The Snowman… 40 Years of Snow Much Fun!

The mid-west just experienced a major snowstorm that dropped 11 inches of snow in our yard. My little one has never seen so much snow and we had fun exploring this winter wonderland! Our frosty fun included sledding, making footprints in the snow and building a snowman.

We continued our fun indoors by sipping hot chocolate and watching “The Snowman” and “The Snowman and the Snowdog” films, making “The Snowman” mini-book, being creative and making snow people and baking yummy snowman treats.

The Snowman– The book “The Snowman” written and illustrated by English author Raymond Briggs is a wordless book with beautiful illustrations that chronicles the adventures of a boy named James who builds a snowman that comes to life. The book was originally published in 1978 and just celebrated 40 years of making winter dreams come to life. The delightful book takes the reader on an adventure where James introduces the snowman to his world (with a few comical mishaps along the way) and continues with the snowman taking James on a magical journey of discovery to meet Father Christmas. Sadly, the story ends the way all winter tales do, with the sun appearing overhead, melting the snow and bringing this beloved friendship promptly to an end.

In 1982 a short animated film based on Raymond Briggs classic story, “The Snowman” was created and aired in the UK. The brilliant score was composed by Howard Blake. The wordless film relies on the animation and the music to tell the story.  I was first introduced to the film when my mom (a retired teacher) purchased it on VHS through a Scholastic Book order. When I taught kindergarten I looked forward to showing the classic film to my students after we completed a January unit of study on snow. Upon first seeing it I immediately fell in love with the music and often found myself listening to the score. So you can imagine my excitement when my husband and I performed “The Snowman Concert Version” with the Northwinds Concert Band a few years ago. Our performance played simultaneously with the projected film and included the song “Walking in the Air” performed by a young boy soprano.

The book and animated film quickly became Christmas classics and is as popular in the UK as “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” is in the United States! There was a sequel called “The Snowman and the Snowdog,” equally adored by my dog loving little girl, additional books and a variety of toys featuring the popular snowman. I just discovered a website dedicated entirely to “The Snowman” that contains on-line games, family friendly activities and information about a stage production currently playing in London and Birmingham.

“The Snowman” Mini-Book– We also made and read the mini book “The Snowman,” a reproducible book found in Student Made Thematic Mini Books and Extension Activities. Lillian loved the predictable text and read the book to her stuffed dogs. Click Here to download a copy of the mini- book, “The Snowman.”

Paper Plate Snow People- We used paper plates, construction paper and glue to make creative snow people. Lillian gave her snow person a carrot nose and a black hat. She free cut the decorations out of construction paper with some help from mommy and enjoyed gluing them on her snow person.

Snow People Snack This recipe from my book, Student Made Thematic Mini Books and Extension Activities, is the perfect winter snack! Lillian and I used chocolate chips, m&m’s and snowflake shaped sprinkles to decorate our snow people that were molded out of biscuit dough. The best part was eating them hot out of the oven! Click Here for the Snow People Snack recipe.

Roll-a-Snowman Game– Another fun activity from my book, Student Made Thematic Mini Books and Extension Activities is the Roll-a-Snowman Game. The game is played like Cooties where the players take turns rolling a die. For each number they roll they get to add a different item to the snowman they are drawing. The player who builds the snowman first is the winner. I assisted Lillian when it came time to draw her snowman. Another adaptation is drawing the parts of the snowman ahead of time, cutting out the pieces and then putting the pieces back together when you roll each number on the die. Click Here for a copy of the Roll-a-Snowman Game.

I will end with the words Raymond Briggs recites at the beginning of “The Snowman” animated film…. “I remember that winter because it had brought the heaviest snow I had ever seen. Snow had fallen steadily all night long and in the morning I woke in a room filled with light and silence, the whole world seemed to be held in a dream-like stillness. It was a magical day… and it was on that day I made the Snowman.”

Happy New Year… Hands On Fun in 2019!

Thank you for reading Noteworthy Mommy in 2018. We had many firsts in 2018: my first blog collaboration and giveaway and Lillian’s first days of preschool and Sunday school. I look to 2019 with great anticipation as I know it will be filled with opportunity and new experiences.

