Friday, March 31, 2017

April at a Glance

This week is our Spring Break, so I am going to take a holiday from holidays for a bit! I hope you have been having at least as much fun as we have, and I will see you back here in a week! Here are some quick holiday ideas to tide you over:

April 1 - April Fool's Day, of course! Do what you can to make people laugh today!
April 2 - International Children's Book Day. Get thee to the library!
April 3 - Birthday of the Pony Express. Write some good old-fashioned letters, and take a trip to the post office.
April 4 - American Flag adopted. Do your kids know the Pledge of Allegiance yet?
April 5 - Read a Road Map Day. Join us on vacation - wave if you pass us!
April 6 - Jump Over Things Day. Lit candlesticks might not be the best idea, but a walk in the woods might be. How many things can you find to jump over there?
April 7 - No Housework Day. Now there's the perfect ending to any vacation week!

Stay tuned for posts about:

April 8 - Trina Schart Hyman's Birthday
9 - National Cherish an Antique Day
10 - Siblings Day
11 - Barbershop Quartet Day
12 - Grilled Cheese Day
13 - Scrabble Day
14 - Moment of Laughter Day
15 - Record Store Day
16 - National Librarian Day
17 - Bat Appreciation Day
18 - Juggler's Day
19 - National Garlic Day
20 - Lookalike Day
21 - John Muir's Birthday
22 - National Jelly Bean Day
23 - National Zucchini Bread Day
24 - Pig in a Blanket Day
25 - Penguin Day
26 - Richter Scale Day
27 - Tell a Story Day
28 - Great Poetry Reading Day
29 - Astronomy Day
30 - Honesty Day

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

March 30 - Take a Walk in the Park Day

Hopefully you are having the same great weather we have been, and you can go out and actually enjoy a walk in the park! If not, maybe a few of these will tide you over and you can make plans to celebrate in person some time soon:


Welcome to Bark Park, where dogs of every shape, size, and personality romp and roam. Young readers can cavort with these colorfully collaged canines before collapsing into sleep along with their doggie pals, worn out after a day of fun. Energetic rhymes are punctuated with cheerful illustrations in this bouncy, fast-paced frolic that is doggone fun!

Make sure you take your pups with you when you go for your walk!


Did you grow up with the Carl books? Definitely worth revisiting with your little ones. Most of them are wordless, and all of them feature Carl taking care of Baby - who is determined to get into all sorts of trouble. Now he has a puppy to look after, too!


A lot to see in this Cybils-nominated board book about National Parks. A moose in the Rocky Mountains, a kayak at Zion National Park. Are there any National Parks near you?

Social Studies

How does an area become designated a National Park? What does that designation mean? Make sure to read up on Teddy Roosevelt and John Muir, without whom we might not have many of our great natural treasures today!



What parks are in your community? Parks with playgrounds, walking parks, dog parks, bike riding parks? Who takes care of them all?

* If there is a parks department that helps keep your parks clean and maintained, bake them a thank-you gift! They work long hard hours in cold and heat, and they will appreciate being recognized!

* Help them out when you go for your walks, or when you play in the park. Bring a bag for trash (and possibly some gloves - talk with Mom and Dad about what might not be safe to pick up). 


Now, get out and walk! Take the whole family, invite some neighbors, leash up the dog and bring him too! Make this a regular activity, and set some goals for:

- how far you walk
- how often you walk
- how many friends you can get to come along
- how many places you can visit
- scavenger hunt (find something that starts with each letter of the alphabet, find all the blue things, round things, etc.)

Don't forget the sunscreen and water!

Language Arts

When someone says something was "a walk in the park", they mean it was super easy. Can you think of any other idioms or expressions that mean something was easy? I'll bet you can come up with a great list - it's a piece of...!


Parks scream picnics, don't they? Pack up some sandwiches and fruit. Try to pick things that don't require wrappers, so you don't have much trash to cart out again. 

If you are going on a real hike, make your own granola to snack on! My favorite is cherry pecan, but you can put whatever you like into yours. Start with:

3 cups raw rolled oats

and add a total of 2 cups of any of these:
- chopped nuts
- sunflower seeds
- pumpkin seeds
- coconut flakes
- dried fruits (chopped if big)

Mix the following in a separate bowl:
- 1/2 cup maple syrup or honey
- 1/4 cup brown sugar (I never said this was HEALTHY granola)
- 1/4 cup oil (sesame, coconut, etc.)
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp vanilla or spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, etc.) - OPTIONAL

Drizzle the wet mix over the dry and stir until well mixed. Spread on a cookies sheet and bake at 300 degrees about 45 minutes.

