Gift for Dad or Grandfather

Every couple of years we end up at Portrait Innovations to take a family photo for my mother-n-law for Christmas.  The quality is fine, there’s no sitting fee and you can buy just one photo.  And they’ll wait while your whole family changes clothes for a second “look.”

When I was considering what our family would wear – my least favorite part of the process, other than watching my daughter try so hard to please us with a fake, stiff smile – it occured to me that we could all change into Green Bay Packers shirts.  My stepfather – a Wisconsin native – would be with us that Christmas and I could imagine his big guffaw as he opened a framed photo of us in Cheesehead garb.

Old Navy usually has 100% cotton, nice-looking sports team shirts.  My husband, a Cowboys fan, was actually willing to wear a Green Bay shirt (it’s important to keep the in-laws happy!).  But I couldn’t find one in his size.  He was not upset when I brought home a new Dallas shirt for him instead.  He and my stepfather talk smack to each other about their respective sports allegiances, so it worked.

And, lo and behold, Portrait Innovations has a football stadium backdrop.  A little cheesy, but a lot of fun.

And we got the big guffaw.

Simple Way to Capture the Wonder of Childhood

Days before he died, my grandfather gave my husband and I this advice:

“Every year on their birthdays, ask your children what they want to be when they grow up.

Need a Mystery Reader Idea?

Pete the Cat is my all-time favorite book to read aloud to my kids’ classes – pre-school through at least 2nd grade.  I’ve never read it just once, and during the subsequent readings, everyone sings!  Check out the video on You Tube and the artist’s website.  So fun.

Another fun book to read to this age group is Little Pea by Amy Krause Rosenthal.  After reading it to my son’s 4-year-old class, I gave each child a plastic spoon and had them pass around a frozen pea.  Most of them greeted the tiny pea, “Hello, Little Pea.”  One of them asked me where his eyes and mouth were.  I was stumped and the teacher laughed and said, “Welcome to our world!”

Many teachers prefer that parents refrain from bringing in treats or gifts during Mystery Reader time, which I understand.  If I have an idea I always ask first.  I passed around a bag of mini marshmallows to a kindergarten class after I read The Marshmallow Incident by Judy Barrett (a longer book, but the kids were attentive).

When my daughter was in preschool, she and her brother loved the Franklin books, written by Paulette Bourgeois and illustrated by Brenda Clark.   In the I-can’t-believe-I’m-putting-this-on-the-internet category, here’s a picture of me in my homemade Franklin costume before going to her school.  I’m pretty introverted, so this was a big leap for me (usually I get ideas like this and talk my husband into it), but my daughter loved it.  Since Franklin loves fly cookies, I also read one of The Fly Guy books by Ted Arnold and gave each child a bug finger puppet from Party City.

I wouldn’t advise going the homemade costume route for kids older than 4, though.

As the scheduled reader for my daughter’s kindergarten class, I noticed  that we owned several storybooks about alligators.  So I took in Zack’s Alligator, But I Am an Alligator (Charlie and Lola) and a girl and her gator.  Before I started to read a girl and her gator- a charming book about a girl who wakes up one morning with a French alligator on her head – I put on a baseball cap to which I’d stapled a giant, green, paper alligator.  One girl, bless her, laughed with delight.  The other 20 kids looked at me like I was a ridiculous grown-up, which of course, I was.  For my own sake, this time, I was glad I’d brought bribes – I gave each child one of those grows-in-water alligators that you can usually find at The Dollar Tree or in the dollar section of Michaels.  I was cooler then.  But not much.

Have fun!

Fun Card Idea

We’re standing in front of a tablecloth hanging from the mantle.

This is one of my favorite card tricks (greeting, not magic).

Happy Birthday, Grammy!

If you send cards with any kind of regularity, it’s hard to come up with a heartfelt sentiment for yet another holiday.

But take a picture of your kids holding a sign like this, and all you have to do is sign your name (or theirs).

Grandparents, especially, will coo.

I’ve put similar pictures on homemade cards, store-bought cards and thank-you notes.  Recently, I submitted one to my daughter’s school yearbook for her class page.  Her classmates couldn’t wait to have their picture taken holding a piece of paper that said “Our class rocks!”

It works well for us, too, because my kids don’t like to be photographed.  But they’re usually game if they know they’re making something special for someone, or if they have a fun prop.

Chapter Books for 5 to 6-Year-Old

My 6-year-old daughter is an avid reader and friends often ask us for book suggestions.

Last year, her wonderful kindergarten teacher read the first few Magic Tree Housebooks aloud to the class and used them to kick off lesson plans on dinosaurs, knights and Egyptian mummies.  We found most of the 46 (and counting) books in the series at the library, and Sasha would read an entire book before we got home.

Junie B. Jones was next.  Initially I was put off by the poor spelling and grammar, as well as Junie B’s questionable behavior, but my daughter begged to read them.  I quickly decided that I didn’t want to add a speed bump to her blossoming love of reading.  And while her writing isn’t perfect and she occasionally talks back, not once has it occurred to me to blame Barbara Park!

Below are lesser-known series that have been equally as popular in our house.  Currently, it’s the “B” for Betsy books by Carolyn Haywood.  First published in the 30′s and 40′s, they’re a great option for kids of moms who don’t embrace the Junie B-type of character.  There are multiple books in each of these series and we have found most of them at our library.

Roscoe Riley Rules by Katherine Applegate

Horribly Harry by Suzy Kline

Mary Marony by Suzy Kline

The Pee Wee Scouts by Judy Delton

Keeker and the Sneaky Pony by Hadley Higgenson

Nancy Drew Notebooks or Nancy Drew & The Clue Crew by Carolyn Keene

Marvin Redpost by Louis Sachar

Katie Kazoo, Switcheroo by Nancy Krulik

Calendar Mysteries by Ron Roy

Geronimo Stilton by Geronimo Stilton

Judy Moody & Stink books by Megan McDonald

Ramona books by Beverly Cleary

Encyclopedia Brown by Donald J. Sobol

Clementine by Sara Pennypacker

Ivy & Bean by Annie Barrow

Betsy and Penny books by Carolyn Haywood

American Girl Contemporary Fiction