Tuesday, December 15, 2020

How to use lunchbox notes when the kids are home every day

How to use lunchbox notes when the kids are home every day
As I write this, many kids across the country are still attending school virtually thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic, but that doesn't mean you can't celebrate them a little bit with lunchbox notes.

...even if the kids aren't eating out of lunchboxes.

Here are 10 ways to use lunchbox notes without a lunchbox or when the kids are eating at home every day:

1. Stick a note on the bathroom mirror for your kids to see while they brush their teeth in the morning.

2. Tuck a note next to their breakfast in the morning.

3. Tape a note to the milk carton in the fridge.

4. Stick a note on your child's computer keyboard.

5. Slip a note inside your child's pencil case.

6. If you do Elf on the Shelf or something similar, have your elf sprinkle notes around the house.

7. Attach a note to your child's alarm clock.

8. Stick a note inside a textbook or other books your child uses or reads regularly.

9. Pop a note on your child's pillow before bedtime.

10. Fold up the notes and put them all in a jar or other container and have them pull a note out every day.

Lunchbox notes are a great way for your younger kids to practice reading while also getting a quick, positive boost. For the older kids, it's an easy way to show your love at a time when they may want less obvious demonstrations of affection. Lunchbox notes are also a great way to connect silently when you are working and they are doing schoolwork.

How else have you been using lunchbox notes during the pandemic?

We have several sets of lunchbox notes in our Etsy shop and you can grab them HERE or click on each picture below for specific sets ~*~ each set is a PDF file that you can almost immediately download and print at home after purchase.

Don't forget to check out lunchbox notes for the adults and older kids in your life! Everyone likes to know they are being thought of!




Monday, December 14, 2020

3 books to help your kids (and you) cope with divorce

3 books to help your kids (and you) cope with divorce
Please note, this is cross posted at my reading blog, Caffeinated While Reading.
Divorce isn't easy for anyone, but it can be especially hard for our children who may not have the maturity or vocabulary to understand or talk about what is happening in their family. It is hard for kids who may feel insecure, who may worry that they are unloved, who may think the divorce is their fault. 
It's obviously hard for parents too. 
And, the difficulties on both sides -- parent and child -- can make talking about divorce and making your and their way through it difficult. Books can help. 
My son was 4 years old when his father and I separated, and it was hard on all of us, but especially on JP. My priority was making sure that he understood that he was loved and wanted and that he had a safe way to explore and express his feelings. I spent a few hours at my local bookstore, looking at children's books about divorce and changing families and brought home the following books -- the first two are specifically for children and the third is for parents.
I will be honest, my son wasn't always in the mood to have these books read to him or to read them with me. Sometimes he was just mad and wanted to stomp around and be angry or to curl up in a ball and cry. But, I would calmly remind him, "Hey, I know you don't want to read these books right now, but I also know that when we do read them together, you always end up feeling better. You start smiling and relaxing and we can talk about what you're feeling and thinking about afterwards. It's OK if you just want to curl up in a ball while I read to you, or I can rub your back, or you can pace around and just listen."
Most of the time, he'd curl up next to me or in my lap or he'd want me to rub his back while we read, and almost every time, he would feel better -- and he'd recognize that too. We read each of these books dozens of times from the time he was 4 years old until about 7 years old, and they truly helped both of us to navigate difficult emotions and conversations.
If your family is going through divorce or separation or you know a family that is, I hope these books will help you or them too. 
My Family's Changing: A First Look at Family Break-Up by Pat Thomas and Lesley Harker
This sweet book combines a story with discussion prompts. You can read it straight through as just a story, you can stop at each discussion prompt as you go, or you can stop at one discussion prompt and set the book aside while you talk things through.
The illustrations combined with the story and the prompts helped my son to feel like he was seen and heard amidst the grown up problems. The prompts are especially great if you aren't sure how to talk to your child about divorce or a family break up. 
There's an entire range of books in the series from topics such as family dynamics to bullying to inclusion and diversity and more. 
  • Buy My Family's Changing on Bookshop HERE.
  • Buy My Family's Changing on Amazon HERE.
Dinosaurs Divorce by Marc Brown and Laurie Krasny Brown
Like My Family's Changing, Dinosaurs Divorce helps kids navigate the ups and downs and new normal of divorce and changing families. And, if the dinosaurs look somewhat familiar, it's because Marc Brown is also responsible for the Arthur books and cartoon series. Of all the books we had about divorce -- and we had many -- this is the one we read the most.
My son particularly liked this book over the others because of the dinosaurs. I think it was easier for him to view divorce through the lens of a non-human character and it was easier to approach a very real and difficult topic through very unreal/non-human characters. Children live in a magical space between reality and make believe, and they often use make believe to sort out their feelings about very real problems. Using dinosaurs in place of humans is a great way to help ease kids through such a difficult experience.
Also like My Family's Changing, Dinosaurs Divorce is part of a larger series of books that tackle numerous topics. One of the most popular other books in the series is When Dinosaurs Die
  • Buy Dinosaurs Divorce on Bookshop HERE.
  • Buy Dinosaurs Divorce on Amazon HERE.

