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.
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.
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.