Monday, July 18, 2011

Learning From Elmo, Blue, and That Annoying Dora Girl

I love TV.

I watch a lot of TV. In fact, this entry was delayed because I was waiting to see if Nancy Grace would implode on live television with not-so-pent up rage. Then yesterday I spent the evening watching True Blood. Twice… …for the plot, of course. It’s soooo hard to keep track of the humans, vampires, were-people, witches and fairies, with people screaming, “You ate my fairy godmother!”

As a child I learned tons from TV. Like when General Hospital’s Frisco and Felicia got married, but they were too broke for a honeymoon so they went to his brownstone apartment and pretended to go places. (“Today we’re in the Middle East! Just don’t open the curtains…”) Deluding---sorry---pretending you’re elsewhere because you’re too broke to go there is a valid lesson for today.

This isn’t to say I spent most of my childhood watching a demon-possessed Marlena levitate. The great majority of what I watched was on PBS. I got the see my favorite person in the world, Miss Piggy, view Wild Kingdom, and witness Bob Ross paint happy little trees everywhere. Reading Rainbow, Schoolhouse Rock, many educational shows made up my viewing schedule. I thought I had a pretty good childhood…

Then I heard how horrible TV is for kids.

This I didn’t get. TV couldn't be all bad. After all, at least one child would have been strangled had I not been able to park him in front of Barney while I dismantled the VCR in order to repair the damage he’d done to it. True, if the only thing your child views is Maury Povich telling a man, “You are not the father!” while the mother runs off stage, this is not a good thing. But is TV necessarily bad? When I heard about the class “Learning from Elmo, Blue and Dora: Applying the Science of Children's Educational Television to Storytime,” I figured I needed to see what was up.

The presenters, Jennifer Bigheart and Maria Cahill, neither demonize or endorse television watching for children. One did not allow her children any screen time and the other said, “Go for it!” Fine, those were not her exact words. However, they discussed key elements of educational television that we can incorporate into our library programs:

Relevant themes
“How many story hours on teddy bears have you done?” one presenter asked. Answer: probably too many. We use colors, numbers and ABCs as themes. But when was the last time we did calendar, manners, weather or seasons themes? My season themes usually involve orange hand cutouts or snowflakes. They don’t exactly go into why we have season. That’s being corrected. Find more themes that are relevant to a child’s educational needs.

Non-fiction has a place
I love books in which frogs talk and eat bowls of flies. Pictures books are fine, yet we need to augment them with non-fiction material. Parents have a difficult time finding appropriate non-fiction materials for young children, so try reading the funny story during story hour and setting up a display of non-fiction books on the same topic.
Teachable moments
Our motion sensor lights were constantly turning off during programs. One time a toddler asked, “Why are the lights off?” I said the first thing that came to mind: “We are conserving energy.” Turns out, according to the presenters, this is the right thing to do. If something happens during your program, don’t ignore it; acknowledge it and talk about it for a while. Yes, it may lead to other questions and going off topic. This is a good thing.

Did the kids really get into the story? Read it again! Okay, I won’t be doing that---it would drive me nuts. However, now that things float, you can order a few extra copies of a book and let the parents decide if they want to read the story over and over (and over) again without you unduly suffering.

At the end of the story feel free to ask the children about the plot line. Establish that books have a beginning, middle and end. Ask, “What happened at the start of the story?” “Do you remember the main character’s name?” If there was a moral ask them what they thought it was. Was there bad behavior in the book? Ask them if it is appropriate to write on the bathroom wall with lipsticks and lotions like in 10 Little Lambs.

Pull an aspect out of a book and use variations of the word base. For example, when reading a book in which they drove a car, use the words drive, driving, drove, and driven. Reading a numbers book? Go over once, twice, thrice, first, second, third, etc.

Since I love Sesame Street, there is no way I am ending this without showing you my favorite clip ever!

Monday, June 27, 2011

ALA Wrap Up Q and A

Having attended several conferences (with the credit card bills to prove it), some of my fellow attendees have been texting and calling me with conference related questions. I thought I might share with everyone the answers to put your mind at ease if you, too, were wondering the same things but had no one to ask without fear of retribution. This is where I step in. Tabin to the rescue!

Q: How do I explain that I skipped a session?
A: If your supervisor asked you to attend a session, the only acceptable excuses for your absence had better involve copious amounts of blood, your water breaking, or alien abduction, and I'm not talking about the friendly aliens. I'm talking second head descends from major head, acid for blood, need-to-implant-something-in-your-belly aliens.

