Teaching My Baby To Read

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Monthly Archives: August 2012

“Zoe Gets Ready” meet “Ladybug Girl”

A few posts ago I did a mash-up about Equiano and Manjiro. That got me to thinking about presenting books for children in pairs. It’s kind of fun! So here is another dynamic duo for you…

If you have a little girl who loves to try on clothes then Zoe Gets Ready by Bethanie Murguia will be painfully familiar. I can really relate to Zoe’s mom, and Jenna responded instantly to Zoe.  (Seriously,  my daughter changes her outfits at least six times a day. It’s like we live in “Downton Abbey” or something.)

Zoe Gets Ready reminded me a bunch of Ladybug Girl by David Somar and Jackie Davis. Both books are about imagination, possibility and the power of accessorizing. Jenna’s favorite part of Ladybug Girl is the inside cover that shows Lulu wearing all of her different costumes. She always gets hung up on the Lulu that looks like Gloria Steinem. That’s Lulu’s “movie star” outfit…(I think).

For the hero mom next to you at swimming lessons…

I’ve got news!

Sadly, this is my last “I Brake for Moms” column for the Weekly Herald. 😦

As I’ve said before, I have been enormously proud to be part of the Weekly Herald because it has been such a meaningful addition to Edmonds, Lynnwood and Mountlake Terrace.

The good news is that starting next Monday “I Brake for Moms” will be in The Daily Herald which serves all of Everett and Snohomish Counties!

And…um… maybe I ought to explain this picture. No, I have not suddenly joined the Seattle Mariners. But yes, I am sitting in their press room. For some reason when all 80 of us Stanford alumni were waiting for Chuck Armstrong to come talk to us a couple of weeks ago, I was the only one crazy enough to run up there and have my husband snap a picture. Of course, my husband didn’t need a picture to prove that I was crazy!

Free Phonics Game For Kids

This game is called Put Your Socks and Shoes On, and it originally hails from the Teachers Guide to the Third Grade Open Court curriculum I used when I was a teacher in East Palo Alto, CA.

The great thing about this game is that it is simple and free to make.  Just cut out some “socks” out of construction paper and add some “shoes” to go with them.  My version is pretty basic, but if you were more artistic you could really jazz this one up.

Laminating would be a must for a classroom or large family, but since it is just Jenna(3) and I playing, our paper is au natural.

Is it gimmicky?  You bet!  That’s why little kids love it.

Watson Lakes and Anderson Butte

My husband and Bruce(7) just got back from a two day backpacking trip to Watson Lakes today. Thankfully my husband remembered to back both of Bruce’s boots this time, so unlike last year, our son did not have to hike six miles in a boot and flip-flop.

For all of you urban dwellers who never get to see any mountains, there’s Mt. Baker in the distance.

There was plenty of opportunity for fishing, swimming…

… and hiking.  This is from the top of Anderson Butte.

The Pacific Northwest is a pretty awesome place to raise kids.

Why your children should meet Manjiro and Equiano

Two stories; both true; both about young boys separated from family and homeland by racism, cruelty and ignorance. I am talking of course, about Heart of a Samurai by Margi Preus and The Kidnapped Prince: The Life of Olaudah Equiano by Ann Cameron.

Nakahama Manjiro and Olaudah Equiano are real life heroes that young children can aspire to. Not only did they manage to stay alive under extraordinarily difficult circumstances, but they used their words and talents to make a difference in the world around them.

I’ve been thinking about both stories lately because I’m pondering creating two new Afterschooling reading lists for children. One would focus on Asian American literature, and the other would be African American literature. If you have any must-reads for either of these lists, please let me know.

Jackson Pollock for kids

Here’s the next to the last “Art on Monday” activity from my A STEM Summer plans. (When life gets less crazy I’ll go back and update the rest, so they will be all ready to go for people next June.)

Today’s activity from Irene Luxbacher’s book 123 I Can Paint, was definitely Jackson Pollock inspired. Thankfully the weather cooperated and we could do this project outside. First we taped off sections of our paper, and then we splattered away. The vocabulary word of the day was “technique”.

Things got really messy! It’s been a long time since I have had to physically carry my son Bruce(7) up to the bath, but I did not want to get paint on my white carpet.  Jenna(3) even had paint in her hair!

But all of that mess was worth it, because we had so much fun.

