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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Shifting the Paradigm

I've been home with my Ethiopian children for 8 weeks now. And my world is totally shook up.

Life with three kids is WAY harder than life with one.

Post Adoption Depression is very real, and very complex.

I have no idea when I will return to teaching Literacy Launchpad classes to my kiddos. Soon, I hope. But right now, nothing seems clear.

I am in the midst of a major paradigm shift. My reality is that I have two older children from a totally different culture, whose backgrounds are still very much a mystery to me, they have very special needs, and my oldest has never been to school and struggles much more academically than her younger brother.

This is totally new terrain for me... A mom who read to her bio child everyday while he was in her womb and hasn't quit since. A gal who is passionate about children's literacy, and strongly desires to limit electronics and TV time and such in my household.

I am talking and talking and talking with other adoptive parents and realizing that expectations must be lowered. Concessions must be made. I have to meet these kids where they are, and for the sanity of us all, allow much more screen time and much less reading than I can hardly stomach.

I mean, there's only so much reading I can do with a 10 yr. old who doesn't know their ABCs yet. She actually is asking for bedtime stories now though AND listening to them while I read. Progress.

Today I made them little blank books and they cut out magazine pictures to illustrate them. Yesterday I gave them card making kits and they made Christmas cards for some of their friends.

For Christmas, they are getting Vtechs. GASP! I hardly recognize myself anymore, I know. But it's all about shifting my paradigm. It's very hard. It kind of feels like it's slowly killing a little part of me each day (O.K. a little dramatic).

What's hardest is that my 2 yr. old is now consequently watching more TV and such. More so over Christmas break here, but even when the kids are in school there's more that needs to be done and less time to just sit and read like we used to.

I think this is all a healthy perspective that I really needed to gain as an educator. I was really idealistic, and didn't even realize it till now. I'm trying to look at all this paradigm shifting as a learning experience... a needed maturing.

I'm still trying to fight the good reading fight, but some days it just feels a lot more like a losing battle than it used it.

Monday, November 15, 2010

I Need A Pep Talk!

We've been home with our Ethiopian children for 3 weeks now. And I'm feeling the pressure. Pressure I didn't think I would be feeling so heavy at only 3 weeks home... Academic pressure!

Everybody told me during the adoption process how I would be so good at teaching my children English and reading and such with my Literacy Launchpad experience. But I feel VERY ill-equipped. Introducing preschoolers to the joys of books and reading is a far cry from teaching English to a six year old and ten year old who are going through a traumatic transition.

To be honest, right now I don't even feel motivated. This whole family of 5 thing is still so new to us all. And I'm more interested in working on that right now than doing phonics drills with them.

BUT, we started them in public school (a decision I'm torn about) and now the homework begins and the pressure is on. Or at least that's how I feel And while they are by no means expected to be doing what their peers are doing in class, they still get ESL homework... And Mel has math to work on right now. And while I know that school is what they need now, it's hard to have teachers to answer to. It's hard to feel like those 3 or 4 hours between school and bedtime aren't ALL mine!

Then there's the reading thing. Isaac loves books. My Ethiopian children... not so interested. Mel is mildly interested. Mary is hardly. And why would they be? They don't understand what's being read to them. Right now, they are only interested in electronic things (which we have been trying to keep at a minimum).

I have a lot of knowledge in my noggin about how to raise a reader from birth. But I'm not so sure about raising a reader from where we're at. I worry that my children will never be fluent readers. I worry that they will never feel good at reading. I worry that they won't want to read. And I worry that they won't like reading. That's a lot of worrying.

It's all so overwhelming for this momma who's a bit of a perfectionist. So I had to vent into "the cosmic void" this evening.

Goodnight, Dear Void.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

We're Home!

It's been a little quiet here for a while. I'm sorry. We got word that we were leaving for Ethiopia and it's been a whirlwind ever since.

We are now home with our two new children, Mel - 6, and Mary - 10. It's been hard, but it's been good. Adjusting to 3 kids from 1 has been tough, and has been all consuming lately. Hence the silence here.

The reality of being home and the new dynamic of our family has us reevaluating some previously made decisions. We wanted to homeschool AT LEAST for a a little while, but after a lot of thought and talking with some trusted resources, we have decided to put both Mary and Mel in public school. They will begin next week and I'm really excited to see how it goes. I think it's going to be great for everyone. I'll post more about that soon.

