Monday, November 23, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

The fourth Thursday of November is fast approaching, which means turkeys, pumpkin pies, stuffing and any number of family specialties will be prepared across the country in the coming days - for Thanksgiving is upon us.

Most of us grew up learning the story of the 1621 Thanksgiving at Plymouth, Mass. with the Pilgrims and Native Americans gathered around the table. In recent history other early Thanksgiving celebrations in North America have come to light . . . so while the Pilgrims and Indians probably weren't the first to celebrate Thanksgiving in our country - the way they celebrated has influenced our current celebration in many ways. But more than commemorating a single event centuries ago, Thanksgiving is a national day for all Americans to gather with friends and family and remind ourselves of what we have to be thankful for.

Our stories this week reflect that idea. In Rivka's First Thanksgiving we learn the story of a Jewish family recently immigrated from Poland and how Rivka introduces them all to Thanksgiving. In a similar vein, The Thanksgiving Door by Debby Atwell, tells the story of an elderly couple who after the demise of their own Thanksgiving meal stumble upon the first Thanksgiving of a newly immigrated Russian family who "accidentaly" left the door to their restaurant ajar. Both books show the universality of Thanksgiving celebrations. Finally, Thanksgiving Fun: Things to Make and Do includes a section on how other Thanksgiving type harvest festivals are celebrated around the world, in addition to recipes and craft ideas throughout the book.

I hope you will take this opportunity to share your heritage with your family. Tell your kids about their roots, and how those influence your Thanksgiving celebrations. In my family, my mom is a descendant of William Bradford, the governor who declared the 1621 feast day, which might explain why Thanksgiving is her favorite holiday. While on the other side of my family, my father is a first generation immigrant from Mexico, so we always make turkey tacos with our leftovers and have homemade salsa in the days following Thanksgiving. Passing on your own family's story not only gives your children an appreciation of history, but also of diversity, after all, we're all immigrants here - some of us have just been here longer than others!

Enjoy this time to be with family and remember what all we have to be thankful for, especially in these lean times. And if you have any to spare, please also remember those who are in need. What better way to show our thanks than by sharing our blessings?

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Thank you, Soldier!

Today is Veteran's Day.

Every year on November 11 (with few exceptions) we honor our troops, past and present, for their service to our country.

We celebrate on November 11 because that is the day that armistace was declared in World War I. Once called "the war to end all wars", we know that sadly it was not - and so our soldiers continue to serve - not only to protect the peace, but also in war zones, as now with our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The book Love, Lizzie: Letters to a Military Mom is a touching book of letters between a mom and daughter during Mommy's deployment overseas. This book is inspiration for today's activity: Thank You Cards For Soldiers

I've heard from friends and family that serve in active duty that they often feel ignored. Sadly the politics of war have often over shadowed the sacrifices made by those men and women who voluntarily serve their country in the armed forces. Regardless of your personal beliefs about current conflicts - I think we can all agree that our troops deserve a big THANK YOU for their willingness to serve.

Get some construction paper or card stock, stickers, markers, crayons, etc. and make your very own cards to send to soldiers. The message does not need to be long (though it can be) - just a simple "Thanks" will suffice.

If you do not know someone in active duty to send your cards to, the website can be a great resource. The Any Soldier organization will deliver your cards, letters and/or care packages directly to the soldiers who need the morale boost the most - those who get the least correspondance from home. You can even search for a unit's address based on where they are serving or where they are from. Just be sure to read the FAQ before sending anything.

Thank You, Soldiers!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

A Trip to the Hospital

Just over two weeks ago the Library Lady went into the hospital for outpatient surgery, which got her thinking about her hospital experience as a child. She had tubes put in her ears one year and her appendix taken out another, but some kids have never been in a hospital. To them the hospital can be a sometimes frightening place based on stories they have heard from others - it's where you go if you are seriously injured or dying. Understandably scary.

For kids that have never been to the hospital books can be a great way to introduce them to the concept before they, or someone they know, has to go to the hospital. What's Inside a Hospital? by Sharon Gordon is a great beginning reader picture book, with pictures, big letters, simple words and sentences kids are introduced to the different people and places in the hospital. In a similar vein, the book At the Hosptial by Amy Moses uses big pictures and simple explanations to tell about what goes on in a hospital. If you have a kid who loves the gross-out factor of blood and guts, then Ugh! Icky, Sticky, Gross Stuff in the Hospital by Pam Rosenberg is for you. This book tells how doctors get rid of germs and use leeches to help patients among other gross-out details of how hospitals work to get patients better.

