Are You Like An Ant?

Photo by Roy Toft

 I’m taking part in Susanna Leonard Hill’s Summer Short and Sweets, a creative writing exercise that would be fun for elementary students as well.  Click on her link and get all of the details.

Today’s challenge was to pick an adjective and then an animal that adjective might be associated with…here’s my entry:

 Tenacious
Is a steadfast ant
Tirelessly laboring with strong jaws excavating
In the subterranean tunnels under my feet
Creating a new home for his queen.

 I’ve always been fascinated with ants…such tireless goal-setting creatures!

Tireless and goal-setting can also define the firefighters who battled the Waldo Canyon Fire last month here in Colorado Springs.

Fortunately, many of the homes were insured.

What about the forests?

The trees had no insurance policies.

Fortunately, there are some individuals who are trying to help.

 

One of these is a neighbor of mine who has put together a photo-journal.

The pictures show the impact of the fire on the forest.

Visit www.WaldoCanyonRehab.org to find out how you can purchase it.

Proceeds will go to the Waldo Canyon Burn Scar Rehabilitation Project.

I’ve also been liked to an ant and have been called tenacious by those who know me.

If I believe in something, I am tireless and never give up.

One thing I believe in is the importance of building self-esteem in children.

That’s why I started the Show Me How! School Initiative.

Please don’t forget to leave a comment, nominating a deserving school.

A dozen copies of Show Me How! will be awarded at the end of September.

Would you like your favorite school to get a copy?  Just leave a comment!

Show Me How is in the News!

THE SUMMER IS MORE THAN HALFWAY OVER!

IT’S HARD TO BELIEVE…KIDS ARE OUT BUYING NEW SCHOOL SUPPLIES….AND TEACHERS ARE GEARING UP FOR THE NEW SCHOOL YEAR.

This post is a summary of some of the projects I have underway and some of the events that have been taking place recently, here in Colorado.

WE’VE BEEN POUNDED BY TRAGEDY…FIRST THE WALDO CANYON FIRES RIGHT HERE IN COLORADO SPRINGS (AND VARIOUS OTHER WILDFIRES IN THE REST OF THE STATE) AND JUST LAST WEEK, THE AURORA THEATER MASSACRE, WHERE TWELVE PEOPLE LOST THEIR LIVES AND DOZENS OF OTHERS WERE SERIOUSLY INJURED.

MANY ASK…HOW CAN WE STOP THIS TYPE OF SENSELESS VIOLENCE?

UNFORTUNATELY, I DON’T THINK THERE IS AN ANSWER…NOT UNTIL EVERY PERSON’S HEART IS FILLED WITH LOVE FOR OTHERS.

WHAT WE CAN DO IS PRAY FOR THOSE WHO HAVE BEEN IMPACTED.  WE ARE ALL ONE FAMILY.  WE CAN REACH OUT TO EACH OTHER WITH LOVE AND COMPASSION BECAUSE, IN THE FACE OF TRAGEDY, LOVE IS WHAT HEALS.

WE CAN ALSO TRY TO MAKE OUR OWN LITTLE WORLD A BETTER PLACE.

SOMEONE WHO DOES THAT VERY WELL IS picture book author, SUSANNA LEONARD HILL.

DURING THE SCHOOL YEAR, SHE HOSTS A PERFECT PICTURE BOOK FRIDAY  WHERE SHE INVITES OTHERS TO LINK UP WITH A PICTURE BOOK REVIEW AND RELATED ACTIVITIES AND RESOURCES.

FOR THE SUMMER, SHE HAS COME UP WITH A WHOLE NEW CHALLENGE: SUMMER SHORT AND SWEETS.

DO YOU LIKE TO WRITE?  ARE YOU AN ASPIRING AUTHOR?

JOIN SUSANNA AND FRIENDS FOR THIS CREATIVE WRITING EXERCISE.

I hope you will check out this fun-filled writing exercise!  Here is my entry for week #3:

I am Castle.
Gray as weathered stone in a cloud-filled twilight.
With tall turreted towers.
Decaying.
Crumbling.
Adjacent to an ancient herb garden where quartz paving stones glisten in the moonlight.
Guarding a hidden secret.
Protecting a forgotten treasure.
Waiting for eventual discovery.
Like a tightrope walker holding his breath.
I am Castle.

