Operation Christmas Child… It’s Time to Pack Some Shoeboxes!

Every year my daughter and I participate in Operation Christmas Child. We collect items throughout the year and pack them into shoeboxes for the good people at Samaritan’s Purse to deliver to boys and girls in need who live all over the world. Operation Christmas Child began in 1993 with the mission of demonstrating God’s love in a tangible way and sharing the Good News of Jesus.

I began packing shoeboxes when my daughter was one year old and this year we packed six shoeboxes in honor of her 6th birthday. All four of her grandparents donated items for us to pack and gave us money towards shipping. My daughter enjoys shopping for items as well but with COVID-19 we haven’t been going into stores so my daughter used some of her birthday money towards the shipping instead. I am happy she has been called to care and is growing up sharing her blessings with others.

How to Pack a Shoebox- Samaritan’s Purse has a step by step guide on how to pack a shoebox. I’ll outline a few tips I’ve picked up over the years.

Step 1- Find a Shoebox- Although any cardboard shoebox will work, I’ve read that the children often view the physical shoebox as a treasured gift. This year I used plastic shoeboxes. One of our shoeboxes came from Hobby Lobby and was specially designed with the Operation Christmas Child logo printed on inviting red and green plastic boxes. I also used three clear plastic shoeboxes that I purchased elsewhere. The other two are complimentary cardboard shoeboxes with the Operation Christmas Child logo that my mother in-law received from her church.

Step 2- Girl or Boy?-  Although many of the items we pack can be enjoyed by all children, Samaritan’s Purse will ask you to identify if the shoebox was packed for a boy or a girl and what age category. The age categories are: 2-4, 5-9 and 10-14; with the oldest group typically being the one to receive the least donations. We pack boxes that correspond with my daughter’s current age so this year we are packing boxes targeted at the 5-9 age group.

Step 3- What To Pack in a Shoebox?- I keep a big box in our basement labeled “Shoebox Items” and go bargain shopping throughout the year. I scored school supplies for 75% off at Wal Mart, got discounted playground balls at the end of the summer from Walgreens and often pick up discounted items in Target’s dollar area when they change seasons. You can locate some outstanding items during after Christmas sales at all stores.

Samaritan’s Purse recommends packing a WOW item in each box. This could be a doll, stuffed animal, soccer ball with pump or a new outfit. Older children enjoy simple tool sets and expandable shoes. Click here to view gift suggestions by age. Amazon has a nice list of shoebox items as does Hobby Lobby. Besides toys we always pack self care items (a bar of soap, washcloths, combs, brushes, colorful band-aids, socks, hair clips and or bows, and toothbrushes.) Liquids and edible items are not allowed so you have to leave out toothpaste, candy and bubbles! We also include crafts and activities (crayons, pencils with a pencil sharpener, markers, pads of paper, coloring books, puzzles, and stickers.) You can also write a letter to include in your box. My daughter enjoys drawing a special picture and writing a note telling the children that Jesus loves them!

Step 4- Pray- Perhaps the easiest thing to do is pray for the children who will be receiving the boxes you prepared. Pray that the boxes will bring them joy and that by hearing the Gospel they will be filled with hope and encouragement.

Step 5- Follow-Your Box Labels- The cost to ship a box is $9 and you can click here to pay for labels that will track your box.

Step 6- Drop Off Your Box- Collection week is always the third week in November. Several churches and other organizations volunteer to be drop off facilities. This year collection week is November 16-23, so you still have time to pack a few shoeboxes! Due to COVID-19, shoebox collection will be drive-through, so you won’t even have to get out of your car! The Samaritan Purse’s website has a place where you can search for a drop off location near you!

Other Ways to Help?- If you would like to help but don’t have time to gather items and pack a shoebox you can save time and pack one online by clicking here or donate money to cover the $9 shipping. People will often pack shoeboxes but not include the money for shipping.

Whether you pack a few shoeboxes, volunteer at a processing center (like my in-laws have done in the past), pray for the children receiving the shoeboxes or donate money for shipping, I hope you will make Operation Christmas Child a family tradition. For many of the children, the gift-filled shoebox is the first gift they have ever received. In addition to the shoeboxes all of the children will hear about the greatest gift of all…Jesus!

