Category Archives: Parenting

Celebrating Inspiring Females: Queen of Physics: How Wu Chien Shiung Helped Unlock the Secrets of the Atom

Written by Teresa Robeson

Illustrated by Rebecca Huang


As we celebrate the International Day of the Girl Child, what could be more fitting than to read about a young Chinese girl – named Chien Shiung, meaning “courageous hero” – who grew to be a truly inspirational woman in the field of physics, eventually named by Newsweek as The Queen of Physics.

Born in 1912 and raised by parents who ran a school for girls, Chien Shiung quickly discovered the value of learning. When she needed to further her education, she bravely left home at a young age to study biology, chemistry, math, and her most beloved subject, physics, all while leading classmates against those with abusive power in her homeland. Eventually moving to the U.S. in her early twenties, Chien Shiung began to study the physics of atoms, specifically beta decay, making great discoveries and helping others in the scientific field in their research and experiments. Despite the fact she was overlooked many times for the Nobel Prize for her accomplishments, Chien Shiung – called Madame Wu by her students – persevered and became a leader in her field, as well as the first woman instructor for Princeton, first woman to be elected president of The American Physical Society, and many other “firsts” and honors.

Teresa Robeson’s inspiring debut picture book brings Wu Chien Shiung and her love for physics to life, while not shying away from hard facts of racism, sexism, political upheavals, and other important topics. In addition, Robeson’s writing allows sometimes tough-to-understand scientific ideas to be accessible to young readers, both in the story and in back matter. Huang’s illustrations feature a variety of colors, softened to great effect, and helps to highlight both Chien Shiung’s amazing life and the scientific principles she loved so dearly.

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THEME: WELCOME, LITTLE ONES

Nine Months: Before a Baby is Born

by Miranda Paul

Illustrated by Jason Chin


Award-winning pair Miranda Paul and Jason Chin have paired up again to create a delightful month-by-month look at the development of baby inside its mother. With gently rhyming text focusing on baby’s growth and milestones, plus a parallel look at an older sibling’s waiting experience, Nine Months will entrance young readers. Chin’s softly realistic watercolor-and-gouache illustrations are bright and loving, with accurate-size depictions of the baby as it develops, while Paul’s story allows readers an accessible peek into the womb. Back matter offers additional developmental information, fun facts in a conversational tone, and suggested reading.

Babymoon

by Hayley Barrett

Illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal

The term “babymoon” was coined by anthropologist Sheila Kitzinger and is used by midwives and birthing professionals alike. This lovely book shares information about this important bonding time of baby and parents’ first days at home together, alone, where they get to know one another, rest, cuddle, eat, and enjoy life as a new family, before others or the world appear on the doorstep to distract them from each another. Barrett’s gently rhyming text pairs nicely with Martinez-Neal’s soft illustrations featuring a diverse couple and newborn to remind parents of the importance of this getting-to-know-you phase.

This is Our Baby, Born Today

by Varsha Bajaj

Illustrated by Eliza Wheeler


When a baby is born, parents, family, and members of the community celebrate with joy and thanksgiving. This isn’t limited to humans, though, as the animal kingdom also comes together to make the little one feel welcome and loved. Varsha Bajaj’s gently repetitive phrases capture this time of sweet enchantment when a baby elephant is born as its mother, aunts, sisters, cousins, herd, friends, neighbors – and indeed the earth and sky itself – welcome it with open arms. Eliza Wheeler’s soft watercolor illustrations, which evoke the richness and peacefulness of the Indian landscape, lovingly support the soothing story. Perfect for bedtime!

THEME: FUN NEW PICTURE BOOKS SUMMER 2019

Noah Noasaurus

by Elaine Kiely Kearns

Illustrated by Colin Jack

Everyone can relate to having a bad day, a “NO!” kind of day, and this book can help young readers see how to turn that around. In Noah Noasaurus, Elaine Kylie Kearns takes something kids love – dinosaurs – and something kids say – NO! (because they are in a bad mood) – and pairs them together with hilarious results, showing that even a bad day can turn out okay with friends. Illustrator Colin Jacks’ brightly colorful, adorably fun illustrations highlight the story and humor as well (the facial expressions on the dinos are especially delightful). Makes for a fun read aloud too!