I feel like I am floundering with all I want to accomplish with my new kids (and Isaac) and how suddenly ill-equipped I feel. And to be completely honest, I have felt a real lack of motivation to get going on any of that. Some of that is probably jet lag. Some of it is probably this nasty cold I have come down with since returning home. And some of it is just the plain old physical and emotional exhaustion of the whole adjustment. I'm trying to have some grace with myself.

Right now, I'm trying to read simple books with the kids at naptime and bedtime. It's tough, because they don't understand English. But how else will they learn. We've also been doing some alphabet puzzles. And I've been trying to have them watch some PBS kids, but they haven't been super interested in that. Mary even less so than Mel. We have some "first word" type books that I try to encourage them to look at. They seem to like those somewhat.

I'm trying to get my inspiration and creative juices flowing again, but it's harder than I thought it would be.

Some things I want to do:
- Put some books in baskets by the potties and in the car
- Buy some kind of Leapster type devices. They are really into electronics, but I would like them to at least be learning with whatever electronics they're using. Suggestions welcome.
- I want to try to find some more good books for them. Mel I think I've got pretty covered with what I've currently got. But Mary is more tricky because she's older, but yet, can't read. She needs simple, but yet she's not interested in babyish stuff. Tough! Again, suggestions welcome.

More to come later. Just wanted to let you know we're still here!!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

At Home with The Itsy Bitsy Spider

My Little Reader loves the Itsy Bitsy Spider. Both the story and the song. His interest in the song is what initially prompted me to pull the book off the shelf for our first reading... way back whenever that was. Now he sings the song with all the verses from the book mixed in. The "up jumped the cat," one seems to be his favorite.

He's been singing the song a lot lately, which reminded me of this activity I learned from my favorite preschool teacher... Jeanne Bell (note: she was not my preschool teacher, she's a preschool teacher who I simply think is brilliant). When she does this activity with her students, she dresses up like Mother Goose and has this elaborate ruse she pulls off on the kids, which is hysterical. I have a video recoding of it somewhere. I should dig it up and put it online... She would kill me!

I'm not as awesome as Mrs. Bell, so I have never dressed up like Mother Goose. But I knew Isaac would have fun with this one even if Mother Goose didn't make an appearance.

So here are some photos of Isaac and I doing the Itsy Bitsy Spider activity. You'll need a copy of the book, some plastic spider rings (at least one for each of your children or students), a curved section of rain gutter (Home Depot or Lowes), and a plastic bin for catching the water (or a bathtub in our case here).
I suspect you can see where I'm going with this based on the supply list. Check out the photos for the rest.

The itsy bitsy spider climbed up the water spout.

Down came the rain...

and washed...

the spider out.

Allow the spider to climb back up the waterspout as many times as you wish... or can tolerate. Make sure every student gets a turn washing the spider down the spout. And of course, let them keep their spider rings to remember the reading fun!

Guaranteed fun, and helps solidify this classic rhyme in their little heads. My students could play this activity all day long, and My Little Reader would have too if I would have allowed... But I got really tired of holding the rain gutter. Wish I could come up with a solution for that. Got any suggestions?

Let me know if you try this one out with your kiddos, and how everybody likes it!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Do You Change Your Books with the Season?

I do my best to rotate the picture books that I have out for My Little Reader. (Sometimes "my best" is rotating them every three months.)

What I really enjoy though is rotating our books according to the seasons and the holidays. It's an easy (and educational) way to make your house more festive!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Books About Family

This blog chronicles my life as an early literacy teacher. And right now my job as an early literacy teacher is to help my own three kiddos, two of which will be coming home from Ethiopia soon (still don't have a travel date yet. Wah!). I guess this is a disclaimer... or maybe an apology, for all my recent posts. Hopefully there is something to be gleaned by most of you teachers and parents reading these posts. And I've been appreciative of all the help you guys have been giving me in this area!

There are so many, many things I love about picture books. One of the things I love about them is how therapeutic they can be, and how they can open the door to talk about tough topics.

My Ethiopian children are grieving. That I already know. And when they join our family, they will be confused... unsure. Wondering if this new family is permanent. So right now I'm seeking to find some picture books that might help comfort, assure, and allow them to heal.

