Friday, December 29, 2006

Twipply Skwood (& other cute things my nephews said)

Twipply Skwood
As a teacher, I’m not really supposed to be a big fan of children swearing. I always act appropriately shocked when I hear grown up words coming from little mouths at school (even though, let’s face it, people swear in front of their kids all the time & it’s not all that shocking that kids repeat what they hear). But I began actively promoting the phrase “twipply skwood” practically the moment my six year old nephew first uttered it. Turns out he was “skwood” because he walked under a ladder or a broom. But then he was doubly “skwood” because he had done it at midnight. By the time I overheard the conversation, he was onto his third and final announcement that he was “twipply skwood” because he had done it at midnight while at mama’s house. It’s a fine saying and one that bears repeating (and naming a blog after, I’m afraid).

I guess I should add that while I only pretend to be shocked at young children using swear words, I actually *am* shocked when I hear them using them purposefully in mean or vicious yet familiar way (one year a two year old called my assistant a "stupid *sshole" for instance in response to being redirected). But then I'm usually surprised when someone so young uses words in a particularly hurtful way, swear words or not.

Is it live?
Since none of us can stand to watch for too long, my family generally prefers the supervision of the children’s sledding adventures to be a group effort, ideally performed from inside the house. That way my mom can glance out the window on occasion and make sure they haven’t shed any blood in her garden. I can glance out periodically and do a quick math problem…four appendages and one head per child, each visible and still attached to their respective bodies: check! My brother, with either stronger nerves or a more intense curiosity gazes out long enough to proclaim things like, “Oh my God! They’re sledding all the way down the hill, over the driveway, and into that stone wall!” and "Should we tell them they're not allowed to be standing up if they're going to sled over that stone ledge?" For this reason, when my nephew Rex (otherwise brilliant in my humble opinion), asked if they could go out sledding at the crack of dawn I muttered, “At least one other grown up has to be awake before you can go sledding.” Math expertise in full swing Rex checked to make sure: “You’re awake!?!”

Good ole’ Joe
This conversation was on the tails of a lengthy one where my brother refuted ever hearing of a person named Joe ZINmaggio, and took place between my nephew Rex and my sister in law Erin:

Erin, “It’s Joe DImaggio”

Rex, “Well I like Joe ZINmaggio”

Erin, “Then marry him”

Rex (full of genuine curiosity), “Is he a girl?”

Erin, “No”

Rex, “Then I can’t marry him! Only in Vermont.”

And in a seperate conversation between Erin and Rex: We are ready to walk to a restaurant. Rex has been bouncing loudly up and down the sidewalk as we wait for my brother to come out of the house, full of all the boyish behavior people generally deem unacceptable in public places. Erin calmly lets him know, “If you act like this in the restaurant, you and I will have to leave. Everyone else will stay, but I’ll have to take you home.” As if calming down were beyond consideration, Rex’s immediate and sole question was “Do I bring my food?”

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Osama may have gotten

Jim Hightower's deodorant, but he didn't get mine!

While I've perfected my
pre-flight purse purge to rid myself of handheld tools, I seem to have forgotten just how many liquids lurk in the depths.

When they asked me about liquids, my mind immediately
leapt to the gallon sized bag of rapidly melting ice that was keeping my sandwich cold. Ice...various first grade science lessons whipped through my mind. "Definitely a solid" I thought, as I confidently offered my "Nope!" No liquids here. At least not for another 15 minutes or so.

I watched other passengers grapple with
ziplocks and surrender toiletries, secure and happy in my delusion that I was more or less in compliance with the regulations. Apparently I was convincing enough that not even *I* suspected that I also harbored such contraband as a tube of lip gloss, a bottle of hand sanitizer, a bottle of spray sunscreen, a packet of matches, and a bottle of spray deodorant.

Now where's that knife? I brought an
avocado to eat on the plane.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

And Quit Sucker Punching the Third Graders!

My kids, my cousin's son Zachary, and I arrive home from a weekend retreat earlier this month. We 're picked up from the bus stop by my cousin Marla, Zach's mom. Zach had been a councilor in Jared's bunk for the weekend. Jared also has a Sunday school friend named Zachary who also is in the third grade and who happened to have punched Jared in the face on the bus ride home.

As we pulled out Marla asked, "What was your favorite part of the weekend?" The kids were apparently too exhausted to answer, so I turn to Jared and offer jokingly, "Getting punched in the face by Zachary?!?!"

Marla sounds as if she has been punched herself as she exclaims, "WHAT!!!!!!?????!!!!!!" And I, having quickly realized my mistake blurt, "Oh no! Not YOUR Zachary! Jared's FRIEND Zachary!"

Zachary calmly points out, "You just gave my mom a little heart attack."

