Thursday, February 8, 2018

Beginnings and Endings in Motherhood

Our little girl is two months old!  Holy cow how in the world did we get here?!?  Seems like just yesterday we brought her home, exhausted and completely unprepared for how our life was changing.  As she is starting to get into a routine I have been trying to implement small consistencies throughout the day.  For example I love to sing my own version of "Good Morning" from Singing in the Rain.  (That's right.  My parents raised me on a healthy diet of classic movies growing up.)  To be honest I don't remember many of the words so I kind of made some up.  But I like to think Abby loves listening as we prepare for the day after she wakes up.

One of my favorite routines has become our morning story time.  After she wakes up and eats we usually have about an hour or so to play and explore before she starts rubbing her eyes.  That's my cue to change her diaper, wrap her up, and cuddle in the glider with a story!  We read other stories throughout the day, but this time is reserved for a chapter book.  I started with Charlotte's Web about a month after she was born and we just finished.

Confession time:  I teared up a bit as I read the last line of that book yesterday.  I know that there will be many more books that I read to my little girl, but coming to the end of this one was bittersweet.  It was our first chapter book together.  We had come to the end of one "chapter" in our adventures through the pages of stories.  But isn't that how motherhood goes?  Every beginning comes to an end, and that end leads to a new beginning.    I'm reminded of Ecclesiastes 3:1.  There is a season for everything, but that doesn't make the end of the season any easier.

When that beautiful baby leaves your body and is now in your arms.

When they stop sleeping beside you in a bassinet and move into their crib.

When they stop wanting to sleep in your arms all day and become more alert and interactive.

Every day I am reminded that there will be too many endings in this season of motherhood.  So I hold on to the sweet moments that I cherish and joyfully embrace what the new beginnings will bring, because some seasons don't last nearly long enough.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Easy Buffalo Chicken Wraps

Is anyone else excited for the Super Bowl tomorrow?  I am!  But not because of football.  To be honest the only reason I know the Patriots are playing is because my father in law is a Jags fan and I therefore semi-watched the playoff game.  (And by semi-watched I mean browsed Pinterest and ate yummy food while occasionally glancing at the TV if yelling occurred.)  Off the top of my head I can't tell you who they're up against.

For me, any sporting event is all about the food.  Our get-togethers generally involve copious amounts of chips and my husband's guacamole.  I know for a lot of other families hot wings tend to be a big hit, which led me to think back on this yummy meal we had a week or two ago.  I meant to post it earlier but am just now getting around to it.  Say hello to our Easy Buffalo Chicken Wraps!

I made these one night when Sean's mom and grandparents were coming over before a Lobo basketball game.  It took very little prep and everyone got to customize their own wrap with as much filling as they wanted!  This would be great for having a large group over since the ingredients are cheap.  I used boiled chicken because our grocery store had whole chickens for 77 cents a pound that week, but you could use a rotisserie chicken.  We also used the leftover ingredients the next day to make it in salad form.  Just toss it all together minus the wrap!

Are there other fillings you think we should add in our wraps?  Let us know!  And for those of you actually watching the game for football tomorrow - may the odds be ever in your favor!

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Valentine's Day Fun: Stories and Activities for Your Class or Kids

I remember being so excited for Valentine's Day as a kid.  The excitement of choosing the perfect set of valentines, then carefully choosing which one to give each friend or classmate.  And of course the silly, girly anticipation of whether that cute boy two rows back would give me a valentine that let me know they felt the same way. (Didn't happen, folks!)

I think one reason I loved Valentine's Day was because my dad made it special.  He would always get my sister and me flowers or a card or something special to let us know how much he loved us.  Sometimes he would even take us out of school for a special lunch date!  Those were sweet times I still cherish when I look back on my childhood.

Now that I'm older Valentine's Day has taken a bit of a backseat.  I know, I know.  I'm married and have someone and should be celebrating.  But alas it always tends to be a holiday that doesn't get a lot of attention in our house.  Plus Sean's birthday is four days later so there are other things to celebrate at that time.

Whether I celebrate it or not a holiday is always a reason to find new books!  So here are a few books and activities to go along with them that you can do at home with your children or in the classroom.  Wishing you a love-filled day, every day!

This is NOT a Valentine by Carter Higgins, Illustrated by Lucy Ruth Cummins

Summary:  An adorable story where a little boy makes sure to let his friend know all the gifts he gives her are NOT valentines.  Those are too mushy.  The thoughtfulness shown in each gift is a sweet reminder that cards and flowers aren't the only way to show our love!

Activity:  Brainstorm a list of ways we can show people that we care other than giving them the traditional valentines.  Choose one or two things to do for a family member or loved one.

Love Monster by Rachel Bright

Summary:  This monster isn't cute or fluffy.  But he wants someone to love him for who he is and goes on a journey to find that special someone.  A great reminder that sometimes love finds us when we don't expect it and we are each unique.

