Do it yourself movies

After I typed that title, I realize some people might get the wrong idea. Sorry – go check out something on tumblr.

The rest of you enjoy my 7 year old son’s directorial debut courtesy of  Lego Movie Magic class he took after school. Yes, there are random hands, some his, some his fellow first-grade partner in animation. I like to think of them as an  statement regarding art vs. artifice. This short work seems to have been influenced by French New Wave cinema, even though my son has yet to see Godard’s Breathless.

And because his technical prowess is greater than mine, you have to click this to see it. http://youtu.be/1RdpFq6WCU0

My son enjoyed making this movie and hopes his friends and family will like it too.

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Kids, boxes and wonder

It’s been so long since I posted, I bet you forgot about me. Sorry. I’ve been busy doing things away from the keyboard. This past weekend, I went to one of the coolest school functions I think I’ve ever seen, so of course, I remembered you and wanted to share the moment.

For the past six weeks, my daughter has been all abuzz about the “Cardboard Carnival.” Under the guidance of Ms. Lunetta, students in the Vision 21 program used recycled and found materials to create games. The whole thing was inspired by “Caine’s Arcade” and the Imagination Foundation.

Some of the students made their games during the school day working in groups of two or three or even doing solo creations. Other students worked outside of the school day and had access to some way cool duct tape. The arcade games varied in size from hand held marble tilt mazes to ones that towered over six feet tall. The designs ranged from the simple to the complex.

I don’t like to post pics of the kiddos here, but I have to share a few of my favorite designs.

This game is the inspiration for one we will do at a birthday party.

This game is the inspiration for one we will do at a birthday party.

This game had motion in addition to the bold color

This game had motion in addition to the bold color

My daughter's football toss - described as "so hard but so fun I want to play again and get a better score" by more than one player.

My daughter’s football toss – described as “so hard but so fun I want to play again and get a better score” by more than one player.

Kids of all ages (and yes, I’m including myself) had so much fun. The inventors loved showing off their creations almost as much as I enjoyed playing the games. My son didn’t want to leave, but he’s excited he can play his big sister’s game anytime he wants at home.  Better yet, my children have sat foreheads together and paper in front of them plotting how to make an even better game for next year.

A huge thanks to Principal Brad Gustafson, Ms. Lunetta and all of the participants who made this such a terrific day of play.

Life with food allergies

This morning I flipped on my computer to the discover the latest moment of internet outrage.  The Yahoo/Babble headline screamed “2-Year Old Suspended from Daycare over Cheese Sandwich.” Below the article a lengthy list of comments began with phrases like “When I was a kid, no-one had food allergies….” and “It’s just a sandwich.”

On the one hand, the school rules seem a bit extreme, allowing no outside food. I say this because I’m used to providing outside food for my child. The practice has been one of the easiest ways for me to keep her safe in a world where food can be lethal.

I wish some of the people calling out the absurdity of the policy and wondering why everyone has to suffer for the right of one person could spend a day in the place of a parent with a food allergy.  When my daughter was younger, we had to avoid three groups of allergens. Now, we are down to peanuts and tree nuts. My trips to the grocery store are longer. With produce, I have to consider where and how nuts are stored and if they are likely to contaminate produce one typically doesn’t peel.  I have to read the ingredient lists carefully and decide whether the brand is trustworthy in their description of “processed in a shared facility using good manufacturing practices.”   I wonder what their cart would look like if they did their normal shopping and then at the checkout line were asked to sort out products that cause an anaphylactic reaction.

Maybe, just maybe, if everyone did that, I wouldn’t be subjected to moans and groans when the flight attendant announces “This will be a peanut free flight” or the hateful looks from another parent when I ask if their child could please keep their peanut butter sandwich on the picnic table rather than smearing the contents all over the slide at the playground. Maybe more people would offer financial support to researching why food allergies are on the rise and what can be done to halt this epidemic. Maybe we could all enjoy a world where food doesn’t kill.

If you wish to make a change, consider a donation to Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE). Wouldn’t it be nice if no child were suspended for a sandwich? And nicer still if no one died from one?