To which I can't help but reply, "Yeah Zach! Quit sucker punching the third graders!" What kind of religious retreat is this, anyway?!?

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Popper Nose

Here's my eleven year old hiding what must be disaster to a recent middle school student newly aware that hair actually does look better brushed and that there just might possibly be more to clothing than comfort. She looks happy in the picture, but that's actually deceiving. Yes, she was pleased that I didn't get a picture of her popper nose, but actually embarrassed and, I believe, insulted that her old friend the popper would do this to her.

If you are unfamiliar to poppers, let me introduce this cheap form of entertainment. I first saw one when my son brought one home from art class as a good behavior prize. "Really?" I asked, "That's a prize?" Looked like a broken or lost piece of something or another to me.

But as it turned out, those hours of fun that toy commercials talk about are contained not in expensive toys with buttons galore, but these little half ball shaped pieces of plastic. They push it down like a suction cup on a hard surface, and it pops back up. (picture above). They are especially fun to stick on your nose, apparently. But not as fun when you go to your new brand new middle school the next morning with a big, purple bruise across the bridge of your nose.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

First Day of School

Here they are just out the door, full of from-scratch-pancakes they helped make that morning, still totally unsuspecting of the chaos ahead...

Monday, August 14, 2006

Some days are just like that

My brother told me once that nobody has bad days like I do. Maybe it's just Alexander and me (but I doubt it):

8:00 Get lost delivering my son to his class. Realize that his teacher has absolutely NO contact information for me what so ever. Copy phone numbers for him to keep in his pocket & leave four minutes later than planned.

8:15 The time I was *supposed* to headed West toward work, my car is inching East toward my daughter's new middle school. Or at least it's inching along until about...

8:20 My car is at a total standstill. All the streets around the her new school are packed full of cars going nowhere. I decide to take the first available parking spot and walk her the rest of the way to school. Mobs of children are everywhere, with minimal supervision. The woman who assured me that all children were closely supervised is nowhere in sight. I did see two, maybe even three school employees planted amongst the mad confusion. My daughter assures me that she will be fine & disappears into the masses (who have not yet been let into the building).

8:30 I am supposed to be arriving at work; instead I am almost back at my car.

8:45 I walk in 15 minutes late to the first meeting of the day & plop down in the first available seat - right next to my principal.

9:15 Several people have been getting up for coffee during the presentation & I decide to do the same. My cell phone (which is still innocently sitting right next to my principal & which I decided against turning off considering the total bedlam where I had just left my daughter) went off loudly just as I was spilling half a cup of coffee all over the table.

12:00 I finally finish eighteen cute little prayer booklets made for my cute little class. They're so stinkin' cute, in fact, that I hardly notice I have put the title upside down on every last cute little book.

12:30 One of my parents (also a staff member) takes the time to let me know that she will be complaining to the principal about our classroom policies (before I even make any).

3:00 Finally time to pick up my lil' darlin's. How was my son's day? "Fine. Except you bought me the wrong school supplies." He was the only third grader with a ($40) second grade school supply package, conveniently labeled in permanent marker the night before, so as to render it un-returnable.

3:45 Another fight through traffic and we are looking around for my daughter, who is nowhere to be found. Luckily I told her to call me if she didn't find me by...

4:00 My cell phone rings. I can't hear anything, but she manages to hear me yelling for her to go to the door of the main office. Here's how her day had gone:
  • She got lost three times
  • She was tardy two times
  • She was put into a beginning sports class even though she has been doing the sport for over three years
  • They had no schedule for her. She ended up waiting for half an hour in the library for them to find her one.
  • She was transferred her away from her original homeroom where she knew one person to a new homeroom where she didn't know anyone.
  • Her PE teacher was so mean she was scared to ask about the size SIXTEEN shorts they gave her (she wears an 8).
  • She was NOT put in gifted and talented even though I turned in all her paperwork and she qualified.
9:30 I get a call from my co-teacher explaining that one day before school starts, the principal has decided our classroom needs to be totally rearranged, right down to where we store our manipulatives and which carpet can be used for circle time.

Some days are just like that...even in Australia.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Apparantly the novelty has worn off

Worn off of finding out what friends and relatives live or have lived in our current apartment complex, that is. Still, this was an interesting conversation with my 11 year old, especially considering that our city is one of the five largest in the US:

Me: "Guess what sweetie? One of the administrators in my new school..."
Her: Bored look followed by, "lives in our apartment complex?"

Me: "No, guess again."
Her: "Used to live in our apartment complex?"
Me: "No."

Her: "You saw her in the laundry room?"
Me: "Keep guessing!"

Her: "We sat next to her on an airplane?"
Me: "Guess again!"

