Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Children's books

I absolutely love children's books. This is one of the reasons I work in the library. People often ask me what books I recommend. Here are a few picture books. You'll find some classics, but also some newer books that I enjoy.

Do Unto Otters by Laurie Keller

Seventeen Things I'm not Allowed to Do Anymore by Jenny Offill

Fancy Nancy by Jane O'Conner

Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney

Are You My Mother? by P.D. Eastman

Off We Go! by Jane Yolen

Go Away Big, Green Monster! by Ed Emberley

Pouch! by David Ezra Stein

The Cow Loves Cookies by Karma Wilson

Elmer by David McKee

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

Silly Sally by Audrey Wood

King Bidgood's in the Bathtub by Audrey and Don Wood

No More, Por Favor by Susan Middleton Elya

I Love Animals by Flora McDonnell

These are just a few that I like and often use in story time. Let me know if you have other favorites to share!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Ekissa means mercy

I was absolutely blown away last Friday night when I attended a benefit dinner for a non-profit organization called "ekissa" pronounced etch-uh-sa. It was founded by a woman named Sarah Ledford. I am amazed at what they are doing for the people of Uganda, but even more than that, I am amazed at how God can take real people like you and me and give them a heart to reach the lost for Christ. The people that ekissa serve aren't just lost. They're dying. Here are some real statistics taken directly from ekissa's website.

■Every day children die from lack of food, unsanitary drinking water or treatable diseases. 11,000,000 children under the age of 5 will die this year.

■Hunger kills more than Malaria and TB combined.

■This translates to a child dying every 3.5 seconds; 1000 children every hour.
These statistics are harsh but very real. The reality is these situations are all extremely solvable. There are enough resources in the world to wipe out world hunger and treat preventable diseases.

There are many reasons that I am so moved by this particular organization, but the biggest reason is that Sarah is not only an amazing woman of God, but she's my friend. She and my mom worked together over 5 years ago. My mom introduced us and I was immediately taken in by this spunky, passionate woman. I love seeing her heart displayed in such a tangible way through the ministry of ekissa.

As many of you know I've had a passion and desire to help the people of Africa for a long time. My friends from SFA can probably recount the day I, as a freshman, came stumbling into Kerr Hall telling them how I wanted to go to Africa to reach people for Christ. I had just been to a workshop by a speech pathologist who had recently graduated and taken a trip to Africa. I don't even remember what country now. But what I do remember was the passion and desire to go to Africa that filled me up and set me on fire. I've prayed for the nations of Africa many, many times over the past 10 years. I even wanted to go to Africa with Campus Crusade for Christ. I was ready to sign up and live there for a whole year on what they call STINT, but when I researched my options, it turned out that Africa wasn't an option that year. I was heart-broken, but decided that it must not be God's timing for me - yet.

My heart still longs to go there. I would love to do short-term missions to Uganda. One day I will. Right now I need to wait for my little Xander-man to get a little bigger so that I can leave him for the amount of time necessary to make that trip.

Though it will be some time before I can physically go to Africa, David and I have talked about sponsoring a child through African Renewal Ministries. My desire is to sponsor a child close to Xander's age and have them grow up together. I would love to be part of God's plan in a child's life that has been shaped simply because of where he was born and the circumstances of his environment. My hope is that Xander will be able to learn more about cultures other than his own and that he will see just how blessed he is to be able to go to school, have clean clothes, and eat three meals a day. I also want him to learn about compassion, love, and generosity. Next year we will have the opportunity to sponsor a child in the village that Sarah and the ministry of ekissa is directly working, a village call Bweya.

Here is more information taken directly from ekissa.com.

our mission
ekissa translates “mercy” in Luganda, the native language in Uganda. ekissa is a not-for-profit corporation, born out of a compelling and urgent need of community outreach.

Bweya is overflowing with starving orphans. Even the children who have parents, many are malnourished and suffer multiple medical afflictions- deadly malaria, nutrient stealing worms and parasites, flesh eating jiggers, a rising reoccurrence of polio, and they experience days without food. The physical, educational, medical, nutritional and, most importantly, spiritual needs are overwhelming and God sized.

ekissa is applying a proven model for alleviating the vast needs of Bweya village. Its holistic approach is initially facilitated through partnering with Gaba Community Church in Kampala, through planting a church in Bweya. It is in planting the church that together, we aspire to begin addressing the needs of the orphans in Bweya as well as the medical, educational, nutritional, physical and spiritual needs of the local people. International models of transformative kingdom building always occurs through the indigenous people.

