Category Archives: Parenting

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

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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!

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!

Where Do All the Lonely Socks Go?

As a mom of two busy teens and a, um, how shall I say it, slightly scatter-brained tween, not to mention wife of a computer-geek kind of guy, and a pretty organized person in general, I pride myself on what my family views as my insider’s knowledge. Seems moms worldwide are the keepers of this knowledge: “Honey, where is my…?” and “Mom, have you seen my…” are familiar refrains in my household and millions of others. In fact, just the other day my hubby asked where he might find his painstakinly hand-colored topographical map of a favorite hiking area, one I haven’t seen in years. And my 13-year-old awakened me from a deep sleep to discover the whereabouts of her sister’s sleeping bag. Both items were needed for a trip they were taking the next day. And both items were uncovered in minutes instead of hours thanks to my guidance.

With all this insider’s knowledge, however, one mystery remains and dogs my every attempt at organization: where do all the lonely socks go? I’ve searched high and low: reached under dust ruffles, riffled through dress-up boxes, rubbed hands inside pants legs, even (almost) ripped open the dryer vent, all in an effort to bring peace to my days and an end to this endless search.

This question is not mine alone, for entire industries have grown up around this enigma. LittleMissMatched is a company that earned $32 million in 2008 by selling three-packs of socks THAT DON’T MATCH! They even highlight the plight of lost socks with a Lost Sock Memorial Day on May 9th each year (is it merely coincidence that this is my “I-can’t-find-my-sock” tween’s birthday? I think not!).

Of course, no one really needs to spend a penny to be in style these days if all you have to do is wear mismatched socks. If you’re like me, you already have a large pile to choose from each day; at last count, my pile of lonely socks topped 20! They may not be as colorful and clever-looking as the ones from the store, but at least they won’t be lonely anymore. And if their match ever does miraculously show up? Ha ha ha…well, we all know that will never happen. So if you see me walking around this week with one crew sock in blue stripes and one no-show in purple polka-dots, just nod your head and think to yourself, “Those are two less lonely socks in this world thanks to Tanya.”

Spring Style for Dummies

As the days grow longer and the earth awakens from its long winter slumber, I nervously realize it is time not only for sunshine and warm breezes, but for one of the most dreaded of springtime occurrences as well. No, I’m not referring to that important detail, the bikini wax, but to warm-weather clothes shopping with my teen and tween daughters!

As we peruse the racks with headache-inducing “music” blaring through hidden speakers, I’m glad my heart is healthy, because not only are the shorts shorter than ever before (well, at least since the Cindy Brady peekaboo undies style of the 60’s and early 70’s), the tops are more sheer and practically cut to the navel. The fashion industry, however, assures me it’s all “the style,” and one must simply learn to “layer” properly to get the right “look.” After much back-and-forth, numerous eye-rolls, and not a few “Aaarghs!,” my daughters and I leave the stores almost completely empty-handed, with me complaining about how stupid the fashion industry has become.But, the more I think about it, the more I realize the fashion industry is actually very smart, ingenious you might say, in its methods of ensuring its own survival, even in tough economic times. According to Spending Pulse, the economic research arm of Mastercard Worldwide (as seen on Forbes.com), the apparel industry raked in $177 Billion (with a capital “B”!) in 2009 during the Great Recession!

Yes, those setting the fashion curve for the rest of us are no dummies. For example, every year, creating just the right look requires more and more pieces. Multiple layers of cami/tank/gauzy top are necessary this year, as are all the newest accessories (DON’T even think of wearing the medium-width belt that was in style last year because now it’s all about ultra skinny or big, fat belts!). Cha-ching!

The fashion industry also knows it must continue to create new looks all the time or we’d all just keep wearing the same old (perfectly wearable) clothes we already have and not be out there spending our money on this year’s latest must-have. So the boyfriend shorts of last summer have now given way to those wedgie-inducing short-shorts, and last year’s stripes are now embarrasingly outdated and replaced by bold, blocky looks and florals. In addition, last year’s gladiator sandals are still kind of okay, but only if you mix it up sometimes with new 5-inch wedge-heeled platform sandals in this spring’s perfect colors.

And if the fashion gurus are feeling a bit uninspired one season? No worries there…their pocketbooks are still covered (via ours!).  They simply pull out past fashion hits such as legwarmers and tights, bell bottom jeans (AGAIN??), tube tops, pantsuits, or plaid skirts, knowing we’ll jump on the fashion bandwagon in an effort to relive our youth.

Now, so far we’ve just been talking clothes. But interior designers are also working us over! Honeysuckle is this year’s best loved color by the “color forecast experts” for furniture and household accessories (and no, honeysuckle is not a soft, off-white as I imagined, but a bright, bold, in-your-face hot pink!). So my soft rose walls, that were so hip just 5-10 years ago, now make me shudder every time I walk in those rooms simply because industry experts have trained my eye to enjoy another color this year. And my white toaster and black coffee maker are so very last year too…I should have fire engine red or hot lemon yellow to brighten things up, experts declare! But do I really want a hot pink couch staring back at me just because it’s the “it” color this year? Uh, no thanks.

So what is a semi-conservative mom, and decorator-wannabe, to do in order to keep not only her sanity, but a few coins in her purse as well this spring? I don’t think my daughters will go for wearing what I consider stylish (button-downs, anyone?), so for now I’ll just have to count on those layers to cover them up (wearing ear plugs while shopping and watching for some great sales will help), and try to repaint my walls in a more neutral color.

And in an effort to beat the fashion gurus at their own game, I may just go into the biz myself. I have the perfect name for all of my designs: “Timeless.” I predict brisk sales among semi-conservative moms worldwide!