Monday, 26 September 2011

Book Recommendation: Stellaluna

Preface:  I love storybooks.  Not exactly a shocker given my calling as an elementary teacher.  I'm a sucker for a good story and/or great illustrations (the two don't always go together).  I frequently get asked to recommend good books to parents.  So every so often I'll share one of my favourites, as well as some ideas for things to think and talk about when you engage in the book with (or without!)your child.

One of my favourite storybooks is Janelle Cannon's Stellaluna. In Stellaluna a baby fruit bat is separated from her mother following an owl attack and is adopted by a family of baby birds.  The book follows Stellaluna as she struggles to fit in with her new bird family and ultimately learns some lessons about friendship and about being yourself.

The illustrations in the book are beautiful and very realistic with only the lightest anthropomorphic touch. Although the book is a fictional story it includes lots of information about the habits and habitat of fruit bats and it has an afterword which provides a little more background.  The language of the book is rich, right from the opening "In a warm and sultry forest far, far away, there once lived a mother fruit bat and her new baby."

I started reading this book to my daughter when she was about 3 years old, and she enjoyed the story but it was a little long for her attention span, so I'd really say it's probably for 4 years and up if you're reading it to them and about a grade 2 or 3 reading level if they're going to read it on their own. 

Some things to think about as you read Stellaluna together:
  • Before you read, talk about what you already know about bats and how you feel about them. (ie. are they spooky? cute?)  Read the story, then see if you still feel the same way.
  • What other stories does Stellaluna remind you of? How are they similar? (Hint: for me, The Ugly Duckling immediately springs to mind.  But kids often find all sorts of connections, including to TV shows or computer games).
  • Talk about fiction and non-fiction, then try to decide together which category this story belongs in and why you feel that way.
  • Hop on the Internet and search for some photos of fruit bats.  Look at how they compare to the illustrations in the book.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Job Jar

Jeff is taking 9 weeks of parental leave this fall, so for 2 months both of us are home with the girls.  We have a long list of jobs we've been saving to get done while he isn't working, and after only 2 weeks we've already plowed through most of it.  (I say "we" when really Jeff has done most of the work, while I've kept the kids occupied).  Jobs done so far include: Garage wall crack fixed, basement ceiling tiles replaced, rotten window frames fixed, furnace ducts sealed, yard cleaned up, and dryer venting replaced.  We also had the furnace replaced and have booked an appointment to have more insulation added to the attic. 
All this while we've also had lots of time to spend with the kids, either as a whole family or with Jeff and I taking turns so the other one gets a break.  Despite the fast pace of work getting done around the house, it still feels like we're getting our batteries recharged, which we've desperately needed as it's been an adjustment getting used to having 2 kids this past year.
Jobs remaining on our list include landscaping the yard, painting the windows and hopefully stripping and restaining the deck.
What items are in your job jar?

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Surprise Guests

We had unannounced (and uninvited) guests in our home the other day.

Around 4pm, my husband was watching tv when we heard a snuffling and scratching at the open window behind him.  Lo and behold, there was a raccoon perched on the window ledge trying to come in the window!  He started calling for Older Daughter and I to come and take a look before it could leave.  But as I approached the family room via the kitchen, I noticed there was another furry visitor IN THE KITCHEN! As Husband scrambled to get older daughter out of the bathroom and down the hall to see this, and I scrambled for the camera, I saw the tip of another furry tail around the corner of the island.  Yes, folks, this made raccoon number THREE.

At this point, Husband shooed them out of the kitchen back through the (torn open) sliding screen door. And they did need shooing.  We had not exactly been quiet or calm so far in this little adventure and 10-month-old Younger Daughter, who is terrified of cats, clearly felt that raccoons belong to the same category of scary creatures and had been screaming herself horse.  (Since they were slightly larger than she is and have teeth and claws, I can't say that I blame her.)  Once out of the house and on the back deck the raccoons didn't seem in any hurry to depart.  Eventually Husband shooed them again quite loudly, and they moseyed on over to the neighbours yards, checking out other backdoors and compost bins in the hope of finding something to eat.

But it didn't stop there.  No sirree.  About 8pm that night when Older Daughter was already in bed asleep they made a return.  I guess we were naive, but we had re-opened the sliding screen door to get some fresh evening air in the house, having no expectation that they might return.  Younger Daughter, enjoying a snack of cheerios in her high chair, sounded the alarm by crying at the top of her lungs.  I admit I wasn't too speedy to respond, figuring she was just telling me she was done her snack and wanted out, but as her vocalizations reached panic levels I turned to the kitchen in time to see the third bandit raccoon scramble through the broken screen.  Two of them were snuffling around as though tracking down the food my children had let fall from the table and the third was headed in the direction of the garbage can under the sink. 

Once again they were shooed outside, but this time with the glass door shut, they continued to sit outside the door and paw at it, trying to get back in again.  They weren't bothered at all by us banging on the glass or gesturing for them to go away, so Husband eventually threw open the door and emerged roaring and gesticulating at them in such a way that the lights of several neighbours flicked on, to see what was happening in the yard.  He got the water hose ready to give them a good blast, but this time they had wandered off into the dark.

We haven't seen them back in the few days since then, but apparently our experience wasn't uncommon.  Our next door neighbour has since told us that the day before they had pushed open their sliding door and made a meal fo the cat food.  Needless to say, we're now keeping the door shut!

Friday, 16 September 2011

First Week of School

My baby started school this week.  It seems like just the other day I held my tiny girl for the very first time, but somehow nearly 4 years have flown by.  Naturally, we've been preparing her for kinder all summer, talking about what to expect and I had really hoped that the drop-off in the supervised kinder play area would go well, but when it actually DID go smoothly (she barely glanced at us as we walked away), it turns out I was the one unprepared.  I definitely had to fight back some tears as I watched her proudly walk off with her teacher.  She had a fabulous first day, and has looked forward to returning every day this week.  She thinks her French teacher is hysterically funny and she enjoys playing with kids her age every day, although she already says recess is her favourite time!

Thursday, 15 September 2011

First post

Breaking the ice here with a quick message to test things out. So far, I've been a blog follower, not a writer.  But it's hard to feel completely connected among the blogs I regularly follow when the communication is mostly one-sided. I've had the kernel of an idea for my own blog in mind for quite a while.  Today is the day to do something about it.  I'm not exactly sure how it will take shape over the next little while, but I see it touching on my life as a mom and teacher, hence Teachable Moments.

Oddly nervous, but ... pressing "publish"!