Hello

by Fiona Woodcock

Fiona Woodcock is back after her charming book LOOK with this delightful ode to summer. Hello is a story about a brother and sister visiting a seaside amusement park and beach for the day, followed by a family camp out. The story is told mostly in words featuring double L’s – hello, roller coaster, thrill, jellyfish, shells, marshmallows, etc. – and Woodcock’s softly colored illustrations, created from stencils, children’s BLO pens, and other techniques and incorporating the highlighted words into the illustrations themselves, pair well with just enough white space to make this a gentle and fun look at the perfect summer day.

If You Had Your Birthday Party on the Moon

by Joyce Lapin

Illustrated by Simona Ceccarelli


Imagine doing all the usual birthday party activities – bouncing, dancing, and playing games; exploring around you; singing Happy Birthday; blowing out candles; eating cake; hitting the pinata; and more – on the moon, where EVERYTHING will be different! Lapin’s fun and funny look at a party on the moon offers easy-to-understand scientific explanations for these differences, packing pages with cool facts about space, the moon, gravity, astronauts, and much more, while Ceccarelli’s bright and lively illustrations help young readers imagine that it could happen for them one day soon. A Glossary and other back matter add to the learning.

Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2019 Review: Leah’s Voice

Theme: Siblings With Autism or Special Needs

Leah’s Voice

by Lori DeMonia

Illustrated by Monique Turchan

I’m happy to be taking part in Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2019! As part of this event, I was provided a copy of Leah’s Voice to review. This award-winning picture book is published by Halo Publishing International. 

Logan and her sister Leah have lots of fun together, swimming and painting pictures (Leah’s favorite). So Logan is excited one day to have her friend Abby come over to play with them, until Abby grows frustrated with Leah and her different way of communicating and playing. Logan herself also feels frustrated another day when Leah’s actions prevent her from being able to see her first movie in a movie theater. Then her parents explain that Leah has autism, and what that means for all of them, but mostly for Leah and Logan. Eventually, Leah’s art draws the attention of the local paper, and Abby comes to realize how important it is to treat everyone with kindness and understanding.

Leah’s Voice is a gentle, easy-to-understand story about the sometimes difficult situation of having a sibling or friend with autism, and how to explain autism to friends and others who may never have been exposed to it. Soft watercolor illustrations make this a good read-aloud for early elementary students.

Leah’s Voice has won several awards:

  • 2014 Dr. Temple Grandin Outstanding Literary Work of the Year Award presented by The Autism Society
  • Sibling Support Project’s recommended reading list
  • Mom’s Choice Award winner for Children’s Books – Developing Social Skills

It is a nice addition to any family or school library, especially as a way to open up discussions about autism, accepting others’ differences, showing respect, and being kind.

A little more information on Multicultural Children’s Book Day (and their Twitter Giveaway)…

Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2019 (1/25/19) is in its 6th year and was founded by Valarie Budayr from Jump Into A Book and Mia Wenjen from PragmaticMom. Our mission is to raise awareness of the ongoing need to include kids’ books that celebrate diversity in home and school bookshelves while also working diligently to get more of these types of books into the hands of young readers, parents and educators.

MCBD2019 is honored to have some amazing Medallion Level and Author Sponsors on board. 
*View our 2019 Medallion Sponsors here: https://wp.me/P5tVud-
*View our 2019 MCBD Author Sponsors here: https://wp.me/P5tVud-2eN

We’d like to also give a shout-out to MCBD’s impressive CoHost Team who not only hosts the book review link-up on celebration day, but who also works tirelessly to spread the word of this event. View our CoHosts: http://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com/about/co-hosts/

TWITTER PARTY Sponsored by Make A Way Media: MCBD’s super-popular (and crazy-fun) annual @McChildsBookDay Twitter Party will be held 1/27/19 at 9:00pm. E.S.T.
Join the conversation and win one of 12 five book bundles and one Grand Prize Book Bundle (12 books) that will be given away at the party. We will be giving away a prize every 5 minutes!

