Monthly Archives: May 2014

Meaningful Graduation Messages

Like many people, I spend time online searching for inspiration and advice sometimes. Pinterest has been known to suck me in for an entire afternoon at times just hopping from great quote to great quote. But, this time of year, when graduation speeches begin to fill the air in auditoriums or outdoor arenas, are probably my favorite time of year. Each time one pops up I wonder, “Do I have the 15 or so minutes to devote to this?” and I am pleasantly surprised when I find the time and push play on something that comes highly recommended.

To close our our month of meaningful messages and commencement speeches, I am sharing some of the best speeches I have had the pleasure of hearing. Sending off our graduates with inspiring words is always the goal, but you’ll notice that many of these speakers admit that they can’t remember who spoke or what was said at their own graduations. At first glance, this can seem disheartening. But then I remember that we hear what we need when we need it. Sometimes, it’s not the graduate truly hearing those words. It’s the parents or support group for a child walking across the stage. Sometimes, it’s for those of us educators who sit there to celebrate the achievements of our students. Yet, hopefully, and I am full of hope at all of these, they are for those of us who simply were ready to hear the words.

Enjoy!

Jay Bilas, an ESPN broadcaster, begins the Queens University of Charlotte undergraduate commencement speech by capturing the attention of the graduates by using a quote from his favorite urban philosopher, a rapper named Young Jeezy. I love that he does this because now he knows that they’re listening (a favorite tactic of some excellent educators I know!).  However, he goes on to talk about choices we make and how that affects us in life.

A memorable quote from this speech:

“Don’t fear failure in your career. Fear failure with your family. When it comes to your family I don’t have time is not a good enough excuse. Make time. You won’t regret it. If you don’t make time, that you will regret.”

 

Steve Jobs’ 2005 commencement speech at Stanford University is epic. He tells 3 stories from his life and begins by reminding these students that he neither finished nor did he graduate college. After dropping out and worrying about wasting the money his parents were spending on college, Steve began taking a calligraphy class. Don’t miss his three main points in this speech: connecting the dots, love and loss, and death. They are powerful life lessons.

 

Sandra Bullock gave a surprise commencement speech in New Orleans recently. She gave practical advice that comes from how she parents her son and my favorite is the third thing she shares about how they start their mornings. Every day, she begins by playing music really loudly and dancing. “You have to dance a little bit every morning  before you step out in the world because it changes the way you walk out in the world.”

 

William McRaven, a U.S. Navy Admiral, gave one of the best speeches I have ever heard and he does it in a way that belies his life experience, vastly different from my own, but that makes me relate to him. He tells the graduates to make their beds every day. Just watch this one because he weaves a story well and will make you want to make your bed.

These are just a few of my favorites and some others include writers such as Neil Gaiman and J.K. Rowling (linked here for your ease!) that remind us of taking failure and turning it into something wonderful. Do you have any favorites?

Herkie via photopin cc

Transition: A Teacher's Story

Transition: A Teacher’s Story

With graduation month drawing to a close, we thought it would be fitting to introduce you to a special member of the LPP team. Please welcome Meredith Moran, the mind behind our wonderful lesson plans!

1. What (or who) inspired you to become a teacher?

I was extremely fortunate to have a team of inspirational teachers at the elementary school I attended as a child. My teachers cultivated a holistic, engaging educational environment in which learning outside of the classroom context was equally important to the learning that took place in the classroom setting. Most importantly, they made learning fun! I think I’ve always had an affinity for working with young children, but I look back on these early experiences as the source that ignited my passion for teaching. As I progressed through my academic career, I was drawn to the possibility that I could translate my positive early learning experiences into inspirational educational opportunities for students. I knew that I wanted to pursue a career that involved helping others. I considered fields such as medicine and counseling, but continually returned to the idea of teaching, as it always felt like the most natural and intuitive fit for me.

2. Making the switch from classroom to graduate school, with its emphasis on research and teaching of undergraduate and graduate students, seems both logical and surprising. What prompted you to make the switch, and what has been the biggest challenge?