But if you've attended other sessions (bar sessions withstanding) and you are just plain worn out, you weren't doing anyone any favors by dragging yourself into a crowded room while looking like you had Ebola. With TSA rules we're unlikely to have had hand sanitizer handy, so you just placed visions-of-co-pays-dancing-in-our-heads. Not appreciated! If asked why you were absence, explain that you were in your hotel room recovering, or tell them you fell into the horse poop I almost stepped in on Bourbon Street, and that you had to decontaminate yourself.

Q: What if I didn't learn anything from my sessions?
A: Oh, you learned something all right. It just won't hit you for days, weeks or decades---take you're pick. Should you need to immediately present to your co-workers, select the session that stood out most to you, go over your notes, and fill your presentation with lots of words and pictures, etc. Everyone will be too distracted with your random use of bunnies and hot dogs to notice you babbled for 15 minutes.

Q: What if I threw away something important by accident?
A: Class notes are available on the ALA website, and everything else can be recreated. Believe me when I say the vendors will be more than happy to send you more. Check your e-mail. There's probably 20 duplicate copies waiting for you at this very moment.

Q: My co-workers and I were supposed to present separate PowerPoints, but we both attended the same sessions. What should I do?
A: Type faster than your co-worker.

Q: What do I do if I forgot my business cards? Does this mean my whole conference experience was a waste?
A: In my 5 years of attending conferences I have passed out hundreds of cards, yet I could count on one hand the number of people who called me, and half of them were part of a bachelor party that was flying on my plane. I wouldn't be overly concerned.

Q: What do I do with the business cards and flyers I did receive?
A: Before you toss everything into the recycling bin, try to remember not only what the vendors told you, but what your co-workers said they needed. Example: I don't need book carts. Why would I? I spend my day singing songs about pink pigs, directing people back to the first floor where the bathrooms and holds are, and telling teens things such as, "These are stairs, not chairs," and "In or out!" However, one of my friends needs book carts, thus when I saw them on sale (my favorite word in the world behind "chocolate," "free," and "massage") I texted her and saved the flyer. Maybe you had a good conversation with someone about storytime. Perhaps you will only contact one another once or twice over your career, but their offered info could save you a ton of time and effort, so go ahead and put them in your address book.

Q: I'm tired but my family is still bugging me. What do I do?
A: Toss them some packets of ramen noodles, a few Disney DVDs, and lock yourself in the bathroom until July 5th.

Okay, it's time for me to go recover.

Recently someone came in to get this CD, and I suddenly remembered how much I loved this album and after I hear I I'm suddenly not so tired. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

And We're Off!

ALA New Orleans is right around the corner and I have been packing my bags---sans more than 3 ounces of liquid per containers that can fit in a 1 quart plastic bag, of course. It's a joy and a pain to go on a trip. First I had to make storytime arrangements and clean at work. Thanks to Stephenee, the Pink Piggy Song is already on YouTube, so that was one less melody I had to repeatedly sing to the other staff members. Then I had to clean at home. Though I don't live alone, it's nice to return to a nice clean haven. And if it's not clean, I have someone to else to not only blame for this mess, I can make it seem like they are responsible for all other messes created in my vicinity since the Reagan administration. Packing was actually the easiest thing, except for the part in which I poured my hair care products into tiny unmarked tubes. Thankfully I’m flying Southwest, the only airline that seems to realize people don’t wear all their clothes on top of each other like Shirley temple did in that movie I saw on TCM.

This is my most favorite time of the year: dress up time! I try to wear nice things to conference because, hey, I’m a librarian. Chances are slim to none for librarians to meet famous people once in their lives, let alone twice. Must make a good impression the first (and only) time around. It’s a time of year in which I get little sleep because I jam pack my schedule. It’s soooo exhilarating to run from one overlapping class to another and another while sweating profusely in nice clothes. And it’s also a time of year in which I just might get to see my family, only this time I’m doing on purpose and I won't screech at my mother, “You weren’t suppose to tell them I was in Chicago!”

This here is my niece. Isn’t she gorgeous? She looks even better without the lamination reflections. I’m looking forward to seeing her…if my brother can get the logistics together. After all, this is the brother I was supposed to see last week but didn’t. (His fault!) He also sent us to the wrong airport for his wedding, then tried to convince me that it was my idea. (It wasn’t!) So while I look forward to seeing her (and the high school graduation pictures he took of me but never gave me), I also signed up for a free cocktail party that night to avoid anyone seeing me crying in a bar. Alone. By myself. With no one. (Yes, I've learned guilt-tripping from my mother.) And I’d be crying because I want to see my family, and not because alcohol at non-library functions comes out of my pocket instead of a vendor's.

