Archive for ‘Parenting Article’

February 10, 2014

Tooth Fairy Pillows & Kissy Lips

by Katherine Higgs-Coulthard  38-FE3-KathyHiggs-Coulthard

My daughters were supposed to be brushing their teeth and getting ready for bed. Instead, they were ransacking the bookshelf. The youngest, Hannah, cried while Laura murmured words of comfort. As I approached the doorway, the words “She won’t forget. It’s a tradition” stopped me in my tracks.

Although the “she” must mean me, I could not imagine what tradition Laura expected me to remember.

I silently cursed Laura’s second-grade teacher. Traditions were a big focus of her family heritage unit each year. With two older children, it was a project I had come to dread. Many families could trace their lineage back to Germany or Sweden, Japan or Africa. Their children made cute little cutouts, decked out in cultural regalia. Presentations involved tea ceremonies and recipes for Wiener schnitzel.

My ancestors had not kept track of lineage. And, as for tradition . . . well, did watching football and eating turkey on Thanksgiving count?

Luckily, my husband’s family is English and Irish. They have whole books on their family history. So far, our children always survived the heritage unit, even if their family trees were a bit lopsided.

Laura’s comment about traditions must have meant the cursed unit was upon us. What tradition could be relevant at 8:30 on a school night? The beginning of February didn’t exactly call for Easter eggs or a candlelit Mass. It wasn’t anyone’s birthday. Sparklers were reserved for July; costumes for October. I still had a few weeks until Valentine’s Day.

By the time I entered Hannah’s room, the girls were cuddled together in bed. They scooted over to make room for me. Hannah’s gap-toothed grin accentuated the air of expectation. “Ready, Momma?” Laura asked.

Just as I was about to break down and admit that I apparently had forgotten some vital family tradition, Katie ran in and plopped a book on my lap: “The Real Story of the Tooth Fairy.” In her other hand she held a lace-pocketed pillow. “You can use mine, Hannah. Mommy’s still working on yours.” She gave a grown-up wink, indicating she knew that I hadn’t even bought the fabric yet.
After tucking Hannah’s tooth into its little pink pocket, Katie snuggled in with us. I gave her a special hug.

At 14, she is already aware of something I hadn’t realized: Tradition is not always spelled with a capital T. It’s the little things, quirky family rituals, that mean the most — not just to children, but to us all.

The next day, I brought up the subject over breakfast, asking the children what other traditions we had.
They all shouted ideas at once.
Hannah: “Catching snowflakes on our tongues.”
Katie: “Family game night.”
Laura: “Birthday candles in our Pop-Tarts.” (Okay, so this is not the most healthy of traditions.)
“Dad’s haunted trail.” This from our teenage son, Chris.

The list grew and grew. Christmas stories with Dad, gingerbread with Grandma, Frisbee golf with Uncle Jerry. Snow cream and snowball fights with one grandpa, putt-putt with the other.

As they named all of the ways our family stayed close, I realized many of the traditions had been initiated not by me or my husband, but by one of the children.

It was Katie who suggested last Thanksgiving that we create small gift boxes out of wood for each family member. In them we put little notes praising each other for our contributions to the family.

In kindergarten our son, Chris, told us about St. Nicholas. If it weren’t for his enthusiasm, we would never have known to leave our shoes on the stairwell each Dec. 6, so St. Nick could fill them with treats.

Laura’s tradition involves planting a tree each Arbor Day. That, and sneaking Nana’s cream wafers faster than they come out of the oven.

Hannah, young as she is, has already influenced our family to put “kissy lips” on all the mirrors every Valentine’s Day.

If tradition is the glue that binds families, we’ve concocted our own adhesive out of flour and water, so that we are the sum of the little moments we create together. And while Tooth Fairy pillows and kissy lips may not be as exotic as tea ceremonies and Wiener schnitzel, they define our family better than any hand-me-down ritual.

A few Tooth Fairy Books:

night before tooth fairyTitle: 
The Night Before the Tooth Fairy
Author: Natasha Wing
Illustrator: Barbara Johansen Newman
Genre: Picture book

Title: What Does the Tooth Fairy Do with Our Teeth?what does tooth Fairy
Author:
Denise Barry
Illustrator: Andy Boerger
Genre: Picture book

Ask your children what your family’s traditions are? Surprised by their answers?

November 13, 2013

Reading with Dad

Hi! Check out these great ideas by Jake Ball (bio at the end of the post), and settle down with a book and a dad. (Or, as he indicates below, DON’T settle down, but still read.) 

