Friday, August 01, 2014

friday's five

When I first started writing about children's books on this little blog, I wondered if anyone was ever really going to see the posts. What I present is just a snippet about a handful of books that made me smile or giggle-- books that I enjoyed reading with my own children or others for whom I've cared that I want other adults to share with the kids in their lives. The first time that I heard from an old friend that she had looked for some of the books I had recently recommended, I was so excited. Then it happened a couple other times, and I began to feel like maybe I was having some tiny influence on the reading experiences of some children out there who I'll likely never even meet. That makes me happy. I had a similar interaction today in which a friend asked about books for her two-year-old, saying that she trusts my recommendations implicitly. What a compliment! So when the kids and I went off to the library today, I kept her in mind as I looked through the shelves of new books that I didn't get to last week. I think the five that I'm highlighting today are perfect in both length and complexity for the toddler set, but don't take that to mean that they're overly simple, or exclusively for the youngest of book lovers. Take a look.

1. Nest by Jorey Hurley -- I have a special place in my heart for nature-themed picture books, and ones that make the natural world especially accessible to the youngest of readers delight me. This one is no exception. With just one word on each page, the actual reading time won't be long, but don't think that's the only thing to do with this book. Each page can be discussed as long as a toddler can sustain attention. A passage of time, changes of season, and much of the life cycle of a robin is portrayed in this book, and the illustrations are simple but inviting with bold blocks of color and just enough detail to help propel the basic story. No need to wait until spring to pull this one out, though it will become particularly meaningful if you look for real-life birds and nests after reading it.

2. Cat Says Meow and Other Animalopoeia by Michael Arndt -- What I love best about this book is how it can work on a couple different levels. With a young toddler, I'd approach it pretty straightforwardly reading the text and making the fun animal sounds, maybe with an older 2 or 3 year old, pointing out the letters that help form the illustrations. With my own elementary school age kids, it becomes more of an appreciation of this super cool design idea! The title will make more sense to older kids who may have heard of the literary concept of onomatopoeia, which might just be the kids of language geeks, but whatever. Either way, this book is fun to read, and even more delightful to look at!

3. Big Bug by Henry Cole -- Here's another fabulous example of a seemingly quite simplistic picture book that actually contains some complex ideas! When viewed really up close, a ladybug can look big, until you take a step back and compare it to the leaf it sits upon. Then the ladybug is small, while the leaf is big. But next to the flower towering over it, that leaf is now small, while the flower is big. Following this pattern, size is compared again and again, both from small to big, and then back down to small again with new sets of compared objects and creatures. I read this to a friend's toddler, and I could practically see the wheels turning in her head as she processed the concepts of big and little. It's quite similar in theme to another book I've recently enjoyed and reviewed over on 5 Minutes for Books- You Are (Not) Small by Anna Kang. I love pairing similar books together for reading times to see what young children can notice on their own about the ways they are alike, and these two would work perfectly for that purpose.

4. You Know What I Love? by Lorena Siminovich -- Just look at that cover. How appealing is that to a young child? I know several toddlers, of both genders, who have loveys/dolls/stuffies that are the object of their adoration, and this illustration conveys that love beautifully. The sentiment of the story could be applied to any loved one in a young child's life, but I particularly like how they've illustrated the object of affection as a beloved doll. Parents may get a wee bit weepy (if you're overly emotional, like me, ahem), as they read the statements of love in this book, but with or without tears, this story provides an opportunity for caregivers and children to share the things about each other that they love.

5. Thank You, Octopus by Darren Farrell -- Okay, this is most definitely the wild card in the bunch. It's wacky, it's silly, and it requires a bit of imagination, something that toddlers are just in the beginning stages of developing, but... it's such a funny book, I couldn't help but include it here. Inexplicably, a young boy is cared for by an octopus who appears to be helpful, about every other page. Each declaration he makes seems, at first, to be productive in assisting the boy in getting ready for bedtime. Yet, each is followed up by a second part that totally messes up the process. A warm bath... full of egg salad? Drying him off... with a tuba?? Seriously, I'm a big fan of the silly in this, and I look forward to reading it soon to a particular toddler who I know LOVES when people say ridiculous, out-of-context things. Developing a sense of humor is right up there with the other important milestones in my book, and a story like this helps to introduce a particular type of joking around.