Another project for me this summer was to submit a picture book to Rate Your Story.  This amazing website is hosted by several children’s authors, illustrators and editors.  They provide professional manuscript critiques and other services…but will look over your story for FREE and rate it from “1”…great story, you should consider submitting…to “10”…consider this story as practice and write another one.  In addition, some of the judges may even give your story some constructive suggestions to help make it better.

A couple of weeks ago, I submitted, “The Boots of Dylan McGee”.  This is a rhyming picture book that tells the story of a little boy who wants to be a cowboy and loves his boots so much that he never wants to take them off. 

Here’s the first verse:

Dylan McGee was a cowboy-in-training.

Boots were his garb, whether sunshine or raining.

“It’s time to go nighty-night”, Momma would say.

But take off his boots?  Nada, nix, no and nay!

 When his boots begin to hurt his feet because they are too small, “he tried to remove them but couldn’t succeed…those boots wouldn’t budge ‘cause he’d grown like a weed.”

Early this week, I got the reply back…”The Boots of Dylan McGee” scored a “3”… which means: good story, get a critique or two and polish before submitting.  I was really excited because the judge gave me three awesome suggestions which I am working on implementing to make the story better and ready to put out there in publishing-land.

I’m also continuing in Julie Hedlund’s 12×12 in 2012 Picture Book Writing Challenge.

I’ve been having so much fun since January…writing a picture book draft each month.  Thanks to Julie and the encouraging group of more than FOUR HUNDRED participants, I now have seven picture book drafts waiting to be revised and polished and revised and polished and revised and polished some more.  July’s picture book draft is completed!

Another project for me is to de-clutter my garage. 

 

As the comic strip character, Cathy, would say, “AACK!!!!!!”

I know that clutter is a problem for many of us.  Objectively, I understand that clutter creates stress.  Subjectively, it is difficult to decide what to keep and what to toss.

But I have done a little work on this and plan to do more every weekend until I am done.

As Nancy at Spirit Lights the Way would say, “Aaaah, that’s better.

And now I’d like to share some lovely news.

Lovely news #1: Last week, I got an email from WordPress notifying me that I had reached a milepost in “likes”…1000 of them.

For that I have to thank all of you, my readers!  Sometimes it’s difficult to find the time to write, especially because I love to read and comment on everyone else’s posts.  I’m thrilled to have connected with so many people all over the world…what an exciting journey this has been!

Lovely news #2: I just got word from TaRhonda Thomas, Emmy-winning anchor for the 9News Morning Show in Denver.  She will be interviewing me on August 27th and we will be discussing an extremely timely topic for the opening of the new school year…how parents can detect the subtle signs of bullying.  I’ll share more details in future posts.

Lovely news #3: Diane Kress Hower over at bookwisdombydiane did an amazing review of Show Me How! and also one of Cindy Moo.  She has a spot on the local NBC affiliate KKCO TV 11 News morning show where she spotlights children’s books.  On Tuesday morning, she talked about the importance of self-esteem and how those two books were wonderful resources for parents and teachers.  Diane is offering a copy of each of the books as a giveaway on her website…you just need to leave her a comment.

Lovely news #4:  My daughter and her family will definitely be moving to Colorado Springs within the year…I can’t wait to be able to spend more time with my grandson!

Save The Bookstores Day…Indian Two Feet and His Horse Book Review

Today is Perfect Picture Book Friday where I link up with Susannah Leonard Hill’s fantastic group of picture book writers, illustrators, librarians and others who contribute a picture book review and related resources for parents, teachers and children. 

Did you know that June 16th is Save The Bookstores Day?  Mega-stores like Walmart are putting bookstores out of business and bookstores in small towns and big cities continue to close.  Tara Lazar has a great post about this: http://taralazar.wordpress.com/2012/06/04/support-save-the-bookstores-day-on-june-16th/ and I hope everyone will spread the word about this event.  I’ll be stopping and shopping in at one of our local Indie bookstores here in Colorado Springs, Poor Richards.  What will you be doing?

