Monday, November 29, 2010

Tis the Season for Christmas Books

We lit our first advent candle at church on Sunday and I started to get so excited about the Christmas season. Not only am I excited to play Santa Claus with Logan, I'm really excited to introduce him to the true Christmas story-- and hopefully help him to begin building an understanding of the amazing gift that we are given through the birth of Jesus!
On Sunday afternoon, I went to the basement and pulled out all of our Christmas books. I try to not check out library books during the holidays because I forget to return them!!! Here are some of my favorite stories that Logan, Tyson and I will be reading this week:
The Polar ExpressThe Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg This is a Christmas classic, at least in my book! In this story, a little boy rides a train, the Polar Express, to the North pole where he meets Santa and discovers his belief in Santa Claus. (I'm sure most of you have read this one!) We generally make a train out of laundry baskets or chairs and sip "hot" cocoa while listening to this story. Last year I just gave Logan chocolate milk. This year I might let him try lukewarm cocoa!
The Night Before ChristmasThe Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore Illustrated by Mary Engelbreit This is the classic poem but it is illustrated SO adorably. Mary Engelbreit is from my home city (I don't live there but it's the closest city to me!) The illustrations are so detailed yet there is a large illustration on each page that grabs your attention. This makes the book great for mulitple ages. Tyson adores her rosy cheeked Santa.
'Twas the Night: The Nativity StoryTwas the Night- The Nativity Story by Melody Carlson This is a really cute version of the Christmas story as told in Luke 2. The rhyme and clear illustrations make it a great choice for toddlers and preschoolers.
Baby's Christmas (Little Golden Book)Baby's Christmas A Little Golden Book This story was orginally published in 1959. It's very classic. It begins with a Christmas tree with Baby Jesus nestled underneath. It reminds us right off that Jesus is the best Christmas gift. Then lists all of Baby's Christmas presents that Santa brought. The illustrations are very "vintage looking" and make me smile. Baby does get a TON of presents-- more than my kids will get by far-- but it does stress at the end that baby got a toy box so he can put away his toys every night. So, I guess it does have a good moral. (And it's listed for $0.01 on amazon!)

Jingle BellsJingle Bells by Iza Trapani In this story, Trapani uses the traditional Jingle Bells carol but illustrates it with traditions of children around the world. The children take a sleigh ride to Mexico, Sweden, the Phillipines, Kenya, Poland, Italy, and the United States. At the end of the book, the different customs are explained and the sheet music for Jingle Bells is given.

It's Christmas, David!It's Christmas, David by David Shannon Logan loves the David books.  David is a loveable but naughty boy who is always getting in to things around the house. Most of the text in the book is "No, David." Logan LOVES telling David, "No." (He also loves when David is naked in the book-- don't worry it doesn't show too much-- is that just a boy thing???)

Share your favorite Christmas books too! I'd love to add some new ones.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving Crafts for Kids: Too many turkeys?

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Thankfulness Turkey

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Turkey Centerpiece

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Turkey Shaped Sandwich

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Button Turkey

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Handprint Turkey

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Handprint turkey poem

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Getting the Baby involved in our crafting. Here's Tyson's handprint and footprint turkey.

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Logan's turkey craft. He wanted to craft "all by myself."

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Playdough turkey

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Turkey rolls. I'll be baking some of these up for Thanksgiving. These were my practice rolls (precooked).

I got many of my ideas from my blog world friends.

Playdough Turkey
Turkey Sandwich
Button Turkey

Happy Thanksgiving from my little turkeys and me!!!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Writing an adoption life book with your child

Hi everyone! I’m Jackie’s sister Julie and she has asked me to guest blog for the month of November since it is National Adoption Month. And if you read her previous post, you’ll see my families story.
We love our story and feel it is important to talk about our story with our children. That is why I think life books are important and have been wanting to finish my kids Adoption Life Books. I guess Jackie is finally forcing me to do that!
So here goes! My goal is for my two boys to have their life books finished by the end of this month, but I also want to allow them to create the books on their own and spend as much time as they want on each page. That will give us lots of time to dialogue about the topic we are covering on each page.