If you happen to come across this and find a book that is a hit with a young'un in your life, I'd love to hear about it!

Happy reading, as always,

Friday, July 25, 2014

friday's five

A happy end-of-the-week to you all! Yesterday saw me and my two younger kids out for our regular Thursday library trip, and while they were off looking for more Boxcar Children, Captain Underpants, and various other chapter books, I strolled over to the "New Releases" section of the picture book area, and I was blown away! It had been two weeks since I browsed the selection on those shelves, but apparently, in that time, my town's library branch had secured at least 60 picture books I hadn't seen there before! I was kicking myself for only bringing a smallish bag when we hopped on the bus, so I knew I was only going to be able to take home a small percentage of the section's offerings. Anyone nearby must have thought I was a lunatic, because I kept oohing and aahing over the titles I was seeing-- some that I had wanted to read but hadn't found yet, and others that I didn't even know had been published. My pile got to a particular size when I knew I had to force myself to stop, even before I had gotten to all the shelves! The total haul was just about 20 books, and today's focus is on five new(ish) releases from some authors and illustrators the kids and I really love.

1. Boom Snot Twitty by Doreen Cronin and illustrated by Renata Liwska -- Though I'm not exactly sure why the snail is named Snot (just the alliterative quality? because he's slimy?), I do like the quiet tone of this book. With that word in the title, I was sort of expecting some of the humor that one would associate with it, but that's not the case here. Instead, it's a story of three friends with very different perspectives on what is fun and interesting, and it chronicles one day of various mishaps and slight adventures, with them all coming together in the end, of course. Liwska's signature illustrative style fits the fuzzy bear and fluffy bird perfectly, and her rendition of a snail is so much adorable than the real life creatures, too.

2. Stella's Starliner by Rosemary Wells -- Okay, I'm going to admit something... I'm not always the biggest fan of Wells' books. Sometimes the story just doesn't flow in a way that I care for, but the illustrations are always delightful, and there's no denying that her books are beloved by many. I hadn't seen her latest book yet, so I grabbed it from the library and upon reading it, I have my usual mixed feelings. There's a bit of an imaginative turn near the story's conclusion that might be a little confusing for some, but overall, I like the book's setting and characters. The conflict presents some good fodder for parent/child conversation, as well, so I think I'll grab my kids and give this one a read to see their take.

3. Hickory Dickory Dog by Alison Murray -- A boy and his adoring dog never fail to make a fun pair, and in this story in the style of the classic nursery rhyme, the dog loyally follows his boy through a typical day, making messes and stirring up excitement, but always wanting to be close to him. As soon as I saw the cover, I immediately remembered how much I adore reading Murray's Apple Pie ABC and One Two That's My Shoe! for group story times, so I know that if I was still setting up a preschool classroom these days, her newest book would be on my classroom library's shelves.

4. This is a Moose by Richard T. Morris and illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld -- I love that Tom Lichtenheld keeps pairing up with authors whose silliness and playful humor match his illustrative style so well. The running gag here is that a director trying to make a documentary about moose keeps getting stymied by the fact that the animals don't really want to play along in the way typical animals are supposed to do. You can't make an informative film about moose when the moose aspires to be an astronaut! And when the other forest animals (and others who are inexplicably there, too) keep defying everyone's expectations for wild animals, the director is about to lose it. But then he comes to a realization that changes the entire project... and brings major laughs.

5. The Troublemaker by Lauren Castillo -- Looking at the cover image of this book, one might come to see the young, sword-wielding boy as a bit of a rascal. But don't judge too quickly, for the title of the book might be referring to another pesky creature nearby. Castillo's pen and ink illustrations never cease to enchant me, and this is the perfect type of book to encourage young readers to pay close attention to the pictures, since they are such an integral part of the story's flow. I did read this one with my kids as we waited for our bus to arrive after we left the library, and though it is likely best geared for younger children, even my rising third grade daughter was giggling as she pointed out what was happening in the background of each page. You can't beat the delightful appeal of these illustrations, and the story definitely entertains.

Happy reading,

that old phrase about having your heart walking around outside your body

I'm pondering that sentiment today over at The DC Moms, my first submission there in, well, let's just say way too long. Everyone knows it's not easy to be a parent, and every stage certainly has its own unique challenges, but I'm starting to feel the sting of being the witness to the tough time that is adolescence...

