Thursday, April 16, 2015

Sing a Song of Springtime!

Spring has officially sprung. We've had hot weather, cold weather, rainy days, and our first night of tornado sirens.  We've also had lots of fun!  Abby (2) and especially Andrew (3) have been very excited by springtime.  Back in the fall, I started talking to them about the seasons, how fall meant that it gets colder outside, the leaves turn colors and fall.  Then winter comes and it's very cold, the trees are bare, the snow falls, the animals are hard to find.  All through winter, we would talk about what would happen when spring came....the warm weather, green leaves, caterpillars, butterflies, birds, flowers, gardening!

Now Andrew will notice one of these things and he'll shout, "Mom, spring is here!"

We ordered new caterpillars for our butterfly garden.  Andrew loved the caterpillars...Abby not so much!  But when they changed into butterflies and flew around the Butterfly Garden, they both loved it.

One of our Painted Lady butterflies.  

We released them about a week an a half ago!

Dewberry plants vining along our western fence line.

Andrew and Abby helping wash rocks.  There are a thousand of these landscaping rocks all over our front yard from the previous owners. We've been doing our best to gather them up and do something productive with them....or at least get them out of the way!

Abby with a Wishberry Blossom (er....dandelion)!

Our square foot garden beds.  We marked out the squares with some of those rocks we washed!  This year we have broccoli, lettuce, onions, carrots, tomatoes, grape tomatoes, bell peppers, jalapeno peppers, cucumbers, green beans, sugar snap peas, and okra in our beds!

Caught sight of this red-winged blackbird in our front yard.  They live mostly at the park about a block away because they like the marshy area around the pond.  They're really quite beautiful.  The little kids always love it when birds come in our yard.  We have a bird feeder that has been around for at least 10 years and the birds love to come eat from it...when the squirrels don't beat them to it!

Andrew makes a moustache out of a dandelion stem.

This is our puppy, Luma.  It's a good thing she's cute, because she ate all my strawberry plants that had just started to fruit!

Rainy days mean open doors and cool breezes through the house!

Sunflower seedlings...inadvertently planted.  The birds drop the seeds out of the bird feeder and now there are sunflowers in our rose bush beds in front of the porch.  I'm going to move them to the fence line.

Prolific dandelions before the first mowing of the year.

Andrew wants to help mow...he's got a few years yet!

Cold drink on a warm day!

You can see our long watermelon/pumpkin bed here, and way up ahead are the two other veggie beds.  And there's a cute little girl!

Wild strawberries along the side of the porch.

They're everywhere.

We bought one of those birdhouses that you mount on the window and you can see through the back.  Unfortunately, the instructions say to mount it by mid-March and ours didn't go up til April.  I don't think we'll get any nests this year but maybe next year!

I found this Asian Lady Beetle today.  They're supposed to be good for controlling pests on pecan trees, and I found this one about 5 feet from our pecan tree!  The little kids were fascinated.

Mrs. (MR?) Lady Beetle

Tony found this little garter snake while weedeating.  Thankfully he spotted it before it got hit with the weedeater!  Andrew liked looking but didn't want to touch it, and Abby would only stand about 3 feet away!

Hello, snakey.

Kate (16) has no problem handling creepy critters.

Gotta blow bubbles!

The little kids kept wanting to dig in the garden beds (after the seeds were already planted), so Tony built them this little bed of soil just to dig and play in.

Our first sprouted seedling - lettuce!  Hopefully many more plants to come.  If we can just keep the dog out of there!

So, there's a little rundown of our springtime fun so far this year.  If nothing else, I hope you can see that little ones can learn plenty simply from being outside in nature, it's the best possible teacher!

I hope to get back into the habit of blogging on a regular basis, starting with "here's what we're doing" posts like this one, and hopefully eventually I'll have the time and focus to write up some deeper thoughts.  Until then, I hope you enjoy seeing what we're up to!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Lullabies and Memories

I have very clear memories of laying in the big bed with my mother - I must have been three, four, maybe five years old – and taking naps together. I really have no idea if she actually slept. I don't think it was something that happened every day. Surely at that age I didn't nap every day. But then, as now, I took a long time to fall asleep. My mother, ever patient and undaunted, would sing to me, song after song after song.

What she didn't know was that the songs she sang sprang to life in my imagination (likely keeping me awake even longer, uh-oh). There are a few songs I remember so clearly it's like closing my eyes and watching a movie play out as the song unfolds.

