Shout out to my co-teacher Hannah who found inspiration for our Doodlebugs (a little younger than 2 yo’s) and Seedlings (2 yo’s) classes on Pinterest.
The Doodlebugs made Paper Plate Menorahs by painting paper plates gold, painting a big piece of paper blue (which we cut into candles), and scrunching orange tissue paper to make flames. We stapled the flames and candles to the paper plates and added yarn for hanging.
Yarn Wrapped Menorahs required hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills. The Seedlings wrapped yarn around popsicle sticks to make candles, painted cardboard gold to make menorah bases, brushed glue on flames, and sprinkled glitter on the glue. You know what we found out? Covering glitter with Modge Podge cuts down on glitter shed. Yay!
If you think math is too told for preschoolers, think again! We spent the last few weeks counting candles and flames in addition to going over the calendar and days of the month. When you get to the end of a month, there are a lot of numbers to count. Our little sweethearts are wide-eyed and enthusiastic about the calendar and the songs that go with it.
Preschool is on break for now. When we come back we’ll transition to all-things-winter.
Highlights Foundation Kidlit writer retreats in the Pennsylvania Pocono Mountains are said to be magical. I’d head the campus is a place where editors and agents take the time to read and discuss the writers’ work, publishers and writers support each other in their joined goal of creating quality stories for children, there’s space and time to write, imagination is nurtured, and the food is excellent. One writer-friend told me a retreat changed the course of her career.
I’d also been told poems were “written” in the Word Garden, but had no idea what that was. In October, when I attended the “Jewish Symposium 2022: An In-Community Experience for Jewish Creatives,” I found the place where words are engraved into hundreds, if not thousands, of smooth, round stones. There, amongst the nouns, adjectives, prepositions, and verbs, sit “tables” made of flat-topped boulders—surfaces on which to create and communicate associations, poems, stories, wishes, and dreams.
Truthfully, hon, the Word Garden made me emotional. It felt like the words were pleading with me. They wanted to be lifted from the piles, combined with other words, and formed into something funny, catchy, quirky, or meaningful. Something all their own.
It felt like the smooth stones with grey and black engraving wanted what my own words want–to be known as stories that are lyrical, honest, beautiful, and wonderful. Stories which can be read over and over, and each time reveal a little more magic.
When I was ten years-old, I started attending a Girl Scouts sleep-away camp in Shadowbrook, MD. Upon arrival, we were told we could be called whatever name we wanted. My counselors were Clover and Honey, and I asked to be called “Flower.” Thereafter, in the summers I spent at Shadowbrook, I was known as “Flower.” No one knew my other name and I preferred it that way.
As “Flower,” I was free and happy and curious and independent and adventurous. I made friends with the other girls, and also the raccoon who woke me up in the middle of the night when it stood on my chest and spoke to me with its shiny, black eyes. I said hi to the daddy long legs who climbed over my sleeping bag as I slept under the stars. I practically touched the constellations which lit up a dark, wild grasses-filled meadow. I swam every morning at dawn with the Polar Bear Club, tracked animal footprints while hiking in the woods, cooked over an open fire, learned how to use my Swiss Army Knife, and helped out in the mess hall and wherever else I was needed. I wasn’t afraid of the dark or the cemetery adjacent to the camp. I belted out the words to the “The Littlest Worm” and other songs. No one told me to shut up. Or worse. At Shadowbrook, I didn’t have to pretend to be a mouse. I was a lion.
As sweet as a flower, but as strong and brave as a lion.I was who I was meant to be.
When I started writing and illustrating my own picture books, also as a ten year-old, my pen name was “Flower Milsten.” Flower was with me in the Word Garden.
Here and now,
must make it through
the thicket of bramble
in order to
succeed in finding
light and water and wind.
It’s the word people say to me (“You must have a lot of energy” referring to my four children) (“Where do you get all of that energy?” referring to my passions and interests) (“You’re high-energy, aren’t you?” referring to my aura, but not meant in a nice way).
It’s the word I use to describe how I raised those four children along with many other children–on snow days, half-days, and random days off. I filled my car and we drove to the beach, headed to a mountain to ski, rode the train to the city, invited kids to spend a vacation with us, and was “the house.”
And all along the way, I put my mental and physical energy towards writing Kidlit.
Over the last year, I’ve given a lot of thought to the word, concept and reality–where do we put it, how are we using it, is it going to our pursuits and passions, or are we squandering it on unimportant things? We must focus on health, family, and work, but where do we fit in, carve out time, and make a priority our pursuits and passions? Until they become a reality?
A group of moms was catching up, and I said how proud I am of my children. One of my daughters recently moved into her own pre-war, one-bedroom apartment in Manhattan and I am so impressed by her ambition, hard work and determination.
Me: “She’s a rock star!”
Other Mom: “We should not be telling our kids that they’re rock stars!”
Other Mom: “We have to teach our kids how to be resilient! Things will not always work out for them. There will be times they didn’tget that job or were passed up for a promotion because it went to the boss’s relative! Or they’ll have to live at home while they’re saving money! Or they’ll have health issues. Lots of things in life won’t go their way! We have to teach them how to deal with them!”
Me:thinking—This mom has gone through a horrible tragedy in her immediate family so, although I was taken aback, I listened and saidonly…
Me: “You’re right.”
After the gathering, I felt angry and indignant about Other Mom’s words. But they stuck with me.
The more I think about Other Mom, the more I realize she was right.
