“Library Mouse” by Daniel Kirk

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Sam was a literate mouse, who lived at the library. He ate cheese like a rodent and swallowed books like a bookworm. When his head was spilling over with information and ideas, it was time for Sam to write a book of his own. His autobiography, “Squeak”, was followed by a picture book and a whodunit, which Sam put on bookshelves for children to read. Everyone wondered who the mysterious author was and the librarian decided to write him a note and invite him to the library. Sam knew that he was too shy to read in front of people, so what was he supposed to do? He put his creativity to work and children got their meet-the-author event indeed. 

The ending of this story is so creative that I just can’t spill all the beans. You need to read it for yourselves. But for the rest of my post to make sense, I must mention that clever Sam found a neat way to inspire children to write their own books. In Sam’s mind, writing wasn’t as hard as people thought. “If only they would try, they might find out that writing was really lots of fun.”

Considering Sam’s approach to writing, I have a feeling that he must have been acquainted with the work of Carol S.Dweck, Ph.D. In her book “Mindset”, she proves that we can do a lot more than we think, if only we set our mind on learning and try our hardest. From Picasso to Mozart, from sports stars to writers, the most achieved individuals got to the top and stayed there, not because they had some incredible, beyond-human talents, that we, normal people, don’t possess, but because they worked extra hard to fulfill their dreams.

Back to writing, I don’t claim that the love of writing will make all of our children published authors, but following Mrs. Dweck’s research and Sam’s way of thinking, it might be fun to try and learn a new skill. Our potential is unknown.  Who knows what might happen when we encourage our children to put their ideas, thoughts and dreams on paper?

An immensely inspirational story, greatly valuable for libraries, schools and writing workshops.

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They Have the Music in Them!

Today my six-year-old decided he was going to write a song. I was impressed and encouraging. A few minutes later I got to read the opening lines:

“I am gona get on fire

like a cobra

or a black mamba

fiting a tiger”

 I complimented my rookie songwriter on his creativity but I also wanted to give him some constructive feedback. How about adding rhymes? My input wasn’t well taken, though. Actually, I got to hear that “rhymes make a song sound stupid”.

Two thoughts followed:

The first one was about music. Music is kids’ best friend and I’m happy my boys are friends with music. Apparently, even the science confirms that children who play instruments are happier. In other words, let’s keep music alive in our homes. Any music, from folk to classical. I was hesitating for a while about the influence of the radio on my sons’ taste in music, but you know what, even a cheap radio hit can be inspiring. Actually, I’m quite positive that it’s the Swift, Perry & Co that gave my son the idea to write his first hit-to-be. Even if I would prefer to believe that it’s the music classes I kept signing him up for while in preschool (A propos music classes, I fully recommend Kindermusik. I am enjoying it again with my two-year-old. It’s so engaging,  diverse, and so professional! Check it out. They might offer classes in your area.) And let’s not ignore the innate musicality of children. Nobody has taught our younger son to wiggle his hips to the music the way he does. (Unless it was “The Wiggles”) Let’s give our children opportunities to develop what’s already in them.

My second reflection was about my son’s rhyme comment. I was surprised to hear that a kindergartener considers rhymes silly. Perhaps all those publishers who reject rhymed picture book manuscripts are right after all? Perhaps rhymed book are too simplistic indeed for this sophisticated generation? Generation Apple, by the way. I concluded so after my son had spelled ‘Island‘ as ‘iLand‘.

“Almost” by Richard Torrey

Jack is almost six and, in his world, he is almost grown up. He can almost wear his older brother’s clothes, ride a big bike or make his breakfast. Never mind that his brother doesn’t let Jack touch his shirts, Jack’s feet can’t reach the pedals of the big bike and he spills milk all over the counter instead pouring it over the cereal. Luckily, despite being so almost adult and so almost accomplished, he is not too grown up to give his mom a hug every now and then.

Our children want to grow up so fast, don’t they? They can’t be just five or six years old. They are always five and a half or six and three-quarters. Yet, at the same time (and thanks goodness), there will always be moments when they don’t mind forgetting about their age (real or imaginary) and being just our little children. My head is full of examples, but it is kind of secret worth keeping, isn’t it. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about.

Sweet, amusing and so true a story, which perfectly captures the paradox and dilemmas of growing up.  In our family it is the two-year-old who thinks he is six, like his brother.  And he sure acts like one. Almost, that is.

“The Birthday Fish” by Dan Yaccarino

I don’t even want to know how long it’s been since the last post. I could start this entry with trying to explain my long absence, but why would I bother? Most of you are either parents or writers, so you know everything about parent’s block, writer’s block, or what happens when they both hit at the same time. Besides, starting with explaining myself, I would run a risk of running out of my blogging time. So, let’s just start with “Hello, Everyone!”