They aren't likely to speak much/any English when they first come home. But I've been told they pick it up quickly. I'm still not feeling very confident in my abilities to teach two older, non-English speakers, who have just been through a lot of upheaval (understatement), how to speak and read and write English. But that's a whole other post...

I'm trusting in the magic of picture books to help with the English learning while also addressing what they're dealing with emotionally, all while assisting us in the bonding process (as we snuggle and read together).

Here are some books I'm thinking might be good ones. I know this is just the tip of the iceberg, and that there are tons I'm leaving out and unaware of. So please share your book suggestions in the comments!

Rotten Ralph by Jack Gantos - I like the way it assures that love is not conditional of behavior. Sarah loves Ralph not matter what.

Llama Llama Red Pajama - Anna Dewdney - A sweet assurance that Mommy is always nearby.

The Heart and the Bottle - Oliver Jeffers - Might be over their heads, but if not, could potentially address well some of what's going on inside their little hearts.

"More More More," Said the Baby - Vera B. Williams - This is a book Isaac loves, and I do too! I love the sweet rhythm of it, and the comfort of family it communicates. What a great book to bond and attach over... And I also love that it portrays what appears to be a white grandma with her brown grandchild. This book was way ahead of it's time!

The Family Book by Todd Parr- Celebrating the diversity of families and assuring that no one family is better or worse than another.

Welcome Home, Forever Child by Christine Mitchell - This one looks like it will address some of the struggles my children will face as children that were adopted at an older age.

I must add as an end note that when you are preparing to adopt, you begin to read picture books with a different perspective. And I have discovered quite a few pictures books that I will not be reading my Ethiopian children. But that also is perhaps a post for another day!

Monday, September 13, 2010

My Home/School

My home is beginning to feel like a little school house. I've been prepping for our newest two additions to our family (via Ethiopian adoption) and for the unique challenges that older child adoption will bring (remember too that our children do not currently speak English). Some of these preparations are things I've been wanting to do anyway, for Isaac's benefit, but haven't been motivated enough.

I am convinced we will never truly be prepared, but it doesn't hurt to try. Check out a few of the things I've been getting ready:

Photo labeling toy bins for easy clean-up.

A sorted craft cabinet. So exciting!

The bookshelf in our breakfast nook. Stocked with play dough, coloring books, paints, pads of paper, pens, crayons, markers, books, CDs, puzzles...

A visual timer to help make transitions a little easier.

A velcro chart for our daily schedule. These cards will also help with communication at the beginning. They have simple pictures of everyday tasks, places, and such.

A calendar. Figure we won't be using it till the kids come home.

Art displays ready to be filled.

Yes, I'm trying to label everything in the house. Hoping it will help all three of my kids learn to read English. The labeling process is slow going, but I'm getting there. I've got enough stuff labeled now that I think David's starting to get annoyed with it. :)

I'm curious if anyone else has done this kind of labeling around their house for their kids at any point? If so, did you attribute any reading successes with it?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Perfect Ending to Any Day

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Thank you, Hallmark!

Have you seen the Hallmark recordable books? No, this is not a product review post. But I do love these books!

Yes, there are plenty of ways to record yourself reading a story to a loved one. But these Hallmark recordable books ended up being the only feasible option for us to be able to send to our children that are in Ethiopia, waiting for their Mommy and Daddy to come bring them home.

We sent a care package to our kids, which will get to them next week. It included a photo album, which will be the first they ever see our faces. And we also included one of these recordable books, All the Ways I Love You, (Hallmark has quite a few titles to choose from).

No, they aren't likely to understand the words being read to them (though we are hoping somebody at the foster home might translate it for them), but they will get to hear our voices. And we will be getting to read to them already! Before we even meet them! I kind of equate it to how we read to Isaac when he was still in my belly. He didn't understand what we were reading him either, but he was hearing our voices.

With these Hallmark books, there is a recording device in the book that allows you to record yourself reading it. Then you can flip a switch in the battery compartment to lock your recording. So this ensures that our voices will stay in the book we sent. And all they have to do is open the book and flip through the pages to hear us reading it to them!

