Wednesday, November 30, 2011

"Quiet! There's a Canary in the Library" by Don Freeman - A Special Thrift-Store Used Children's Book Discovery

"Quiet! There's a Canary in the Library" by Don Freeman was first published in 1969.

Don Freeman dedicated this copy to a young reader named Michael, complete with portrait!
I believe this is a first edition of this little-known but charming Don Freeman book, Quiet! There's a Canary in the Library, and that's not all...It's also dedicated to a young fan, complete with original illustration and autograph! Don Freeman is known for writing and illustrating great children's books like Corduroy (and A Pocket for Corduroy), Dandelion, Norman the Doorman and Fly High, Fly Low.

Thrifting: Used Children's Books

I bought Weslandia without even reading it because I'd heard such good things and having now read it, I feel entirely satisfied with my purchase: the accolades are totally deserved; An Egg Is Quiet is the loveliest kind of science, and after See Inside an Egyptian Town I'm very much looking forward to finding other books by R.J. Unstead. One of the reasons I loved used books is the serendipitous introduction to great resources I would have never otherwise found, and this Unstead fellow is a perfect example of that!
Books by James Marshall, Bill Peet, Steven Kellogg and no one else would be a perfectly sufficient reading life for a child.
Another Pigeon book, whee! * I adore Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel more than almost any other children's book. I used to have a Burton treasury but it was too big, and the board book version is too small (abridged!), but this paperback is just right.  * We've borrowed Click, Clack, Moo and I Read Signs from the library and they're both fantastic. I Read Signs and the rest of the Tana Hoban photographically illustrated children's books should be dated and creepy but both J and I both responded quite favorably.
So excited to find a non-un-PC version of Seven Chinese Brothers, and by Margaret Mahy no less! Plus, one of the several Miriam Cohen-Lillian Hoban collaborations, a William Steig and a Mercer Mayer.

I was suspicious of this Kevin Henkes fellow at first, but after reading a few of his books, I've discovered he's not as saccharine as I first suspected, and he actually reminds me of early Rosemary Wells, which can only be a good thing.
Our first introduction to Pat Hutchins was through my purchase of used edition of her book, Good-Night, Owl. Owl was an overnight sensation in the Arrow household, and the widely acclaimed Rosie's Walk was borrowed from the library to similar audience reaction. Finding Rosie plus two more Pat Hutchins books at the thrift shop made today a good day.
The Funny Little Woman is from the team that produced the children's classic Tikki Tikki Tembo; illustrator Blair Lent also did this Caldecott-recognized African folk tale retelling When the Sun and Moon Live in the Sky
One of my book-buying rules is to get everything published by the Parents' Magazine Press and they haven't disappointed me yet. School for Sillies has fabulous '70s-vintage illustration, but I also like the moral of the story.
Richard Scarry basically writes preschool textbooks, and that's fine with me.

Bought for resale if anyone will have it, but even I must admit the illustrations in this novelization (picture-book-ization?) of Walt Disney's Pinocchio are pretty lovely.

First Montessori Trays

After spending a lot of time looking at albums of Montessori trays (especially the ones on Counting Coconuts), I decided it's time to try some projects like this with Jackson. I put together three trays for him, and I'll either introduce them tomorrow before I leave him with grandma and grandpa or maybe I'll start a Montessori Monday thing.

Left to right:

  • Assembling a flashlight, which consists of putting in the two batteries (motor skills) in the right direction (problem solving) and getting the cap on. Possibly/probably too complicated, but I'm hoping the appeal of his very own flashlight is motivating.
  • Putting Kennedy half-dollars in a piggy bank should be good for hand-eye coordination and pincer grasp. Jackson is obsessed with coins, so I think he'll like this one. (When we're driving, if he hears coins jangling in the cupholder he says, "Quarters?") I'd love to make this a progression, working down to dimes, with educational elements like exploring about the Presidents currently featured on dollar coins or the State Quarters.
  • Matching lids to jars seems like it should be helpful for visual discrimination and spatial relationships. These are all jam jars and I'm hoping that the widely varying sizes will make it easier for him to "solve." There's one tall skinny jar, one squat wide jar and one tiny little jar that I actually swiped from our honeymoon hotel and just used up last month. I'm not sure if this will be easy or hard for him, but if it's easy I have more jars at the ready to up the level of difficulty.
I got the baskets years ago at a thrift store and they've just been sitting in the garage ever since waiting for the call. (I think they were originally intended for serving up greasy food like fries and lobster rolls. Man, I miss the @Lobsta truck. But anyway!)

