Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Today I Told My Children About Abortion

(some of this was written yesterday - the day the conversation took place, and some was written today.  Sorry if that makes for confusing reading.  I didn't want to lessen yesterday's emotions by switching everything to "yesterday."  Writers prerogative, I guess!)

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Until today, my kids took for granted that a mother's belly was a naturally safe and cozy place for babies to grow from sesame seed size to english cucumber size to small watermelon size (or giant watermelon size, 'cause some moms have that kind belly going on.  Like me, usually.)   

Until today, my kids probably believed that everyone got as excited and hyper as they do when they hear news like, "Hey guys!  Our new baby inside Mom has eyelashes now!"

Until today, my kids assumed every baby was loved, even before it was born, by parents that would rejoice like we rejoice when we finally meet our new one - "it's a boy!!!"

Until today, my kids mostly thought that all families welcomed babies like we welcome ours - with copious amounts of affection that often borders on "CAREFUL you're going to smother him!" 

Today I told my children about abortion.*

It was wretched.   

I still feel raw from the conversation.  I don't know that you can ever feel "fine" after revealing such evil to your children.  

I didn't plan on doing it.  I hadn't made any mental notes on how it would go, what my approach would be, or what I would cover.  It just sort of happened, and as awful as a conversation about abortion must naturally be, our conversation could not have gone better.  It was grace-filled and Spirit-led.  My heart is so overwhelmingly grateful for that.  
It was good, but hard.  I cried.  My children cried.  They asked a lot of questions.  I had good answers (thank you, Holy Spirit.)  They asked if our own baby James was in danger and I had to specify unborn babies.  They were shocked.  You are right to be, my children! 

They asked how "the people" come to get the mothers and do this to them.  They were silent and tearful when I replied, Mother's choose it.  

My children asked if we should call the police.  They said surely the police would be after the people that do this.  I felt my throat start to tighten.  "It's legal," I whispered.  It felt like the hardest thing I had to say up to that point.  Their mouths dropped open and their eyes got wide with disbelief.  They were floored.  My heart sunk even deeper.  Then they got angry.  You are right to be angry!  

Our discussion ended with the the sorrowful truth that God's laws are not always the laws of our country.  We came back to this over and over again.  Christian living is not now, nor has ever been, for the faint of heart.  

My own heart, hurting from the conversation, was reassured by the reactions of my children.  My sons criticized the judges who declared abortion legal and began to plot their own ascent to judge-dom in order to reverse what had been done.  They asked, "can't we get all the people together who know this is wrong and go tell the lawmakers to vote on what we want?"  They envisioned the March for Life before they even knew it existed!  They wanted to form groups that would pray to end abortion and promote a culture of life... perhaps one day they'll be eager participants in teens for life group!  When confronted with the horrid facts, they wanted to be evangelizers, and sidewalk counselors, and educators, and advocates for adoption and legal change all at once, right now!!   

Jesus' conversion of hearts, perhaps using us as prayer warriors or active instruments in the midst of the fray, is the only answer to the problem of abortion in this country.  While nothing is impossible for God, our culture devalues life to such an extreme it often seems like the prayer to convert enough hearts is a hopeless one.  But last night, after re-visting all these topics with my boys for a second time in one day (to make sure lingering questions and concerns were addressed before bedtime), and this time with my husband as part of the conversation, we prayed for the strength to uphold the laws of God in our hearts and family even when they are at odds with the laws of our nation.  We prayed for the conversion of our hearts and for a complete and total reversal of the laws which legalized abortion under any circumstance.   After our prayer, we said goodnight and the boys picked up a book that they had previously agreed would be the one Aaron would read to Dominic that night, and they went off to bed. It wasn't until later in the evening that I realized which book they had chosen - it was the story of Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad.  They had chosen to read about the brave men and women that fought a previous blight on the American conscience - slavery.  American slavery - for nearly one hundred years, the laws of our country were not in accord with the laws of God.  And they were changed.  It gave me a glimmer of hope at the end of a day that had drained me emotionally - the day when a sweet and sacred part of my children's innocence had been permanently taken from them.  I hated what I told them that day, but I went to bed with a prayer of hope.  It has happened before.  The law of the land was changed.  "There is neither slave nor free... you are all one in Christ..."  The law of God was eventually upheld as our nation's own.  Perhaps an end to abortion is not as hopeless as it sounded to me when the words were coming out of my own mouth, as I felt like I tore at my children with one new awful truth after another.  Perhaps it is the young ones, the passionate ones, our children who instinctively know right from wrong, and who want to charge a-blazing against injustice, who will lead, by their prayers and example and leadership, our country into an era where all human life is valued as a gift from God and the laws of God and the laws of our nation will not be at odds.  I pray my children will be a part of that triumph.  Maybe then I can believe that the awfulness of telling them today, the sickening feeling of stealing away bits of their innocence, was part of what I (and untold numbers of Christian parents) sacrificed for the victory.  For now though, it just feels rotten and I hate it.  

