Posts Tagged ‘memories’
Oprah Winfrey said, “My philosophy is that not only are you responsible for your life, but doing the best at this moment puts you in the best place for the next moment.”
I’ve always been an optimist, so I appreciate her sentiment. I try to look at the bright side of things and make the best of less than ideal situations – even imprisonment in a smallish vehicle with three other people.
…That’s 70 cubic feet of space, divided by four – not counting the luggage, the snacks and the pillows. But, I suppose if Oprah and her best friend, Gayle King, can go cross country for 11 days in a little Chevy Impala, I can survive for five in an SUV.
Road trips. They can be viewed as either adventures or a stress-packed short cut to Purgatory – especially if children are involved. If vacations involve a lot of driving, parents MUST be prepared. Prepare or perish, I say!
A captive audience
Some of my girls’ fondest memories are of the vacations we took when they were little. It wasn’t necessarily the destination that thrilled them either. I worked hard to make the drive time fun…and educational…to make the most of a potentially difficult situation. I figured I had a captive audience and took advantage of the opportunity.
If you set your children up for a successful road trip, 99 percent of the time, that’s what you’ll get. Plan well, prepare your children, have a positive attitude…and pray like crazy. That was my formula. I desired happy children…but, I also wanted to avoid a nasty case of vehicular momicide.
We listened to books on tape, and we played word games. (See car game at end of this article…and more in the next blog!) We sang and we TALKED about what we saw out the windows.
Building Blocks for Literacy
A language-rich environment like this helps children develop their vocabulary and their ability to communicate. They learn how to express their observations and opinions, to ask questions, and to listen – all building blocks for literacy. And, if parents engage fully, they can get to know the hearts of their children.
One for You, and One for Me
Of course, what’s a car trip without snacks? I packed healthful treats in Ziplocs, but crossing state borders was something to really celebrate! One Gummi Worm for North Carolina. Two for Virginia. Three for West Virginia, and, well, when you hit Pennsylvania, you hit the Mother Lode!
What’s in the Bag?
There were always a few brown bags marked “Top Secret,” too. When we reached certain landmarks and IF the children behaved properly, they each got a bag with her name on it. Sometimes it contained a coloring book or puzzle booklet. Other times it had a 50-cent bracelet, a miniature dolly, a little book or a couple of plastic animals. (Note: Don’t forget something for the return voyage!)
NEVER, No Never Ever…
And, of course, we NEVER embarked on a long excursion without a fresh supply of books from the library. We wedged a laundry basket between the girls’ booster seats, which gave them easy access to a heap of books. We left a list of the library books taped to the refrigerator at home with their due dates to make their return easier and to minimize late fees. Our library was good about printing a list for us.
Now with mobile 3G Internet cards becoming more common, network access on the road is possible. That means websites like BigUniverse.com and all its beautiful children’s picture books can go on vacation with you. Can’t get much better than that!
To help get all you road warriors ready for this summer’s trips, I have compiled a checklist to make your preparations kid-friendly.
How to Survive a Road Trip with Kids
- Pack comfort items. Pillows, teddy and a favorite blanket.
- Buy or borrow books on tape/CD. Great for when it gets dark.
- Bring drinks in spill-proof containers. Pack individual snacks. Dry nibbles are best. There will be crumbs, so choose things that can be vacuumed up.
- Don’t forget hand wipes to clean sticky faces and grimy hands.
- Buy or borrow a fresh collection of age-appropriate books to fight boredom and make the trip go faster. Have older siblings read to their younger brothers and sisters. You’ll get twice the mileage from each book.
- Pick out a few movies for the laptop or DVD player, but use sparingly. I suggest saving them for the return trip or for when it gets dark. Don’t forget headsets – unless you want to be humming kiddie songs for the next week.
- Tuck Dramamine, ear patches or pressure-point bracelets in the glove compartment.
- Pack a jump rope, Skip-It or football in the trunk to facilitate some quick exercise at rest stops. Antsy kids don’t make good passengers. Stop often.
- Give each child their own flashlight. Just take my word on it. It’s a godsend, while en route and once you get to your destination. (Don’t forget a plug-in nightlight, too.)
- Place a few surprises in opaque gift bags: mini books, Matchbox cars, stickers, word search puzzles, sugarless gum, Polly Pocket dolls, tiny spiral notebooks and washable markers, mazes, string and string games booklet, etc.
- Prepare a list of car games and pack any necessary props. Many of them are good literacy builders, since they involve word and symbol recognition, playful rhymes, spelling, counting and writing.
- Add your own ideas to this list.
