Children's Picture Books

Our Bee-utiful Buzzy Friends|Bee Books for Kids #SavetheBees

A few years ago, summer pool lessons turned into a sad time for my Little Princess. As her bare feet padded around the pool, she cried out when accidentally stepping on the exact spot a bee had landed to take a drink.

The stinger that hung from the bottom her foot, which I promptly removed, was no longer attached to the little fuzzy buzzy bee. Sadly, the insect lost its life that day.

Thankfully, Little Princess had no allergic reaction to her first bee sting. But I wondered if this incident would make her forever afraid of bees.

This year, we planned a home school field trip to an apiary. Not only was Little Princess scared of getting stung, my tween kids voiced their concerns of being chased and attacked by a swarm of bees.

Never having been to an apiary, I didn’t know what to expect.

Our tour guide showed us inside the warehouse how the honey is taken from the honey comb frames with a spinning extractor. The honey comb remains and the golden honey pours from a spout via gravity.

Each part of the hive can be made into a bee product. There’s beeswax candles, bee propolis (my favorite new natural home remedy), royal jelly, and even the pollen is sold as a health supplement.

My children stood entranced when we came to an active hive protected by plexi-glass. The bees dancing on the other side felt like our visits to “Terrors of the Deep” at Sea World. Despite the Mako sharks circling overhead, the clear tunnel barrier gave us much needed security.

When we reached home, I had purchased a literal gallon of honey, some propolis, royal jelly, and the kids received a few honey hard candies for free. On top of that they seemed less afraid of bees.

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Being educated about what we are afraid of helps us have peace. Books are a good way to impart knowledge with a little bonding time thrown in. After reading, The Honey Makers together, my Little Princess sat pondering and concluded, “Thank God for the bees.”

The Honey Makers by Gail Gibbons

IMG_20180519_082415240_HDRHere’s another bee book to help kids learn the importance of our little honey-making pollinating friends.

The Beautiful Bee Book by Sue Unstead

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Without bees, flowers couldn’t pollinate, seeds couldn’t germinate, and crops would not bear fruit. Instead of fearing our fuzzy friends, let’s find ways to protect them for generations to come. Protecting bees can be made possible by bringing awareness, using less pesticides, and buying from sustainable farms.

Have a bee-utiful day with your family as you share books about the importance of bees!

Children's Picture Books, Life Skills, Special Needs, Teen

Having an Almost-Teen With Autism|13 Ways He’s Like Any Other Teen #WorldAutismAwarenessDay #AutismAcceptance

Parenthood flies by in a blink of an eye. A preemie, my firstborn daughter weighed in at only 4 lbs. 14 oz.

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After six days, she was released from the hospital. I brought her to my grandfather’s 90th birthday party to show her to the family.

Setting her down on an upstairs room carpet, I stepped away to grab a diaper from my bag.

My aunt stood in the doorway and gasped. “I thought there was a doll on the floor, but she moved.”

So small, so delicate, I didn’t know if she’d ever catch up to the regular developmental milestones of most children.

But then.

Blink. My baby girl could walk.

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Blink again. She’s studying for her driver’s permit.

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Blink away the tears. I only have 2 years left with my baby!

My oldest daughter is now sixteen. And my have the years flown by.

In only one month, my next-born, my only son, will be turning from tween to teen, the rite of passage year of thirteen. In some cultures, this would be the year he becomes a man.

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The thing is, he has autism. Picture 008

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Does that mean he can’t be a regular teen?

So, far he’s been like any other almost-teen in many ways.

1. The boy loves to eat.

Some of his favorite foods are not super healthy, but isn’t that like any other kid? If I let him, he’d eat yogurt and Life cereal for breakfast, pizza for lunch, and spaghetti for dinner everyday. Veggies are not at the top of the list, but he’ll eat a good salad and a bowl full of broccoli cheddar soup.

2. The boy loves tech.

Video gaming, time on the tablet, the phone, the TV. Anything with a flickering screen.

3. The boy loves books.

Being a book-loving mama, this is what makes me most proud of him. Reading a-loud to him and audio books started my boy on liking stories (those not on a screen). He learned how to make a movie of what he was hearing in his mind. Now he reads books on his own. Recently, I peeked over his shoulder and recognized the book he was reading. A classic we listened to on audio book this year—Farmer Boy.

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4. The boy loves LEGOs.

Grown men play with LEGOs. So, it’s okay that he asks for a new set every week (but, I tell him to use the blocks he already has!)