I used my niece’s cute little picture for our Mother’s Day placemat sample. If you, too, would like to make a this craft, it’s fairly simple.

1. Put up your sample work 2 weeks before the program and encourage people to bring adorable pictures from home.
2. Print out words on card stock (Mommy’s Little Angel, Baby’s First Christmas, Toddler’s Third Tantrum, etc.)
3. If you do not have a die-cut machine, have teenage "volunteers" cut out cute little flowers/3 leaf clovers/make homemade confetti with the hole punch.
4. Set out glue sticks, stickers, etc. and let people create their own piece of art. (Word of advice---don’t make the mistake of leaving a stray foam sticker or two in the mix.)
5. Have a volunteer laminate the placemat.

Hopefully, if I'm not too busy roaming in search of free food, I will blog from the conference instead of saving it up. Have fun---I will!

Friday, May 27, 2011

M. Butterfly

I haven’t blogged in a loooonnngg time.

No, it wasn’t just because I was busy watching the final season of the Oprah Winfrey Show. (My chances of winning a free trip to Australia have drastically plummeted…) Blogging is like exercising. When you’re into it, you’re into it. You have your cute gear on, your hair is up in a bouncy ponytail, your lipstick is on but your foundation is off--- it’s pretty hard to work out with L’Oreal running into your eye. When you’re not into exercise, you’re lying on the couch eating sugar cookies and channel flipping while wondering why that Nora Roberts' movie you swore you were going to watch last year is taking up valuable space on your DVR. What usually gets you up is either you realize you’re expected to fit into a swimsuit---a real one, not a string-one-size-fits-all-bikini. Or someone says, “Hey, did you know you’re morphing with the sofa?”

So when someone recently pointed out that I hadn’t blogged in a while, I thought, why not? There are plenty of books and crafts and TMI things I have to share, and not just with SPL librarians on SharePoint. All the adult participants of my craft programs want to know how to do some of the cooler crafts without having to comb through 15 books filled with impossible to make cards that require wire clippers, blow torches, and 2 weeks of planning.

I came up with this card after going online and realizing a lot of kids card crafts are ugly. Yes, I said it. Ugly. Hideous. Just plain wrong. You smile when they give them to you, but part of you wants to go all Tiger Mom and scream, “This is garbage! But I only say that because I love you…” I started thinking of how to jazz things up when my inner-Martha Stewart took over. The thing is, Sharpies and White Out are not items you want to turn over to a group of children, thus the butterflies were made beforehand. It’s not as difficult as, say, making the Four Season’s duck recipe (takes four days), but there is a learning curve. Sad to say, I can now turn out a butterfly in about 90 seconds, which means I surely have brain damage from the fumes.

Card stock
Orange paper
Black sharpies
White out
Colored paper---yellow, plus colors of your choosing
Scratch paper
Glue sticks

Nice to have:
A room with ventilation (or a rock to throw through the window since ours don’t open)

For the card base:

1. The writing.
There are several ways to go with this. I printed “You are the sunshine of my life” directly onto my model card, but for the program I printed out cute sayings on colored paper to allow the kids to pick from. For the inside, I printed out poems to glue inside.

2. The flowers.
Find your desired flower template. Create two flowers using this template. Then take the second flower and trim the perimeter so that it can one flower can sit atop the other. Use these two different sizes to create masses of flowers. (Or e-mail me for some leftovers.) I traced a glue stick onto yellow paper for the center of the flower. (Please don’t tell the kids you are making the ovary of the flower---this will bring up questions you don’t want to answer.)

For the butterflies:

1. Make butterflies using orange paper.
We didn’t have a die cut machine, so we used Elk Grove High School students desperate for volunteer assignments that didn’t involve picking trash off the side of the road. If you need a template Central has this die cut shape, or I can send something over via inter-office mail.

2. Place the butterfly on scratch paper. Fill in the body and outline the shape with a black sharpie. Draw lines in the center bisecting lines.

3. Begin drawing in the other lines.
This is something you might not want to hand over to a sophomore who needs 10 hours of community service by tomorrow. If you don’t have time to closely supervise this work, only let trusted volunteers do this part.