The initial impetus for making the transition out of the classroom stemmed from a recurring frustration that perhaps I wasn’t making enough of a difference on a daily basis. I knew how important it was to be 100% present for each one of my young students, but I had a persistent feeling that I could be doing something more, something that might somehow have a broader impact on student learning. At the time I made the switch, I wasn’t quite sure what that contribution would look like, but I knew it was important. Throughout my graduate work, I’ve developed an increasing interest in the underpinning curriculum and instructional practices that best support literacy development. One of the greatest challenges in this process is translating the relevant research into meaningful classroom practices that are feasible for teachers and effective for students. Maintaining my “dual identity” as both teacher and researcher has been instrumental in helping me navigate this translation process.

3. It seems you’re about to come full circle; student, teacher, researcher, undergraduate/ graduate instructor, and are now moving toward a new undertaking in an administrative role. How does it feel to have your “learner’s permit” once more?

I am certainly nervous to embark on a new journey as I consider taking on an administrative role. Educational leadership is a new world for me, and perhaps slightly out of my comfort zone. Despite my trepidation, I’m motivated by the possibility of making the more widespread contribution to young learners’ literacy development that I’ve dreamed of and worked toward for so long. I’m looking forward to this new challenge not only as an opportunity to continue learning, but also as a chance to make a lasting positive impact on the lives of young learners. I’m eager to hit the ground running as soon as possible.

4. Students of all ages are preparing to move onward and upward. What advice do you have for them?

I hope I don’t sounding overly simplistic, but the best advice I can share is to follow your passions. So much of the time, students are faced with a tremendous burden of following a path that they think they “should” be on, rather than following the path that inspires them. Truly finding what you love to do and working to make it a reality is one of the greatest sources of happiness and personal achievement. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of perseverance and resilience along the way. Things will not always go according to plan, but that certainly doesn’t mean that success is out of reach. Frustration and rejection are inevitable obstacles along the path to success, but don’t let them deter you. Instead of comparing yourself to your peers and their achievements, progress at a pace that is right for you, and celebrate your milestones (big and small) along the way. Be the best YOU that you can be!

Meredith is a Ph.D. candidate at the Stanford University Graduate School of Education. She will finish her degree in Curriculum Studies and Teacher Education, with an emphasis in Literacy Studies, this fall. Her dissertation research explores how young learners develop conceptual knowledge and vocabulary through discussions of narrative and informational text read aloud. Prior to her graduate work, Meredith was a public elementary school teacher for nine years. We are proud to have her as part of the LPP team.

Basic Training Graduation

Basic Training: A Different Kind of Graduation

Fort Jackson, South Carolina. In the picture, I am eighteen; I look twelve. Two weeks before, I had stepped off of a plane, the sound of engines competing with the memory of my mother’s anguished cry of, “Write!” as I was leaving the house.

The air is warm and smells like sand. I am given a duffel bag, a uniform, a rank. There are seemingly hundreds of us, flinching in response to shouted orders, running hunch-shouldered to get in this line or stand in that one. By twos and threes we are splintered off and sent to our new units. Twenty-eight of us are put together in First Platoon; the Wolverines.

We are not a cohesive unit.

Twenty-eight individual temperaments; twenty-eight different reasons for being there. We start by learning to march together. Eventually, we will execute “Counter-column, march!” with our eyes closed, but not in that first week.

We learn protocol, tactics, and combat principles. We learn to work with, instead of just around, each other. We learn our strengths and weaknesses. The grapevine begins to circulate secondhand conversations; nicknames and opinions from the drill sergeants.

I am “the quiet one.”

Something in my quietness prompts the drill sergeants to make me the platoon guide. I wear an armband with sergeant’s stripes; it is now my job to give orders as well as take them. It’s no gift I’ve been given. The platoon is falling apart under the stress of basic training. Infighting and backbiting are threatening to spiral out of control.

We sit on the floor in the training room one afternoon, doing busywork. The drill sergeants are pacing along the walls, waiting for someone to crack. When it happens, they order that someone to do pushups. I abandon my task to roll over and do pushups as well. The next time, I am joined by another platoon member. The next time, there are five of us counting out pushups along with the chosen one. The tide has turned. Another member is singled out for pushups; all twenty-eight of us hit the floor.

From that day, we are a unit. We are soldiers together.

