Upcycling for My Cloud Lover

1499538_836978826364425_5596123029629743022_n

See that plain white dresser up there? Yeah, it fell apart. A few drawers fell out, broke into pieces, and then it just felt a little useless. We got rid of the drawers, and pulled it into our room for safety, but there it sat for a few months. I thought of all these different things I could do with it, and thought maybe a book shelf would be nice, but didn’t know exactly how to make that happen. I’m not very good at building things, but like most, I had big ideas.

I started taking an awesome class at the Adult Ed. called Creating Success. Part of the class was fixing up a piece of furniture, and it dawned on me that it was the perfect time to work on this bookshelf/whatever it was going to become. I spent the first half of the semester trying to decide what I would do, and wanted to do the best I could to make something Caleb would actually want and love. The night before I was supposed to start working on it, we went for a nice evening walk. Caleb looked up at these incredible dark clouds, and got so excited. He told me he loved clouds, and for half an hour we sat and watched them. We talked about them, and why he loved them. “Mama they in sky and cool. Clouds rain and are ice.” (Thank you Tree Schoolers for getting him interested in learning that awesome tidbit!)

When we got home I took pen to paper… and this is what I came up with!

This my friends is Caleb’s own personal book nook! As you can see, the outside is the sky covered in hand painted clouds. The inside is painted as a rainbow (something else he really loves!) with a sparkly blue “C” just for Caleb. Originally I was going to just build a shelf inside for him to sit on/the books to be held under. My awesome teacher came up with a much better plan though! Instead we built him a bench that could fit inside, but would also be removable so that he could take it out of the nook if he wanted to. I painted a big piece of canvas, with the help of my friend, and stapled it to the bench. The legs were off another chair and were perfect “trunks” for this tree he’d be sitting on. The books fit neatly beneath it, and the legs keep them in place. I’m planning to get book ends for when he wants to remove the bench, but I’m not too worried about it for now.

Photo_00040

I was so excited to bring this home for him to start using. I snuck it in before he could see, got it all set up and ready, and brought him in… He was ecstatic! He turned to me and said, “Mama this Caleb’s?”

thank you mama

“Yes sweet boy!” Gleefully this little love of my life said, “Thank you mama!” He ran right over, sat down, got off, grabbed a book, and sat back down to read. He loves his books, and now I find him sitting there looking through his storiesĀ for a while every day. This book nook is just full of love. My grandmother had just given us the curtain I painted, so her touch is in here. My friends helped make the paint color to match, and another friend helped prime the inside and paint the seat cover. These are friends who love Caleb, and I’m sure he can feel that love. It took about nineĀ hours to complete (between taking the old pieces apart, priming, painting, assembly, and finishing touches. It was all worth it though…

Sitting

Remember, You Are Loved!

Advertisements

Let’s Read!

12392027_988709707858002_8390340444078181073_n

When I was a child, I had very few friends. What I did have though, were books. I would spend all of my free time laying on my bed, snuggling my cat Bootsin, and reading the newest book to hit my library. I remember one time in fourth grade I stayed up all night to finish The Guardian from Nicholas Sparks in one sitting. I bawled my eyes out, threw it across the room more than once, and still remember the emotions I felt reading that incredible book.

Caleb seems to be following in my book loving footsteps, and that makes me so excited. Every night he grabs his Daddy Hugs book by Karen Katz, and he reads it with Corey. He’s learned how to count to ten with that book, and understands what each of those numbers mean. Throughout the day, he will grab many books for us to read together. He’s a big fan of “First Word” books, because he likes to identify items. Recently he has started reading very basic words (cat, hat, all, ball, etc.) so we’ve started working on the kind of books that have about three words each page, and many words are repeated. He’s loving it. He’s also picked up quite a few sight words, such as “pizza.” Last night, Corey brought home a pasta meal that said Pizza on the box. The box had no hints that it was pizza flavored, but Caleb saw the world and started cheering for “zaza!”

For Christmas Santa brought him something fantastic, and I so wish I had a picture of his face opening it. He was grinning from ear to ear when he opened up the Big Book of Booboos (Doc McStuffins) from V-tech. He loves Doc, but this is a really fantastic tool as well. There are multiple settings. One teaches the words, another teaches the first letter, and then there is a game setting to test these things. Each page has a sentence about the section, which when touched will read aloud what it says. It’s in book form, and a real favorite around our house now. I love toys like this that help inspire reading skills!

I’m not a fan of forced reading, and I don’t expect him to read proficiently any time in the next few years. Reading is about finding a world besides our own, learning many different things and hobbies, and also spending time with those we love. Reading is about experiencing something that we don’t always have access to. We can learn new skills, find inspiration, and reading can even influence our future.

There is a man named William Kamkwamba from Dowa, Malawi who was too poor to attend school. This didn’t stop him from borrowing books from the library, and teaching himself to build a windmill from spare parts. That windmill brought electricity to his whole village, and earned him many scholarships and grants to attend college. I highly recommend his Ted Talk. Reading helped this man create an incredible life for himself!

To end this post, I’d like to share some of my favorite tips for reading and early literacy. If you have any book recommendations, please share them with me!