First of all, I think I should mention that I have gleaned a lot of information from the book “Lifebooks: Creating a Treasure for the Adopted Child” by Beth O’Malley. This book is a great resource because it gives ideas on how you can write about certain topics. You can check out the website for information on ordering this book and also for more information on creating lifebooks. has adoption scrapbooking materials.

  • Book pages- I’m using my cricut to cut out circle shaped cards. The cut is from the wildcard cartridge, but I’m making it as big as the paper will allow (5 ¾”). I’m cutting out fourteen circles cards for each kid. You may need more or less pages and of course, you can do the pages however you want. Jackie had a good blog on ideas on how to make books for your kids.
  • Stickers, clip art, extra drawing paper, scrapbooking paper, cardstock, scissors, glue, markers, crayons, pencils, paint, cut-out cricket shapes for the seasons my children were born (winter and spring), photographs
The plan for our pages:
Front cover: I’m going to spend a whole day on just the front cover. I thought of letting each boy decorate with the things they like (Nick likes dinosaurs, for example) but decided to keep it neutral since this will be something that they keep for the rest of their lives and their tastes will change. We are just going to put our whole first name (English name) on the front cover. So why is that going to take our whole first day? I want to spend time talking about life books and how neat it will be to tell their story. I want to let them take the time to decorate the book however they want- paint, stickers, etc.
We might also spend a little extra time practicing writing their names on a separate sheet of paper since they need work on this anyway. I should probably mention that my boys are 5 and 6 so that is the developmental level I am working on.
Page 1: The day I was born.On the left circle, we are going to glue a blank calendar and fill in the month and year at the top, write in the dates, and then write a star on the day they were born. On the right circle, we are going to decorate the page to show the season they were born. We will write “I was born on month, day, year.” We will talk about what the weather was probably like on the day they were born. Every time we read their life book together, this will give us an opportunity to discuss what that very special day was like!
Page 2: I was born in God's heart. On the left circle, we are going to cut out a heart ( it will be good practice for my kids) and write in the center “I was born in God’s heart.”
On the right circle, we are going to put together puzzle pieces that make the sentence “You made my whole being; you formed me in my mother’s body. Psalm 139:13” This will give us a good opportunity to talk about how special they both are because God created them. It also allows us to talk about their special needs and that God didn’t make a mistake when He created them.
Page 3: I was born in China. On the left circle, I will write the name of the city, province, and country where they were born. I’m going to get a map of China and show them exactly where their birthplace is. We will make a pocket and put a picture of their city or province on the outside and inside the pocket we’ll keep the map to refer to when we read their lifebook. On the right circle, I am going to have them write out their Chinese name- in English characters of course. I guess it would be fun to have them try and write the Chinese symbols. I’m going to have them tape their referral photo on this page also.
Page 4: This is my Chinese mommy and Chinese Daddy. This page will deal with birthparents. Of course, we have no information on birthparents, but I still feel it is important to talk about the fact that they both come from a different set of parents. We are going to use the left circle for the birthmother or Chinese Mommy and the right circle for the Chinese Daddy. I’m going to make a pocket and allow them to draw on the front what they think their birthparent may have looked like. Inside the pocket, I’m going to keep a parent card that has a little information to read to them when we are looking at their life book. Basically, on the birthmothers page, I will put something about how they grew in another women’s tummy or womb. I’ll say you probably get your looks, etc from your birthmother and whatever else I want to share. On the birthfather’s page, I may put something about the fact that you need a man and woman to have a baby and you probably have things in common with your birthfather. Then I thought it would be good to talk about the things they are good at that they may have in common with their birthparents. For example, Nick is really good at singing, so I’m going to have music stickers available for him to add around the outside of the pages. I am also going to label this page “My Chinese Mom” and “My Chinese Dad”.
One more note on the parent cards inside the pockets: As the boys get older and understand more things about where babies come from, I can modify the cards to be more on their level.
