Here’s another topic I’ve written many posts on, both here and at Lilting House.
Books We Love, Part One
Signing Time DVDs
More about Signing Time
Yet more about Signing Time
Showcase Presents comic book collections
Settlers of Catan, Wedgits
Books on drawing
Family memberships to zoos, museums, etc.
Each of the above link is a longer post on the subject.
Note: these are old posts and may contain links to my Amazon Affiliates account.
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson. This book has been an annual tradition for me since Mrs. Beville read it to my fifth-grade class. Now Scott reads it to our kids, who are slightly better mannered than the obnoxious Herdman crew but just as full of provoking questions. The Herdmans, as unruly a bunch of young hoodlums as ever burned down a neighbor’s shed, have a way of jarring people out of their unexamined ruts, startling them into examining, thinking, noticing—even if only in self-defense. For that, and for their alarming frankness, I adore these foul-mouthed, looting, hooting Herdman kids.
…on the feast of St. Lucy.
Hanna’s Christmas. My kids are 1/8 Swedish, which I figure qualifies us to observe the old Swedish St. Lucia day custom where the oldest daughter dresses all in white and serves sweet rolls to her parents in bed. Not that a total lack of Swedish blood would deter us from keeping this lovely tradition…over the years it has become one of the sweetest parts of our Advent celebration. All three girls dress up here, of course, raiding my drawers the night before for long white slips and such. They make construction paper candle-crowns just like the little girl in the story—without the help (much to their disappointment) of a crotchety stowaway tomten. Hanna’s Christmas is the story of a girl whose family moves from Sweden to America right before the holidays. The intensity of her homesickness is surpassed only by that of a tomten who inadvertantly stows away in a packing crate and, in his indignation and misery, causes no end of mischief in the new house (for which Hanna gets blamed, of course). The St. Lucy day tradition becomes the catalyst to a new outlook for both reluctant immigrants. This is one of my kids’ favorite Christmas books. Not that they’re biased or anything….(she says mysteriously).
Today is Wonderboy’s 2nd birthday. In his honor, I shall post a link to everything I’ve blogged about him: All About Wonderboy. (And yes, for my own amusement, I sometimes dress my son like his father. What can I say? It cracks me up. And simultaneously melts me.)
It’s also the birthday of my fabulous and incomparible husband, Scott. The day I met him I went back to my dorm room and raved to my suitemates about the guy who’d been cast as my leading man in the spring play: brilliant, funny, devastatingly good-looking (actually I think what I said was “wicked cute”).
Suitemate: Scott Peterson? I had a class with that guy. He’s really cocky and sarcastic.
Me, dreamily: Yeah, I knooooowwwww…..
One snarky one-liner, and I was his for life.
In his honor, here’s a link to some stuff he’s written about family. (Works best if you scroll to the bottom and read your way up.) He’s way funnier than I am. I am particularly fond of this piece. And this one. Come to think of it, this piece explains just why it is the picture above melts me.
It’s their birthday, but I’m the one who gets the best present. I get to hang out with the two of them every day.
Happy Birthday, guys.
I love author and illustrator Jan Brett’s work, and I love her website. What a treasure trove it is! She’s got a bunch of fun new activities up for the holidays, including a printable Advent calendar, a “decorate your own gingerbread house” game (you can print out your masterpiece and turn it into a Christmas card), an adorable hedgehog crossstitch pattern, and instructions for making an African Safari mural. And TONS more. Just too cool.
If you peruse my “favorite Advent & Christmas books” sidebar, you’ll see that Jan Brett appears numerous times. We’ve already pulled out the Brett books we own—The Hat and The Wild Christmas Reindeer—which we always enjoy at this time of year; and this morning we’re hightailing it to the library the second it opens to score copies of every other Jan Brett title we find. My brood is particularly fond of Gingerbread Baby, Trouble with Trolls, and The Mitten. I’ve got my eye on her Christmas Treasury as a possible St. Nicholas Day gift for the girls. (Note to self: don’t let Jane read the blog today.) St. Nick’s Day is coming up fast (December 6th), so I guess I’d better get on the ball.
Today is the first day of Advent. Our candles are on the table, awaiting their wreath of greens. I suppose I’m going to have to cook an actual dinner tonight—one more night of leftovers might result in a mutiny—so we can gather around the table and light our first purple candle and sing “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” My heart skips a beat, writing this…oh how I love this season of the year!
We’ll begin to pull out the lights, the decorations; these things take their places in our home gradually over the next four weeks. Today, though—today we commence my favorite of the many traditions that fill our Advent: we’ll bring out the books.
I owe a great deal of the inspiration for this particular tradition to Elizabeth Foss, my dear friend and author of Real Learning: Education in the Heart of the Home. Elizabeth’s Tomie de Paola Advent unit has enriched the holiday customs of hundreds of families—and her suggestions for family read-alouds, crafts, recipes, and prayers aren’t applicable only to homeschoolers.
Over the years I have accumulated a pile of beautiful Advent and Christmas books. Every January, after the Twelve Days of Christmas have come and gone, I tuck the books away in a closet for another year. I love the children’s gasps of delight when I pull them back out each Advent: they bubble over with joy at reuniting with these long-lost friends.
Today, as always, we’ll begin with our old chum, Strega Nona. I have been a huge fan of author and illustrator Tomie de Paola since I encountered his illustrations in Nancy Willard’s charming picture book, Simple Pictures Are Best, sometime around the age of eight. (Note to my sisters: if that book is still in Mom & Dad’s basement, it’s MINE. We will now return to the Season of Giving. Pardon the interruption.) Strega Nona, the wise and merry “Grandma Witch” who lives in village in Old Italy, is one of de Paola’s best creations. With a sparkle in her eye and a spoon in her hand, she dispenses advice and nourishment to Big Anthony and the other villagers—and to us as well. Of all the Strega Nona tales, Merry Christmas, Strega Nona is my favorite. The words “periwinkle and lemon blossom” conjure up such rich, tradition-steeped images for me, and Strega Nona’s bustle of preparation for the Christmas Eve feast puts us all in the mood to begin our own bustling and baking. Thanks, Elizabeth, for pointing us toward this beautiful book, all those years ago.
All right, it’s time for me to venture into the depths of that closet where I’ve stashed the books. If you don’t hear from me for a while, someone send a search party.