Open Letter to the Internet

Dear The Internet,

Hi! It’s me, Amanda. You may have heard of me. I have a blog. I spend time on Twitter and Facebook. In general, I’m a huge fan of yours. I appreciate how much knowledge I can discover in a very short period of time. Many of my evenings are spent with you, reading or finding recipes. You also make me laugh. I appreciate you.

However. Continue reading

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Internet Children

When I was in university, I was a champion procrastinator.  My program of study was called “Child, Youth and Family”. The result? I have seen pretty much any YouTube video that involves children.

I will now share with you a few of my favourites.

This tiny man is the cutest and also the reason I lisp whenever I say the word “lobsters”.

Guys, ripping paper is FUNNY.

This girl cracks me up. She just puts a bunch of junk all over her face. Chicka chicka wow wow!

I don’t understand why his name is Jose Luis either, OK?

This kid made the list because of the way he says “fish”. Also, I think he’s related to the lobster kid.

I don’t know how I feel about this girl. She scares me a little bit, but at least she has her priorities straight. “This is my life.”

And my favourite kid video of all time….

Challenge: Find a youtube video with a kid in it that I haven’t seen. I will be your friend forever if you do.

Book Talk: Favourite Authors

I have a rather extensive collection of children’s books. If I go to a bookstore, I make a beeline for the kid’s section. I claim it’s because I’m a teacher, but in reality, I really love well crafted literature for children. I’ve talked about what to look for in kids books before. Now let’s get down to specifics. When you think classic kids stuff, your brain may wander to the likes of Jean Little, Shel Silverstein and Beatrix Potter. They’re classics for a reason. I love them, but I want to offer you a list of authors you may not know about.

Without further ado…

Mo Willems
He has won six Emmy Awards for his writing and animation on Sesame Street. Clearly the man is brilliant.

Known for: The Pigeon books: Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!, Don’t Let The Pigeon Stay Up Late!, The Pigeon Wants a Hot Dog!, The Pigeon Wants a Puppy!

My favourites: Edwina, the Dinosaur Who Didn’t Know She Was Extinct, Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed, Hooray For Amanda and her Alligator!

Why I love Mo: This man’s writing makes me laugh out loud when I’m alone in public. He is strange, goofy and names his characters things like Reginald von Hoobie Doobie. These books are just as fun for adults to read as they are for the kids. In the Pigeon books especially, he manages to convey rather advanced emotions just using facial expressions. On a pigeon. I don’t know if I can fully explain his brilliance and hilarity but to say this: if you don’t laugh while reading his books, you are made of stone.

AND: You can follow the Pigeon on Twitter.

Oliver Jeffers
This man is from Ireland and is primarily an artist. You can tell because his stuff screams artist from Ireland. Not literally, but you know what I mean.

Known for: How to Catch a Star

My favourites: The Heart and the Bottle

Why I love Jeffers: The first time I picked up one of his books, I fell in love with the illustrations. They are whimsical and a little bit strange, but they lend themselves to using your imagination to fill in the missing pieces. The second time I picked up one of his books, I was enamored with his story telling. He does so in a very delicate way that is exciting and thought provoking. His books make me giggle. They are silly, but not blatantly so. Subtle silliness is this man’s game. The first time I read The Heart and the Bottle, I cried. In public. It is a children’s book that a lot of adults could learn from. It’s sweet, beautiful, and makes you want to start living life with fervor and a tender heart.

AND: He has a cool website.

Kevin Henkes
This man is the legend you’ve never heard of. He’s a vetren of children’s book writing and has won a bunch of awards for his writing and illustrations. Some of my favourite Henkes books were published the year I was born. He’s still going strong and producing literary gold.

Known for: Chrysanthemum, Kitten’s First Full Moon, any story where a mouse is the main character

My favourites: Julius, the Baby of the World, Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse

Why I love Henkes: His writing style is one that I envy. It’s lyrical and rhythmic without being annoying. He repeats phrases throughout his book that are memorable (“Your name scarcely even fits on your name tag!”, “Wow,” said Mr. Slinger, because that’s just about all he could say. “Wow.”) but not repetitive. He manages to do so in a way that makes the reader feel as though they are in on the joke. The characters in his books are mouse children that are intelligent, quick and creative. He doesn’t dumb down his characters to make them more child-like. They are bright, vivid and exceptionally witty. Just from reading his mouse adventures, you can tell that this man knows that children can teach him a lot. I’m considering naming my first born Chrysanthemum.

AND: Watch the most irritating read aloud of Chrysanthemum here.

There you have it. Three of my favourite children’s authors.

What were your favourites as a child (or as an adult)?

