Category: Traditions

I love Halloween—I love the candy, the decorations (especially the witches), the trick-or-treaters and most of all– the costumes! When our kids were growing up, I made them all sorts of costumes—a devil, a warlock, a pirate, a Ninja Turtle, a gorilla, a Dracula and many others. I know many of you do as well because I’ve seen some of your creations!

Costumes005  Costumes008

Costumes007 One year, each member of our family went as some sort of clown. I sewed all the costumes and purchased the accessories. The boys chose what kind of clown they wanted to be: a jester clown, a hobo clown, an Auguste clown (he has a BIG smile) and a tramp clown.  The only challenging part of making the jester clown—I had to hand-sew 48 bells onto each costume! We actually used those costumes for several Halloween seasons.

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 Costumes006Making Halloween costumes is actually fun because if you make a mistake or the seams are not just perfect—who cares? No one is looking at them “up close and personal” so they do not have to be perfect!

Today, there are so many inexpensive Halloween costumes so most people find it easier to purchase them. However, if you are a seamstress–your kids will love and remember the costumes you make.

 

Halloween 6 My daughter-in-law Moe knit an amazing costume for my darling grandson, Lowell. They were going to a Harry Potter Party so she knit him a “Hedwig the Owl” costume and for my son Trevor, she knit him a Harry Potter scarf, complete with black-rimmed glasses. These costumes made a big hit at the party and on facebook!

Trevor

 

My other talented daughter-in-law Jenna makes costumes for my three sweet grandchildren every year. They have gone as characters from Mary Poppins, Walt Disney characters, a Viking warrior, Max from “Where the Wild Things Are,” etc. She lets each child choose what character they want to be each year so Audrey, Claire and Noah usually have their ideas for costumes solidified by August of each year–it is that important and fun for them!

Halloween 2  Halloween 3 Halloween 5  Halloween 4

And this year, Jeanna made these costumes: Audrey went as a Wicked Princess, Claire went as a Peacock and Noah went as a Ninja Turtle. Jenna made every part of these costumes–she ordered the peacock feathers, (this was amazing!), and she even made the turtle shell for Noah’s costume!

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Audrey as the Wicked Princess

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Noah as a Ninja Turtle

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Claire as a Peacock!

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Claire with her feathers down

So, if you think you still have enough time—grab some colorful fabric, a pattern or two and a sewing machine and you are off and running. Enjoy this very fun and very popular holiday and create more fun family memories!

 Boo to you!

Sharlene 2014


I love the fall holidays—Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. I think that holiday-fun should always include reading-a-loud-fun that turns into exciting and memorable traditions. So today I’m going to talk about one of our family’s very favorite Halloween books: The Widow’s Broom by Chris Van Allsburg (think Jumanji, The Polar Express, etc.) He is a master storyteller and his illustrations are mesmerizing.

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 This is not your typical Halloween book with colorful black, orange, purple and green pictures of pumpkins and fanciful witches, goblins and such—no sir!—this book is created with sepia tone illustrations that makes you feel that there really are such things as witches, flying brooms and magic on Halloween. My kids absolutely loved this book and I consider it a “must” read-a-loud book—one to be enjoyed for many Halloweens to come and one that can be passed down to grandchildren—although I’m not ready to give up my copy quite yet…

 Here is what one reviewer said about this enchanting, yet haunting tale: The Widow’s Broom:

 “Witches’ brooms don’t last forever. They grow old, and even the best of them, one day, lose the power of flight…. On very rare occasions, however, a broom can lose its power without warning, and fall, with its passenger, to the earth below … which is just what happened one cold autumn night many years ago.” So begins The Widow’s Broom, the gentle, strangely captivating book by Chris Van Allsburg.

 The story gets under way when the lonely widow Minna Shaw finds a wounded, sky-fallen witch in her vegetable garden. The witch disappears before dawn, but leaves her old, presumably defunct broom behind. Minna begins to use it around the house and finds that “it was no better or worse than brooms she’d used before.” However, one morning, Minna sees the broom sweeping by itself! Opportunistically, she trains it to chop wood and fetch water.