As a child, I was fascinated with books and I would have been happy to live in a bookstore.  One day that almost happened!  My mom needed to buy a junior high school graduation dress for my older sister.  We went to Abraham and Straus, a big New York City department store and my mother left me in the book department which covered the entire eighth floor.  Floor to ceiling bookshelves lined the rooms and tables filled with books crowded the space so there was little room to walk.  Finding a little kneehole desk amidst the book strewn tables, I took a copy of Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (one of my favorites), crawled into the space under the desk and proceeded to read the entire book from cover to cover. 

Like many of you, when I am reading, I become one with the book and get lost in the story between the pages.  So engrossed was I that I never heard my mom and sister calling for me a couple of hours later.  It wasn’t until I turned the last page and stood up that I saw the store security guards, police and my mom and sister, frantically searching for me.  They had been looking for an hour.  You can read more about that day in a blog post I did last year.  You’ll get a bonus if you go there because I was doing picture book reviews back them and you will find a review of Don’t Worry, I’ll Find You by Anna Grossnickel Hines as well as some great tips for Shopping with Kids.  With summer just around the corner and kids tagging along when parents are shopping, those tips might come in handy!

Today’s classic picture book pick is about as far away in time and place from the above book as you can get…but with a similar theme…listening to our parents and following their instructions.

 

 Indian Two Feet and His Horse

Written by Margaret Friskey

Illustrated by Ezra Jack Keats

Publisher: Children’s Press (1959)

Ages: 3 – 8

Themes:

Books for boys, goal setting, problem solving, responsibility, self-reliance, family, diversity, maturation

Opening:

“There was a little Indian.  He wished he had a horse.  But he did not have a horse.  He had to walk, walk, walk.”

Synopsis:  

Little Two Feet wishes he had a horse.  He can sing and dance and draw and swing across the river from a tree.  But he can’t ride a horse because he doesn’t own one.  His father suggests he go and look for one and little Two Feet decides to look in places he would go if he were a horse.  In the end, a horse finds the boy and they develop a friendship based on mutual trust and caring.

Why do I like this book

The story text and message is simple enough for very young children to understand and enjoy, while older kids will identify with the boy who could master many tasks and skills, but dreamed of riding a horse of his own.

Ezra Jack Keats (Peter’s Chair, The Snowy Day, Whistle for Willy, etc.) is one of my favorites author/illustrators.  This book is one of his lesser known illustrating gems.

Related Activities:

Indian Headband Craft (from Cool Kids Crafts)

You will need: Construction paper, crayons or markers, scissors, glue or tape…real feathers, beads and string are optional.


How to Make an Indian Headband Craft

Step 1 Cut a strip of brown paper about 2 to 3 inches wide. Make it long enough so that when you bring both ends together it will sit on the child’s head comfortably.We used some craft scissors with a wavy design to cut ours just to give it a bit more flare.Tip: If you need it to be longer, just cut two strips and tape it together.

 

Step 2 Using your crayons or markers, decorate the outside of the strip (the side you will see once you tape both ends together).

 

Step 3 Bring both ends together to form the headband and tape or glue together.

 

Step 4 Cut out several feathers using colored construction paper. Cut small slits on both sides of your feathers leaving about 1/2″ in the middle uncut.

 

Step 5 Glue the feathers to the back of the headband.

 

Step 6 Optional:Cut out one more feather. Then glue some real feathers to the bottom of the feather (so that when you hang the feather upside down, the bottom becomes the top and the top becomes the bottom – see picture). Add a string of beads and glue this onto the feather.

 

Step 7 Glue this feather to the side of the headband and hang it upside down so that it will hang down when you wear the headband.


This Native American Indian headband craft is a fun kids Thanksgiving activity and has been a traditional craft for many during the holidays.   However, kids will enjoy making it at any time of the year.  In addition to this indian headband craft be sure to check out these Native American Indian coloring pages.

Talk about different animals people can take care of…which ones would make good pets?  Which ones would be difficult to keep in the city?  What are some of the responsibilities a pet-owner has?  What did little Two Feet do to be a good horse owner?

Official website of Ezra Jack Keats with tons of info and activities.