Let cool and then store in an airtight container.

Other Web Sites to Explore

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

March 29 - Coca-Cola

The very first batch of Coca-Cola was brewed on this day in 1886 - so, Happy Birthday to my constant companion!



We just got in all the books in this series, and they are already circulating. Bright colorful pictures, fun infographics, extensive glossary for the reading level (about 3rd grade). It goes through the history of Coca-Cola, from it's inception as a cough syrup to World War II when soldiers went through 5 billion bottles, to the multi-national company it is today.

Social Studies

Did you know that Coca-Cola has different brands in other countries, to correspond with local tastes? In Guatemala, you can buy Tiky, which has a pineapple flavor. South Africa has an energy drink called Powerplay. Research the different brands here and see if you can find any at local ethnic food stores. Have a taste test and see what you think!

Where are each of those drinks sold? Mark them on a map of the world and see if you can find any similarities in flavors preferred in one area over the other.

Language Arts

"Environmental Print" is the term coined to include everything from stop signs to that big yellow "M" recognized by every American child. Even before learning to put letters into words, kids can recognize certain words by their font or format, or by their location. Do a Google image search for "environmental print", and see how many words your child can 'read'. Then keep an eye out as you go around town - you'll be amazed at how much environmental print you recognize once you start actively looking for it!


Did you know soft drinks can be used as a cleaning agent? Have you ever seen a grown-up pour a can of soda over their car battery? Why would they do that??? Here's a simple experiment that can show you why:

Dig through the change jar for some dingy pennies, the darker the better. Place a few in a glass half filled with Coke, and a few in a glass half-filled with water. Make sure they are spread out, not on top of each other. Set them aside overnight.

In the morning, take them out and give them a quick rinse in warm water. How do the pennies from the Coke glass look in comparison with the pennies from the water glass?

Coke (and other similar sodas) contain phosphoric and citric acid, which are what cleans the pennies off. While we like our pennies bright and shiny, do we really want that happening in our stomach? Will drinking too many sodas eat a hole right through us??

Yes and no. Sodas do contain small amounts of those acids, but they are not concentrated - in other words, they are mixed in with other fluids. In fact, orange juice has more citric acid than Coca-Cola does! Try this experiment with other drinks, and see if you get the same results. Should we just drink water? Well, that would certainly be a healthy choice, but don't let all the talk of acids scare you away from any flavored drink - your stomach is full of gastric acid, which is stronger than anything in a soda! 

As people in the US started becoming more health conscious, Coca-Cola started branching out to other drinks that are a bit healthier. Who owns the orange juice you drink? The bottled water? You might be surprised! Here are some of the other brands Coca-Cola owns in the US.


There are many other reasons sodas are not a good everyday drink, and high up there is the sugar content. Take a look at this visual display of the amount of sugar in your favorite drinks - and grab a tall glass of water! Create a bar graph with the liquids your family most commonly drinks at the bottom, and the Tablespoons of sugar at the left.


debate topics:
Which is best, Coke or Pepsi?
Should sodas be available in schools?
Should sugary soft drinks be taxed more?
Is soda okay once in a while or not at all?


Coca-Cola's logo is a slightly stylized version of the handwriting of one of its founders. Pretend the company wanted a whole new look, and they asked you to design a new logo. What do you think it should look like? Remember the idea of environmental print - it should be something striking to catch people's eyes, but simple enough that they will remember it!


Coca-Cola is a business that makes a lot of money, but it also has a philanthropical side. Take a look at:

- The Coca-Cola Foundation (grants for environmental, education, and health projects)
- Partnership with the World Wildlife Fund to protect polar bears, a popular Coca-Cola icon
- 5by20, a program helping businesswomen around the world


One of the most recognizable commercial jingles of all time:

What other songs from commercials have become stuck in your head over the years? For older kids, what devices do advertisers use to make you remember those songs?

Monday, March 27, 2017

March 28 - Something on a Stick Day


What kinds of things might come on a stick?


What is a paleta? A popsicle, of course! The best kind, made with real fruits and vegetables...or chocolate...or coffee! What is your favorite treat? Can you find the Spanish word for it?


With a stick in hand, the options are endless—whether it's conducting an orchestra, painting a masterpiece, or slaying a dragon—give a child a stick and let imagination take over and the magic begin.

Okay, not a food on a stick, but even better - an invitation to use your imagination! Take a walk, find some interesting-looking sticks, and see where they take you!


Need some help using your stick?


So many ideas, you may need a LOT more sticks!