Terry the Thankful Turkey…There’s Always Something to Be Thankful For!

Our family began a new Thanksgiving tradition this year with Terry the Thankful Turkey. My daughter was thrilled when she discovered Terry the Thankful Turkey on our kitchen table in early November. (I put him out for her to discover on her own) She immediately asked me to read the book that accompanies Terry and we both fell in love with this gracious little guy.

Written in bouncy rhyme, the book, “Terry the Thankful Turkey,” created by the talented Marcela Osello, introduces the young reader to the many things Terry is thankful for. The beautiful illustrations surround the reader with visions of autumn and reminds us that we can find joy in the simple things like the falling leaves, clouds in the sky and sitting down to enjoy a delicious meal with loved ones.

At the end the book the reader is instructed to be like Terry and share what they are thankful for. They can be thankful for something, someone or someplace.

Throughout the autumn season, Terry encourages the reader to write or draw something they are thankful for on the included thankful pad. Fold the paper and stuff it in Terry’s zippered tail. By Thanksgiving Day, Terry will be stuffed with messages of gratitude. My daughter asked me if we could take Terry to our family lake house, where my family of three are gathering with my parents and in-laws for Thanksgiving. Terry the Thankful Turkey will become part of our Thanksgiving tradition when we unzip Terry on Thanksgiving Day and share all of the things we are thankful for with our immediate family.

I love Terry the Thankful Turkey because he is much more than an adorable stuffed animal and a catchy book! Terry the Thankful Turkey is interactive, promotes literacy and teaches gratitude. As an educator, Terry is something I wish I had to share with my students when I was a kindergarten teacher. When I saw how much my five year old is enjoying Terry, I knew he would have been a huge hit in my classroom! I was shocked, when, without prompting, my daughter wrote and drew a picture of something she was thankful for on the thankful pad. She carefully unzipped Terry’s tail (great fine motor practice) and joyfully filled him with words of gratitude. Terry the Thankful Turkey is something the entire family can enjoy together for years to come and a tradition that will be passed to future generations!

Without prompting, my daughter writes and draws something she is thankful for.

You can purchase Terry the Thankful Turkey on Amazon or by visiting his website, www.thankfulterry.com. Follow Terry on Facebook and on Instagram at thankful_terry. Don’t forget to #thankfulterry with photos of you and your family being thankful with Terry!

Although this unprecedented year has been filled with struggle, loss and anxiety, it has also been filled with reinvention, creativity and innovation. I encourage you and your family to be like Terry the Thankful Turkey and take the time to count your blessings. And remember, no matter how hard life gets there is always something to be thankful for!

My mini me loves Terry the Thankful Turkey so very much that she drew his portrait at school.

Spiders, Spiders, Spiders!…Reading, Art, Music and More

October is the month for spiders, those often feared but very helpful eight legged arachnids. My daughter and I found ourselves “caught up” in a lot of spidery fun this month!

Spider Mini Book– I created this book when I taught kindergarten and it was a big hit with my mini me. This spider book teaches young children all about spiders. CLICK HERE to download the book.

Spider on the Floor!– I fell in love with the song “Spider on the Floor,” recorded by Raffi in 1976. We used spider rings and acted out the song which is great for identifying body parts, following directions and rhyming.

Spider Web Painting– My daughter and I love to marble paint and this time of year is the perfect time to grab some paint and marbles and make a spooky masterpiece. If you use black paper and white paint your creation looks like a spiderweb. My daughter drew a spider and glued it to her web. She has learned a lot of interesting spider facts and made sure her spider had eight legs!

Spider Snack– Another idea from my book is this easy and nutritious spider snack. Use two crackers as a body and peanut butter, cheese spread or some type of spread to make a cracker sandwich. Stick eight pretzel sticks (four on each side) inside the cracker to create the spider’s eight legs and use raisins as eyes. Although my daughter pointed out that spiders have eight eyes instead of two there wasn’t enough room to add that many raisins! CLICK HERE to download this yummy snack!