Lovely site that gives interesting background on Ezra Jack Keats and a number of activities here.

This post is part of a series for parents and teachers called Perfect Picture Book Fridays hosted by Susannah Leonard Hill.  Click on her link and find lots of other picture book suggestions with summaries and activities.

Festival of Trees Festive Family Fun Days: A Few Reflections

I spent this past Saturday and Sunday at the DoubleTree Hotel near the World Arena in Colorado Springs. 

Sponsored by the Ecumenical Social Ministries, the Festival of Trees Family Fun Days was a many-splendored event.

In the main ballroom dozens of vendors with beautiful tables filled with amazing items provided gift-giving purchase opportunities to the people strolling by.

Gaily decorated Christmas trees were displayed and offered for sale.

 

Ornaments on the Crayola Tree...a hit with every child!

 

Santa-land had volunteers doing awesome craft projects with the children…and kids had the opportunity to meet Santa, as well as the Grinch who stole Christmas.

Hundreds of door prizes had been donated by area businesses and the Ecumenical Social Ministries volunteers called out names every half hour…centerpieces, candles, hand-made quilts and gift certificates for free meals at local restaurants were among the wonderful prizes awarded to the lucky recipients.   When my name was called, I was thrilled!  My prize…the most beautiful handmade Christmas quilt.

On-going live entertainment added to the up-beat party-like atmosphere and we enjoyed bell choirs, drum groups, singers, dancers and more.  The entertainment alone was worth the $5 per person entry fee…children 12 years old and under got in for free!

I had a wonderful time at the Show-Me-How table…talking to parents and children about building self-esteem and literacy skills with picture books and how easy it is to spend a little quality time with your child…reading, crafting and cooking.  Parents who picked up my book were impressed with how many activities it provides.  They loved the easy-to-use format with the picture book summary and parenting tip on the left and the quick craft and child-friendly recipe on the right.

Speaking with hundreds of people in a two-day period can be somewhat exhausting, even when you are passionate about the subject.  I’d like to share some of my reflections and observations.

  • There are lots of parents out there who really care about their children.
  • Many parents are doing an awesome job of teaching their children important skills, such as saying “Thank you” when someone gives you something.  We were giving a free gift to every child who stopped by the table…a fancy new pencil and a bookmark.  I was impressed with the parent who told her child, “You need to look at the lady when you say thank you.” 
  • I fear we are moving away from a time when a child would be excited about receiving something new…no matter how small.  Most of the children were delighted to come over and pick the pencil of their choice…but a few shrugged their shoulders and shook their heads…perhaps if I had been offering an iPad they might have thought it was a worthwhile gift.
  • It doesn’t matter how beautiful or uplifting the atmosphere…some people will always bring their negative attitude to a situation.  I don’t know whether you will want to laugh or to cry when you read this.  I chatted a moment with a woman who stopped at the table to look at the book and after I told her that the book had quick and easy activities to help build self-esteem and literacy skills, she replied, “I’m already an excellent parent!”  To me, that is kind of sad…I know how to cook, but that doesn’t mean I will never look at another cookbook in my life or enjoy getting a new recipe from a friend.  And I’m always excited when someone gives me a new approach to teaching or a fresh tip on parenting.  Life is a journey of constant learning and we need to be open to acquiring knowledge, even on subjects we may have expertise.  Another woman looked at the book and when I said it’s for anyone involved in the care and education of young children, she replied, “I hate children…this is definitely not the book for me!”  I guess not. :}

If, however, you think this might be the book for you…or you know anyone who might enjoy having 100 picture book recommendations, each paired with a quick and easy craft project and a simple child-friendly healthful recipe, please pass along the information.  Show Me How! available on my website: $19.95 for a brand-new copy…and personally inscribed for the holidays if you wish!  After observing the children at the Festival of Trees event and those of friends and family, I can tell you that many children have too much STUFF already…they don’t need the latest toy or gadget.  What they do need is their parents’ time and attention!  Buy the book and give them the gift of your positive parental participation that will last forever.

Literacy Program for Parents and Children: Parents’ Night at Trailblazer School

Cover of "Yes We Can!"

Cover of Yes We Can!

