Friday, February 25, 2011

Why Haven't I Blogged?

Why haven't I posted here lately? Because physically and mentally I'm exhausted. Part of the exhaustion comes from a sinus infection that will not go away. I started a new medication yesterday that seems to be working, thankfully. But largely, the recent events here in Wisconsin are the reason. I'm sure you've been watching and reading all about the budget bill, the collective bargaining issues, the Koch brothers, and all that has occurred so far at our state Capitol. I don't intend to go into any of that. It is too difficult for me to express my concerns and fears about all that is at stake.

However, I must comment on one aspect. Like I said in my post a week ago, I'm horrified that our state is getting torn apart. This is not the Wisconsin I know. This is not the Wisconsin that I grew up in. This is not the Wisconsin I want for my children. Isthmus reporter Bill Lueders in his recent article expresses the sentiments of many Wisconsin residents, I'm sure, when he states, "But as a lifelong resident of Wisconsin, I'm saddened — truly and deeply saddened — by what Walker has set in motion. It will change the state forever, causing profound and lasting damage, no matter how the budget stalemate plays out."

I'm limiting my time online right now and spending time with my family. I hope to resume regular posting soon. This morning I visited the School Library Journal website, only to be bombarded with a "Support Walker" in the ads by Google at the bottom of one of the pages. The ad is no longer there as far as I can tell but, this ad, in a time when many school librarians face layoff, was the last straw for me this week.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Celebrate Presidents' Day - Back soon

Sorry for the lack of blog posts lately. I'm still not feeling 100% after fighting a cold earlier in the month and both my kids are sick as well. We're currently trying to get well and regain our energy. Thanks for understanding!

Looking for some Presidents' Day activities? Here are the links to a couple of printables:

Maggie's Kinder Corner Hurray for President’s Day! Mini Book [pdf]
Meet Our Presidents emergent reader [pdf]
Scholastic My Book About Presidents' Day Mini Book (grades 3+)
Teaching Heart Mom - Presidents Day Printable Game
Free Kids Coloring - Presidents Printable Coloring Pages

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Worry in Wisconsin

Perhaps you've heard of the latest events regarding the recent budget proposal by our newly elected governor, Scott Walker? That proposal will affect my family, it will affect my friends, it will affect my neighbors, it will affect our local schools -- our entire way of life here in Wisconsin.

Walker's proposal targets the state and local public workers. This includes teachers, university employees, librarians, county and municipal employees -- they will take a deep cut in their benefits. The legislation calls for public workers pay half the costs of their pensions and at least 12.6% of their healthcare coverage. More seriously, the legislation threatens collective bargaining rights of state workers. The governor is trying to quickly push his proposal through the Assembly and Senate and has given very little time for people to voice their concerns.

It isn't entirely the cuts in benefits or the loss of bargaining rights that worries me. It is the loss of Wisconsin as we know it. I'm especially concerned that the cuts and loss of bargaining rights will shatter the quality of our educational system. This all-out attack on public workers has already resulted in a decrease in morale in the state workforce. Just recently my daughter's class talked about bullies. This is one of the biggest bully tactics that I've ever witnessed. The governor is trying to balance the budget on the backs of middle class public workers and if the legislation doesn't pass, he has threatened to cut jobs.

The saddest part in my opinion -- he has demonized the state workers, a group of hard-working individuals that doesn't deserve all the negative energy directed at them in recent weeks by many their private worker counterparts. Honestly, the pitting the two workforces against each other is one of the most sickening political maneuvers I've ever seen. How will this solve any problems? Why can't Wisconsin residents move forward together as one to help balance this budget? Forward - that is our state motto, but it seems that we're on the verge to take a giant step backward.