Page 5: This was what I was like as a baby. On the left page, I am going to put a picture of their orphanage and once again make a pocket behind that for a parent card. On the right page, I’m going to let them draw a picture of what they might have looked like when they were a baby. We don’t have any baby pictures of Alex, and we only have a very grainy copy of Nick’s finding ad, so I think it will be better to let them draw their own pictures for this page. I’m going to let them decorate that page with baby scrapbooking stickers. The parent cards on these pages will talk about how families are created. When children are born, they either stay with their birthparents or they are taken to an orphanage. I may put something in their about babies being cute and not having done anything wrong and it's never the children’s fault that a mom and dad doesn’t keep their baby.
Page 6:  All About China.This is where we are going to focus on their birth country. I’m going to write on the left side “All About China” and let them decorate that page with stickers. Then I’m going to let them tell me all the things they know about China and write those down on the right side of this page.
Page 7:  My Finding Spot. We are going to draw two pictures, one of their parents taking them to their finding spot and the other of the orphanage director receiving them. The main point of drawing these pictures is to dialogue or even just to think about what happened. I may let them paint on these pages so we’ll see what happens. I’m going to use the pictures to make pockets for more parent cards.
Left side: China is a very beautiful country. There are many, many people who live there and sometimes it is hard for people to find enough food to eat. China made a rule that families could only have one child and if you broke the rule, you could get in big trouble.Right side: We don’t know why your Chinese mother and father took you to an orphanage. It was probably a very hard decision that they thought and thought about for many days. I believe they wanted you to receive the medical care you needed and wanted good things for you.
Page 8: Memories of My Life in China.  I thought it would be good for them to draw some memories of their life in China . Of course, they don’t seem to really remember anything so to help them out…
On the left side, I’m going to suggest they draw a picture of their favorite toy. I would like for them to write “I liked to play with my _________.” Nick always says his favorite toy was a robot toy because he has seen his referral photo when he is holding the toy. I was told Alex liked to play with blocks, so if he can’t think of anything to draw, I will just tell him “well, the nannies at your orphanage told us that you really liked to play with blocks and build things.”
On the right side, I’m going to suggest they draw a picture of a special friend or caretaker. Nick was very close to one of his nannies and will want to draw her pictures. Alex has sometimes mentioned other kids he played with and we have pictures of him with other kids, so I will show him those and see what he wants to draw. I also thought he could draw a picture of his bed where he slept.
Page 9: Gotcha Day
On the left side, we are going to do another calendar like we did on the first page. But this time, I will have them list for the day, month, and year showing the day we met them in China and adopted them. We will label that Gotcha Day!
On the right side, we are going to put a picture of the first time we met them. I think this will be a good day to show them a video of the first time we met each one of them.
Page 10: My Forever Family
On the left side, we are going to put a copy of the adoption decree and talk about what that means. We might write the word Forever on that page or use stickers to spell it out.
On the right side, we are going to put the first picture they took of our new family.
Page 11: Coming Home
On the left side, I am going to have them draw a picture of the airplane we rode in to travel home.
On the right side, we are going to add a picture of when we landed in the airport and met grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc.
Page 12: Our new country
On the left side, I am going to write “All about the U.S.A. ” and let them add stickers of the United States.
On the right side, I am going to ask them things they know about the United States of America and write them down. We may go back and compare that list to the things we listed about China and talk about the similarities and differences between the two countries.
Page 13: All About Me
On the left side, I am going to let them tape their current school picture.
On the right side, I am going to have them fill out an information sheet on themselves. Such as:
I am _ years old. I am _ tall. I weigh _. I am in the _ grade. I like to play with ___. My favorite subject at school is ___. My teacher’s name is ___.
Finishing up: Instead of taping this page to the last page (back cover), I’m going to leave this part open so we can add a new picture and an updated autobiography every year. (It will be easier to see in the pictures).
Back cover: I’m going to write them a special note telling them how glad we are to have them and how special they are to us and to God!
I’ll add the pictures as we work on our books on each day. Thanks for being patient with me. Jackie, sorry it is so long but thanks for letting me guest blog!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Picturing Adoption through Adoption Picture Books

November is National Adoption Month. We think adoption is very important, since Logan's cousins are adopted, and he LOVES his cousins. (I'm sure Tyson does too. He's just too young to ask me 5,000 times a day, "What Nick doing? What Alex doing?" like Logan does.)  Last week, I had my sister guest post her adoption story, so if you want to read about Nick and Alex, go here.
This week,  I want to share some adoption picture book reviews.