I could see this being a really neat tool to use with beginner readers. They could record themselves and listen back. And as they become more fluent, they could make it fun and read in silly voices and such when they record. They could also record themselves reading and then send the book to a family member as a gift. What a great way to show off their reading skills! Maybe it could be sent to a parent serving overseas, who maybe has never heard their child read yet.

And obviously, they are a great way for friends and relatives to record themselves reading a story to a special little one in their life, and then give it to them.

I know you guys could think of some other creative uses for these recordable books too! Share in the comments section!

(I swear Hallmark is not offering me any reimbursement for this glowing review... though I would gladly accept it if they offered. Hee!)

Friday, August 20, 2010

Big Sale on Reading T-shirts!

Needing to make room and simplify in our house. I have a stack of these super-cute t-shirts that are begging for a real home of their own. :) Maybe yours?

I love mine, and everybody else seems to be loving theirs too. It's my quick go-to, look-good shirt! And I hear that they are quite the compliment magnet! They also make cool teacher gifts. (Come on, you're not really going to give your kid's teacher another ornament or coffee mug this year?)

Since I don't have room to keep storing them at the moment, and would love to have them out spreading the early literacy message, I'm putting them on SALE!! $10 and it's yours! (Add $2.50 if you need it shipped to you.)

I have limited stock so grab your size before it's gone, if it's not already!

These are unisex fit tees, and run true to size. Chocolate brown color with white text on it. Oh-so cute and stylish! Click the Paypal button below to order!

Here's what I've got:
Smalls - 2
Mediums - 0 (sorry!)
Large - 0 (sorry!)
XL - 0 (sorry!)
2XL - 3


Oh! Oh! And I've got ONE of these tees left.

Only $7! It's a 2XL.


Friday, August 13, 2010

Flattered, but Annoyed

"I want Mommy!" A phrase my poor husband hears our son, Isaac, utter much more often than he he cares to. To be honest though, I'm not sure who it annoys more, him or me! We're assuming it's a stage (Isaac's 2). Praying it's a stage. But nonetheless, it's something we're forced to deal with now, till this assumed "stage" is over.

Bedtime seems to be the worst, which is so hard because my husband, like most dads, works during the day. The evening time is his one good shot each day at getting some quality time with Isaac. And boy, do I love it when my husband does bedtime!

BUT Isaac refuses for anyone but Mommy to read him stories lately. Daddy is not allowed. Auntie Rebecca is not allowed. Grandma is not allowed. Only Mommy. If you try to insist, he will throw the biggest crying fit you've ever seen. I kid you not.

Daddy reading with Isaac, back in the good ole days!

I'm flattered. Really. I mean, what a sincere compliment, right? Isn't he basically telling me, "Nobody reads a story like you read a story, Mom?" If he only had the vocabulary, that's exactly what he would say to us. It would be even more flattering if he weren't also likely to say (given the right vocab), "Nobody wipes my butt like you do, Mom." and "Nobody knows how to fix a cup of chocolate milk like you do, Mom."

So... I guess it's really more annoying than flattering. I want Daddy to have reading time with his Isaac. I think that's really important (and it's important that Mommy gets a few minutes of Mommy time once in a while). But how do you make that happen when you have a very resistant 2-year-old? Wait it out? Force it? Feels like we've tried everything else.

While you guys ponder that, I'm going to go get Isaac. I hear him waking up from his nap, and word around the Watson house is that nobody knows how pick him up out of his crib like me!

Friday, August 6, 2010

ESL Challenge

How to most effectively communicate with two children joining our family that don't speak English? That's the question that's been on my mind for a while. Now that our family has passed court in Ethiopia, we will be bringing our Amharic-speaking children home soon.

I've been talking with other adoptive families, doing research, and trying to brainstorm ideas for communication. I know it's likely our children will pick up English pretty quickly, but there will be at least a few months where we're not speaking the same language. And from my experiences with our now 2-yr-old, I know how frustrating it can be to be to try to express a need or a want and not be understood (this happens for both Isaac and Isaac's mommy and daddy!).

A few things we plan to try:

- Picture communication cards for when we're in Ethiopia, and for when we're home those first months. Someone (can't remember who) also suggested making a book with some basic communication pictures in it that I can keep in my purse for when we're out. The idea of the communication cards is that our children can simply point to the picture illustrating what they need or want, and we'll be able to understand.