Activity:  Write a letter to someone you care about telling them all the unique things you love about them.

Classroom Activity: This would be an awesome classroom activity to build each other up and create an end of the year gift at the same time!  Have a student sit on a stool in front of a whiteboard and write those unique characteristics around their head as classmates brainstorm.  Then take a picture of that student and all the attributes.  At the end of the year you could frame the picture to give to the student.

Valensteins by Ethan Long

Summary:  A hilarious read perfect for those kids that want to cry "Eeeewww!" when Valentine's Day comes around.  Fran is in love and all the other ghoulish creatures just can't understand it.  A unique mixture of Valentine's Day with Halloween, this book reminds us that love is about what we feel in our hearts and not the gifts we give.

Activity:  Have students finish the sentence "Love is when..." with a description of things they do when they love someone.  You can brainstorm together as a class.  For example, I might start my kids off by saying, "Love is when Mrs. Sacoman gives someone her last bite of a cookie."  (Really, truly, if I give you ANY part of a dessert it means I love you.)  They could also branch out to things other people do for them.  For example, "Love is when my mom makes me dinner."  Then students illustrate their sentence.  This would be great to put together and make a class book!  You can get a paper I created for their writing here.

The Day It Rained Hearts by Felicia Bond

Summary:  Cornelia Augusta knows it must be close to Valentine's Day when it starts to rain hearts.  So she collects them and chooses each one carefully to give to her friends.  A sweet story of knowing your friends and doing something to let them know they are special.

Activity:  Pass out one heart to each student (template here).  Have them choose someone special to receive the heart and write that person's name on the line.  Then give them supplies such as markers, crayons, glitter, glue, etc. to decorate that heart for the recipient.  This would make a great display in the school hallway!

Sorting Activity:  This activity is great for younger students and children.  In the story Cornelia Augusta notices all the hearts are different.  Cut out hearts that are different sizes, shapes, and colors.  Then have the students sort the hearts by color, size, or shape.  You can even have the kids choose how they sort their hearts and see what everyone chooses to do.  You can use this template on different colored paper or find your own hearts to use.  Other great heart sorting supplies would be the candy valentine hearts with sayings or stickers for little ones.

Monday, January 29, 2018

For the Love of Reading

"I don't like to read."  Oh, if I had a dollar for every time a student said that to me.  Now I know that reading is not going to be everyone's favorite activity.  (How sad it makes me to type those words!)  For many students I've noticed their dislike of reading stems from a lack of positive reading experiences or difficulty with reading ability.  A person's experience with literacy early in life will shape their future reading habits.  It's important to encourage your children by reading with them regularly and finding ways to make it enjoyable.  So here are five mostly free ideas to help you encourage your child to read and improve their literacy skills!

Cook Up a Love of Reading
Maybe you're not like me and obsessively scour Pinterest for delicious new recipes to try.  Or maybe you are... I won't judge!  Either way you are probably reading recipes at least once every few weeks if you cook at home.  When you do, have your child join you!  It might not be a picture book, but it is reading.  Your child will be able to see words that are unique to cooking and even practice some math skills such as measurement and fractions.  And I can bet that if your recipe involves chocolate chip cookies that your child gets to eat at the end they won't complain one bit!

Our little girl's first trip to the library!
Professor Plum, in the Library....
There is a resource you might not be using - your public library!  Now I know what some of you may be thinking.  "Katie, you're a librarian.  Of course you would tell me to go to the public library.  But does anyone REALLY use the library anymore?"  Yes, my friends.  Yes they do.  And for good reason!  The library has free books - which is wonderful!  But they also have great activities to encourage literacy, such as story times and summer reading programs.  At our Public Library kids can earn free prizes at the summer reading program.  Plus they set their own goal, so if your child isn't an avid reader they won't have to spend 30 minutes a night to get the prizes.  Take a look at what they have to offer, and try to think outside of the box.  Make trips to the library a fun family activity.  If there's a park nearby, pack a lunch and eat in the park while reading the books you just checked out.  Or find non-reading activities and use those as a springboard to get your child excited about reading.  Does your child like Legos?  See if your library has a Lego Club (ours does!) and then encourage your child to check out a Lego related book at the library while you're there.

Comic Books, Graphic Novels, and Magazines... Oh My!
There is an idea that I have seen as I worked in education and the library that I wish would disappear.  People think that in order for reading to help a child's literacy skills they must always read "quality books".  Now this can mean many different things to different people, but where I have seen it most is a bias against items such as graphic novels and comic books.  They have too many pictures, they don't have quality story lines, they aren't at the child's level... there are various reasons.  According to the Educational Testing Service*, children with a wider variety of reading materials at home are higher in reading proficiency.  So let your child read a comic book!  Is it too difficult for them?  Read it together!  If it fosters a love of reading for your child it is a valuable resource.  Then use that comic book to branch out to other reading materials, such as picture and chapter books with similar characters or nonfiction materials about writing comic books.

