Labels, Labels Everywhere!

Last night, Z came into my office and snatched a post-it and ran out of the room. Later after the kids were in bad, I found this on my bedroom door. After having a good laugh, I went and opened a new package of post-it notes and wrote him a note on the top one and left it along with a pen on the built in shelf on the headboard of his bed.

This morning I found labels on several things, and I encouraged him to keep doing it.

Why? wow, I am so thankful that I am not scrubbing these marks of the walls right now I just want to dance, and I will go and buy a whole box of post-it notes to keep him happy if I have to!

One of the ways that I have learned that parents can create a ‘print rich environment’ is to label things so that your kids can see the labels and then learn the words for things. I did label things when my oldest was learning to read, but that was 10 years ago. The difference is that this time, Z did it on his own. I know he would have loved if I had labeled things for him, but it is just so much more meaningful this way. And, I should have known that he would crave this kind of input, since he learned to read all of our family’s names from the chore chart in the halway when he was 3.

Here are some of the other labels he made:

 

 

I am putting this in with my “Raising a Writer” series, because I think that this (writing things down) is really one of the first steps after books. If a child learns to love the printed word, and feels confident in his/her ability to read, write, and understand it, then they will really blossom and there will not be that intimidation and fear of making mistakes. They will already know that they can do it, and that if they don’t get it right the first time they can go back and fix it and it is no big deal.

Some other ways to create a ‘print rich environment’ for early readers:

  • Make sure there are lots of books available and that your kids can reach them.
  • Create a reading center with a comfy chair in a well lit area.
  • Have paper and writing utensils available and let them write letters. They can ‘write’ using pictures if they still are not writing letters.

Raising a Writer

When my oldest daughter, now almost 15, was 3 she came up to me and grabbed my hand and dragged me over to the computer and said “I want to make a Poem. Type!” a few days before I had been reading her some French poetry (to which she had said very sternly “Mom, don’t talk me like that!” because she couldn’t understand the words.) So I sat down and she stood there with a very intent attitude, and whipped off the words she wanted. Then after she made sure I typed them in, she ran of as if nothing had happened. It was as if she had been briefly possessed. She was always precocious, but I have to admit that took me by surprise.
After that, it became a sort of intermittent occurrence, and I have several things that she made up when she was little.

Then she went to kindergarten, where a very pretty, but stern teacher who she desperately wanted to please beat her down with homework that was not age appropriate, and who was a stickler for correct spelling. So my daughter began to have a fear of words and their being incorrectly written on the page and no matter how hard I coaxed she would not write anything unless she knew exactly how to spell it. I should have yanked her right out of that class at the first sign of these goings on, but she was my first child and I was young and all of the other reasons parents allow their kids to be traumatized and beaten down until they fear writing.
It has been a long road to get back to where she loves to write, but still even though she has filled up countless notebooks and spends her free time writing stories, she barely will even turn in a writing assignment. She almost flunked out of English this year, because she was blessed with yet another Nazi English teacher – no offense to any English teachers out there; I used to be one. (I did have the sense to take her out this time, but I waited longer than I should have. . . I was under the mistaken impression that I would be able to get her to change her approach through diplomacy, so I wrote e-mails, had a meeting with her and the administration, even offered to come do a training on teen brain development – LOL – etc but to no avail – this time it went way deeper than the red pen treatment and spelling – this woman had serious issues and really disliked kids, especially my daughter which is hard to imagine and I am not one of those deluded parents who overlooks their teen’s bad behavior . . . I don’t think anyway ;))

So anyway, getting to the point . . . because of this history, combined with my work, (I have been at the Reading is Fundamental training all day so this is on my mind because we discussed emergent literacy) I think a lot about emergent literacy, and properly raising the writer in my children. I think it is really important to keep things in perspective when working with kids and teaching them to write. I think the quickest way to scare them off is to grammar them to death too early, and another big way to create writerphobia is to put too much emphasis too soon on spelling. These things are important but I tell people all the time, “which would you rather read? Writing that is interesting and dynamic, or writing that is boring, but is all spelled properly? That is what revision and the writing process are there to iron out the kinks AFTER the story is laid out.
I love writing because it is a fun emotionally rewarding way to get my ideas out where I can see them. I love that my daughter loves to write, and she is very passionate about it (She actually said that it is her life passion to be a writer.) So why do some teachers cheat kids out of this pleasure by ruining it all for them by nitpicking their writing when we should just be jumping up and down for joy that they are catching the writing bug?

Here are some quick tips for raising a writer:
1. Don’t nitpick spelling and grammar. Sandwich specific constructive criticisms with meaningful positive comments, and never just say “it’s great,” or “it’s stupid.”
2. Always have something specific and positive to say, even if it is “I think it is wonderful that you are enjoying writing so much!” If they are not very good at it, they will get better. Keep in mind that writing gets better with maturity and practice.
3. Keep in mind age and ability levels. If a child is interested in writing at a young age, they will only get better with encouragement.
4. Keep it fun — read books together and brainstorm with them to come up with lots of fresh and fun writing ideas; talk about authors of the books they really like and take them to book signings to meet their favorite authors.
5. It is never too early or late to learn the craft of writing.