4. Dot the lines created in step two with White Out.
Err on the side of stingy dots. You can draw over your mistakes on the black lines, but you can’t “white out” orange paper. Afterwards go outside and breath fresh(er) air.

5. After it is dry, flip over and repeat.
I only did the middle and right side of the other side, since the left part of it will not show.
6. Bend the butterfly in half.
You don’t want a crisp fold because the butterfly will look less perched-on-a-flower than it will look squashed-under-a-shoe.

7. Remember that perfection is the enemy of Getting Things Done.
Yes, it would have been nice if all the butterflies turned out perfectly. They won’t. Some staff members helped out and said, “I’m sorry, but mine doesn’t look like yours do.” My response: “So? They’re kids. I’m not worrying that an 8 year old might complain that the line’s not perfect.”

Putting it all together:

1. Do the inside of the card first, so as not to mess up the outside.
This is the time to glue in poems, love letters, baby pictures, ultrasounds, etc.

2. Glue the saying and flower(s) onto the front of the card.
Some kids will go all out and layer 3 dozen. Whatever floats their boats is fine.

3. Glue the butterfly atop the card.

And there you have it. I really don't know how long this craft takes because I broke it into many different parts, but the kids loved it and were really impressed. Of course children are also impressed by the magic of jello and finding pennies on the ground, but I take what I can get. Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Disco Inferno

I’ve avoided creating a will and trust. Why, do you ask? Because in my pathetic, convoluted way of thinking, creating one means you’re going to die. Yeah, as if not creating one means I’m going to live forever, have thin thighs on a diet of French fries and soy ice cream sandwiches, and grow rich simply by thinking it so.

But this morning I had a bit of a wake-up call. I’m heading towards the north staircase practicing “Where is Thumbkin?” while reminding myself to keep all fingers up while asking, “Where is middle?” so as not to teach the kids to flip anyone off when I noticed flames shooting out the top of the building right across the street. This would have been okay as in not completely horrible if this were a normal building…

It was the gas station.

Gas station + flame= UPTO

So instead of setting up my flannel version of “Old MacDonald,” I’m running into the staff room screaming, “Gas station on fire! Gas station on fire!” while wondering, Why wasn’t I the librarian who resigned? I could be lying on a beach getting naturally exfoliated while drinking a margarita! I was out the door, my purse in one hand, and, unbeknownst to me, my stuffed moose “baby” squeezed under my other arm. The fire department cleared staff to return but I asked, “Can I go work at Valley today?” Translation: “I want to die an old woman warm in her bed, not a relatively young librarian with a pink piggy puppet in her hand!” I got a big fat no as to heading towards safety, and by safety I mean someplace without road blocks. To make matters worse, there were firemen around yet I couldn’t even appreciate them because I was too busy wondering if something would explode. It wasn’t until 1:30 that a colleague and I looked at each other and said, “Firemen! Yeah!”

As the day went on several things sunk into my brain:

1. Pilates in the morning is a good warm-up before running for your life.

2. No gas station means I’ll have to eat the healthy snacks in my work cubby instead of goo-filled cupcakes.

3. I need a will and trust.

SPL has wills, trusts, and power of attorney forms on our website. We all know this. They even have samples. One sample states that the signer wants no electric shock treatments. I’m like, “WTH? I hadn’t thought about electric shock treatments. I don’t want electric shock treatments either!”There are a lot of things I want to happen that everyone should know:

1. I want my hair dresser and a manicurist to tend to me should I fall into a coma.
When my friend woke up from her coma I did her nails, but we had to shave her head.

2. Cancel the cable should I be knocked out for more than 1 week.
No more overpriced Triple Play service!

3. No creepy medical personnel can be near me. Think Kill Bill Vol. 1

4. I get a private hospital room.

5. If all I can do is blink my eye in some form of Morse code, feel free to accidently step on my oxygen tube for 10-20 minutes.

6. In case of my tragic demise, my nephew can have my PS3 on the condition that he do more than lay on the floor playing “Call of Duty” and eating pizza all day.

7. My mom gets my home but there is a 10 ugly-fake-plant limit---I’m not completely heartless.
8. If I die in an exercise related incident my brother will be disinherited if he states, “I told you so.”

9. My skinny friends can have all my accessories.

It’s going to likely take me a while to work out all the kinks, but the sooner I do it, the less I have to think about it, right?

If you have any suggestions on what I should include in my will and trust, feel free to leave a comment.