Yolanda Keen, The Reading Machine

Hi! My name is Yolanda Keen and I am five years old. I love to sing and play with my dolls. I have a younger brother named Calvin and he cries, a lot! He is three years old. He still acts like a baby sometimes. I don’t because I am a big girl and I can do big girl things like read books and tie my shoes. My mom taught me to do all of the big girl stuff the same as Pinky Dinky Doo.

My mom takes good care of me and my brother. My dad does too but he doesn’t take care of us the way mom does. She makes us grilled cheese sandwiches and colors with us sometimes. She yells a lot, when Calvin and I fight but she hugs us too, especially when we play nice together. She makes us eat our vegetables (yuck!), brush our teeth and read lots of books!

I didn’t like reading at first. I used to cry like Calvin when my mom would make me read, but she would always say that we must read. As a little girl, her grandmother wasn’t allowed to read because her skin was a different color than the people who owned all of the books. I’m not sure what that means but it made mom sad. She told me and Calvin to always respect the ability to read books because now we can learn about anything we want to know.

Now in school I am the best reader in my class. I finished the 100-book challenge and mom still makes me read every day. Now I have read almost 170 books and school isn’t out yet! Ms. Joy, the librarian at my neighborhood library, gave me entry forms for a reading contest so I can win movie tickets for Sherlock Gnomes. I really want to win so I can go to the movies with my friends! While reading I found new books like Mobi Shinobi, Pete the Cat, and Penny and Her Marble. Now, I am a reading machine!

I still like when mom reads to me before bed. She makes the funniest voices and scrunched her face when the bad guys do something bad. My all-time favorite is when she reads The Gruffalo. “Oh help! Oh no, it’s the GRUFFALO!” I gotta go, it’s my snack time! See ya later, alligator! Yolanda giggled as she walked to the kitchen for her afternoon snack.

Transitions in Life

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My youngest child started preschool today. My last born, my last first day of school and I didn’t cry. The reality that my son’s external educational journey has begun is stirring up mixed emotions in me. We’ve waited a long time for this day but now that it’s here I don’t want my baby boy growing up too fast. 

And that’s what it is. Today marks the end of his baby days. The hugs, kisses and snuggles will soon be traded for friends, toys and school crushes. I’m not ready, but I’m preparing. My daughter, who’s going into kindergarten this year, is already writing love letters to some boy from her class last year. Surprisingly, I didn’t react. I listened as she read her letter. I observed my daughter and then reflected on my personality at her age. Damn. She is like me, but bolder. She’s a lot more gutsy than I was at five years old. I feel like time is getting away from me.

This is a very different mental space for me. My children are growing, my parents are aging and I’m in the middle of life’s upward escalator unable to backtrack. Transitions. These moments kind of sneak up on you unexpectedly. But they are necessary. I don’t always like them, but I understand they are catalysts for growth and change. And we all know that change is the only constant.

Top 10 Children’s Books of the Summer

I love reading and so do my young children. Every summer, since they were born, I challenge myself to read 100 books to them. For the previous two summers I was able to read those 100 books in thirty days! That left me exhausted for the month of August so I went back to my original plan of 100 books during the summer. My children get a kick out of going to the library and (now) using their library card to check out books they want me to read to them. I was also able to see which books they really enjoyed, and that led me to compile a list of their favorite books this summer.

10. Where’s Waldo 30th Anniversary Edition

Wheres Waldo coverThe kids enjoyed searching the pages to see who can find Waldo faster than mommy. They looked at Waldo as a giant hide-and-go-seek game inside of a book. Especially when they had to search for the other people. This book made this list because this was a special request after my children played the Where’s Waldo game on YouTube. Once they went through the entire book they were ready to move on to the next story. To help children learn to look at the details and find what’s hidden in plain sight, I would definitely recommend this book!

 

9.Just Saving My Money

Just Saving My Money coverLittle Critter wants to buy a new toy. His parents introduce him to earning money so he can save up for his toy. Will Little Critter save up enough to buy the toy? I introduced the children to the Little Critters with this book. My children know that saving money is a good thing when there are things you want to buy even when they weren’t happy doing it. Reading about the little Critter saving his money to save up for his favorite toy gave them another view on their piggy banks. Now my daughter is thinking of interesting ways to earn and save her money to buy Barbies!

