Archive for December, 2013

December 9, 2013

Calm, wintry nights

After seeing the chaos of Black Friday reflected in the news, I pulled my children close and reminded them that we don’t have to be like that. My oldest (who just turned eighteen) said, “Isn’t it ironic that the day after we give thanks, we trample people to death to get a better deal on something we probably could have afforded anyway?”

But it’s easy to get caught up in the hype of Christmas—stores start piping in the music shortly after Halloween. This year a few stores snuck Christmas ornaments on shelves next to cornucopias and Indian corn. I bet they sold more than a couple, too, because Christmas is like pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving—yes, you just stuffed yourself and probably should wait, but why? There’s the pie right there…

But there is a certain joy in waiting.

Of quieting your heart in expectation of what is to come.

To me, that’s what the season between Thanksgiving and Christmas is, quiet expectation. Expectation reflected in the manger scene by our front door—Mary and Joseph near an empty cradle, waiting.

That expectation is also reflected by the pile of books under our Christmas tree. It waits for dinner to be done, dishes to be cleared, hot cocoa to be marshmallowed, and the fire to be crackling. Then the children gather around Daddy and he reads one story each night between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

My favorites are the calm, quiet stories. Here are a few on the top of the pile:

Quiet Christmas coverTitle: The Quiet Christmas Book (New this year!)
Author: Deborah Underwood
Illustrator: Renata Liwska
Genre: picture book
Ages: Listening 3 yrs and up; Independent 8 and up

If you haven’t yet discovered Deborah Underwood, you’re in for a treat.

Her characters are gentle natured woodland animals getting ready for Christmas, but without the hustle and bustle of other books.

Check out the book trailer below!

onewintrynightTitle:  One Wintry Night
Author: Ruth Bell Graham
Illustrator: Richard Jesse Watson
Genre: picture book
Ages: Listening 3 yrs and up; Independent 8 and up

Gorgeously illustrated story about a boy hearing the Christmas story for the first time.

littlefirtreeTitle:  The Little Fir Tree
Author: Margaret Wise Brown
Illustrator: Jim LaMarche
Genre: picture book
Ages: Listening 3 yrs and up; Independent 8 and up

Another sweet book. A little tree wishes to be part of something—anything—and winds up being part of something he never could have imagined.

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How about you? Which Christmas books make your family’s must-read list?

December 3, 2013

Have you ever taken a mouse the movies?

‘Tis the season to be jolly. The holiday season can create an atmosphere of cheer, sharing and togetherness. One of the things my family likes to do during the holiday is watch movies together or venture out to the movie theater. Of course we can’t go through the season without picking up a book.Blog Photo

As my sons and I were discussing which movie we wanted to see at the movie theater, the conversation spiraled in a new direction.

“If we go to the movies, you know we’ll have to buy nachos or a pretzel,” one son said.

“Yeah, and all of that salt and butter will make us thirsty and we will need a pop,” said the other son.

Our conversation had a familiar tone. It reminded me of a book by one of my favorite children’s authors, If You Take a Mouse to the Movies, by Laura Numeroff. You may be familiar with the story; when mouse goes to the movies, he wants popcorn. Then he wants to string the popcorn. After that, he wants to hang the popcorn on a Christmas tree. And the list goes on.

Author: Laura Numeroff Illustrator: Felicia Bond Genre: Picture Book Age: 0-2

Author: Laura Numeroff
Illustrator: Felicia Bond
Genre: Picture Book
Age: 0-2

I enjoyed pulling this book out and reintroducing it to my teen boys. They got a chuckle out of how much the story resembled them.

Laura Numeroff’s lovable mouse has lots of character. He practically dances through the pages with his requests and antics. When I shared this story with a group of children at an afterschool program, they wanted more.

Instead of reading the book over and over and over again, we worked on a couple of projects related to the story. Below are five activity ideas that relate to If You take a Mouse to the Movies.

• Make popcorn balls and shape them into mice.
• String popcorn and hang it on a Christmas tree.
• Make a mouse shaped ornament and decorate it with glitter, like the mouse in the story.
• Draw a container for popcorn on construction paper, then glue real popcorn to it.
• Create math problems for your child – for example… If mouse bought five drinks at the movies, how many of his friends could have their own drink?

Have you ever taken a mouse to the movies or maybe even a child? They’ll want more.

Do you have a favorite Holiday story that resembles your child or the child in you?