Charlotte’s Web– I have begun reading chapter books to my daughter and this was the perfect time to introduce her to the beloved book, Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White. The book tells the story of an unlikely friendship between a pig named Wilber and a barn spider named Charlotte and my daughter and I enjoyed reading and discussing the book together. Now I want to introduce her to the Charlotte’s Web movies. The 2006 movie is currently on Netflix and the 1973 animated version is on Amazon Prime. I enjoyed watching the animated version when I was a little girl and it will always be my favorite!

I hope you and your family enjoy some of these spooky spider activities. And remember, most spiders are our friends. They eat insects that harm gardens and crops.

Fun Fall Activities… Scavenger Hunt, Pumpkin Coloring Pages and Remembering the Reformation!

My daughter and I have been enjoying fall this year. From apples to pumpkins to leaves to spiders, there is so much to do! So I decided to write another fall post with links to more fun fall activities!

Fall Scavenger Hunt– This fall scavenger hunt made our ordinary daily walk exciting! My daughter was motivated to find everything on the list! We were able to observe the fall changes happening in nature while getting some fresh air and exercise. We brought a bag along and my daughter enjoyed collecting her “treasures” and proudly showed them to daddy when he got home from work! I got the fall scavenger hunt from www.printablesfairy.com.

Shine With His Light Pumpkin Coloring Pages– I love these meaningful Christ inspired pumpkin coloring pages created by Oriental Trading. My daughter and I colored some to send to family and friends. It is the perfect way to remember to let the love of Jesus shine through you! Click Here to download the Shine with His Light page and Click Here to download the Jesus Shine in Me coloring page.

Reformation SundayCelebrated on the last Sunday in October, Reformation Sunday commemorates the Protestant Reformation as well as Martin Luther, who nailed his 95 Theses to the door of
Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany,
on October 31, 1517, the eve of All Saints’ Day.

Teach your little ones about the Reformation by making these paper dolls. Samantha, from Pleasantly Crafted, created these fun paper dolls and is gifting us with free downloads. Click Here to download the Reformation paper dolls and go to Pleasantly Crafted to purchase beautiful Lutheran inspired arts and crafts designed by Samantha.

Pumpkin Spice Makes Everything Nice…Spookley the Pumpkin and Jack-O-Faces

I love fall and I am crazy about everything pumpkin spice! In this post I share some of my favorite pumpkin spice products along with a new pumpkin spice bread recipe. You will learn about two of my little pumpkin’s favorite fall stories…Spookley the Square Pumpkin and Jack-O-Faces!

Pumpkin Spice Everything!- It seems like you can find pumpkin spice everything these days. I love trying new things and I just discovered Pumpkin Spice Whipped Topping at ALDI. It pairs perfectly with Coffee Mate’s Pumpkin Spice Coffee Creamer and Pumpkin Spice Coffee (I told you I loved everything pumpkin spice!) I can’t wait to try some on Thanksgiving with my homemade pumpkin pie. Other ALDI pumpkin favorites are Pumpkin Spice Pancake Mix, Pumpkin Spice Pretzels and Pumpkin Spice Rolls.

Pumpkin Spice Bread– Since I love everything pumpkin spice I am always on the lookout for new pumpkin recipes. I recently discovered this yummy pumpkin spice bread. It has similar ingredients to my favorite pumpkin pie recipe so it tastes just like a piece of pumpkin pie in a slice of bread! My daughter enjoyed helping me mix up the dough and my mini me loves the bread just as much as I do! CLICK HERE to download the recipe.

Pumpkin Beer– It seems that every brewery, big and small, brews a pumpkin beer in the fall. I have enjoyed sampling many of them but my favorite will always be O’Fallon Brewery’s line of pumpkin beers. Every year O’Fallon Brewery comes out with a pumpkin pack that includes some interesting pumpkin flavors. This year they brewed a spicy Mexican Hot Chocolate Pumpkin beer. It wasn’t my favorite but I loved their new Pumpkin Whip, a tasty pumpkin cream ale with a hint of whipped cream. My favorite O’Fallon Brewery beer is their Salted Caramel Pumpkin! This caramel ale has the perfect blend of sweet and salty with just a hint of pumpkin, making it the perfect beer to enjoy with your favorite sweet or savory pumpkin treat!