 

 

8. No, David!

No David coverThis is a classic story about a little boy being told NO! quite often because of the antics he gets into as a lovable preschooler. My three year old son enjoyed this book more than my five year old daughter, but David made the list because at story time this book was requested several times.

 

 

 

 

 

7. The Berenstain Bears Are Super Bears!

Berenstain Bears Super Bears coverThe three bear cubs love super heroes, so one day they decide to become super heroes themselves! See what plans they foil and what bad guys they thwart in this funny adventure. My children absolutely adore these little bears. I can’t blame them. I have been a fan of the Berenstain Bears since my childhood and I am happy to see that I was able to share them with my children. I have read quite a few of the Berenstain Bears to my children this summer but this book had them captivated from the cover art! I would have added more but this list is only for the top 10 of this summer. Next summer I may have to add a whole lot more books from this series!

 

 

6. Bee-bim Bop

Bee Bim Bop coverThis is a very lovely book about a girl helping her mom cook her favorite Korean dish for dinner. My children love the rhyming and the pictures. This book even has the recipe for how to make Bee-bim Bop so you can try it yourself! We have this book at home and then my daughter received a copy of it as a prize while participating in the summer reading program at our local library. My son and my daughter love requesting this book at bedtime!

 

 

5. I Broke My Trunk!

I Broke my Trunk coverThis book is another one that is requested quite often by my little ones. The different adventures that Piggie and Elephant get into are hilarious. The story of their friendship is adorable and the story of how Gerald broke his trunk is funny. Surprisingly enough, last summer, neither of my children were to enthusiastic about Piggie and Elephant. Last summer was all about the Pigeon, The Knuffle Bunny and the Cat the Cat series, all by the same author. For the most part, anything by this author (now) is a win for the children!

 

 

4. Should I Share My Ice Cream?

Should I Share My Ice Cream coverGerald has a dilemma. The ice cream truck has come and gone and Piggie was not around. Gerald wonders whether or not he should share his ice cream with Piggie or eat the sweet treat by himself? This book tickled all of us. It also opens the door for discussion about sharing. Another book requested regularly. The Piggie and Elephant series came highly recommended by our librarian last summer. I am glad the children finally started enjoying them.

 

 

 

3. I Love My New Toy!

I Love My New Toy coverPiggie and Elephant are at it again. This time, Piggie has a new toy that she wants to share with Gerald. This story of friendship helps children see different ways to handle situations. The delight on my children’s faces when they run into the children section to select more Piggie and Elephant books is a joy to see. That makes it that much better for reading time when they select the books themselves.

 

 

 

2. The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog!

Pigeon Hotdog coverThis Pigeon is a hilarious ball of energy! My children can’t seem to get enough of this bird! He is very expressive and has been in rotation on our reading list for three summers in a row. The pigeon series is also a recommendation from our librarian. The Pigeon finds a hot dog and just when he’s about to eat it, here comes the Duckling! Will the Pigeon share his delicious find or will he gobble it up with the Duckling watching? This books is entertaining for me as well as my children and I enjoy reading about this Pigeon.

 

1. Don’t Let The Pigeon Drive The Bus!

Pigeon Bus coverFunny! The pigeon dreams of driving a bus one day so when the bus driver steps away for a little bit, the attempts to get permission to drive the bus. Will he fulfill his dream of being a bus driver? This book is my children’s first introduction to Mo Willems and I couldn’t have expected the amount of laughter I received the first time I read this one. This book has been on our reading list for three summers now also. This was also recommended by our librarian. When ever I check out any of the pigeon books my children get excited and want to read the books immediately. The books delight my children so much that I follow Mo Willems on Twitter and recently asked him if any new pigeon books were coming out any time soon.

Listen, my children loved these books plus many more this summer. Don’t take my word on how great these books are, read them to your children and let them decide how much (or little) they enjoy these books. Reading to children now will create a lifetime love of reading.