Our sweet fur baby!
Reading is for the Dogs
Let me just start by saying whoever came up with this idea was genius!  Some libraries and dog shelters have started programs where children can come read to dogs.  The children get to practice their reading with a furry friend who won't be judging their ability to read the words.  At our library the child picks out a few books to read during their waiting time.  When it is their turn the child reads one book to a trained service dog who listens patiently.  This is an amazing program and I fully intend to get Abby involved with it once she is old enough.  Check and see if your public library or dog shelters in the area have a similar program.  (And if they don't, suggest the program!  You can also
have your child read to a pet that belongs to you or a family friend.)

Silly Parents, Books are for You!
This is a big one and, in my opinion, one of the most important.  What we do speaks much louder than what we say.  If we value reading and literacy and try to instill that in our children, what better way than making sure we model this as adults!  When your child sees you taking time out of your busy schedule to read, you are showing them it is something that is important.  Kids love to try and be "grown ups" like their parents and this is one behavior you won't mind them copying.  Does this mean you must read every single day on your own?  No, of course not.  But try to find time to read your own material - and let your child see.  Maybe have a time once a week where you cuddle with your child on the couch and both read your own book.  If you're not into books choose a magazine or newspaper.  The important thing is to model the habit of reading that we wish to instill in our children.

So there it is.  Five things you can do to encourage your child's love of reading and literacy skills.  Do you have any ways that you help your children learn to love reading?  Share them below!

*For more facts about children's literacy, visit

Sunday, January 14, 2018

A Literary Nursery

Happy three day weekend to all my teacher friends out there!  I'm excited to have Sean home tomorrow to spend some time together.  I hope you are enjoying your well deserved break with some tea and a good book.  Although I know a lot of times that book ends up being your lesson plan book.  Oh the joys of never ending planning! 

For those that don't know me, my husband and I recently welcomed our first daughter into this world in December. 

Isn't she adorable?!  Not going to lie - being a parent is one of the hardest things we've ever done.  And she isn't even able to talk back yet!  This past month has been a whirlwind and we are finally starting to settle into a bit of a routine.  Since I have time I want to share with you all the nursery we set up.

When deciding what to do for the nursery I wanted a few things.  First, I wanted decorations that could grow with her.  My childhood room is still pink and I know my parents would love to change that!  So we kept the color and I went for decorations that would have meaning both now and in the future.  Second, it needed to be inexpensive.  With me going on maternity leave for a year I didn't want to blow a bunch of savings on this room.  Lastly, I wanted some of the decorations to have purpose.  I wanted them to inspire her as she grew up and us as we figured out this new life.

I had always loved the idea of a literary nursery inspired by childhood favorites.  As a librarian books hold a special place in my heart.  They give us a way to explore the world and who we are without ever leaving the house.  I did not, however, love the children's book nursery ideas I found on Pinterest.  So many were based on a single book or too childish to grow with her.  I didn't want to be painting over a big Giving Tree when she turned 13 years old...

In the end I decided to draw inspiration from multiple children's books.  I chose decorations that I could make easily (and cheaply) and could be removed as she got older.  We kept the original color of the walls and I used book quotes and pages to create the decorations.  In the end I absolutely LOVE how it turned out.

I used some old copies of books to create some items in the room.  I chose a Harry Potter book because it was Sean's favorite growing up and a Nancy Drew book because it was mine.  Those books were used for the rack above the changing table, the "A" and book page flowers in the reading area, and the key mobile in the corner of the room.  That mobile was inspired by the flying key room in one of the Harry Potter books.  I wasn't sure when I started but it worked out in the end better than I expected.

When I chose book quotes I wanted words that would reflect the person Sean and I hope she will become.  Words that would both inspire her and guide us as we try to be an example.  Creating the quotes and artwork myself was way cheaper than buying something on Etsy, and I got the frames at a thrift store and Michael's before painting them white.

We also chose some Bible verses and I used those make these three frames by the rocking chair.  I put the actual verse in the back and made the text transparent so it was very light. 

And of course I had to make a little reading area!  She won't use it for several years, as my husband pointed out, but I'm hoping it will become one of her favorite spots.

I've saved the best for last!  Not book related at all but such a special addition.  I saw beautiful pictures of large name cutouts and sent a photo to my dad saying he should make them as a side business.  They are SO expensive!  Being the amazing Dad/Papa Z that he is, he offered to make one.  My family was planning on coming out at Thanksgiving so I didn't expect to get it put up until after the baby was born but he surprised me and shipped it to my baby shower with Sean's family.  I absolutely adore it! 

It's a beautiful room and I love it every time I walk in.  The decorations are simple, unique, and exactly what I imagined when I dreamed of our little girl's nursery.  Hopefully our little girl will love her room (and books!) as she grows up.