June fourth arrives. Graduation Day. We’re to be split up and sent to new units for our individual training. Some cry, others trade solemn promises to write. Families embrace their new soldiers, ecstatic to be reunited after two months apart. I am alone; my parents cannot afford the trip from Kansas. I busy myself brushing imaginary lint from my uniform and scanning the horizon for nothing.

There’s a tap on my shoulder.

It’s one of “my” drill sergeants. He eyes me critically before breaking into an unexpected smile.

“Just keep on like you have been, and you’ll be just fine.”

I think back over the past two months. Pain, fatigue, loneliness, and fear. Strength, perseverance, comradeship, and success. Victory. I smile back.

“Thank you, Drill Sergeant. For everything.”

A graduation memory from Rana DiOrio.

Featured Young Writer of the Month:

Rana DiOrio's Valedictorian Address

Thirty years ago this Spring, I delivered the Valedictorian address for my Jr./Sr. High School. Reading it now gives me goosebumps. At the tender age of 18, I had strong ideals. Over the course of the following three decades, I turned those ideals into ideas and acted upon them. It reminded me that everything I have done in my life so far has led me to do the work I am doing today—as a mother, a friend, a daughter, a sister, a lover, an entrepreneur, a life-learner, and, quite humbly, a work-in-progress. I am proud to share with you the speech I delivered to a packed gymnasium in Scituate, RI on June 8, 1984.

Chief Pickle, Rana DiOrio, delivering her Valedictorian address.

Greetings to all of you who are here to share in the graduation of our class of ’84. I had a difficult time deciding what to say tonight. Everyone here is celebrating this special occasion, so I wanted to deliver a message that had special importance to all of us. Well, that eliminated, “My Critical Analysis of a Current Issue,” or “How the Class of ’84 Can Solve the World’s Problems.” I was searching instead for a theme that would have relevance to each of us in a personal and meaningful way and would leave us all with something to think about. As I was struggling with this dilemma, I picked up a book written by one of my favorite authors, Leo Buscaglia, and opened up to the chapter “The Art of Being Fully Human.” It occurred to me as I read through the chapter that we’ve learned a great many things in school, but one essential topic was left out. No one ever really taught us how to be a human being and what it means to be human. Everyone assumes that we have acquired this knowledge by osmosis or something. Well, osmosis isn’t working. Erich Fromm says, “The pity in life today is that most of us die before we are fully born, before we become fully human.”

This concept of “being human” seems so abstract, yet when I investigated the topic of humanness, I found a whole book written by John Powell titled, Fully Human, Fully Alive. What I read made such an impression on me that I decided to share the ideas of Buscaglia and Powell with you tonight.

How, then, do we become fully functioning human beings? John Powell outlines five essential steps to become fully human people.

First, we have to accept ourselves as we are. All growth begins with self-acceptance. Only when, and if, we feel good about ourselves do we have the freedom and confidence to become fully human. In other words, the foundation of our humanness is a positive self-image. Every one of us is unique and special—a magic combination that will never be again. As Buscaglia suggests: the next time we pass a mirror, look in and say, “My Goodness; you know, it’s true; there is only one me.”

Secondly, we have to be ourselves. Fully human people are liberated by their self-acceptance to be authentic and real. Often times we hide behind masks to protect us from our vulnerability. But masks screen us from reality and reduce our visibility. Masks diminish our capacity for living. As fully human people, we don’t need masks, because we have to rise above the nagging need for the approval of others. As the old expression wisely advises, “To thine own self be true.”

Thirdly, we have to forget ourselves and reach out to others. Having learned to accept and to be ourselves, we, as fully human people, proceed to master the art of forgetting ourselves, the art of developing relationships. We learn to go out of ourselves in genuine caring and concern for others. We are not egocentric and are not bound by the limitations of selfishness, but instead are empathic to others. In this way, fully human people greatly enlarge the world and increase the potential for human experience.

The fourth step we have to take to become fully functioning humans is to discover meaning in our lives. Having learned to care for others, fully human people find a specific vocation or mission in life. It is a commitment that motivates them. This commitment, whether to an educational pursuit, a career goal, or a personal aspiration, provides direction for the lives of fully human people, thus making all of our efforts seem significant and worthwhile. Without meaning in our lives we are left almost entirely to the search for mere sensations or petty self-gratification. If we spend our days seeking new “kicks,” or new ways to break the monotony and boredom of our lives, we will go nowhere. We must find causes to believe in and goals to pursue or else spend the rest of our lives compensating for our failures.