FREE RESOURCES from MCBD
Free Multicultural Books for Teachers: https://wp.me/P5tVud-1H
Free Empathy Classroom Kit for Homeschoolers, Organizations, Librarians and Educators: http://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com/teacher-classroom…/

Hashtag: Don’t forget to connect with us on social media and be sure and look for/use our official hashtag #ReadYourWorld.
#Lafrontera #barefootbooks #barefootinfredericton #picturebooks#immigration 

#immigrationstory #kidlit #multiculturalbooks#childrensbook #politics #MCBD2019

Theme: Fun & Funny for Summer 2018

The Big Bed

by Bunmi Laditan

Illustrated by Tom Knight

The Big Bed

The Honest Toddler’s creator captures the quirky, straightforward, yet charmingly cunning personality of a very honest toddler as she offers her father a new sleeping arrangement AWAY from her beloved Mommy. Readers will giggle and delight in the passionate plan made all the more fun with inviting and colorful illustrations.

Monster & Mouse Go Camping

by Deborah Underwood

Illustrated by Jared Chapman

monster and mouse go camping

This slapstick, everything-goes-wrong camping trip is A Walk in the Woods for the very young! When Mouse convinces Monster to go camping, readers see what is going wrong well before the campers thanks to clever illustrations. But the sweet friends still have a great trip and a surprise ending.

Dude!

by Aaron Reynolds

Illustrated by Dan Santat

Dude!

One word says it all in this clever and hilarious summer adventure story. Platypus and Beaver are surfing when Shark shows up. Dude! Will ice cream save the day? Gnarly silly and vibrant illustrations, plus a fun and zany tale of friendship, make this an awesomely bodacious read! Dude!

Theme: Bears, Bears, Bears!

10 Reasons to Love a Bear

by Catherine Barr, Natural History Museum

Illustrated by Hanako Clulow

10 Reasons to Love a Bear

Short, simple text makes this easy to read, and sweet yet realistic illustrations offer readers a chance to see eight species of bears in a variety of habitats and activities (ten to be exact!). Short sidebars also suggest ways readers can “Show You Love a Bear” with an environmental angle.

A Perfect Day

by Lane Smith

A Perfect Day

Softly textured mixed-media illustrations are a true highlight of this hilarious look at different perspectives. Cat, Dog, Chickadee, and Squirrel are enjoying the perfect day UNTIL Bear comes along, disrupting theirs while enjoying his. Spot-on pacing, repetitive text, and sweet humor combine in a perfect way. Simply delightful!

Mother Bruce

by Ryan T. Higgins

Mother Bruce

Grumpy Bruce doesn’t like much, except cooking eggs using online recipes (!). But when one organic egg delivers four goslings, who think he’s their mother, hilarity ensues in his creative efforts to convince them to head south. Laugh-out-loud funny, sweet, and absurd all at once, with a surprise ending!

Theme: Amazing Author/Illustrator Books with Animals

Can I Be Your Dog?

by Troy Cummings

Can I Be Your Dog

Readers will find it impossible to NOT fall in love with Arfy, a clever letter-writing pooch searching for a forever home on Butternut Street. As his options dwindle (even his letter to the boarded up house at the end is “Returned to Sender”), an unexpected friend writes to Arfy with a wonderful proposal: “Can I be your person?”. Cummings’ sweet and often funny story blends seamlessly with his bold and colorful digital illustrations to create a fun read-aloud story with heart and hope. A short note from Arfy in the backmatter also offers simple ways to help homeless animals.

Hello Hello

by Brendan Wenzel

hello hello

Focusing on Near Threatened, Vulnerable, Endangered, and Critically Endangered animals, Wenzel uses mixed media to create eye-catchingly cute and clever renditions with a twist: as we meet them, we see what they have in common, be it “pattern, pose, shape, or show” (or numerous other categories such as sounds they make or size). Simple rhyming text pulls it all together, and abundant white space allows the fun, textured animal illustrations to pop. Backmatter offers a short message on how readers can help creatures in trouble, plus provides a “shadow-shape” index of animals Wenzel features in the book.

How to Be an Elephant

by Katherine Roy

How to Be An Elephant

What must it be like for a baby elephant, with so many things to learn in order to survive to adulthood in the African wild? Roy paints a thorough portrait of life in a herd on the savanna, offering expert insights into anatomy, herd dynamics, family relationships, and other aspects of the development and growth of these majestic animals through the story of an infant learning its way. Award-winning Roy’s stunning watercolor illustrations pair perfectly with the information to offer additional insights while tugging at heartstrings. In addition, backmatter discusses modern threats to elephants, plus suggests sources for learning more.