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* I just wanted to add a few notes for my own benefit as well as for yours, perhaps...

Some of my friends and their children attended the local Women Betrayed Rally yesterday.  I had hoped to take the kids but wasn't able to make it due to a previous engagement with the city health board guy involving rat poison and stern warnings to the kids to stop leaving food outside....  Instead of the rally we were able to go to a nearby Adoration chapel and pray for our friends who were there and for an end to abortion at the very time the rally was starting.  It was because of this sudden need to go to the chapel in the middle of the day (which we don't normally do) that I felt like I owed my children an explanation.  I also wanted them to be able to pray specifically for the intention that was dragging them away from their morning play.  That was why I "out-of-the-blue" decided to tell them about abortion yesterday.

I was able to speak to my oldest two alone, and it was with them that I had the majority of this conversation.  They are 7 and 9.  I didn't feel it was appropriate to regale my little girls with all of this information at their age.  They are 3 and 5.  My five year old knows some, but I believe she only has a very vague understanding of what we were actually talking about - for now, her fervent prayer is for babies who don't get to be with their families, and I think that's an appropriate amount of knowledge for my five year old right now.  Each family will obviously have there own ideas on when to share information and how much to share.

Which brings me to one of the final things we spoke about with our boys.  We want them to talk to Dad and Mom about this topic if they have more questions or need to voice concerns or prayers.  We have asked them to not speak about it openly with their little sisters and we have asked them not to speak about it with friends.  That last part was a tricky one because they very emphatically expressed interest in being a part of the pro-life movement to spread awareness and to change hearts.  My husband and I reminded them though, that parents have the right and responsibility to speak to their own children about such a serious and difficult topic first, and that the parents of some of their friends may not think their children are ready for this conversation yet.  It was hard to tell the boys to "not speak out" after having had two lengthy discussion with them about how we need to "speak out," but Russ and I felt confident it was the right thing.  For now, it's a conversation we will keep among our family and in our prayers, and we'll soon need to find appropriate outlets for our kids to be active and visible members of the pro-life movement. 

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Our Chore System is Use All the Chore Systems

Moms are often talking about kids and chores, aren't they?  

How do you get your kids to do chores?  What age do kids start doing chores?  What are age appropriate chores?  Do you pay your kids to do chores?   Do you use a chart or reward system for chores?  Do they do chores in the morning or afternoon?  Do you use chores for punishment or as a disciplinary measure?  If you make your kids do chores will they grow to resent you and develop a warped and unprincipled attitude toward work and you will have been the direct cause of their miscreant lifestyle punctuated by their habitual dependence on government handouts and subsistence on free food samples at the grocery store (where they would never deign to work)?   

You see?  The worrying and wondering about kids and chores can go on and on.  I don't worry or wonder about chores anymore.  Over the years, our system of household chores has morphed into "use all the systems" and maybe one day, if the stars align themselves properly, there will be a 12 minute period in which all the household things have been done.  

