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.

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!

Surviving the Monday Blues with Alphabet Exercise, Storybook Writing and Family Game Night…Day 35

We have a case of the Monday Blues. Spring break is over and daddy went back to work. COVID 19 has caused his company to move to a work one week, off one week schedule for awhile. We are happy he will be making an income but sad at the same time as we have grown accustomed to having him around! To brighten our day we tried some of the activity suggestions sent by my daughter’s teacher.

Alphabet Exercise– We used these alphabet exercises to get moving! Children can spell words or their name to engage in the physical activity that accompanies each letter. We pulled letters out of a “mystery bag” and after naming the letter and making the sound, we did the exercise. CLICK HERE to go to The OT Tookbox to learn how to do each alphabet exercise.

Writing a Story- My daughter’s preschool class loves to write! They had just completed a project on writing a book prior to the quarantine. The culminating activity was working together to publish their own class book (a fairytale) and then having a book signing party. Her teacher used School Mate Publishing and turned the book written and illustrated by Mrs. Stanglein’s preschool class of 2019-2020 into a published book! My daughter created the skunk character who sprayed the princess. Every child got to illustrate two pages. Our family of three have happy memories of the book signing party where we visited with her teacher, talked to other parents and watched our daughter joyously play with her friends! With an abrupt stop to attending school in the physical sense, with her teacher and friends, the book and book signing party is a sweet preschool memory we’ve been dearly holding onto during this time of isolation.This week my daughter’s teacher assigned the task of writing an original fairytale. We completed Step One: Brainstorm ideas by writing or drawing characters, a setting, and a problem and a solution for your story.

Family Game Night- Two of our favorite games are the Sneaky, Snacky, Squirrel Game! and the Hoot Owl Hoot Game. The Sneaky, Snacky, Squirrel Game! (ages 3-5) was our daughter’s first board game. The game reinforces color learning and develops strategic thinking, hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills while using the squirrel shaped squeezer. This is a fun game that develops memory skills, matching, sorting and counting in an engaging way. The Hoot Owl Hoot Game (ages 4 and above) is a cooperative matching game that develops strategy. Players work as a team to get the baby owls back to their nest before the sun comes up. Although my family of three wasn’t successful at returning all of the owls to their nest; we had fun trying and the best reward was spending quality time together! 

The Alycat Series…Supporting Independent Publishers on Day 33

I love children’s literature and quality picture books hold a special spot in my heart. So do cats. So when I stumbled across The Alycat Series by Alysson Foti Bourque, I was filled with excitement!There are currently four books in the series about the adventures of a cat named Alycat and her furry cat friends. I ordered Alycat and the Monday Blues for my daughter’s Easter basket. In this book Alycat is having a case of the Monday blues. But when she helps a friend in need she turns her blue day into a new day! The author created a song to go with the book. CLICK HERE to listen to the song. I also ordered the adorable Monday Alycat stuffed doll that is wearing a dress with a musical note print! The attention to detail is amazing!Last week my daughter and I participated in a livestream FaceTime chat with The Alycat Series author, Alysson Foti Bourque. Bourque read her newest book, Alycat and the Tournament Tuesday, a charming book about learning to trust in yourself and your own abilities instead of relying on luck. It will be our next addition to the series since it takes place on a golf course! After reading, Bourque described the publishing process. Being a former elementary school teacher and attorney, her presentation was informative while being appropriate for young children. My daughter loved seeing the Alycat costumed character (she kept waving to her during the reading) but enjoyed meeting the author’s real life cat even more! Bourque is hosting weekly storytime events on Facebook that I encourage you to check out!CLICK HERE to order your books and stuffed cat dolls! The Alycat Series is having a special promotion that I was thrilled to receive…25% off of any purchase and a free Bugsby stuffed doll! Bugsby is the main character in the newest book. Thank you Alycat and talented author, Alysson Foti Bourque, for bringing my family of three happiness during the COVID 19, quarantine blues!

Fun With Silly McGilly, a New Saint Patrick’s Day Tradition

My maternal great great grandfather, James Beatty, was born in Ireland and immigrated to the United States when he was thirty years old. With an Irish ancestor on our family tree we have always celebrated Saint Patrick’s Day, the day when everyone is a wee bit Irish! This year we added a new tradition to our festivities…Silly McGilly!

In early March Silly McGilly arrived with a special picture book. We began by reading the book Silly McGilly, written in rhyme by Irish sisters Michelle Dougherty, Eileen Cowley and Victoria Coffey with whimsical illustrations by Charlotte Cheng. The book explains the story of Silly McGilly a lively leprechaun who plays tricks at night that are both fun and silly. In March, leprechauns leave Ireland and travel to faraway lands to play tricks both small and grand. The book kept my preschoolers attention and she immediately asked me to read it again. “Each night put your toy by a window in full view, this is my invitation to come visit you.” 

img_1655My daughter couldn’t wait to place Silly McGilly by her bedroom window; eagerly anticipating the fun tricks he would play. I kept some of the tricks simple like turning picture frames on their side, moving stuffed animals around, hiding her speech flash cards around the house and stacking the pillows on top of each other in the middle of the living room. There is a list of suggested tricks for both school and home at the end of the book. In our home, Silly McGilly turned our scrambled eggs green one morning and another day he left a trail of golden wrapped chocolate coins on the steps leading downstairs. My daughter squealed with delight upon this discovery and carefully collected each coin.