2019 Calendar- Lillian and I began 2019 with some “hands on fun” when we created the January page in our 2019 Handprint Calendar by Learning Good News.

This memorable calendar published by Learning Good News uses your little ones hand and foot prints to create engaging works of art for each month of the year! The calendar also includes a monthly bible verse that coordinates with each picture and makes the perfect gift for grandparents, Godparents and friends.

If giving the calendar as a gift, the author recommends creating the calendar over the course of several days as to not fatigue the child. We decided to have Lillian do one handprint a month so she wouldn’t feel overwhelmed. Over the months we can then compare her handprints and the calendar will become a childhood keepsake that chronicles Lillian’s growth throughout the year.

I used acrylic paint that easily washed off of Lillian’s hands. She loved creating the prints and enjoyed putting her hands in the paint. There was plenty of space on the paper for toddler sized hands. Tips and tricks for creating fabulous prints is included at the front of the calendar.

Learning Good News is giving my readers a 10% discount on all calendars purchased on the website with the code “save10.” Go to www.learninggoodnews.com and place your order today. Learning Good News is a website that offers free Christian resources for moms and their children. I am excited to explore the website for more “hands-on” fun in 2019!

Silent Night, Holy Night.. a Two Hundred Year Old Song of Love and Peace

Perhaps the most recognized Christmas carol of all time, the beautiful song “Silent Night” turns 200 this year. With its soothing melody and tranquil lyrics, the song brings hope to us all.

Silent Night the Book– The words “Silent Night” have also been used as the title for several picture books. We found this one at the library.

Silent night, holy night, all is calm, all is bright. All the animals gather together, silent, harmonious, happy forever. The much-loved Christmas carol, “Silent Night,” comes alive in this beautiful story written by Juliet Groom and enchantingly illustrated by Tim Warens.

Lillian and I enjoyed reading this rhyming book based on the song, “Silent Night.” The story features a bear cub and its mother as they walk through the woods on a calm winter’s night. Along their path they encounter animals living in harmony with their natural surroundings while others are deep in their winter slumber. On the last page the mother and cub marvel at the awe-inspiring beauty of a bright star illuminating the night sky. The book is a beautiful story to read with your little one.

Silent Night the Song- Joseph Mohr, a priest from Salzburg, and Franz Xaver Gruber, a teacher from Upper Austria, sang the song for the very first time at the St. Nikola Church in Oberndorf near Salzburg in 1818. The original poem was authored by Joseph Mohr, whereas Franz Xaver Gruber added the melody on his request. Today, the song “Stille Nacht” is performed in over 300 languages and dialects and has been recorded by the likes of Elvis Presley, Bing Crosby and Justin Bieber!

As a musician I get the pleasure of performing the song multiple times every year with the various ensembles I perform in. But the greatest happiness comes when I sing the song at the conclusion of the candlelight service on Christmas Eve at church. It is something I anticipate every year. As the sanctuary’s overhead lights dim, the church illuminates with a warm glow from the small candles carefully held by the congregation. As the light from the candles illuminates my face and the words “Silent night, holy night,” flow freely from my lips, my heart overflows with radiant joy. For the song reminds us all of the greatest gift we will ever receive… Jesus!

“Silent Night, Holy Night! Son of God, love’s pure light. Radiant beams from Thy holy face with the dawn of redeeming grace,

Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth,

Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth.

Advent By Candlelight

The Christmas season can be stressful for a variety of reasons. For some it’s an overwhelming “to do list” that appears to have no end. Or it may be the pressure of feeling financially strapped and unable to give your family the Christmas of their dreams. You may be experiencing emptiness thinking about loved ones who will be missing from the dinner table this year. While others may feel loneliness, simply yearning for family and friends to spend Christmas with. I’m sure all of you can relate to one of these scenarios and I find comfort knowing that I am not alone. One of the things I did this year to help me focus on the true meaning of the Advent season is participate in “Advent By Candlelight.”