Social Studies

How about eating with a stick? We are talking about chopsticks, of course - and no, it does NOT count if you just impale your food with it like a certain husband does. Learn how to properly hold and eat with chopsticks. Then explore different ways people in other countries and cultures eat their meals. (Inside or outside? At a table or on the floor? With utensils or without? Prayer before? Who eats first? Who serves?)


Have you ever seen a walking stick? The insect, that is! They can live pretty much anywhere in the US, and we find them on the side of our house periodically. Of course, most of the time they are hanging out in plants, but we usually don't notice them there unless they move. Their super power is camouflage, and Scholastic has some great ideas for learning about animal camouflage! Some of the activities are designed for groups, so why not invite some friends to join you? Then after all your running around, you can cool off with home made paletas!


So many options...

- frozen bananas
- corn dogs
- marshmallow pops
- caramel apples
- cake pops
and let's not forget all the fair foods that come on sticks!

For dinner tonight, let's be moderately healthy and try sis-kebabs. You can combine pretty much any veggies and meats with a marinade, but here is one of my favorites:

Chili Lime Chicken

Cut into large chunks:
- 2 lbs boneless chicken
- 2 large onions
- 2 green bell peppers
- 1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes (uncut)

Soak all in the following marinade for at least two hours:
- 3 T oil
- 2 T lime juice
- 1 T red wine vinegar
- 1 T chili powder
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp garlic salt
- 1/2 tsp onion powder
- black and/or cayenne pepper to taste

Thread onto bamboo skewers soaked in water, or on metal skewers, and broil or grill. 

Sunday, March 26, 2017

March 27 - World Theatre Day



Tommy is so excited. His first-grade class is putting on a play about Peter Rabbit, and he’s sure to get the starring role. But in his enthusiasm, Tommy talks too much in class, so his teacher decides that he should play Mopsy instead—and Mopsy doesn’t have any lines! Tommy is disappointed until he gets an idea. If he can’t be the star, he can still get the audience’s attention by reacting to everything Peter Rabbit does. But how will Tommy’s mother and teacher react to his performance?

Well, someone DID say that "acting is reacting". Gentle lessons in classic DePaola style.


Rifka's parents are actors in the Yiddish Theater in New York, but one day Rifka finds herself center stage in a special role! A slice of immigrant life on New York's Second Avenue, this is a unique book about a vanished time and a place - the Yiddish theater in the early 20th century made real through the telling of the true life story of the 96-year-old author as a little girl.

Kids may find the idea of this very different way of life fascinating - sort of a variation on all the books about circus families.


When Jane Sutcliffe sets out to write a book about William Shakespeare and the Globe Theatre, in her own words, she runs into a problem: Will's words keep popping up all over the place! What's an author to do? After all, Will is responsible for such familiar phrases as "what's done is done" and "too much of a good thing." He even helped turn "household words" into household words. 
But, Jane embraces her dilemma, writing about Shakespeare, his plays, and his famous phrases with glee. After all, what better words are there to use to write about the greatest writer in the English language than his very own?  As readers will discover, "the long and the short of it" is this: Will changed the English language forever.

This book is fairly new, and I was fascinated by how many phrases I had no idea were Shakespearean. 


Have you ever seen the play version of a book you have read? If not, how about a movie? Stage a debate among family members: what was the best book to play or book to movie adaptation ever? make sure you give at least three supporting facts for your argument!

My top three:

Swoon! The giant was. just. amazing.

Absolutely perfect casting.

Bonus, it is also the most quotable movie of all times!

Now, it's your turn! Choose a favorite picture book, and practice acting it out - either by playing the characters, or with puppets or dolls.


You'll need costumes for your play, and a set! 

If you are using human actors, think of things like old bed sheets or large cardboard boxes for a set background. Make costumes by repurposing things you find around the house, or hit the thrift store.

For puppets or dolls, try your hand at sewing simple outfits from scraps. Skip to My Lou has a super simple doll dress pattern designed for American Girl dolls, but easy to adapt. Shorten it to a shirt size and make drawstring pants for boy characters!

Language Arts

Some of Shakespeare's words are now commonplace - but, others are a bit confusing to 21st century readers! Do you know what any of these words or phrases mean?


(for older kids, do a search for "Shakespearean insults"!)


Of course, the best way to celebrate today is to go to a live theatre performance - or at least make plans to see one. If that is not a possibility, however, you can at least watch one on video. Might I suggest:

You may find yourself heading back to the library afterward, to re-read the old traditional fairy tales!