Peering over the edge of his last descent on the ropes course, I saw uncertainty on my adolescent son’s face through the zoom lens on my camera. He’d just spent the last hour flying through the trees in a manner that I could never, ever picture myself doing. One more leap, and he’d be back on stable ground. Safe, or at least, free of the risks of zooming around on ropes 400 feet above the ground. But since he’s still got about five years left of his time as a teenager, I’m pretty sure I’ll continue to feel as if it’s me up on that platform for at least that amount of time.
You know that old saying about the decision to have children being comparable to choosing to have your heart walk around outside your body? As my oldest child will soon turn 14, I’m understanding this sentiment in a whole new way. But the feeling has changed over the years, and while I don’t care to indulge in over-sentimentality, just hear me out.
To read the rest, please click over to The DC Moms, and feel free to share the post if you feel inclined.

Shamelessly self-promoting,

Monday, July 21, 2014

oompa loompas as parental advice givers {Charlie and the Chocolate Factory's 50th anniversary!}

As a child born in the 1970s, viewing the film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory was an inevitability. I know that I saw it more than once, and sadly, those Oompa Loompas weren't remembered favorably. Perhaps I was more sensitive than the average child, (perhaps?!), but they freaking terrified me. At some point, I got over my fear of orange-tinted, singing, little men. (I haven't risked a trip to the Jersey shore, though, just to be safe.) But as a kid, those Oompa Loompas and the story in which they reside were introduced to me through the 1971 film. In fact, I believe I didn't read Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory until I was an adult and a parent myself, when my oldest was about five or six years old, and he was given a beautiful hardcover copy of it and its sequel, Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator. Unfortunately, that gorgeous book was left behind in a New England diner on a family trip years ago, never to be seen again.

Now my youngest is six years old, and while his older brother read the book with me before he was even born, and his older sister read it with her kindergarten class, his path was similar to my childhood one. He's seen the old movie, enough times to be able to sing along with those Oompa Loompas, but he'd never been read the book. Thanks to the From Left to Write Book Club's feature of Roald Dahl's classic story, just in time for its 50th! anniversary, Pudge and I spent a week or so reading chapters aloud, curled up together at bedtime, lazing on the couch in the afternoon, and even poolside during the break time.

He loved it, though it was not surprising to me that I had to keep correcting him when he'd burst out with another, "But that's not right! That's not what happened in the movie!" Sorry buddy, but this is the original source! Since it had been at least eight or nine years since I had last read it, which is a long time for my aging memory, there were some surprises in store for me, too-- those Oompa Loompas were even harsher in the book than in the movie!

Not being at all talented in the musical department, I couldn't quite come up with a tune for the OL's songs upon the early... um... departure of each of the children, so I mostly just read them aloud with a little more Oomph. ( <--- See what I did there?) But, damn if those OLs weren't just plain giddy as they sang the flaws of the little buggers. Here's the thing, though... was I the only mom reading this thinking that they were voicing the things we've all wanted to say about that kid on the playground or the one we always hear about from school? Just me? Take a look:

On everyone's favorite spoiled, "I want it NOW!" brat, Veruca Salt:
Veruca Salt, the little brute,
Has just gone down the garbage chute,
(And as we very rightly thought
That in a case like this we ought
To see the thing completely through,
We've polished off her parents, too.)
On the child who was the embodiment of gluttony, Augustus Gloop:
Augustus Gloop! Augustus Gloop! The great big greedy nincompoop!
When they were done shaming the "repulsive little bum" children, they turned their finger-wagging at the people responsible for these kids' nasty behaviors. Could it be that the Oompa Loompas saw themselves as parent educators?

Anyone can imagine the gist of the cautionary tale that was Veruca Salt... and that message is one that I've wanted to convey to many a parent over the decade-plus I spent teaching young children. But the one that hit home the closest for me was their strongly toned words in relation to Mike Teavee's television addiction. I mean, c'mon, it's summer time, and I'm home with the kids all day, so it can be oh so very tempting to throw out all the rules about screens. I haven't... yet... but there are still give weeks of summer break to go!