Advent By Candlelight– In early December I gathered with other women and participated in a beautiful evening called “Advent By Candlelight” at my church, Zion Lutheran. “Advent By Candlelight” was new to me but after signing up to be a table hostess I discovered that women from all denominations kick off the advent season by holding “Advent By Candlelight” events at their churches. A simple search of “Advent By Candlelight” on Pinterest yields hundreds of lavish table decorations, delectable desserts and meaningful programming suggestions. I quickly realized I had been missing out on something very special.

My Table– I enjoyed decorating my table for “Advent By Candlelight.” I used my Lenox Christmas China (Holly Berry Pattern) and placed the dessert plates on gold chargers. I borrowed festive gold flatware adorned with a sprig of holly from my parents. Matching tea cups and glasses completed my table setting. I used a cream table cloth and glittering gold napkins. Nuts, candy and a variety of tea bags were placed in candy dishes that match my china pattern. My centerpiece was simple with two cream candles sitting among a bed of evergreen and white flowers.

I found the perfect gold detailed porcelain ornament favors. They matched my dishes perfectly and the messages of Blessed and Believe were appropriately written across the angel and star design.

The evenings program, “A Personal Journey to the Nativity” set the tone of the Advent season. Through singing, scripture and fellowship, I left the event feeling renewed and exhilarated; ready to great the craziness of the season head on.

Advent Wreath– Christians all over the world have adopted the tradition of lighting candles during Advent to observe this as the time of the coming of Christ who is the light of the world. One tradition is lighting an Advent wreath at church and at home to mark each Sunday in Advent. This Advent tradition dates back to Germany and the Lutheran Church following the Reformation.

Today Advent wreaths are made out of evergreen and are shaped like a circle to represent eternal life. The Advent wreath we use at church has five candles with three of the candles being blue in color to match the liturgical colors. The candle lit on the first week is blue and represents hope. The candle lit on the second week is blue and represents peace. The candle lit on the third Sunday is pink and represents joy. On the last Sunday of Advent a blue candle representing love is lit. The candle in the center is white and is know as the Christ candle. It is lit on Christmas or Christmas Eve.

The Advent wreath we are using in our home was carefully molded out of clay by my daughter’s tiny hands. Plastered with green paint it is adorned with five skinny birthday candles. Mrs. Stanglein helped Lillian craft this Advent wreath in preschool and although simple in design it glows with radiant splendor.

Lillian and her class learned an Advent song to go along with their wreath and they have been singing a new verse every week. We also sing the simple song in church as a new candle on the Advent wreath is lit. Lillian learned the song quickly and she had enjoyed singing it at the top of her lungs every day this month!

Light one candle for hope,
One bright candle for hope.
He brings hope to everyone.
He comes. He comes.
**For verses 2-4, replace hope with peace, joy, and love.**

Jesus Joy– I was once again reminded of my focus this Advent season during a recent children’s sermon at church. Lillian’s preschool teacher gave this particular children’s sermon a few weeks ago.While talking to the children Mrs Stanglein declared she would rename Advent, “Jesus Joy.” Her words reminded me to focus on the joy that the season brings instead of becoming overwhelmed with stress and anxiety. We should be joyous during the season of Advent for it is a time of triumph, exultation and joy as we prepare for the celebration of the birth of Jesus, our Lord and Savior.

Lillian with her teacher after singing at the preschool Advent service.

A Perfect Puppy Dog Birthday Party

My daughter has been obsessed with dogs for the last year. She has an extensive stuffed dog collection, loves to play “doggie daycare” and says she wants to help dogs that don’t have homes when she grows up. So when it came time to choose a theme for this puppy lovers 4th birthday there was no second guessing that she was having a perfectly puppy party!

The Invitation- The Birthday girl was a puppy for Halloween so I used a photo of her in costume for the invitation. I always turn to Etsy for help in creating custom invitations and Jody Printing Shop had the perfect design for a reasonable price and a quick turn around time. I had the invitations printed on card stock at Walgreens.

The Decorations- My dad helped me make birthday banners in the party colors; red, white and black. I used the Cricut Machine to cut out bone, paw print and number 4 shapes and used them to decorate the banners. The banners were hung above the dessert table and throughout the house.