A Quilt of WishesA Quilt of Wishes by Teresa Orem Werner
This is the story of an adoptive mother who is waiting to meet her daughter in China. While she waits, she creates a quilt out of some of her old baby clothes. She sends the quilt to her daughter's orphanage. When she arrives to get her daughter, the quilt is much larger. She learns that in China, the people make a quilt of 100 squares which represent 100 good wishes. The women from the area, had added their good wishes to her quilt.
I think this is a good story for adoptive children.It shows them that they were lovingly cared for before they were adopted, hopefully, and even if that is not the case, they were loved and prayed for and waited for by their adoptive family-- even before they met them.
While this is a great book for waiting parents, I'm not sure it would be extremely engaging for kids. There is a lot of text on each page and they might not exactly follow the story. It might be best for older children.
I remember when my sister and brother in law announced to us that they were beginning the process of adoption.  Christmas was just a few weeks away, and I knew I wanted to do something special to celebrate Julie's impending motherhood. I found this book and started making a quilt for "Rylie" (at the time, Julie and Ryan planned to get a baby girl from China and name her Rylie. Their story took a different turn later.)
I collected scraps of fabric from around my mom's house. I found scraps from Julie's wedding dress, scraps from our old sleeping bags that we had as kids, I even found some football fabrics to represent Julie's husband, Ryan. My mom helped me to quilt the squares into a baby quilt. I just love the idea of creating a quilt that represents all of the people who are anticipating a child's arrival.

Shaoey and Dot: Bug Meets Bundle (Shaoey & Dot)Shaoey and Dot: Bug Meets Bundle by Mary Beth and Steven Curtis Chapman In this story, a ladybug "finds" an abandoned Chinese baby and accompanies her on her journey to the orphanage and finally to meet her family.
I thought this was one of the most "child-friendly" of the adoption books I read. Logan was interested in reading it because it had a cute little bug and a giant airplane on the last page.  Of course, this is a story of international adoption-- specifically China adoptions. It might not be fitting for other families who are adopting, even internationally. Not all children have to be abandonded, but this a reality that children who are adopted from China have to face. I think this book gives them a positive way to view and deal with their past.

Welcome Home, Forever Child: A Celebration of Children Adopted as Toddlers, Preschoolers, and BeyondWelcome Home, Forever Child by Christine Mitchell
While many adoption books, deal with the aspect of being adopted as an infant, this is a book designed specifically for children who are adopted when they are older. This book talks about how the parents and the child may have missed out on watching their child crawl the first time or hearing their child's first word, but the parents will be there for many firsts. The parents promise to be there the first time their child goes camping and to the zoo. They promise to be there when their child goes to middle school. They promise to be there when their child graduates and when he gets married. They promise to be there forever.
This is a wonderfully rhymed book with great text layout. I can tell it is a favorite of my sister's boys because the cover is worn. The "family" in the story are cartoon cats so it would be appropriate regardless of race.

Tell Me Again About the Night I Was BornTell Me Again About the Night I was Born by Jamie Lee Curtis
I have to admit, I picked up this book at the library because I really like Jamie Lee Curtis children's books. Tell Me Again About the Night I Was Born is the story of a domestic adoption. The parents get a call in the middle of the night, rush to the airport, to fly to the hospital and see their baby born. While this isn't everyone's adoption story, I found that it is a good overview of adoption. In fact, when my kids start asking questions about adoption, I think this is one I will read to them. I read a few reviews that said this book addresses the "sunny side of adoption." And I have to say, I think that is great. There are other books that can go deeper into the emotions and questions of adoption. But this is a book that is reassuring. It's a book that will plant into your child's head, it's ok to be adopted... whether your child is adopted or whether your child is learning what adoption is. I think it's a good book for kids to realize adoption is just another way of becoming a family. Plus, the questions in the book, are some of the same ones I hear my nephews asking. They want to know the "important stuff" like, "What songs did you sing to me?"