 When the neighbors find out about this “wicked, wicked thing” (posing as an innocent, hardworking broom), they accost the widow and demand that the broom be burned. Are they successful in separating the lonely widow and her diligently sweeping friend? This is a wonderfully suspenseful book to read aloud and young listeners will earnestly hope for the broom’s survival.”

 

One last thing—don’t forget the spooky music to play while you are reading your stash of Halloween books to your kids (plus pop some popcorn for even more fun). Here are some favorite Halloween music CDs:

 Halloween Music Collection CD by Midnight Syndicate

Halloween

Halloween Hits

Halloween CD

The 13th Hour by Midnight Syndicate

Halloween CD 1

Enjoy!

Sharlene 2014


There are very few authors that children of all ages remember with more love and cheerfulness than Theodor Seuss Geisel, affectionately known as “Dr. Seuss.” Most people can distinctly recall the first time a parent or school teacher introduced them to one of Dr. Seuss’ books. For most of us, it was a magical moment—one locked inside our memory banks; never to be erased.

I was in kindergarten when my teacher, Mrs. Shelby read to our class Dr. Seuss’s newly published children’s book, “The Cat in the Hat.”  Who didn’t instantly fall in love with that zany cat; his mischievous antics and those out-of-the-box illustrations? And for those of us who were raised on Dr. Seuss, it was a natural course of events to in turn read his books to our own children—thus passing down an important read-a-loud legacy of musically rhyming words, oddly funny illustrations, and never-ending fun.

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Like most of you, our book shelves were over-flowing with many different children’s authors, but Dr. Seuss reigned supreme—“Horton Hatches the Egg,” “The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins,” “Green Eggs and Ham,” “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish,” “If I Ran the Zoo,” “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” and the list goes on and on.

Despite Seuss’ death in 1991, his books live on and even some of his “lost” books are now appearing on bookstore shelves.

Dr. SeussOn September 9, 2014 Random House will publish “Horton and the Kwuggerbug and More Lost Stories.” The story behind this book and other “lost stories,” of Dr. Seuss have an interesting history…

In the early 1950s, this former ad man and modestly successful children’s book author published a series of illustrated stories for children in magazines like Redbook. They were short; two-to-three page spreads with stamp-sized drawings and minimal coloring. He was hoping to publish them in a book, but in 1957 his book, “The Cat in the Hat,” became an immediate best seller and while some of his magazine articles were later published, many were not. These so-called “lost” stories are now being published for the first time. The first collection was published in 2011 under the title, “The Bippolo Seed and Other Lost Stories.” It reached No. 1 on the New York Times best-seller list and now Random House is betting even bigger with “Horton,” with 250,000 copies first print-run.

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Dr. Seuss 3So take some time today—go and read to your child or grandchild your favorite Dr. Seuss book. For me, that favorite was “The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins.” I recently purchased the collectors edition with the idea of giving it to one of my son’s families. But for now, I’m enjoying it myself…maybe later it will find its’ way into the hands of one of my darling grandchildren.

You may want to check out Amazon or your favorite bookstore for this new Dr. Seuss adventure story—“Horton and the Kwuggerbug and More Lost Stories.” I have no doubt, it is another winning Seuss classic!  And, by the way–have you ever read “You’re Only Old Once,–A book for Obsolete Children?” I think it’s time I read this one!

Dr. Seuss 2 Enjoy!

Sharlene 2014

 

 


A few days ago I shared five children’s books that are perfect to incorporate fun foods. Today is a continuation of five more delightful books. I’ll post the recipes later this week.