Other Web Sites to Explore

Saturday, March 25, 2017

March 26 - Make Up Your Own Holiday Day

have you been having fun celebrating all these holidays? I hope so! My kids have had a blast being my guinea pigs. Now whenever I come across a fun idea, I immediately try to think of a holiday to use it with. Is there an activity you are dying to try? A food you want to make? A place you want to visit? Well, today is the day to work it all in!



Katie's neighbor Mrs. Muddle declares more holidays than anyone else, and she celebrates them in style. In March, she makes peanut-butter-and-birdseed cookies for the birds to enjoy on First Robin Day. The next month, she and Katie dance in the rain during First Shower of April. As the year goes on, Mrs. Muddle creates a unique holiday for each month, and all of Katie's friends get in on the fun. Then Katie comes up with a special holiday of her own, and Mrs. Muddle Day is the biggest celebration her neighborhood has ever seen!

One of my favorite books, and full of inspiration to get you started!


Tilly’s friends are all going to exciting places for their vacations, but she is staying at home. Mom says they’ll have a great time together, but Tilly thinks it’s impossible to have any vacation fun at home! Or is it?

Any plans that include a trip to the library just have to be good ones!


Nail those valentines to the windows and pick out your tree, it's time for Easter! Take your cue from the Bunnies and combine some of your favorite holidays into something truly memorable.


Shamrocks for St. Pat's, pumpkins for Halloween...what would the symbol(s) of your holiday be? Cut a bunch out and use them to practice patterns or math facts!

Social Studies

How does a holiday become a holiday?

There are official holidays, sanctioned by the government, in just about every country of the world. Many countries, for example, celebrate the 'birth' of their country. (What is ours? How do we celebrate it?) Sometimes they celebrate important people in that country's history (such as President's Day, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day). Many countries have a day to be thankful, often around harvest time. (How did Thanksgiving become an official holiday in the US? When do other countries celebrate Thanksgiving?) Other holidays have a religious background. Some states or communities have official holidays that are not necessarily celebrated by the whole country. (Does your community have any? Your state? Take a look through the holiday books at your library - generally found at Dewey #394.2 - and find out what festivities we Americans are missing out on!)

Unofficial holidays are not endorsed in any way by the government. They may be serious holidays, to draw awareness to a disease or problem for example, or they may be fun and silly holidays - like most of the ones we are celebrating on this blog! Some are sponsored by a business or an organization, and word is spread that way. Others, such as International Talk Like a Pirate Day, might begin with two friends playing racquetball, and become world famous when just the right news person comes along.

Who knows? Next year, we may be featuring YOUR holiday on this blog! So make sure you write and tell us about it!

Language Arts

Have you ever read an official proclamation from, for example, a mayor? Here is a copy of one from our previous mayor, about our very own library!

Lots of fancy words, it reads in part:

"Whereas, Maude Oliver Rathgeber, daughter of a local pioneer family, has been a hallmark of character...
Whereas, Mrs. Rathgeber organized Friends of the Library in 1959...
Whereas, Mrs. Rathgeber has furthered the cultural arts in our community and state...
Whereas, Mrs. Rathgeber led the way in organizing, creating and constructing the Story Book Wall...
Now, therefore, I, Susie Galea, Mayor of the City of Alamogordo, New Mexico, do hereby proclaim Saturday, May 11, 2013 as:
Alamogordo Public Library Story Book Wall Day"

Well, you may not be able to get the Mayor to issue an official proclamation (although you never know!), but I'll bet you could get Mom or Dad to do it! See if you can follow the general outline to write up your very own official holiday proclamation.


Posters! Decorations! Ornaments! And don't forget to make greeting cards and send them to your unsuspecting relatives!


What shall you serve? Will there be dessert foods, or a whole themed meal? This might be a great time to do some experimenting in the kitchen! 


Can you design any games to go with your holiday? Make sure you write the rules down, so you can celebrate properly again next year!

Other Web Sites to Explore

Friday, March 24, 2017

March 25 - Waffle Day

Mmmm, I love food-oriented holidays, don't you? They are the only thing that get me through the winter!


Believe it or not, we DO have a children's book about waffles!


One day Benny the woodpecker awakens to the best tummy-rumbling smell ever and discovers it’s something called waffles. He must taste them!
He pecks on the door of the waffle house, but he gets the boot.
He tries to sneak in, but he gets swept away.
Each time Benny tries, he just can’t seem to get to those delicious waffles. The other forest animals laugh at him: “Woodpeckers don’t eat waffles!” they say. But Benny has a brilliant plan. . . .