Caption Contest

Here is a picture of the little monkeys who know me as Aunt Tootie. I would love for you to caption this photo. The best caption wins a prize. I haven’t decided what that prize will be yet, but I’ll think of something awesome, I promise. Feel free to write dialogue as you see fit.

From L to R: My cousin’s blurry little one, Granolan, Bean and Dolly. Also a hand.

Muzzles

I have the attention span of a squirrel when I am sitting in one spot and trying to pay attention.

This made university difficult. I used to knit in class so my hands would be busy while I listened. When I studied, I had a stress ball that I would bounce up and down continuously. The real reason I never studied in the library wasn’t because I preferred my carefully constructed home study area (the couch, the piano bench, the floor, the turned-off sauna, the deck, my bed, under the desk). It is because I knew I would have gotten kicked out for irritating the crap out of people trying to do something constructive. In church, I have discovered the art of note taking on my iPod. Not only does this keep me focused, I also look like I’m totally way too cool for listening at church and instead am Tommy Texting my BFFs the whole time. It’s awesome. Here is a screen shot from this week’s notes:

Now before you wannabe grandmas run home and tell your eligible sons to never marry me because I would dash any hopes of producing well adjusted offspring, let me explain. I want to have children, I do. I would not put muzzles on them. Maybe a leash, (this is clearly a joke. I’ve seen you parents disguising your child’s leash as a furry Winnie the Pooh knapsack. You’re not fooling anyone) but not muzzles. I probably wouldn’t shove socks in their mouths either. I was frustrated when I wrote this.

Let me set the scene. I was sitting beside my witty mother who is really good at saying hilarious stuff and then masking church giggles. We were behind a family friend. If you met this friend, she would tell you that I was the flower girl in her wedding and that I was sooooooooo cute and that she can’t believe how grown up and talented I am now. This friend is a big sister/mentor/teacher friend/confidant and someone who is freakishly good at communicating complex in-depth thoughts through eye contact alone. Myself, my friend and my mother are a trio of eye contact communicators with twisted senses of humour. My friend was sitting with her friends, one of whom was a former prof of mine (I never knit in his class). This was a set up doomed to go awry from the beginning. We were sitting right beside the “parents with young families” section.

It was loud.

That was a vast understatement. Let me rephrase.

It was LOUD.

There were two children talking in their outside voices. They were not tiny children. One could count to ten and the other could read. We also learned that their father could read and decided to demonstrate his skills in the middle of the service. It was a very long book. To say that it was difficult to attend to a sermon while children were causing a ruckus is also a vast understatement. My mother suggested the exit signs be made bigger. I suggested they deploy Jon Acuff’s birds of prey from the pulpit in order to snatch the children, remove them from the service and drop them into a ball pit. My friend suggested my dad turn and glare (this would have been the most effective solution and result in numerous pants being peed). The whole escapade climaxed with the little girl yelling. “I DON’T WANT TO BE QUIET!” which was accompanied by stomping and screaming and my former prof saying, “Sometimes you just have to let it aaaaall out”. And it’s true. It happens. Children don’t like to be quiet. BUT THEY DID NOT LEAVE THE ROOM. Screaming child stayed for the majority of the fit, eventually taken out by her parents, only to return a few short minutes later, not fully over her explosion.

I get that she’s little and it’s probably been a long weekend. I understand that children are noisy and don’t understand how to sit still and quiet for a long time. I have difficulties with this, too. I understand (and wholeheartedly agree) that children are a necessary, joyful and integral part of a church family. I love kids. I love seeing kids with their parents. I love when parents bring their kids to church. It makes me smile. It makes my heart sing. Children are amazing examples of the unfiltered joy of the Lord. I completely believe that. I think it’s important for kids to see parents in a church context. Church is definitely a family activity and we too often break everyone down into their age groups and send them off to separate parts of the building, instead of having everyone together as one big congregation. I’m all for cross generational mixing. I think we can all learn from each other. Children in a church are a sign that it’s a healthy, growing community.

But.

And there is a but. A big but. This baby got junk in her trunk. I don’t know what that means in this context exactly, but we’ll pretend that it didn’t happen and move on.

I don’t know how to deal with this but. What about the people around you? We absorbed nothing from that sermon. I reread my notes and honestly don’t remember much of it. It was difficult. It was distracting. I come to church to learn and dig deeper. I look forward to hearing what my pastor is going to say. I think it’s important for a church to be informed and guided by the Bible. A lot of this teaching gets done on Sunday mornings. But this Sunday I heard nothing. What about you, parents of loud children? Did you get anything out of the service while you were reading to your kid? Did your kids benefit from being in “big church”? I do know that we have an awesome kids program which would be fun for your kiddies as well as give you the opportunity to learn with the general congregation. While it’s true that kids can learn from sermons, the kid’s program is designed for them specifically.