Her: "She has bright red hair?"
Me: "Closer! It is something about her head."

Her: "She goes to my same orthodontist?"
Me: "No."
Her: "She works with my same orthodontist?"
Me: "No."
Her: "She *IS* my orthodontist?!?"

Me: "No. Give up?"
Her: "Yes."

Me: "Your great grandfather put in all the fillings in her teeth!"
Her: "That's weird!"

Uh huh!!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

My living room looks like

a laundromat threw up in kids got home from camp yesterday YAY!!!!! They both had a great time. Jared only managed to come home with about five items of clothing that weren't his but without a single one of the six towels I sent. Meanwhile I'm trying to find a home for the other 724 items only needed a couple times a year for camp.

The other big event of my day yesterday was divorce court. For all the fear I had of going, it turned out to be intensely, intensely...boring. Comic relief was at hand though, provided by our friendly neighborhood security guards.

Maybe I should watch more movies, but I was unprepared to go through a metal detector on the way in. As they searched through my purse in confusion I offered, "Could it be my pliers?" wondering if perhaps my all-purpose/leatherman type tool had caused the problem. Yes, they were sure that would have been it, but were unable to find the tool. "It's in that pocket." I offered, "But it's in there with..." Too late! Gruff looking security guard's hands are already brandishing my...ahem...feminine products. Luckily my good friend swiped them up quickly & deposited them in her purse (how'd *she* get through so easily?). "Oh well, if this is the worst this day has to offer, I'm off easy," I finally decided.

And while it was the only public humiliation I had to endure that day, it turned out not to be the end of the security road for my purse. They put it back through the machine only to show another item not allowed by the court. This time the guard was quick to find my screwdriver. Well?!? Doesn't everyone carry a screwdriver in her purse? By this time I believe even all three security guards were amused. What can I say? It was obvious that the boyscouts lost out when they refused to let me join back in '79.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Great Chapter Book Read Alouds for Elementary

(Updated in January of 2015 with clickable affiliate links to Amazon - see full disclosure here!)

I’ve recreated this list several times for different purposes, so I figured why not just keep it handy? These are all books Cassie and Jared enjoyed listening to and that I enjoyed reading to them. I tried to list books appropriate for a wide age range, since there is so much variation in listening comprehension and interest from child to child. Jared listened to each and every one of these books before the end of second grade, and I have no doubt that Cassie, now going into sixth, would gladly read any of them again.

The Phantom Tollbooth
by Norton Juster

A great, great book. I read this book to my kids just about every year of their elementary school lives, or at least until they took over for themselves.

Arthur, High King of Britain
by Michael Morpurgo

This one sparked an interest in all things King Arthur and also named one of our cats.  Of course, I’ve since heard the name Nimue pronounced three different ways now.

A Swiftly Tilting Planet and/or
A Wind in the Door
by Madeleine L'Engle

Madeleine L'Engle has many, many more but these three (and actually Many Waters
too) are great for elementary. Jared enjoyed these three in Kindergarten and will enjoy them again soon.

Black Beauty
by Anna Sewell

Oldy but goody...I actually had no interest in this book as a child, but thoroughly enjoyed reading it to my kids when they were in first and fourth grades.

by Lloyd Alexander

My kids like cats and wizards, so they enjoyed this one. I thought it was pretty good too.

His Majesty's Dragon
by Naomi Novik

We loved this entire series, although my boy was in fifth grade when we started it. Definitely for upper elementary or even early middle school

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
by Roald Dahl

Of course. 
I didn’t enjoy The Great Glass Elevator quite as much, but the kids did like it. James and the Giant Peach was never my favorite either. We all liked Witches a lot. Cassie really liked the BFG and Matilda, although I haven’t read either in their entirety. He has a LOT to choose from if you like him.

by Christopher Paolini

This might really be too difficult for a kindergartner or first grader, but Jared loved it in second grade. If you or your child likes magic or dragons, it’s a good one.  We didn't quite get into the others in the series quite as quickly.

by E.L. Konigsburg

The DaVinci Code has nothing on this one...well, at least as far as the ten and under set are concerned.

by Richler Wegner

Another one I chose because I enjoyed it as a child. Jacob’s need to say everything twice rings true. Apparently there’s a whole series though, so I can't speak to the rest of them.

by Beverly Cleary

If you like Junie B. Jones and don’t know Ramona yet (are there parents who don’t know Ramona?) run don’t walk and all that…it’s just as great for boys, by the way.

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH
by Robert C. O'Brien

Just another all around great book. There is also a book called The Secret of Nimh, which I think might be based on the movie. After he died, his daughter also published a couple of books based on his notes and characters.

The Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup and a Spool of Thread
Because of Winn-Dixie
by Kate Dicamillo

Ok, so our favorite part of Desperaux was shouting out “GOR!”. Both were very sweet and enjoyable stories which Jared enjoyed as much as Cassie did.

Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing
(and other Fudge books)
by Judy Blume

The Ear, the Eye, and the Arm
by Nancy Farmer

A futuristic book that my kids listened to over and over and over and over. I didn't even get tired of it. Although...I'm okay with a pretty good dose of repetition. That's why I'm a preschool teacher.

Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing

Funny ones that I remember reading as a kid.

The Pepins and Their Problems
The Trolls
Everything on a Waffle
by Polly Horvath

I’d start with Trolls and The Peppins.  But Everything on a Waffle is also excellent!

Midnight for Charlie Bone
by Jenny Nimmo

If you have a kid who loves Harry Potter but has run out of reading material, this is a fun next series. Same sort of kid at magical school type setting.  My boy and I didn't end up reading this entire series, mostly because we didn't start almost until he was in middle school.  But we enjoyed the first few and I'm sure if we had discovered them sooner, we would have read all of them.

The Name of this Book Is Secret (The Secret Series)
Pseudonymous Bosch

We had a lot of fun with this whole series. It's mystery and a little suspense and some magic, but presented with much humor. Amazon lists it for ages eight and up, and kids may need to be at least that to get some of the jokes. But there's no rule that says you can't read over their heads and explain as much as you can, then reread when they get a little older!

Over Sea, Under Stone
by Susan Cooper

This is the first in a series that is probably best left to upper elementary, since they can be just a little on the scary side, but the entire series is suspenseful and fun read.

The Wheel on the School
by Meindert DeJong:

It didn’t seem that promising when we started it (it’s about a girl who tries to figure out why storks don’t live in her village anymore), but the kids liked it enough to listen to it twice.

Where the Red Fern Grows
by Wilson Rawls

Get the tissues ready for the end of the book. Jared was in kindergarten when I read this to him, and he was just SOBBING at the end.

Gregor The Overlander (Underland Chronicles, Book 1)
by Suzanne Collins

An all around great series about a boy who discovers an underground world populated by talking heebeejeebies. As bonus, I became just the teeniest, tiniest bit less afraid of cockroaches as the result of them being the good guys.

Crispin: The Cross of Lead
by Avi

I read this book to my daughter one day when she was home sick from school. Yes, one day. Granted, she was sick and couldn't do much else, but we didn't want to stop reading. We enjoyed the other ones in this series too.

The Whipping Boy
by Sid Fleischman

We had this one a good long time before I read it to the kids. I guess I was kind of afraid of the title – I thought it might be for older children. But we liked it.

Books about children with no parents or trying to find or save their parents are always fascinating to children. Along with the books I’ve already mentioned, my kids and I both loved Bud, Not Buddy
by Christopher Paul Curtis, The Cay (Laurel-Leaf Books)
by Theodore Taylor (be prepared to talk about war, hurricanes, and racism), My Side of the Mountain
by Jean Craighead George, The Sign of the Beaver
by Elizabeth George Speare, Dave at Night
by Gail Carson Levine


More great ones for older listeners -

The House of the Scorpion

My boy loved this one so much that he reread it a few times after I read it to him. That NEVER happened.  This is another by the same author as The Eye, The Ear, and The Arm, but the concepts are a little better loved by fifth grade and above I would think.  But Amazon lists it for ages seven and up, so it might be just as interesting for the littler ones.

by Philip Pullman

The movie was so-so but the book was wonderful. All the books in the series were good too, in a strange and enchanted way.

Read alouds that are too popular to need mentioning, but that I have to mention anyway - 

Magic Tree House
by Mary Pope Osborne

It’s hard to tell what’s best about this series: that they’re entertaining and yet unapologetically educational at the same time, that it’s the girl who always wants to barge on ahead and take chances while the boy balks, that they are short enough to read in one night …either way, the kids love them and I can read a good ten or fifteen out of the series without getting too bored.

I made the mistake of getting one of the "reference guides" when they were first recommended to me and I was all, "This doesn't seem so great...".

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

by JK Rowling:

Need I say more? Ok, well since you asked…these were too scary for either of my kids in kindergarten and even first grade was stretching it a little.

The Chronicles of Narnia
by CS Lewis

We had better luck with these in third grade and above. Second grade was a little young for them.

Junie B. Jones's First Boxed Set Ever!
by Barbara Park

This is a love ‘em or hate ‘em type series. You have to be able to let go of the idea of correct grammar to truly enjoy them.

While that’s obviously not every book we’ve enjoyed over the past few years, I figure it’s at least a good start!

Happy reading!


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