 

Where Are All the Girls? How The Underrepresentation of Females in Children’s Books Continues in the 21st Century and How It Affects All Children

classic picture book collage

     As the mother of three daughters, I have always been on the lookout for strong female role models for them; role models who are smart, brave, kind, funny, talented, confident, strong and oh-so-amazing are the ones I hope to offer at each stage of their lives. When they were very young, for instance, I provided books featuring female protagonists and music by female artists, along with learning opportunities by female scientists and naturalists through my leadership with Girl Scouts for their various troops. As they entered middle school, I helped them find female coaches for sports and artistic endeavors. And now that my daughters are in their middle- to late-teens and early twenties, I still strive to help them find the female role models who can inspire them to be their best selves in learning and life.

     As a writer of picture books, I am also keeping an eye toward strong female role models for readers of both sexes, creating believable female protagonists who explore, imagine, learn, discover, and dream whenever possible. For young female readers, this allows them the opportunity to see themselves in the world and all its situations and possibilities. For young male readers, it shows them a new perspective which can counter the messages they face daily in other areas of their lives, including the media and society in general, that puts men and boys at the top of most lists.

     Yet, I sometimes feel I am struggling uphill with my efforts, and there’s good reason why. A 2011 study (by FSU’s Janice McCabe and four other university researchers) of almost 6,000 children’s books published in the U.S. during the 20th Century found that males were represented in 57% of the books while females were central characters in only 31%. This kind of disparity carried over into representation of: adult males or male animal characters (up to 100%) vs. adult women or female animal characters (33%) and males (36.5%) vs. females (17.5%) in children book titles.

     What kind of effect can this have on young readers? According to McCabe, “The widespread pattern of underrepresentation of females that we find supports the belief that female characters are less important and interesting than male characters. This may contribute to a sense of unimportance among girls and privilege among boys. The gender inequalities we found may be particularly powerful because they are reinforced by patterns of male-dominated characters in many other aspects of children’s media, including cartoons, G-rated films, video games and even coloring books.” McCabe also pointed out that even animal characters portrayed as gender neutral are usually perceived as male by both children and parent readers, contributing to furthering this pattern.

     Now, seven years on from this study and 17+ years into the new century, have we made any progress in the writing and publishing community to fix these inequities? Well, not much. While I do not have numbers for the breakdown of male-character vs. female-character books so far this century, I do have information showing which are getting the most attention, which often leads to publisher interest; success in the children’s book market; and availability in libraries, bookstores, and classrooms.

     The esteemed Kirkus Reviews listed The Best Picture Books of 2017 online. Of these 75 books:

  • 25 featured a male main character (33%)
  • 16 featured a female main character (21%)
  • 11 featured both male and female main characters (14.5%)
  • 11 featured no character (such as concept books) or an ambiguous main character (14.5%)
  • 12 featured only gender-neutral animals as main characters (16%)

     Publisher’s Weekly’s Best Books of 2017 (Children’s) included:

  • 9 books with male main characters (53%)
  • 4 books with female main characters (23.5%)
  • 3 books with both male and female main characters (17.5%)
  • 1 book with an ambiguous main character (.6%)

     Goodread’s 2017 Choice Awards for 2017 listed these children’s books:

  • 11 with male main characters (55%)
  • 5 with female main characters (25%)
  • 1 with both male and female main characters (5%)
  • 2 with ambiguous main characters (10%)
  • 1 with a gender-neutral animal as a main character (5%)

     From these lists, we can see the disparities remain today. In a culture of greater female empowerment and a strong move toward gender equality in pay and other areas, it’s time for the children’s book industry — including writers, agents, editors, publishers, professional organizations, media outlets, sellers, and buyers — to catch up and step forward. It’s time for all young girls and boys to see in the books they read what I have wanted my daughters to see for nearly a quarter of a century: that girls can be — and are — smart, brave, kind, funny, talented, confident, strong, and oh-so-amazing.