Spookley the Pumpkin– Three generations in our family enjoyed reading the Spookley books by Joe Troiano. Wearing our matching Pumpkin Spice, Living My Best Life t-shirts from the clothing boutique, Foxtail Lilies, we enjoyed reading both of the Spookley books and then watched the Spookley movie on Netflix. The Legend of Spookley the Square Pumpkin is the first of the two Spookley books and it introduces the reader to Spookley the Square Pumpkin. Little ones learn that pumpkins come in all different colors, shapes and sizes and that you can’t judge a pumpkin by its cover! The follow-up book is called Spookley and the Pumpkin Jamboree. Both books are written in rhyme and the Netflix animated movie is based on both books.

Jack-O-Faces– My mom discovered this cute pumpkin rhyme when she was in college and my dad and I turned it into a reproducible book for young children. CLICK HERE to download the mini book. My daughter enjoyed coloring with Nana and reading her book to all of us!

I shared some fun pumpkin activities with my readers last year. CLICK HERE to learn more. In a year filled with change, unrest and uncertainty, I hope you enjoy your best life this fall… whether that includes pumpkin spice treats, a pumpkin beer or creating some special memories with your favorite little pumpkin!

Octoberfest Fun!…a Favorite German Meal Prepared With Love

With COVID-19 cancelling Octoberfest celebrations around the world my parents and I decided to hold our own celebration this year. During the first weekend of Octoberfest my family and I celebrated the occasion with a big German meal. Aldi, a German company, came in handy by providing some yummy shortcuts to our meal.

German Items From Aldi– With Aldi being a German based company the discount food chain offers some limited items during the fall season to make your Octoberfest authentic! I read online that Aldi sells these imported German favorites two times throughout the year, so if you missed buying them this fall you’ll have another opportunity in the spring, usually around Easter.

For our Octoberfest meal I looked to Aldi for their imported dried spaetzle (a small dumpling popular in southern Germany). Another limited favorite is Aldi’s red cabbage with apples, delicious and good for you too. I always get my sauerkraut from Aldi (imported from Germany and found at Aldi year round.) And you can’t have a proper German celebration without a yummy dessert and the caramel apple strudel from Aldi did not disappoint. It was the perfect ending to our meal. The strudel comes frozen and is available in apple, caramel apple and mixed berry.

Schnitzel Prepared Hunter Style– I make pork schnitzel (breaded and fried pork cutlets) throughout the year and usually serve it plain or with a slice of lemon. This time I wanted to make a Hunter Sauce to go with it and my dad and I cooked up the sauce together. Hunter Sauce is a creamy mushroom sauce with onions and it is so good! After pouring the rich sauce over the schnitzel, we garnished the dish with real bacon bits and fried onions. The main dish was delicious and cooking with my dad was fun! CLICK HERE for the recipe.

Big Shark Lemon Radler by Urban Chestnut– I love radlers (beer mixed with lemonade or lemon lime soda) and I found a local radler brewed by a Saint Louis brewery, Urban Chestnut. Urban Chestnut’s radler is hands down the best radler I’ve ever had in the states. During the summer I enjoyed their Big Shark Grapefruit Radler and it was delicious. I wish they brewed them year round! We drank from mugs decorated with my hometown flag, a city founded by German immigrants.

You don’t have to be German or come from a family with German heritage (my maternal great grandmother was a German immigrant) to enjoy Octoberfest! You simply have to love beer, good food and family fun!

Apple Packed Days…Apple Picking, Apple Books, Apple Baking and Apple Exploration!

Fall is in the air and that means it’s time to head to the apple orchard to pick your own apples, make yummy apple treats, read apple themed books and have fun with some special apple activities!