Books and Reading Time with Dad

Reading has traditionally been an activity young children do with Mom.  However, in so many families reading can fall down the priorities list with both Mom and Dad working outside the home or if Mom and Dad are not together.

It is critical for Dad to be engaged in the effort of creating a healthy reading environment in the home.  Kids look up to Dad, just as they do Mom.  When they see both of their parents involved in literacy activities, it helps them develop a strong love of reading.

Dad reads differently than Moms

Dads tend to have a greater ability to be silly with their kids.  We are more in touch with their 12-year-old self. It’s true, whether we want to admit or not!  Dads are often the ones rolling down the hill with their kids or putting things on their head in the grocery store.  Keep that silliness alive even when you are cuddled up on the couch reading with your kids.

Read with funny voices and accents for each character.  Use costumes and puppets. Get off the couch and recreate the action of the story.  Injecting energy and enthusiasm in the story will make reading time with Dad an event not to be missed!

Father-child bonding time

Having that intimate time with your children is crucial and should be cherished. Read without distractions.  Turn off the TV and leave your phone in another room. Instead immerse yourself in the moment.  Texts and emails can wait – focus on the time you have together.  This strengths your bond and shows your children how special they are to you.

How to set the tone in the home

Make reading a priority.  Treat reading time as any other task or appointment on your schedule.  It is just as, if not more, important than anything other commitment you have.  There is always at least 15 minutes to pick up a book and read with your child.

Seeing how important it is to you will boost their self-confidence and motivate them to pick up a book. Dads have such a great influence on their kids – if you love reading, chances are they will too.

So Dad, pick up a book and share in the wonderful experience of reading with your children.  Read with enthusiasm and without distractions.  Put away your phone and turn off the TV. Below are a few selections for that are wonderful you, Dad, to read with your little ones.  Cuddle up with your kids for

hoponpoppigletHop on Pop – Dr. Seuss

Dads can never go wrong with Dr. Seuss. They are always fun to read, for parents and kids alike. The simple, silly rhymes are perfect for beginning readers.

Piglet and Papa – Margaret Wild

This heartwarming tale of parental forgiveness and unconditional love is a wonderful story for dads to read to their children.  Little Piglet has upset her father and wonders if he still loves her.  She feels unloved and seeks reassurance from other animals in the barnyard, learning that no one love her more than papa.  Piglets loving relationship with her papa will comfort any child who has ever been naughty for attention.

owlmoon

guesshowmuch

Owl Moon– Jane Yolen

This book demonstrates to your little one the importance of family time.  It poetically tells the story of a father and daughter going out into the woods one snowy night in search of an owl.  The little girl is so happy to finally go “owling” with her dad that she doesn’t mind if they never find an owl.

Guess How Much I Love You– Sam McBratney

No collection is complete without this sweet and touching little book.  It is a favorite in many homes and can choke up the toughest of dads.

About the Author:

Jake Ball started childrensbookstore.com in 2006 after realizing that there was no website that was a truly independent bookstore that is 100% dedicated to juvenile literature. He loves engaging with the authors, illustrators and publishers who work hard to produce high quality children’s literature. Jake and his wife have 4 beautiful children. These poor children are often used as product testers and they have more books than might be considered healthy.

June 3, 2013

Putting Down Roots

kathy headshotHi! I’m so excited to introduce Kathy Higgs-Coultard, who is a new contributing writer for The Family That Reads Together. This post is great timing for me as my son and I just planted our first garden; we will see how THAT goes. Kathy’s writing will be featured on the 2nd Monday of each month. Kathy’s contributions will mainly focus on the traditions, (mis)adventures, and discoveries she’s experienced while raising her four children to be voracious readers and writers. You can read more about Kathy at our about the authors page or visit her at Write with Kathy.

Putting Down Roots

I have never been much of a gardener.  I think the problem stems from my love/hate relationship with plants—I love them, they hate me. No matter how much care and attention I give a plant, it always dies. So when we decided to transplant our four children from Forest Hills–a subdivision dominated by pachysandra, myrtle, and impatiens, to a new home on two acres of wooded property, I panicked. Especially when Laura (then six) announced, “Now we can finally have a garden.” Her face was so bright and hopeful, I did what any good mom would do. I lied. “Yes, sweetie,” I said, “a garden. We can do that.”

To my defense, I did not intend it to be a lie. Laura and I researched plants and chose those best suited to shady areas. We fertilized. We watered. We prayed. We really, really tried. But the hostas we used as a border along the back of the yard were nibbled down to nubs. The tulips we planted in a mulch bed were gnawed to nothing. And the purple azeala Laura loved withered to barren sticks when some creature burrowed under it. “Why does everything I love die?” Laura asked.