End rant. Stepping off my soap box.

Review: Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea

I’ve been a bad blogger lately, but as I prepared for my annual “best books I’ve read this year” list, my daughter threw me a curve ball.  Who out there guessed a book geared for ages 8-12 would throw my list into turmoil?  A Maud Hart Lovelace Nominee–which is some Minnesota thing– my daughter spent three months trying to get this book from the library.  Don’t waste your time on the wait list. BUY this book immediately, especially if you have school age children. Because of Mr. Terupt  by Rob Buyea is the type of book they will want to read again and again, and chances are, so will you.

I hardy know where to begin, except to say this is a masterful work.  As a writer myself, I am in awe of Buyea’s technique. Plenty of authors struggle to create two distinctive and believable narrators for their story. Buyea created seven unique fourth graders with heartbreaking authenticity.  By the time the reader gets partway through October, the point of view character is obvious, even without seeing the name.

Technique is nothing without heart and Buyea writes with plenty.  The seven fourth graders are part of Mr. Terupt’s class and the story follows them throughout the school year. Mr. Terupt is the type of teacher we all want our children to have — someone who inspires them and encourages them, alas to add conflict and drama, an accident occurs. It is only then, the characters truly understand what their teacher gave them.

My daughter handed the book to me and promised “you’ll cry because you’re laughing so hard and because you are sad.” Yup. I also loved how it opened communication between us.  With so many different types of characters, we had lots of conversations that started about the book, but ended with both of us learning more about each other.  Terrific writing entertains and builds empathy.  Mr. Buyea wrote one for the ages.  So whether you are a grade-schooler, the parent of a grade-schooler, a grade school teacher or someone who once had a memorable and wonderful teacher, do yourself a favor.  Get this book.

Because the cute photo didn’t want to work, here’s a link to the book on Amazon.

http://www.amazon.com/Because-Mr-Terupt-Rob-Buyea/dp/0375858245/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1387405374&sr=1-3&keywords=rob+buyea

And one for B&N http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/because-of-mr-terupt-rob-buyea/1019626278?ean=9780375858246

The Hyphenate’s Dilemma

I’ve got a problem.  Actually, I have many, but today let’s consider the Hyphenate’s dilemma.   When I got married many years ago, I chose to hyphenate my name for a number of reasons that are irrelevant to today’s problem.  The result is a lengthy last name, but one that gives me an incredible amount of information about the speaker.  Telemarketers never say it fully or correctly, for example.

I never considered being a hyphenate much of a problem.  The children share part of my last name so at school functions and so on, I am easily identified as being part of the same family unit.  Unless I introduce myself to the faculty first, there is a tendency among teachers and administrators to direct their initial comments to me as “Mrs. Naylor.”  When I hear this, I always look around to see if my Mother-in-Law is in the room.  Within minutes, we are on first name basis and the issue doesn’t pop up again.

Living in the South for the last nine years has made being a hyphenate easy, even with children.  Growing up in the Midwest, adults were always “Mr. Lastname” or “Mrs. Lastname” unless they were family.  A few beloved adult earned the nickname “Mom Lastname” or “Dad Lastname,” but the last name was present.  In the South, I avoided this awkward hyphenate convention through the charm of Southern Gentility.   Adults call me Lyra and children me either as “child’s name’s mom” or “Miss Lyra.”

Frankly, I love being “Miss Lyra.”  It took me less than a month of living in Georgia to fall for the dual layers of familiarity and respect bestowed in this naming convention.   When my children’s friends call me “Miss Lyra,” I become as connected to them as I am with my own family.

I’m on the verge of returning to the Upper Midwest. I fear I’m returning to the form of address I grew up with, one that makes me uncomfortable as a hyphenate and as a person.

So Yankee and Midwestern friends, what do your children’s friends call you?  Am I worrying for naught? Or am I about to start a Southern Rebellion?

