change away??), I am making a single resolution: stop volunteering for stuff.

If you know me in my personal life, you know that I spend a lot of time starting projects and not always finishing them because I end up volunteering to do some other project for someone else. For instance, I have the beginnings of 5 novels written (and some of those novels are almost completely outlined) but I have no finished manuscript. This blog is another good example. I still have it up as a resource and because I intend to post on a number of topics but, well, I don't because I'm spending time planning my Primary lessons, or getting ready for the book club at my kids' elementary school (that I'm helping with), or putting together stuff for the Odyssey of the Mind program I'm running, or running my kids between soccer practices and piano lessons and doctor/orthodontist appointments, and who knows what else!

Now, I firmly believe this is a phase of life thing and that spending time with my kids doing enriching and challenging activities is a great thing but that doesn't stop me from being jealous when someone else finishes a project that doesn't involve their children. Hence my resolution: stop volunteering for stuff!! All those things that keep me crazy-busy and up till all hours of the night are things I volunteered to do. I can make better choices.

My resolution last year was to finish up some unfinished projects. I almost completed one (catching up my kids journals). I made some headway on another (family scrapbook). I started shopping a manuscript for a children's book (it's gotten one rejection, one "ask again later", and one I haven't heard back on yet). And I started exercising again and got rid of my back pain. Also, none of my children died or went hungry or naked and my marriage is intact. See? It was a GREAT year!

I'm hoping my resolution this year to STOP VOLUNTEERING FOR STUFF, LAURA!! (I'm putting it in caps as a way of yelling at myself, not as you, my lovely readers!) will aid me in accomplishing last year's goal of actually finishing what I start.

Wish me luck! How about you? Got any good what-not-to-do resolutions??