I'm linking this up to Mouse Grows, Mouse Learns

Ps. Later this week, my sister, Julie, will be sharing a very cool writing activity that helps adopted children reflect on their experiences. I'm really working my sister hard these days!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Turkey Crafts

My plan is to keep Thanksgiving simple this year. I won't be introducing Pilgrims or a history of the United States of America. We will save those lessons until Logan is at least three. ha!
We're pretty much focusing on two things.
1. Thanksgiving is a time to tell God thank you.
2. Thanksgiving is a time to eat some turkey.
I admit, I chose #2 because turkeys make some pretty cute little turkey crafts!
Thanksgiving Is for Giving ThanksThis week we read Thanksgiving is for Giving Thanks by Margaret Sutherland . This book actually hit on both of our "themes". After reading this book we made a cute turkey craft!

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After reading the book, I asked Logan to help me think of things he was thankful for. I modeled several things and wrote each thing on a colored strip. As I wrote, I said the word slowly and recorded the sounds in that word. Occassionally I made reference to the beginning sound in the word. "Oh, food starts with (f sound)." as I wrote the letter f.
Pretty soon Logan was telling me things he was thankful for and soon after that he was "writing" those things on the strips. Granted, his writing was just scribbles. But he was learning that scribbles (symbols) convey a message. Isn't that what writing is? Arbitary symbols that convey a message to the reader? This is one of the earliest lessons your child will learn about writing!
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If your child is more advanced, you might have him try to record the beginning sound of the word as you finish the word. You might have him try to write the entire word, and then write it "how it would look in a book" so he can read it back to you.
After doing our cute turkey craft. Logan told me, "I not EAT the turkey for thanksgiving." Hmmm, I can kind of see that, who would want to eat our cute little turkey. He's practically a pet!
Fortunately, Almost Unschoolers had this cute turkey (shaped) sandwich. I whipped one of these up and he was quite happy to try "eating turkey"!

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Ps. If you DO want to learn about Pilgrims this Thanksgiving, check out my friend Kate's blog. She took a visit to Plymouth plantation and has a great list of Pilgrim related books in her post!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

An Adoption Story

November is National Adoption month. My family has been blessed by the miracle of adoption. My sister, Julie, and her husband, Ryan, have 2 children who were adopted from China. I asked Julie to guest post her adoption story on my blog today.  I will be collaborating with Julie to review some picture books about the topic of adoption later this week. Julie will be guest posting later this month and sharing an awesome writing project that families with adopted children can do, called life books. Here is my sister's story:

We began married life like many young couples with hopes, dreams, and ideas of what our marriage and family life would bring. We always planned to have children but we were young and Ryan was finishing up school, so we thought we would wait for a few years. Julie was teaching music and enjoying it, but after two years, we decided I would resign and we would start a family. We waited and prayed and went to the doctor and began to realize that for us biological children might not be a reality. I think in our moments of desperation, God began to finally get our attention. Of course, people asked a lot of questions as the years went by and we remained childless. At this point, I was thinking a lot about adoption and pretty open to it. I wasn’t sure how Ryan felt but kind-of knew he had some reservations. One day I came home and Ryan was sitting on the couch listening to the song “Praise You in This Storm” by Casting Crowns. As we talked, I knew then that the anguish of infertility was affecting him just as much as it was affecting me. It was not long after that Ryan really surprised me. He told me he had signed us up for an adoption seminar. He had heard about it on the radio and called to sign us up. It really helped me to know going into the seminar that he was with me in this. We attended the America World seminar and both left knowing that adoption from China was the answer for us. We just both felt instantly that our child was in China.
The process of adoption- the paperwork and the process of becoming parents was not easy. Of course, going through infertility was not easy either. But those are things I would not change about our lives together. It taught us above anything that we really are not in control of our lives. And it also taught us not to fear because God is in control of our lives and His ways are always right. We learned to depend on each other and grow closer to each other because we were both growing closer to God through our relationship with Jesus Christ. Waiting for a child for so many years is difficult. We waited eight years not knowing if we would ever be parents. Then in our eighth year of marriage, we were able to fill out our application for America World Adoption Agency and begin the wait for a child. In January 2007, we submitted our paperwork to China requesting a healthy baby girl.
Now we were in the waiting phase and didn’t know how long it might be until we held our child. The wait time for healthy baby girls had greatly increased. We knew that special needs adoption was another option but it was very fearful for us to think of that. We had never been parents and weren’t sure we could handle anything ‘extra’. Our desire was to trust God for His plan for our family, but there were days we would really struggle with the wait. One morning, I was upstairs praying and reading my Bible. I was admitting to God how much of a struggle it was to wait and not know if or when we might become parents. I prayed that I could hear encouraging news that day. After I was finished with my prayer time, I went to the computer and looked up the waiting child page on our adoption agencies website. I ended my prayer time this way many days- praying for these waiting children. As I scrolled down the page, my eyes lit upon a little boy named Nicholas.
He had a big smile and there was something in his eyes. My heart began to beat very fast and my hands were shaking. I became super-emotional. I thought ‘This is my son’. He was two and a half years old and had a deformity of his hands and feet. I could not get him off of my mind all day long. It still amazes me as I write this that God spoke to me in that way and showed me His plan for our life. That evening, I sat down by Ryan and said ‘I need to talk to you about something’. I don’t know what I expected but I didn’t expect him to say what he did. He wanted to call the agency that night- but of course, they were closed. We sent an e-mail and went to bed. The next day, our family coordinator called us and said that his file was already under review. I couldn’t imagine that the family wouldn’t go forward with it, so I decided I must have been wrong. But for the next two days, we could not think of anything else. Two days later, America World called and said his file was available. We reviewed his file and decided to pursue his adoption.

Three months later and two days after my birthday, we got on the plane and headed to China. We arrived in our province on a Monday and thought we would be taken later that day to meet our children. We were told we would have to wait until the next day. That was very disappointing, but it did help us to have one more day to prepare. The next morning, we went to the Civil Affairs Office in Henan. We waited for a long time but we were getting a little better at that. Finally, they brought our adorable little three year old boy into the room. He was scared and shy and wouldn’t have much to do with us. He was okay with us sitting on the floor and talking to him. He liked the bubbles we had brought, but when the nannies tried to place him into our laps, he would begin to cry. When the nannies left the room, he began to scream. For us, it was love at first sight, but it was much scarier for Nicholas to understand what was going on. The nannies stayed with us for part of that day and then finally left at the hotel. We went to our room holding a screaming child who cried and cried for about two hours. He finally fell asleep. When he woke up, he ate some snacks and seemed to think we were okay. We went back to the civil affairs office that afternoon, and Nicholas clung to me the entire time. He sat in my lap holding onto my neck while I sang Jesus Loves Me in Chinese. For the rest of the trip, he laughed and smiled at us and started repeating everything we said. He would call our parents and say ‘I love you Grandma and Grandpa’.

We came home and began a completely new life as first-time parents. Nicholas loved his new house, his yard, his dog, and he loved his grandparents. After a while, he got used to going to church and seeing lots of people and not being so scared anymore. It was hard but it was also the most wonderful thing that had ever happened to us. Once again, we learned to depend on each other and depend on God. So many nights, when Nick wouldn’t go to sleep and we would have to lay by his bed, I would thank God for this child he had given us and pray for him.

Overall, life with Nick was wonderful and after six months we decided we should do this again. So we began the process all over and went through a very different experience and ended up with another wonderful son. Nicholas went with us to China to bring home his little brother Alex in June 2009. Nick had been our son for almost two years. He was so excited to travel to China and to meet Alex. It took a little while, but once we got home and settled into a routine, the boys began to really enjoy being brothers.