There's a fair amount of "danger" in these baskets: the first flashlight I got out of the garage had a corroded battery and if my fingers burn off later tonight, please tell the paramedic it's from battery acid; the half-dollars probably aren't bigger than the toilet-paper roll guideline that is supposed to prevent choking; and of course the glass jars could easily shatter on our tiled kitchen floor. I will supervise, but I'm also taking a bit of a leap with these since I'm usually a fanatic about safety guidelines. Wish us luck!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Book Report

All the books are sinking in. Jackson has been making connections between stories we've read and the real world.
  • The other night I served a new dish made of potatoes, carrots and turnips. Jackson asked what it was (OK, he grunted something that I usually take to mean a request for identification) and when I mentioned the turnips he immediately said, "Sheep?!" We've read The Animals of Farmer Jones (written by Leah Gale, illustrated by Richard Scarry) about a million times around here, and Farmer Jones gives turnips to the sheep for dinner.
  • I started reading him Swimmy (written and illustrated by Leo Lionni), in which the main character is described as being "as black as a mussel shell" (in contrast to his red fish-school brethren), and at the mention of mussel, Jackson went over to our nature shelf and pointed at the mussel shell.
  • When we were at the railroad museum the other day, I pointed out the box car and the tank car, and Jackson immediately said, "Book?" I know that's vague, but I'd bet anything that he was referring to Freight Train (written and illustrated by Donald Crews), which prominently features a box car and a tank car.
And even though this isn't a vocabulary thing, Jackson hugs characters in books, which has got to mean something. For example, tonight we were reading Knuffle Bunny Free, and there's a long sad loss in the middle of the story where Knuffle Bunny is missing (again). When it was explained that Trixie was sad because Knuffle Bunny was gone (again), Jackson announced that the solution was "hugging!" and proceeded to hug the book, trying to make Trixie feel better. He hugs characters in books a lot, sometimes in solace, and sometimes just because he likes them. Anyway, it must have done the trick, because Trixie and company all lived happily ever after!

Garden Variety Vocabulary Cards - Upcycling Seed Catalogs

I think I'm about to become a lamination monster!

It's seed-catalog season and before I consigned all the poor unloved things to the recycling, I decided that the pages of the High Mowing Seeds catalog were particularly well-suited to becoming veggie vocabulary cards. If nothing else, it's good for the kiddo to see that plate veggies were once plants, and I also kind of like introducing him to slightly odder vegetables like fennel bulb and okra. I also liked that the High Mowing Seeds catalog had the scientific name for the plants, which is just interesting and shows the alert reader that we eat a quite a few cucurbits and brassicas!

So, last night during RHOBH and Gossip Girl I cut out the veggie pictures (including scientific name!) and pasted them to index cards. This morning I realized that (a) the cards were curling from the glue, (b) they would last about five minutes near a toddler in paper-only form, and (c) I'd put the hole and ring in exactly the wrong place for him to read the words, so I unhooked them and took them to Lakeshore to check out this "laminator" about which I've heard so much.

Suffice it to say, laminating stuff is awesome. I wish it were free, which it isn't, but I can afford .30 a linear foot and it is so much fun. Anyway, he likes the cards quite a bit--he seems fascinated by "corn" in particular, and he remembered "garlic" from when we planted the cloves a few weeks back!

DIY Texture Tablets - Much Cheaper Montessori!

Inspired by this post and by Montessori's fancy texture gradient tablets, I decided DIY texture boards were in order for the little one. (A set of "rough gradation tablets" goes for $47!)

