lundi 26 janvier 2015

Enough of Frankie already! [Multicultural Children's Book Day]

Tomorrow is Multicultural Children's Book Day in USA. I don't know if such a day exists in France nor Germany, however it should! The UNESCO has set the 23rd of April as World Book and Copyright Day, but it does not enhance the need of a more representative litterature for children (and for the adults too!).
When I enlisted myself last September to take part in this event, I didn't know which book I would receive. As I live "overseas" (from a US point of view), the author of the book I'm reviewing today sent it to me in a digitalized form. I had no clue about the topic of the book... I had just the title "Enough of Frankie already!" and at first, I thought it was about siblings rivalities. Guess what? I was totally wrong! But I wouldn't have it any other way. Because this book has the perfect topic for me!!!
As soon as the file was uploaded on my computer, I opened it and was met on the second page with the picture of a young African-American kid, with crossed eyes, steam coming out of his ears and an angry frown on his face. 
I kinda laught... The kid was so cute! And it reminded me of my son when he's angry and really pissed off. I started to read the following pages and... I choked. Literally. I raised my eyes and Thanked God for His Love and Wisdom, and the Inspiration He sent to Becky Flansburg who was in charge of the coordination between authors and bloggers. I don't know she's religious but if you read me Becky, your choice was not a random one! Far from it!
You see, Enough of Frankie already! talks about bullying. It's maybe the first time you read a post on my blog, so you're not aware that it's a very personal topic for me. Bullying is a BIG NO-NO at my house. I have been bullied in my childhood and youth. Not to the point of the main character Amir who had his head push in the dirt and his shirt cut short of a few buttons. But with words, mean laughters and pokes in the ribs, yes. With being the last to be picked up on a team during sport class, again yes. And so on... I'm grateful that back then the cellphones were like big dinosaures and pictures on internet were more "concepts" than realities. I don't want to think of what I would have done if it had gone that way...
Amazon cover

The story:
Amir is a second grader at Jefferson Elementary. He and his classmates are bullied by an older kid, Frankie. They are all fed up with his attitude and one day, when Amir choose to stand his ground, they all tell Frankie it has to stop. Frankie's answer left them quite speechless. It seems that bullying was a mode in this school and that he was also the vistim of it. With the help of a teacher the second graders and Frankie decided to break the vicious circle of bullying. 

We don't know what happened after, but the author Felicia Capers left us with the best end possible: a list of questions and reflections we can have with our children or students. 
THEY will chose what to do in their life when confronted with a situation of bullying. THEY (and US, the adults) will be able to exerce their free will and set up their values. A book like Enough of Frankie already! is a useful tool for them to understand and feel what it means to be a victim of such acts. They are in Amir's shoes , they read and see what's going on for him. Well, he even talks to the reader! 

I have read the story to my children, and pointed to them the pictures. My son is 6 and my daughter soon to be 3. As I struggled to translate the most adequately the sentences into French ("Mom, could you read it in French too? I don't understand!" said in French -of course-), my daughter pointed her finger to Frankie on one of the page and told me "Il est méchant!" (= "He is bad!"). She was a bit lost at why at the end Frankie was joining the younger kids in protesting against bullying. 
So I explained her (and her brother who was in the seat beside me) that Frankie was not completely "bad", that he didn't know how to react when he was a victim and turned his anger and dispear into violence. Picking up on smaller kids was the sole solution he came up with. A bit like when her brother refuses to share a toy he's playing with and she's so unhappy that she starts to shout and try to be mean to him. If she has to learn how to behave towards her brother when frustrated, the same goes for Frankie. With the help of people who care and will explain how to work our negative feelings, we can break the chain and have more harmonious relationships with others (a brother or  schoolmates).
I'm not sure the lesson has stuck, but I will certainly read many times this book with them. So after a few readings, it should be more internalized.