Nick is a great big brother. He is very patient with Alex and enjoys teaching him new things. He will read books to him and explain all the pictures to him. Nick loves to sing and learned to sing Dvorak’s New World Symphony pretty soon after we came home. He would sing it all day long! His paperwork said he had a ready smile and that is so true. He loves to smile and joke around. He is sensitive and very kind to others. Nick really is the perfect fit for our family. We are amazed at the things that he does that remind us of ourselves. Nick has been extremely interested in spiritual matters since he learned to speak English. He loves to have us read the Bible to him and asks some difficult questions. He began talking about becoming a Christian when he was still four years old but didn’t understand everything. On January 12, he brought it up and said he was ready to ask Jesus to come into his life. He prayed and accepted Christ and has begun telling me he wants to be a captain of a ship and a missionary when he grows up. He has already begun telling Alex that he needs to accept Jesus. Of course, Alex doesn’t understand yet.

Alex is another incredible blessing from God and also the perfect fit for our family. He is very different from Nick. He is kind-of a tough little guy. Of course, he did live in an orphanage until he was 4 and a half years old. But everyone who meets Alex loves to be around him. He is always smiling. He also loves to sing and does so very loudly. He loves to color and draw and can’t wait to go to school next year just like his big brother Nick.
There are days I am overwhelmed at the blessing adoption has been in our lives and think that everyone should do this! But I realize it has to be a calling. So many people choose adoption for different reasons. For us, it was a way to have a family. We could have kept suffering with infertility, but we chose to trust God and jump into whatever plan He had for our lives. It was scary but so worth it. I hope no one would miss out on this blessing because they worried about the financial aspect or any other thing that might hold someone back. We say take a leap of faith and go for it! God will provide.
To read more about our journey to Nick and Alex, go to and to see a current blog of our life, go to

Wordless Wednesday: Whose Woods are These?

I think I know!!

A view of my beautiful backyard!

By the way, "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" by Robert Frost (Whose woods are these? I think I know. His house is in the village though. He will not see me stopping here to watch his woods fill up with snow...") was the first poem I remember memorizing for school.  I still love that poem!

What about you? Did you memorize a favorite poem in childhood?

Monday, November 8, 2010

Weekend Review: Raising Confident Readers

Raising Confident Readers: How to Teach Your Child to Read and Write--from Baby to Age 7Raising Confident Readers: How to Teach Your Child to Read and  Write From Baby to Age 7 by Dr. J. Richard Gentry is a guidebook for parents to use to create useful early learning opportunities in their own home. I found this book at my local library. It was just sitting there on the shelf saying, "You know you want me." It was right! As a reading specialist and early literacy blogger, this book was right up my alley. What impressed me, however, was that the book was written for parents. Parents who don't have early literacy training yet want to help their children develop literacy skills.
I found Raising Confident Readers to be research-based and well organized. I have been influenced by Dr. Gentry's prior work, mostly his work on spelling. According to his website he has over 30 years in the field of early literacy. His work has been influenced by the research of Maria Montessori and Marie Clay. (I was impressed at one point when he referred to her as "The great... Marie Clay." love that!) He employs brain based techniques based on the acronym READ, Repetition, Enthusiasm, Attention, and Drawing. (Yes, Drawing, much of his book on raising readers actually references early drawing activities.)
After a brief overview of the research behind his work, he categorizes emergent/beginning readers and writers into five phases. He then explains how to determine your child's phase and what to do with your child in that phase to lift them into the next phase. Within each phase he offers activities in the areas of Reading, Drawing and Writing, and Sounds and Spelling. Reading includes "great books" suggestions for each level.
Some of the activities include
Phase 0: (This is where Logan is. He can not yet write his name and uses scribbles and not letters to "write".)
Labeling and Reading the room, finger painting, name writing, bookmaking, rhymes, repetition, and clapping syllables.
Phase 1:finger point reading, labeling and reading the room, kid writing, bookmaking, my name game, alphabet books.
Phase 2: Reading For, With, and By your child, sight word practices, kid writing, hand spelling, things to do with magnetic letters and tiles.
Phase 3: Reading For, With, and By your child, figuring out unknown words, finger point reading, story retelling, sight word practice, kid writing, finger spelling, word families, making words and blending sounds.
Phase 4: Reading with your child, figuring out unknown words, word games and word sorting, kid writing, writing with conventional spelling, using spelling patterns and spelling analogies.