Why do these? Well, I'm hoping to provide the kiddo with some touch-sense stimulation, practice matching, preliminary puzzle-solving skills and some new vocabulary words, but also because I like having as many outlets as possible for recycled goods around here. Not every box is going to be upcycled, but a girl has to try.

These are 10 cm x 10 cm cardboard squares, with 8 cm by 8 cm textures. The textures, so far, are a nubbly orange washcloth, smooth parchment paper, a soft cloth (formerly striped socks someone gave me), rough sandpaper, bumpy contact paper, bubble wrap, slick aluminum foil, and rough mesh (formerly a potato bag). So far he likes petting the textures, and we'll see what else comes of having these around.

I'm planning to add some other sandpaper grits and fabrics as I can find them, but any suggestions for other readily available textures that he might like to play with? Inspire me!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Montessori-Style Practical Life

I don't really understand Montessori, but I've decided that on the face of it there's a lot of (a) saying yes to your child's natural instincts and/or (b) putting them to work doing mild menial tasks in hopes of building hand strength (or something?). I'm using that template for the time being, in hopes of deciphering it as I go along.

As such, here are some sensory projects and/or practical life exercises I've done with the kiddo lately, not including his obsession with the brooms in the broom closet. He loves dragging them around and pretending he's "sweeping sweeping!"

J loves to try to take these nested mixing bowls out of the cabinet, so I finally decided to just let him play with them. We'll probably have a breakage incident at some point, but in the meantime, he has a field day arranging these bowls. He only uses the smallest four or five so far. Disregard the giant smear of drool on his shirt--his canines (incisors?) are coming in so he's a drool machine lately.
Juicing citrus fruits is a classic Montessori practical-life thing, but this was just an ill-considered exercise on my part. This grapefruit was way too meaty and heavy for him to really work on. We have some lemons coming in on our tree soon so we'll try again with those.
Drinking drinking! After giving the kiddo a fair shot with both halves of the grapefruit, I did the juicing myself and Jackson loved drinking the fruit (juices) of our labors.
I need to chit some potatoes anyway, because I'd like to try to grow potatoes in buckets in the spring, so I put Jackson to work placing grocery store potatoes in an apple box divider. If these don't sprout soon (they haven't so far), I'll go to the farmer's market and get some organic ones. (Many grocery store potatoes are sprayed to prevent the eyes from sprouting in the produce drawer.)
Scooping! Jackson found the measuring cup in the dishwasher (he loves "helping" with the dishwasher) and wanted to do "scooping scooping!" so I dug some coarse salt out of the high cupboard and let him do scooping from one dish to the other. He had fun pushing the salt around and scooping it to many far reaches of the house, hee. (The proper Montessorians don't allow such chaos, but he's still so little, who cares?) I think I've got it all cleaned up now (we'll see) and I used the excess as an ad hoc Bermuda-grass-killer for some cracks in the driveway. Next time it rains it should soak into the soil around the weed roots and hopefully both kill the roots and prevent further growth.

 Not pictured: I've also been getting out the mortar and pestle and trying to get him to grind egg shells for me. So far that seems beyond both his strength and his attention span, but he does help take the shells out of the carton and break them down a bit with his hands, which seems like a great first step!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

"Uh, uh, uh?" "What is this? This is..."

Last night I read a Montessori blog post (now lost to the Internet ether) about a kid who started at school with a language delay because his mother understood all his grunts and baby sounds and translated for him, so the kid never had to learn to form real words.

Overall Jackson's language development is coming along just fine, but he totally says "Uh, uh, uh?" when he means, "Mother, please identify this object for me." I've decided to preface all of my answers with the question he should be asking: "What is this? This is turnips, potatoes and carrots." or "What is that? That's a golf cart." I'm hoping it prompts him to start thinking about "wh-questions" and maybe even asking them soon.

Weirdly, I swear to god that at about a year old, when he very first started talking ("ball" "bubble") he also would sometimes say, "What is this?" That's long gone and I probably just imagined it, but let's get back there kid!