Normally I share who painted each piece, but this time I’ll let you guess!

Summer in the Pacific Northwest

Too bad it is not “Wordless Wednesday”. But then again, who am I kidding? I am horrible at Wordless Wednesdays.

This shot is for all of my viewers from Texas, Oklahoma, and Florida. It is Friday, August 24th and 62 degrees inside my house. And no, we do not have air conditioning.  For us, summer was a few days that happened a couple of weeks ago.

For the Sandwich Generation

Today was a very deep day.

First, my children and I visited an elderly relative who lives in Merrill Gardens. Every time I have visited Merrill Gardens I have been highly impressed by the cleanliness and care the residents receive there. But then I came home and read Special Exits and started worrying.

Joyce Farmer’s Graphic memoir made me almost sick to my stomach. (But I mean that as a compliment.) It deals with ageing, elder abuse, care of the dying, and dignity in death. The realism in this book is gut wrenching. At the same time, there is a small thread of comfort, as if you are talking to a friend.

Farmer sets the book in the early 1990s, around the time of the Rodney King riots. Twenty years ago means this is a setting before people had ready access to the internet. I can only hope that Google, YouTube, and Facebook are making a small difference in the care people receive in convalescent hospitals today. If one of my loved ones received a bed sore down to the bone, I would make sure that the entire universe knew about it.

I hope that writing this memoir helped give Ms. Farmer some healing in regards to her parents’ last four years. I was crying right along with her, because the pain was so real.

By pure coincidence however, I had also checked out a picture book from the library for my kids on the same subject!

Getting to Know Ruben Plotnic by Roz Rosenbluth is about how a young boy feels having his Grandmother Rosie live with his family at home, even though she is dealing with severe dementia. This story had a much happier ending, even though illustrator Maurie J. Manning did an amazing job painting visible pain on the parents’ faces. My three year old may not have noticed, but I did.

After reading both books in the same day I was really shaken. (Enough so that it seemed worthy of a blog post.) There are a lot of childhood memories floating around in my mind right now that I won’t share. But I would like both authors to know that I think their work is brilliant.

Trying to make tantrums fun…

Get ready to ROCK!  Here is my I Brake for Moms column this week in The Weekly Herald.

August in the Garden

What you are seeing are beans, beets, chard, asparagus, nasturtiums, tomatoes, and pumpkin.

We also are getting artichokes…

…and peas.

I don’t know if you can tell from the pictures, but we have really big cedar trees in our yard, so there is never very much sun.  That makes tomatoes very difficult to ripen.  So far we haven’t had any yet, but we do have some killer green ones.

The big question would be “Are we saving any money by growing a garden?” That answer would be NO!  But it is a lot of fun.  🙂

Jackson the Iron-Willed Commander

Get ready, because I am going to make all of my Tennessee ancestors roll in their graves. My opinions about Jackson The Iron-Willed Commander by Paul Vickery, which I received a free copy of from Booksneeze, would probably make most Tennessee folks upset.

The book itself is well written and informative. It follows a quick pace but still manages to educate. It is part of a series of books called “The Generals”, of which I have also read the volumes on Sherman and Pershing. So far, the whole series seems to be really dependable in terms of quality and educational value. They also are great books to give your father-in-law for Christmas, so keep that in mind if Grandpa is hard to shop for!

My issue with the Andrew Jackson book has nothing to do with the actual writing, but entirely to do with Andrew Jackson himself. I know it is tricky to judge past people by the standards or today, but whoa! I had no idea our former president was such a hot-head and rash decision maker. I do not find his actions in the Creek War to be brave and inspiring like the author Paul Vickery seems to suggest. I think that if anything, Andrew Jackson was guilty of conducting war crimes against humanity in his treatment of the Creek people. Then at the end of all of it, he betrayed the Creeks who were friendly to him by taking away half their land!

There was also an incident where one of his young soldiers named John Woods was really freaking out and disobeying orders, so Jackson had the young man executed quite quickly. Reading about this through my 2012 goggles, I can’t help but wonder if the young man had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

So there you go Tennessee ancestors. I totally disavow your hero. Thank goodness Old Hickory isn’t up for election today, because I would gladly take either Romney or Obamma over Andrew Jackson, any day of the year (or in any century).