Why a book about bullying is included in a list of multicultural books? Simple! The characters of the book represent a school in New Jersey, as many exist. The children are from diverse ethnical  and religious background as seen with their firstnames and the color of their skin. If you have asian, indian, african, south american or european ancestors (etc), you can identify yourself with one of the children of the story. 
Everybody can be bullied, as much as everybody can stop it and take a stand on dialogue, compassion and friendship. It's not an endogenous issue: bullying can be found in the whole world! We don't need to be "so and so" to change the view of people about it. As the author and the illustrator work for, sensibilization begins in our neighborhood. 

So my dear readers, are you ready to join the movement and take a peaceful and meaningful stand against bullying?

About Multicultural Children Book Day:
“MCCBD team hopes to spread the word and raise awareness about the importance of diversity in children’s literature. Our young readers need to see themselves within the pages of a book and experience other cultures, languages, traditions and religions. We encourage readers, parents, teachers, caregivers and librarians to follow along the fun book reviews, author visits, event details, the multicultural children’s book linky and also via our hashtag (#ReadYourWorld) on Twitter and other social media.”
The official hashtag of this event is #ReadYourWorld. The co-creators of the Multicultural Children's Book Day are Mia Wenjen from Pragmatic Mom and Valarie Budayr from Jump Into a Book/Audrey Press. 
It has to be noted that Wisdom Tales Press (a Platinum Sponsor) hosts a book giveaway on their website. You can win 6 books, so go check it!

samedi 24 janvier 2015

My son goes to the Primary [Faith Celebration Blog Hop]

Hello dear readers! I'm so happy to take part in this Faith Celebration Blog Hop with my fellow bloggers of the MKB community. I firmly believe that, when we get to learn the cultures of other peoples (Faith included), we can live better all together. So this blog hop has really spoken to me! Take a look at all the others posts and religions by clicking on the link above and try to win this giveaway:

Wisdom Tales Press is offering a reader a copy of the book
 Everyone Prays: Celebrating Faith Around the World by Alexis York Lumbard. 
To enter the giveaway (January 26 to February 10, 2015), follow the instructions on the Rafflecopter at MKB.


For those who don't know it, my husband and I are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints. Yeah, it's kinda a mouthful. That's why many people had started to call it the "Mormon Church". Not that I don't like the prophet Mormon (he's the one who compiled the ancient records of his people and wrote from them what is now known as the Book of Mormon), but it diminishes the fact that we believe in Jesus Christ and that He is at the Head of our Church (by His inspiration and His Gospel). The Church uses this nickname for some programms but overall, the term LDS (Latter-Day Saints) is more adequate and it has to be noted that members are quite sad when someone tells them they are not Christians... when we definitly are!

To read more about our believes and principles, here's a post I wrote about some basics facts about our Church, another about the role of Redeemer of Jesus-Christ and in this blog-hop you will find the post of Lisa talking about "Demystifying" our Church.

Jesus Christ, surrounded by a group of children, shows them love and compassion.

Every Sunday, my children attend their classes at our local ward. Gabriel and Sophie have roughly two hours of lessons, songs, plays, etc. Meanwhile, my husband and I have also our classes: the Sunday School (Teachings of the Scriptures) and the Priesthood for Jo, the Relief Society for me. I could talk to you about these organizations but it's not my topic for today...

So come on, I will present you the Primary of the Friedrichsdorf ward (but it could be anywhere else in the world, the organization of the Primary is nearly the same everywhere)

The Presidency:
Each ward has an organization called the Primary, lead by a President and two consellors (all three are women). In my ward, the President is a young woman who is married for a little over one year and a half and has no kids (yet). When she was called as President of the Primary, she was a bit overwhelmed but with the help of her consellors and her secretary who are already mothers (one with teenagers, the other with kids from toddlers to 11 years old and the last with 2 young kids) she overcame it. Now, she still finds it challenging but is more confident and loves her calling.

If a child is between 18 months old and 3 years old, he will go for the 2 hours at the Nursery. Sophie loves to go with the other kids. She's the oldest for now and likes to say the prayer (with some help of course), have a small lesson about a Gospel principle (kindness, love, honesty, etc) adapted for toddlers, have a snack and play!
Going to the Nursery helped my daughter to learn German: she started to attend this class when we moved to Oberursel and it was her first real contact with this new language! She also picked up a bit of English as some of the women who managed this class were English speakers.
But what is the most important for kids this young is for them to be together, in peace and happiness. For the children who are with one of their parents, at home, during the week, it's also a moment of sociabilization.