The Monster at the End of This Book (1971), Would You Like to Play Hide & Seek in this Book with Lovable Furry Old Grover? (1976), Another Monster at the End of This Book (1996): Three Great "Book Knowledge" Books Starring Lovable Furry Old Grover (and Elmo)

I'm not a literacy expert by any stretch, but I've unilaterally decided that three great books for teaching "book knowledge" (or "print knowledge") are the three books in the "lovable furry old Grover" series by Jon Stone and Mike Smollin.

More than almost any other children's book I can think of, these Sesame Street books from the Children's Television Workshop make the physical book itself the heart of the story. Children can't help but start to think about reading left to right, turning pages in sequence, the role of a title page and more. You're probably already familiar with The Monster at the End of This Book, but there are two lesser-known "sequels" from the same author-illustrator team, and these books work in much the same way.

The Monster at the End of This Book (1971), Would You Like to Play Hide & Seek in this Book with Lovable Furry Old Grover? (1976), Another Monster at the End of This Book (1996)
Grover tries to hide behind speech bubbles in Hide & Seek...

...but to no avail.

In Hide & Seek, Grover tries to hide at the top and bottom and middle of a book spread,  helping kids orient themselves in books.

Sesame Street superstar Elmo joins the party in Another Monster.

Elmo coaxes readers to turn pages, Grover resists with all his might.
Do you have any favorite books for teaching "book knowledge"? Suggestions welcome and strongly encouraged!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Train Books for Children Mini-Reviews

These are reviews of the train books we checked out of the library for our unit study on trains. In addition to this reading, I did a simple fingerplay from a '60s-era book for teachers called Rhymes for Fingers and Flannelboards, we visited Travel Town in Griffith Park and we visited our city's real, live train station. Other books we read that aren't reviewed here are Freight Train by Donald Crews, The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper and That's Not My Train from the popular touch-and-feel series.

Train Song, Diane Siebert (author), Mike Wimmer (illustrator): The text is an image-heavy poem that was originally published in Cricket magazine in the early '80s, the paintings are a mix of locations and scenes that almost seem like a movie montage, but the total effect is tremendously evocative and educational. This was one of our favorite books; it was right at J's level and we both dug it.

Trains: Steaming! Pulling! Huffing!, Patricia Hubbell (author), Megan Halsey, Sean Addy (illustrators): Great rollicking verse, great funny collage images, great book.

William and the Night Train, Mij Kelly (author), Alison Jay (illustrator): This is the one train book I'd most like to eventually add in our personal collection. Wide-awake William learns that everyone sleeps on the train to tomorrow. Beautiful sleepytime verse, dense pictures that will grow with the kids, altogether a lovely bed time book.

Two Little Trains, Margaret Wise Brown (author), Leo Dillon, Diane Dillon (illustrators): This was far and away my fave of the imaginary toy trains books. "Two little trains went West," but one is a real streamliner crossing the country, one is a boy's train climbing stair mountains instead of the Rocky Mountains, and so forth. Lovely verse, lovely spare pictures.


Trains, Byron Barton (author, illustrator): Clean, simple and straightforward. All of these Byron Barton transportation books are great for guys J's age, and even younger, I'd think.

Engine, Engine, Number Nine, Stephanie Calmenson (author), Paul Meisel (illustrator): Train books naturally lend themselves to great rhythms and this was just a fun wacky long rhyming poem.

Puff-Puff, Chugga-Chugga, Christopher Wormell (author, illustrator): Entertaining-enough story and cute pastel illustrations, but this one just made me uncomfortable because it's about how the little engineer thinks his obese passengers Mr. Elephant, Mrs. Bear and Mrs. Walrus are too fat to be on his train safely!


Choo Choo: The Story of a Little Engine Who Ran Away, Virginia Lee Burton (author, illustrator): Mike Mulligan and the Steam Shovel is one of my favorite books of all time (not just of children's books, of all books!), but this was a disappointment. Choo Choo is an irresponsible train engine who wants to live it up, and the telling of this tale is just too routine to be exciting. The biggest problem, however, is the incredibly muddy images, which are rendered in black charcoal, making them too hard to see and just no fun.

