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Entries in guest columnist (34)


A family's picks for their favorite books about nature

“Wake me when September ends" might be the title of a popular Green Day song, but there is no way that I would sleep through the month of September. I love September; what an awesome month of the year it is for those of us who live in the Midwest!

So far this month, we’ve gotten to enjoy some of the warmth of summer. We’ve also gotten to experience the slightly cooler beginning of fall and the start of the leaves changing colors.  The weather and scenery are both so gorgeous in September, it’s a perfect month for going out into and enjoying nature!

In honor of this beautiful month, I am going to spotlight some of my family's favorite children's nature books.  There are so many wonderful children's books that deal with the subject of nature, and I know that we haven't even read tons of them yet.  But we have read a lot of them, and somehow my kids and I have narrowed down our favorite dozen – one for every month of the year!

My kids are 5 and 2 1/2 years old, so I know that these books are great for those ages (especially the 5 year old).  I think that these titles are all wonderful for any child in the preschool and early grade-school years.  Most of these titles have an age range of 4 to 8 listed on Amazon.

I'm going to split our favorite dozen into two blog posts, to make each blog post a little shorter and easier to read.  Here is our first half-dozen:

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How to Be: An Open Letter to My Son

I am so pleased to welcome a new guest columnist. Amy Bordoni of St. Charles describes herself on her own blog, Don’t Stamp the Baby, as a “writer, poet, mom, honey, friend, chef, collector, helper … meanie, hard worker, sleep deprived, broke, hopeful.” She’s also an amazing writer, and I urge you to regularly check out her blog, as well as follow her on Twitter @amybordoni. Here, I’m publishing an essay Bordoni wrote to her oldest son Liam last month. I know that school has been in session nearly a month now, but I think this letter will resonate with all of us, no matter how old we are or the time of year. – Tara

Dear Liam,

First grade is just a day away. Can you believe it? Some days I feel like I was just starting my first day of school and some days I feel 100 years old. But for you this first year is huge and all encompassing. Soon, you'll be gone seven hours a day, eating your lunch at school, spending more waking time with others than you spend with your dad and me. But you're not thinking about the hugeness of this right now. You can hardly wait to go.

I once had thought of homeschooling you, and because you're such a cool kid who loves to learn, I still think of homeschooling you. But, for now at least, you couldn't be happier to be in a classroom with your best buddies and an awesome teacher - who is not your mother. I'll try not to take it personally.

However, since I am your mother, you still have to listen to me (at least a few more years) and since I can't be with you every minute of the day, I want to give you some words to remember, some rules to live by, some magic to conjure up in those moments when, as Dumbledore says to Harry Potter, you face the choice between what is right and what is easy.

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O Babysitter, Wherefore Art Thou? 

Last week’s post about babysitter rates generated a lot of feedback from readers. But it also prompted several readers to ask for advice on how to find a babysitter in the first place. One of the best tipsheets I’ve read on that subject was written by Amy Hatch, the co-editor of chambanamoms.com, an awesome resource for families in Champaign-Urbana. Thanks to Amy for letting me re-run her column here. --Tara

I was gainfully employed by a Large Multinational Corporation when my daughter was born, and my initial plan was to work from home three days a week after her birth.

I found a sitter after several disastrous interviews and try-outs. One girl made my daughter cry every time she looked at her. Another started at her blankly, while my girl just started back. Finally, Elizabeth came into our lives.

She came into the house and immediately asked if she could hold Emmie. Then she asked me, when the baby started to fuss, if she’d discovered her thumb yet. Elizabeth stuck her finger in Emmie’s open mouth and smiled as my girl clamped down and began to suck.

Leaving Elizabeth behind was hard.

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Let your children 'touch the earth' - also known as dirt!

"I want to touch the earth, I want to break it in my hands, I want to grow something wild and unruly," croon the women of one of my favorite singing groups, the Dixie Chicks.  I hum this song to myself often as I watch my young kids scooping up piles of dark earth, just for the fun of it.

Could this little one look any happier?One of my kids' favorite activities is playing in the dirt. They love it so much that we have yet to actually landscape the section of our front yard specifically meant for landscaping – that little island of dirt nestled between the driveway, the sidewalk leading to the front door, and the house. We meant to fill it with bushes and flowers a few years ago, but our little ones just had so much fun playing in it as we landscaped the opposite side of the front yard that we just decided to leave the dirt alone for the rest of that year. And then the next. 

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Adventures in Babysitting: How much to pay for childcare?

Most of you have probably heard of Sittercity.com, which is an online service most known for its network of babysitters and nannies. I’ve never used it, but friends have spoken highly of it and especially like that you can browse profiles to learn about sitters’ backgrounds and experiences and that many of them come with completed background checks.

Sittercity recently put out a list called the “Top 10 Cities to Find a Babysitter." Now this list is in no ways scientific, since it's based on factors on Sittercity's own website, including the number of babysitters available in the market and the average hourly rates they are paid. But I thought it raised some interesting questions, especially because No. 3 on the list was our very own Naperville, where sitters are paid an average of $11.29 an hour, according to job descriptions parents posted on the site.

Sittercity didn’t specify how many kids those sitters were watching, or how much experience they have. But the website does have a kind of cool babysitter rates calculator.

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Motherhood, Parts 1 and 2

Guest columnist Tammy Caltagirone wrote previously about how much she enjoyed the KDMRA Passport to Adventure program with her young son Joe. When I realized she also had two grown daughters, I asked her to write about her experience of becoming a mother quite young and then again years later. Luckily for us, she agreed. -- Tara

At 21 when I had my first child, I was married, a member of the armed forces and convinced of my own adulthood. At 39, when my third child was born, I was painfully aware of how immature and incapable I was to have had children prior to that point of my life.

This photo of Caltagirone's three children was taken the day last fall her youngest daughter left for the Air Force.My daughters, now 24 and 19, had a mother who barely knew who she was before becoming a wife and mother. Insecure in my existence, I grew as my daughters grew, resorting to the only child-rearing I knew, that of my own parents’ strict regime. Although a product of the 1960s, my parents were from the South, Baptist and military -- the complete antithesis of the hippie movement. They believed, as I once did, that children should be seen and not heard and blindly obedient. But I’ve since come to learn that that isn’t necessarily the correct parenting attitude.

Certain aspects of my childrearing skills have not changed; I demand respect from my children, they are to mind their manners at all times, and above all, they must follow directions. However, this 40-something mom knows that the world is not black and white, that much of our existence is in the grey areas, and therefore I must convey my expectations differently and temper those expectations with the understanding that I must carefully choose my battles.

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