But thanks to those Oompa Loompas, who were likely voicing Roald Dahl's personal passionate beliefs, I'll hang tough with our one hour a day limit for all screens, lest my kids "loll and slop and lounge about, and stare until their eyes pop out." Because, as we book lovers know in our hearts, there is always more to do when the television (and laptops, tablets, and hand-helds) are turned off:
We'll say it very loud and slow:
THEY . . . USED . . . TO . . . READ! They'd READ and READ,
AND READ and READ, and then proceed
To READ some more, Great Scott! Gadzooks!
One half their lives was reading books!
The nursery shelves held books galore!
Books cluttered up the nursery floor!
And in the bedroom, by the bed,
More books were waiting to be read! 
So thank you, Roald Dahl, with special thanks to your often-intimidating Oompa Loompas for the parental advice. I'll try my very best to ensure that the three in my lot will turn out to be moderately-eating, gum-eschewing. charitably-giving, literature-loving people...
... like the Oompa Loompa doompety do.

If you want to add Roald Dahl's classic Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to your own family's library, just click on the title and purchase the paperback from Amazon for under five bucks today!

This post was inspired by the classic Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. To celebrate, Penguin Young Readers Group, in partnership with Dylan’s Candy Bar, the world-famous candy emporium, and First Book, a nonprofit social enterprise that provides books for children from low-income families, is launching a year-long international celebration.
Head over to From Left to Write to learn how you and your child can have a chance to win the Golden Ticket Sweepstakes where the grand prize is a magical trip to New York City plus much more! For every entry submitted, Penguin Young Readers Group will make a donation to First Book. Then, join From Left to Write on July 24 as we discuss Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. As a book club member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

Yours in chocolate,

Sunday, July 20, 2014

on the occasion of meeting Harry Potter for the first time

The place of the middle child is a tough one. Because of the almost six year age difference between our first two children, it's almost as if Red is a first child in her own right, (and she most definitely has the personality traits that are usually associated with firstborn folks, too!). At eight, she's in a stage of new experiences and new freedoms. It isn't always easy, though, since we opted to go the opposite route of child-spacing between her and her younger brother. There are things that are appropriate for her that Pudge is not quite yet ready for, and rather than holding her back until he's ready, we're trying our best to give her those opportunities. This summer, the key experience has involved a lightning bolt scarred little boy by the name of Harry Potter.

Red, meet Harry. Harry, meet Red.

When I handed over Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Red dove in. Sorta. The first chapter apparently did not draw her in immediately, and the book sat in the stack of ongoing readings that she usually has piled up in her room. I don't know exactly what drew her back in, but soon enough she was reading it and whenever we turned around. And then came Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, which she actually read through slowly, and from her excitement in telling me about parts that wowed her, I could tell she was truly paying attention to what she was reading. The same could be said of her reading of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, which she finished by mid-summer. Then she put out her hands for the fourth book, and was none too happy when I told her it was time for a break. I had told her ahead of time that she'd have to wait a little while between three and four, explaining that as Harry Potter gets older, the story gets more intense, and that she needs to get older too before reading on. It just takes her a bit longer to get older than it does for Harry and his friends. She's come to accept this now, and thankfully, there's never a shortage of reading material for her. (Already, The Boxcar Children and the How to Train Your Dragon series are being consumed at a wild rate!)

Anyway, after the books come the movies, of course. I told Red that we'd have to find a time for her brothers to go out with Dad, and we'd pop in the DVD of the first film. For just as I wanted her to first meet Harry on the page, I hope Pudge will want to devour the books on his own someday in the near future, and I don't want to take that first from him either.

In the middle of a weekend day, I can usually be found doing the vacuuming/mopping/spraying/wiping dance, while Hubby often is out and about on various household errands. When he and the boys recently went out to make home improvement store purchases, one of Hubby's most favorite errands of all, they decided to tack on a trip to the baseball fields to play, and though Red was invited, she opted to stay at home with whatever book she was reading at the time. This is how I found myself, on a Saturday afternoon, seated on the couch next to my exuberant eight year old daughter, with our eyes focused on an uber-young bespectacled Daniel Radcliffe for the first time. (Truth be told, I'd never actually seen the first movie either, so it was a day to document.) With a half-cleaned house and a mountain of laundry awaiting folding, I ignored the fact that I was still in my pajamas at 2:30 pm and tried to embrace the moment.

The verdict? Well, it's easy to see from the look on her face.

We ended up having to watch the movie in two sessions, since it's 2.5 hours long! But, when it was over, she had laughed, squealed, hidden her eyes, and cheered. It was a total win, and she thanked me for watching it with her.