Truly, the ONLY bad thing I can say about this book, is that I wanted to write this book someday. You know, some day after I acquire years of reading and research and experience. Fortunately, Dr. Gentry's book might be some what out of date by then. LOL.

I'm sure you'll be seeing ways that we have implemented these activities and how they are working for us soon!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Hello Friends!

It's Friday again!!!! We've had a very busy week here at Ready. Set. Read! Last weekend we went trick or treating. We've been playing with puzzles this week and building problem solving skills. On Wednesday, I posted on Understanding your Child's Reading Level. We even fit another pumpkin craft into our week. We used a leftover pumpkin cut out to make Cinderella's Pumpkin Carriage. Now it's Friday and we're looking forward to an awesome weekend. Stop back tomorrow. I'm going to post a review of my new favorite book, Raising Confident Readers by Richard Gentry.
If you are new around here, welcome. I'm linking up for the first time to Mommy Madness

The theme of that blog hop is to show a picture of my cute kids. I have 2 boys. Both are super!

Love the way Batman waves at the camera but can't bother to LOOK at the camera!
Also linking up to


Smart and Trendy Moms
Take a look around. If you like what you see, I'd love to have you follow! Just leave a comment so I can come follow back. Have a great day!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Creating Cinderella's Pumpkin Carriage

We aren't quite ready to let the pumpkin crafts go yet! This week we read Franklin's Pumpkin.
Halloween crafts for kids, halloween activities for kids, fall crafts for kids, fall activities for kids, Franklin's Pumpkin (Kids Can Read), book activities, halloween books for kids, picture books, ready set readFranklin's Pumpkin is an early reader book. Clearly, Logan (age 2) is not reading this book himself. But amazingly, he loves this book as a read aloud. I say amazingly because this is probably the longest story we've read together.
Franklin books are wonderful for helping children who are struggling with comprehension skills, specifically understanding problem and solution. Franklin books generally start with something like:
"Franklin can tie his shoes. Franklin can count by twos. And Franklin can grown a really, really big pumpkin. This is a problem. What will Franklin do with a really, really big pumpkin?"
In this story, Franklin decides to use his pumpkin to build a Cinderella carriage for Harriet, his sister.
Telling the child the problem up front is a scaffold for the reader. For some children, this helps them build their comprehension. They have some knowledge of what the book will be about.
Another way to build comprehension, is to extend the book. You can extend the book by reinacting it, using puppets to retell the story, doing a writing project, or doing an art project. You can find art projects for many books at A Mommy's Adventures. (She even has an alphabetical listing of books with art projects).
I chose to do an art project to extend this book. I was pretty sure Logan had no idea who Cinderella was or why a princess would be riding in a pumpkin. (We are a very boy house! We talk superheroes, not princesses.)So we made Cinderella's pumpkin coach and a Cinderella stick puppet. As we made our craft, I told him the Cinderella story.

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We used a piece of a large piece of green paper.
Glued a pumpkin on the front.
Decorated with stickers and glitter glue.
And then cut a slit for Cinderella to pop out of the pumpkin.
Cinderella was made by sticking a scrapbooking sticker of a little girl onto a piece of cardstock, tracing around it, and then taping to a straw or a popsicle stick. (Oh, and we I re-dressed her and added a tiara!)

Logan especially loved the puppet and we made all of the girls on the sticker sheet into little stick puppets too. (He did tell me at the end, "You need to go to the basement and find a BOY sticker.")

I could have titled this post, the day we did a girlie craft! I have to say, I loved making a cinderella puppet and putting some bling on our project today!

I'm linking this up to stART
 Read. Explore. Learn.
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