She would sing Mama, Buy Me a China Doll.  The song uses the term, “Papa's bed,” and for some reason in my little preschool aged mind, only Spanish children called their fathers Papa, and so in my imagination, the song was set on a dusty ranch somewhere down in Mexico (or at least Texas). I could see the little girl, long black braid flying behind her, running to her Mama (surely a Spanish beauty in peasant blouse and long full skirt) and begging for that doll. I could see her Papa out working hard with the animals while she talked to her mother. I could see the horses' stalls, with their fresh warm hay, and the little winding river that must have run by their ranch (to tie the cows near, of course). I could see her gathering her brothers and sisters and swinging back and forth on the gate leading to a little garden sprouting tomatoes and peppers. And I could see her mother smile at the end, to think that the little girl had it all figured out in her head, and agree to buy her that china doll. But surely Papa didn't really have to give up his bed for it, right?

Mama, Buy Me a China Doll

Mama, buy me a china doll

Mama, buy me a china doll
Mama, buy me a china doll
Do, Mama, do

What shall I buy it with?

What shall I buy it with?
What shall I buy it with?
Do, Mama, do

Buy it with Papa's bed

Buy it with Papa's bed
Buy it with Papa's bed
Do, Mama, do

Where will your Papa sleep?
Where will your Papa sleep?
Where will your Papa sleep?
Do, Mama, do

Sleep in the horses' stall

Sleep in the horses' stall
Sleep in the horses' stall
Do, Mama, do

Where will the horses sleep?

Where will the horses sleep?
Where will the horses sleep?
Do, Mama, do

Sleep in the cows' barn

Sleep in the cows' barn
Sleep in the cows' barn
Do, Mama, do

Where will the cows sleep?
Where will the cows sleep?

Where will the cows sleep?
Do, Mama, do

Tie 'em down by the riverside

Tie 'em down by the riverside
Tie 'em down by the riverside
Do, Mama, do

What will I tie them with?
What will I tie them with?
What will I tie them with?
Do, Mama, do

Tie them with the children's swing

Tie them with the children's swing
Tie them with the children's swing
Do, Mama, do

Where will the children swing?
Where will the children swing?

Where will the children swing?
Do, Mama, do

Swing on the garden gate

Swing on the garden gate
Swing on the garden gate
Do, Mama, do

Yes, I'll buy you a china doll

Yes, I'll buy you a china doll
Yes, I'll buy you a china doll
Do, Mama, do

When my first daughter was a baby, my grandmother would rock her and sing to her for what seemed like hours at a time, songs I'd never heard or had long forgotten, but one stuck in my head, and even as a mother myself, I found my imagination picturing the storyline of the song. She would sing Sail, Baby, Sail, and I could see the midnight blue sky, the child in the boat made of a crescent moon, sailing through a star-dotted sky. The serenity of the scene is definitely sleep inducing!

Sail, Baby, Sail

Baby's boat's a silver moon

Sailing in the sky
Sailing o'er a sea of sleep
While the clouds go by

Sail, baby, sail

Out upon that sea
Only don't forget to sail
Back again to me

Baby's fishing for a dream

Fishing near and far
Her lie a golden moonbeam is
Her bait a silver star

Sail, baby, sail

Out upon that sea
Only don't forget to sail
Back again to me

Only don't forget to sail

Back again to me.

But the clearest memory I have, laying there in the bed with my mother, is the song Over in the Meadow. I don't know how I knew what a meadow was at that age, whether it was simply taken from the bits of the song, or if I had asked at some point and been told, or if by chance I had seen one and someone had named it for me. But the image that still stands so clear in my mind's eye, is most definitely a meadow. It stretched far under warm but cloud-filled skies. A gentle wind was always blowing, and the quiet hum of insects and song of birds filled the air. I can picture it now, starting at the little sandy stream bed where the toad croaked, the stream gurgling along where the little fishes swam and pooling up where the frogs hopped. Up in a big shady tree sat the nest with the bluebirds that sang, and off near the edge of the meadow was the remains of an old cabin where the lizards sunned themselves on the cellar door and the spiders spun their webs on a scrolly iron gate that had come loose on one hinge. The tall waving grasses of the meadow that hid the family of crickets where dotted with wildflowers. In the forest that bordered the meadow stood the tree where the beehive hung, and the Mama crow and sly Mama fox hid their babies away in those darkened trees as well. It was a place of serene calm and utter beauty, and I drifted to sleep many a time listening to that song and picturing that place.