And immediately after, she asked me, "So, when can we watch the second movie?"

At Hogwarts once again,

Friday, July 11, 2014

friday's five

(For several years now, I've gone through highs and lows in my blogging patterns. I've been in a low part for a while now, the result of a mixture of life challenges, frustrations with the blog as a platform, and the easiness and accessibility of connecting with folks on Facebook. I honestly don't know what will become of this space, but I'm also trying to take away any self-imposed pressure when I don't feel the urge to write. Anyway, the fancy has struck me tonight, and I realized that it's been much too long since I shared a friday's five pick of picture books. Time to remedy that.)

Yes, like I said back in April, the last time I blogged about picture books (ahem!), my own little ones are not choosing these as their primary reading materials these days. That's not to say that they're not still in prominent places in our home, though. Honestly, we have thousands of picture books of our own and a small domicile, so it's kind of hard to avoid them. Which is just as I like it. And, when I'm watching some friends' children, I make sure to keep up a steady rotation of new library books to keep in our main play area, as well. I'm not one to fall prey to the idea that certain types of books are only for people of particular ages, (yeah, I'm looking at you, Slate, with that utterly stupid article about YA lit), and I believe that picture books can be enjoyed by anyone who can stop to appreciate quality storytelling and varied art styles. This week's installment in this not-so-regular series has both whimsy and realism in the illustrations, along with simplicity and complexity in stories and emotions. Enjoy!

1. Count 1 2 3 on the Subway by Paul Dubois Jacobs and Jennifer Swender, illustrated by Dan Yaccarino -- When I see Dan Yaccarino's name on a cover at the library, I pick up the book and check it out. Simple as that. I've long been attracted to his style, and in this one, the clean lines and solid, vibrant colors draw the eye across the page to notice every detail. Children for whom the subway plays a big role in their transportation experiences will certainly relate to this simple story that counts up and down using familiar aspects of taking an underground train. Though some things in this NYC subway-centered story are slightly different for us DC-area folks who are used to the Metro, the overall experience remains the same. Grab this book for your young toddlers and preschoolers. Maybe you can be the person who reads it while riding on a subway! (Says the person who used to read Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! while riding a shuttle bus with her three year old on a regular basis!)

2. Picnic by John Burningham -- John Burningham somehow manages to perfectly combine the 'everyday' and the 'you don't see that everyday' in his stories, and his newest is no exception. Two children decide to have a picnic, and they go about preparing for it in the most basic manner- pack a basket with some food and head out. Boy and Girl, as they are called, immediately cross paths with some well-dressed, upright-walking animals, so of course they invite Sheep, Pig, and Duck to join them. As they search for a pleasant picnic spot, the group experiences some setbacks/adventures that range from a chasing bull to a lost hat. Each page turn introduces no more than one or two sentences to propel the plot, so it remains quite simple, but still very engaging. I can tell you that a toddler I know absolutely adores this book, and even after reading it dozens of times, I never tire of it. It ends just as pleasantly as it began, and the slow rhythm of the story comes to a natural end.

3. Surprise by Mies Van Hout -- Here's an example of a picture book that works on more than one level, and as a result will make for a truly meaningful reading experience for parents and children. Though each two-page spread only contains one word opposite one illustration, there is so, so much going on in this content. The parental experience is told one word at a time here, but not done in a sticky-sweet, sentimental way at all. Each word carries a particular weight to it, and they seem perfectly picked to convey just the right shade of emotion. Parents reading this could certainly go into any level of explanation that they desire, sticking just to the mama and child birds, or comparing the story to their own experiences. I love the beauty of the words chosen, too, and their introduction to young ones' vocabularies can certainly be applied more broadly in their own experiences, too. There's just so much to love about this one!

4. Gaston by Kelly DiPucchio, illustrated by Christian Robinson -- Is it a requirement in a family that everyone look alike? That question is at the heart of this fun, and beautifully illustrated, story. A poodle family with one very different-looking puppy meets up with a bulldog family that also has one puppy who doesn't quite "match." What they soon find out is that even when things look right, it doesn't mean that they truly feel right. I adore these acrylic paint illustrations, with a whimsical style and brushstrokes that instantly convey puppy personalities. And could they have come up with a better name for the title character?! No, Gaston is utter perfection.