5. The boy loves classical education.

Latin, history, science, English grammar, geography and more, the classical style of learning fits my boy’s way of thinking. This year, we studied U.S. history and all we’ve been through as a nation. It’s opened his eyes to a world that is bigger than the four walls of our own home. And that he is a part of the great timeline of history that still goes on.

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6. The boy loves people.

He may have trouble meeting new people and making and keeping friends, but his heart is full of compassion for human beings made in the image of God. Every time we see a homeless person, he prays for him. When we studied September 11, 2001 and the destruction of the World Trade Center, he cried for all the lives lost. He has wept after realizing he’s the only boy out of our family of four children because his brother lived only a short life.

7.  The boy loves truth.

The Internet can be a scary thing. No telling what our kids can stumble onto. We have clear rules in our family about not getting on the computer when Mom and Dad have not given permission. Our boy couldn’t keep it a secret that he watched something without asking. I’m thankful it was only a kids’ show and that he told us the truth.

8. The boy loves God.

Throughout his childhood, we’ve read the Bible to him, prayed with him, have taken him to church, but I didn’t know if he could grasp spiritual things. Then one day, as I folded laundry, he sat next to me and blurted out, “Mom, I want to become a follower of Jesus Christ.” Stunned, I said, “Okay.” Then my heart overflowed with joy. By the grace of God, he got it! I prayed with him and have seen the fruit of his faith.

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9. The boy loves goodness.

Like any other almost-teen, my boy doesn’t get why anyone would want to harm another human being. He now knows there are people out there who completely lack empathy and do very evil things. He’s learning that we must overcome evil with good. To see change, we must be the gift, the miracle, and the one who changes first. To do right, to be merciful, and not think you’re better than anyone else will change the world. Having three sisters, and a tendency for brotherly teasing, he gets to practice at apologizing everyday.

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10. The boy loves beauty.

He tells me, “Mom, you look beautiful today,” which makes me smile.

Watching films with epic scenery and music are one of his favorite things to do. We listen to John Williams’ soundtracks on family trips.

On our visit to the Morse Museum to view the Louis Comfort Tiffany art collection, he stood in awe at the way stained glass could depict life with such beauty and light.

11. The boy loves creating.

Since he was old enough to answer the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” He’s always said the same thing, “Inventor.” I bought him The Way Things Work, The Way We Work, and The New Way Things Work to hopefully help him generate ideas on which to build.

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12. The boy loves to argue.

Arguing is not a bad thing as long as he’s respectful. It means he’s forming his own ideas about how the world works. It means he’s growing up.

13. The boy loves his friends.

He’s had friends when he was younger. Usually one really good friend for a few years, but then that friend would move away. But lately, it’s been getting harder and harder for him to find friends his own age. Thankfully, he’s made friends in his weekly Social Thinking group at 3 C’s Therapy who all have autism like him.

The point is, he’s growing from being a boy to a man. It may not look totally like other almost-teens, but I’m still proud of him. My heart overflows with motherly love for my boy. I know he’s growing into the man God created him to be. And that’s enough for me.

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Children's Picture Books

Winter Solstice|7 Books to Kick-Off the Season #KidsBooks #HolidayBooks #ChristmasBooks

Mouse (2)Winter solstice in sunny Florida is like most days of the year. Sunny. And maybe even a little warmer than usual! We like to pretend there’s a reason to don our winter hats.

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We decorate our house in winter ways with evergreen spruce and red-striped displays.

011For story time this week, I gathered up the winter-themed books from our shelves and opened the children’s eyes to what wintertime can really be like.

7 Books to Kick-Off the Season

 

1. A Book of Seasons by Alice and Martin Provensen

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Seasons2 (2)My six-year old reader adores this book. She reads, re-reads, and reads it again, gleaning all the nuances of the changing seasons.

2. The Relatives Came by Cynthia Rylant

Relatives (2)We can’t wait for our relatives to come and visit on Christmas day. And not just for the extra presents! Our lives are richer for gathering the generations together, sharing stories, hugs, and being thankful for each time we can see them again.

3. The Big Snow by Berta and Elmer Hader

BigSnow (2)Reading this Caldecott Medal winner, I can almost smell the spruce and shiver from the icy cold. Many of the birds and animals found in this literary treasure are only found north of Florida, unless they are travelling here for the annual winter migration.

4. If You Take a Mouse to The Movies by Laura Numeroff

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My children love reading the “If You Give a _______” series by Laura Numeroff that always end up at back at the beginning.

5. Song of the Stars: A Christmas Story by Sally Lloyd-Jones

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A masterful retelling of the birth of Christ from the perspective of the animals. Sally Lloyd-Jones also wrote the Jesus Storybook Bible, a children’s picture Bible with each story focused on the foreshadowing of the coming King, who is Christ, the Lord.