The center pieces consisted of dog bowls (purchased at The Dollar Tree) filled with puppy chow and graham cracker treats shaped like dog bones. We wrapped presents in paw print paper, used some stuffed pups from my daughter’s extensive collection and scattered some paw print cutouts on the table.

Our guests followed a paw print path as they made their way to the front door. On the front door was a dog bone banner announcing the birthday celebration.

The Cake- I found several dog cakes on Pinterest and the owner of Artistry on Cakes in Belleville, IL, captured my vision perfectly. The cake was white and filled with yummy raspberry filling and tasted moist and delicious!

Cupcakes and Cookies- Lillian and her Godmother made cupcakes the day before the party and we decorated them to look like puppy dog faces. Using Oreo cookies for ears, a red hot heart candy for a nose, a pink candy heart for the tongue and decorating eyes found in the cake decorating section of most stores, the cupcakes were too cute to eat! We also decorated some of the cupcakes to look like paw prints. We used a piece of baking chocolate for the center of the paw and brown m&ms for the small part of the paw. Nana used her yummy sugar cookie recipe and baked some delicious home made bone shaped cookies that she decorated with her Buttercream Frosting recipe! We served the cookies in dog bowls.

The Birthday Shirt- Whenever I need a custom shirt I run to Kim’s Boutique on Etsy. Kim worked with me to create this fabulous custom puppy shirt complete with the birthday girl’s name, age, birthday theme and color scheme. The birthday girl loved her shirt and wore it three days in a row! Kim is easy to work with, does quality work and the shirts arrive quickly.

Games & Activities- We played the game “Put the Dog Bone in the Bowl.” My dad drew a giant dog bowl and while blind folded the girls took turns trying to be the closest to place the dog bone in the bowl. We colored dog coloring pages and the girls enjoyed dancing to the song “Who Let the Dogs Out” and listening to a story about a dog named Perfectly Maggie. After the story I explained how they were going to adopt a dog to take come.

Adopt a Dog Stations

Each party guest got to “adopt a dog” to take home. After selecting a dog the girls went through the dog adoption stations. I purchased the stuffed dogs and most of the supplies for the various stations through Oriental Trading.

Dog Check Up- The littles gave their pup a medical exam using toy medical tools my daughter had in her toy chest.

Dog Bath- After a thorough check-up the girls gave their dog a bath in a doll bath tub and dried and brushed their dogs.

Dog Collar- The girls selected a collar for their dog. I found these cute dog themed bracelets at Oriental Trading and they were perfect for the dog collars.

Dog Toy- Each guest selected a colorful bouncy ball for their dog to play with. Another purchase from Oriental Trading.

Dog Food- I had a dog bowl filled with “dog food” (Reeses Cereal and pretzel sticks) and the girls scooped some into a bag for their dog to take home.

Dog Adoption Certificate- The adults helped the girls fill out an adoption certificate which included a place for the date, dog’s name and owner’s name. I found this certificate as a free download on the Oriental Trading website.

Dog Carrier- The last station was placing the dog in a dog carrier to take home. I found these adorable paper dog carriers at Oriental Trading.

Doggie Bag- Upon leaving, each guest took a “doggie bag” home filled with toys and treats. I purchased dog finger puppets and puppy party notepads from Oriental Trading. Other goodies included a sucker, dog stickers, a small Paw Patrol coloring book, Paw Patrol fruit snacks and dog bone shaped graham crackers.

The Gift of Giving- My sweet little girl decided to donate some of her birthday money to our local no kill animal shelter, Five Acres. On the day of her birthday we went to the shelter and met a dog named Clyde who suffers from allergies. The shelter was thrilled with Lillian’s generosity and gave us a list of shopping suggestions that ranged from office supplies to blankets to dog treats. Lillian had a blast shopping for the dogs and then delivering the items to the shelter. And the best gift was the realization that she doesn’t have to wait until she grows up to help dogs that don’t have homes!

An October Filled With Pumpkins, Pumpkins. Pumpkins!