I know many things won’t go the way my kids had hoped for. As in the times they already haven’t, when they’re faced with disappointments, hard situations, heartbreak, health issues, and death, we’ll discuss how to deal with them, how to process feelings, where to get help, and the ways in which we can support each other emotionally and practically.
But, hon, I want to tell Other Mom that when things do go they way we hoped, dreamed, wished for and worked hard for, in that moment, it is okay to feel like a rock star!
There we were, hiking down a trail in Meyer Ranch, Colorado this summer, when we came upon a meadow with the largest dandelions I’d ever seen. It’s like the universe was saying, “Hon, writing and publishing Kidlit is such a herculean ask, you need wishes big enough, loud enough, and strong enough to be carried all the way from the Rocky Mountains to the East Coast. Take a deep breath and blow!”
Turns out the palm-sized puffballs aren’t dandelions, but Western Salsify whose flowers looks like a yellow daisies. Soon after, we met the infamous llamas, Stardust and OnFire, and that chance meeting was even more spectacular than hiking in the Rockies, discovering golfball-sized dandelion lookalikes, listening to the click-click-click of a flying grasshopper, passing an elderly man hiking uphill with a cannula and portable oxygen, and saying hi to many happy dogs with their people.
Then, a week ago I was on a run and stopped mid-stride to take a pic. I asked the homeowner if he’d put “Don’t Give Up” out just for me and he said, “If that’s what you need…”
It is. It’s what I need.
So, in an effort to take a deep breath and blow my wishes and energy and thoughts and words and characters and layers and stories all the way from my imagination to the page to childrens’ imaginations, I’m posting a series called Sorbet for the Soul–photos and sentiments along with literal and figurative signs which beg for my attention.
Maybe if I take a moment to blow giant wishes and absorb messages and do the thing that informs my life–finding the extraordinary in the ordinary–my herculean ask will one day soon come to fruition.
Theresa, critique-partner, writer-friend, and fellow triplets-mom, is getting good press! Time for Kids magazine featured her “How to Write Funny” advice and Highlights for Children Magazine asked her to share some “tips and tricks of the trade.” So cool!
Hon, you know I like to post happy things with occasional contemplations. But.
But my heart is heavy after yet another school shooting amidst a spate of violence in a disease that has infected the United States. Thoughts of horror in classrooms invades my mind and I tell myself to think of the ocean, the forest, the mountains and sky.
Throughout the year at the preschool, we drill for emergencies: fire, shelter-in-place, and active shooter. The morning after the tragedy in Uvalde, Texas we drilled.
My co-teacher had taken three children to the bathroom, so I was alone in the classroom with six two year-olds when we were heard “Active shooter in the building!” Should we stay in the classroom or run?
I blacked out the window on our door, bolted the door, and told my kids to get down and stay quiet. It was hard for them. Was Miss Naomi serious? She never speaks in that tone. My tone said Now! I mean it! Shhh!
As soon it seemed safer to run, we did. My toddlers are little and their wobbly legs can’t run fast without tripping and falling. I scooped up one, held hands with three, and teachers who were running with their students through my classroom scooped up the others and ran holding them.
We gathered outside. One teacher didn’t know it was a drill.
The critique from our security guard? Run much, much farther.
I posted the video of the New York City Children’s Choir singing Holy Night December 15, 2012, the day after the horrific Sandy Hook School tragedy. At the time, my youngest wanted to know if December 14 would become a national day of mourning. We’d have to add February 14 for Parkland and many more.
I can’t stop thinking about the precious children whose eyes tear up when they look at their teachers for reassurance. Is this a drill or real?
The Mother’s Day cards my preschoolers made are sooooo cute! One class decorated their cards with flowers and the other with hearts. Although me and my co-teacher assembled the cards, the two and three year-olds participated by painting, coloring and letting us know what they love most about their moms. These Mother’s Day cards are quick and easy to create, and they translate easily into cards for other people and holidays–think Father’s Day, grandparents, note to teachers, caregivers, etc.
Flower Card Supplies:
non-toxic paint in two colors–green and whatever color the flower will be
Flower Cards Directions:
Fold construction paper in half. Inside, write personalized note in marker. Child colors inside of note with crayons.
Paint child’s hand the flower color. Make a handprint on front of card. Wash hand.
Paint a separate piece of paper green. Let dry.
When green paper is dry, cut out two leaves. Draw stem. Glue leaves to base of stem.
Write or print out, “Your love and care helps me bloom.”
Heart Card Supplies:
construction paper in two colors
Heart Card Directions:
Fold construction paper in half. Inside, write personalized note in marker. Child colors inside of note with crayons.
Cut a heart out of contrasting construction paper. Child color with markers.
Glue heart to front of card.
Write or print out, “I love you with all my heart.”
Both my two year-old class and not-quite-two kiddos loved exploring ice. Some were tentative about touching it and some reached right in. Each child had his/her own tray of ice in addition to the large tray. What does it feel like? What does it do when it’s being held? What’s dripping on the floor? Is it hard or soft? And what sound does it make when you shake the tray? So fun!
Directly related to exploring ice is Ice Painting. Though Ice Painting may seem like a winter-only Easy DIY Kids Activity, it’s a great science-related lesson any time of year–think water/ice, liquid/solid, and hot/cold. Here’s what you need:
watercolor paints or food coloring
Add either watercolor paint or food coloring to water and stir.
Pour colored water into ice tray. Set craft sticks in ice tray sections. Freeze.
Pop sections out of ice tray and paint with “ice paint.”
Note: Ice paint will melt as it’s being used which adds to the experience. Partly used sections may be re-frozen and used again.