Look for a writing extension under Language Arts!

If you are looking for a new family read-aloud, this is one of my old favorites:


Primrose Squarp simply knows her parents did not perish at sea during a terrible storm, but try convincing the other residents of Coal Harbour on that score. For all practical purposes, at least for the time being, Primrose is an orphan, and there's no great clamoring of prospective adopters. After realizing the impracticality of continuing to pay Miss Perfidy (a mothball-scented elderly lady) an hourly wage to baby-sit her, the town council is able to locate a relative, Uncle Jack, who reluctantly takes Primrose into his care. Primrose does warm up to living with him and in his home, despite the eerie noises resembling a hockey game that haunt her in the night. But true sanctuary can always be found at a restaurant called The Girl in the Swing, where everything—including lasagna—is served on a waffle, and where the proprietor, Miss Bowzer, offers a willing ear, as well as sage advice.

Polly Horvath is, imo, a vastly underappreciated author. She isn't exactly unpopular, she's just not as popular as I think she should be! I mean, who names a character 'Primrose Squarp'? Eccentricities abound in all her books, and this is a great tale to share with your family - fun and funny, but with some serious topics for discussion.

Surely there are other books about waffles out there? I did a search and came up with what looks like a gem from Chris Raschka (who we love for Yo! Yes?)


Wow! Is Waffle ever worried. He worries, he wonders, he wishes, he waits, he even waffles. But will he ever work a wonder within and be brave enough to fly?
For every child who has ever waffled in the face of a dreaded next step in life, Waffle's the fellow to hold your hand. He knows how it is. He has been there...and he has triumphed over his fears!

More extensions under...

Language Arts

* Woodpecker wants that waffle, and he comes up with quite a clever plan to get it. What animals live outside your home, and what food might they want from it? We have everything from raccoons and skunks to deer and elk, and even the occasional mountain lion or bear. The one food my kids would all agree on, however, is bacon! How could a big ol' bear weasel his way inside to snatch that bacon from the frying pan? How might we try to keep him out? Write and illustrate your own silly story together (and then share it with me!)

*Raschka used a different definition of the word 'waffle', didn't he? Then he made a play on words by naming his character after one of his most prominent characteristics. Can you write a story about someone named

- Bounce?
- Bold?
- Bashful?
- Bellow?
- Bossy?

I have no idea why those all started with 'b'. I guess my Brain is Broken today.


Today we are going to play with our food! You can try these with cooked waffles, or start off with the frozen variety if it will keep you from wanting to scarf them down right away.

* Adding and subtracting: Use blueberries or chocolate chips (best on a cold waffle!) to turn all those little squares into number lines. For example, ask your child to show you what 3+4 is, and she would put 3 blueberries in one row (one to a square), 4 in the next row, and then seven in the third row. Or, ask her to show 9-4, and she would put 9 in the first row, 4 in the second row, and 5 in the third.
* Fractions: Waffles can some in circles or squares - either way, they are easy to divide into halves, quarters, etc.
* Division: How many squares are there in one whole waffle? Without counting, then, how many will be in half a waffle? A quarter of a waffle?

Social Studies

Waffle Day is actually a semi-popular holiday in Sweden. March 25 is also "Lady Day", which is Swedish is pronounced "varfrudagen". If you say that fast, it can sound like "vaffeldagen", which would be Swedish for - you guessed it - Waffle Day. And now you can say that you learned to speak Swedish in your home school lessons today.

So...where is Sweden, and what is it like? What do they eat besides waffles (with jam, btw)? Head over to the library to see what you can find out.
- they have a royal family!
- arctic fox!
- aurora borealis!
- Vikings!
- reindeer!
- Pippi Longstocking!


Well, of course we need to make waffles! If you don't have a waffle iron, though, and want to cheat with the frozen kind, I TOTALLY understand. Because that is what I am doing. You can make up for it with cool toppings, or by making a face with your berries and whipped cream!

Basic Waffle Recipe

Beat 2 eggs until fluffy.
Mix in:
2 cups flour
1 3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup oil
1 T sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

Pour onto hot waffle iron and cook until done!


Okay, if you are one of those moms who packs all her child's lunches for field trips into bento boxes so that they look exactly like Hello Kitty riding a tricycle past the Eiffle Tower, then I am going to have to ask you not to be my friend.

If, however, you need a little help making creative shapes out of food, then join me in plugging "waffle art" into Pinterest or Google. Okay, strawberry slices as flower petals, I can totally do that! 