All Aboard! A True Train Story, Susan Kuklin (author, photographer): Photographic storybook about a still-exant steam train that operates in Colorado. This had the best age-level-appropriate fact-section in the back (the code of train whistles, how steam engines and railroad tracks work), but the story and pictures were just dull.

Chugga-Chugga, Choo-Choo, Kevin Lewis (author), Daniel Kirk (illustrator): Totally unremarkable toys-come-to-life train book.

Steam, Smoke and Steel: Back in Time with Trains, Patrick O'Brien (author, illustrator): This one failed through no fault of the book, it was just way about J's age level. Probably better for an eight-year-old.


John Henry, Julius Lester (author), Jerry Pinkney (illustrator): I've always loved the story of John Henry and this version made me cry like a baby, but Jackson wasn't having it. We'll try again in a couple years while exploring American folklore in more depth. We'll also save Casey Jones for then. I found a perfectly tolerable Casey Jones book at our branch library, but came to realize the story is mostly famous because of the folk song (and the story is a downer anyway--dude dies in a train crash!), so I just put together a YouTube playlist for the kid focusing on the song and that was plenty of exposure/entertainment for now.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Rereading and Reviewing The Read-Aloud Handbook - Chapter 4: The Dos and Don'ts of Read-Aloud, Part 2

More selected dos from chapter 4, with commentary. Just FYI, I picked out ones that are relevant to reading to littles. If you're reading to older kids, get yourself a copy of The Read-Aloud Handbook for many more great tips.

Before you begin to read, always say the name of the book, the author, and the illustrator--no matter how many times you have read the book.

I did this obediently, if skeptically, and it has paid off in spades, to my great surprise. At 19 months, Jackson recognizes the names of quite a few children's book authors: Eric Carle, Donald Crews, Richard Scarry and more. For example, now when we read Freight Train by Donald Crews, he asks for "Buh...Donna...buh...Donna," which is baby for "School Bus by Donald Crews. Yes, please read me School Bus by Donald Crews as well, thank you kindly." He saw a picture of Eric Carle on the back of The Grouchy Ladybug and thought he looked like a "Poppa" (grandpa) and now he shouts "Cara, Cara" every time we read a Carle book. On behalf of the writers of the world, it's a pleasure to see the kiddo quasi-comprehend authorship, even at this early age!

If you are reading a picture book, make sure the children can see the pictures easily.

The book stand I got at Office Depot has worked out amazingly well. We do a lot of reading aloud at mealtimes, and the bookstand allows me to keep the book front and center for the kid. My hands are mostly free, and the book remains stationary so that the kiddo can really get a good look at the detail of the illustrations. Spending money on anything new is a risk, but the book stand was a good investment.

Fathers should make an extra effort to read to their children. Because the vast majority of primary-school teachers are women, young boys often associated reading with women and schoolwork.

Not sure whether this will be a problem we need to remediate, but I am incredibly grateful to have a husband who is an avid reader-aloud. He actually came to L.A. years ago with dreams of being a voice-over performer so he's quite adept at reading something with dramatic flair that he's never seen before. He's always willing to "Ree ree ree" (read read read) when the kiddo demands it, even if the kiddo only pays attention for two pages. I actually have no valuable commentary on this one, I just wanted to be publicly thankful my husband is so great about this!

When children are watching television, closed-captioning should be activated along with sound. 

I love this advice because it's so unusual. It's not germane to the kid at this point, but I started doing this on Trelease's advice and I love it. Most shows make a great deal more sense if you can read the jokes, background noises and the dialects as they appear on the page rather than strictly in the picture, plus they often include descriptive parentheticals that provide details you wouldn't be able to pick out from just watching. The only downside is that the captions usually give away the punchline of jokes before the actor reads the line!

Add a third dimension to the book whenever possible. For example, have a bowl of blueberries ready to be eaten during or after a reading of Robert McCloskey's Blueberries for Sal.