He Lives . . . for Now

It has been one of those days.  Work went fine, since whilst I was tapping blissfully away at my keyboard in ignorance, building spreadsheets, making phone calls, and updating the program website, my lovely 6-year-old son who comes home from school with his older brother two hours before I do was wreaking havoc all over the place while his older sister who was supposed to be tending him had her nose buried in a book.

Ok . . . so in the perfect world, I would have been home at the door greeting them barefoot with cookies and milk, wearing a frilly polka-dot apron over my jeans.

This is not that world.

And to be fair, not everything went wrong. The kids had eaten dinner before I got home (so her nose came out of the book long enough for her to boss J into cooking spaghetti) even though the veggies had been tossed into the microwave at the end as a sort of afterthought instead of having been cooked properly, and then forgotten so when I went to warm up my plate an hour later, there in the microwave was a cold soggy bag of veggies to greet me. . .

But the part that I was really mad about was the fact that Zee had terrorized (weeded) my garden. All of my lovely little corn plants — vanished.  It was like nothing had ever been planted there.  Arrrrrrgggghhhh! And how can I really be mad about it?  It makes me feel like such a heel. And then he and Bee terrorized (loved) the baby pigeon and the pigeon egg while the parents were off having a breather. The baby pigeon is lucky to still be alive, and the egg . . .  at least it’s not cracked. I hope it still hatches – It is suppoed to hatch any time now. J’s hands are all pecked up from when he returned the poor things to their parents.

This whole thing makes me wonder a lot about the one afternoon that one of the chicks went missing for a whole day. I thought for sure that the cat had eaten one, but now I think that it spent the night under Zee’s bed in a nest made out of a hand towel. Other than the chick having mysteriously re-appeared in the coop the very next morning and my finding a towel under his bed with some feathers in it a few days later, what in the world would make me suspect such a thing???

I used to pray he would live to be at least five, and not accidentally kill himself in one of his crazy antics. Now I just pray for the strength to not kill him myself!

Our Backyard Chickens

Having chickens in our backyard has been really fun, especially for the kids. They love the chicks, and want picture-049to feed them and play with them all the time. It is a challenge sometimes to keep the kids out of the coop so that the chicks have some time to scratch in the dirt, run in the grass, and eat bugs and snails – all the fun stuff that chicks like to do. . . this is Bee with her favorite chick, Rose. (Rose is an Aracauna and will lay blue or green eggs.) We have been collecting one egg nearly every day since the beginning of April from our black bantam, Gertie, and the kids get really excited about bringing that egg in every day. I think it is really good for them to see where eggs come from. These chicks won’t lay yet for quite a while, but they really make great pets.

picture-055The one problem that I do have (other than keeping the cat at bay) is keeping the chickens out of the garden. Gertie loves the corn, and has eaten the tops off of almost all of the little corn seedlings since they came up about two weeks ago. Because of this, I am afraid that the corn is a little behind in its growth. I have also had to re-plant some of the peas and quite a few other things. The one thing that she hasn’t eaten are the onions 🙂 One thing that helps is that we dumped some wheat out onto the ground and let it grow — they really love the wheatgrass, and they have eaten it down quite a bit. I keep it watered so it keeps growing back, and every time I let them out, that is the first thing they go to. I am thinking of building a little run so that they can be outside without fear of the cat getting them, as well as skunks and hawks. This would also keep them in one part of the yard, so that I won’t have to worry about my garden. Then I can put a little ramp up to the coop and they can

Zee and His Chick Ruby

Zee and His Chick Ruby

come in and out when they want without me having to open the door for them and then worry about forgetting to put them back in at night.

The chicks are growing fast. They don’t need the heat lamp at night any more, and are getting to where they can jump out of the coop on their own. They like to play games where they chase after eachother and jump into the air flapping their wings. They can actually lift off of the ground a little. I’m thinking I may need to clip their wings after a while to keep them from jumping the fence into the neighbors yard. Now wouldn’t that be a dandy chase?

Looks Like Lunch to Me

Since our chicks have been out of the coop more and more in this nice sunny weather we’ve been picture-054having, I have had to be extra watchful of the cat . . . the chicks are pets, but they look like lunch to her. This is our cat Peppermint Schnapps, so named because of her shockingly green eyes and the fact that we rescued her from a bar where the drunks were making a game of trying to throw her into the rottweiler kennel that was next door. After a few nights of this, the bar owner called me and asked if I would please take her before she was killed. She is very independent and takes care of herself, but she also wants to be where people are, which explains why she didn’t just run away from the bar . . . it was the only inhabited building for quite a distance.

picture-0591One of the first things she did after we moved here was to make a quick dinner out of a nest of baby robins that I had been watching for a few days with the hopes that I could use the experience as a kind of science-project-from-a-distance for my kids — I imagined letting them watch while the birds grew and finally left the nest. No such luck with this little preditor running about. But the fact that she is so self sufficient, and yet kid friendly it is exactly the thing that makes her such a great pet.  I was really disappointed but I should have known that a nest low enough for me to see was not safe with our cat around.  Which brings me back to where I started . . . here she is watching the pigeons on the roof.