- For when we're in Ethiopia (and when we're first home too, I guess), someone suggested a list of phrases like, "I'm hungry," or "I'm tired," written in Amharic with the English adjacent to it. We're hoping at least one of our children can read and would be able to point to the needed phrase, and we would have the translation right next to it. Luckily for us, we have a friend that speaks fluent Amharic and can help us with this.

- We have an Amharic phrase book that we can attempt to use as well, though I've heard that this is only somewhat helpful. From looking at the phrase book, it looks like Amharic is a bit tricky, and I think the accent is a lot of it, like most languages.

- Once home, I've considered labeling items around the house (couch, refrigerator, lamp, etc.) to help them learn to read English. Not sure how helpful this would or wouldn't be. Any opinions about this are welcome.

- We will obviously be reading a lot of books. Thanks to Ethiopia Reads, I can bring with picture books that have English and Amharic text in them. I also plan to bring some "first word" type books, as well as just some regular storybooks in English with us when we travel.

Ethiopia Reads - Donkey Mobile Libraries from ReFocus Media on Vimeo.

Adoption creates a tricky ESL situation, because it's a subtractive ESL situation, they're essentially losing their native language while learning a new one. Typically ESL situations are additive, meaning the native language is still spoken at home, and is used as kind of a scaffolding to learn the new language.

Please help me out in the comments section with any ESL tips you might have!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Meet The Newest Members of My Family!

Most of you know that my husband and I are in the process of adopting two children from Ethiopia. Today we passed court in Ethiopia, which means the children we're adopting are now legally part of our family (according to Ethiopia). We are thrilled!! We've been dealing with court postponements for the past two months, so it feels great to finally be approved!

Visit here to read more about our children, and about our adoption journey.

Now that our children are legally part of our family, we can share photos of them!! I put together a little slide show. Enjoy!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Living the Lessons

Being a first-time Mom has been an eye-opening experience for me. For the past five years I've been teaching other people's children to love reading, and encouraging other parents to foster a love of reading in their children. Now, I'm seeking to do the same thing within my own family. With my own child.

I feel the pressure to raise a strong and enthusiastic reader. There's that expectation from others... and it's not a silent expectation (from some). But these first couple of years with my son, I've felt pretty laid back in my reading encouragement as a momma. Laid back in that I haven't stressed too much about it; I haven't has any reason to. Perhaps that will change now that my son is getting older (he's not a baby anymore. Wah!) and inching closer and closer to reading independently. We'll see.

My son is talking more and more and has been melting my heart with his expressions of love for books lately. (Go check out the Literacy Launchpad facebook page to read some of his latest quotes.) Just today we were at a bounce house play place and he came and sat next to me on a bench and suggested I read him a book. Melt.

So now that I see that he really does love books, I've asked myself how we got from tiny newborn to book-loving toddler. To tell you the truth, it was pretty effortless. I've done things that come naturally, things that are enjoyable, things that are inexpensive (or free), and things that make my life easier as a mommy... Those things that I've been telling other parents to do for years. They really work. Go figure.
  1. We have books everywhere. In every room. If they're there, your child will want to read them.
  2. We read at bedtime and nap time. At least. If we read at no other point during the day (which is hard to do if you have books in every room in your house), we have these guaranteed built-in reading times every day. And Isaac looks forward to them.
  3. We limit TV time. I always said I wasn't going to let my kids watch any TV before they were two. That didn't happen. But we only let Isaac watch a small amount of TV a day. And honestly, some of his TV watching has lead to extra reading excitement.
There are other little things we do to foster Isaac's love of reading, but these things listed above are the basics. Start here and magic will happen. It's true (gasp!). Everything else we do with our son is a natural progression that stems from these basics.

For more ideas (beyond the basics) just browse my blog, or email me. I would be glad to give you more ideas or help you however I can.

I would love to hear from you mommas of older kiddos about what I might be in store for in the not-so-distant future. How have your children's reading interests and enthusiasm progressed or regressed as they've gotten older? What do you do to keep the fire burning?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Why We Go to the Library

Yes, I have posted about My Littler Reader's and my trips to the library several times in the past here and here and here. I guess I am just always fascinated (sometimes baffled) by the library and what goes on there.