  1. Make sure books are always available by setting up a book shelf in every room, including the bathroom.
  2. There are many phone apps with interactive books, similar to leap frog’s old reading systems. My favorite, which I currently only have the trial for, but will be investing in around income tax time, is called “Endless Reader.”
  3. Both sight words and phonetics are important. Sight words for important things you see everyday, but phonetics allow you to read anything and everything.
  4. My favorite beginning reading tip… When learning the alphabet, you can start with the names of the letters, but even better is to teach the letters as sounds.
  5. Breakfast time is a great time to read. Set up a small magazine rack by your table, and you’ll always have something even more interesting than the cereal box.
  6. Let your children see you reading. If they see that you love it, they will too!
  7. Most importantly… it is okay if your child won’t sit down while you’re reading out loud to them. Let them play or run around. Just keep reading! Reading is fun, and shouldn’t be turned into a chore.

Learning to Read/Identify Items and Words: The importance of availability.

climbing for booksLast Sunday I had a party and while I was cleaning up and getting ready for it I made a terrible mistake. I put Caleb’s books on the very top shelf of a shelving unit that’s tucked away into a corner. Usually he has full access to his books and he’ll go over, grab one, and plop himself down to look through it. Once in a while he’ll even bring the book to me and read it to me in his sweet little babble.

Every day we read together. That means very different things on different days. Sometimes he just wants to hold the book and turn the pages after I only get a word out. That’s okay. I’m not going to force him and make it any less fun for him. Other days he’s perfectly happy to snuggle up in my lap and allow me to go through each page, read the words once or twice, and point out all of the little details such as what color someone’s eyes and hair are or who’s taller or shorter in the scene. No matter what, when he brings a book to me (or when I call him over to read if it’s getting late and he hasn’t shown interest yet) my goal is to make it fun so that he never feels like reading is a chore.

Books are a great way to explore the world. I have an awesome 101 first words book that we read probably two or three times a week at least. I’ll read each word and point at the object it defines. Then we’ll talk about different colors on the page, how many of each item there are, and how he uses it or will see it. His absolute favorite page is the one with the clothing because he likes to point at the shoes and shout shoes at me a dozen times till I can spit out, “Good job, you’re right, those are shoes.”

Well, this picture is a few days old. I have seen the error of my way. How dare I put his books so high up and expect him not to do something scary like climb up onto the back of the couch to get them back! He showed me that our approach to reading and learning is working. He showed me that he does enjoy our time together, learning about a world beyond our own and even closer (as in every day life) and that what we’ve learned has stuck with him. After seeing him so desperate to get to his books I decided from now on he will have a little library set up in every room. Yes, that includes the bathroom! This is the time to start the building blocks of tomorrow.

Let’s Read!

Indulging Interests

2015/01/img_1244.jpg

I can remember as a child I had two main passions: Scooby Doo and Pokemon. My dad would take me to Pokemon tournaments and my whole family really supported my Scooby obsession with toys, VHS, and everything in between. Of course as time went on those passions changed. I went into my preteen, omg every celebrity is so hot, phase. Then I went into my “dark” high school phase. Now, I’m still in what my other half likes to call a rotating phase where one day I’ll be obsessed with this show, this song, this actor, this singer, this writer, this kind of product, this cause, etc etc…
Because phases change so fast, parents have been driven into this fear of wasting money. Caleb has really loved Mickey Mouse since a week or two before last Easter. At first we would just let him watch a little bit of the show or get him a little something here and there but now that he’s walking, talking, and really a competent toddler we have decided to indulge his interest. This doesn’t mean we spend a lot of money on it, we can’t, but we find ways all the same. We will put on the Hot Dog dance and all dance as a family. We read Mickey Mouse books with him and talk about the characters. We will download coloring pages of Mickey and Minnie. May I add, he loves Minnie just as much as Mickey so has many Minnie Mouse things as well. We went to the dollar tree and got him Minnie Mouse markers to color his Mickey Mouse coloring book. I’ve begun decorating his bedroom with more and more Mickey so that it is really a space just for him. And I know, in another few months he might not like Mickey anymore. I know that someday he will find a new passion and interests and this phase will be gone. That isn’t a reason to push his interests to the back burner though. It excites him, it makes him be very thoughtful, and the present is the most important thing to us.
Somewhat near us, not walking distance but walking distance from the bus route at least, there is a car dealership. One day we were on the bus and somehow I looked at just the right moment to see inside, and noticed a giant Mickey Mouse statue. We have been talking about it for a couple months now, going to check it out, but haven’t had the time to go down and make it back to the bus in time or money to take a taxi home. We came across that extra $12 for a taxi last week though and decided to take him down there to meet his Idol, Mickey Mouse. He was in awe. He said in the quietest voice, “I love you.” Mind you, it was his I love you that only I understand but he’s working on that. He would reach out to almost touch him and pull back. Such a simple, nearly free, thing gave him all the joy in the world and made me smile like crazy.

2015/01/img_1245.jpg
So! The point of all this? When your child shows a strong interest in something, ignore that nagging thought, “It’s just a phase.” It is just a phase, but does it really mater? No. Because today is what you live for, tomorrow is not guaranteed, and your child’s happiness shouldn’t be put on hold for a what if.