You could also provide a bear ready to be eaten during or after a reading of Robert McCloskey's Blueberries for Sal, but that might be a bit over the top. (Seriously though, I love this advice and it's the basis of more than one popular homeschool approach, most notably the Five in a Row curriculum that first inspired my theme weeks approach.)

Don't be fooled by awards. Just because a book won an award doesn't guarantee it will make a good-read aloud.

I include this one just so I can link to this awesome list of Worst Caldecott Winners, which delights me in principle and practice. I don't know most of these books, but I will agree that Song of the Swallows is lame. Of course, we'll probably have to choke that one down eventually as part of a quasi-mandatory SoCal field trip to see the swallows return San Juan Capistrano. Hee.


"I really believe that a curious mother and a library card can offer a stellar education." —Ann Voskamp

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Latter-day Homeschooling: Homeschool for Public Schoolers

Totally dig this blog post about how the romance of things sometimes clashes with the reality, and how to integrate the dream and the facts: Latter-day Homeschooling: Homeschool for Public Schoolers

Ideas to Steal: Music

Toured a very nice, very relaxed preschool today, and the director explained that they don't have themes or topics of study; rather, they have "an emergent curriculum," which I take to mean is "a curriculum we define after the fact." They do some stuff and put a name on it afterward. As it happens, that's exactly how I'm doing "Train Week," so rock on, man.

Anyway, the one thing they do "program" at this school is music. (The school's name is taken from a Grateful Dead lyric, if that gives you a mental picture of any kind.) They do a different genre every month (give or take) and play a song from that genre daily at circle time. The Grateful Dead and reggae take up most of the fall along with some teacher's choice theme weeks that feature the likes of Michael Jackson and Beck.

I think I might do a song of the day, since my own music knowledge is severely lacking and I want to do what I can to ameliorate the lack of tunes in the kid's life. (I played him Barry Manilow's "Copacabana" in conjunction with our reading of a book about New York City red-tailed hawk Pale Male and his girlfriend Lola, and the kid loved it. "Lola, she was a showgirl, with yellow feathers in her hair...")

We have some toddler tunes albums that I play, and I can sing "Row Row Row Your Boat" until I'm hoarse, but there's a whole other world of music out there. I won't remember to do this everyday, but maybe a little daily Dave Brubeck Quartet and "Hey Jude" would be good for all parties concerned.

Monday, November 7, 2011

DIY Jigsaw Puzzles and Sequence Cards from Recycled Old Calendar Photographs

I'm in a decluttering frenzy, which usually just yields more clutter because I'm me. Towit...

I saw this project somewhere on the Internet a while back but I can't remember where or I would link. Basically, when this year's calendar expires, you can cut it up to make a homemade jigsaw puzzle.

If you want to to a traditional-looking jigsaw puzzle, draw the cut lines on the back side first.

This is what the cut puzzle looks like reassembled.

For little kids, simply re-assembling a picture from strips is complicated enough. The image on the right will be easier to "solve" than the image on the left because the cuts are perpendicular to the horizon in the images, so there are more things the kiddo can key into to match up.
This photograph seemed to have the cut lines built into the picture in stem and veins of the leaf.

A couple of the images had a strong center of visual interest so I just kept that intact and put the "puzzle" around that.

I used largely monochromatic images as an opportunity to practice counting and  lower-case letters. (Just to be clear, there's no way my kid is doing these anytime soon. He doesn't know numbers or letters in order, he doesn't have the fine motor control to place little pieces in order like this, and he'd almost certainly just just dip the pieces in his milk, but what the heck, I'm trying to think ahead.)
I seriously can barely do this puzzle myself. Hee.
You could also make your own puzzles and sequence cards from any old book or magazine that you liked, but this calendar had nice stiff cardstock pages, which will make it a little easier for the kiddo to grapple with. For now I'm storing the pieces in plastic sandwich bags. (Notice the complete failure to declutter!) We'll see how long they last.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Train Week So Far...