Apple Picking- This year we went to Liberty Orchard, a small apple orchard in Edwardsville, IL not too far from St. Louis, MO. Liberty Orchard had nine different varieties of apples ready for picking on the day we visited and we enjoyed some of each! While at the apple orchard we picked green apples, yellow apples and red apples. We talked about how each variety tasted (sweet, tart, sour, crunchy, crisp, juicy). The orchard educated us on the many varieties and made recommendations on which apples were best for baking. We tasted the following: EMPIRE: Crisp, juicy, tart off the tree – mellows with storage. Chosen by McDonalds for their Happy Meal. Uses: Eating, sauce, pies, baking and salads JONATHAN: Sweet/tart with firm texture. Bright red color Uses: Eating, baking – an apple butter favorite. LIBERTY: Fine textured, crisp and juicy. Rich complex flavor. Uses: Eating, pies, sauces.

Apple Books– To prepare for our day at the apple orchard we read some books at home and my daughter’s kindergarten teacher read some Apple Books at school. These are just a few of the many great Apple Books we read this autumn. Fancy Nancy Apples Galore! was new to us but my daughter loved it because she loves anything and everything Fancy Nancy! Autumn is for Apples was another new read and was perfect for preschool and kindergarten students. Apples and The Seasons of Arnold’s Apple Tree by Gail Gibbons are classics and good informal texts. The Apple Pie Tree and The Biggest Apple Ever are fall time favorites!

Apples! Apples! Apples!– It wouldn’t be fall if we didn’t make the Apples! Apples! Apples! mini book I wrote when I taught kindergarten. My daughter and I have made one of these books every year from age two to age five and it has been fun to compare her increased control in fine motor abilities over the years. One thing that has not changed are the laughs when we read…Blue apples- Yuck! CLICK HERE to download a copy to make with your family.

Caramel Apple Cookies and Apple Pizza– This year my daughter decided that we should make caramel apple cookies with some of the apples we picked. I researched apple cookie recipes and combined a few to create our own Caramel Apple Cookie recipe. CLICK HERE to download the recipe. You have to try these cookies. They are amazing! They call for caramel bits, something I didn’t even know existed, although I did read some people make their own bits. This recipe tastes great with or without the caramel so you can enjoy them either way. We shared some with Lillian’s teachers and everyone thought they were simply delectable. It looks like we discovered a new fall tradition! Another activity from my book is Apple Pizza. CLICK HERE to download this easy but very tasty fall treat!

Apple Exploration- My daughter’s kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Reed, led the class in a variety of apple activities from making apple sauce, creating apple prints, designing apple trees out of sticks and clay, counting apples and having the class graph their favorite kind of apple. I love the apple peeler the children used to prepare their apples for the applesauce. It brought back memories of the years I taught kindergarten because I did the same thing with my students! My daughter’s kindergarten class enjoyed comparing the length of the peelings…just another example of the fun exploration children can have with their world when given the opportunity.

Click on the links below for more awesome apple ideas from the Noteworthy Mommy!

Apple Activities for the Family

A Truthful Apple Story

Three in One- Using an Apple to Teach the Trinity

A Fun Loving Pastor Who Taught Me To Never Stop Cheering For God!

If you stay in one place for any length of time chances are good that at some point a friend, neighbor, co-worker, teacher or pastor, will leave your community and you will have to say goodbye, sending them off with well wishes and good speed. My family of three recently participated in a “water balloon” send off for one of our associate pastors who left our congregation to accept a call to serve at a church in West Hartford, CT.

COVID-19 made it impossible to hold a traditional send off but our church staff found a creative way to say goodbye. Pastor Reitz has a fun loving personality, enjoys a good joke and is known to ease awkward situations with a little bit of humor, so, it seemed fitting that our congregation had a send-off for him “water balloon style!” With water guns and water balloons in hand, church members drove through the parking lot drenching Pastor Reitz with water and best wishes. Pastor Reitz and his family will be dearly missed and we wish them the very best!