Parents and teachers can decide how often Silly McGilly will make a visit (every night, once a week, or just the night before Saint Patrick’s Day.) Children can play with Silly McGilly throughout the day and when he is placed by the window before bedtime it is a signal for the real Silly McGilly to come and play a trick. Although he plays his last trick on Saint Patrick’s Day Eve, before returning to Ireland, the book says Silly McGilly can return anytime children do a good deed or are extra kind. I look forward to having Silly McGilly visit us throughout the year! I thought it would be fun to have him bring doughnuts on National Doughnut Day (June 7) or brownies on National Brownie Day (December 8.)

The magic of Silly McGilly is perfect in the home or at school. As a former kindergarten teacher I would have loved introducing Silly McGilly to my students. His fun tricks would have brought excitement and light to the classroom in an otherwise gloomy time of year when the winter weather is lingering and everyone is dreaming of spring break and sunshine!

The Silly McGilly website provides further suggestions for tricks that can be played at home or at school. The website is filled with coloring pages and other exciting activities for children, parents and teachers. 

The book and doll set can be purchased on the Silly McGilly webiste or on Amazon. I know you can think of a little leprechaun or two who would love him as much as we do! Begin the St. Patrick’s Day tradition today!

My daughter loves Silly McGilly and looks forward to his funny tricks. Putting the Silly McGilly doll by her bedroom window has become part of her bedtime routine and the book is an instant favorite! As we get closer to Saint Patrick’s Day I wonder what shenanigans Silly McGilly has planned for our family?

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Photo by: Larissa Photography ~ http://www.larissaphotography.com

An Extraordinary Boy, a Remarkable Book and an Unique Brain

I know a fourteen year old boy who is funny and lovable. He plays soccer and video games. He loves game shows, animated movies, bridges, nature and his family. He dislikes loud noises (especially fireworks), large crowds and changes to his schedule. He loves to explore new places (through the safety of the family mini van) and enjoys leisurely car rides with his mother. He is smart. He can name every exit between my house and my in-laws and knows the name of every bridge in the county! He has a smile that will light up the room and melt your heart. He is void of any sensors and simply says what is on his mind. And as you can imagine this often gets him into trouble. He has one speed which is best described as…supercharged. He has an incredible older brother who is both patient and kind and two loving parents who work hard to help him navigate the world. He is extraordinary! I love him. He is my nephew. His name is Derrick. He is on the autism spectrum.

Statistics show that at least someone you know has autism or is on the autistic spectrum. It might be a neighbor or a friend, a classmate or a family member or a little boy or girl you occasionally see at church. And chances are, at first glance, you don’t even know he or she has autism.

I want my daughter to grow up celebrating and accepting differences. So what’s the best way to help your preschooler understand family members and friends who are extra sensitive because their brains interpret things differently? In our house we use picture books to introduce our daughter to new topics. Picture books are a terrific way to initiate conversations and to build awareness and I am always on the lookout for new titles.

I was recently sent the most amazing picture book, “Stewie Boom! and Princess Penelope: Handprints, Snowflakes and Play-dates,” a new book by author Christine Bronstein with illustrations by Karen L. Young. In the book the teacher explains that like snowflakes and handprints, “No two minds are the same.” Our brains are one-of-a-kind and that is what makes us unique. After the teacher encourages the class to play with someone new, Penelope gets to know Eric who is “on the spectrum.” Eric doesn’t like loud noises so before he comes over for a play-date, Penelope and her brothers practice being quiet and flexible. They also learn how to read body language with their eyes as a way to understand how someone is feeling.

Reading “Stewie Boom! and Princess Penelope: Handprints, Snowflakes and Play-dates.

My daughter and I enjoyed reading the book together. The illustrations are colorful and inviting and the message of inclusion is an important lesson for all ages. The author reminds us, “It’s very important to play with people who may seem different at first because they can teach us new ways of looking at the world.” In the back of the book there are helpful tips for special need families as well as tips to welcome special needs families to a play-date. I really liked the friendship goal chart along with the friendship award as they are useful tools to educate children about inclusion.

People, like snowflakes and hand-prints, are individual and unique. And the way our brains interpret the world is just as distinctive. By embracing neuro-diversity and teaching our children techniques to help everyone feel comfortable and accepted; we can provide our children with a gift that will last a lifetime!

Buy the book here. https://www.amazon.com/Stewie-BOOM-Princess-Penelope-Handprints/dp/0997296275