I must admit, My Little Reader and I are just now getting into a regular library visiting habit. The fact that he's now getting to be old enough to have more of an understanding of, and appreciation for what happens there has served as a motivating factor for me.

This week I was a bit shocked on our visit to one of our local library branches. Isaac and I walked into the children's room (one of only two rooms in this small branch) to find three (or four?) moms sitting around a table chatting while their half a dozen kids (or so) ran around the small carpeted area in the middle of the room yelling and screaming and chasing one another around. There was no correction from their moms, no hushes or attempts to calm them down at all; the moms didn't even seem fazed by it.

I was so frustrated by this. Rightly so or not? There were so many things about this scene that frustrated me. A few:
  • These mothers seemed to be using the library as a playroom for their kids to romp around in with no direction (or supervision it seemed), so they could socialize.
  • I don't know what was more rude, the loud obnoxious kids, or the loud obnoxious parents.
  • How sad to see these moms at the library with their kids, but not actually sharing the experience with their kids, or helping to guide and enhance the experience for their children.
  • My son is 2 yrs. old and of course wanted to join in on the chaos that he was witnessing. Ugh! Now I have to deprogram him. (He did calm down once these families cleared out and headed home.)
  • The chaos in the children's room made it nearly impossible to browse for books. We had to kind of hang back till they left.
No I didn't complain to the library staff. Perhaps I should have. Or perhaps I had my panties in too big of a bunch over it all? I don't know. But it got me thinking about what I want for Isaac and me when we visit the library. Why do we go to the library?

  • To borrow books, of course. A variety of reading materials!
  • To hear stories. (Sometimes we make it to story time.)
  • To show Isaac the joy of discovering new books. (Look at all these books!)
  • To help develop new interests in Isaac. (What fun new things can we read about?)
  • To foster his interests that are already present. (Right now he's loving Dolphins!)
  • To have a good time. (Getting out of the house is always fun!)
  • To learn how the library works. (What's the library for, how to find what you're looking for at the library, etc.)

From what I saw this week at the library, I guess this is not why every family visits the library.

So please use the comments section to tell me why YOU visit the library with your child(ren). Please!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Catering to Their Interests

... It works! I know, I have talked about this before, but it bears repeating. And it has been proving itself an effective strategy for encouraging reading time and time again in our house.

Isaac truly enjoys reading. But sometimes he gets stuck in a "Watch a show, Mommy!" rut. Even though he doesn't get to watch much TV when we're at home normally, it doesn't stop him from asking about it. All. The. Time. At least it feels like he's asking for it all the time some weeks.

Isaac is also a two year old. An active two year old. There are days when he's simply not interested in sitting long enough to listen to a story. He'll always go for a story before nap time or bedtime (he also likes reading at mealtimes too), but I like to read with him more often than that. He's not always game if it means walking away from the dinosaur toys for a few minutes.

Isaac has become fond of several shows recently that are new to him, Dora and The Backyardigans. He also LOVES Toy Story. Right now, if I can find him a book on any of these topics, he'll drop whatever he's doing to hear me read it to him. And he'll usually then let me read him other books of my own choosing after we read the one he was originally interested in. It's like magic. And honestly, I don't mind the Dora and Backyardigans stories.

If I leave these favorite books lying around I will usually hear him say some of my favorite words, "Sit and read a book, Mommy!" as he pats a spot on the couch.

And an added bonus, when Isaac is distracted at the library by all the toys and games and puzzles, I can get him to help me choose some books if I suggest that we look for a Backyardigans book (or whatever his current interest may be). He followed me all around the stacks this week when we visited the library, because he was really interested in the books I was trying to find. Then when we found it, he cracked it open right then and there and started flipping through the pages as we headed for the circulation desk. I love seeing my boy walking around with his nose in a book!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Gutter Bookshelves

Gutter bookshelves have been on my household wish list for quite a while now. I finally got my husband to help me make some a week or so ago. We decided to put some up in our bonus room, and also next to our older kids' beds. They turned out really cute, and now I can't wait to put up more of them! They're easy and economical; I think we paid less than $10 for a 10 ft. pice of gutter that we cut to make four individual shelves out of (two 3 ft. shelves, and two 2 ft. shelves).

These shelves kind of turned this little area into a reading nook. I love that! Now I have ideas for enhancing this nook's coziness. :)