I was thinking about this all day. Is it something I have to get over? Is the blame placed on the parents? Do we have any ground to stand on as members of the church to say, “I like that you’re here, but it’s difficult to hear” to those parents? Or is that a big giant load of disrespectful hypocritical dung since we were giggling the whole time, too? I’m not sure.

During our post-church debrief, my dad said it best:

Kids don’t know how to sit still and be quiet. It’s not their fault. They need to be taught these things. If you want your kids to sit in church with you, you have to build up their stamina. Start with five minutes of quiet. Then gradually increase to ten and fifteen and twenty. You have to build it up. These things need to be taught.

Wise words from my daddio. While it’s important to teach your kids the role of a church community, it’s also important to teach them how to be respectful of that community. Kids don’t know how to do this stuff on their own. That’s why they have us, to teach them. Teach them to be loud and joyful and pleasant and wonderful tiny human beings. We all need that spunk in our lives. But also teach them to slow down and listen. Teach them patience and quiet and how to learn. They’ll get there, eventually.

 

But until then, the Information Island needs to hand out muzzles.

 

How do you deal with loud kids in church?

>Book Talk: What to Look For

>I’ve been in love with books since I was a wee babe. To say I read constantly would be a vast understatement. I had my nose in a book at all times. I missed so many things because I had to finish my paragraph before I looked up*. My dream house as a child (um, still?) is the one right beside the library. Nothing beats the magnificence of a book.

I’ve had people call me from the bookstore asking what I suggest they buy for their kids. It’s happened on more than one occasion. My friends call me because they know I have a wee bit of a problem. My children’s literature library is extensive. I don’t have any children, but I have books. Oh do I have books!

It seems these days anyone can get published. It’s great because we see so many new authors, but it also means there is a lot of crap out there. It’s hard to sift through the world of books when you don’t know what to look for. Here is a list of things that I look for when I browse picture books in the children’s section.

Quirky characters.
Regular characters are boring. Children love characters that are imaginative and just a little bizarre. Think of the most interesting person you know. You would want to read a book about them. Now think of someone who is average in interestingness. You probably wouldn’t want to read about that person, now would you? New, fresh characters are wonderful. Reoccurring characters are like visiting old friends.

Rich language. Look for language that is above the level of the kids you are reading to. Yes, kids should have “just right” text that is easy and accessible for them to read on their own. However, when kids are being read to, the language should be beyond their level. Have you ever met a kid that sounds like he’s way older than he is? I can almost guarantee his parents have been reading to him ever since he was tiny. Even if you have wee babies, start reading to them now. Kids that do well in school and in life were likely raised in literacy rich environments. It’s proven, yo.

Unique illustrations. Some illustrations are like your grandma’s living room furniture**. Other illustrations are like furniture from IKEA. Some illustrations are simple. Some illustrations are incredibly detailed. Each serves its purpose. Some are more pleasing than others. In this case, you are totally allowed to judge a book by its cover.

Clean layout. My inner graphic designer leaps for joy when I see a crisp, beautifully laid out text. A picture with words underneath gets boring. I look for layouts that catch my eye (I’m a huge rule of thirds nerd, but we won’t get into that today), and that add to the story.

Heart Singing Stories. When you read the book, did you laugh? Did you feel all warm and fuzzy inside? Did you say “Wow!”? Did you want to do something because of the book? Did you start thinking about something you did when you were a kid? Can you relate the story to aspects of your own adult life even though it is meant for kids? If you close the book and are still thinking about the story with a smile on your face, it is probably a good choice.

Those are a few guidelines to get you started. If you have to buy a gift for a child, consider buying them a book (or several). And then sit down and read it with them. It’s seriously awesome.

What was your favourite book as a kid?

*I missed a family of BEARS walking across the road in front of our car because I was reading. Not just one bear. A FAMILY. Of BEARS.
**Floral and covered in plastic?

>wedding bells!

>The other day, during our outside time, a few of my preschool girls helped me plan my wedding. These are their suggestions:

I will wear a white dress.
I will have three bridesmaids, and three groomsmen.
The bridesmaids will wear bright pink dresses.
We will carry white, pink, yellow and purple flowers.
The groomsmen will wear black suits with gray and pink striped ties.

I will walk down the aisle to either Ballerina music, or The Wheels On the Bus.

For dinner, we will eat chicken, rice, broccoli, carrots and beans.
For dessert, we will eat strawberry cupcakes and vanilla pudding.

The overall plan sounds really quite marvelous, and I was impressed by their wedding planning skills and flair. They even did my hair and make up for me. I’m totally set for my big day.

The only setback is that my groom-t0-be is three years old.