Today’s post and the book are about birthdays, expectations, and making lists.

Last month in our family was definitely about all of the above. As our son was waiting for his birthday, he was making and updating his I’d-like-to-get list. When he came up with the whole list idea a couple of years ago before Christmas, I was a bit skeptical. I was worried that it would lead to mutual frustration. Our family (friends and Santa) will have a hard time finding things from his list, and he might feel disappointed when getting something else. And what about surprises? But list by list, I was getting more and more convinced that his input was actually quite helpful. The things he wanted were mostly inexpensive, useful, and in line with his interests, from markers to ‘speedy’ clothes, and books about dragons. Instead of throwing money away on what we thought he would enjoy, we’ve found a golden compromise.

But of course, the whole list system begs a question: is it always good to give children what they want? No, it is not. (That’s why we don’t have a video game system in the house yet) Not getting what they (and ourselves) want and dealing with it is a crucial life lesson. Not only does it teach our children patience, humility and perseverance, but it also teaches them flexibility. It broadens their horizons, exposes them to new experiences.  As parents, we should feel good about disappointing our children from time to time, even if it sounds like a paradox. 

In “The Birthday Fish”, one thing Cynthia always wanted was a pony. She kept putting it on her Christmas lists but she kept getting everything but ponies. She was hoping to get one for her birthday, but no, her parents thought a goldfish would be a better gift. Cynthia was frustrated. She was about to dump the golden present down the drain, when her fish suddenly spoke. She offered to make Cynthia’s wish come true in exchange for freedom. Cynthia didn’t hesitate. She wished for a pony.  Off to the lake they went.  But as they walked, something miraculous happened… 

In order to know WHAT happened and WHAT came back home with Cynthia, you have to read the book. I can’t spill all the beans, but I can tell you that whatever it was called Marigold.

A smart story with a lot of humor. Typical Yaccarino-style illustrations. A great book to add to anybody’s reading list.

“My Buddy, Daddy” by Agnieszka Chapas

If I’m going to die as a self-published author, at least I’m going to be a prolific one!

Check out my tribute to the father-son bond, inspired by my own sons and their bigger buddy, Dad.

 

http://www.blurb.com/books/5650861-my-buddy-daddy-agnieszka-chapas-dagna-ziolkowska

What is it Like to be a Mom?

The other day a young, single guy asked me what it is like to be a mom.  I found it odd that a young, single guy was curious. It’s not like he was interested in the position, right?  But his question made me think and re-think the meaning of motherhood.  Lots of thoughts were going through my head. Which ones describe it best:  lots of  multitasking and coffee, little sleep, little time for yourself and friends? Unless you are a super-mom that is. I’m not. But there are perks. Children bring out in us feelings that we would never experience otherwise. That unconditional love for another human being, who we gave birth to.  Or the better understanding for our own parents’ feelings.  What’s more, we get to see the world the way children discover it. We notice bugs on the sidewalk again.  We remember that puddles are for splashing.  And last but not least, little children are such wonderful snuggle-buddies.

But if I had to put  the meaning of motherhood in once sentence, I would simply say: Being a mom is like being in Heaven and Hell at the same time. 

Or, if I were to wrap it with metaphors, I would quote one of my poems, “Piece by Piece” (The Poet’s Place”)

“Like murky Van Gogh

And snazzy Matisse, 

In one frame

Agony and Bliss”

By the way, today someone else asked me how I stay so thin taking care of the kids all day. I told her that she basically answered her own question: Taking care of the kids all day.

The True Color of White Lies.

As many young people, my husband too got himself a tattoo back in college.  I’m not sure if he regrets having it done or not, but I know that he doesn’t want to encourage our boys to get one in the future.  As a result, when our five-year old asked him about the little picture on his skin, my quick-on-his-feet hubby responded that “a bad kid at school drew on him.” I found it hilarious. And clever.  A perfect white lie. On second thoughts, though, I started wondering if the creative excuses we feed our children with to cover up our own actions and mistakes are really worth it or will they backfire on us. If we don’t admit having done something silly or unreasonable, we draw a completely misleading picture of ourselves to our children. We make them believe that we are infallible. And if our children see that we are so flawless, they will  try to live up to our standards and will be afraid of making their own mistakes. And how are they suppose to learn vital life lessons if not by making mistakes and learning from them? As Joseph Conrad wisely said “It’s only those who do nothing that make no mistakes.” I don’t want my children to do nothing in fear of making mistakes. I tried it. It leads to even bigger mistakes.  And I don’t want our children to believe that we never did anything wrong or short-sighted. I just want them to understand that every mistake is a step forward if we learn from it. 

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