Grab some sliced fruit, dried fruit, maybe even some marshmallows and chocolate chips, and let the kids get creative. Give them a knife and let them cut their waffle into shapes - kitchen skills need to be learned early! 

Other Web Sites to Explore

Thursday, March 23, 2017

March 24 - Harry Houdini's Birthday

Sometimes it's hard to say what we want our children to emulate in the people they learn about, and what we don't want them to copy. Houdini, for example, had great determination and force of will. He worked hard to achieve the impossible, and went from poverty to world-renown. 

On the other hand, I would prefer my children not tie each other into straight jackets and then drop each other into tubs of water.



Introducing the astonishing, the unforgettable ... HOUDINI!
He made himself a living legend and became the most famous name in magic. But Harry Houdini, like his acts, was fascinating and mysterious. As a child, he was often on the edge of homelessness, so he would charge crowds to watch him perform tricks he knew no one else could do. After leaving home to seek his fortune, Houdini mastered every form of magic available-- card tricks, juggling, illusions-- and travelled the world over to make a name for himself.
But true stardom came to him only when he began to focus his act around daring, heart-stopping escapes. By sheer force of will, Houdini trained his body to withstand the torturous demands of the elaborate acts he created.


Harry Houdini repeatedly amazed audiences around the globe with his death-defying acts and illusions. With his wife, Bess, often by his side, he freed himself from ropes, handcuffs, and prison cells. Though Harry was always intrigued by magic, his life was not always so glamorous. His family was extremely poor, and as a boy he shined shoes to help them make ends meet. Yet a career in magic was always in the cards


Readers will soon be engaged in the secret world of magic and illusions and aspiring magicians will be inspired by the dazzling tricks featured in this volume. Everyone will learn as readers are guided through each trick with step-by-step instructions. Helpful illustrations show readers exactly what to do to impress their friends and family.

I'm kind of...a bumbling fool at things like this, and I actually found these instructions easy to follow! The clear, step by step illustrations really help!

Social Studies

Erich Weisz was born in 1874 in Budapest, Hungary. Why did his parents move to the US? Despite being college educated, his father was unable to make a living in Hungary. He had heard that the streets of America were paved with gold, so he moved to Wisconsin and saved money to bring the rest of his family a couple years later. Unfortunately, he found the services of a Jewish rabbi were not greatly in demand there, either, and the family remained very poor. Houdini ran away at the age of twelve, but when he became wealthy he moved his entire family in with him and helped to support them.

Engage your child in an age-appropriate discussion of the reasons people immigrate to other countries. When did your ancestors come to the US, and from where? Create a family tree together, with notes about how/when/why your family members have moved throughout they years.


From the time he was young, Houdini engaged in a variety of strength training and flexibility exercises that were largely responsible for his success. If physical activity is not part of your daily routine, this may be the right motivation to get started!

Strength training is NOT the same as weight lifting, but it should still be started cautiously with children. Please talk with your doctor first about what types of exercises you would like to begin with your child. This article has some great basic information and first steps.


* Houdini never claimed any supernatural element to his tricks. When his mother passed away, Houdini was very sad and turned to spiritualists - people who claim they can talk with the dead. He quickly realized they were fakes, however, and often exposed their tricks on stage.

While stories about ghosts can be fun to tell, there is generally a scientific explanation. This article lists ten fascinating examples in very easy to understand language. (Some not-so-appropriate language in the comments, however, so watch how far your kids are reading!)

You can give your own example of looking for earthly explanations by hanging a sun catcher in a window. At the right time of day, casually point out lights dancing on the walls, and wonder aloud if it could be a ghost, or fairies - then lead them to figure out what it actually is. (When I wash dishes in the afternoon, my cats go bonkers over the light reflecting from my watch face onto the kitchen cabinets.)

* Any kind of science can look like magic - especially science that fizzes and explodes! This is one of our favorite books for kids and science:


Fun experiments AND understandable explanations!


Parents, perhaps you have seen something like this on Facebook:

1. Think of a number.
2. Double it.
3. Add ten.
4. Divide it in half.
5. Take away the original number.
6. Your answer is five!

Is it magic? Hardly - just math!
Steps 1 and 5, and steps 2 and 4 cancel each other out - so basically, all you have done, no matter what your starting number was, is divide ten in half. And that's always going to be five!

You can find more here and here and here! (Psst - just don't tell them they are learning math - and logic - while they learn the tricks!)

Language Arts

* Houdini was very much in love with his wife, Bess. He often left love notes on her pillow! Spend a week leaving notes for your family members in fun places for them to find. Be creative! After a week of doing it, you may find the habit so ingrained that you keep it as part of your routine.