Fair Weather Fan– A Saint Louis Blues parade passed behind our house prior to our drive through send off for Pastor Reitz. It seemed appropriate, not because Pastor Reitz is a Blues hockey fan but it reminded me of a sermon Pastor Reitz gave shortly after the Saint Louis Blues won the Stanley Cup in 2019. The sermon touched me so deeply that I approached Pastor Reitz after the service and let him know how his words had resinated with me.

The Reitz family on the last Sunday they were together at Zion Lutheran.

I remember Pastor Reitz describing our city’s reaction to the Blues during the championship series. It seemed everyone had became a fan with households in every zip code tuning into the games! Blues banners and flags appeared on businesses and throughout neighborhoods. Stores sold out of Saint Louis Blues t-shirts and jerseys, making them impossible to keep in stock! There was no denying it, everyone in the St. Louis area was bleeding blue! Then Pastor Reitz questioned if these fans had always been Blues fans? Have the fans loyally stood by the team during the wins and the loses? Or were they being fair weather fans, only interested in the Blues when the team is playing well and abandoning them when they have a bad season?

Then Pastor Reitz asked us if we have ever been a fair weather fan to God? Have we ever turned away from God? This question hit me. Although I have never turned away from God, I have historically turned to Him more when I was struggling, suffering and in need of guidance. I have spent more time on my knees praying when I was experiencing a struggle than praying for thanks when everything in my life was going great. So in my own way I do turn away when the going is good. During that sermon I resolved to turn to the Lord during the good and the bad and the in-between. I was reminded that God never turns away from us! He loves us when we sin and forgives us of those sins when we ask for His forgiveness. He loves us when we win and when we lose. God is never a fair weather fan to His children.

Proverbs 3:5 happens to be my daughter’s memory verse for this week and I found it so appropriate.

Pastor Reitz and his family served Zion Lutheran Church for close to a decade. We pray for the Reitz family as they begin a new chapter serving the congregation at Bethany Lutheran Church in West Hartford, CT.

Look Out Kindergarten, Here We Come!

Last week was my daughter’s first day of kindergarten! A day I had played over and over in my mind for years. Although COVID-19 and the many changes it brings never entered my mind when I dreamed about sending my child off to kindergarten, my daughter and I were both ready for this new adventure!

This school year will be different in many ways…masks, temperature checks, no parents in the building, lunch and chapel in the classroom, assigned seats, extra hand washing, no field trips. (just to name a few of the many precautions put in place to keep the students at Zion Lutheran School safe.) Since my daughter has never been to kindergarten, many of the changes will go unnoticed. She is simply overjoyed to be back in school, elated to be in class with her best friend and is ready to begin this new chapter in her life. As we drove to school on that first day, a little voice from the backseat said, “Mommy, I am so excited to go to kindergarten. It’s been too long since I’ve been at school!”

Before I even had a chance to drop my daughter off I was receiving phone calls and texts asking me how I was doing? My mom wanted to know if I cried? Others wanted to know if I felt comfortable sending my daughter to school for face to face learning amid the COVID-19 crisis?

Last week my daughter and I went to school for a private “Meet the Teacher.” As we walked hand and hand down the familiar hallway (my daughter’s new classroom is across the hall from her pre-k classroom) to her kindergarten classroom, a sense of peace embraced me. Any doubts I had about sending my daughter back to school for face to face learning were washed away. After a long absence I felt as if we had returned to the open arms of a loved one. We were home. In that moment I was reminded that God was watching over us and that going back to Zion for face to face learning was the best decision for my family of three. During our visit we were warmly greeted by Mr. Debrick, our principal and Mrs. Haun, our early childhood director; two individuals who have worked endlessly making careful decisions, implementing new procedures and putting precautions in place to keep my daughter and her classmates safe. Their leadership made me confident on our decision to send her to school.

And I couldn’t have picked a better teacher for my little one! Mrs. Reed is the quintessential kindergarten teacher…warm, kind and loving, with a clear set of expectations. She has a Christ centered classroom, understands the whole child and has developmentally appropriate expectations for them. I know my daughter will have a fantastic year under her guidance and care and for that I am truly grateful!

