Tag Archives: library

Wild Cats!

Well, already this is turning out to be the summer of animal adventures. Last week it was a beaver, and this week, wild cats! Or, to be more exact, wild kittens!

My son Luke has a female cat named “Splat” that attracted several males this spring. And while my husband wasn’t too happy, the kids were overjoyed at the prospect of raising kittens. Splat, however, had other plans. She likes to wander the neighborhood, and one day she came back, skinny as could be.

We knew she had had her kittens, and after many attempts at following her, we discovered she had them in our neighbor’s barn. The 100-year-old barn sits in the middle of a pen with a barbed wire fence, so it’s not only quite rickety, but also hard to get to. When we finally found the kittens (after about four weeks of trying), they dashed away so fast that we soon gave up. That is, until yesterday.

As I was going out to feed the animals in the morning, I opened the back door. And there, right at my feet on the back stoop, was Splat and a pile of kittens. I was startled as one stared at me, and by the time I realized what was going on, they were gone — under the back porch, up to the top of three cinder blocks stacked on each other, and down into the holes they created. The floor beams of the porch were only about eight inches from the top of the cinder blocks, so there was no way of reaching in to get cats.

Two? Three? We weren’t sure, but within thirty-minutes they had all come out again and were playing in the grass beside the porch. Five! There were now five wild kittens living under our porch!

What’s a houseful of kids to do? Why, catch them, of course! Over the past two days we’ve caught four of the five kittens. We’ve set up a nice spot for them in our spare bathroom (the one that used to house baby chicks), and the kids have been going in and out throughout the day, talking to them, petting them, and even holding them. Splat comes in occasionally for a visit, but she spends most of her time outside with the last one. Hopefully we’ll catch that one tomorrow.

Like our other animal incidents, this whole adventure has stirred the curious minds of my younger two children. They are thinking of questions about kittens to look up on the Internet, and we’ve got some great kitten books from the library. I sense some truly “hands-on” lessons coming soon.

My goal? To tame these wild kitties so we can find some nice homes for them. The kids’  goal: to talk their dad into keeping one. His goal: to get Splat fixed. 🙂


Photo by Gracey

What’s Going On In There?

This summer, our library presented its annual children’s summer reading program. After reading for 10, 15, and 25 hours, children could win prizes such as passes to a local water park or ice skating rink, free ice cream from Chick-fil-A, and more. Although it didn’t sound like a lot of time, we got a late start, and those first 10 hours of picture books for my youngest added up to about 80 books we had to read! Every time we went to the library, I felt as if I was clearing a lot of their shelf space. 🙂 While I tried to find books we hadn’t read before, I came across some favorites as well, on of which was What’s Going On In There? By Geoffrey Grahn.

In this book, things are not always as they appear. In each double-page spread, the pages on the left are used for the text, and the pages on the right for the illustrations. There you’ll find a building with windows, with a silhouette of a person, animal, or object in each window. The fun, then, is to guess what’s going on — to guess what the people or animals are doing. With a turn of the page, the reader discovers what’s really going on, and it’s usually not what you were thinking.  What looks like people pulling saltwater taffy is really astronauts preparing to launch their rocket; what appears to be students taking a test is actually a swimming class.

This book is a fun one for all ages. Younger children (and parents!) will be surprised by the revelations, and older children will have fun guessing. The author/illustrator has even provided the reader with some clues: look closely at the outside of the buildings where you see the silhouettes for hints of what’s inside.

I Spy Eagle Eye Game

My youngest loves looking for objects hidden in books, such as the I Spy books by Scholastic. Whenever we visit our library’s bookmobile, he heads straight for the section that holds the “finding books.” So when I found an I SPY game on sale at the store, I couldn’t resist.

Overall, it turned out to be a good game, especially for younger children. To begin, each player is given a playing card made out of very sturdy cardboard with a picture featuring a couple hundred objects, such as marbles, blocks, buttons, toy cars, letters, beads, balls, or tiny figures. Each side of the game board has a different picture, and there are four game boards, making eight pictures in all. The rest of the game consists a bell and thirty double-sided playing cards with eight pictures on each.

Players all play the game at the same time. Each player draws a card from the stack and looks at the eight images on the card, then tries to figure out which ONE object is a match with an object on his game board. The first player to find his particular match rings the bell. So, not only does the player have to find an object first, but he also has to figure out just which object he needs to find.

Sounds difficult, doesn’t it? It was at first, even for me; my six-year-old was finding his objects before I could find mine. It was a good game for our family to play together — everyone seemed to have an equal chance at winning, no matter how young or old they were.

Interestingly, though, the game became easier and easier the more we played. The first few times through, we studied the game boards very closely; after a while, when we drew new playing cards, it was easy to recognize which object we needed to find and easy to find it. So, we switched the game boards around, but again, after several rounds of play, it became too easy, especially for the older children. My youngest became frustrated that he could never win, and the older ones were tired of hearing him fuss about it.

