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Jonathan Antoine, voice of an angel

Discovering The Next Pavarotti

Do you remember when Susan Boyle was discovered on Britain’s Got Talent? Well, prepare to be amazed. My husband sent me this video with another revelation.

The friendship of Charlotte and Jonathan is a good reminder not to judge a book by its cover. I hope you enjoy their performance. Do you think Jonathan Antoine is next Pavarotti?

Britain’s Got Talent Unearths The Next Pavarotti

And here he is in high school, waiting to be discovered. Voice of an angel.

Jonathan Antoine, voice of an angel

meeting author Jaqueline Davies, Candy Smash, Candy Smashers, chapter books for 4th grade, chapter books for 3rd grade, meeting Jaqueline Davies, The Lemonade War, Lemonade war series,

Mysteries Surrounding The Lemonade War Series

PickyKidPix just turned 11-years-old recently. Part of her birthday celebration was to meet one of her favorite authors who happens to live one town over. PickyKidPix became a fan of her mystery chapter books in 3rd grade but continues to read them — insisting on buying her own copy — even though the books are now a quick read for her.

After her soccer game, we brought a friend of hers, Abby, who claims to hate reading to meet the author as well. What’s interesting is that Abby loved The Lemonade War series and is a strong reader. She just doesn’t like reading. Ah, I think I can change that!!

PickyKidPix was similar to Abby; a strong reader who only read for school assignments. Abby says she doesn’t even do that. It just took a small fix to get PickyKidPix reading:

1) Meeting authors makes her want to read their books.

2) Peer recommendations and teacher recommendations persuade her. Mine barely count, by the way.

3) Identify genre and area of interest. My daughter likes award winning chapter books and realistic fiction. Special needs characters are a big draw. Historical fiction works too. She likes strong characters, drama from the get go, and a happy ending.

Abby really liked The Lemonade War series so this event was a good match. We got her a signed copy; always more enticing I think! And the result? PickyKidPix said that she finished it the very same day! A victory for reading!

Now, onto the mysteries!

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40-Something Moms Learn to Box

Four 40-something moms and I started boxing at the beginning of the year. It was a New Year’s Resolution of sorts that quickly snowballed. My mom friend Penny wanted to learn to box after watching her older brother transform into a Cardassian-like humanoid with bulging Trapezius muscles from boxing in the Bronx.

My mom friend Stella wanted to return to pre-baby weight now that her 3 kids are in school. We needed our mom friend Katherine — she’s a nurse and game for any kind of exercise. Lydia missed karate. And I wanted to work on my self-defense.

What to do? Why start our own mom boxing class!

Middle Aged Boxing Moms How To’s

There are many kinds of boxing classes: aerobic boxing classes where you air punch found typically at health clubs, cardio boxing or kickboxing at a karate studio with a heavy bag per person, and actual boxing instruction.

Penny wanted to learn to box. Really box so I had to track down a boxing club with a good instructor. With the help of my Golden Gloves Dad friend Mike, we got all set up:

  • Boxing Gloves (Do NOT borrow from the Boxing Club. Eh, those are stinky!!)
  • Hand Wraps (Ditto for hand wraps. Plus, the wraps help protect your wrists and they are fun to put on .)
  • Boxing Teacher (Our guy Marc is training a female National boxing aspirant and several Golden Glove contenders.)

Nonantum Boxing Club, Newton MA boxing, boxing for moms, middle age mom boxing classes, mom boxing classes, moms and boxing, 40 something moms boxRead more…

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Novels in Verse for Kids: Poetry in Motion

My 4th grade daughter, PickyKidPix, came home furious a few weeks ago. She said that she was the only person in her grade that got poetry for her MCAS standardized open response standardized test. Worse, I had kept her home sick during the one day they practiced poetry open response essays at school.

Novels In Verse for Kids Make Poetry into a Story

I’m sure it went fine, but she will be forever scarred associating poetry as something designed to confound her for a multiple choice Common Core Standardized test. I had felt the same way about poetry too until just a few years ago.

Sharon Creech‘s Hate That Cat novel in verse had completely blown my mind. I had no idea that 1) novels in verse existed, 2) that novels in verse could tell a  story and 3) that I would actually enjoy it.

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Picture Book Poetry Collection for Spring

I met Amy Ludwig VanDerwater at KidLitCon a couple of years ago during a break out session called Poetry Friday. How I ended up in a poetry session indicates how in over my head I was at this conference full of children’s book bloggers. I had the feeling I used to get in Organic Chemistry class;  I have no idea what anyone is saying but just write everything down and hope to god that I can figure it out later.

How I Met Amy Ludwig VanDerwater

All that day, there were mysterious and overlapping acronyms thrown around. (I’m convinced that acronyms are the key for exclusion. They are a secret language of sorts).

ARC versus arc.

ARC = Advanced Release Copy versus an arc of a story. How confusing that they are both thrown around in a single day.

MG confused me too. Once I figured out MG = Middle Grade, I was still confused. Middle school versus Middle grade? There is no Middle grade school where I live!

I find poetry intimidating in general so when the nice women of Poetry Friday encouraged the blogger audience to participate in their weekly link up by composing a poem and then posting it, I thought, “Why not just get naked and sing karaoke to boot? Then my humiliation will be complete.”