We haven't had those 12 minutes yet, but I'd say my chore system of "use all the systems" is working for us.  

Our kids start chores young (shh!  don't tell the baby that he's not just "playing" with the Swiffer!) and we actually call them "chores."  (Some childhood specialists think you should call them "helpfulness tasks" or some other such nonsense, to which I say, "that's nonsense.")  

I'd like to tell you that my children do chores because I have lofty and noble goals about teaching them life skills and responsibility, the beauty of familial efforts, the value of hard work, and lessons in labor, reward, reimbursement, and banking........  but honestly, I'm just trying to keep my head above water here.  I mean, we could walk around on crumbs on the kitchen floor all morning and leave a welcome mat out for the rats that we've seen on our deck, or I can make sweeping a mandatory chore for a kid.  I pick the kid sweeping.  Everyone's helping and everyone contributes, all in the name of survival and keeping the rats at bay.   

Here's how we survive, I mean empower our children to be helpfulness task partners, around the house:

Method 1: DAILY MANDATORY CHORES (on a CHORE CHART) - Our kids have mandatory, non-negotiable chores to do each morning.  I think most families have this, right?  They are your basic, everyday chores for personal and household upkeep.  They don't earn you any rewards or reimbursements and they must be done in a reasonable amount of time.  The jobs are outlined on a magnetic board. They are done right after breakfast and before anything else can happen.  They are always the same, no surprises.  

The kids can trade jobs with each other if they want.  They can also ask a younger sibling for help; surprisingly, the younger ones often say yes... Once in a while, they even offer to help a sibling finish a job quicker.  (awesome, right?!)  

Each child has make your bed, get dressed (lame chore...), brush teeth.

My 5-year old daughter also has brush hair, put the girls' dirty laundry down the chute, and sometimes dust the stairs.

The older boys share these chores: wash the dining room table and chairs, vacuum the dining room, empty the clean dishes from the dishwasher, sweep the kitchen floor, collect the garbage from the trash bins around the house, take the garbage and recycling cans to the curb (if it's trash day and there isn't two feet snow outside), wipe down the bathroom sinks and toilets (only about every other day, usually).

Method 2: CHORES as a CONSEQUENCE - Kids misbehaving may be asked to do chores instead of a time out or other time-wasting consequence.  It's Mom's choice as to what gets done.  I love it!  It can be anything (folding laundry, picking up a room, washing the windows and mirrors on the first floor, organizing the toy closet, organizing the book shelves, mopping the kitchen floor, keeping the baby out of my hair for ten minutes) and it must be done to my satisfaction if the child expects to return to his playing, or whatever he was doing......  

Method 3: KIDS are PAID to do CHORES - If I have extra work that needs to be done, I'll offer it to someone for a specified amount of money.  Or if a child wants to earn some extra change, he can ask if there's anything extra that needs to be done.  Some of the chores that can earn cash around here include washing the car, cleaning out the inside of the van, weeding the garden, washing the kitchen cupboards, sweeping and mopping the bathroom floors.  We usually pay between 50 cents and $1 for chores.  

Method 4: CHORES as PART of SUMMERTIME BINGO - I don't know why, but doing extra chores always seems to be a popular choice on the BINGO charts.  Just another way the kids contribute to getting stuff done around here while working toward a fudge bar treat in the process ;)

Method 5: CHORES as a NATURAL TRANSITION from ONE ACTIVITY to ANOTHER - This method is clutch.  You can use it for pretty much ANY scenario --- "We're leaving for swim in 10 minutes, please clean up the living room."  "Our friends are coming over after lunch, please put away all the toys laying around the backyard."  "We can't watch Wild Kratts until all the laundry is put away and those 5,000 crayons are picked up off the floor."  "No one is going to Papa and Grandma's until the shoes are put away."  If the boys ever ask me if they can play iPad games, all I have to do is start glancing around the room and they know I'm assessing how much needs to be done before they can do games... I've had a lot of success with the "no iPad/Netflix unless the living room and play room are spotless" policy.  