The fight has made major news headlines around the nation and the world. What happens in Wisconsin will certainly have an effect on other states.
NYT - "Angry Demonstrations in Wisconsin as Cuts Loom"
The Guardian - "Wisconsin's Tea Party takeover"
The Washington Post - "Workers toppled a dictator in Egypt, but might be silenced in Wisconsin"

For a number of days thousands of demonstrators have marched at the Wisconsin Capitol and continue their fight even now. Schools have closed as teachers take sick days to attend the demonstrations; public workers have been bussed in to Madison from all over the state. The point of major contention is the loss of collective bargaining rights, a union-busting proposal. Ironically, Wisconsin was the first state to allow public employees to bargain collectively.

Government workers are not the enemy. How will stripping union rights help bring jobs to the state and solve a budget deficit? Undoubtedly, strikes will follow. And, as far as the benefits, these cuts will weaken our state economy. There is little doubt in my mind. The buying power for many families will lessen. Some families with both spouses working for the state will bear the burden to an almost unconscionable extent. Some of the lowest paid public workers, the LTEs, will lose their benefits completely. State workers have already felt the pain of the recession by weathering unpaid furloughs. Yes, private sector counterparts have taken a cut in pay with this recession, but as the economy recovers they will eventually get raises to make up for the cuts. In the public sector, the compensation gains are so slow that public workers will never rebound - and neither will public employee morale.

Wordless Wednesday - Spring Couplet

We attended a Chinese New Year Celebration earlier in the month. My daughter enjoyed making a Spring Couplet. Both kids also really enjoyed watching the Lion Dance.

Find more of this week's Wordless Wednesday (or Wordful) posts at 5 Minutes for Mom.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Writing and Art Contests for Kids

If your kids are looking for an outlet for their creative energies, considering having them enter one or more of these fun 2011 art/writing contests. Most end within the next month.

Doodle 4 Google
The contest challenges K-12 students in the US to create an original Google logo around the theme, "What I’d like to do someday…"
Registration closes March 2, 2011, and entries must be postmarked by March 16, 2011. Homeschoolers can participate.

PBS KIDS GO! Writers Contest -
Kids in kindergarten, 1st Grade, 2nd Grade or 3rd Grade can submit their original illustrated stories to their local PBS (check to find nearest partipating stations and contest details). The local station chooses winners and enters them into the national contest.

Capstone Publishers My Pet is Super Contest
Students in grades 1-3 can enter the “My Pet is Super” contest by writing an article for an imaginary newspaper, The Daily Planet, about why their own pet is super. Submissions due by February 28th, 2011.

Pier 1 Imports/UNICEF Greeting Card Contest -
Children ages 14 and under living in the US can participate by downloading an entry form and submitting an original holiday scene drawing that reflects the theme, “Making Spirits Bright.” Entries must be received by March 12, 2011. Contest details at

Heinz Ketchup Creativity Contest -
Students in grades K-1 through 12 are invited to create original designs for use on Heinz Ketchup packages. Mailed entries must be received by March 9, 2011. Read official rules for complete details.

Endangered Species Day Youth Art Contest -
Children in grades K-12 can enter by submitting original U.S. endangered species artwork. Entries must be postmarked by March 15, 2011.

Kidorable Children's Art Contest -
According to the Kidadorable Facebook page, this contest calls for kids to "draw, paint, sculpt, or collage your favorite Kidorable theme!" The winner will receive an entire collection of Kidadorable merchandise in his or her favorite style. Ends 3/7

BounceU Create and Bounce T-Shirt Design Contest -
The contest is open to children ages 5-10 in select states. Kids are invited to color a t-shirt design for BounceU summer 2011 camp program. Official rules at Submit entries before 3/4/11.

Children in grades four through twelve can participate by submitting original state fish artwork accompanied by an essay. See for details. Entries must be postmarked by March 31.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Bunny Valentines with Dum Dum Lollipop Tail

Remember those folded paper rabbits we made to go along with the book, Little White Rabbit? Well, my daughter decided she wanted to make bunny cards for all her friends for Valentine's Day. We printed the rabbit template from the ART with Mrs. Smith blog, attached some google eyes with Glue Dots, added a Valentine's Day message, "Just hopping by to say ... Happy Valentine's Day" and taped on a Dum Dum Lollipop for the fluffy tail.