The last step Powell suggests for becoming fully human beings is to belong. Fully human people belong, are “loved,” “accepted,” or “have a place” somewhere—in their families, their churches, their social groups, wherever.

In this way, we have a support system, a nurturing environment or community in which to thrive. Contrary to belonging, is the sense of isolation which is always destructive and which can lead us into the pits of loneliness, alienation, and unhappiness. We have to experience the deep peace and contentment that comes only with a sense of belonging, if we expect to become fully human beings.

In addition to Powell’s five steps, namely—to accept ourselves, to be ourselves, to reach out to others, to discover meaning in our lives, and to belong—Leo Buscaglia elaborates on some other aspects he feels are necessary to be fully human. He says that the ability to forgive is vital. I quote, “One of the greatest attributes we have is the marvelous attribute of forgiveness. I forgive you for being less than perfect. I will demand that everybody else be perfect the day that I become perfect, so you’re all safe.”

Another human element Buscaglia thinks is essential is a sense of humor. We all have the tendency to take things too seriously. We don’t laugh enough. It has been medically proven that laughter is a healing agent. In some hospitals today, doctors prescribe Abbot & Costello movies for some of their patients instead of painkillers, knowing that laughter will make their patients feel better than any drug ever could. When we get in serious states of mind, nothing seems funny. Sometimes we forget how to be joyous. We need to keep in touch with our sense of humor and let it take over. See what happens. It will brighten your day!

Tonight, I extend a challenge, not only to the graduates of the class of ’84, but also to everyone in this auditorium, to try to become fully human and fully alive people. If we can achieve this goal, life will be so much more fulfilling and positive for us. In closing, I’d like to quote Leo Buscaglia one last time—“You know, I have a strong feeling that this wonderful quality of humanness, with all of its wonder, is God’s gift to you. And what you do with it is your gift to God. Don’t satisfy yourself with anything less than offering God the perfect gift that you are … and have a blast doing it.”

Thank you.

Graduation

Top 10 Songs for Graduation

Everybody has their anthem, that special song that sums up their life in three verses and a chorus. It may be a general “feel good” tune, or it may relate to a specific event such as a wedding or birthday. Graduation is a huge milestone, one that definitely deserves its own theme song. To that end, we like to offer up the following graduation-inspired list of celebratory tunes.

10. Pomp and Circumstance – Sir Edward Elgar: Originally composed in 1901 and intended for the coronation of King Edward VII, one section of this march, which is stately and sprightly by turns, has become synonymous with graduation ceremonies.

9. We Are the Champions – Queen: Well, duh. This one’s almost a gimme. Not every school memory is a sweet one, but the strong will survive, and the survivors will become the champions.

8. Forever Young – Rod Stewart: There was a time when this song was pretty much everywhere, and time has proven its staying power. With lyrics such as, “May good fortune be with you, may your guiding light be strong,” it’s the perfect sendoff after graduation.

7. A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes – David/Hoffman/Livingston: Universally known as the song from Cinderella, this lovely melody touches on the healing power of hope and faith, even in the face of the bittersweet realization that we all have to grow up.

6. I’ll Follow the Sun – The Beatles: Graduation can bring hard choices, such as who and what to let go. This song reminds us to keep reaching for the sun, even when our past tries to keep us in the dark.

5. Fame – Irene Cara: When that scary, dizzying, and ultimately empowering moment arrives, who doesn’t feel like shouting from the rooftops? This one reminds you and the world to expect nothing but the best.

4. School Days – Chuck Berry: Just in case you’re feeling nostalgic for your own school days (or you need a reminder of why graduation is a good thing), here’s a classic that’s guaranteed to get your foot tapping.

3. End of the Line – The Traveling Wilburys: Do your best, be happy, and don’t be ashamed to be yourself; this upbeat tune offers a great message for graduates and pretty much anybody else.

2. Good Riddance (Time of Your Life) – Green Day: I heard this song performed by a friend at his daughter’s wedding; the opening notes brought snickers from those who recognized the tune and knew the title. Name aside, this song inspires reflection, and points up the fact that while past events helps to shape our future, it is ultimately our decisions that make us who we are.