6. The Ballad of Matthew’s Begats by Andrew Peterson

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Andrew Peterson (one of my favorite musicians) is the writer of the Wingfeather trilogy, singer, songwriter, and now children’s picture book author. I’ve found this book to be a wonderful way to memorize the entire genealogy of Christ with an original song and fun pictures.

7. One Wintry Night by Ruth Bell Graham

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Beloved wife of Billy Graham, Ruth Bell Graham wrote the story of Jesus from creation to His birth in a stable and shares the reason He came from heaven to earth.

In all the hustle and bustle of Christmas shopping, think about adding these wonderful books to your home library. Take a much-needed break to stop and read them a-loud with your children, sharing what Christmas is truly about.

Blog, Children's Picture Books, Middle Grade Fiction (ages 8-12), Special Needs

8 Kids Books to Teach Autism Awareness and Acceptance

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Everywhere I go, it seems, I spot a child who appears to have autism. Maybe having a child of my own on the spectrum makes me more in tune to the signs and symptoms. At the same time, my observations could be a reflection of the new normal for neurodiversity. According to the CDC, in only sixteen years the amount of children being diagnosed has significantly grown from 1 in 150 in the year 2000 to 1 in 68 in 2016.

Thankfully, with more children on the spectrum, there are more therapies, resources, and supports for our kids to succeed than ever before. Books, TV shows, and even movies now highlight people with autism, creating an atmosphere for acceptance.

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With April being Autism Awareness Month, here are eight books that will help teach kids to have greater understanding, empathy, and acceptance for those on the spectrum.

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Smokey the cat after his annual summer shave

All Cats Have Asperger Syndrome by Kathy Hoopman

Our Maine Coon cat, Smokey, doesn’t like to be touched, on the tummy especially! He hears every little noise and loves to squeeze under things (like my bed). Wait, do cats have autism? Could be… The amazon.com best selling book, All Cats Have Asperger Syndrome compares cats to kids on the spectrum and the funny thing is, there are a ton of similarities.

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My Brother Charlie by Holly Robinson Peete

Founder of the HollyRod Foundation, both singer and actress, Peete now adds author to her list of credentials. Having a son with autism inspired her to write about the power of the sibling bond. A sister who has a twin brother with autism recognizes his struggles along with his unique talents and strengths.

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Don’t Call Me Special by Pat Thomas

This book, written in the first look at disabilities series, introduces children to those growing up with special needs. But that’s the thing, being “special” means being singled out. Highlighting the things all kids have in common can be a positive way to help them relate to kids who have physical or learning differences.

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Sensitive Sam: Sam’s Sensory Adventure Has a Happy Ending! by Marla Roth-Fisch

Sam’s sensory sensitivities cause him all sorts of trouble. Witty and engaging, this story is sure to build understanding about the sensory issues involved in having autism.

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Different Like Me: My Book of Autism Heroes by Jennifer Elder

This book takes a look at different people throughout history who had learning differences that lead to amazing discoveries and lasting impacts on the world. Included are Temple Grandin, Lewis Carrol, and Albert Einstein.

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 Art by my fifteen-year-old, April Griese

Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine

This National Book Award winner tells the story of Caitlin, whose sensory sensitivities and difficulties communicating affects her ability to grieve the loss of her brother. Dealing with both the challenges of being a tween on the spectrum and the tragedy of losing her brother through a school shooting, this middle grade novel brings up some heavy realities with grace.

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Styrofoam found in a box helps my son with autism look at the camera

Rules by Cynthia Lord

Children try to figure out the world through observation, by seeing what works and what doesn’t. Catherine keeps a list of rules for her brother with autism to help him to be more normal, but she also keeps unwritten rules for herself. How do you really define what’s normal and what’s not? And, depending on how you look at it, maybe out-of-the-ordinary could mean extraordinary.

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Temple Grandin: How the Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed the World by Sy Montgomery

If you’re looking for a pictorial biography of Temple Grandin, look no further. This book shares how a simple girl with autism grew up to change the world. It may inspire both parents and children to reach for the stars.

 

Blog, Children's Picture Books, Easy Readers, Middle Grade Fiction (ages 8-12)

Meet the Mewest Addition to Our Family & 10 Beloved Dog and Cat Books

dog and catThe most amazing thing happened! After teaching a class in Sunday School, I drove home from church later than the rest of my family. Right there in front of our door was a plate full of cat food.

“Did you find a cat?” I stepped inside and let the door shut.

My husband hugged me. “Some kitten ran right into April’s arms. She left food for it.”