Right now the game is back on our game shelf, but I’m sure we’ll pull it out again. We’ll just have to wait until we’ve forgotten where all the objects are hidden.

Free Things to Do in the Summer

Our lazy days of summer haven’t been too lazy yet. We’ve had family visit, spent a week with art camp, and worked on math. There’s so much we can do, and even for those (like us) who are on a tighter budget this summer, much of it is free.

If you’re looking for things to do as a family, check into some of these:

Library Programs:  Many times libraries will bring in presenters for programs. They might be magicians, animal handlers, scientists, musicians, or puppeteers, and the hour-long program can be a lot of fun. Some libraries also offer free craft classes for kids.

Kids’ Movies: Check with your local movie theater to see if any free movies are being offered. Our area has three theaters that offer free movies in the summer, usually once or twice a week. One of our local universities is even offering free kids’ movies in the evening.

Concerts: Often, community bands will offer free concerts in the summer. Check the Sunday paper or your city’s website for more information.

Festivals: Our state has festivals going on all through the summer, from the Peach Festival to the Watermelon Festival to Fourth of July Festivals. Take along some extra water and enjoy the arts, crafts, and music.   

Parks: Enjoy the outdoors with your family with a picnic at a city park. Pack your food in a cooler, take along a Frisbee or football, and enjoy!

Zoos and Museums: Depending on where you live, entrance into the local zoo and museums may be free as well. Check your city’s website or visitor’s guide for more information. You might even want to get a group of friends together and make it a field trip!

Whatever your family does this summer, be sure to slow down and enjoy it!

The Look Book

9780688149710We found Look Book by Tana Hoban in our library a few years ago, and it’s been one of our favorite books ever since. We liked it so much, in fact, that we made one of our own.

Look Book is a wordless picture book that features pages with a cut-out that shows a small part of a photo on the page underneath. The reader, then, must take a good look and decide what is actually in the picture. A turn of the page will reveal what the photo really captures — a pretzel, a flower, or some other object. The following photo then shows that object in an even wider view, such as pretzels on a pretzel cart or a stand filled with flowers.

After going through Look Book with my oldest son when he was little, I made a similar book using items I had around the house, and it’s lasted us for years. Now my five-year-old is enjoying the same book. If you’d like to make a “Look Book”, here’s what you’ll need:

  • Three-ring binder
  • White or black cardstock
  • Scissors
  • Hole punch
  • Old magazines
  • Glue Stick
  • One piece of notebook paper

To begin, search through your old magazines for photos that would work well in a “Look Book.” Large photos of familiar objects that fill the page work best. Items such as fruit, animals, and cars are a good place to start.

Next, cut the photo to fit on a piece of cardstock. Glue it to the cardstock using a glue stick. Line the cardstock up with a piece of notebook paper and punch three holes on the left side and put it in the binder. Do the same with all of the photos you’ve chosen.

Now, for each picture you have, take another sheet of plain cardstock and punch the holes along the side. Place one piece of plain cardstock in the binder in front of each piece of cardstock with a photo.

Next, choose an area on the plain cardstock to cut out. You don’t have the make the area very large — you want it large enough to show a portion of the photo underneath, but not too large that the reader can tell just what it is without looking closely. (To cut an area from the middle of the paper, poke on end of the scissors through the paper, then cut it out from there.) The pages in your book should alternate between plain cardstock with a cut-out and the cardstock with the photo.

There you have it! You’re children will enjoy the Look Book you’ve made — and they may even want to make one of their own!

My Birthday, Jesus’ Birthday

01 birthdayWhen my oldest son was about five years old, we went to a “Happy Birthday, Jesus!” party at the church we were attending. The pastor’s wife read the book My Birthday, Jesus’ Birthday by Holly Davis. It was the first time I had heard the story, but I really liked it at the time.

A couple of years later, we were traveling to visit family when we stopped for a break at a shopping center with outlet stores. In one of those stores, I found that same book on sale and purchased it for our family. And it’s been one of my favorite Christmas books ever since.

The story is actually a comparison between “my” birthday and Jesus’ birthday, or Christmas. On the left side of each spread, the narrator tells about the time she was born; for example, on one page she talks about how her parents carefully thought about and chose her name. The right side of the spread, then, compares it with the time when Jesus was born, as God told Mary and Joseph what the baby’s name would be. The narrator was born in a hospital; Jesus was born in a stable. The narrator’s grandparents came to visit when she was born; the shepherds came to visit the new baby Jesus.

The book continues in this way to the last page, which features a big birthday cake with the words “Happy Birthday, Jesus!” on it. The text, the layout, and the illustrations all make this an ideal book for teaching little ones about Christmas. We’ve used ours so much over the years that some of the pages are coming out.