When they are 3 on the 1st of January, they will attend the Sunbeam (3 years old), and the following years the Choose the Right (4 to 7 years old) and then the Valiants (8 to 11 years old) after their baptism.
 At 8 years old, a child will be baptized if he/she so chose. The parents' agreement is necessary but it's the child's free will that matters the most. He / She will be explained what the baptism means and that this covenant will have to be kept all her life ("I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith" 2Tim 4:7). It's a baptism by immersion, like the one Jesus had.
When a child reach his 12th birthday, he will be welcomed in the Young Women or Young Men classes. The classes are only for 40 minutes. For one more hour, the children will be together in the period we call "Sharing Time".

Example of Sharing Time with the whole Primary: songs, prayers, Scriptures reading, short talks, etc.

Sharing Time: Now it's time for a game after the lesson about the different teachings of Jesus. The teacher had hidden a picture and a child has to remember which one is missing... It was my son's turn to find out. He succeed with a little help from the teacher.

"Choose the Right" class for the 4 and 5 years old.

My son is in the CTR group (CTR = Choose the Right) as you can see in the picture above. He enjoys so much to be with his friends and his teacher and to talk about Jesus and His Gospel. However, it always makes me frown to hear that he loves to say the  opening or the closing prayer during Primary but pouts at home when we ask him to do it. Hum... He's only willing when his grand-parents are here (or on the phone). I guess he prefers to let his sister shines, she's so eager  these days to fold her arms and repeat after me (so cute!)

The Primary in the world:
The last two years, children around the world have been interviewed and their "profiles" including pictures, infos about their country or city, their favorite hobbies, etc, have been added to a map in short videos. It's the One in a million project. This is a simple and yet thoughful way to explain to children that eventhough they all have different lifestyles, they belong to the same worldwide Primary and are all Children of God. I love the song they created for the occasion! You can listen to it below:

I have asked some of my friends about their experiences in/with the Primary.

The first one was my Bishop and friend, Torsten who is German and is the father of 5 kids:
1/ As a bishop, what is for you the most relevant adjectives to define the organisation that is the Primary?
Playfully learning

2/ What does the Primary help the children with? 
The purpose of the Primary is to feel the love of our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ through singing songs, hearing the stories from the scriptures and the testimony of those who teach. 

3/ For those who think that 2h a week of religious classes is too much for a kid, what would you tell them?
Two hours are pretty fast if something is fun and rich in variety. In the two hours, the children sing songs, read and repeat a scripture, have activities like drawing a picture of a biblical hero or craft something. They also have a time for about 20-25 min, where they are together with other kids of their age group to have a short gospel lesson. 

4/ Now, as a father, what is your most memorable moment with your kids about the Primary?
As a father I enjoy to sing children songs about Jesus with my children. Often when we drive home in the car our children want to sing the songs they have learned in Primary, those songs would be „I want to be like Jesus” or „I am a child of God” or „Follow the Prophet”.

I am a Child of God, sung by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in October 2014.

5/ Did you attend Primary when you were a kid? And if so, what is the most important thing you have learned there?
Yes I did. From the age of 3 years until I turned 12 year old. I think in Primary I learned that God is our Heavenly Father and that he loves all his children. That he wants us to be happy and to return to him and we find happiness, when we follow the example of Jesus Christ.

Eva, a French expat in Germany, like me, is a mother of a 3 years old boy. Here is what she thinks about this organization:
1/ What is for you the main goal of the Primary?
The purpose of the LDS Primary organization is to help the children learn more about Jesus and Heavenly Father, and their divine potential and heritage as children of God.

2/ What experiences do you have with the Primary? as a child? as a teacher?
I have good Memories from my childhood as a Primary child. I remember the songs we've learnt, some of the Primary presentations we made, and the friends and teachers I had. I felt loved and important because a whole organization had been created so that children could learn and grow spiritually just like everybody in the church.