For us, the variety of methods works.  The important stuff gets done daily, the extras get done when they fit into the schedule, and so far none of my kids have suffered from "labor confusion" (you know that bizarre-o condition child psychiatrists think will happen if you don't stick with one method or another for chores; it's especially intensified by toying with a child's mind by paying for some work and expecting other work to be done without compensation --- because the gifts of life, food, and shelter don't really count, of course.)   

I guess in a way, my system of "use all the systems" is sort of preparing them for real life.  Once they're out there in the "real world," no one is going to pay them to brush their teeth, put their own laundry away, or vacuum their own rugs, but they'll hopefully have the wherewithall by that time to know that those things must be done.  They will, most likely, have the opportunity to work for pay, reward, or reimbursement, when they're old enough to go out into the wide wide world to seek their fortune and soon realize that that really means "get a job."   They'll undoubtedly be in situations where they'll have to ask for help with tasks, or ask for additional tasks to make ends meet, or to offer their services (labor and talents) to those in need.   I suppose if they enter religious life they'll be given chores that they must complete under obedience.  Who knows, they may even need to work as a consequence (do they still have chain gangs??).  So, perhaps I should start pretending that my system really is intentional and "for the good of the children."

I'm pretty sure we're going to keep doing what we're doing as far as household chores are concerned.  I'm pretty sure my kids aren't being worked too hard.  I'm pretty sure they get that we all have to chip in to keep the house from swallowing up the family.   I'm a little less sure that they'd do as much around here if I abandoned my systems and just hoped they'd take matters into their own hands when they saw something that needed to be done.  But, that's why I'm the mom, and I'm in charge, and we'll keep using the "use all the systems" systems as long as it keeps working for us!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Dear Catholic Parishes, Give the Sacraments of Initiation Back to the Community

Dear Catholic Parish, (Anytown, USA), 

I’ve had Sacraments on the brain, and I’ve been forming some pretty strong opinions about the way they’re celebrated, particularly the Sacraments of Initiation.  I’m not going to beat around the bush (because, the bush doesn’t need that kind of foolishness in his life)  Here it is - Sacraments celebrated apart from the congregation at large deprive the community of “the powers that come forth from the Body of Christ” and the “actions of the Holy Spirit at work in his Body, the Church.”  (CCC116)  And in my experience, parishes do this a lot.  

Does your church baptize babies in a special celebration after all the weekend Masses are over with??  Do your young people make their First Holy Communion at a Saturday Mass that’s not usually on the weekend schedule??  Does Confirmation take place similarly, out of the context of a regular weekend Mass??   Yeah.  This is what I’m talking about. 

The Church is the Body of Christ.  We do not practice Catholicism in a vacuum. Just as I am a living, breathing member of my family, so my family is a living, breathing member of our parish, which in turn is a viable and valuable member of the worldwide Body of Christ.  As members, we contribute to the whole, and we benefit from our interconnectedness.  The Church as the Body of Christ is an organic, living body; it lives and moves and breathes due, in part, to its "unitedness."   If this is true, then why are the Sacraments of Initiation – the sacraments which breathe new life into our Church -  typically severed from the rest of the body?  Why do many parishes tend to celebrate the Sacraments of Initiation "in a vacuum?"  

This spring, we prepared our oldest child to receive his First Holy Communion. It had long been a desire of my heart that he receive Eucharist for the first time at the 8 AM Sunday Mass we regularly attend as opposed to the specially scheduled Saturday First Communion Mass.  I think initially my reasons were entirely selfish - I didn’t want to be surrounded by strangers at his First Holy Communion, I didn’t want to suffer through rehearsals and wrangling scores of kids and getting them to stand quietly in height order for processing and photographs. I didn’t want my children to even know that there was such thing as a FHC fashion show mentality.  I just wanted a simple and special event for him at the Mass we regularly attend on weekends.  

Gradually, as I prayed about the circumstances of his First Communion, my selfish reasons were tempered with a new thought – what if Aaron’s First Communion at the 8 AM Sunday Mass could be significant for our fellow parishioners??  I wanted Aaron to receive his First Communion in the midst of the community that we celebrated Eucharist with every weekend, and I began to believe that they might appreciate it as well.  They are the community that has watched him grow and mature in his Mass behavior and participation for over seven years.  They are the people who have welcomed and encouraged our family at Mass, despite crying babies, distracting toddlers, and foolish children.  They are the people who have brought us gifts to welcome a newborn, who have bought us doughnuts at the Youth Group bake sale, and who didn't seem to mind that one time when I attended Mass with my sweater on inside out :)   My heart told me that having Aaron make his First Communion amidst this community would be a gift our family could give back to our Church.  They have already seen the good, the bad, and the unbelievably embarrassing when it comes to our family.  I wanted them also to share in our family's overwhelming joy when one of our children received Jesus for the first time.  

Despite the length of those two paragraphs (+ forgive me, Father, for I am long-winded +), the issue is not really about my son, and it's not just about First Communion.  Baptism and Confirmation are the other Sacraments of Initiation that breathe new life into the Church by literally adding members to the Faith community.   Four of our five children were baptized during "special" services that were not during a regular Mass.  I'm under the impression that is a common practice now.  While the Sacrament is still monumentally significant and grace-filled no matter the circumstances under which it is celebrated, I wish our babies could have been welcomed into the community of believers in the presence of the community and in the context of the Eucharist.  "...The Eucharist occupies a unique place as the "Sacrament of sacraments… and all the other sacraments are ordered to it as to their end."  (CCC 1211)  I wish that our fellow parishioners, those we celebrate the Eucharist with each week, could have also experienced the joy and thanksgiving of seeing a new Child of God washed of original sin, gifted with Grace, and brought into the fold.   

In celebrating the Sacraments of Initiation outside of the parish community's regularly scheduled Masses, a large percentage of the Church community is deprived of witnessing the gentle stirrings of new life at Baptisms, the nourishment of young Catholics in First Holy Communion, and the powerful presence of the Spirit in the newest full members of the Faith in Confirmation.  

Consider the elderly of a parish who may never be invited to a Baptism or First Communion.  Consider those who have little hope for the future of the Church because they don't witness young families bringing their babies into the Faith via Baptism.  Older parishioners might understandably lament that the "Church is dying out" if they don’t witness Baptisms or never have the opportunity to see young adults receive Confirmation.

Consider the young parents who may not attend Mass faithfully, but whose hearts are feeling the tug to baptize their new baby and return to more regular participation at church.  That Baptism, done in the context of a regular weekend Mass automatically puts that couple in the presence of a community that will welcome them, congratulate then, and hopefully seek them out the next Sunday.  A young couple whose baby is baptized outside of a regular Mass may never see and meet other young families who attend that parish, missing an opportunity to be encouraged and supported by like-minded moms and dads.  "Baptism is the Sacrament of faith.  But faith needs the community of believers... The whole ecclesial community bears some responsibility for the development and safeguarding of the grace given at Baptism."  (CCC 1253, 1255)  A baby's Baptism into the Church is not an isolated, private event significant only for himself or his parents.  It is the beginning of a lifelong faith journey in which all the faithful are called to participate.  Baptisms during Mass, amidst the community, are the natural way to draw the parish family into that "participation."  

Consider children who eagerly await their own First Holy Communion being able to witness a friend a few years older receive Eucharist for the first time.  In rejoicing for that friend, parents have a natural opportunity to convey the "inexhaustible richness of this sacrament" (CCC 1328), to begin preparing their own child for the Sacrament, and to nurture his or her holy anticipation!

Consider children who, having no siblings or cousins, have never been to a Baptism other than their own infant Baptism.  All the pictures of Baptisms in a first grade religion book cannot replace the experience of witnessing the anointing of a baby with sweet smelling chrism, seeing the water flow over his head, and hearing the words "I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."  In seeing all the joyful excitement and loving fuss made over the newly baptized baby, a child may more deeply come to understand how special and transformative her own baptism was.  

In my humble, and unfortunately poorly expressed opinion, everyone comes up short when the Sacraments of Initiation are "isolated" events.  The community is deprived of participating in the events which strengthen the Body of Christ as well as the individual members.  The individuals receiving the sacraments are not immersed in the interconnectedness that is the sacraments, the Eucharist, and community.  By incorporating the Sacraments of Initiation into the regularly scheduled Masses at which the parish community is gathered, children and adults alike are given the opportunity to live the truth that "the whole liturgical life of the Church revolves around the Eucharistic sacrifice and the sacraments."   They will see firsthand that they themselves are vital to the life of the Church and that the church community is vital to their encounter with Christ in the sacraments.  For "the purpose of the sacraments is to sanctify men, to build up the body of Christ, and finally, to give worship to God." (CCC 1123)  Let us worship Him together!   Give the Sacraments of Initiation back to the community!   

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Incidentally, my son was able to receive his First Holy Communion at the Mass we attend every Sunday!  He was much celebrated and congratulated by the many friends we have in our parish community, and my husband and I were thrilled that he received Jesus for the first time in this way. 

However, since I started writing this post two or three months ago, I have discussed this topic with a few other moms and bloggers and recognize that other families have significantly different feelings on this topic.  One friend mentioned to me that she felt First Holy Communion was more significant for her daughter because she got to receive Our Lord for the first time with several of her good friends at a special Mass.  While Aaron's reception of the Eucharist was of course special, it was not a special Mass specific to First Communion - the homily wasn't about Eucharist, we didn't sing "One Bread, One Body," etc....  Those things may be important for a  family that wants a Mass tailored to First Holy Communion.  Those things weren't as important to us as celebrating amidst the community.  

Another mom I chatted with organizes a special event with their bishop for local homeschoolers receiving Confirmation; it’s celebrated during the course of a retreat weekend.  It is important to her that her children receive Confirmation in a singular and celebratory event.  

My husband and I have also discussed this topic with our parish Director of Lifelong Faith Formation.  While he tends to agree with several of my points, he also has the most difficult and un-enviable job of serving the children of the parish who may otherwise fall through the cracks if it weren’t for religious ed classes and events.  Sometimes the administration-related logistics and the spiritual subtleties inherent in serving a large and varied congregation are more complicated and nuanced than simple parishioners like me can imagine :)

The thoughts I’ve outlined here are opinions, and I heartily recognize there will be opinions different that mine.  I am happy to host a discussion of those differences here, but will require that comments be civil, considerate, and charitable for them to remain up in the post. 

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Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Jim Arnosky :: Summer Author Binge

(Summertime Author Binge-ing on Jim Arnsoky)

Yesterday I wrote about our practice of author binge-ing during the summer and shared some of our favorite books by Dahlov Ipcar.   In June we also enjoyed tons and tons (ok , more like tens and tens) of books by author/illustrator Jim Arnosky.  So today I'll share my thoughts on Arnosky with you :)  

Jim Arnosky is a self-taught artist and naturalist who has combined his interests and talents to write informative, beautiful, and engaging books for children.  It's clear that he has a passion for sharing his love nature with young people.  And my kids love the way in which he does it.  He's written over 100 books for children, so it's likely that your library will have a very large and wonderful selection of his work for you to check out.

Many of his books are delightfully story-like while still conveying plenty of information about a subject - a particular animal or animal group, habitat, or event.  The stories my kids love best are the ones in which he describes an event he watched unfold while out in nature.   Some of our favorites like this are

(this is my personal favorite!)

Several of his books I love because they're written very simply with large font and words suitable for beginning readers.  When my oldest was still practicing early reading, I'd ask him to read these books to the younger kids for "science class."  While the words are simple, the stories are still enjoyable and the illustrations (mostly colored pencil artwork) are beautiful!





