Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Children's Books on Friendship

(*Spoiler Alert* Some book endings are revealed in this post)

There are many children’s books on friendship. Some are about making friends, some are about losing friends and some are about the diversity found in friendship. There are books in every genre and every form on this subject. From picture books to chapter books, from fantasy to historical fiction, there are many books on friendship that are available for children. Here are some that I love, divided into the age groups of ages 1-7 and 8 and up.

Ages 1-7

Do You Want to Be My Friend
by Eric Carle
Eric Carle is one of the best known names in children’s literature. His book Do You Want to Be My Friend? follows a mouse on his journey to find friends. He asks many animals to be his friend but each animal responds with, “No” until the mouse finally finds another mouse to be his friend. This is a book with few words but with brilliant pictures that let young children expand on the story with their own imagination. Do You Want to Be My Friend? is a great book to use to spark a child’s emotional intelligence about friendship. (Ages 1-3)

Will I Have a Friend?
by Miriam Cohen
Will I Have a Friend? by Miriam Cohen, addresses a common fear in children: the fear that they will never make friends. When Jim starts his first day of school, he asks his father if he will make friends. Though his father assures him that he will, Jim is still nervous. Jim doesn’t have much luck finding a friend until after nap time when he meets Paul and they bond over playing with the truck Paul brought to school. Soon, all the kids see them having fun and they want to play as well. This book speaks directly to the anxiety children feel on their first day of school and can be used to help calm those fears. (Ages 4-6)

Other Books on Friendship for Ages 1-7:
  • ·         Flip and Flop by Dawn Apperley (Ages 3-6)
  • ·         The Friendship Wish by Elisa Kleven (Ages 4-7)
  • ·         How to Lose All Your Friends by Nancy Carlson (Ages 4-6)
  • ·         A Rainbow of Friends by P.K. Hallinan (Ages 4-7)

Ages 8 and Up

A Friendship for Today
by Patricia McKissack
A Friendship for Today by Patricia McKissack is about Rosemary, an African American girl who is starting sixth grade in a new, integrated school. She is fine with the idea until her best friend, J.J., comes down with polio and ends up missing a year of school to recover. Rosemary is tormented by white children until she bonds with one of her tormenters, Grace, over an injured cat. Grace and Rosemary then learn to put aside their differences and learn they have more in common than they could have imagined. This is a great book for promoting diversity in friendship. (Ages 9-12)

Charlotte's Web
by E.B. White
Charlotte’s Web, by E.B. White, is the ultimate friendship tale. Wilbur is born the runt in the Arable’s litter of pigs. Mr. Arable plans to kill the pig but his daughter, Fern, begs him to spare the pig.  He relents and Fern is allowed to raise the pig until he is too big for the house and must be moved to the Zuckerman’s farm. Still Fern visits Wilbur daily until she finds an interest in boys. Wilbur is heartbroken whenever Fern is not around but soon finds new friends on the farm and the best friend in Charlotte, a spider. Soon Wilbur finds out that he is going to die and become the Zuckerman’s dinner but Charlotte makes it her life’s mission to save Wilbur’s life. Charlotte spins webs with messages to convince the Zuckermans to spare Wilbur and Wilbur’s life is saved but Charlotte’s life has neared its end and Wilbur must say goodbye. This book shows children the power of friendship and also introduces them to the reality that all life ends. Their moral intelligence will be sparked as they realize that friendships can end because friends drift apart, like with Fern, or because of the death of a friend, as with Charlotte. There is hope, however, as the book ends with Wilbur befriending Charlotte’s children and this shows children that, even though they might lose friends, there will always be new opportunities for friendship. (Ages 8-12)

Other Books on Friendship for Ages 8 and Up:
  • ·         All Alone in the Universe by Lynne Rae Perkins (Ages 10+)
  • ·         Doctor Proctor’s Fart Powder by Jo Nesbo (Ages 8-12)
  • ·         Ellen Tebbits by Beverly Cleary (Ages 8-10)
  • ·         The Friendship Doll by Kirby Larson (Ages 9-12)
  • ·         My Last Best Friend  by Julie Bowe (Ages 8-10)
  • ·         The Secret Language of Girls by Frances O’Roark Dowell (Ages 8-12)

There are so many wonderful books to choose from when focusing on friendship in children’s books. What are some of your favorite children’s books about friendship? 