We got a train book from the library called Engine Engine Number Nine which eventually led me down the Internet rabbit hole to the above two videos. I post them here for your edification and enjoyment; Jackson was unimpressed/confounded by both of these videos but hey, that's his loss, man. (He really likes Copacabana though. Hee.)

Meanwhile, our train books so far seem to have amazing vocabulary. I think I'm going to go through them at naptime tomorrow and do that Post-It note thing in hopes of honing in on a few particularly cool words. Destination? Streamlined?

Also, I've discovered that I need a wall map. There's just no explaining Abilene, Texas on a globe.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Why I Like Theme Weeks

Earlier this week I joined another Mommy friend and her 2.5-year-old toddler for a visit to Travel Town as the opening salvo for a Train Theme Week. Travel Town is an odd assortment of derelict historic trains parked in a corner of Griffith Park, which is L.A.'s tragic answer to NYC's Central Park. My mom-friend grew up in another city, and so this was her first visit to Travel Town (whereas I'd visited it many times as a kid). With her fresh eyes, she noticed that it was sort of user-unfriendly and pointless, which is entirely true. It's just a bunch of crummy old railroad stuff that's barely of interest to even avid train fans, and it was never clear to me as a child (or now as an adult), what the heck you're supposed to do with it. But while we were wandering around, trying to wrangle the kids, I realized that I think I like these theme weeks just as a way to organize the infinity of things there are to know about the world, not to mention the infinity of things there are to do in Los Angeles.

Basically it's about feeding the baby's brain as much healthy, nutrient-rich information as possible, in as many forms as possible. Some of it comes from books, some from sensory experiences and household projects, some from field trips, some from noodling around doing absolutely nothing (which is important too), but I love that the theme weeks give me some sort of starting point for the umpteen possible experiences he could have. We won't be able to do everything, but I find the theme weeks are a good motivation for doing something. Even if that something ends up just being "field trips" and read-alouds, it's better than nothing.

And nothing is a real risk:

My parents volunteer as docents every other Sunday at the Getty Villa in Malibu (a local museum of classical art housed in an absurd but pleasant Disney-esque Roman-villa simulacrum). You have to travel along the Pacific Coast Highway to get to the museum from the city. Apparently some kids in some of the school groups look out the windows of their school buses on the way to the museum and say, "Oh look, there's the ocean. I've never seen it before." Can you imagine living anywhere in Southern California and encountering the Pacific Ocean for the first time when you cruised past it on a school bus? This just kills me!

I can't promise my kid that he'll travel to foreign countries or even too many other cities, but by god, he will do the baby circuit of zoos, aquariums, museums, parks, festivals and fairs!

Book Rings

Update: Superglue these rings shut if you don't want the cards all over the house. 

Wasn't sure these would work out, but having these "book rings" in the house is awesome. As you may know, toddlers fling everything everywhere, so I find it's helpful to bind everything possible. With the help of the aforementioned book rings and a hole puncher, I was able to make little collections of (a) Alaskan animal postcards that my parents sent Jackson, (b) some animal postcards I got as NatGeo Channel swag back when I worked in the TV business, and (c) paint chips from Home Depot for studying colors.

Educational Coffee

I bought this Café Pajaro coffee at Trader Joe's and I've been telling Jackson that the parrot on the can is a quetzal. (He also has a quetzal in his room, from Christopher Wormell's An Alphabet of Animals: Q is for quetzal.) Today I got inspired to read to him about the Aztec feathered-serpent god Quetzalcoatl from one of our World Mythologies Series books. He actually listened for quite a while, whee!

After the coffee is done every morning, I pour out the grounds in a corner of the garden to enrich the soil. (Worms love coffee almost as much as humans do.) Pictured above are some fava beans, which grown well in our area in the winter, sprouting out of the "coffee" bed. (The tall one is the only survivor from the first planting; the little guys are the first appearance of my second attempt.)

Our garlic also sprouted. The nine little shoots are from nine garlic cloves. We don't even eat that much garlic, but it's fun to grow it just the same. When J passes by this section of the yard he remembers that we planted it and says, "Holes, holes." Hee.