Last night I had the pleasure of presenting a program for the parents and children of Trailblazer Elementary School in Colorado Springs’ District 11.

The president of the El Paso PTA, the head of the PTA at Trailblazer, the principal of Trailblazer and the director of one of the local preschools were also on hand to hear about how a picture book is worth a thousand words.

How is a picture book worth a thousand words?  Why should we read picture books to our young children?

  • Children love them and children who learn to love books grow up to be good readers.
  • Listening to and looking at picture books helps young children develop the skills they will need to be ready to read.
  • The messages in picture books can help young children deal with many of the challenges they encounter in their early years.
  • Studies show that children who are read to at an early age are more successful in school.
  • Reading with your child strengthens the parent-child connection.

After talking a minute or two about the importance of picture books and reading to young children, I read, Yes We Can! by Sam McBratney.  The parents and children enjoyed the story about the three animal friends who play together and make a big pile of leaves.  However, when they stop to rest, they begin to make fun of each other and they all become sad and grumpy.  At the suggestion of one of their moms, they each show what they can do best…and all the friends agree that Little Roo is the best jumper, Country Mouse is the best tail-catcher and Quacker Duck is the best puddle-floater.  The little animals end the day happy with themselves and each other. 

As I turned the pages for the second time, the children were eager to answer the questions I asked about the story they had just listened to.  They agreed that no one likes to be made fun of and that it can make us sad or mad when others laugh at us.

Showing the children the sample craft I had made, I explained that we were going to make double-sided faces on the piece of white cardstock I had cut in the shape of a leaf.  On one side, each child drew a happy/glad/excited face and on the other side, a sad/mad/angry one.  We punched a hole in the top of each and looped a piece of yarn through the hole, so it could be hung on the doorknob of their room.  When they are feeling happy, they will put the smiling side showing.  When they are feeling sad, they will turn the frowning side over.  What a wonderful opportunity for parents to initiate a discussion about why the child is feeling sad or mad!  One of the components of building self-esteem is being able to express one’s feelings, whether positive or negative.

 

The children were excited to take home their art project and the parents were able to pick up a flyer on helpful hints and simple steps to making reading to children fun for everyone.  I also provided a flyer of sample activities from my Show Me How! book.  One of the parents recognized the book as one she had taken from the library and she bought two copies…one to use with her own children and one to give to a family member who also has young children.

Developing strong literacy skills is critically important and this program makes it quick and easy!

Reading a picture book only takes about 15 minutes! 

Doing a simple craft project only takes about 15 minutes!

Preparing an easy recipe only takes about 15 minutes!

Parents don’t have to do all three in one day.

CREATE THE MAGIC!

UNLEASH THE SMILES!

With Show Me How! Build Your Child’s Self-Esteem Through Reading, Crafting and Cooking, you have 100 picture books already summarized, 100 simple crafts already planned and 100 easy recipes that will be fun to make and eat!  That is an entire year of fun-filled, educational, self-esteem-building activities right at your fingertips.  The holidays are coming and the price is right…only $19.95…more than 50% off the cover price.  Click here and go to my website where you can purchase a copy of the book safely with PayPal or by check or money order. 

SAVE THE DATE

I also want to remind anyone local to Colorado Springs…the Festival of Trees event, sponsored by the Ecumenical Social Ministries, is coming up this weekend.  FESTIVE FAMILY FUN DAYS will take place on Saturday, November 19 from 9am to 5pm and on Sunday, November 20 from 10am to 3pm at the DoubleTree Hotel near the World Arena at 1775 E Cheyenne Mountain Blvd in Colorado Springs.  There will be entertainment, crafting and other activities for children, Santa will be there and dozens of vendors selling wonderful items (many of them handmade and unique) perfect for holiday gift-giving.  Admission is $5 per person…children under 12 get in for FREE!

Show Me How will have a table in the main ballroom, amidst beautifully decorated trees…and there will be a gift for EVERY child who stops by the table as well as free handouts for the adults.  I’m also sponsoring a raffle to help raise money for the Ecumenical Social Ministries.  Stop by my table, fill out an entry form, put $1 or more in the jar, and you will have a chance to win one of two huge stuffed bears.  All raffle proceeds will be donated to the Ecumenical Social Ministries.  If you have questions about the event, please call 719-228-6781 (Ecumenical Social Ministries) or contact the DoubleTree Hotel.