We hope all the kids in her class enjoy the homemade Valentines!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Full to the Brim - Kid's Book Giveaway List (2/12/11)

Please check out my other "Full to the Brim" posts as well. Many contests are still underway. I publish "Full to the Brim" every Friday. If I missed your book giveaway, feel free to mention it in the comment section or send me an email. Thanks for visiting my blog and come back soon!

My Book Giveaway(s):
Circle C Beginnings Book Set by Susan K. Marlow Giveaway - Ends 2/14

Book giveaways:

There's A Book - Book Giveaway Ends 2/27
Candlewick Press Bear
There's A Book - Book Giveaway Ends 2/27
A Tilly & Friends Library by Polly Dunbar
Storied Cities - Book Giveaway Ends 2/20
Where's Walrus? by Steven Savage
Imagination Soup - Book Giveaway Ends 2/27
13 Words by Lemony Snicket
JDaniel4's Mom - Book Giveaway Ends 2/14
Tiger Tales Valentine's Book Giveaway
Susan Heim on Parenting - Book Giveaway Ends 2/25
Where's Walrus? by Steven Savage
The Shopping Mama - Book Giveaway Ends 2/25
Shoe-la-la! by Karen Beaumont
My Four Monkeys - Book Giveaway Ends 2/21
Storybook Art by Mary Ann Kohl
My Four Monkeys - Book Giveaway Ends 2/21
Where's Walrus? by Steven Savage
She Scribes - Book Giveaway Ends 2/16
Where's Walrus? by Steven Savage
The Review Broads - Book Giveaway Ends 2/25
Shoe-la-la! by Karen Beaumont
The Freebie Junkie - Book Giveaway Ends 2/27
Five Little Bunnies (board book)
Literacy and Laughter - Book Giveaway Ends 2/12
A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Phillip Stead
Mymcbooks's Blog - Book Giveaway Ends 2/21
Seven Miles to Freedom by Janet Halfmann
Simply Stacie - Book Giveaway Ends 2/24
Frecklebox Giveaway
Mommy Niri- Book Giveaway Ends 2/12
Madeline at the White House
This Mama Loves Her Bargains - Book Giveaway Ends 2/22
Soup Day by Melissa Iwai
A Year with Mom and Dad - Book Giveaway Ends 2/25
Set of Sandra Boynton books
Mundie Kids - Book Giveaway Ends 3/2
I Love You Always and Forever (boardbook) by Jonathan Emmett, Have You Seen Duck by Janet A Holmes, Quick, Slow, Mango! by Anik McGrory, Lucky's Little Feather by Peggy van Gurp (releases on May), Tony Baloney by Pam Munoz Ryan & Edwin Fotheringham
Three Times the Giggles - Book Giveaway Ends 2/14
Zig Zag Zebra
Bookin With Bingo - Book Giveaway Ends 3/1
A String of Hearts by Laura Malone Elliott

Little One Books - $50 Gift Certificate Contest - Ends 2/15

Fish for more children's book giveaways at Lori Calabrese's Fish for a Free Book linkup each Friday

I Am A Reader, Not A Writer also has a new book giveaway linky with lots of YA and some other kid's books.

Virtual Flat Stanley Exchange

Last November we received a paper Flat Stanley in the mail from a good friend. My daughter enjoyed his visit so much that we've decided to do our own Flat Stanley project and participate in The Book Loving Boys’ Flat Stanley Adventure Exchange. It's a virtual exchange and sign up ends on February 20th.

Anyway, it sounds like a lot of fun, and it's something we'll be able to do over spring break. If you like to participate, visit the sign up post at Book Loving Boys.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

A String of Hearts by Laura Malone Elliott - Book Review & Heart Garland Craft

We try to craft homemade valentines every year, even for exchange at school. Valentine's Day is partly about being thoughtful -- it's a day to show how much you care for someone -- and making homemade Valentines is a great way to share your love with others. One of the new Valentine's Day picture books out this year, A String of Hearts, is all about making homemade Valentines for friends.