A Car Game for You
“Horse on Wheels” is a good car game for beginning readers. It involves observation, counting, spelling, writing and stickers. It can be competitive in nature or not. It’s a little like bingo and a little like the driveway basketball game “Horse” – only there is no hoop or basketball…or driveway for that matter! You do spell “h-o-r-s-e” though!
It’s easy to play and only requires three simple components.
- One sheet of stiff card stock, matte finish (no shine)
- One child-safe washable marker or a pencil
- One sheet of yard sale dot stickers (office supply aisle)
How to assemble: Take card stock and write the word “horse” in big bold letters across the top. Draw vertical lines from top to bottom between the letters. Draw horizontal lines to create squares big enough to fit a dot sticker in the middle. Add a few more horizontal lines to create rows of empty boxes big enough for a child to write the corresponding letter. (See graphic above.)
How to play: The child looks out the window until he or she spots a horse. For every horse, the child gets to add a sticker dot to the chart, placing it first under the letter “H,” then in the “O” column, and so on. After the sticker is in place, the child should write the letter below the sticker. The first child to write “horse” three times wins.
Note: We were driving through Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana, so it was easy to count horses. Not so easy if you are sticking to urban byways. If this is the case, mark the top of your sheet with a different word or phrase: dog, police car, taxi, bridge and so on.
*** NOTE: See more car games in my next two posts – all part of a three-piece series:
*** NOTE: If you are taking a laptop with you on your trip and have a 3G Internet card or have Internet hookup at your vacation lodging, Big Universe provides a portable library for children at your fingertips. With thousands of beautiful picture books available 24/7, there is no reason for your kids to experience “summer setback” in reading. Maintain or even improve their literacy skills with a wide assortment of fiction and non-fiction stories.
For the past 18 years, I have given a special ornament to each of my children on Christmas Eve. Each trinket signifies something about their lives in the previous 12 months.
After almost two decades, we have a litany of stories and mementos hanging from metal hooks among the pine needles – ballet slippers, handprints, ponies, pianos and tokens from trips. It’s like a 3-D version of scrapbooking.
The first in this collection was a handcrafted moon with a little baby girl nestled in the lower curve of the star-bedecked crescent. The infant is asleep with her tummy facing down, her knees tucked in and her bottom poking up – my first-born’s position of choice when she snoozed.
Between that ornament and the lunar beauty on recent winter nights, I’ve had the moon on my mind. Last evening its light was so bright, it penetrated the curtains in my bedroom, leaving moon shadows on the floor.
On New Year’s Eve we will experience the second full moon this month – the celestial event known as a “blue moon.” The last time this occurred on a New Year’s Eve was 19 years ago in 1990 – two months before the birth of my first baby. The next one will ring in the new year in 2028.
This afternoon I heard my second daughter humming “Fly me to the moon. Let me sing among the stars.” So, it shouldn’t really have surprised me when the children’s book “In Every Moon There is a Face” caught my attention as I surfed Big Universe’s website for some of the latest additions on its virtual bookshelves.
While the book has been on the site for some time (480 others have read it) I somehow missed it. Its poetic verses were penned by renaissance man Charles Mathes, and his talented wife, Arlene Graston, gave the text wings with her fanciful paintings. Published by Illumination Arts, the book received the Gold Medal for Best Children’s Picture Book of the Year by Foreword Magazine.
I made the mistake of reading this book for the first time in the same way I would have recited the words to “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” for the umpteenth time. When I finished, however, I knew I had missed the mark. I hit the Read Again tab and gave this book another shot.
The second time I read Mathes’ poem I set off at a gentler pace, using a softer voice appropriate for a lullaby or soothing bedtime story. I took my time as the text circled in a dream-like fashion and lingered to absorb the illustrations, which expanded the story with their intricate detail.
This time I savored the collaboration of text and art like a fine wine – instead of treating it like a Big Gulp from the corner 7-Eleven. This time I arrived at a different impression entirely! I invite you to give it a read, too.
Other Lunar Favs on My Mind:
- Van Morrison’s song “Moondance.”
- “Goodnight Moon” by Margaret Wise Brown.
- The 1987 Oscar-winning movie “Moonstruck.”
- Cat Steven’s song “MoonShadow.”
- Keith’s Moon Page trivia.
- Mobile, Alabama’s new year’s celebration. The city raises a 12-foot, lighted mechanical moonpie replica above the city at midnight. Think Times Square with a hint of marshmallow, graham cracker and chocolate.
Happy New Year! May you enjoy many hours of good reading in 2010 and a sprinkling of moon dust, too.