I knew how she felt. I’d begun to wonder if maybe Mother Nature herself hated me. It was possible that she still held a grudge from that time I cut every bud off my grandmother’s rosebush and used them to frost a mud pie. Maybe Mother Nature had sicced her forest friends on our garden.

Then, in the serendipitous way things always seem to happen, I came upon one of my favorite childhood stories while leading a book drive. “I loved this book,” I told Laura, showing her the cover of Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. She liberated it from the pile and insisted we begin reading it that night.

Night after night we worried over Mrs. Frisby’s plight to move her sick child before the farmer could plow up her home. When we got to the part where Mrs. Frisby goes to visit the rats living under the rosebush, Laura jumped up and yelled, “That’s what happened to the azeala!” To test her theory, she set up an observation station by the picture window overlooking the backyard. It took a few weeks of on and off again observing for us to learn that it wasn’t rats living under our azeala, but hosta-eating rabbits. We also discovered that deer enjoy a tulip or two in the evening. Most impressive were the variety of birds flitting through to snag berries off the wild bushes at the wood’s edge. We even spied a family of wild turkeys, although they seemed more interested in using our yard as a shortcut to somewhere else than a feeding ground.

“We need to go back to the garden guy,” Laura announced when we talked about her findings. I nodded. Tim would be able to give us tips on protecting our garden from our furry friends. But Laura shook her head. “No! We need to find out what other animals eat and plant that, too! Maybe we could see opossums, and raccoons, and unicorns.”

Oh my.

mrsfrisbyTitle: Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH
Author: Robert C. O’Brien
Genre: Adventure, Science Fiction
Ages: Listening 5 yrs and up; Independent 8 and up

1972 Newbery Medal Winner. Although some older books do not capture the attention of today’s children, this book pulled my kids right in and held them enthralled as they worried for Timothy’s health and Mrs. Frisby’s safety. Side note: O’Brien’s daughter wrote two sequels to this book.

touchabutterflyTitle: Touch a Butterfly: Wildlife Gardening with Kids
Author: April Pulley Sayre
Genre: Nonfiction
Ages: Adult

Beautiful—in photos and lyrical language, April invites parents to create nature adventures in our own yards. From helping readers understand the necessary components of a habitat to providing advice on how to build a low maintenance, sustainable environment for wildlife, April encourages all to approach wildlife gardening with confidence and to include their children in the adventure.

What about you? Do you have gardening attempts to share? Successful or otherwise?

April 13, 2012

I’m buying my own mother’s day present this year!

I’ve always tinkered with writing: I have notebooks full of poems and essays from high school, college, and even yesterday. But I never really considered it seriously until one fairly awful trip through airport security after 9/11. It wasn’t pretty. As I started to think about my experience on the way home, I took out my laptop and typed an essay: an essay, I thought, that like all my other essays would just get filed away for my own pleasure.

But then on a whim, I edited it and sent that essay to the Christian Science Monitor. And what do you know? They published it! Well, many articles and essay submissions later, I’ve learned that the odds aren’t always that good.

But recently I found another break: an essay I submitted to the radio show This I Believe many years ago was to be included in their newest book of essays called This I Believe: On Motherhood. I held my breath throughout the entire editing and publishing process, expecting something to wrong, but it didn’t. And now, the book is out in stores and I’m so excited!

So if you get it definitely check out the essay “Motherhood Is Real” by yours truly on page 161. And then buy an extra for a mother you know–it makes a great Mother’s Day gift!

You can get it at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or an indie bookstore near you!

February 20, 2012

Girls in the math and sciences

Why are girls in America still falling behind in the sciences and choosing scientific careers so much less often than men? I look at some of these issues in an article published recently in Northstate Parent.

To read more articles I’ve published, check out this list here.

February 13, 2012

Sexual Harassment in Schools

Are kids being sexually harassed by their peers a lot more than we think? And what are the consequences? After reading a report by the AAUW, I talk about these issues in an article published in ParentMap magazine.

To read more articles I’ve published, check out this list here.

February 6, 2012

Procrastinate much?

I remember the first time procrastination caught up with me in a big way. 7th grade. Native American Indian paper. A late night. Two not very happy and tired parents.

I remember this night, and give you some advice in case you see this tendency in your own children, in an article published in Northstate Parent.

If you want to read other articles I’ve published, check out this page.