Sources:

https://www.fsu.edu/news/2011/05/06/gender.bias/

McCabe, J., Fairchild, E., Grauerholz, L., Pescosolido, B. A., & Tope, D. “Gender in Twentieth-Century Children’s Books: Patterns of Disparity in Titles and Central Characters.” Gender & Society, vol. 25(2), 2011, pp. 197-226.

https://www.kirkusreviews.com/issue/best-of-2017/section/picture-books/

https://best-books.publishersweekly.com/pw/best-books/2017/picture-books

https://www.goodreads.com/choiceawards/best-picture-books-2017

Resources:

Want to find great children’s books featuring smart, confident, and courageous girls? Be sure to check out A Mighty Girl at https://www.amightygirl.com/books/fiction/picture-books (the website also showcases movies, toys, music, and clothing for girls along with other great resources for parents and teachers).

Find further insights and details on this issue in this excellent 2016 Washington Post article by Jennie Yabroff: https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2016/01/08/why-are-there-so-few-girls-in-childrens-books/?utm_term=.1b9e460c4621

Kidlit Women Logo Box

Theme: Lyrical Books on Insects

Cricket in the Thicket: Poems About Bugs

by Carol Murray

Illustrated by Melissa Sweet

Cricket in the Thicket

Thirty short poems offer charming, fun insights into favorite (dragonfly, ladybug, firefly) and not-so-favorite (cockroach, mosquito, dung beetle) bugs, while additional text and back matter add educational heft. Even better: Caldecott-winner Melissa Sweet adds whimsy to the excitement with her delightful mixed-media, collage-style illustrations.

Good Trick, Walking Stick!

by Sheri Mabry Bestor

Illustrated by Jonny Lambert

Good Trick, Walking Stick

Using lyrical storytelling, Bestor’s nonfiction book shows how this favorite insect survives and thrives throughout its life cycle. Readers learn the tricks it employs –  blending in, changing color, losing and regrowing limbs, and more – to survive as an egg, grow and molt numerous times, and mate in its short but interesting life.

Some Bugs

by Angela Diterlizzi

Illustrated by Brendan Wenzel

Some Bugs

A simple rhyming look at backyard bugs that will encourage even the most reluctant “bug lover” into outdoor exploration. With adorable, colorful illustrations, children will enjoy this adventure featuring caterpillars, bees, moths and butterflies, ants, crickets, and many more bugs! Back matter provides bugs’ names in a What’s That Bug? chart.

 

Theme: Preparing for the Super Blue Blood Moon

Coyote Moon

by Maria Gianferrari

Coyote Moon

In this softly poetic tale, a mother coyote in a suburban setting hunts for food for her pups by the light of the moon. Powerful illustrations by Bagram Ibatoulline showcase the coyote’s efforts and use of all her senses to hunt at night, while sparse text sets the mood.

Follow the Moon Home

by Philippe Cousteau and Deborah Hopkinson

Follow the Moon Home

Vivid watercolor illustrations accompany this story of a girl, new to her school, who leads her classmates’ efforts to save hatched loggerhead sea turtles. When the students learn the turtles are confused by nearby household lights, leaving them stranded on the beach, they rally the community to join in the cause.

Full Moon Lore

by Ellen Wahi

Full Moon Lore

Lovely illustrations set the tone for this sweetly soft look at the full moon of each calendar month, with its related name and back story. Nature is the focus as readers learn about the Snow Moon, Strawberry Moon, Sap Moon, Harvest Moon, and others, while backmatter offers additional information.

Picture Book Weekly: Fun Animal-Themed Fiction

I enjoy reading picture books on a daily basis – which is good, since I’m passionate about writing them! I also study them in-depth. Below are short reviews (50-ish words) of some picture books I recommend, which I will update weekly. Follow my blog – add your email address to the right – to discover great fiction and nonfiction picture books throughout the year.

A Loud Winter’s Nap

by Katy Hudson

Charming and bright illustrations highlight this story of a turtle whose body is telling him to sleep in winter, but whose surroundings have other – loud – ideas of winter fun. After several misses, he discovers some of the joys of winter might just make the season okay after all.

 

Shake a Leg, Egg!

by Kurt Cyrus

A cute rhyming entreaty to an unhatched egg to come on out and experience all the joys of pond living as a Canadian Goose in the springtime. The illustrations are vivid and colorful, putting the reader up-close with the egg, its siblings, and other residents of the pond.