Fifteen of my family members gathered at my house for the Thanksgiving weekend. For three days we feasted on turkey, pie and family stories. Laughter laced the ebb and flow of conversation and cameras flashed frequently.
One brother shared photos from his recent vacation on which he tracked down a tiny picturesque farm in Vermont, where our grandparents had lived for decades. We had thought the place would be long gone, but he found the house and barns still standing, lovingly restored by the current owner.
The pictures in his slideshow narration sparked many memories and lively discussion ensued. Photos have a way of stimulating our thinking, and it was fun to listen to the words my siblings and parents used to reminisce. “Grammy always had that black potbelly stove goin’…I remember finding the wooden sleigh in the barn… weird ball lightning dancing in the iron sink…What about Grampy bringing Princess the pony into the den?”
Photography serves as a catalyst for communication – something which the Literacy Through Photography (LTP) writing program has tapped into. This classroom-based educational component of FotoFest International is designed to help students improve their writing skills through visual imagery. LTP has been used successfully for 20 years in the Houston Independent School District by more than 25,000 pupils and teachers.
Even earlier than that, I remember a teacher using images to prompt creative writing in one of my classes as a child. I just ate that up! I had a healthy imagination, so written words were a way to express what was going on in my head and heart.
Big Universe’s Author tool offers the same benefits, allowing children to select from thousands of images in the graphics library and then to create a story to go with them. They also can upload their own photographs and scanned artwork with guidance from a parent or teacher and then write about these personal images.
Not only will children sharpen computer skills, but they also will incorporate visual arts with language literacy and learn to express themselves. In the end, they will have a book to show for their effort and skills to navigate our increasingly media-driven culture.
Posted on August 19, 2009 by Suzan Woodard in Personal Experiences.
Tags: Anna Quindlen, Big Universe, Books, bookshelves, I am a Bunny, library, memories, Ole Risom, read, Richard Scarry
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New York Times columnist Anna Quindlen wrote something 18 years ago – about the time I was elbow deep in diapers with my newborn. She could have taken the words right out of my mouth:
“I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves.”
I did not voice this self-same wish audibly, but I did spoon-feed my children books from the time they were babies. My oldest gravitated to newspapers and books before she could walk, and I happily encouraged it…that is until I noticed she had quite an appetite for the written word – literally. She loved to eat paper and her Pampers proved it!
My firstborn never showed any interest in getting into cupboards or cabinets or anything else that we had baby-proofed within an inch of our lives. No… she wanted books, the Lifestyle section and the Opinion Page.
My husband and I quickly stocked up on sturdy inedible cardboard books that could withstand a fair quantity of drool and frequent page turning. She loved all books, but her favorite was “I Am a Bunny,” written by Ole Risom and illustrated by Richard Scarry. She and her sister can still quote this whole book – “I am bunny. My name is Nicholas. I live in a hollow tree…”
Her favorite tub book was Bert and Ernie’s Bath Book, a canary-colored volume that floated like a beacon amid the soap suds. Ironically, I don’t think she ever so much as splashed her yellow rubber ducky.
Some of my girls’ fondest memories with their dad involved trips to the library, where they would drag a laundry basket along the carpeted floor, filling it with enough books to last them two weeks. Fortunately, the librarians printed out a list of checked-out books, which allowed us a relative amount of success when it came time to round them up. We would get the occasional late fee, when a book slid behind the bed or under the car seat, but my husband and I decided it was a small price to pay over the long haul.
Books were prized in our house as was reading time. Birthday wish lists always included a title or two, and soon “Papa,” their grandfather, was enlisted to build a new bookshelf for the girls’ room – one that went from floor to ceiling. (Another similar shelf was filled to capacity.)
One of the book-related memories that makes me smile was a conversation about the houses my girls imagined living in when they were grown-ups. I asked my daughters to describe their “some day” house.
“Oh, it will have a great big ladder,” one of them said.
Puzzled, I asked her if she was going to live in a tree house.
“No, silly,” she said. “I’ll need it to reach the books on the top shelf in my library!”
Anna Quindlen would have been so tickled to hear her say that. I know I was.
In the few short years since the publication of Ms. Quindlen’s column “Enough Bookshelves,”technology has taken off. While I am still drawn to libraries and paper books like a starving silverfish, there are New Age ways to possess and devour books. Computer technology has ushered in the age of downloadable ebooks, interactive whiteboards, hand-held Kindle book readers, reading applications for smart phones, and websites such as Big Universe, where thousands of children’s picture books are available to read wherever you have Internet access.
Virtual bookshelves! Who would have thunk it?