 

Books for 7 to 9 yr olds

Some time back, a friend asked if I could recommend some books for a seven-year old boy.  I’m asked variations on this somewhat frequently so I finally decided to sit down and write out a list.  For this post, I’ll focus on series. I’m sure there will be more to come and these recommendations are in no particular order.  Most will appeal to both boys and girls, but not every child will enjoy each series below equally.

1. The Magic Tree House series by Mary Pope Osborne – I have yet to meet a child who rejected this series in its entirety. There are nearly 50 books in the series so it can keep readers busy for a while.  Jack and Annie are siblings who find a magic tree house in the woods near their house.  The characters open a book they find in the house, say “I wish we could go there,” and are transported to the desired location. Before they can go home, they have to solve a puzzle and help either a person or animal. I like the message behind these books, even if as an adult reader, the writing style is a bit repetitive.  For kids just beginning with chapter books, the series offers mild thrills and the chance to learn about the structure of narrative – without even realizing it.

2. A to Z Mysteries by Ron Roy – Three relatable kids, Josh, Dink and Ruth Rose solve mysteries in and around the town of Green Lawn.  My daughter and I loved the friendship presented in the books.  Sometimes the kids get mad with each other, but they find ways to resolve their differences in a peaceful way.  There are enough clues to help readers solve the mystery. Each book comes with a map and readers can use that to help solve the mystery too.  It’s nice to see map skills in use.  Also, I like the way the three kids teach each other.  If one uses a harder vocabulary word, or casually mentions a tougher physics or natural world concept, a second character will be a bit confused so the first speaker explains him or herself, or they will talk about what they learned in school and compare notes on what they each remembered.  Ron Roy has two other series – Calendar Mysteries geared toward the same age range and Capital Mysteries geared toward more confident readers.

3. Geronimo Stilton and Thea Stilton – These rodents both know how to spin a good yarn and get human kids excited about geography, science and the newspaper industry. Heavy illustrations support the text, giving it the feel of a graphic novel, but these are chapter books. My daughter prefers the Thea Sisters series, but the Geronimo Stilton is equally good, if not better. Also, there are a lot of bad puns and literally cheesy dialogue.  The phrases “Moldy mozzarella” and “Fabumous” have become household favorites.

4. Bad Kitty Series by Nick Bruel – For earlier readers, pick up wacky alphabet book Bad Kitty which runs through the alphabet four times and serves as an origin story for our anti-heroine. I love the series for featuring a not so lovable feline who gets her comeuppance in a humours way.  Again, there is a bit of a graphic novel feel, and the heavy illustrations make this a good step into chapter books. The author “breaks the wall” so to speak, inviting the reader to become the anonymous narrator who talks to Bad Kitty. Also clever, asides by Uncle Murray to explain more advanced concepts and the glossary.  Some readers may be put off by the “bad” language. Uncle Murray often refers to “that stupid cat” but  the reader is asked to laugh along with and at the bad examples they see on the page.  Bad Kitty for President is one of the best explanation of politics I’ve seen.

I’ll stop here for now.  What series or individual books do you recommend?  My daughter is always looking for new reads and my son is a few years away from needing some other suggestions.

Explaining Politics to Kids

My daughter is eight and my son is four and both are interested in the idea of electing a president.  I remember elections being, exciting when I was little, but also a little scary and very, very confusing.  Even a lot of adults struggle with the Electoral College, PACs and more. And this is why I am a huge fan of Nick Bruel’s Bad Kitty for President.  {sorry there is no picture – my new computer is cranky about keyboard shortcuts}

Bad Kitty books have a hybrid comic book/chapter book vibe and are perfect for the 7-12 set, but even my son likes them.  In this brilliant addition to the Bad Kitty’s adventures, our anti-heroine decides to run for president of the neighborhood cat council.  Over the course of the book, the cats have a caucus, kiss babies, debate, run advertising, gather endorsements and cast ballots.  Although feline issues differ from ours, the cats divide themselves into two political parties, one representing the right side of the street and one for the left side and engage in a political battle royale that illustrates how the national government in D.C. is supposed to work.  Better yet, the Bruel also teaches kids how politics actually functions.

So go ahead, read, laugh and be enlightened.