On the first day I walked my daughter to the entrance of the early childhood wing where she was warmly greeted by a group of teacher assistants waiting to help her find her classroom. With COVID-19 preventing me from walking her to the classroom, I waved goodbye at the door. My little one excitedly entered the building, never looking back and walking confidently forward, clearly ready to kick off a new year of learning and growth!

I picked my daughter up from school at 11:30 (prior to COVID-19 we had signed her up for half-day kindergarten to start out) and she excitedly shared everything she had done. She described all of the things I would expect to see and hear in a kindergarten classroom on the very first day of school. From singing the days of the week (Adams Family version I figured out) to counting the days they have been in school to singing “Tall Voices on the Playground, Small Voices Inside,” to reading books (she scolded me for reading most of them to her already), to finding her spot on the carpet (she informed me some spots may change because people talked when they shouldn’t) to talking about Jesus, I could tell she going to have a fabulous year! By sharing these intimate details of her first day of kindergarten my sweet daughter had unknowingly presented me with a very precious gift!

The Noteworthy Mommy Gets Her Daughter Ready For Kindergarten!

During my twenty-eight years in the field of education, seven glorious years were spent teaching kindergarten. I look back on that time with found memories and keep in touch with some of my former students who are now young adults beginning careers or parents sending their own children off to kindergarten!

This year I am sending my only child off to kindergarten and we commemorated this milestone with some special books, back to school traditions and activities.

Kindergarten Books- To prepare my daughter for her first day of kindergarten we read several kindergarten themed books. As a former kindergarten teacher, most are from my own collection and as I read them memories of my seven years laying the educational foundation for five and six year olds flooded back. The joy of preparing my classroom and filling it with new materials, the shiny waxed floors and freshly cleaned classroom, the anticipation of meeting my students and experiencing a new beginning with them was thrilling! Now it will be my daughter’s turn. The following books are some of my favorites.

Meet the Teacher– A week before school, we signed up for a private meet and greet with my daughter’s kindergarten teacher and kindergarten assistant. To avoid extra people in the school building, one adult was invited to join their child on this special tour of the kindergarten classroom. My daughter was excited to meet her teacher, Mrs. Reed and her kindergarten assistant, Mrs. Collins. My daughter found her cubby, practiced washing her hands properly, made a painted heart to hang in the classroom and read the book Kindergarten, Here I Come! with her teacher. My daughter got to take the book home so we could read it before the first day of school and inside the front cover was a handwritten note from Mrs. Reed. When I read the words “Jesus loves you and so do I,” any trepidation I had about sending my daughter to Zion Lutheran School for “face to face learning” was washed away. I felt confident that my husband and I had made the best decision for our family because I was reminded that along with Zion’s carefully thought out safety procedures and dedicated teachers and staff, Jesus would be lovingly watching over our daughter while she is at school.

The Kissing Hand Tradition- I always read The Kissing Hand to my kindergarten students and their parents during our “Meet the Teacher Night.” I also made and decorated heart shaped cookies for them to take home. I began this tradition with my daughter when she was a three year old heading off to preschool. CLICK HERE to read all about it. We continued the tradition this year with Nana and Pops joining us in baking and decorating homemade kissing hand cookies which we gave to my daughter’s teachers and administrators on the first day of school. CLICK HERE for Nana’s homemade sugar cookie recipe and CLICK HERE for Nana’s homemade buttercream frosting recipe.

A Special ‘Twas the Night Before Kindergarten Poem- I was touched to receive this special poem written especially for my daughter by Auntie Jaime, a dear friend and my daughter’s honorary auntie. When I read the poem it brought back faded memories of when I was a kindergartener (43 years ago) and more vivid memories of my first day teaching kindergarten (24 years ago). As you read the following words I hope you are transported to a simpler time, not so long ago, when all children could safely go to school, hold hands with a new friend, learn without wearing a mask and freely play tag on the playground.

Whether you are home schooling, going back to school for face to face learning, engaging in virtual learning or participating in hybrid learning, I pray that you and your children have a safe and productive school year!