1. School’s Out – Alice Cooper: Just about the ultimate graduate party anthem, this is the song that can get students and administrators alike chanting along in joyous abandon. School’s out forever! Fair warning: this is, quite possibly, the weirdest version of this song to be found anywhere.

And that wraps up our top ten. Which songs would you have put on the list? Let us know in the comments. In the meantime, we hope you had fun, we hope you’ve been inspired, and we truly do hope you had the time of your life. Congratulations, graduates!

Graduation Gifts That Don’t Come in a Box

One of the great parts about working in a school is that I get to monitor the growth of students during a fairly important formative part of the lives of children. With that comes a lot of invitations to graduation parties. One of the not-so-great parts is that I am broke by the end of graduation season. I could go broke if I bought something for every student that sends me an invite.

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While we live in technological times that allow us to be inspired by DIY projects, most of the time when I’m perusing Pinterest I usually end up slamming my laptop shut because I just can’t do all of those creative things. Except one. I make a lot of inspirational quotes into plaques that I give to my students. While that certainly comes in a box, there are a lot of other gifts we can give our graduates that don’t come neatly in a gift box.

I asked my fellow Little Pickle employees about the gifts they’ve received that didn’t come in a box that still meant something special to them.

Audrey, our editor and one of our writers, had this to say:

The best gift that didn’t come in a box? The fact that I couldn’t find a job to save my life! After being turned down by pretty much every business in town, I went cruising through our tiny downtown and spied the recruiter’s office. Joining the Army was a scary move, but it was the best decision I could have made. 

Rana, our Chief Pickle, got the gift of a trip that her parents gifted her. Even though she got trips for both high school and college graduation, it was the fact that she met her best friend on one of them.  

As an aside, Rana did get something in a box from her father when she graduated from law school: he designed earrings and then had them made by someone.
For high school graduation my mother bought me my first string of pearls, but she also spent a lot of time giving me valuable advice about taking off on my own in the world. That gift, of practical advice and learning to balance a checkbook and how to create a meal out of the things I could find in the kitchen, have truly been a source of inspiration for me.
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Once, I watched my mom make her famous Chicken Cacciatore recipe just before I packed up the car and left for college. I could sense that this was a moment that I wanted to savor because it wasn’t just a recipe that was written down that I could follow (which I most certainly could do), it was a moment where she was carefully explaining and telling me the why behind her methods. My mother could sense it, too, because she took extra care and time in explaining the steps she needed to take in preparing this meal. We measured things out together, she passed the spoons and bowls to me so that I would do it on my own, and then we sat in the kitchen, just the two of us, and enjoyed the best Chicken Cacciatore that I’ve ever tasted.
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That gift, of time and presence and of simply being present for me before I took off for the world, is one of the most precious gifts she’s ever given me. It was a graduation gift that was a moment of love for me because the gift wasn’t chicken. It wasn’t her sending me off with groceries or even a list. That gift was pure love and, for me, the best graduation gift she could have given me. Even better than the pearls. 
p.s. If you want to know exactly how my mom makes that dish, I’m providing a recipe that pretty much sums up how we serve this family meal of ours!

Wendy Longo photography via photopin cc

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JennyBec's

Featured Customer of the Month: JennyBec’s

JennyBec’s, in Brentwood, California, calls itself “A Store for Children.” After seeing all that they have to offer, I would say that it is “A Store for Children of ALL Ages!”

Named for the store’s owner, Jenny Rebecca Mullennix, JennyBec’s opened its doors in October, 2004. Jenny, inspired by her love for children and the desire to bring fun to daily life, has since built one of the best toy stores and family furnishings boutiques in the world. The store offers such diverse items as books, toys, games, furniture, wall art, and fine linens, and purchases items from all over the world. JennyBec herself is passionate about helping her customers find just the right gifts for the children in their lives, and she and her employees pride themselves on being able to provide practically any gift, toy, or furnishing a customer could want.

This enchanting store offers a wide variety of services to their customers, including complimentary gift wrapping, gift baskets, a personal shopper program, consultations and custom furnishings, and a chance to book your own shopping night. They do everything they can to make your shopping experience stress-free, fun, and successful!