 

I Won’t Eat That

by Christopher Silas Neal

A fun, cumulative story of a cat in search of something a bit more exciting to eat. Until, that is, he realizes some culinary choices of the animals he meets might be a bit TOO exciting. In the end, he finds the perfect possibility. Simple text and illustrations make this a great read-aloud.

Annual Favorite: A Gift for Parents: A Stress-Free Christmas Morning

christmas morning

All parents love the joy and wonder they see in their children’s eyes on Christmas morning. We envision langorous, loving exchanges of gifts and resulting hugs, sips of hot toddies by the fire, and magical elves that cook breakfast and bag up a landfill’s worth of wrapping paper and bows as classic Christmas tunes serenade our relaxing repose.

The reality, however is a bit different. For instance, at 6 a.m. on December 25th, we are already blurry-eyed (or hungover if you previewed the hot toddies after Midnight Mass) from staying awake until 2:30 a.m. to:

  • Wait for sugerplums to start dancing (start, already!) in their bursting-with-excitement heads.

children sleeping

  • Finish, or, er, start, building that bike or 250-piece deluxe dollhouse and furniture with magnifying glass and a hot glue gun.

deluxe dollhouse

dollhouse furniture

  • Clean up reindeer poop and free Santa from the chimney after a few too many cookie/milk combos.

santa chimney problem

Because of these challenges, we often set ourselves up for a less-than-satisfying experience, not the ideal we dream of. So in order to help parents everywhere better prepare and maybe even enjoy the day, I’ve created this handy checklist of THREE WISE things to remember:

1. Three Things to Have on Hand for Opening Gifts

swiss army knife

dynamite

box cutter

Why? Because every parent knows toys are boxed for maximum display, not ease of removal. Take Polly Pocket or Barbie sets, for instance. Military-grade plastic strips and twist-ties are used to hold EVERY SINGLE limb, accessory, and hair in place in the box. These require hours of finger-numbing work to loosen, untie, or remove. Same goes for CDs and DVDs. They are encased in SPF 1000 plastic which you may or may not be able to remove before the second or fifth installment is released at Easter.

polly pockets

2. Three Things to Prepare Ahead of Time

industrial coffee maker
batteries
headphonesStart with an industrial-sized coffee maker prepped the night before to spew out that glorious caffeinated liquid. Or, if you prefer:

hot toddy

Next, be sure to have 212 batteries on-hand for all those toys that say:

batteries not included

No kid wants to open a gift they can’t play with until you run out to the store in your pjs and curlers to get the batteries!

curlers

Finally, despite our best efforts to avoid them, there are always toys on our kids’ wish lists that tend to be a bit noisy:

pink drumset

A great set of headphones attached to something playing those classic carols will help you keep your sanity in check.

3. Three things to Make this Christmas the Most Magical and Memorable

wrapping mess

family at christmas3

ugly sweater

More important than anything else, be sure to take the time to ENJOY Christmas morning…these are precious memories for you and your family. Can’t walk in the living room because of the huge mess? Leave it for a while. As long as the baby isn’t trying to eat a ribbon or the cat trying to do her business in the crinkled wrapping paper, let it go. At least until you need to search for the miniscule missing part that makes this year’s must-have toy go BING, BANG, BONG (bet you’re glad I recommended those headphones now, huh?).

Sit back, relax, and enjoy your time together as a family. Bake a batch of cookies. Sing some carols. Attend church together in matching ugly Christmas sweaters (don’t forget to take a photo too…it will be great for embarrassing your kids in their teen years!). Laugh and joke and do all the things that make family time great. When you just can’t stand being together any longer, say, 11 am, head off to relax a bit…

headphones in bath

…so you’re recharged and ready for more TOGETHER TIME!

And finally, be sure to teach your kids what this joyous day is truly all about. No, not that:

tvguide

THIS:

nativity

Wishing you and yours a Blessed Christmas and

Very Happy New Year too!

A Gift for Parents: A Stress-Free Christmas Morning

christmas morning

All parents love the joy and wonder they see in their children’s eyes on Christmas morning. We envision languorous, loving exchanges of gifts and resulting hugs, sips of hot toddies by the fire, and magical elves that cook breakfast and bag up a landfill’s worth of wrapping paper and bows as classic Christmas tunes serenade our relaxing repose.