Mom's House, Dad's House by Isolina Ricci
Mom's House, Dad's House by Isolina Ricci
This book is for the adults in a child's life, but it will help you manage your own way through the divorce or separation in a way that supports your child. 
One of the reasons I love this book is that it doesn't assume anything is one parent or the others fault. In fact, it offers suggestions and analysis for self-reflection to look at your own behavior and thoughts as both a parent and a divorcing or separating adult and think, "Is this thought or behavior reasonable or am I the problem in this situation?" Ricci also gives many ideas and tips and thoughtful suggestions for how to talk to children and how to work with the other parent or guardian.

Ricci's book helped me to navigate disruptive issues with my son's father and to set firm boundaries during a difficult situation. It gave me a framework for sorting out what I needed as a half of a divorcing couple but also what my son needed and how to best show up for him. It helped me to see both sides of the divorce and gave me many excellent ideas and tips to consider when it came to the overall situation, as well as for specific situations and for sorting out a parenting and custody plan. The book gave me a vocabulary to use and a way to look at things more objectively. 

I truly believe Ricci's book helped me to navigate what was best for my son, even when that sometimes conflicted with what I wanted for myself.
There's also a kids version of Mom's House, Dad's House by Isolina Ricci, but I have not read it or reviewed it. Have you?
  • Buy Mom's House, Dad's House on Bookshop HERE and the kids version HERE.
  • Buy Mom's House, Dad's House on Amazon HERE and the kids version HERE.

There are many, many books about divorce for parents and children, but time and time again I am led to believe these three are the best. What books do you think divorcing or separating couples should read? How about kids stuck in the middle?


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Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Review -- Bookmarks: Celebrating Black Voices on Netflix

REVIEW -- Bookmarks: Celebrating Black Voices on Netflix

As I write this, Marley Dias is 15 years old. When she was 10, she launched a book drive called #1000BlackGirlBooks in order to collect and donate books featuring Black girls as the protagonists. Her campaign aimed to raise 1,000 books, but it became hugely successful and garnered international attention and support, raising well over 12,000 at last count. She has continued to be an activist for literacy and racial justice, particularly promoting diversity and justice through literature. She's also written a book of her own: Marley Dias Gets It Done: And So Can You! 

Marley Dias Gets It Done -- And So Can You!
Now, Marley the host of a sweet new series on Netflix called "Bookmarks: Celebrating Black Voices." If you grew up watching "Reading Rainbow" featuring host LeVar Burton, I suspect you'll like this series! 

While "Bookmarks" is focused on children's books by Black authors and about Black characters, I think it has something to offer for all children. The stories all speak to experiences common among children that, although portrayed through Black voices and characters, most likely will apply to non-Black children too. As a white woman, I saw and heard experiences in these books that were absolutely relevant to my childhood -- concerns about belonging, experiences with my hair and appearance, feelings of worry and hope and joy, and much more. 

Each episode features one book read by the author or by a celebrity, and each is short -- just right for children who might not have long attention spans. The episodes also end with the readers asking questions and speaking directly to viewers. A few of the readers also share stories from their own lives and ask questions during their readings.

While the series is focused on books with Black characters and written by Black authors, several of the books address children of other races and diverse experiences. In particular, I am thinking of The Day You Begin written and read by Jacqueline Woodson. Woodson's book covers having a different name, different skin, different food, and much more. Woodson also talks, after reading the book, about why the illustrations include rulers throughout the story (you'll have to watch the episode to find out what the rulers mean!).

As a child, I would have loved to draw while watching and listening to a show like this. 

I hope that you will watch the series with your children and take some time at the end of every episode to answer and discuss the questions posed by the readers. If you are homeschooling, you could also use the questions as prompts for writing assignments or art projects -- it would be fun to answer some of the questions by doing a drawing or painting, even for younger kids.

All of the books and the questions the readers ask at the end of the episodes are about celebrating and loving oneself and those around us, despite our uniqueness and differences. 

You can learn more about the show HERE, and if you have Netflix, you can watch the show HERE.

We're linking the books below as well, just in case you want to order any of them BEFORE watching the show -- that way you and your kids could read along with each episode! So far, there are 13 books across 12 episodes. 