I review for BookSneeze®

Understanding World Religions in 15 Minutes a Day

I received a complimentary copy of Garry R. Morgan’s Understanding World Religions in 15 Minutes a Day from Bethany House in exchange for my honest opinions and review. (Honestly, I am usually such a harsh critic of all Bethany House books that I am surprised that they keep sending me free copies of their books. That must speak volumes about the integrity of their PR department.) But I digress.

This latest title is a real winner in my opinion. It is shockingly neutral, fair-minded, and well researched. I learned a lot from reading it, especially the section on Zoroastrianism, which I had never heard about before. I’m surprised that Spell-Check even recognized it!

I think that even secular homeschooling families would appreciate this book, for eighth graders and above. Professor Morgan does really a nice job of covering the essential facts, without sounding biased. You could turn your teenager loose on this book, and not worry about him or her being converted.

Of course, if I was going to impose my own bias on this review, I would add that Professor Morgan might have chosen to mention John Wesley. 😉

My Mariners “Play Ball” Boy

Last night we had the most amazing experience that I think I’m going to have to break my cardinal rule about not sharing pictures of children’s faces online for just this once.

My husband, Bruce(7), and I all went to see the Mariners play the Twins at Safeco field with the Stanford Club of Washington alumni association. As part of this, we got to meet Chuck Armstrong, the president of the Mariners, as well as Shannon Drayer, the insightful and dedicated Mariners reporter, tweeter, and blogger. We also met Mr. Armstrong’s incredible wife Susan, who was a real pleasure to talk to.

Then, right before the game was about to start, a woman approached my son “Bruce” and asked if he would like to yell out “Play Ball!” on the field, and get the game started! Bruce was really nervous but he said yes.

We all got special passes, and then we headed out onto the field.

We got to see the players warm up, and the umpires come out. Jamey Carroll of the Minnesota Twins shook my son’s hand!

By this point, Bruce was getting super nervous! When the ladies had him practice saying “Play Ball!” he was pretty reserved. Kate was probably thinking she had picked the wrong kid.

But when it came time to perform, Bruce yelled out “Play Ball!” with enough vim and vigor that everyone was really impressed. I was so proud of him, that I can hardly begin to tell you.

Afterwards, we all went up to the box with the other Stanford alumni and ate junk food until we were about to be sick. We also got to cheer the Mariners onto victory over the Twins at the very last second.


The last thing I have to add has nothing to do with sports whatsoever. In the box, I got the chance to talk to a young Stanford alumna who graduated with a degree in Psychology (like me), and who had worked at Bing Nursery School (like me too). Now she works in Olympia for the state of Washington with the goal of improving early learning opportunities for young children in daycare.

I can’t remember this woman’s name, but I had a magical time talking to her.  It was like we could finish each other’s sentences! We had taken classes from all of the same professors, and remembered all of the same experiments. I was greatly impressed with the quality of education she had received as a Psychology major from Stanford, and in that moment, equally grateful for what I had been given too.

A Psychology major might not have equipped either of us to head off into the workforce as high income earners like an Engineering or Computer Science degree might have done, but we were both taking what we had learned at Stanford and using it to try to make a difference in early childhood education; each in our own ways.

So thank you Professors Bandura, Lepper, Gotlieb and so many others, for being our teachers. Thank you also to Mr. and Mrs. Armstrong, Ms. Drayer, and Mr. Carroll for an evening that the Bardsley family will never forget.

A fun way to practice name recognition

Yesterday my three year old found some glitter containers floating around our house. Thank goodness they weren’t opened! She really wanted to use glitter, so we headed outside and turned it into a learning activity to get her ready for preschool this fall.

All I did was write out her name in marker on a piece of construction paper, trace it with glue, and hand the glitter over. Jenna made many, many, many versions of this. Sometimes of the papers had her name on them, some said “Dad”. I tried to confuse her, but she was on to my tricks!

P.S. This activity would also work with beans.

Make your own potpourri

Here’s another fun project the kiddos and I have been doing this summer. Jenna(3) likes to pick flowers anyway, and Bruce(7) likes to rip things up, so I thought “Why now combine those two activities into one?” Now they are both on an almost daily campaign to make potpourri for future Christmas presents.


  • rose petals
  • lavender flowers
  • lavender leaves
  • lemon balm leaves
  • a few dahlia petals for color
  • (or whatever you have in your garden that smells good)


  • Dry the ingredients on a cookie sheet for about a week.
  • Place in jam jar.