A stray kitten friendly enough to spring into my teenager’s arms? “That cat must be special. Where is it?”

“Gone, I guess.”

Then lo and behold a plaintive mew behind the door. “The cat came back.”

I opened the  door and a little striped kitty jumped in. “Catch her!” I chased the kitten, but my teenage girl pounced on the four-legged intruder before me. “Put her in the bathroom. She might have fleas.”

Then I went to work, scrubbing the cat and dousing her with flea treatment. April and I made a make-shift litter box out of a large Rubbermaid container and we used extra food and water bowls from our other kitty, a Maine Coon named Smokey.

I quarantined the kitten in the bathroom until I could get her to the vet, so she wouldn’t pass on any sicknesses she caught from being outside to Smokey.

“We’re keeping the cat?” asked my husband. Mind you, he makes jokes about turning our Maine Coon into a fur rug.

“She’s a special kitty. I just know it. You said she ran right into April’s arms?”

My husband scratched his chin. “I don’t normally spend much time in the front yard, but I spotted a blue heron and had to get a picture of it. That little kitten was frolicking near the pond across the street. She took one look at April and charged ahead.”

“The cat found her girl and you know it. She’s a gift from above.” I patted his arm. “April has had a rough first year of high school. Our girl needs this cat and this cat needs our girl.”

My husband didn’t argue. He knew there was something special about this kitten. So, now she’s ours and her name is Lizzie.

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Whether cat or dog, pets hold a special place in our hearts. And books about the bond between pets and their owners can be some of the best books for kids. The following are ten pet books that have touched my children’s hearts.

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1. Biscuit by Alyssa Satin Capucilli.

This easy reader series is about the adventures of an adorable puppy named Biscuit. My five-year-old girl can read these stories all on her own. The text is repetitive for easy reading and yet the stories are fun and engaging enough for children to read again and again.

2. Harry the Dirty Dog by Gene Zion.

Having younger children who aren’t especially fond of taking baths, they can totally relate to the story of Harry who doesn’t want to get clean. In the end, Harry decides he’d rather take a bath than be unrecognizable. This classic is sure to be a staple on your child’s bookshelf.

For a version read-aloud by Betty White, click here.

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Cynthia Rylant, the quintessential children’s author on pets, takes fan mail seriously. When my teenage girl was little, she wrote a letter to Mrs. Rylant and one day this postcard appeared in the mail.

3. Brownie and Pearl  series by Cynthia Rylant.

My five-year-old loves this series about a girl named Brownie and her kitty, Pearl. The illustrations are bright and cartoon-like, perfect for capturing the attention of our littlest readers. Brownie and Pearl’s antics had her giggling with each turn of the page.

4. The Old Woman Who Named Things by Cynthia Rylant.

This story had me teary. An old woman lived all alone. She had outlived all her friends. She named her car, her chair, and her house because she refused to name anything that would not last as long as her. Then she met a lost puppy who helped her to open her heart again to love.

5. Henry and Mudge series by Cynthia Rylant.

Mudge is the perfect name for an enormous dog who slobbers and loves on a little boy named Henry. This easy-reader series tells about the adventures a gentle-giant of a dog can have with his boy.

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6. A Traveling Cat by George Ella Lyon.

Boulevard the cat sauntered into her girl’s life and for a time stayed. A touching story about the quick bond between a child and a found feline and learning to accept when a pet runs away and doesn’t come back.

7. Stay! Keeper’s Story by Lois Lowry.

Only Lois Lowry, author of The Giver series, could write a believable story from a dog’s point of view. Sweet, sweet story of the trials and triumphs of being a dog.

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8. Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo.

Opal finds a dog in a Winn-Dixie store, or did the dog find her? Being from the south, I can relate to all the quirky characters in this story. And, Winn-Dixie (the dog) reminds me so much of my dog, Molly who also was found fully grown, smiled like a human, and ran away during an occasional thunder storm.

9. Green Dog: A Mostly True Story by Suzanne Fisher Staples.

This little middle grade fiction novel stole into my heart. For those who’ve had difficult pets that they loved anyway, this book is sure to steal your heart, too.

10. Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls.

Reading this book is a rite of passage for any child. There’s a reason why dogs are called man’s best friend. The bond between a boy and his dogs can be just as strong and true as for human friends.

Having owned many cats and dogs growing up, reading books like these to my children brings back nostalgic feelings about all those furry friends of mine who hold a special place in my heart. Reading these stories can grow compassion for all God’s creatures and a sense of responsibility to take the best care of them. Isn’t that a marvelous thing about a good book? They truly help our kids grow!