* Houdini loved books so much, he hired his own librarian to help him keep track of his collection, which filled his house! How do libraries keep all their books straight? Visit your local library, and even if you are quite familiar with it, ask the librarian to show you how things are arranged. You might learn something new! 

- Who decides where a book will go? Sometimes it is the librarian, sometimes it is the cataloger. Sometimes it is someone who doesn't even work in the same building! 
- Do they ever change where a book is located? Why would they do that?
- How does the information about the book's location get into the computer?

***Want to know a librarian magic trick? Find any nonfiction book and open it to the page with all the boring gobbledy-gook, like copyright date. It is usually one of the pages before the title page, but might also be at the end. Somewhere towards the bottom, you may see something like this:

- The "ISBN" number tells us exactly what book we have.
- The numbered parts tell us what subjects are covered.
- And...that 793.8 is the Dewey decimal number that tells us where it goes in the library! (It also pops up in the computer record when we go to catalog it). I'll bet you thought we knew all that off the top of our heads! 

Do you want to know a library magic trick you can use? Go to your local library, and look at the books at 793.8. Those are about magic too, aren't they? The Dewey Decimal system* is the same all over. Once you learn the call number for the books you like to read about, you will always know right where to go to find them, no matter what library you are in!

* We'll discuss Library of Congress, etc.,  another time.


Make magic wands with sticks, dowel rods, pencils, whatever you have on hand (click here to see how we made our Harry Potter pencil wands - they are about halfway down the page)


Nothing is quite as magical as a yeast bread! Have you ever been the recipient of an Amish Friendship Bread starter? I had one going for a while, but alas, on the third go-round I got too busy. Good news, though, you can start your own starter!

1 packet active dry yeast in
1/4 cup warm water.
Let set for ten minutes. 

In a glass or plastic bowl, whisk:
1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
and stir in:
1 cup milk.

Mix in dissolved yeast. Cover loosely and let set at room temperature. You can use a plastic baggie if you leave a tiny opening (put the baggie in a bowl to keep it from spilling.) Do NOT use metal utensils or bowls for any of this!

Now, you need to follow the ten day instructions for Amish Friendship Bread (this is day one, and you do nothing else.)

Days 2-5: Squish around in baggie.
Day 6: Add 1 cup each flour, sugar, and milk, and squish around again.
Day 7-9: Squish.
Day 10: Pour into a bowl (not metal!) and add 1 cup each flour, sugar and milk. Mix thoroughly. Put one cup of mixture into each of three bags, and write "Day 1: (today's date)" on each. Give those to your friends, along with these daily instructions.

To the rest, add:
1 cup oil
another 1/2 cup milk
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla

In another bowl, sift together:
2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 box instant pudding (optional)
1 cup nuts or dried fruit (optional)

Mix both bowls, pour batter into greased pans dusted with sugar. Bake for 1 hour at 325 degrees.


Houdini had a healthy ego, but at his funeral the rabbi called him "one of the noblest and sweetest of men." He loved children, even though he and Bess were never able to have any. He often performed free for soldiers and children. 

Learn some magic tricks, or think of some other ways you can entertain - sing or dance, or put together a play - and offer your performance free to a nursing home, neighbors, or local hospital.

Other Web Sites to Explore

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

March 23 - National Puppy Day

Oooh, let's go adopt a puppy today! No? Are you sure? *sigh* okay.



Amelia wants a dog, needs a dog, and believes she simply cannot live without a small brown dog with a wet pink nose. Her parents think she can.
Rather than begging or pleading, Amelia adopts an imaginary dog named Bones. But when Amelia's make-believe pup runs away, her parents are in for a real surprise!

This book is hilarious, and this child is brilliant. Are you sure we can't adopt a puppy?


It's a dog's life!
Every dog has a tail to wag . . . and a tale to tell. Patricia MacLachlan and Emily MacLachlan Charest asked a collection of canines to speak up—and so they do, in words, barks, and yips. Captured here are accounts of happy days filled with squeaky toys, good smells, plenty of naps, and the very important jobs they do for the people they love to love.

Extension: Do you have a dog? Know a dog? If a dog you know were to have his own entry in this books, what would it look like?


“Sit! Stay! Be quiet!” Why won't this bad dog behave? When the little boy says “sit!” he jumps. When the boy yells “stay!” he leaps off after a squirrel. And when the boy tosses a stick to “fetch!” the little brown dog rolls over. Will this dog with a mind of his own ever pay attention to the little boy? If only the boy could think of just the right command....

