Summertime and the Living Is … Easy?

firefly nightMy memories of childhood summers conjure thoughts of unscheduled days at the beach, of playing with friends, all  balanced with lots of time to daydream, read and spend time with family. (We had no TV, if you can even imagine that!) Now summer looks and feels quite different. Day care, summer camps, programmed activities and TV dominate many kids’ summer days. Parents struggle to engage their childrens’ attention, to divert them from the various tech and media available to them.

Still, summer offers a wonderful opportunity to build positive memories of time having fun together. Fun is FUN-damental to building strong family ties. From my own childhood, I recall scampering across the grass collecting fireflies. Their glow seemed magical and filled us with wonder. Because It’s a Firefly Night by Diane Ochiltree captures this delightful moment, I truly enjoyed reading it. The little girl’s excitement is palpable when her Daddy tell her, “It’s a firefly night.” The reader senses that this is a special ritual that the child shares with her daddy and something she will treasure down the years of her life. Betsy Snyder’s luminous art brings the rhyming/counting text to life. Children can make a game of searching for and tracking the number of bugs, flowers, etc. And have fun in the process!

Goodnight, fireflyFor another variation on the firefly theme, also consider Goodnight, Firefly by Gabriel Aborozo. Vivid inky black illustrations splashed with small strokes of glowing yellow and apple red set the perfect backdrop for the text. “Nina was scared of the dark…” Children will identify with Nina’s fear, “scary shadows … whispering of monsters…” and her great relief when she spies the welcome light of fireflies “dancing.”

In both books, the girl treasures her captive firefly and yet … she comes to understand that she must release it so that the firefly can live. This is a great concept for children—and parents–to understand. We seek to raise children who grow to be strong and independent, to provide them with sturdy “roots and wings.” Unless we allow freedom, relationships are built on captivity, not trust and respect. Like the firefly, we must release our children and free them to follow their paths. In Albert Schweitzer’s words: “If you love something so much, let it go. If it comes back, it was meant to be; if it doesn’t, it never was.”

 

Wondering about the science behind a firefly’s luminous glow? Check out this link from National Geographic.

magnifying lens AQ.2AQ*Lens: We parents must balance our roles as leaders, teachers and the family “authority,” with time enjoying one another. For children who struggle to maintain self-regulation, this is especially necessary.  (The challenge is to have fun without devolving into chaos.) Strong relationships weave families together.

If we hope to grow children who absorb and embrace our family values and beliefs, we must build relationships of respect and cooperation then cement them with a hefty dose of fun. In the absence of fun, kids will view parents primarily as the enforcers not the compass, the leaders, and heart of their world. Parents who balance “enforcement” mode with plenty of family fun keep kids engaged and interested in spending time as a family. Spending time “in joy” together is a key component of attachment, a high priority in adoptive families.

How will you create magic family moments? Hunting fireflies? Counting Stars? Watching the sunset? What ideas can you share with us?

 

Puddle Jumping to Fun and Connection

come on rainOverhead, the sun blazes and bakes the air to a barely stirring, arid breath. This summer’s temperatures break records. (The LOWS have not dropped below 80°.) Plants and people wilt. Scorched by the sun, the grass turns crunchy. Even my little mini-schnauzer refuses the walk for which she normally begs. Instead, she digs in her heels, choosing to stay in air-conditioned comfort.

This is Florida. Supposedly the rainy season started–by the calendar–but not according to Mother Nature. She’s been downright stingy with the rain so far this season. We search the sky for a well-needed shower and pray for the freshness of a cool rain.

Come On, Rain by Karen Hesse makes an apt choice for a summer read. Jon J. Muth’s watercolors serve as the perfect medium to illustrate the book. Told in free verse through the voice of Tessie, a young girl residing in the sweltering city, readers can identify with her yearning for the respite of some rain. In spare text, Hesse presents several characters–adults and children–using a few, revealing details that flesh them out. When the rain finally comes, readers will feel their joy and yearn to bare their own feet and puddle-jump in the first available rain.

 

AQ Lens: Come On, Rain features an ethnically divers group of friends and pictures them having fun together. Ethnicity is not a “topic”; it’s simply part of the background fabric. I like how normalizes having friends who look different, so normal that it doesn’t need to be mentioned. I also love the fact that it shows mothers and daughters having fun together. Sharing good times is essential to strong family bonds; it’s the glue that bridges the hard times and fills the family memory banks. Any one of us can enjoy splashing and dancing around in the rain. May we always be young enough in spirit to grab for such moments of frivolity.

Why not promise yourself a rain dance of your own, the very next time it sprinkles in your yard? Too hard to wait? Perhaps water balloons or squirt guns will do the trick. Come On Rain. Come on fun times!

 

Annoyed, Blamed, Cried, Drooled, etc., an ABC of Feelings

Annoying ABCBecause today is Multicultural Children’s Book Day, bloggers are featuring entertaining and diverse books. I have selected An Annoying ABC  by Barbara Bottner and illlustrated by Michael Emberley which overflows with humor and features children of every color imaginable. Race is not the focus of the book; it is the natural backdrop of the story. The world includes a rainbow of humanity and this book reflects that reality.

An Annoying ABC weaves a delightful “domino” story: each action precipitates a subsequent reaction.  Once “Adelaide annoyed Bailey,” mayhem ensues—in alphabetical order no less! The illustrations offer a treasure trove of vignettes to explore emotions, actions and consequences. Not only do the character’s names fulfill the ABC format, but also the verbs which describe an amazing array of actions: “annoyed, blamed, cried, drooled, elbowed, fumed, grabbed, howled, etc.” Eventually the story comes full circle when Adelaide apologizes and instigates a cascade of apologies—from A to Z! We could all benefit from Adelaide’s example.

This book hits the mark on several levels. It helps kids expand their vocabulary while enjoying the antics of this delightful cast of characters. An Annoying ABC can assist adoptive parents in teaching their children how to name and handle their big feelings. Imagine your child pretending each feeling and then your guessing which one he is portraying–lots of opportunity to be silly while discussing important emotion-management skills. I rate it a five-star read.