It wouldn’t be fall without fun pumpkin activities, yummy pumpkin treats and a visit to the local pumpkin patch.

Roll a Pumpkin Game- This game is played like Cooties where you roll the die to build a pumpkin person. Everyone starts with a pumpkin body. With the youngest player going first you take turns rolling the die and building your pumpkin. The first player to build a pumpkin with a stem, eyes, nose, mouth, arms and legs is the winner!

Five Little Pumpkins- We enjoyed singing the classic song, “Five Little Pumpkins” and reading several different versions of the book. Using a fence and pumpkin play set found in my book Student Made Thematic Mini Books: With Extension Activities to Increase Language Literacy, my “Little Pumpkin” and I acted out the song and practiced our counting skills.

Pumpkin Bread- Nana helped us make yummy pumpkin bread. We added chocolate chips and enjoyed sharing our bread with others. Paired with Trader Joe’s Harvest Blend hot tea, pumpkin spiced coffee, or even pumpkin beer, it makes the perfect fall treat!

Jack-O-Faces Book- This is another fun rhyme found in my book Student Made Thematic Mini Books: With Extension Activities to Increase Language Literacy. We enjoyed coloring the book together and reading the fun rhyme about a pumpkin who shows us a variety of faces and emotions but ends up in a pumpkin pie! We acted out the story by making the faces along with the pumpkin. Lillian enjoyed looking at herself in the mirror as she made happy, sad, mad and sleepy faces.

Pumpkin Carving- Daddy helped Lillian carve a Jack-o-Lantern this year. Prior to creating her pumpkin, Lillian planned out her design on a large pumpkin shape. Daddy cut and we all helped clean out the “pumpkin guts,” making sure to save the seeds to roast later. We talked about how the pumpkin smelled, felt and looked. A great way to build vocabulary and to use the five senses.

Pumpkin BINGO- My dad helped me make this pumpkin themed BINGO game when I was teaching kindergarten. We dusted it off and played it at Lillian’s preschool Harvest Party and with our friends. One side has the letters of the alphabet, perfect for developing alphabetic knowledge. Flip the card over and you will find numbers, giving the BINGO players an opportunity to work on both letter and number identification. The children enjoyed using candy corn as cover ups and got to eat the candy corn at the end of the game.

Pumpkin Exploration- Lillian’s preschool teacher incorporated some wonderful pumpkin activities into center-time. An activity new to me was hammering golf tees into a pumpkin to work on fine motor skills. Pulling the golf tees out provided even more motor strength. They also did a pumpkin experiment where they tested a pumpkin to see if it floats or sinks. (It Floats!) Students worked on exploring the inside of a pumpkin, using tweezers to remove the seeds (another great fine motor activity), measured pumpkins, compared pumpkins and recorded their findings in their science journals.

Apples, Apples, Apples!.. Fun Filled Apple Activities For the Entire Family

Fall has arrived and keeping with tradition my husband and I recently took our little one apple picking. Going apple picking with my parents is one of the many joyous memories I have carried with me from my childhood. I first shared my joy of apple picking with my students when I was a kindergarten teacher. Every year we took a field trip to the apple orchard and the boys and girls would ride on a wagon, pick apples right off of the tree and taste various varieties growing in the orchard. Imagine their delight when the things we had been reading and learning about at school were now within their reach!

Below are some apple inspired activities I developed for my kindergarten classroom many, many, years ago. I recently dusted them off so I could share them with my three year old.

Apple Books- There are many high quality books about apples, apple picking and making yummy treats with apples! A few of our favorites include…

Apples by Gail Gibbons

Applesauce Day by: Lisa Amstutz

The Apples on the Tree by: Steve Metzger (our newest book from Lillian’s first Scholastic Book Order)

The Apple Pie Tree by: Zoe Hall (an all time favorite)

Apples and Pumpkins by: Anne Rockwell

The Seasons of Arnold’s Apple Tree by: Gail Gibbons

Ten Apples Up on Top by: Dr. Seuss

Ten Red Apples by: Pat Hutchins

Apples! Apples! Apples!- This mini book comes from the book I wrote called Student Made Thematic Mini Books- With Extension Activities to Increase Language Literacy. The book was published in 2000 by Incentive Publications. My daughter enjoyed coloring the book and reading it over and over to everyone, including her stuffed animals! Repetitive readings help develop early literacy success by increasing fluency and building confidence.