 

Self-Discovery… Again

I have been away for a little bit… (okay maybe a lot) but I’ve missed you all. I was being crushed by the daily grind of my nine-to-five. Argh! Inspiration has been non-existent for me this last year as the realities of raising small children has tried to smother the creativity out of me. But you guys held firm and I thank you!

By you guys, I mean all of you creative, crafty, unorthodox-thinking, out-of-the-box thinking free spirits. You show up exactly when you’re needed the most, be it on social media or in the super market.

I’ve come out of hibernation and began turning my thoughts back to the creative things because of you guys. Writers, photographers, comedians, actors, strangers, friends, co-workers… all of you have aligned together to drag me out of this dark slump of… reality. I was beginning to believe that putting in ten-twenty years at my current gig would be the greatest thing I could do to ensure my children could grow up without needing anything.

WRONG!

I like my job, it’s a steady paycheck that keeps the lights on and food in our stomachs but you guys have reminded me that there is so much more out here in the land of make-believe and “fake news”. Yeah – I was dying to use that line, hahaha. No, but really.

Now, more than ever, creatives are NEEDED and seeing this need has made me re-think how I want my children to grow up… as creatives. I’ve learned over these last few weeks that I miss going to open mic nights, I miss laughing for no reason, making funny faces…

I want to face my fears and challenge myself and experience that thrill of fear and accomplishment. Just in the last thirty days I have been reacquainted with that thrill. I’ve had to drive a SMART car on I-95, Kelly Drive aka Martin Luther King Jr Drive, and the PA Turnpike for my nine-to-five. Prior to this gig I had not EVER driven on any of these roads in Philadelphia. My co-worker got me on two of them in the same day! And in a SMART car no less! Talk about being scared out of my mind! But that familiar rush of fear mixed with adrenaline kicked in because there was no turning back (I was in the company car) and once I parked back at the job I felt so accomplished. I loved it and had forgotten how good it felt to CONQUER fear.

In your self discovery, what fear(s) have you conquered recently? Answer in the comments.

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A Mother’s Job…

01-11-23-280__180Well, I have been fighting back tears all day today. Happy tears. Tears of joy and acceptance. My little girl is on the road to growing up and growing independent of me. She has started preschool today. Gone are the innocent days of her looking solely to me for her answers. Newly arrived are the days of testing the rules and challenging her limits (more than she already does).

I dropped my daughter off to school this morning half hoping for, but not really, some resemblance of her yehudi first day of preschool1wanting to miss me. Not a screaming fit or anything like that but just some sign that she would miss me during the time that she would be at school. I received a good bye hug and kiss and off she ran to play with her new school mates. Not a glance back was had. Not a ‘mommy don’t go’ like some of the other kids. In a way I guess that means I have raised her to be independent so far and that’s good – right? Could it mean that she couldn’t wait to get away from me and school is a welcomed reprieve? A mother wonders sometimes.

I believe she is courageously independent and well adjusted for a three year old. More wise than her years and in her wisdom, did not cry when I arrived to pick her up this afternoon. She was excited to return home and when I asked about her day she told of some of her adventures with excitement in her eyes and laughter in her voice. She yehudi finished first day of preschoolrecalled that she had meatloaf for lunch and a banana with her breakfast! She told me that a little boy took a red ball from her and the teacher said to him, “Give Yehudi back that red ball!”

Yehudi is asleep now. She is eager to wake up and go back to her school so she can play with her friends some more. She is excited to sing the alphabet song with her peers and to recite the story time rules we have here at home:

  • rule #1 – sit down quietly
  •  rule #2 – put your hands in your lap
  •  rule #3 – listen and enjoy the story

How can you not enjoy story time with easy to remember rules like those? Then on twitter this afternoon I found this inspirational quote to cheer me up. inspirational quotes about daughtersWell, it’s time for me to pick out her school clothes for tomorrow and begin to plan toddler activities for Chava for this school year. He’s one now but he’ll be three and headed to preschool before I can blink!