With minimal text and picture clues, this is a great book for beginning readers.

Language Arts

Be Brown is full of opposites. Start a word wall of opposite pairs, and see how many you can add to the list throughout the week. Will your list end up being LONG, or SHORT?


Opposites are also called antonyms. There is a great song on this CD about synonyms and antonyms, which Sheridan is constantly asking me to sing to her (she almost has it memorized herself). I used this same CD back when it came in a cassette format, and I was teaching second grade - great songs that stick in your head, but maybe won't make you want to poke your eye out on the eighteenth hearing! I usually only put free resource links on here, but I really think this one is worth the $8.

Three classic songs every child should know:

How Much Is That Doggie in the Window?

Do Your Ears Hang Low?



So, let's say we DID go adopt a puppy. Would we need to buy anything else? Make a list of items you would need - food, bowls, collars and leashes, dog beds, kennels, immunizations, spay or neuter, licenses, etc., and total it all up.

Cautionary tale: When I was in first grade, I begged for my own puppy. My mother told me dogs were expensive, and I pestered her to tell me how much they cost, until she finally in exasperation tossed out "$50". I'm sure she did not think I would manage to save up any such amount, especially since I didn't get an allowance of any sort. 

On St. Patrick's Day we brought home my little grey puppy, Fiona.

Social Studies

Do you know any dogs with jobs? Providing companionship or letting you know when someone comes to the door are important jobs. I have a dog who lets us know when bears or mountain lions come into our yard...and another who lets us know whenever she sees a tree. What other jobs can animals have?

- herding 
- search and rescue
- cancer detection
- service to individuals with disabilities
- comfort for accident or crime victims
- detection (drugs, weapons, food, etc.)
- hunting and tracking
- military
- entertainment
- therapy
- sled-pulling

Can you think of more?

Let's look more closely at service animals (commonly called guide dogs, although they do more than just help the visually impaired.) There are many misconceptions about what is required and allowed for service animals! This is what the ADA (federal law) says, in a nutshell:

- only dogs and miniature horses are covered under the law.
- emotional support/comfort/therapy dogs are not covered under the law, even with a doctor's note.
- service animals do NOT require a special license, vest, or identification. They can be trained by an agency or by the individual who uses them.
- service animals must be vaccinated, housebroken, and under the control (physical or voice) of the handler. If a service animal becomes a direct threat or disruption to others in a business establishment, it may be asked to leave (allergies and fear of animals do NOT qualify as a threat or disruption).
- any public establishment may not refuse access to a service animal for any other reason. Personnel may ask if the animal is required because of a disability, and what task the animal has been trained to perform (IF it is not readily obvious), but they may NOT ask about the person's disability. They may not ask for any documentation or charge any extra fees.

How should you respond if you are in a public place, and you see someone with an animal that you think might be a service animal?


Is a dog's mouth really cleaner than a human's?

For this experiment you will need at least two petri dishes. Sometimes you can get them from a local medical lab or hospital, but you can also get them pretty cheap off Amazon (look for pre-poured agar plates). You will also need sterile cotton swabs and human and canine volunteers!

1. Label a petri dish for each subject. Try to get a variety of humans in age, before and after brushing teeth or eating. Note all the variances in your science notebook. Try also for a variety of dog breeds, inside and outside pets, etc.

2. Using a different sterile swab each time, swipe all around inside the subject's mouth, around the gums and over the tongue. Then stir the swab around the corresponding petri dish.

3. Close up each petri dish and put in a warm, dry place for 24 hours. Record what you see in each at the end of 24 and 48 hours. Take or draw pictures of what each looks like.

What differences do you see? What do you think caused those differences?


Let's cook for the dogs today! This is a basic recipe for healthy dog treats that you can change around depending on what you have available.

2 1/2 cups flour (regular, wheat, whatever)
1 tsp salt
1 egg
1/2 cup beef or chicken broth

Add any of the following:
more eggs
wheat germ
peanut butter
cooked vegetables

Knead together - add more broth if it is too dry, or flour if it is too sticky.

Roll out to about 1/4" thick and cut into rectangles or use a cookie cutter. Bake on a cookie sheet for 30 minutes and 350 degrees.


Seriously, while puppies are fun, too many impulse-adoptions end up abandoned (or worse) six months down the road. Have a fund raiser - lemonade stand, read-a-thon, yard sale - and raise money for the local homeless shelter or rescue. If you want to make sure you are donating to a reputable rescue, Forever Homes Animal Rescue is my absolute favorite - and it is a registered 501c3!

Other Web Sites to Explore