The vision of ekissa is to create long-term self-sustainability, rather than dependency, on the North American Church. The only way to accomplish the “Great Commission” (Matthew 28) and alleviate many of the daily and often life-threatening challenges in one of the poorest countries of the world is to bring disciples. Disciples will bring the love of Jesus and His Word which will rise up new believers and result in systemic change.

As witnessed in America, ekissa has seen firsthand through mission trips on the ground that the local indigenous church is the cornerstone of any successful, striving, sustainable community.

ekissa has a Board of Directors comprised of both domestic and international Ugandan members responsible for fashioning the ministry such that methods are deemed effective and systemic for the local indigenous Ugandan concepts. We are looking for U.S individuals, churches and other organizations, to come join in our mission and partner with the indigenous church, Gaba Community Church (www.gabachurch.org). We seek to extend the love of Christ in very tangible ways to the community of Bweya. We welcome the opportunity to share with anyone wishing to join in the opportunities for effective partnership.

In light of the inequalities of this world, we gain a greater awareness that we are blessed to be a blessing.

Such awareness sears within our heart the committed determination to advocate for orphans and widows.

Together, ekissa stands ready to facilitate the logistics, for you to join this effort.

I'm ready, Lord! Send me!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Work - ECRR Part V

Narrative skills means being able to describe things and events and tell stories.
Here are 4 simple steps to help your child develop narrative skills:

1. Tell your child stories.
2. Ask your child to tell you about something that happened today.
3. Read books together. Stories help children understand that things happen in order first, next, last.
4. Read a book that you have read before. Switch what you do - you be the listener and let your child tell you the story.

Remember that being able to tell or retell a story helps children understand what they read.

For babies and toddlers - be sure to talk to your child about what you are doing. Encourage your toddler to tell you about things. Listen patiently and ask questions.
Talking with children develops comprehension skills that will help them understand what they read.

For preschool-age children:
*Listen to your child carefully when he talks.
*Ask your child to tell you about something that happened. Let him tell you about a picture he drew.
*Share books together.
*Ask "what" questions. Point to a picture and say, "What's that?" or "What is happening here?"
*Add to what your child says. If your child says, "big truck" then you say, "Yes, a big red fire truck."
*Ask open-ended questions like, "What do you think is happeneing in this picture?"
*Help your child relate what is happening in the story to her own experience, for example, "What happened when we went on a picnic?"

I will end with some great advice on how to read-aloud from a great author.

Mem Fox’s Ten Read Aloud Commandments

1. Spend at least ten wildly happy minutes every single day reading aloud.
2. Read at least three stories a day: it may be the same story three times. Children need to hear a thousand stories before they can begin to learn to read.
3. Read aloud with animation. Listen to your own voice and don’t be dull, or flat, or boring. Hang loose and be loud, have fun and laugh a lot.
4. Read with joy and enjoyment: real enjoyment for yourself and great joy for the listeners.
5. Read the stories that the kids love, over and over and over again, and always read in the same ‘tune’ for each book: i.e. with the same intonations on each page, each time.
6. Let children hear lots of language by talking to them constantly about the pictures, or anything else connected to the book; or sing any old song that you can remember; or say nursery rhymes in a bouncy way; or be noisy together doing clapping games.
7. Look for rhyme, rhythm or repetition in books for young children, and make sure the books are really short.
8. Play games with the things that you and the child can see on the page, such as letting kids finish rhymes, and finding the letters that start the child’s name and yours, remembering that it’s never work, it’s always a fabulous game.
9. Never ever teach reading, or get tense around books.
10. Please read aloud every day, mums and dads, because you just love being with your child, not because it’s the right thing to do.


Monday, August 9, 2010

Xander update - 18 months

Where to begin?? My little man is growing up so quickly! On the 24th of this month he'll be 18 months old. It's hard to believe that it was 2 years ago that David and I were making the announcement that we would be parents. What a road we've traveled since then!

Xander's been using sign language for quite some time and regularly signs more, please, thank you, and milk. It's so hard to resist him when he cocks his little head and signs "please" when he wants something. He's really starting to use a lot of words now, too. He probably has about 20 words in his vocabulary. Among them are: Daddy, Mama, Mimi, ball, baba, hey, water, no, banana, eww, Elmo, bubble, waffle, bath, star, vacuum (yes, he says vacuum - it kind of sounds like dadoo, but I know what he's talking about), and Aunt E (though it usually comes out E-oo, much to our delight and amusement). He also makes lots of animals sounds. I don't know which one is my favorite, but it would probably be a tie between his bear sound and his bird sound. He can also do a cat, dog, cow, and lion (which is pretty much his bear sound...and his dinosaur sound).