Over in the Meadow

Over in the meadow in the sand in the sun,

Lived an old mother toad and her little toady one.
“Croak,” said the mother. “I croak,” said the one.
So he croaked and he croaked in the sand in the sun.

Over in the meadow where the stream runs blue,

Lived an old mother fish and her little fishes two.
“Swim,” said the mother. “We swim,” said the two.
So they swam and they swam where the stream runs blue.

Over in the meadow in a nest in a tree,
Lived an old mother bluebird and her little bluebirds three.

“Sing,” said the mother. “We sing,” said the three.
So they sang pretty songs in their nest in the tree.

Over in the meadow by an old cellar door,

Lived an old mother lizard and her little lizards four.
“Bask,” said the mother. “We bask,” said the four.
So they basked in the sun by the old cellar door.

Over in the meadow in a snug bee hive,

Lived an old mother bee and her little honeys five.
“Buzz,” said the mother. “We buzz,” said the five.
So they buzzed and they buzzed in their snug bee hive.

Over in the meadow in a house built of sticks,

Lived an old mother crow and her little blackbirds six.
“Caw,” said the mother. “We caw,” said the six.
So they cawed and they cawed in their house built of sticks.

Over in the meadow where the grass is so even,
Lived an old mother cricket and her little crickets seven.

“Chirp,” said the mother. “We chirp,” said the seven.
So they chirped and they chirped where the grass is so even.

Over in the meadow on an old garden gate,

Lived an old mother spider and her little spiders eight.
“Spin,” said the mother. “We spin,” said the eight.
So they spun silken webs on the old garden gate.

Over in the meadow where the clear pool shines,
Lived an old mother frog and her little froggies nine.

“Hop,” said the mother. “We hop,” said the nine.
So they hopped and they hopped where the clear pool shines.

Over in the meadow in a sly little den,
Lived an old mother fox and her little foxes ten.

“Bark,” said the mother. “We bark,” said the ten.
So they barked and they barked in their sly little den.

I sing these same songs (and many more) to my own little ones and as I sing, I am once again transported back to these magical fantasy lands of my childhood. I wonder what sort of images may be conjured in the minds of my little ones. Are they like mine in any way? Do the spiders on that gate look an awful lot like Charlotte hanging in the doorway of the Zuckerman's barn?

Andrew is almost three and he requests every night that I sing I Don't Want to Live on the Moon (of Sesame Street fame, though he's never seen that show and I sing it much more slowly to help him to sleep). He interrupts me often to talk about the moon and the stars that he wants to see, so I think that in his mind he must be imagining himself in a rocketship, floating through the dark mysterious wonder that is space.

Songs can be powerful. Lullabies are the perhaps the best kind of songs. Even the word “lullaby” conjures an image in my mind of dark skies, silver stars, a forest moved by a gentle wind, and a sound akin to gentle wind chimes.

Never begrudge the time you spend singing your littles to sleep. You can never know the impact your words and melody may be having in their growing minds.

And thanks, Mom....for singing to me.

Books, Books, Books!

I was asked recently to make a list of books that would be good for a family library. The kind of books that are kid-loved and mom-approved. My brain got to work remembering all the books my kids have read and liked over the last 16 years. I added in some books that I loved growing up. And even a very few that I haven't read but are certainly on my wish list.

I thought about dividing the list up by age range but honestly what one child will read or enjoy at one age is totally different from what another child will. So the list is not really divided or organized. There are a few books (marked with an asterisk) that are most definitely for older kids (what “older” means will vary from family to family, but common sense will tell you when it is for your kids).
I came up with a list of 150 books, although really it's more because several of them are series of books that I only gave one slot on the list.

This is by NO MEANS an exhaustive list, a must-have list, a you-must-agree-with-every-one list, or anything like that. Just a starting place for anyone who would like to check it out. Enjoy!

Harry Potter series (7 books) by J.K. Rowling

The Hobbit and **The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (4 books, The Hobbit is OK for youngers) by JRR Tolkien

Percy Jackson series (5 books) by Rick Riordan

The Spiderwick Chronicles series (5 books) by Tony DiTerlizzi

The Chronicles of Narnia series (7 books) by CS Lewis

Anne of Green Gables series (8 books) by Lucy Maud Montgomery

Little House series (9 books) by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Grimm's Fairy Tales (get the real version, not the modern one!)