They seemed like professional writers, for whom poetry is a skill they possessed from birth and have honed to lethal ability like MMA fighting. Frankly, I’d rather fight in a cage than write a poem. I think it would be less embarrassing. Read more…

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Mexico Day Party Crafts for Kids

Cinco de Mayo Crafts Party for Kids

In second grade, the kids travel the globe to study Mexico, China and Ghana. It’s a wonderful social studies unit that culminates in a Mexico Day party that can also be used for a Cinco de Mayo party for kids.

Our teacher set up six stations and had parent volunteers run each station. It took about 3 hours for the party and the unit itself lasted about a month. I was in charge of the dried bean maraca craft.

Map of Mexico

The kids learned about the geography of Mexico.


By the end of the unit, they learned a lot! I liked how they asked questions throughout and found answers. It was all tracked on this chart.

2nd graders learn about Mexico, 2nd grade Mexico unit

Paper Plate Maraca Craft for Kids

The maraca craft was pretty easy. The tricky part was putting in just a handful of beans and then stapling the folded paper plate without letting any escape. I did the stapling.

What you need for the Paper Plate Maraca Craft:

  • Dried beans
  • Paper Plates
  • Stapler
  • Streamers
  • Markers or crayons

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Best TV Shows for Tweens Approved by Moms

I was complaining on Twitter with Stacey Loscalzo about the lack of decent programming for tweens when we decided to collect the handful of TV shows that are both mom and tween approved. It’s sad that there are so few given the quality and plethora of shows for toddlers and preschoolers. It was tween Disney shows that set me off. I think Stacey and I bonded over the word “inane” to describe the shows of twenty-somethings playing tweens. But if not Disney, what?

I polled the ladies at my hair salon and one of the best ideas was creating a show based on The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. “Why can’t they base a show on that?” my hair stylist Tricia lamented? Why not, indeed?

Another stylist says that she watches Glee with her girls. Her girls’ friends discuss the show anyway and she is fine with them watching it as long as she’s there too to help explain it and put it into context. (There is a lot of sexuality in Glee that make it off-limits for some parents to approve of for their tweens.)

Best TV for Tweens

I polled my family  and the play dates next. This is the list that made the cut:

  • It’s All on the Line (Joe Zee the Creative Director of Elle Magazine helps struggling designers make a go of their business. His ideas are on pointe but it’s fun to watch whether or not a) they listen to him and b) have what it takes to change.)
  • Make It or Break It (My 11-year-old loves this gymnastics drama of girls trying to make the U.S. Women’s Gymnastics Olympics team. It made her convert our basement into a gym using camping pads you put under your sleeping bag. She taught herself no-hands cartwheel after watching marathon session of this show. There are some serious themes like anorexia and sex offender though. The girls are in high school so this show is a little old for her.)
  • The Voice (My husband says the new judges Usher and Shakira were surprisingly articulate and funny. I like watching the contestants follow their dreams.)
  • Cake Boss (We love Buddy and his wacky family feels like extended family if you watch a lot of the shows. The creativity of each gigantic cake keeps us plugged in.)
  • D.C. Cupcakes (We might have to trek to Boston to check out their latest outpost because of this show. I saw the episode where they baked thousands of cupcakes to send to the troops in the Mid East. Those ladies are amazing!)
  • Cupcake War (I approve of any cooking competition show on Food TV Network. Some kids are riveted by the competitiveness, the creativity, and the agony of defeat.)
  • Modern Family (Our 5th grade play date Devin approves of this show for 5th graders and older. It brings her family together and they love it so much they record it.)
  • CNN Kids (Our fifth grade kids watch this daily at school).
  • Friends (My kids were amazed to discover that we watched Friends a decade ago. I love how nice they are.)
  • Julie of My Shiny Monkey says, “For your Tween TV post, if you need more recommendations, we love watching these shows together: Shark Tank (business lessons), How It’s Made (engineering), Modern Family (relationships), and Jon Stewart’s Daily Show (world events).”

    How about you? What are your tweens watching that you approve of? Stacey weighs in next! Read more…

    video gaming and learning, video games and brain development, learning and exercise, boys and video games, boys and learning, boys and exercise

    Connection Between Exercise and Learning

    Brain Research on Learning, Exercise, and Video Games!

    Please welcome my guest author, Sarah Clachar, who has some alarming news about children’s brain development and video gaming. On the positive side, exercise and learning are also related. After reading her article, I started carting around my son’s 500+ page Percy Jackson book and little baggies full of legos in my purse for him to use instead of his iPod Touch while we wait at restaurants.

    What do you do to keep your kids off screens and active? PLEASE share! We could all use more ideas, especially me! Thank you!


    What Goes Best With A Good Book?

    What’s the best thing you could have with a good book?
    A banana muffin? Nope.
    A cup of tea? Nope.
    A nice comfy chair? A roaring fireplace? A quiet evening? All good things . . .

    But Nope. Nope. And nope.

    It’s exercise. Read more…
    1 world football project, soccer for kids in war zones

    Soccer Ball for Kids That is as Durable as Their Spirit

    It’s so easy to support kids in war torn areas. Just buy a One World Futbol and a durable soccer ball that can withstand harsh terrain will be donated to kids in Darfur and other places including war zones and refugee camps. This ball lasts! It never requires a pump and it lasts decades!

    One World Futbol: World’s Most Durable Ball

    The co-founder of One World Futbol, Tim Jahnigen, had this to say about the project: “The One World Futbol projects strives to improve the lives of youth and adults in disadvantaged communities worldwide by distributing an ultra-durable soccer ball to organizations on the ground in war zones, refugee camps, inner cities, and harsh environments for use in their work with communities in need.”

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