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Time Speeds Along

This year seems to be speeding along. Honestly, it's going faster than I would like. I feel like it should be February at the latest, not April. The other day I stopped and realized what month it was and then a pain slowly hit my heart as I realized it was almost the middle of April and after April comes May. Of course I've always known that May comes after April but it's like that month is sneaking up on me before I can stop it. 

I hate the month of May. It's one time of the year that I dread completely. If I could skip from April to June, I would, simply to avoid the pain that May brings. You see, two of my favorite people in the whole world died in May. For years, May seemed like a cursed month for my family. I don't really believe in curses but that's the feeling we have felt. It seems like we all hold our breath through May and hope and pray that we make it to June without any more losses. It's not just the losses, it seems that bad things happen to us in May, but it's the losses that make it the worst. We lost both my grandma and my aunt on my father's side in May. They were years apart but the anniversaries are days apart and that makes it even more difficult.

I have a strong faith so I know these two are in a better place and it's been years since I lost them but these were two people that had a large impact on my life. My grandma was a sweet woman with a heart of gold. She used to bake cookies and one of my favorite memories is her greeting us, after traveling to see her, while stirring a pot full of sloppy joe meat. Keep in mind, we arrived at her house at around 2 a.m. but she insisted that we must be hungry. This memory will bring a smile to my face for the rest of my life. My grandma wasn't terribly young when she passed but it still seemed way too soon for us. Some of my favorite memories are in her house and I still drive by her house every time I visit my relatives. I think this creeps out the current owners, since I pass the house a few times and usually stop and stare for just a moment, but I still do it. I just look at the door and for a second I see her smiling face opening it to let us all in. I can still hear her voice in my head and see her eyes...my eyes. I got my eyes from my grandma and they are apparently a rare shade of blue (I say apparently because after looking at them in the mirror for 25 years they seem pretty ordinary to me but people point them out frequently). I don't love my eyes because they are out of the ordinary, I love them because they were hers and I am one of the only family members to have them. Somehow this makes me feel closer to her even though she's gone.

My aunt was taken way too soon. Because of a freak accident we lost her and her beautiful smile. I don't think I'll ever understand why she had to be taken so early but I know she is dancing with the angels. This woman meant the world to me. Due to circumstances that shouldn't be discussed here, I only had one godparent growing up...most people have two. After my uncle became the only godparent I had, she "adopted" me as her goddaughter. She never had to do this but she did and she loved it. I'm the only August birthday with two sisters in December so my aunt would send all our birthday presents at once, so I wouldn't feel left out. She also started a charm bracelet for me and when she died I refused to ever add another charm. After her death, my cousin found a graduation charm in my aunt's belongings. She had bought it a whole year early to make sure I had it. It's the only charm I've added since her death and only because my uncle insisted.  I remember crying while I added it. I cry every time I think about how she had put it aside for me. She was such a special woman with a great soul. I remember she used to call to talk to my mom but would spend hours talking to me if mom wasn't home. She always had time for me. She always made me feel special. In reality, she was probably one of the most special people I've ever had the pleasure of knowing.

I have many fond memories of these two people who have left a never-fading mark on my heart. It has been years since I lost them but it feel likes yesterday whenever May comes around. There will be moments throughout the year that I think of them and smile and know they are watching but I think of them even more as May approaches and it still brings pain to my heart and tears to my eyes. Just yesterday I was listening to a song I've heard a thousand times and it brought tears to my eyes because suddenly it made me think of them, though it never had before.

Of course, good things have happened in May. I graduated in May, was confirmed in May and I have birthdays to celebrate in May. Still, I dread the month of May. I often wish something really great would happen to take the focus off of the pain of this month. I could use something like that this year. I could use something wonderful in the month of May. So, here's hoping that May speeds along or that something wonderful happens. I love my grandma and my aunt and I carry them in my heart. If I can be just half as amazing as they were then I am in good shape. I wish all the people in my life had been able to meet them because they were beautiful souls.