So today I searched the Internet for another copy, and sadly realized…My Birthday, Jesus’ Birthday is out of print! The only ones I found for sale were way over-priced. I did find it at a few libraries, however; even if your library doesn’t carry it, you could probably get a copy from an inter-library loan service. Perhaps Zondervan  (the original publisher) will print it again, but until they do, I’ll be keeping an eye out for a used copy. This book really is a great find!

Group Movie Night

Last fall, Suzanna, one of the teens we know, said to my friend Heidi, “Miss Heidi, we need to have a Star Wars marathon, and watch all six movies in one day.”

This suggestion from a teenager with a lot of stamina was well-received by my friend. Though Heidi couldn’t quite bring herself to watch all six in one day, she did break them up into pairs and invited families to her home to watch the double feature. They began watching the first movie on a large-screen television set up in her livingroom. The group broke for dinner and snacks, then watched the second film.

My oldest son was the only one in our family to go, as the Star Wars series is a bit too intense and violent for my younger ones. He enjoyed going each time, though, so when a more family-oriented movie was presented, we all went.

This past Saturday, moms, dads, and children gathered in Heidi’s home for supper and The Tale of Despereaux. She made a huge pot of chili and another pot of soup, and guests brought drinks, chips, and dessert. It was good to eat and talk with other parents while the kids laughed and joked with their friends. After supper, we all settled in to watch the film.

What a wonderful idea, the group movie night! We have a movie night every week at our house, where we get a movie from Netflix, Redbox, or the library, cook up come frozen pizzas, and watch it together. This movie night was extra special, though — a time for friends to come together, for moms to reconnect, and for dads to get to know one another.

In this way, Heidi’s Movie Night is a great example of the different dynamic that occurs in relationships among homeschoolers. These teenagers didn’t gather at a friend’s house by themselves, with their parents out of the way; they went with their parents and siblings to meet in a home where the host family was present and involved. Parents knew where their children were and what they were doing. It wasn’t strange, it wasn’t awkward; no one’s “style” was “cramped.” Everyone enjoyed hanging out with their friends while still being part of the group.

So if you have a large television and living area, give the group movie night a try. It’s a good, safe way to get the kids together.

Literature Class

a-booksAlthough we weren’t involved in a co-op this past year, my children were part of a literature class put together by a couple of homeschool moms. Yesterday was our class for April.

Our literature class meets the fourth Thursday of the month from 10:00 – 11:30 at the centrally-located home of one of the families. Students divide up into four groups: grades K-3rd,4th-5th, 6th-8th, and 9th-12th.

Every month, students in each group are assigned a book to read – one that can be easily found at our local library. Some of the books they’ve read this year include Misty; The Whipping Boy; Shiloh; Sarah Plain and Tall; The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe;, The Cricket in Times Square; Carry On, Mr. Bowditch; A Wrinkle in Time; Call It Courage; and The Bronze Bow. Then, when we meet together, students break up into their groups in different rooms of the house to discuss the book they’ve read, with one of the moms leading the discussion.

The K-3rd group is the largest group, so they usually meet in the living room. This younger group reads one or two picture books and then work on a corresponding activity, such as making a craft. This past week they read a story about a dog and made “dog” biscuits that were actually baked treats for the kids. Of course, not all of them were shaped like dog biscuits – the children shaped them into stars, squares, and even a rock.

The class has lent itself to other activities as well. When the middle school class was reading The Hiding Place, a special guest was brought in who was a girl in Holland during the Holocaust. When the older elementary students were reading Tall Tales, they created their own tall tales and shared them with each other.

With only one class to go for this school year, literature class has been a great way to get together while reading good books!

Photo by Faeyran

Mom’s Day Off

When Valentine’s Day came around this year, I decided I didn’t want candy or flowers, the two items my husband usually gives me. Instead, I told him, he could make a coupon for me – a coupon for a day off.

That’s just what he did. My coupon said that on the day of my choosing, he would take the children somewhere for an all-day adventure, and I would have the house to myself. I wouldn’t have to clean a thing – just enjoy the day.

I cashed in my coupon this past Saturday, and they headed out the door around 9:00 am. They were going to go to a few yard sales and then downtown to wander around and visit the library. If he ran out of things to do, he said, he’d take them to visit his mother until it was time to come home.

My dream day off wasn’t one of shopping or taking naps – I was craving uninterrupted time to finish up some projects I had started long ago. I was so excited and looking forward to the free time. After all, it’s often hard to find uninterrupted time even in the bathroom when your children are home with you all day.

It didn’t turn out quite how I expected, however. Of my long list of projects, I only completed two. I did wash a couple of loads of laundry just to feel as if I accomplished more, but I didn’t even get them folded. As it turns out, I think I needed a whole week off to get my projects finished up.

Now, though, I’m not longing for a big block of quiet time like I was before. I’m quite content with my fifteen minutes here, thirty minutes there, maybe even an hour of semi-quiet time while the children are engaged in their own activities. At least that way I don’t feel discouraged that more isn’t accomplished. And maybe next time…hmmm…maybe I’ll ask for the whole weekend.