Please click on this link.. “Apples, Apples, Apples!” book to download the book and create one of your own. Prior to creating the book my daughter and I took an apple taste test where we tasted the red apples, green apples and yellow apples we had picked in the orchard. Lillian declared that red was her favorite and she added that to her book!

Apple Treats- My little one loves to bake so Nana came over and helped us make apple pie, mini apple muffins and apple pizza! We followed the recipe in the back of the book  titled The Apples on the Tree by Steve Metzger for the apple pie and enjoyed eating a slice with a scoop of vanilla ice cream!

We used Nana Freeman’s adaptation of a Southern Living recipe for the apple muffins and made them into bite sized snacks by using mini muffin tins. Lillian enjoyed sharing the muffins with her teachers and friends.

Her favorite treat to make were the apple pizzas, an activity my kindergarten students always enjoyed. The recipe can be found in my book, Student Made Thematic Mini Books- With Extension Activities to Increase Language Literacy. I know the children in your life will love the apple pizza so please click on this link to download the easy to follow child friendly recipe.

Paper Strip Apple Project- Pops is a retired art teacher and this is a project he has been making with students for over fifty years! Pops used red, yellow and green construction paper and cut them in 1 inch x 9 inch strips for the apple. We began by taking two strips and making an X with them and putting a dot of glue or paste in the middle to hold it in place. Then we took a third strip and placed it through the X, creating a star or astrick shape and used a dot of glue to keep it in place. The last step involved matching the strips and gluing them into place. Lillian got lots of practice counting as we counted while pressing the glue into place after each step. We used a brown strip for the stem (1 inch by 4 inch) and cut the leaves out of a 3 x 3 square.

Apple Prints- After we enjoyed eating apples in muffins, pie and pizza, we cut some apples in half and made apple prints. We examined the inside of the apple, identifying the core and the seeds and experimented cutting the apple in half starting at the top and then cutting the apple through the center which reveals a star shape which you can see in the print! The dark paper makes a nice contrast with the bright red, green and yellow paint!

Our entire family enjoyed a month full of apple fun. From reading books, to visiting the apple orchard, to making yummy apple treats and being creative with apple art; we made new memories with activities we enjoyed in the past.

Perfectly Maggie Update… An Exciting Partnership

A few months ago I reviewed the book Perfectly Maggie a Sleepytime Story by Meg Macquire. Click here to read more about the book. The author generously offered to giveaway a Perfectly Maggie gift set to one of my readers! I am grateful to those who read and commented on the post and am happy to announce that Veronika Tait was randomly selected from all of the entries. Congratulations!

The winner, Veronika Tait, reading Perfectly Maggie to her daughter.

Veronika is the creator of the psychology and life blog SaltEmUpSisters.com. Her personal blog features research with a flair of storytelling, including topics on relationships, parenting, data-driven politics, and mental health.  It aims to foster human connection and ensures all readers that they belong. Veronika has a PhD in Social Psychology from Brigham Young University and is currently an adjunct professor at two Utah universities. As a mom of two she is very passionate about parenting and relationships. I encourage you to visit Veronika’s blog.

Lillian and I love reading about Maggie and her kindness!

Thank you for reading noteworthymommy! Your support means the world to me and is greatly appreciated! Please come back and visit noteworthymommy in a few days and read the fun we have been having with APPLES!

Happy Reading,

Jennifer Freeman Talley- The Noteworthy Mommy

Celebrating the First Day of School With “The Kissing Hand”

The first day of school signals new beginnings and kicks off a year filled with possibilities. And in every school across the United States floors shine with fresh wax and bulletin boards are adorned with bright colored construction paper. Nervous children dressed in new clothes enter sparkling classrooms stocked with sharpened pencils and crayons standing tall in boxes. They are warmly greeted by smiling teachers who anticipate a year overflowing with adventure and growth.

I love the beginning of the school year and I have experienced many first days of school. Some as a student, others as a teacher or educational consultant and now my first as a parent. Looking back most passed without any form of celebration. Some years I closed my eyes wishing they didn’t even happen. During the years we struggled with infertility part of me dreaded the back to school season. From August to September “first day of school” photos flooded Facebook and reminded me… photos of a smiling child holding a miniature chalkboard may never appear on my news feed. But we remained optimistic and God blessed us with our little Lillian and now we get to celebrate her first day of school, a day we have been preparing for since we began touring preschools in January.

img_9033Knowing the “first day of school” would be a huge transition for Lillian (and for her mommy) we began reading books during the summer about starting school to help ease any uncertainty. A few of our favorite read alouds include, “Llama Llama Misses Mamma” by Anna Dewdney, “The 12 Days of Preschool” by Jenna Lettice and “The Night Before Preschool” by Natasha Wing. Our favorite book is “The Kissing Hand” by Audrey Penn. I was first introduced to “The Kissing Hand” by my graduate school mentor, Dr. Suzie Nall, when she read it aloud in one of my classes in the late 1990’s. I will always remember the strong emotions the book evoked in me and I immediately made “The Kissing Hand” part of my back to school routine, reading it to my new kindergarten students and their parents during “meet the teacher night” that took place a few days before the first day of school. Imagine my delight when Lillian’s preschool teacher, Mrs. Stanglein, mentioned the book during her back to school parent night, encouraging us to read the book and offering up copies for caregivers to borrow.

This fabulous book that assists with separation anxiety is about a little raccoon named Chester who is afraid to go to school for the first time. Every year I choked up while reading the book. Tears streamed down my face when Mrs. Raccoon shared the “kissing hand” secret with her son. Mrs. Raccoon took Chester’s left hand and spread open his tiny fingers into a fan and kissed the middle of his palm. Chester felt his mothers kiss rush from his hand, up his arm and into his heart. It reminded him that… Mommy loves you. Mommy loves you!

The thought of parents leaving their children with me; trusting me to teach them and secretly hoping that I would love their little ones as much as they do still brings tears to my eyes. What a privilege it is to be an educator and to be partly responsible in molding young lives and shaping the future!

I saved “The Kissing Hand” for last, reading it to Lillian a few days before her first day of school. While I read, attempting to hold back tears, Lillian sat beside me taking in every word. A few hours later we said our goodbyes as I left for an overnight trip to train teachers across our state. Without prompting, Lillian took my hand, unfolded it and gently kissed the middle of my palm. She said she wanted to give me a “kissing hand” just like the one Chester gave his mommy. I in turn kissed her palm and then we both put our kissing hands up to our faces like Chester. At that very moment I knew my daughter was going to have a successful first day of school.

The day before Lillian had her first day of preschool my parents came over and Nana helped us make homemade “kissing hand” cookies. She even had hand and heart shaped cookie cutters in her cookie cutter collection! Nana is an excellent baker and Lillian and I were her assistants. Pops assisted with the decorating and Lillian was excited to share some of the cookies with her teacher, the teacher assistant and other administrators at her school. This is a fun back to school tradition I began when I was teaching (every year I made my students heart shaped sugar cookies) and I am excited to share the tradition with my little girl.

If you would like to make Nana Freeman’s delicious sugar cookies please click on this link for the recipe. Nana’s Sugar Cookie Recipe  Sugar cookies taste even yummier with buttercream frosting. Click on this link for her buttercream frosting recipe. Nana’s Buttercream Frosting recipe

Mrs Stanglein’s Purpose…Provide a preschool experience that starts children on the way to loving school and becoming good Christian citizens of God’s world.