I've met many people who have rough months and rough days. I hope that you all are comforted by your memories like I am. Here's to a good year and, hopefully, a good May.

This poem always comes to mind when I think of them:

If tears could build a stairway
and thoughts a memory lane
I'd walk right up to heaven
and bring you home again
No Farewell words were spoken
No time to say good-bye
You were gone before I knew it
And only God knows why.
My heart's still active in sadness
And secret tears still flow
What it meant to lose you
No one can ever know.
But now I know you want us
To mourn for you no more
To remember all the happy times
Life still has much in store.
Since you'll never be forgotten
I pledge to you today
A hallowed place within my heart
Is where you'll always stay.
God knows why, with chilling touch,
Death gathers those we love so much,
And what now seems so strange and dim,
Will all be clear, when we meet Him.
I Knew you for a Moment

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Biggest Loser: End of Week 8

Technically this should read Week 12 but if I wanted to be even more accurate then the title of this post would be "Getting Back on the Bike." I think it was my mother who used to tell me that when you fall off the bike you have to climb back on. Well, I fell off the bike big time. In fact, I fell off the bike, tumbled down a hill through brambles and landed in a ditch full of water where I then continued to lay face down in the water as I wallowed in self-pity. What does all of this mean? Eh, probably more to me than to you. It's not that I fell off the wagon with my diet as much as I fell off the face of the earth for a little while there.

I had some family problems and then a few more were added and then a few more until I felt like a million bricks were piled on already heavy shoulders and I broke. I think the final straw was being told by one of my favorite cousins that she no longer wanted to talk to me because she thought she was a toxic influence on my life. To say I broke down would be putting it mildly. I cried for hours and I rolled up into a ball and tried to disappear...I don't have the power to disappear so this couldn't last long. Thanks to a wonderful boyfriend, a great best friend and a comforting mom and a few others, I came out of my ball a little bit. After battling depression for 2 weeks, I am finally starting to feel normal again. I managed to make it through life relatively fine but anyone who knew me couldn't be fooled. They've managed to pull me out of my rut and I am very thankful for them.

But wait, that accounts for 2 missing weeks, not 4. Well, before my little breakdown I was battling mother nature as it happened on two weigh-in days so I refused to weigh-in. That should account for the rest of my time where I went missing. I've decided to forget these past 4 weeks and focus on the future. I was doing fine on my diet until depression hit. Then the bad eating started. There were days where I barely ate and then there were days where I looked at my boyfriend and said , "I want a burger and fries" with a look on my face that said if he commented on my choice in food then he was risking a breakdown. So I had my burger, I had my fries, I had some chocolate and then I had some more. I had forgotten how closely tied my emotions are to my eating habits. As an emotional eater for years, this shouldn't have surprised me but it did. I thought I had gained control but I guess when you break down you lose control over many things, eating included. I even forgot how depression affected my writing. This is the first time I've been able to write in a month and it feels great! I'm glad to be back to my old self.

So there is my sad little shpeel for the day. However, I AM BACK! Watch out world, here I come! I'm still in the competition with my mother and sister and I'm determined to make next week have even better numbers. Yes, I have numbers. It may be a month late but I have numbers. I stepped on the scale this morning, scared but knowing I needed to conquer my fears. 

Here's what I found:
Weight Lost Since Last Weigh-In: 2.2 pounds
Total Weight Lost: 17.6 pounds
Total Weight Percentage Lost: 8.6%

I was happy to find I had lost weight. I'll be honest, I was terrified and expected a large gain in weight. However, 2.2 pounds in a month is not enough for me so next week will be better! I'm determined. I have my life and my emotions under control and now it's time to get my weight under control as well. Thank you to everyone who helped me find my way back. 

To everyone else dieting right now, keep up the good work! I plan on it being a great week!

Thanks for the pictures: