September 2014
Monday, September 01, 2014
What if success skips over me?
“Look! I’m a turtle,” my six-year-old said as she headed out the door on her first day of school. With a stuffed book bag bulging from her back, I thought her observation quite accurate.

As I watched my girls each leave to begin the school year, I was reminded of my first days back at school. I remembered being excited about seeing my friends, going out to recess, school games, but nervous about the workload and making an “A” on my assignments.

I quickly learned that I would not always make the “A,” but I also learned that it was okay.

Not getting an “A” taught me where I needed to improve and how to fix the wrong answers, which help me develop my study skills. Adding simple routines to my classwork, like double checking my math or reading my English papers out loud to spot grammar mistakes, often made the difference between a “C” and an “A.”

Not always making the grade taught me that setbacks can be a wonderful learning tool for advancing my study skills. I also learned that setbacks can help me advance my “life skills.”

For instance, as a mother, I question which foods are best for my kids, how best to give advice, how to fulfill their needs without spoiling them, how to let them explore the world in a free but secure way. Whether or not I chose wisely feels unknown. In the end, I usually go with my inner moral code, that voice in my head and heart which tells me the right path, and then I have to trust that I have made the best decision. Yet again, as with school, I don’t always get an “A” for my effort, but I learn how to better handle the situation the next time it arises—another tool added to my life skill's bag.

Setbacks have also helped my writing. When I began writing seriously a little over a year ago, I wondered if writing success would skip over me. I still wonder this! But life has taught me that I will not always make the “A,” and setbacks are a part of learning and improving. With each critique or suggestion, I learn better ways to approach my writing and develop my writing skills. I believe my “A” will come, but, until then, I will write and write and write!

With each setback, I know I will learn a new skill to add to my writing bag. I hope one day my writing bag bulges with knowledge so that I can say to my daughter, “Look! I’m a turtle!”

How do you deal with setbacks? Feel free to leave a comment below.
Sima posted on October 03, 2014
I try to look at others who aren't as fortunate as me....try to look for gratefulness...
Michelle Karene posted on October 03, 2014
Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Sima! Appreciating what we have and being grateful for the blessings bestowed upon us is always uplifting to me too.
Posted by Michelle
Monday, September 08, 2014
10 aMUSING Thoughts (# 3)
Some of the comments my children make both inspire and intrigue me as well as make me laugh. Here are the latest comments that caught my attention.

1) “Run me!”
My three-year-old takes everything very literally, not only in how she interprets what I tell her, but also in how she speaks. So, when her older sister chased her around the house as she ran away, to her, big sister was “running” her.

2) “I don’t know how to watch my mouth because my eyes are not facing it,” said my daughter in response to, “Please watch what you say.” Again, she heard the literal meaning of the words I spoke. I must admit, however, that it was hard to argue with her reasoning, especially when I was trying to suppress my laughter.

3) “My socks don’t want to wear tennis shoes.”
A very valid reason to my daughter, who was not in the mood to wear her tennis shoes to school that day.

4) “I’m the boss of my birthday…no one tells me what to do.”
I couldn’t help but think of the song, “It’s My Party.”

5) “That freaked me from death.”
My daughter meant “that scared me to death,” but I kinda like her expression better.

6) “They’re too scrumblee!” said my daughter about her socks that had scrunched and bunched inside her shoe.
Words made up based on how something physically feels always brings a smile to my face. I love that my daughter creates such words. I could feel scrumblee socks.

7) “Are you going to turn on something kid appropriate?”
“What’s her-aps?”
Again, the literal understanding of my response. If anything, my daughters constantly teach me to speak in way that is direct and not so open for interpretation.

8) “Cotton balls! It’s almost better,” said my daughter about the scratch on her knee.
I couldn’t help but laugh at the use of “cotton balls” for an expression of amazement. Perhaps I need to add this word to my list of amusing expressions for use later.

9) “At night there’s only one flashlight in the sky—the moon!”
I love the comparison. I could imagine a angel sitting up in heaven shining a big flashlight down on earth.

10) “My dreams never fail on me,” said my daughter in response to “did all your birthday dreams come true?”
I love the seemingly eternal optimism of youth…and I too hope my daughters’ dreams never fail them. Keep on dreaming!

For those readers who missed part I or II of the aMUSING comments my children make, see:
PART I: michellekarene.com/default.php?content=blog&sid=3&date=2014-04#9
PART II: michellekarene.com/default.php?content=blog&sid=3&date=2014-06#32

What silly, amusing, or thoughtful remarks do your children say? Feel free to leave a comment below.
Taylor posted on September 08, 2014
Those made me laugh. Very creative and humorous kids you have. Keep up the great work on the blog.
Sima posted on October 03, 2014
I love the way you can share, and paint a picture of the amazing moments with your girls....
Michelle Karene posted on October 03, 2014
Thank you, Taylor & Sima! Children are such a wonderful source of inspiration.
Sima posted on October 03, 2014
My seven year old daughter hugged me and I asked her how do you feel hugging me.....
She said good.
I encouraged her to use a juicy word....she then said 'nice'.
I asked her agin,"Is nice a juicy word?"
Then she said the best hugging expression I have ever received, "I feel like a hot pie that has just been made!"
Michelle Karene posted on October 03, 2014
What a great way to express how wonderful a hug can feel!
Posted by Michelle
Monday, September 22, 2014
What if I was a princess?
Once upon a time there was a princess…or in my case, three princesses.

As the mother of three little girls, some days, princesses and princess-y things rule my house. To my girls, the word “princess” conjures images of Disney princesses from Cinderella to Elsa to Ariel. If given the option, each of my girls would happily be a princess, but I was amused that each identified with a different princess.