JennyBec’s is not just a wonderful place to shop. Jenny strives to make the store a community resource as well. They regularly contribute merchandise to the Children’s Hospital and the Westside Children’s Center. Making a difference in the lives of children is one of the reasons Jenny created JennyBec’s, and she does her best to give back to the community in which her store has found a home.

Best Books to Give as Gifts for Graduation

Each year in May many of us find ourselves looking for that dreaded (yet, perfect!) gift for the graduates in our lives. Whether it be from high school or college or even during those adorable pre-school graduation programs, we know that these are rights of passages that are important enough to mark with pomp and circumstance. As we’re heading right into graduation season, then, Little Pickle Press is happy to come to the rescue for gifts. Naturally, we’re going to suggest books since they’re so fitting for the new graduate in life who might need a little inspiration to follow their passions. Be sure to check out our newest Graduation Books Pinterest board for more titles!

To begin, we’ll start off with one of our own titles that, upon my first reading, reminded me of how important the lessons are for new graduates. BIG by Coleen Paratore is illustrated by Clare Fennell. It’s a book that goes beyond the basics to show that size is more than just a matter of height. For graduates taking the world on after all the pomp and circumstance, children (including teens) can see their influence on health, citizenship and imagination.

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BIG offers some heartfelt dialogue and conversation starters between children the their caregivers about the importance of values over valuables. This is a fantastic gift for middle grade children moving on to their next level.

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Peter H. Reynolds is one of my favorite authors whose drawings portray an innocence in childhood that reminds me of simpler times. His book, The North Star, follows the path of a young boy who sees signs that encourage him to find his own individual way in life. The message, told in the form of a parable, works on an older child level and this book will be an instant classic in the library of your new graduate.

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The Tao of Pooh is a book written by Benjamin Hoff that is made for the mature high school graduate or the college graduate in your life. It’s written and intended as an introduction to the Eastern belief system of Taoism for Westerners. The Tao of Pooh employs allegory by using the characters of A.A. Milne’s beloved children’s stories of Winnie the Pooh. It’s simple yet profound and mostly speaks to how we view ourselves and others and the influence we can have over both.

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Simple instructions from author Neil Gaiman make for a great graduation gift for older students especially if they are fans of his. It offers real life advice which is given in the form of poetry. One of my favorite lines that reminds me of being a new mother (another type of graduation/journey) reads as follows: “If any creature tells you that it hungers, feed it.”

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Jerry Spinelli has remained one of my favorite authors to read with middle school students and this book even comes with the caveat that it’s “Perfect for Graduation” so you can’t beat that! Even the simple title tells you that it’s a message to give to all levels of graduates because it’s a line we hope children use as a mantra for themselves: I Can Be Anything!

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Did we forget some of your favorite titles that help new graduates? Make sure you tell us in the comments.

Visit our Pinterest page to see more titles that you can give as gifts for graduation!

First Mother’s Day

The celebration of Mother’s Day isn’t a new event or simply a Hallmark card holiday.  In fact, in ancient cultures dating back as far as 6,000 B.C., there was religious and ceremonial worship of the female capacity to give birth. We’ve all seen some form of those ancient statues – figurines with pregnant bellies and round, proportional hips.  In some Eastern cultures I’ve visited, shrines and altars are still being erected for mother goddess deities year-round. In civilizations, throughout time, festivals celebrated fertility rites in the spring to honor women’s miraculous ability to give birth.
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Today we buy jewelry, bake a cake, or get Mom some flowers.  But on this Mother’s Day (now that I’m in the club), I got to thinking, “Are these gestures really enough for the woman who gave birth to you?” Well of course not!  They are merely tokens of the affection we have for our mothers.  If we really want to thank mom, perhaps recognition of all the gigantic self-sacrificing actions she took to get you to adulthood would be more appropriate.  Acknowledging the pains she took to set boundaries with you, the times she healed your ouchies, and all the times she made you feel like the most important human being on the planet.

A mother never tells you how much work you were or how much she washed, worried, or labored after you. She doesn’t talk about how much she juggled and planned and reworked her life to fit you in it. She does whatever needs to be done and manages to raise you.