A String of Hearts by Laura Malone Elliott, illustrated by Lunn Munsinger. Katherine Tegen Books (November 2010); ISBN 9780060000851; 32 pages
Book Source: Copy from local library

"Sadly, Sam picked up his valentine and stuffed it in his coat. But inside his pocket he found something else. It was a valentine, and it opened up in a string of hearts."

A classroom full of animal students prepares for Valentine's Day. Sam, a kind-hearted bear, can't wait to exchange Valentines and wants to make a really special one for Tiffany, the most popular girl cat in the class. Another girl in his class, a thoughtful squirrel named Mary Ann, offers to help him craft some Valentines. Valentine's Day arrives, and Sam's exchange does not go as planned. But after receiving a string of hearts from someone special, Sam realizes that true friends make the best Valentines.

This beautiful, emotion-filled story, with heart-felt Valentines shared by the main characters will pull at your heart strings. Munsinger's cute, fuzzy animals couldn't be sweeter, and it's amazing just how many little special Valentine's Day details Elliott includes in her book. Sam and Mary Ann make a variety of different homemade Valentines including acrostic Valentines and pinprick Valentines. (For instructions on how to make, see my Homemade Valentine's Day Cards post.) The characters also have a fun time writing special poems together, adding details to personalize the Valentines for the recipents. The author's note in the end of the book, "A Note About Valentine's Day" provides a brief overview of the history of Valentine's Day and cardmaking.

The dynamics of a classroom can sometimes be difficult for kids, especially when they wrestle with popularity. A String of Hearts shows that it is more important to have good, thoughtful friends than worrying about who is popular.

Related Links:
Laura Malone Elliott Website
Reading Rockets Heartfelt poetry with author Laura Elliott

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ stArt Craft - String of Hearts Garland ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Several illustrations in this book show a heart garland used as classroom decoration. We decided to make our own string of hearts garland to hang in one of our doorways. We cut out a bunch of hearts from cardstock and both of my kids decorated the hearts using glitter paint. This turned out to be a very popular craft and we ended up with a lot more hearts than we needed. My son especially enjoyed squishing mirror images into his hearts! After the hearts dried, we punched holes in the sides of the hearts and strung the hearts on a piece of yarn.

Earlier this year my daughter cut a heart paper chain (string of hearts) like the one given to Sam.

Other heart garland / String of Hearts crafts:
Martha Stewart Valentine's Day Heart Garland
How About Orange Paper Heart Garland
The Lettered Set - Wire and Yarn Heart
Family Fun Yarn Hearts
Family Fun Heart Strings
Preschool Storytime Crafts - String Heart

abc button Shibley Smiles

A Mommy's Adventures hosts the "stART" meme (Story + Art) each week. Add your kids craft post to the Kid's Get Crafty linky at Red Ted Art's Blog. Join in Read Aloud Thursday at Hope is the Word. Show off your ideas at ABC & 123 Show and Tell. Find more great book tie-ins at JDaniel4's Mom Read, Explore, Learn link-up.

I am an Amazon affiliate and may receive a very small commission for products purchased through my Amazon links. (View my full disclosure statement for more information about my reviews.)

Friday, February 4, 2011

Full to the Brim - Kid's Book Giveaway List (2/4/11)

Today's list is short and sweet. I'm fighting a cold and just haven't felt much like perusing the giveaways. Feel free to add your giveaways in the comment section. Please check out my other "Full to the Brim" posts as well. Many contests are still underway. I publish "Full to the Brim" every Friday. Thanks for visiting my blog and come back soon!