This is the first of many “first days of school” for our family of three and I am happy to report there were no tears from Lillian or from her mommy! As a new preschool parent I am comforted to know we have found the perfect early childhood center for our family. Zion Lutheran’s Early Childhood Center is a place where play is valued and seen as the young child’s work. Through experimentation, The Project Approach and exploration, Lillian will learn about God’s world. When I first walked into Mrs. Stanglein’s classroom during a tour in January I cried because her classroom was warm and inviting. It felt like home as it reminded me of my own classroom. Her keen observational skills showed that she had perfected the art of “kid watching” and I knew I had found a teacher who believes every child has potential. I cried because in that instant I knew Mrs. Stanglein would nurture and care for Lillian and the other children in her class like they were her own.

Whether you are a parent sending your child off to school for the first time or you just packed the family mini van to take your baby to college, I wish you and your family blessings for a wonderful school year.

There’s a New Dog in Town…Perfectly Maggie “A Sleepytime Story”

My daughter loves dogs! She has dozens of stuffed pups and everyday one of them is either celebrating a birthday or is sick and needs to visit the doctor. Her favorite dramatic play activity is “doggie daycare” where her stuffed dogs go when their owners are at work. Lillian proudly takes on the roll of “teacher” and leads her stuffed friends in choreographed songs and tricks. Although she loves all of her dogs her favorite is Sweetie Pie. I never imagined there could ever be a stuffed dog that would capture my daughter’s heart like Sweetie Pie…until we met Maggie!

*Although I was given the book Perfectly Maggie A Sleepytime Story to review, the thoughts and opinions expressed here are all my own.

Mommy and Lillian reading “Perfectly Maggie.”

Lillian was introduced to Maggie through the book Perfectly Maggie a Sleepytime Story artfully written by Meg Maguire and beautifully illustrated by Josie Lee. The rhyming words and charming illustrations instantly capture the attention of children and adults who are young at heart.

In the book a charismatic dog named Maggie is far from perfect with her crooked smile, squeaky bark, tangled fur and wobbly knees. But anyone who meets Maggie instantly sees she has a huge heart filled with kindness, making her perfect in her own special way. The book helps children understand that although we all have our own special quirks, we need to embrace what makes us unique and simply be ourselves.

Making sure our daughter develops self esteem while learning how to be kind and helpful are skills my husband and I want to instill in our daughter. Maggie the dog is the perfect model as she empowers her siblings to survive in a puppy mill and naturally puts the needs of others in front of her own. The book Perfectly Maggie a Sleepytime Story encourages the reader to reflect on their day and share a way they were helpful, kind or polite that day. Parents are asked to share too creating a special nighttime routine for the entire family. I really like the “Puppy Pact” at the end of the book for the family to sign that makes them promise to try everyday to make Maggie wag her tail. My family received Maggie and her book set at the beginning of the summer and Perfectly Maggie a Sleepytime Story quickly become a favorite read aloud. The nighttime routine of sharing a success story is something my family looks forward to at the end of the day.

Maggie has a special talent of encouraging others to spread kindness and rigorously wags her tail to and fro when someone acts nicely. “Swoosh, swoosh, goes her tail – swinging left! Swinging right – when someone is helpful, or kind or polite.”

Perfectly Maggie a Sleepytime Story comes in a beautifully packaged set that includes the hard bound book, a bonus pop up book (of Maggie wagging her tail) that can be used to reinforce the nighttime routine. An adorable stuffed dog that perfectly matches the illustrations in the book completes the set. The stuffed dog is high quality and the perfect size for my three year old daughter. My daughter was immediately drawn to the stuffed pup and our Maggie has survived multiple baths in the washing machine after the many adventures she has taken with our little Lillian. Maggie has been on vacation with our family, regularly goes to church and has enjoyed several special celebrations. With the stuffed Maggie by her side Lillian has a special reminder to be helpful, kind and polite wherever she goes. Always remember to be…”Perfectly You!”

This is a book set that every child in your life would enjoy. You can purchase the book Perfectly Maggie a Sleepytime Story on Amazon or by visiting perfectlymaggie.com

The author of Perfectly Maggie a Sleepytime Story has generously offered to give one of my readers an autographed copy of her book set! To enter the random drawing please share this article on social media and leave a comment on my blog. This giveaway is open to United States residents over the age of 18.

This giveaway has ended. Click here to read about the winner.