The reality, however is a bit different. For instance, at 6 a.m. on December 25th, we are already blurry-eyed (or hungover if you previewed the hot toddies after Midnight Mass) from staying awake until 2:30 a.m. to:

  • Wait for sugar plums to start dancing (start, already!) in their bursting-with-excitement heads.

children sleeping

  • Finish, or, er, start, building that bike or 250-piece deluxe dollhouse and furniture with magnifying glass and a hot glue gun.

deluxe dollhouse

dollhouse furniture

  • Clean up reindeer poop and free Santa from the chimney after a few too many cookie/milk combos.

santa chimney problem

Because of these challenges, we often set ourselves up for a less-than-satisfying experience, not the ideal we dream of. So in order to help parents everywhere better prepare and maybe even enjoy the day, I’ve created this handy checklist of THREE WISE things to remember:

1. Three Things to Have on Hand for Opening Gifts

swiss army knife

dynamite

box cutter

Why? Because every parent knows toys are boxed for maximum display, not ease of removal. Take Polly Pocket or Barbie sets, for instance. Military-grade plastic strips and twist-ties are used to hold EVERY SINGLE limb, accessory, and hair in place in the box. These require hours of finger-numbing work to loosen, untie, or remove. Same goes for CDs and DVDs. They are encased in SPF 1000 plastic which you may or may not be able to remove before the second or fifth installment is released at Easter.

polly pockets

2. Three Things to Prepare Ahead of Time

industrial coffee maker
batteries
headphonesStart with an industrial-sized coffee maker prepped the night before to spew out that glorious caffeinated liquid. Or, if you prefer:

hot toddy

Next, be sure to have 212 batteries on-hand for all those toys that say:

batteries not included

No kid wants to open a gift they can’t play with until you run out to the store in your pjs and curlers to get the batteries!

curlers

Finally, despite our best efforts to avoid them, there are always toys on our kids’ wish lists that tend to be a bit noisy:

pink drumset

A great set of headphones attached to something playing those classic carols will help you keep your sanity in check.

3. Three things to Make this Christmas the Most Magical and Memorable

wrapping mess

family at christmas3

ugly sweater

More important than anything else, be sure to take the time to ENJOY Christmas morning…these are precious memories for you and your family. Can’t walk in the living room because of the huge mess? Leave it for a while. As long as the baby isn’t trying to eat a ribbon or the cat trying to do her business in the crinkled wrapping paper, let it go. At least until you need to search for the miniscule missing part that makes this year’s must-have toy go BING, BANG, BONG (bet you’re glad I recommended those headphones now, huh?).

Sit back, relax, and enjoy your time together as a family. Bake a batch of cookies. Sing some carols. Attend church together in matching ugly Christmas sweaters (don’t forget to take a photo too…it will be great for embarrassing your kids in their teen years!). Laugh and joke and do all the things that make family time great. When you just can’t stand being together any longer, say, 11 am, head off to relax a bit…

headphones in bath

…so you’re recharged and ready for more TOGETHER TIME!

And finally, be sure to teach your kids what this joyous day is truly all about. No, not that:

tvguide

THIS:

nativity

Wishing you and yours a Blessed Christmas and

Very Happy New Year too!

Give This, Not That: Halloween Edition

 

 

Back by popular demand!

halloween candy bowl

Want to be the cool house on the block come Trick-or-Treat time? Sure, the headless ghoul and ghastly sound effects – not to mention swirling fog and creepy doorbell – will go a long way. But to truly take your place in the hall of fame, you need to master The Give. To help you out, I’ve compiled a beginner’s guide to treats every kid worth her princess ball gown or his superhero cape will be looking for October 31st, along with the sure-to-scare-away equivalent:

First, the basics. Whenever possible, give:

  • Candy                  NOT         Candy Corn, Fruit, or Raisins
  • Full Size              NOT         Fun Size or Mini
  • New Candy         NOT         Last Year’s Easter Candy

chocolate bunny

Once you’ve mastered Candy 101, you’re ready to move on. Give:

  • Chocolate                           NOT     Breath Mints
  • Sour, Sweet, Gummy    NOT    Atomic Fireball, Tabasco Jelly Beans
  • Laffy Taffy                         NOT     Bit-O-Honey or Licorice
  • Caramel Anything           NOT     Coconut Anything (sorry Mounds)
  • ANYTHING ELSE           NOT     Pecan Logs, Sixlets, Necco Wafers

necco wafers

 