I Love My Hair by Natasha Anastasia Tarpley
I Am Enough by Grace Byers

Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut by Derrick Barnes

Sulwe by Lupita Nyong'o

ABCs for Girls Like Me by Melanie Goolsby

 Pretty Brown Face by Andrea and Brian Pinkney

 Brown Boy Joy by Thomishia Booker

 Firebird by Misty Copeland 

 Let's Talk About Race by Julius Lester

 The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson

 I Am Perfectly Designed by Karamo Brown

 Antiracist Baby by Ibram X. Kendi

  We March by Shane Evans

Please note: Links may be affiliate links in nature. Purchases made through these links may result in small commissions for us at no extra charge to you. Thank you in advance!

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Moms Who Read: How to get back into reading after a slump

Moms Who Read: How to get back into reading after a slump

A version of this is cross-posted at my reading blog, Caffeinated While Reading. 

I've heard from many friends, acquaintances, and even complete strangers that the global pandemic, social injustice sparking protests and riots across the country, concerns about school at home AND working from home, and many more concerns have caused them to feel lost, confused, unfocused, and generally unable to engage with their usual interests and habits.

And, I'm right there with all of you.

For a few months, I struggled to keep reading and engaging in my other interests and hobbies -- of which, reading is my favorite -- and the further I got from those things, the worse I felt about myself and life in general. 

I spent hours and hours scrolling on my phone, watching television without paying attention, picking up and setting down books and hobbies, and just not enjoying anything. I am already predisposed to depression and I felt like I was slipping pretty quickly into a massive depressive episode. Without making some changes quickly, I knew it was going to just get worse and worse.

So, I decided to be proactive and set up some rules around my needs, interests, and the way I was living life in order to create new habits and re-ignite old ones. I'm still struggling on some days and sometimes during moments of pretty good days, but I feel like the changes I've made have helped me to not sink too far down, and I've reinvigorated my reading habit.

While they aren't perfect and life isn't happy rainbows and unicorns every day, these three tips have helped me to ramp up my reading again -- I hope they'll help you too. 

1. Read first thing in the morning

Like making your bed, going for a run, or any other good habit, if you read first thing in the morning, you'll be able to tick it off your list of accomplishments for the day. And, if you love reading as much as I do, it will start your day on a positive note. 

I've been finding that if I start my day with 20 minutes of reading -- my personal minimum amount of time -- then I usually come back to reading later in the day. And, because I love reading so much, I don't mind getting up earlier just to read.

2. Have a designated reading spot

I don't just read anywhere in my home. Instead, I consciously cultivated a corner as my reading nook. Is it special and fancy with grand bookcases and luscious furnishings? Nope. Not at all. But, it is comfortable with a stack of books at the side of my reading chair and ottoman, a few blankets, and a table for a cup of coffee or glass of water, and it has great natural light during the day with a lamp for darker days or the evening. I don't do much else sitting there. That spot is reserved just for reading. And, because it's cozy, I love to sit there, so I read a lot by cultivating a special, comfortable reading experience. 

Chances are, you can get your kids reading more too if you just make it a given for everyone in the house that in order to use this comfy space, they need to be engaged with a book.

3. Read something easy or familiar

My TBR (to be read) pile is quite large with some pretty heavy reading material -- I like complex topics, but also what my mom once called "depressing" genres. Right now, I just can't handle that type of material when the world feels darker, heavier, and more depressing than at any other time in my life.

I've given myself a break and instead picked up lighter and easier books. I've been reading some chick lit, young adult, and humor. I've also been reading some very short books and children's books, as well as re-reading books I love and am already overly familiar with. 

A friend and I planned to read Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi and to have a virtual dinner date to discuss the book, but I found it so heavy and sad (it's about the effects of slavery through several generations and from Africa to the US) that I had to put it down. By following the three habits above, I've managed to go back to the book in small chunks, interspersed with some of my favorite chick lit novels.

It's OK to put in some focused work at renewing your reading habit. It's OK to set up a comfy spot that you use just for reading. It's OK to read books that you normally wouldn't pick up simply because the genre or reading level is easy. 

Drop a comment and let us know what tips and tricks you've used to get back into reading or other habits and hobbies that have gone by the wayside due to the state of the world.
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Monday, August 31, 2020

31 Days of Back to School Prep Tips and Ideas

31 Days of Back to School Prep Tips and Ideas
We hope summer treated your family well, despite how crazy the world is and has been. We've compiled (almost -- we missed a couple due to...life) 31 tips and suggestions for back to school prep and hope they serve you well! We initially shared these on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest, and now we're wrapping up August by compiling all of our tips and ideas in this post.

Biggest take away?

Be kind to yourself. Mistakes happen. Oversights occur. Life gets busy and important things get missed, but most of the time they aren't that important if they were missed. And, hug your kids.

Oops....that's not day 7, that's day 8!
As noted, sometimes mistakes happen!
 Forgive yourself if you sometimes need a break or things don't always go to plan!
Your kids will be OK, even if you aren't always perfect!