A Face Only a Mother Could Love

picture-046Well, I have seen the poor, well loved little thing (it turns out that there is only one hatchling so far) and it looks much like a miniature plucked chicken with a bulging neck and an over-sized beak. (I caught a look while the mother left her nest for a few minutes today). The other truly amazing thing about this baby is that it has tripled, maybe even quadrupled, in size since it hatched only just days ago. It is now the size of a Jumbo sized chicken egg, from something about the size of the ball of my thumb . . . truly amazing! The picture is a bit blurry, since I only had one chance to snap a picture before mommy came back to shoo me off . . . but it really doesn’t look a whole lot better than this 🙂

Babies, Babies, Babies!

picture-051One pair of our rollers has hatched her babies! I was lucky to get a tiny little peek at them today when I went out to feed the chickens, but she was not happy about me snooping at all. I saw what looked like a tiny little fuzz ball with a huge beak 🙂 I think that they are about two days old now, but since she sits on them all the time still, I wasn’t sure if they had hatched yet or not, and I was starting to worry just a little, since the 18 day incubation period has now passed. So I poked my head in, thinking that I might have to try to pull the eggs out for a minute to check them in the light to see if they were viable or not. She puffed up her feathers and hissed at me menacingly, and then she moved just slightly to the side just enough that I got a glimps of one of the two little baby birds. I will try to get a picture to post, but I don’t want to harrass her too much, so if I can’t get one, then you’ll just have to wait until she is ready to leave her nest for a little while. Our other little pigeon mommy just laid her eggs last Sunday so she has another 10 days before hers hatch. What a wonderful little adventure this is turning out to be — Now we just need to find new homes for them all . . .

The Write Brain Workbook: 366 Exercises to Liberate your Writing

write-brain

The Write Brain Workbook: 366 Exercises to Liberate your Writing by Bonnie Neubauer is a fun book. I don’t usually go absolutely nuts about writing prompts, but that is really what this book is. Every page has a new exercise, made up of a combination of pictures, graphic elements, and writing ideas that can be done in any one of several different ways depending on your mood, or if you change the wording in the prompt just slightly, or who you read it with . . . I found my kids flipping through it one day, and we looked at a few of the pages together, reading the exercises and looking at the pictures, and each of us had a completely different idea of what we thought we would write about each page. Fun! Even after writing a few pages bases on one of the prompts, I was able to come back to the same one from a different angle and come up with something different, and that is what is so great about this book. Each page has a “take the next step” that gives you a different twist, or an idea that can be used over and over for an endless number of original ideas. For example on day 133, it has “List 6 different snapshots from your life that took place in May. Use these to prompt further writing.” You could change May to any month, and combining different snippets of memories can give you a lot to write about. This is the kind of book you will find that you want your own copy, because the library only lets you check it out so many times in a row!

Race for the Cure Salt Lake

My oldest daughter and I walked in the Race for the Cure on Saturday. My friend has been struggling with breast cancer the last several months and we went to support her. I think it was also a good experience for my daughter to see how many people were there with signs that said “in memory of . . .” and how many lives have been touched by breast cancer. I took several pictures for Meg since she had her last chemo treatment the previous day, and was unable to make it.

A Pink Baloon Arch marked the starting point for the 5k

One of the Bikers Who Were Helping With Crowd Control

A Group of Walkers Dressed Up for the Cause

A Group of Walkers Dressed Up for the Cause

Geeks for a Cure

Geeks for a Cure

C@nc3r D03$ N0t C0mPut3

C@nc3r D03$ N0t C0mPut3

Sorry LInda, They Wouldn’t Let us Run Naked

Proof that I walked at least 3 miles 😉

Meet Our Rollers

Last fall, my husband decided to try raising some pigeons. We now have four roller pigeons, and our newest aquisition, two homing pigeons. One of our pairs of rollers is brooding and has two eggs. The male has become quite protective and has chased the other pigeons out of the coop. He tolerates the chicken and her chicks, but I think he would prefer that they were not there either. It has been fun to watch the whole process. Zee brought the pigeon’s first egg in the house along with the chicken’s egg the day it was laid and I had him take it back out. I put it in a shoebox with some sawdust and wood shavings to keep the chicken and chicks from stepping on it, but at the same time thinking that she would probably abandon it because it had been touched. The next time I went out to check on them I was pleasantly surprised to see her sitting on it. She has been sitting on it for a little over a week now, and from what I have read, it takes 18 days for a pigeon egg to hatch. My husband took a peek in the nest the other day when she was off of her eggs and verified that there was a second egg. I don’t know if the first egg will hatch or not, since it was cold for a day before she started brooding, but from what I have read, that may not matter. I am thinking that we will probably need to get a second coop if we want to keep our birds all happy . . .