5. Some Bugs by Angela DiTerlizzi, illustrated by Brendan Wenzel -- Okay, I've saved my favorite of the bunch for last. It's no secret that I am utterly fascinated by bugs, and I share that interest with every young person in my life. As a teacher and caregiver, I really enjoy talking with children about cool insects we've seen outside, and my personal library is full of 'bug books' that we use for reference and entertainment. This book needs to make its way into our collection, because it is just jam-packed with great stuff- delightful illustrations that combine realism and fun, a simple introduction to bugs' characteristics, and a HUGE variety of bugs from ones familiar to most children to others that are rarer or less often seen. As I read it with my own kids recently, we marveled at just how many bugs we had just been talking about as we looked through a field guide! I'm impressed with both the content and the delivery of this book, and I'm declaring that it should be in every preschool classroom's science center library!

If you enjoy picture books as much as I do, I hope you'll check these out during your next library visit. Or, click on any links and order straight from Amazon, because you trust my opinion that much.

For the love of books,

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

this is what it feels like when perfect memories are being created

Vacations aren't a regular part of our life. I'd say that we're more like "getaways" kind of people-- weekend camping trips, one-day family outings, that kind of thing. Vacations are rarer, but when they've happened, they've been definite memory-makers. We've had some wonderful times, but never before have we experienced the level of near-perfection on any sort of trip. We've hit the applicable parts of the definition above, (well, for late-to-the-school-year homeschoolers, we haven't completely suspended all study... but close enough...), but even more remarkable, we quickly entered a vacation mentality that brought about peace, relaxation, and shared happiness.

While we're staying in a beautiful house on a gorgeous lake in a scenic and peaceful area, the location and amenities are not the primary reasons for the gentle, pleasant feeling of contentment that has settled in my mind. For the last few days, I've become comfortable in this space because of the people who surround me. After graduating college and moving far from our extended families, we struck out on our own to create our little crew. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins around the corner or even a few towns over has never been our children's experiences. Visits with family are always planned in advance, and they're marked with a sense of urgency, knowing that our shared time will soon be over. But not this week. Somehow, we settled into a slow pace almost immediately, so that the hours of the day weren't tagged with either the feeling of fleeting time or the steady beat of regular life.

I want to remember this vacation as a series of episodes, short videos of happy moments. If I could have a YouTube channel of just-a-few-minutes-long snippets of this vacation, I would watch it again and again for years to come. Some of its clips would look like this:

*Episode 1: Hanging out together on the back deck, some on the swing together, others getting fishing poles ready, and then all moving down to the dock en masse for the first attempts at lake fishing. The video fades to black with nine figures on gathered on the dock, with the sun setting in the background.

*Episode 4: Overcast skies fill the frame as the crew starts off on the trail, and then the video cuts to the view of rushing waterfalls, the sound of laughter and chatter only slightly audible over the crashing of the water. Walking in pairs or groups of three or four, smiles abound and the rain holds off, leaving nothing but a perfect hike in the woods with the people I love.

*Episode 7: Snippets of moments around the house spliced together for a just a few minutes of footage, not terribly remarkable in terms of excitement or action, but perfectly capturing the downtime of this vacation.

*Episode 10: Birthday Boy turns Captain in this episode, as we spend  most of Hubby's birthday on the lake, all of us spread out on a pontoon boat, some taking turns riding on a tube tied to the back. Even me. Seriously. The look on Hubby's face said it all-- these moments were exactly what he was hoping for, a feeling of joy that no words could describe emphatically enough.

*Episode 13: Nine of us alone in the nature center, snapping silly pictures with the stuffed black bear, examining the live amphibians and reptiles, and visiting the aviary's hawks, owls, and eagles. This video would likely be more enjoyed by me than anyone else, as I haven't found a nature center yet that I didn't absolutely love.

This morning came too soon, and as my parents' portion of the vacation ended, so did a little of that carefree sense of timelessness to the trip. All good things may need to come to an end, but that doesn't mean I have to like it. Today's blogging and picture-surfing has helped me to accept the impending conclusion of the entire trip, and immersing myself in the only days-old memories has only reinforced what we'd been saying to the kids in the days leading up to our vacation. This is special. This must be treasured. A trip with two sets of grandparents? That doesn't happen every day.

I'm filled with gratitude that my life has included this experience.

Reminiscent already,