Many kids will likely get their first introduction to the hospital through minor surgery like having their tonsils out, or from a trip to the emergency room for a broken bone or bad sprain. In Good-bye Tonsils! by Juliana Lee Hatkoff and Craig Hatkoff, Juliana tells the storry of her own tonsilectomy. This detailed story is told from as a first person narrative from the patient's perspective and is a great resource for the parents of the 250,000 kids that will have their tonsils removed each year. While the surgery is different, those getting tubes put in and/or adnoids removed can also learn a great deal from this book.

If your child is having a planned surgery - speak with their doctor about having a tour of hospital before the big day. When I had my tubes put in to deal with my horrible ear infections I remember getting to meet some of the pediatric nurses, see the area of the hospital where I would be and doing a little walk through of how things would go on the day of my surgery. This did a lot to ease my fears, and came in very handy again when my appendix was removed a few years later - even though that was an emergency surgery at a different hospital in a completely different state - because I was already prepared for many of the things the nurses were doing to me, like taking my blood pressure and blood samples.

For other kids, it's their rough and tumble outgoing play that will land them in the hospital for the first time. Is Gaspard in the Hospital, Gaspard the rabbit finds himself in the hospital after swallowing a toy. While Maisy Goes to the Hospital after breaking her leg, while in traction she makes friends with other children in the pediatric ward. Even our favorite friend from darkest Peru, Paddington Bear Goes to the Hospital after a nasty fall.

Alas, the sad fact is that many kids won't necessarily have a positive first experience with the hospital. For them, their first trip to the hospital may be to visit a sick family member. These last two books deal with that experience very well. In When Mommy is Sick a little girl shares her anxiety when Mommy has to go to the hospital, because the disease itself is never identified, this book can be a good sharing experience for many kids with a parent who suffers from a chronic illness. In Emma's Question another little girl is afraid to ask the big questions about death and dying when her beloved grandma falls ill and has to stay in the hospital for a time. This story has a happy ending, but is a great discussion starter for kids with older family members who may be going through illnesses as they age.

One hospital experience I chose not to cover in this blog post is the addition of a new family member. But we'll try to tackle some the excitement and anxiety that goes along with becoming a big brother or sister at another time.

However your child is first introduced to the hospital, books can help ease their fears and anxieties and serve as good conversation starters for moms and dads worried about how to talk to their children about a potentially scary subject. Unforuntately, almost all of us will spend at least some time in a hospital during our lives and it is a good thing to make the experience a less anxious one for kids.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Final Foliage of Fall

Around the country the brilliant colors of fall foliage are beginning to wane, as the last of the autumn leaves flitter to the ground and the trees brace themselves for the winter that is on the way. But there is still some time to get out this week to enjoy the changing seasons! Here are some books to inspire your adventures:

For your beginning reader, Little Critter: The Fall Festival is a great book, with big lettering and easy to sound out words along with descriptive pictures, all with the childhood favorite Little Critter and his family celebrating the harvest season.

The Little Yellow Leaf is another good one for early readers to read along with their grown-ups. The illustrations are great artisitically, and might inspire some craft ideas - in addition the story is a great tale about friendship and taking leaps of faith.

For the more scientific and curious child What Happens in Fall? by Sara L. Latta, from the series I Like the Seasons! does a great job of explaining what causes the leaves to change colors and fall, why the weather gets cooler, the days shorter, and how animals prepare for the coming winter.

Translated from Japanese, Hooray for Fall! tells the story of three little squirrels discovering the beauty of autumn's colors.

Last but not least - We're Going on a Leaf Hunt takes the classic children's chanting game "Going on a Bear Hunt" and gives it a fall twist. The children in the story hunt for the leaves of different trees squish-squashing their way through the woods - and it is their adventure that is the inspiration for today's activity: Leaf Collage!

Go out on a nature walk in a nearby park or forrested area with a well-marked trail. On the way observe the animals gathering nuts and berries for the winter and take some time to gather your art supplies. Pine needles, grasses and especially the fallen leaves of a variety of trees all make good choices for your collages. You may need to dry and flatten your leaves before you can use them for your craft project by putting them between sheets of paper towel and laying a heavy book or two on top for about half an hour. Then use crayons, markers, colored pencils, water color etc. to draw your scene if you wish. Or you can do an abstract collection. Whatever you choose, white school glue or glue dots work the best for sticking your collected flora to your paper. Most importantly, have fun, be creative and take some time to enjoy Mother Nature!