Arnosky also has a series of informational books that we like quite a bit.  Animals in the "All About..." series include rattlesnakes, sharks, lizards, manatees, turkeys, turtles, frogs, alligators, owls, and more.  We've enjoyed several of these... they make great lunchtime reading material :)

Finally -- and it's not really finally, because he has so written so much more but I just can't cover it all here --  Jim Arnosky has a series of books for young naturalists in which topics are presented by a a character called Crinkleroot.  These books cover a wide variety of topics such as tracking, identifying animals tracks, identifying common animals and trees, understanding habitats, and how to make the most of a nature walk.  For older children and adults that are interested in learning more about drawing from nature, Arnosky also has books on sketching - Sketching Outdoors in Summer (and other titles that cover autumn, winter, and spring.)  

My kids and I all love Arnosky's books.  They are a perfect blend of lovingly detailed artwork, engaging stories, and information about the natural world.  As I said, an Arnosky study is easy to pull off because he's written and illustrated so gosh darn much!  I bet you'll be able to find a lot of the library.  Enjoy!

Do you have any Arnosky favorites?  

Monday, July 13, 2015

Dahlov Ipcar :: Summer Author Binge

(Summertime Author Binge-ing on Dahlov Ipcar)

Do you binge on library books?  We do.  I spend a couple afternoons requesting books on-line and then we go pick 'em up and dive in.  During the school year, we often book binge by topic - like the kids will be super into cheetahs (thanks, Wild Kratts) and I'll get all the books on cheetahs.  But a few summers ago we started author binge-ing.  (aside: I feel compelled the write this word with the hyphen because to write binging reads, to me at least, as binging - the verb form of the the onomotopoeic word bing.....)

Anyway... When we find an author that we all like -- or that I want the kids to like more ;) -- I request whatever I can by that author.  We have found a lot of our favorite books this way, and we have found a lot of our favorite authors and illustrators this way.  (I tend to gravitate toward authors who also do their own illustrations) Reading a lot by one author, or viewing many illustrations by a particular author/illustrator, has helped my children start to be able to identify individual writing and art styles.  They can often glimpse an illustration from a new book and immediately know whose work they're looking at.  

One of the author/illustrators we binged on in June was Dahlov Ipcar.  I thought I'd give you a little insight into her and tell you what we liked and what we didn't like in case you're looking for some new picture book ideas :)

Dahlov Ipcar, born in 1917.  Most of her works are characterized by her unique, stylistic interpretation of animals - farm animals and wild animals.  She is heavily influenced by life in New England.  She currently resides in Maine.

We were first introduced to Ipcar when my parents traveled to Maine four years ago and brought back a copy of her book Lobsterman.  It's remained a family favorite since.  The story of a boy helping his dad in the family lobster-trapping business is sweet and actually very informative.  I highly recommend it.  

Ipcar's illustrations really are the gold in her work.  Many of her stories are well done, but I just want to hang her artwork all over my house!  Some of the other books of Ipcar's that we've enjoyed enough to buy are...

One Horse Farm - a lovely story of a boy and foal who are born on the same day on a farm.  They grow together, both doing the farm chores they're capable of.  And when it's time to replace Betty, the horse, with a modern tractor, the boy keeps her to be the one horse on the one-horse farm.

Hardscrabble Harvest - some of my favorite Ipcar illustrations are in this one!

Dahlov Ipcar's Wild Animal Alphabet - a sweet board book for babies! 

My Wonderful Christmas Tree - a Christmas counting book - look at all the animals that gather in the fir tree!  No story line, but gorgeous illustrations.

More books of hers that we've enjoyed, but do not own...

And though I'm a real Ipcar fan, I have to say there is one book of hers that I just think is awful :(  Deep Sea Farm is the story of a merman who tends his underwater farm.  I just think it's the most ridiculous story I've ever read.  (ridiculous in a bad way, not a delightfully funny way...)  But maybe you're into that sort of thing.  That's ok....  

Have you read anything by Dahlov Ipcar?  Got any favorites?

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