Tuesday Tales: Normal Norman

Could you demonstrate the word normal? When Sterling Children’s Books reached out about a book tackling what normal is, I knew that we had to review this book. That is the premise of Normal Norman by Tara Lazar. A young scientist narrates the book as she shares her presentation on what normal really means.

Normal Norman by Tara Lazar

Normal Norman – Written by Tara Lazar – Illustrated by S.britt

Published by Sterling Children’s Books ISBN 9781454913214 – $14.95 – Ages 4 and up

The narrator introduces us to Norman. Norman is an average animal. We see that he is an ape. As we continue along in the story, the narrator gets frustrated because Norman is not doing normal things. Norman has feelings and does not want to hurt a banana by peeling it. Of course, Norman tells the narrator this by talking. Apes do not normally speak English so that gets the readers attention.

The story continues as Norman shows ways that he is not normal. The beautiful illustrations by S.britt bring us into the different settings with Norman. We see his bed, family, friends, and more as they come alive in the perfectly drawn images.

Reading Normal Norman

In the end, we learn that normal is different for each of us. The lesson within the book is wonderful for kids of all ages and even a great reminder for adults. Within a classroom, this book could be used for chats about differences in all peers, accepting everyone for being unique, and embracing who you are compared to your classmates. Too many times, kids and adults think about societal norms. This way of thinking limits us and holds everyone back from being who we truly are.

This would make a perfect book for an elementary school teacher, library, or family of a child with special needs. I know as a parent of a child on the autism spectrum we often struggle with what people expect normal to look like. Way back, I tackled the word strange and wish a book like this was around. It’s taken us so many years and this book would have been wonderful to read when we first had the autism diagnosis. Normal Norman reminds us that everyone is their own normal and that’s all we want for our children.

Have you ever talked to your children about what normal is? I would love to know how you could use Normal Norman in your life. read any of The Night Before series? As always, Tuesday Tales is all about sharing our love of books. Please let me know what you have read recently. Link up to your book posts in the comments below. Include something you read on your own, with a child, or someone else. Also take some time to follow along on the Normal Norman blog tour. Below are the stops that will be celebrating the release of this new book.

It's Me

Disclosure: As noted above, I received this book from Sterling Publishing to review. No other compensation was received and all opinions are my own.

Normal Norman Blog Tour

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Be Prepared for a Mobile Emergency

#VZWBuzz Disclosure

Imagine driving along noticing someone following your car very close. Every time you turn your car, they follow. This was my reality several weeks ago. I was living a nightmare with TechyDad and my 12 year old son in the car. Do you know what to do if this happens to you?

Prepare for a mobile emergency

I fully admit that I had never really put myself into this scenario to come up with a plan. TechyDad wrote about our experience from his perspective in the passenger seat. It is still hard for me to think about that afternoon. We are not only lucky to be safe, but I am so thankful that I never hit another car or pedestrian while I was trying to get away.

While talking with the amazing police officer after the incident, he told us some things that we could have done differently.

Do NOT stop! – I was finally able to pull into a parking spot after a while. While I was pretty sure that I had lost the psycho following me, I may not have. I don’t even want to think about what could have happened if the person came by after we stopped. We were lucky that there was an officer very close by. So what should you do? The officer told us to keep the car in motion and stay where others can see you.

This leads us to….

Go to the closest police department – While we called 911 and that was good, we should have kept driving to the nearest police station. What if you don’t know where that is? Your phone can help. Have the voice activation function set up and have Google get you directions from your current location. This will be especially helpful if you are alone in any emergency where you can not use your hands.

Multiple times we were asked to describe the car and person in it. Oy! I was a little preoccupied trying not to crash my car. This leads us to…

Take a photo! – While living in the moment, I was too involved to notice details. We did not know the exact make of the other car or his license plate number. A photo could have helped. Know how to bypass security on your phone to get to the camera quickly. On my Note 5 I simply double click on the home button for the “quick launch” feature that opens the camera at any time.

Of course to use your phone to snap a photo you need to know where it is.

Keep your phone within reach. – I honestly do not know where my phone was that afternoon. TechyDad used his phone to dial 911. Had I been thinking I could have easily tossed my phone to NHL in the back seat to take a photo of the other car.

My boys know how to get into my phone for emergencies, but not everyone will.

Make sure passengers in your car are familiar with your phone. – Share with your children and others on the best way to access your phone. This will often vary from one smartphone to another. Investigate before you need it. Show everyone how to access the Emergency Call options and make sure your settings work to help in emergencies. This is what it looks like with my Note 5.