I hope you will stop by and say hello if you come to the event!

Fall Festival at First Christian Church

What an awesome autumn it has been so far!

Here in Colorado Springs, the weather has been glorious…Indian Summer has been in full swing for the several weeks.

However, there is briskness in the air that tells us winter is on its way.

The cool crisp mornings give way to warm sunny afternoons.  And, when the sun goes down behind the Front Range, the frost is definitely on the pumpkins.

Speaking of pumpkins, there is a wonderful Fall Festival this Saturday from 10am to 2pm at the First Christian Church, 16 E. Platte Avenue.  There will be lots of homemade goodies and preserves for sale, as well as handcrafted items.  Activities for children are also on the agenda in addition to a wonderful silent auction.  You’ll even be able to buy a copy of Show Me How!  I’ve donated several copies and also a book and craft supply package for the silent auction.

100% of the proceeds of this event will be donated to Tennyson Center, one of Rocky Mountain regions leading treatment centers and K-12 schools for emotionally and crisis-affected child and youth, particularly those suffering from abuse and neglect.   This is a child-centered, family-focused, community-based center!

So, if you are local to Colorado Springs, head on over and bring your children to First Christian Church on Saturday, October 22…you’re sure to have a great time…and support a wonderful local cause!

Five Simple Steps for a Healthier School Year


 Your child is going to school.  As a parent, what can you do to make it the healthiest year ever?

Perhaps your child is a preschooler and will be attending a daycare or nursery school.  Maybe your child is already in elementary school.  Here are five simple steps that may keep your child from getting sick.

  1. Wash hands often: everyone should have their own towel…perhaps a different color for each member of the family.  This helps colds from spreading like wild-fires!
  2. Dress appropriately: when it is cold, children should be dressed warmly, with hats or hoods on their heads…no ifs, ands or buts!
  3. Get enough sleep: young children need LOTS of sleep so set up bedtime routines and stick to them.  Our body renews and cells regenerate during sleep.  Did you know that children between the ages of 2 and 5 need 11-14 hours of sleep?  For more information about sleep and young children, you can go to: http://www.sleepforkids.org/html/sheet.html.
  4. Make every meal and snack count:  a good breakfast is a MUST and snacks can provide additional important nutrition, especially for picky eaters.  For more ideas on healthy meal planning for the whole family, you can visit: http://kidshealth.org/parent/nutrition_center/healthy_eating/habits.html
  5. Keep a sick child home: I know it is difficult, especially when parents work…but your child will get better sooner and the teacher and the other children in the class will thank you.  With these tips, your children may stay healthy this school year and you won’t have to keep them home.

On September 24th, the Show-Me-How with Miss Vivian program will be at Family Christian Store, 7165 North Academy Blvd, Colorado Springs, CO.  There will be one presentation from 12 to 12:45pm.  I’ll be reading Johnny Lion’s Bad Day to the parents and children and then we will all make Paper Plate Lions.  This program is appropriate for children from two to seven years old.  In addition, there will be a flyer for parents to take home about staying healthy this school year.  I hope we will have a good turn-out…please spread the word and tweet this and post to Facebook…maybe some of your followers are local to Colorado Springs.

SAVE THE DATE

STAYING HEALTHY

THIS SCHOOL YEAR!

SHOW-ME-HOW STORY-TIME PROGRAM

Saturday, September 24, 2011

12 to 12:45pm

Family Christian Store: 7165 N. Academy

719-598-1500 to RSVP

  • Bring your young children and listen to a story
  • Help your child make a simple craft project
  • Get a free flyer: Have a Healthier School Year

Vivian Kirkfield is a local author, former kindergarten and Head Start teacher and mom of three. Her parenting program and award-winning activity book for ages 2-7, Show Me How! Build Your Child’s Self-Esteem Through Reading, Crafting and Cooking, has helped thousands of parents build self-esteem, develop pre-literacy skills and create a stronger parent-child connection.

For more information: 719-237-3111 or vivian@positiveparentalparticipation.com