The school of motherhood has literally kicked my hiney. When my daughter wakes at 3 a.m., she begins by kicking me in the belly or ribs.  I’ve usually brought her into bed by this hour as we’ve already been up nursing four times since I put her down at 7 p.m. Her kicking turns to smiling, smiling to drooling, drooling to laughing.  She will never know how tired I am.

After almost six months of on-demand feedings she is the center of my selfless world.  I love her more than my heart ever expected to love.  We have become a package deal, inseparable, a unit of daily improv, trial, and error.  There is no more ‘me’ without her.

For my first Mother’s Day, I am in a state of enhanced understanding of what it really means to be a mother.  I finally feel I deserve the title because the reality of motherhood has settled into my very bones. Yes, I celebrated when I was pregnant last year, but this year is much different!

I would like to thank my mother for her every sacrifice.  I thank her for coaching, schlepping, worrying, and doing her level best to provide me with the opportunities she didn’t have.  I  pay homage to her for all the efforts I knew nothing about, and for the message she just left on my machine, telling me once again how proud she is. And I would like to honor all the mothers, through all eternity, who’ve given themselves selflessly to life’s highest calling.
This post was written by Dondi Tondro-Smith and is being shared again by Little Pickle Press.

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Happy Mother’s Day from the whole team at Little Pickle Press. We wish you all a marvelous day!

Theophilos via photopin cc

Arapahoe Library District

Featured Library of the Month:

Arapahoe Library District

The Arapahoe Library District is situated in an absolutely lovely geographical area, with its administrative building in Englewood, Colorado. It is also situated in the hearts of the people of its community, with its goal of transforming lives by meeting the shared and individual needs of their community through two core objectives. They are: We will increase literacy empowerment – by preparing our youngest to learn to read and helping others learn to thrive in difficult times. We will build community connections – by connecting people as resources for each other, virtually and in person. They visualize and informed, literate and fulfilled community, and to reach that end they vow to work with courage, respect empathy and compassion. A broad vision and laudable goals, and Arapahoe Library District walks their talk! In their listing of five things you may not know about them, they write: 1. The Arapahoe Library District (ALD) provides public library service to more than 250,000 residents in Arapahoe County, Colorado, through eight library branches, plus outreach services through a jail library as well as a state-of-the-art Library on Wheels. 2. ALD is the place to go for fun. Yes, we have story times and literacy playgrounds for the kids, but we also have events and author visits for grownups. The library is a mecca for entertainment and growth for all ages. In 2013, ALD hosted more than 5,720 programs and events for nearly 130,269 children, teens, and adults. 3. ALD is the place to go for technology. In addition to offering a growing collection of downloadable materials, such as eBooks, audiobooks, eMagazines and music, ALD strives to be a resource for technological literacy. 3D Printers and Oculus Rift virtual reality headset and Google Glass are just a few of the high tech toys we are introducing to our patrons. We also offer tech programs, social media classes and more. Looking to create a movie or record some music? Meet us in The Studio at Smoky Hill Library or our new Studio at Southglenn Library. In addition, some items are available for check-out with a library card, including the “GoPro” and other video cameras. Speaking of cool things to checkout — don’t have an eReader to enjoy your eBooks? No problem! Check out one of our Nooks. 4. ALD is still the best place for research and support. Did you know you can Book a Librarian? Google has nothing on our librarians, all of whom have Masters in Library Science degrees and years of experience to help you wade through information overload for maximum results. Our librarians have recently helped patrons research genealogy, download eBooks and audiobooks to devices, learn iMovie, conduct an effective job search, business startup help, and much more. If you can wonder about it, our librarians can research it. 5. ALD is THE place to go for literacy. It is part of every library’s mission to expand literacy, especially in the youngest patrons, and ALD is on fire with its SPARK initiative. SPARK, which was introduced early in 2012, illuminates the ways ALD is generating excitement about reading and learning together, with a focus on families and children. Because early literacy skills begin to form from birth, positive language experience from the moment a child is born sets the stage for success in school and life. With ALD’s focus on the important activities of reading, writing, talking, singing and playing, we are connecting families with valuable resources, helpful services, quality information, and outreach to prepare children for success in reading. What more can you ask for in a library? If you’re in the neighborhood, take a break and spend some time at one of the many libraries that make up the Arapahoe Library District.