Emergency Call Mode

Remember that you don’t want to worry about what could happen, but be safe and take precautions. You never know if or when something like this may happen to you or a loved one. Take a few moments to get to know your smartphone to see how it can help you.

It's Me

Disclosure: As a member of the Verizon Lifestyle Bloggers, I receive devices like the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 to test out and share ways that I use it in my life. I am a long time Verizon customer, and all opinions are my own.

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Books Your Kids Read in School

Do you know what books your children are reading in school? As a book nerd and teacher, I like to be aware of what my boys are reading. Both of them get excited when I am able to chat and ask them questions about the characters, plot, and beyond.

Books that kids read in school

When NHL started middle school last year, I tried to keep up with what he was reading. The last novel that they read in sixth grade was brutal. I will admit that I fell asleep several times and could not read it. The book was not one I would have selected, but apparently New York State had picked it for their EngageNY modules.

This year, I wanted to know when NHL started a book so I could keep up on what he’s learning in school. Thankfully, NHL mentioned to me several months ago that they started the first book for seventh grade ELA. I picked up a copy of the book. A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park is another book that I may have skipped over. I try not to judge a book by its cover, but something else got me. I started to listen to the audio version of the book which is partially based on a true story. Within minutes, the audio included gun fire and kids racing from a war zone outside of their school.

I admit that I sent a text to TechyDad because I was floored with the book choice. A lot of questions went though my mind.

  • Why were they reading this book in seventh grade?
  • What is the connection with the curriculum?
  • Would the subject matter bother my son?
  • How would the kids react to the war and deaths associated with it?

I took a deep breath and waited to talk to NHL about the story. He was not far into the reading and told me generic things about Nya and Salva. He explained how one was a fictional girl and the other a real boy from Sudan. For those that are not familiar with the book, here is a brief synopsis via the author in the book trailer.

Rather than contact NHL’s teacher about the book, I posted on Facebook to my family and friends. I was curious if any people had read the book and if they knew why it may have been selected. This is when I was told more about Salva Dut and his connection to New York State (I had not gotten far enough in the book to make the connection to know this on my own). My friend is a teacher in the Buffalo area and she told me great things about the book. She explained that I needed to give it more time. I mentioned how I was listening to the audio and it had extra embellishments that made me question things more. I was happy to hear that most seventh graders do extremely well with the book and discussions. My choice in the audio book likely clouded my initial judgment. In addition to this, she told me about Salva Dut going to her school and an event that her students attended to learn about Water for South Sudan.

I finished reading A Long Walk to Water before NHL. Every few days, I would check in to see where they left off in school. I wanted to know if  they had talked about some deaths in the book. In addition to this, I was curious if they took more time to talk about the Sudanese “Lost Boys” that came to the United States. The connection to Rochester and New York State was big. Current events also could factor into this and I was curious if they talked about refugees that continue to come to our country from places like Sudan that are involved in war.

While I may have been concerned about the book at the start, I am glad that my initial feelings changed. A Long Walk to Water opened my eyes to the life of Salva Dut, the connection to refugees in New York State, and how teaching kids about this is important. While it may not have been my initial choice to read, I am happy that I read it along with my son to discuss the important topics that came up within it. Listening to Linda Sue Park’s recent TEDx talk has made me an even bigger fan of this talented author. This talk explains why A Long Walk to Water is so important for our children to read.

When I initially wrote this post, I had not seen the video above. It left me with goose bumps when you hear how much the young readers have raised for Water for South Sudan. This shows the power of a book that engages readers and makes them want to do more to assist others in need. As an educator and parent I am in awe of Linda Sue Park and thankful for the gift of her words in A Long Walk to Water. Now kids across the country can find the power to fight the worlds unfairness and so much more.

What books are your children reading in school and do you usually read them? As always, Tuesday Tales is all about sharing our love of books. What are you currently reading or what was the last book you read?

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Apps to Help Talk to Your Kids About Books

#VZWBuzz Disclosure

As a certified reading teacher, literacy has always been a big part of our family life. I read to both of the boys from the time they were infants. It was a big day when NHL and JSL each got their own library card. There may have been tears in my eyes when each boy became an independent reader. I knew this would mean that our time reading together would be different moving forward.

Apps to Help Talk to Your Kids About Books

TechyDad and I are lucky that both of the boys still enjoy read aloud time. NHL and TechyDad have spent years reading Harry Potter together. JSL and I worked our way through The Magic Tree House books and last summer we began our own nightly reading of the infamous Hogwarts family. I cherish the moments when we read together. Right now, JSL and I have a great new audio book based on Star Wars that we are listening to each morning on the way to school.