He understands so much. The other day I sang the "clean up song", asked him to go get something and put it away and he did! He throws trash away, plays toddler games on the iPad, and asks for Elmo. He gives hugs and kisses on command and spontaneously. He usually listens when I say no, though he might stick his lip out, bury his head in my chest, squeeze out tears, knit his eyebrows together in disappointment, shake his little head, or any combination of those things.

He can almost run now. He walks very well and is really getting the clumsy toddler-jog down. He enjoys chasing after his cousins - and it won't be long before he catches up to them!

He loves to eat! His favorite foods are probably peanut butter, waffles, yogurt and applesauce. He also loves coffee and chocolate, but he doesn't get a whole lot of those - unless he's with his grandparents!

His favorite toy is a ball. He has a specific one that he prefers, but any ball will do in a pinch. He also enjoys his swing on Mimi's back porch. He loves books and will often ask for the same book to be read over and over. Right now he's really into a book called "I see a Monster." My aunt Karen would be so proud. :)

There are so many things that I love about my little boy. But mostly, I love how sweet and happy he is. He always has been. He brings joy to everyone he comes in contact with. I'm enjoying watching him grow, change, learn, and develop. It's such a pleasure to be his mother!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


I found an article today on Vaginal Births After Cessarian (VBAC). I'm very interested in this since I had to have a C-section with Xander and was not pleased that my long, arduous labor ended that way.


I struggle with having to make this decision the next time around. It would be easy to go ahead and schedule a C-section - pick the day and time, not go through a long, intensive labor, and end up with a sweet little baby only a little while later, while still looking perky and well-rested. :) But it just doesn't seem natural to me. With Xander I had to have my labor started and my water broken, so I didn't do any of the "normal" stuff. I kind of just want to go through it the natural way. Am I crazy?

Eh, who knows? God gave me my sweet little Xander, and even if it was a difficult process getting him here, he's the best thing I've ever done!

I'm still not sure what I'll choose when the time comes again, but at least there's hope for a more natural delivery next time!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Work - ECRR Part IV

Print awareness – noticing print everywhere; knowing how to handle a book; knowing how we follow the words on a page.

Why is print awareness important?
Before children learn to read, they must be familiar with how books work:
books have a cover; you begin to read at the top of the page and from left to right (in English and in many languages); books have words and pictures to tell the story; we read the print/text on the page, not the pictures.
When children feel comfortable with books, they can concentrate on reading.

How can parents help children notice print and understand how books work?

• Point to signs and other words around you and read what they say. Get books that your baby can handle.
• Let your toddler turn the pages as you read a book. Use your index finger or his to follow the words as you read.
• If a book has a word that repeats, point to it on the page and let your toddler say it.

Two – three year olds:
• Point to signs and other words around you and read what they say. Stop signs, etc. Talk about signs you see as you are driving, walking, at the grocery store.
• Point to words from time to time as you read so your child learns that you are reading the text, not the pictures.
• Let your child turn the pages as you read a book.
• If a book has a word or phrase that repeats, point to it on the page and let the child say it.
• Hold book up-side-down and see if the child knows it has to be turned around.

Four-five year olds:
• Let your child turn the pages as you read a book.
• As you read, point to words from time to time so your child learns you are reading text, not the pictures.
• Hold book up-side-down and see if the child knows it has to be turned around.
• If a book has a word or phrase that repeats, point to it on the page and let the child say it, and you point to the words.
• Have your child make a book. Talk about the different parts: cover, words, pictures, beginning, middle, end.
• Print is everywhere – help your preschooler recognize it: names of restaurants and stores, food, movies, stop signs and street signs and other types of print that you see as you walk and drive.

New York pics

Ready for a day in the city!

Recession special - 2 hot dogs and a drink for $4.25. Can't beat that!

The Hotel Beacon - where we stayed.

Totally awesome that the "Wicked" billboard is in the window - how I wish we could've seen that again, too!

David and I before going to "Promises, Promises"

Kristen Chenoweth was awesome! Love her!

The theatre

The children's room at the New York Public Library

The famous library lion.

David loves the Apple store!

On our way to see "American Idiot." Loved, loved, loved it! Fantastic - highly recommended.

The Chrysler building from the top of the Empire State Building

The Empire State Building from the ground.

My sweet David and I at the top - it was windy. ;)

New York 2010

On July 28, David and I took our long-awaited trip to New York city. David turned 30 in June and this was my birthday gift to him. We had an amazing trip!

We arrived at the CLT airport with no problem, checked our bag, checked in, went through security and arrived at our gate, Starbucks in hand. The flight was great and we arrived at La Guardia airport on time. Our cab ride to the hotel was quite the experience, as it always is in New York, but we made it there alive, thankfully. We shared a cab with 2 other passengers who were from Alabama. They were taking a mother/daughter trip and it was their first time to the city. How exciting!