 

 

 

Finally, when you’re ready for the Advanced Give, give these a try:

  • Gross-out Candy (Zit Poppers, Gummy Tongue, Box of Boogers, Ear Wax Candy)

zit poppers

                                                                       NOT

  • Goodies you may have on hand (Beer Nuts, Clif Bars, or 5-Hour Energy)

5 hour energy

Now that you’re all set to be the best house on the block come Halloween night, be sure to follow this last piece of advice: GIVE IT ALL AWAY (your skinny jeans will thank me come Thanksgiving!).

A Gift for Parents: A Stress-Free Christmas Morning

christmas morning

All parents love the joy and wonder they see in their children’s eyes on Christmas morning. We envision langorous, loving exchanges of gifts and resulting hugs, sips of hot toddies by the fire, and magical elves that cook breakfast and bag up a landfill’s worth of wrapping paper and bows as classic Christmas tunes serenade our relaxing repose.

The reality, however is a bit different. For instance, at 6 a.m. on December 25th, we are already blurry-eyed (or hungover if you previewed the hot toddies after Midnight Mass) from staying awake until 2:30 a.m. to:

  • Wait for sugerplums to start dancing (start, already!) in their bursting-with-excitement heads.

children sleeping

  • Finish, or, er, start, building that bike or 250-piece deluxe dollhouse and furniture with magnifying glass and a hot glue gun.

deluxe dollhouse

dollhouse furniture

  • Clean up reindeer poop and free Santa from the chimney after a few too many cookie/milk combos.

santa chimney problem

Because of these challenges, we often set ourselves up for a less-than-satisfying experience, not the ideal we dream of. So in order to help parents everywhere better prepare and maybe even enjoy the day, I’ve created this handy checklist of THREE WISE things to remember:

1. Three Things to Have on Hand for Opening Gifts

swiss army knife

dynamite

box cutter

Why? Because every parent knows toys are boxed for maximum display, not ease of removal. Take Polly Pocket or Barbie sets, for instance. Military-grade plastic strips and twist-ties are used to hold EVERY SINGLE limb, accessory, and hair in place in the box. These require hours of finger-numbing work to loosen, untie, or remove. Same goes for CDs and DVDs. They are encased in SPF 1000 plastic which you may or may not be able to remove before the second or fifth installment is released at Easter.

polly pockets

2. Three Things to Prepare Ahead of Time

industrial coffee maker
batteries
headphonesStart with an industrial-sized coffee maker prepped the night before to spew out that glorious caffeinated liquid. Or, if you prefer:

hot toddy

Next, be sure to have 212 batteries on-hand for all those toys that say:

batteries not included

No kid wants to open a gift they can’t play with until you run out to the store in your pjs and curlers to get the batteries!

curlers

Finally, despite our best efforts to avoid them, there are always toys on our kids’ wish lists that tend to be a bit noisy:

pink drumset

A great set of headphones attached to something playing those classic carols will help you keep your sanity in check.

3. Three things to Make this Christmas the Most Magical and Memorable

wrapping mess

family at christmas3

ugly sweater

More important than anything else, be sure to take the time to ENJOY Christmas morning…these are precious memories for you and your family. Can’t walk in the living room because of the huge mess? Leave it for a while. As long as the baby isn’t trying to eat a ribbon or the cat trying to do her business in the crinkled wrapping paper, let it go. At least until you need to search for the miniscule missing part that makes this year’s must-have toy go BING, BANG, BONG (bet you’re glad I recommended those headphones now, huh?).

Sit back, relax, and enjoy your time together as a family. Bake a batch of cookies. Sing some carols. Attend church together in matching ugly Christmas sweaters (don’t forget to take a photo too…it will be great for embarrassing your kids in their teen years!). Laugh and joke and do all the things that make family time great. When you just can’t stand being together any longer, say, 11 am, head off to relax a bit…

headphones in bath

…so you’re recharged and ready for more TOGETHER TIME!

And finally, be sure to teach your kids what this joyous day is truly all about. No, not that:

tvguide

THIS:

nativity

Wishing you and yours a Blessed Christmas and

Very Happy New Year too!