My Book Giveaway(s):
Circle C Beginnings Book Set by Susan K. Marlow Giveaway - Ends 2/14

Book giveaways:

Shasher's Life - Book Giveaway Ends 2/20 (Canada Only)
Groundwood Books Giveaway
Kelly's Lucky You - Book Giveaway Ends 2/14
Never Been Kissed by Melody Carlson(YA)
Hip Mama's Place - Book Giveaway Ends 1/17
set of 5 "Martha Speaks" books courtesy of Chick-fil-A!
aPARENTLy Speaking - Book Giveaway Ends ?
The Runaway Wok by Ying Compestine
Sami Cone - Book Giveaway Ends 2/6
Hallmark Recordable Storybook
Spanglish Baby - Book Giveaway Ends 2/6
I Can Be President, Too!/Yo TambiƩn Puedo Ser Presidente
Blissfully Domestic - Book Giveaway Ends 2/6
Madeline at the White House plus doll and tea set
Katie's Nesting Spot - Book Giveaway Ends 2/16
Good Night, Little Sea Otter by Janet Halfmann
Simply Stacie - Book Giveaway Ends 2/6
Herb, The Vegetarian Dragon
5 Minutes for Mom - Book Giveaway Ends ?
Madeline at the White House plus doll and tea set
The B Keeps us Honest - Book Giveaway Ends 2/24
Five Little Bunnies (board book)
The Island Life - Book Giveaway Ends 2/28
You Are a Gift to the World, by Laura Duksta
Mom Start - Book Giveaway Ends 2/21
God Gave Us the World and The Dragon and the Turtle
4 the Love of Books - Book Giveaway Ends 2/14
Good Night, Little Sea Otter by Janet Halfmann
Chronicle of an Infant Bibliphile - Book Giveaway Ends 2/5
Good Night, Little Sea Otter by Janet Halfmann

Lee and Low Giveaway: Celebrate Black History Month. Enter to win a signed hardcover copy of Seven Miles to Freedom - Ends 2/28
Also, enter to win three sets of three books featuring African Americans - Ends 2/28

Fish for more children's book giveaways at Lori Calabrese's Fish for a Free Book linkup each Friday

I Am A Reader, Not A Writer also has a new book giveaway linky with lots of YA and some other kid's books.

Have a children's book you are giving away on your blog? Let me know! I'll spread the word here!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Little White Rabbit by Kevin Henkes - Book Review & Folded Bunny Craft

If Mary Poppins measured author Kevin Henkes, her ruler would likely say "practically perfect children's author in every way." Time after time again, Henkes releases wonderful, thought-provoking books for kids. His latest string of picture books speak of gentle, seasonal days outdoors, with beautiful illustrations set in square or circular borders alternating with full page bleeds. First there was Old Bear, the story of hibernating bear that has vivid dreams and awakens to a gorgeous spring day. Then, last year came My Garden, a magical book about all the things a little girl would love to plant in her garden. Just last week, he released another lush, imaginative springtime book, Little White Rabbit.

Little White Rabbit by Kevin Henkes. Greenwillow Books (January 2011); ISBN 9780062006424; 40 pages
Book Source: F & G provided by publisher

Hippity-hoppity! An inquisitive little white rabbit hops around the forest one gorgeous spring day and wonders about all sorts of things. What would it be like to be green, or tall, or not be able to move at all? The rabbit imagines all sorts of scenarios until he hops past a cat. Scared, he heads straight home. Back safe and sound, he knows there's one thing he never has to wonder about. LOVE! ♥ He knows without question that he is loved!

With so many books about bunnies already in print, it's hard to believe that Henkes' new book could stand out. But it does. His simple story stirs the imagination, and the adorable little bunny practically bounces off the page with a fluffy cuteness kids will adore. The colorful springtime illustrations of flowers, green grass, lush trees and colorful butterflies exude happiness and help melt away the winter blues. I wonder if it is a coincidence that Henkes chose to illustrate his rabbit under a green Willow tree for the cover picture? A tribute to his publisher, perhaps?

The text along with the vivid illustrations provide food for thought and help facilitate discussion. What do you wonder about? My daughter said she wonders what it would be like to be a cat. She also loves when the rabbit "wondered what it would be like to flutter through the air" and thinks it would be fun to fly with the butterflies like the rabbit. The book is short enough to keep a toddler's attention and beginning readers will find plenty to love about the story, too, including a repetitive, easy to read text.