We arrived at the Hotel Beacon and were pleasantly surprised at how nice it was. I had done research on hotels, but you really don't know how it's going to be until you get there. There was a kitchenette, which I didn't expect, a table and chairs which we ate breakfast at both mornings, and nice accommodations. I would definitely recommend this hotel if anyone's going to NYC soon. The hotel is located on the upper west side, which is near a lot of residences. It was really a great location - only a block away from the subway, and about 30 blocks from Times Square.

Our first stop that we made after venturing out of the hotel was to Gray's Papaya for a "recession special" of 2 hot dogs and a drink for $4.25. We split that, so it really was a good deal! Gray's Papaya is mentioned several times on one of our favorite shows - "How I Met Your Mother."

We saw an Apple store, and even though we have one in Charlotte, we had to a make a stop. :) I have to admit that this store was nothing like ours! There were two levels and more computers, phones and iPods than I could ever imagine! We played with the iPhone 4 for a minute, bought an adapter for my iPad and camera, and moved on.

We continued down Broadway, made it to Times Square, and decided to check out TKTS to see what tickets were available for a Broadway show. They had same-day, half-price tickets to "Promises, Promises," so we decided to get the tickets and go that night. We then headed down to the New York Public Library. Neither of us had ever been inside, so we were curious to see what it looked like. They're still doing renovations on the outside, but it was beautiful. I took pics of the children's room. They had a display of the original Winnie-the-Pooh stuffed animals, but I wasn't allowed to use the flash on my camera, so I didn't get any pics. I imagine working at the New York Public Library is a little different from ImaginOn in Charlotte, although ImaginOn is very cool, too. :)

We headed back to the hotel by subway. I have to brag on my husband. Traveling with him is so easy and fun! He's great with directions, which I am not, so I truly appreciate this quality in him. He's very laid back and loves to go with the flow. He also loves the subway, so getting around wasn't stressful at all!

We changed clothes and freshened up, but were ready earlier than expected so we decided to take advantage of the outdoors and walk back to the theater. The performances by Kristin Chenoweth and Sean Hayes were spectacular. I was slightly disappointed in the musical itself, but it was totally worth it to see those two in action. I just love Kristin Chenoweth!

On the way back to the hotel we stopped by a market and picked up some sandwiches for dinner. It was almost 11pm when the musical finished, so we were pretty hungry. I haven't eaten that late at night in a long time! It was almost like we were living a different life - one without a baby! :)

We slept late the next morning (haven't done that in awhile either!) then decided to take the subway back to Times Square and do some shopping. We went to some souvenir shops, the M&M's store, Hershey's store, CBS store, had some lunch at the Metro Cafe, and then decided to go back to the room for a nice nap. We knew we were going to try to make it to the top of the Empire State Building around midnight, so I needed some rest if I was going to stay up that late!

We stopped by a true NY-style pizza place and got some awesome, bigger-than-your-head slices of pizza. Then we went to see American Idiot. Wow! The lights, the choreography, the music, it was all fantastic! Definitely one of the high points of our trip - and there were lots!

After the musical we grabbed a coffee and stood in line for the Empire State Building. David had never been to the top, so we were both excited to go there at night. It was very romantic. David enjoyed seeing all the buildings from that vantage point. The only downfall to that adventure was that I had worn a knee-length, flowy skirt to the musical and therefore was still wearing it at the top of the Empire State Building. On the 86th floor. At night. Did I mention we were on the 86th floor? Not a great combination. So ladies, my advice to you - even if you want to look cute, wear pants or shorts. It's definitely less embarrassing that way. Great memories, though! lol. By then it was past midnight, so we stopped to eat (again!) at another little cafe.

The next morning we were able to sleep late again since checkout wasn't until noon. David went back to Gray's Papaya to grab some breakfast sandwiches for us, then we made our way to the subway. We decided we would try the adventure of the subway and bus to the airport. Amazingly enough, it was completely flawless! We grabbed the subway, walked to the bus stop as the bus was pulling up, got let off right at our airline and, voila - we were there! The whole thing only took about an hour, which was the same amount of time it took us in the cab on the way to the hotel. And I felt much safer than driving with a lunatic cab driver!

This is definitely a trip I'll look back on and remember with fondness. I missed my sweet baby boy, but I immensely enjoyed spending some much needed quality time with my husband. My new goal is to get away with David, even if it's just for a weekend or a short few days, at least once a year. I'm thankful that Xander has grandparents that love watching him and are able and willing to do so. Thanks Mimi, Papa, Grandma and Grandpa!!

I hope for David that this trip made turning 30 not so bad. If all birthdays were like this, I think I would have multiples each year! I love you, David!

Pictures coming soon!