As a Primary leader I realize how blessed I am to be able to teach the children because most of the time I think I am the one learning from them. Their spirits are pure and strong and they help me strengthen my testimony as well.

3/ What is the most memorable moment of your child in the Primary?
Last sunday my son Noah started his first day in Primary after being in nursery for a year and a half. He is now a "sunbeam" (name of his group age) and I could see how proud he was to be with the older ones. It is a great joy to see him participating during the lessons and everything.

4/ What is your favorite song from the Children Songbook?
I have lots of favorite songs, I LOVE singing...but I'd probably say that my favorite one is "My Heavenly Father loves me". It talks about all the things that God created for us and that I can feel his love in every single thing he created.

My Heavenly Father loves me, by Mercy River. Photos by hiyapapayaphoto.

5/ For those who think that 2h a week of religious classes is too much for a kid, what would you tell them?
2 hours a week is nothing compared to the average time that a child spent in front of TV. Plus this time is well organized, the children have the opportunity to sing, play and have an interactive lesson about the gospel. I think it's a minimum, then the rest of the teachings should be given everyday at home by the parents.

When I moved to Paris in 2005, I met JoAnn in the ward I belonged to. American mom of four children (2 girls, 2 boys, lucky!), she was during part of her stay in France the Primary President of my ward. Now living in Tokyo, and soon moving to Israel, she reflects on what Primary had brought her since she became a mom:
1/ what is for you the most relevant adjectives to define the organization that is the Primary? what is its aim?
The most relevant adjectives to define Primary would be:
Teaching children from the ages of 18 months- 12 years of age the gospel of Jesus Christ;  to learn about the Savior and His life.  To instruct and help them to develop love and faith in Jesus Christ and in our Heavenly Father.  To develop a personal relationship with Him.
Learn about the principles and saving ordinances necessary to return to our Father in Heaven.  To learn about the structure and organization of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. 

 2/ For those who think that 2h a week of religious classes is too much for a kid, what would you tell them?
I would tell them that in today's world, where children can be bombarded with worldly messages through TV, the Internet, movies, and music on a sometimes constant daily level---receiving uplifting messages in church of patience, obedience, kindness, service and trying to live the Savior's example, is a short amount of time!

3/ What are your most memorable moments at the Primary? as a child? a mother? an instructor or a leader?
Since I joined the church at 24 years of age, I can't share a Primary moment from that time.  As a mother....I have had many memorable moments as I have listened to my children give talks and prayers in Primary.  One particular moment stands out as my son, Noah, then about 3 years of age and still learning to pronounce his words properly, was participating in a sacrament Primary program.  His line was supposed to be "I can serve others."  Instead, he pronounced it as "I can serve udders." (udders being the body part of a cow where milk comes from).
As a leader, I had the humble opportunity to serve the primary children in our ward while living in Paris, France.  It was a phenomenal experience for me and one of the most inspiring and learning moments of my life.  There was a language barrier, but the love and faith that I felt from the instructors and children in that small primary is indescribable.  Learning in French and singing, "Je suis enfant de Dieu" and other favorite Primary hymns with the children deepened my testimony and faith in God. It was hard sometimes communicating in a language that I was not the least bit proficient in....but, the spirit I felt in our Primary room was slowly transforming me and taught me that if God has a plan, He will help us find a way to accomplish that plan.

4/ What is your favorite "Children's book" Song?
"The Family is of God".  It was sung in the 2014 Primary Sacrament Program.
      From the songbook, "We'll Bring the World His Truth."

5/ What is the most important thing you have learned while attending Primary as a teacher?
As a teacher....I have learned that it is an important and humbling responsibility to teach the young children of any ward.  God has entrusted ME to share His teachings to His children and it is my duty and obligation to do the best that I can.  I have also learned that even at my age and teaching basic principles to children, there is still something to be learned and gained.