Little White Rabbit is such a sweet story for both kids and parents. The image of parent and little bunny touching noses is so very heartwarming, it makes me want to give both my kids a great big hug and let them know how much they are loved as well! (Note to Easter Bunny - This book belongs in all Easter baskets this spring! And, with a loving message, it would also make a perfect Valentine's Day gift.)

Related Links:
Kevin Henkes Website
Little White Rabbit Activities and Teaching Guide [pdf]
Under the Green Willow: "From the Studio, Kevin Henkes"

✿ ✿ ✿ ✿ ✿ ✿ ✿ ✿ stArt Craft - Folded Bunny Printable ✿ ✿ ✿ ✿ ✿ ✿ ✿ ✿

Happy Chinese New Year! Did you know that 2011 is the Year of the Rabbit? Here's a fun rabbit craft:

ART with Mrs. Smith blog has a cute template for a foldable bunny card. This template is the perfect art tie-in for Little White Rabbit. My kids loved folding their own 3D "little white rabbits" and had a great time making their rabbits hop around the house. While we didn't decorate the rabbits this time (the kids wanted them white), you could easily make and decorate cute Valentine's Day or Easter Cards (or celebrate the Year of the Rabbit) using this bunny template.

My son later decided that his white rabbit was wondering what it would be like to be a superhero. We found his rabbit a super hero cape in our doll clothes box. Up, up and away, little white rabbit!

abc button Shibley Smiles

A Mommy's Adventures hosts the "stART" meme (Story + Art) each week. Add your kids craft post to the Kid's Get Crafty linky at Red Ted Art's Blog. Join in Read Aloud Thursday at Hope is the Word. Show off your ideas at ABC & 123 Show and Tell. Find more great book tie-ins at JDaniel4's Mom Read, Explore, Learn link-up.

I am an Amazon affiliate and may receive a very small commission for products purchased through my Amazon links. (View my full disclosure statement for more information about my reviews.)

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Football Flexagon: A fun Super Bowl themed printable

I recently discovered the world of flexagons. Flexagons are toys constructed of folded paper that can be manipulated to reveal hidden faces.

Since the Super Bowl is this weekend and our beloved Packers are playing, I decided that it would be a fun challenge to design a football flexagon craft. The double triangle shapes used to a make trihexaflexagon (hexagon shaped flexagon with three faces) look a lot like a football.

You can make your own football styled trihexaflexagon by clicking over to this Google docs link Football Flexagon Template. (To print the Google Doc, click on File and Print PDF.)

I designed the football pattern template so that you can flip between the Green Bay and Pittsburgh team colors. Be sure to show-off your impressive paper toy to your friends at a Super Bowl party this weekend! The flexagon is fun for both kids and adults!


Watch this YouTube video to see it in action and learn how to assemble (sorry I got a little off-screen during part of it. I was trying to quickly record it during naptime):

A couple tips: The flexagon works better if you let the ink and glue dry before trying to flex it. If the paper is saturated it won't snap and fold as well. Also, try to be as accurate as possible when cutting and assembling so that all the corners match when flipping between the faces.

If you encounter problems assembling, here's a great website with nice instructions on how to assemble a similar trihexaflexagon (it also includes a different printable template):
Let's Make A Flexagon

Wordless Wednesday - Snowman before the Blizzard

We finally managed to dig our way out after the "Blizzard of 2011." No pictures of that, but my daughter made a little snowman all on her own this past weekend on our deck. She was very proud. Luckily, since the deck is higher up in the air, the snowman didn't get covered up with mounds of snow. The snow blew right off, due to the high winds. Our driveway, on the other hand, had some pretty big drifts!

And, just a little update - I haven't been feeling the best this week and haven't felt much like posting. Plus, the little guy is recovering from an ear infection. Hope we'll all be back up to speed soon. Sorry for the lull!

Happy Groundhog's Day & Chinese New Year!

Find more of this week's Wordless Wednesday (or Wordful) posts at 5 Minutes for Mom