Bambi by Felix Salten

Peter Pan by JM Barrie

The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood by Howard Pyle

King Arthur and His Knights by Howard Pyle

Black Beauty by Anna Sewell

My Friend Flicka by Mary O'Hara

Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry

The Secret Garden by Francis Hodgson Burnett

A Little Princess by Francis Hodgson Burnett

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt

Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell

Old Yeller by Fred Gipson

Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls

The Complete Tales of Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne

The OZ Collection by L. Frank Baum (not just the Wizard of Oz – there are TWELVE books!)

Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

Stuart Little by E.B. White

The Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White

Charlotte's Web by E.B. White

The Henry Huggins books by Beverly Cleary (there are several, boys love them!)

The Mrs Piggle Wiggle books by Betty MacDonald (again, several, get as many as you can!)

Gulliver's Travels by Jonathon Swift

The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann D. Wyss

A collection of Washington Irving stories (there are several, make sure you get one with The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Rip van Winkle)

Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens **

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

The Canterville Ghost by Oscar Wilde

The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas **

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas **

Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

Heidi by Johanna Spyri

Mary Poppins by P. L. Travers

Cheaper by the Dozen by Frank and Ernestine Gilbreth

The Story of the Von Trapp Family Singers by Maria Augusta Trapp

Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson

The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling

Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm by Kate Douglas Wiggin

The Call of the Wild by Jack London

White Fang by Jack London

Pollyanna by Eleanor H. Porter

Pippi Longstocking series by Astrid Lindgren (again, lots of them, get as many as you like!)

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norman Juster

Willy Wonka books (Chocolate Factory and Great Glass Elevator) by Roald Dahl

The Borrowers by Mary Norton

Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo

Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson

Tales from Shakespeare by Charles and Mary Lamb

D'Aulaire's Book of Greek Myths by Ingri and Edgar D'Aulaire

D'Aulaire's Book of Norse Myths by Ingri and Edgar D'Aulaire

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo

Mr Popper's Penguins by Richard Atwater

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

Princess Academy by Shannon Hale

The Doll People Series by Ann M. Martin (3 books)

A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein

Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein

The Babysitter's Club series by Ann M. Martin (close to 100 books, start at #1 and work your way up!)

The Neverending Story by Michael Ende

The Wrinkle in Time series by Madeleine L'Engle (5 books)

The Princess Bride by William Goldman

A Child's Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson

The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare

The Hundred and One Dalmations by Dodie Smith

Favorite Poems Old and New (compilation)

The Nancy Drew series by Carolyn Keene (lots of them!)

The Hardy Boys series by Franklin W. Dixon (lots of them, too!)

Books of Ember series by Jeanne DuPrau (4 books)

The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins ** (3 books)

The Boxcar Children series by Gertrude Chandler Warner

Paddle-to-the-Sea by Holling C. Holling

Poetry for Young People books (several in the series, definitely get Robert Frost and Lewis Carroll)

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken

Inkheart by Cornelia Funke

The Mysterious Benedict Society series by Trenton Lee Stewart (4 books)

Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle ** (lots of versions, from individual stories to “complete” collections)

The Shannara series by Terry Brooks ** (lots of books and side stories)

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo

Best Loved Poems of the American People (compilation)

The Looking Glass Wars trilogy ** by Frank Beddor (3 books)

Raggedy Ann in Cookie Land by Johnny Gruelle

Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi

1001 Arabian Nights by ??? (many versions, most say anonymous....)

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang by Ian Fleming

The Magic Bedknob/Bonfires and Broomsticks by Mary Norton (these are the books the Disney movie Bedknobs and Broomsticks is based on)

Dr Dolittle books by Hugh Lofting (lots of them!)

Dumbo by Helen Aberson

Eragon series by Christopher Paolini (3 books)

Escape to Witch Mountain by Alexander Key

The Incredible Journey by Sheila Burnford

Mother Carey's Chickens by Kate Douglas Wiggin (the movie Summer Magic is based on this book)

The Rescuers by Margery Sharp

Darby O'Gill by Herminie Templeton

Irish Fairy and Folk Tales by William Butler Yeats

Peter and the Starcatchers series by Dave Barry (5 books)

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea ** by Jules Verne

The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain

Stardust by Neil Gaiman

Aesop's Fables

The Indian in the Cupboard trilogy by Lynne Reid Banks

Hans Christian Andersons' Fairy Tales


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