From Diapers to Dormitories: A Parent’s Perspective

Every parent wants the same thing once they bring home their little bundle of joy after giving birth: we can’t wait to see what amazing things they will do. As a parent, you take to wondering a lot. Wondering about all the what if questions about this new creature in your life. And when will they smile or walk or talk? When they meet the age-appropriate milestones, it isn’t just that they reached them, it’s that we got to witness it happening. The excitement and joy of diapers turns quickly into watching them turn into actual people.

Very recently, a good friend posted a picture of a gorgeous cherry blossom tree with the caption: They fall just as quickly as they bloom. We only get a moment. Instantly, I applied that to parenthood and realized that this journey of parenthood works just like that. We watch our young toddlers grow and bloom and it’s momentous, but it’s also momentary.

As May approaches each year, I consider this journey and all the bumps and stops and speeding along as if it’s a highway. By the time my children reached the age where they were readying themselves for graduation, it’s as if we blinked and we went from diapers to dormitories. The questions we ask, as a mom or dad, are eerily similar to what we pondered when they were swaddled in our arms or as we let go the back of their bicycles or handed them the keys to the car once they earned their driver’s license. Are they ready for this step? Will they be okay?

When my first child graduated high school and went on to college that fall, I had a wonderful, wise friend tell me that I had done all I could do and that it was time to trust that I’d done my best. One of the things no one tells you is that it’s just as hard to let them go off again to their sophomore year as it is their freshman year. Kind of like how we warn new parents about the Terrible Twos but never mention the Horrific Threes.

Parenting ebbs and flows like all relationships, but by the time they go from being in diapers to living in dormitories, we have to fully exhale and tell ourselves we did the best we could have done.

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Highland Craftsmen

Featured B Corp of the Month: Highland Craftsmen

Construction can be hard on the environment. Bulldozers come in and tear things up, pipes and concrete elbow each other for space, and the skyline is never quite the same. Wouldn’t it be nice to find a building material that works with nature, rather than against it? Our Featured B Corp of the Month is Highland Craftsmen, and they do just that.

The folks at Highland Craftsmen have figured out how to turn junk into jewelry. Taking the leftover bits from the logging industry, they produce Bark House® Shingles, a thoroughly natural home siding product.

Shaped by hand and created without chemicals, these shingles are touted as maintenance-free and can last up to eighty years. Since they require no staining or sealing, Bark House® shingles are an eco-friendly option that won’t harm the environment when they finally have to be discarded.

Since Highland Craftsmen is a B Corp, you know that they make environmental stewardship a priority. Aside from elbow grease, very little in the way of additional resources is used in production. They also conduct regular third-party environmental audits, and promote and utilize local suppliers. With such a fine track record, is it any wonder we’ve chosen Highland Craftsmen as our Featured B Corp of the Month?

All-natural, Art Deco, eclectic? What’s your choice for home décor?

BIG plans for graduation!

First Friday Book Review: BIG

April showers bring May flowers, but in the world of education, it’s our graduates who are really about to blossom. As kids of all ages wait impatiently for the last day of school, we’d like to remind you that (ahem) books make an excellent graduation gift. May we suggest Coleen Paratore’s award-winning picture book, BIG?

Filled with Clare Fennell’s lavish collage-style illustrations, this book and its enthusiastic reminders that size is more than a matter of height is perfect for Kindergarteners and the college-bound alike.

But you don’t have to take our word for it!

Story Circle Book Reviews: “BIG promotes emotional and social growth: doing things for others, caring for others, and enriching the lives of others. These are indeed BIG concepts that are well defined in the book, giving good understanding to the very young.” Read full review here.

Cool Mom Picks: “Another standout is BIG, with fabulous collage illustrations by Clare Fennell and a nice story by author Colleen Paratore. It would be an excellent big sibling gift as you can imagine—or even a little sibling book, really. The idea is that ‘big’ isn’t
measured in how tall you are, but how bright, healthy, and imaginative you are—‘being the biggest YOU you can be.’” Read full review here.

Deb Snyder, Ph.D.: “I am often asked for titles that instill positive, holistic principles for children. I encourage any parent to get this book and learn with their children how to be BIG.” Read full review here.

May is a big month; celebrate it with a BIG book!