My baby girl wanted to be Elsa because she wanted to live in an ice castle. Why? In her words, “that’s what I want.”

My middle girl wanted to be “all the princesses” because she likes all of them and so she can “wear pretty gowns, pretty shoes, and pretty tiaras.” (Can you tell she is my girly-girl?)

My eldest daughter surprised me by her chooses and reasoning. She wanted to be either Ariel because she is a mermaid and because she is “more free than the other princesses,” or Mulan because she is “more active and not as princess-y, and she protects the kingdom from bad people, and she does karate.”

I love that my eldest daughter identified with the princesses by what they did and not by what they had. I love that, at seven, she can already see that actions say a lot about who people are more than what they possess. I hope my daughter holds onto this knowledge throughout her years, because it makes her spirit shine with compassion and understanding—qualities, I believe, all people, royalty or not, should have.

And, of course, I hope my three princesses live happily ever after.

What princess does your little girl want to be? Feel free to leave a comment below.
Posted by Michelle
Monday, September 29, 2014
STEM Concepts in Picture Books (Part I)
You use math everyday! I’ve heard this statement so many times in my life that I’ve lost count.

As I child, I thought this statement was nonsense. As an adult, I only see the comment as true. If I actually take a moment and think about the tasks I undertake daily, I can see math and science everywhere (and that is not just because I am an engineer and a scientist).

I use math from the moment I wake up and look at my alarm clock. Comprehending the numbers on the clock and understanding what the time means involves an understanding of math. I continue to use math and science in the form of measuring, filtering, dissolving, heating, and mixing as I make my morning cup of coffee.

Most of the time, however, I don’t ponder how I am using math or science in my everyday life. It is just life or a routine that a go along doing. I don’t stop and say, “Hey, I just did some addition,” or “Hey, that was a chemical reaction.”

However, as a mother who is trying to help three girls understand basic science and math concepts, I find myself noticing science and math in everyday tasks and sometimes I look for fun examples to show my girls these concepts.

As an aspiring author, I wondered if children’s books that depict everyday life could be used to portray math and science.

Thus, my challenge began!

I asked each of my daughters to bring me one picture book she had enjoyed reading lately and then I tried to determine if there was a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) concept presented in any way within the book. I next wanted to see if I could spark a conversation with my girls about STEM using the book.

Although some of my thoughts may seem like a stretch, the point was to determine if simple moments could be used as a stepping stone to start a conversation about STEM.

Here are my thoughts on the first book my youngest daughter brought me:

Should I Share My Ice Cream? by Mo Willems (www.mowillems.com)
STEM concept: Melting (portrayed in the illustrations)

In Should I Share My Ice Cream?, Elephant struggles between sharing his ice cream cone with Piggie or not. While he decides, his ice cream melts and drips off the cone.

I sat down with my 3-year-old, pointed out the illustrations of the ice cream cone dripping, and asked her what was happening.

“It’s melting…it leaked out,” she said. (I smiled.)

We talked a little about what melting meant, and then I asked her if she could think of a time when she had seen something melt?

“Umm…on real ice cream…a popsicle can melt,” she said. (I smiled again.)

We talked about other items that she might have seen melt such as ice and snowmen. I asked her what does the sun do to make the snowman melt? To which I got my favorite response yet: “To make hot in ice.”

I next sat down with my 6-year-old who immediately understood that on hot days ice cream would melt, but on cold days, “it would stay like it was.”

I next asked her what do you call that, when it’s hot or cold outside?
“Temperature,” she said.

We then talked about freezing. She could understand that if ice cream melted at a temperature above zero then at a negative temperature the ice cream would be cold or frozen and at a positive temperature the ice cream would melt.

So far so good! I was liking how the conversation was going!

The next morning, I sat down with all three girls and read them the book. Although I had already talked about melting with my youngest two daughters, it was the first time talking with my 8-year-old and all three together.

I asked them if there was science, engineering, math or technology in the book. Not surprisingly, I got a blank stare from my oldest.

My three year old, however, raised her hand and said the ice cream melted. (I smiled again. She remembered.)

My 8-year-old could tell me that melting was when ice cream was heated up and dripped out of the cone as a liquid. She then said that melting was when a solid became a liquid. (A+ for that response)

We talked a little more about melting, and then we talked about the reverse of melting, going from a liquid to a solid, or freezing. We next talked about the three states of matter, using water as an example. Although my girls didn’t know all the technical terms, my 6-year-old could explain to me that a solid was when things were bunched up and a liquid was when things spread out more. 

We next talked about boiling and the names of the temperatures at which substances transition from one state to another, or their freezing point, melting point, and boiling point.

And then, they ran off to play.

Although the conversation probably lasted only ten minutes, I was happy with the outcome. By pointing out the one STEM concept in Should I Share My Ice Cream?, we not only had conversations about melting, but we also talked about freezing, boiling, states of matter, rates, and temperature.

All in all, I can say that a successful STEM conversation was sparked!

Next week, in Part II, I try to find a STEM concept(s) in I Ain’t Gonna Paint No More! by Karen Beaumont, illustrated by David Catrow.

Do see STEM concepts in picture books that depict everyday life? Feel free to leave a comment below.
Sima Mittal posted on October 03, 2014
Hi Michelle....i love your STEM concept.....you should do STEM picture book workshops with kids in school....it's an amazing concept....will share it with friends ....
Michelle Karene posted on October 03, 2014
Thank you so much, Sima! It has been fun and educational for both my girls and me to look for the STEM concepts in the books we read.
Posted by Michelle