As for myself, I am a convert like JoAnn. I was already 23 years old when I joined the Church, so I didn't have the opportunity to attend any Primary class in my childhood. However, I have been called once in this organization as the Music Leader. That's a real challenge! Especially with the young ones who can't read the lyrics or the older ones who can't be serious two minutes... Nonetheless, I will always treasure the year I had that calling because it helps me understand how children can learn good principles and how they cherish them in their daily life. I have heard some heart warming stories from those kids when they tried to apply honesty, service or forgiveness and they saw the fruits of their attempts. It also helped me to prepare myself at being a mother !
Now that I have two children, I can see how much they enjoy to learn with their classmates about the Gospel. When they are taught about a principle during a class, you can be sure the topic will come out during the following week. Gabriel read the Scriptures Stories (in the form of comic strips, but they exist as videos too -see the link) with his father and enjoys to point out what he had already learnt while in the Primary. As a family, we have set some priorities in our life. And one of them is to learn together to better understand and live Jesus' teachings.

For more informations about the Primary organization of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and what kind of material children use during the lessons or at home, here are some links:

I hope you will have now a better understanding of one of the organization of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. If you have questions or comments, leave them in the section below. I have no problems with negative comments if they are share in a respectful way. Have a nice day.

lundi 5 janvier 2015

A walk in Bad Homburg / Une promenade à Bad Homburg

It was last September that my two children and I we had a bit of fun in Bad Homburg. The weather was perfect: blue sky with patches of white clouds, big sun shining and a warmth that melted quite nicely the ice creams we ate at one of the "Eis café" in the city's center. (I'm sure you're seeing a patern here: ice creams are one of our favorite treats when we go out...)
En Septembre dernier, mes deux enfants et moi avons eu une charmante et amusante après-midi à Bad Homburg. le temps était parfait: ciel bleu avec quelques groupes de nuages blancs, grand soleil rayonnant et une chaleur qui fit fondre doucement les glaces que nous avons eu pour le goûter dans l'un des "Eis Café" du centre-ville. (Je suis sûre que vous avez reconnu une habitude ici: les glaces sont l'un de nos goûter préféré quand on sort...)

We took the S-Bahn (the local train in Frankfurt and its suburbs) and stopped at Bad Homburg Bahnhof (the train station). The building had been modernized but stil hold the charm of its past.
Nous avons pris le S-Bahn (le train qui relie Francfort et sa banlieue) et nous sommes arrêtés à l'arrêt Bad Homburg Bahnhof (la gare). Le bâtiment a été modernisé mais il a conservé tout son charme ancien.

Then we walked through the park near the Kurhaus (the thermal house), full of tall and green trees, benchs to rest or read in peace and a big lake.
Nous nous sommes promenés dans le parc près des Thermes, qui est planté de grands arbres bien verts, parsemé de bancs pour se reposer ou lire en paix et agrémenté d'un grand lac en son centre.

This is the Kurhaus (Thermal house). Beautiful, isn't it?
Ce sont les Thermes. Magnifiques, n'est-ce pas?

Gabriel, Sophie and I tasted the thermal water (totally safe for consumption) of two wells of the park but I was the only one to approve of it. Too "bleh" for my children. Guess that drinking occasionaly during my childhood the thermal water "Eau du Boulou" gave me the adequate taste buds for these kind of liquids (I'm quite sad that this water has been privatized a few years ago because it was really good for digestive issues). If you want to see more of these wells, the city website is very well documented.

Gabriel, Sophie et moi avons goûté l'eau thermal (tout à fait potable) de deux fontaines situées dans le parc, mais j'étais la seule qui a apprécié. Trop "beurk" pour mes enfants. Il semble que boire de temps en temps lors de mon enfance l'eau thermal "Eau du Boulou" a habitué mes papilles gustatives à ce genre de liquides (Je suis d'ailleurs assez triste que cette eau a été privatisé il y a quelques années et ne soit plus vendu dans le commerce car elle était très bonne pour les problèmes digestifs). Si vous voulez découvrir les fontaines thermales du parc, le site de l'office du tourisme de Bad Homburg est très bien documenté.

We will visit again Bad Homburg, there's so much to see there!
Nous retournerons visiter Bad Homburg, il y a tellement à voir là-bas!


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