Something that has been hard for me is watching the kids plow through books on their own. JSL is a voracious reader and goes everyplace with a book in his hands. I truly wish I could read  all of the books so we could talk about them. The reality is that I can’t do this. There is not enough time in the day for me to read each and every book both of the boys read while also doing my own reading.

So what have I done? I pick and choose what I read to have a surprise chat with the kids. The kids adore it and it’s fun to be able to discuss what their thoughts are on certain topics. My smartphone and several apps have been lifesavers to keep me a bit more on top of things and organized. .

I have used Goodreads for years now. What I realized recently is that it’s a great way for me to index what the kids have been reading at home and at school. Goodreads allows me to put specific book titles into a tag of it’s own. Later on, I can go to that tagged list and select the book I would like to read. The app makes it easy to do. From the My Books tab, scroll to the Add a new Shelf button. This is where I made one for NHL and one for JSL.

Using Goodreads for reading lists

When you have a new book title to add, simply type it into the search bar. Click on the title select the To Read option and mark anything else below that pertains to the title. For The One and Only Ivan, I selected that it was a book JSL has read so I am able to find it later on.

Adding a book to Goodreads list

In addition to this, my handy dandy library app is great to request hard copies of books that I am not able to find online. In addition to this, I am able to take eBooks and audio books out via online library. I am able to read them on my Kindle app, or listen while on the go using my other favorite OverDrive Media app.

Do you keep up on the books that your children are reading? I would love to hear more about how you are able to balance this with older children. As always, Tuesday Tales is all about sharing our love of books. What are you currently reading or what was the last book you read?

It's Me

Disclosure: As a member of the Verizon Lifestyle Bloggers, I receive devices like the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 to test out and share ways that I use it in my life. I am a long time Verizon customer, and all opinions are my own.

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Selecting a Word for 2016

Hello from 2016. The kids are back in school and I am sitting here in disbelief that another year has come and gone. While I blogged less in the last year, I accomplished many things with my family, advocacy, and living life. As the boys have gotten older, I am more conflicted with what I should and should not share. I have a list of posts that are waiting to be written based on our traveling and programs that we went to during the last chunk of months. In addition to this, I have a notebook with drafts of posts written. Yes, I went old school. While waiting outside for the kids each afternoon, I grabbed a pencil and paper. There’s something calming about witnessing words race onto a sheet of paper.

Many people are selecting a word for 2016. Over winter break I kept thinking about this. There is so much happening this year. NHL will be a Bar Mitzvah. My first born will therefore officially be a teen. Talk about a major kick in the gut. In addition to this, a rather big birthday is at the end of the year for me. Lots to do and eventually plan for all of that.

In addition to this, the fight continues in the world of educational advocacy. The level of disgust within NYS from parents and teachers is high. I continue to get more and more angry for my children and at the attack on my profession. None of us are giving up and we all know that simply changing the name of a policy is not fixing the problems created by the reform movement. GRRRRRR!

So, what word should I select for 2016?

Focus in 2016

I believe focus will be my word. I need to keep my mind on one thing at a time so I don’t get overwhelmed and forget the goal at the end.

Yes, in 2016, I will focus on:

  • ME! It’s time to be selfish and work on making me happy and healthy. I will make time for this because, if I don’t, it will not only hurt me, but also my family.
  • making a Bar Mitzvah that will make NHL happy. He’s working so hard I want him to smile and not worry about a thing.
  • going with the flow. I can’t control everything and I have to remember that. I’ve done better with that in some avenues like the kids and school, but need to work on other aspects.
  • traveling to more locations for day trips  or long weekends with the kids and TechyDad. We only have so many more years to make as many memories as possible. There are many museums and places within driving distance that we should explore.
  • an editorial calendar. Freelance work and life pushed some of my own writing to the side last year. I enjoy coming here to write and document things. It’s therapeutic and helps, so I must make it something I do at least a few times each week.
  • getting to TypeACon in October. It’s my favorite conference in a magical place. It’s also very close to my birthday, so it will be part of my present.
  • purging things we don’t need. It’s funny how belongings grow and multiply. It’s time to get the entire family involved and let others have things we no longer need, but they may enjoy.
  • moving outside of my comfort zone in crochet. I want to try reading more patterns and this includes the Star Wars set that I received for Chanukah.
  • reading more throughout the year. I often cluster read. While I enjoy books, I debate if I should read, watch a show, or work on a project. Audio books will on my phone when I drive and I have my Kindle app so there’s never an excuse to read for at least thirty minutes a day.

Star Wars Crochet

There are more items that I want to focus on, but this is a good start. Once again, I am going to take things one day at a time and just keep swimming. What are the items you plan to focus on in 2016?

It's Me

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