Blueberries for Sal045Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey

 Synopsis: Kuplink, kuplank, kuplunk! Sal and her mother are picking blueberries to can for the winter. But when Sal wanders to the other side of Blueberry Hill, she discovers a mama bear preparing for her own long winter.  Meanwhile Sal’s mother is being followed by a small bear with a big appetite for berries! Will each mother go home with the right little one? With its expressive line drawings and charming story, Blueberries for Sal has won readers’ hearts since its first publication in 1948.

 Food: We are in the middle of blueberry season so go and purchase a container of this delicious fruit because there is nothing like eating these amazing little berries that are chocked full of healthy vitamins, minerals and phyto-chemicals.

When our sons were little, I made blueberry pancakes or blueberry muffins for a treat and we munched on them while reading the book.  Last year I found a delicious recipe for blueberry pancakes (Martha Stewart, of course).  There are many fun recipes that include blueberries, (blueberry cobbler, blueberry jam, blueberry muffins) and if you don’t feel like making something with the blueberries—eat them right out of the bag! Blueberries for Sal is a classic and a MUST-read for children—and add the blueberries for a memorable experience!

 Recipe: Blueberry Pancakes (a Martha Stewart recipe)Blueberry Pancakes

 

Strega Nona Strega Nona By Tomie dePaola   

 Synopsis: Strega Nona — “Grandma Witch” — is the source for potions, cures, magic, and comfort in her Calabrian town. Her magical everfull pasta pot is especially intriguing to hungry Big Anthony. He is supposed to look after her house and tend her garden but one day, when she goes over the mountain to visit Strega Amelia, Big Anthony recites the magic verse over the pasta pot, with disastrous results.

 Food: This story lends itself to eating a scrumptious pasta dish—spaghetti, lasagna, ravioli, fettuccine, etc. Most kids love spaghetti and unless you make the noodles from scratch, it goes together rather quickly. Read the charming story (it was one of our kids favorites) while your pasta pot is boiling away like Big Anthony’s pot. Years ago I took a class to learn how to make lasagna from scratch—including the noodles and béchamel sauce. Although delicious, it was an all-day extravaganza.

Keep in mind that all of the Strega Nona books are delightful and incorporate the use of food or potions—use your creativity and make a fun pasta dish or something from scratch (without the use of magic) while reading this book. Another favorite is: Strega Nona’s Christmas

 Recipe: Pasta Salad (a great recipe for the hot summer months)Pasta Salad

 

Charlie Chocolate FactoryCharlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

 Synopsis: Only five lucky children will be allowed inside Mr. Willy Wonka’s famous candy factory and they must have a golden ticket that can be found inside five chocolate bars. And the winners are: Augustus Gloop, an enormously fat boy whose hobby is eating; Veruca Salt, a spoiled-rotten brat whose parents are wrapped around her little finger; Violet Beauregarde, a dim-witted gum-chewer with the fastest jaws around; Mike Teavee, a toy pistol-toting gangster-in-training who is obsessed with television; and Charlie Bucket, Our Hero, a boy who is honest and kind, brave and true, and good and ready for the wildest time of his life!

 Food: Well, you can thank technology, because you can now make your own special chocolate bar labels that will mimic the chocolate bars found in this buyer-beware story! This D.I.Y. project requires you to purchase some Hershey’s chocolate bars; carefully remove the label and then make your own label from several different label programs online. Here is one I found on Pinterest. It is for a Willy Wonka bar and it’s free: http://life-in-texas.com/2012/08/thing-1-party-planning-part-1.html Assemble several of these bars AND a golden ticket inside some of them. Then create a game where your children have to “purchase” a Wonka bar and try to “win” one of the golden tickets. Certainly the book is memorable on its own, but adding this fun game takes it to new heights!

Wonka Bar

 

 

James Giant Peach  James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl

 Synopsis: After James Henry Trotter’s parents are tragically eaten by a rhinoceros, he goes to live with his two horrible aunts, Spiker and Sponge. Life there is no fun, until James accidentally drops some magic crystals by the old peach tree and strange things start to happen. The peach at the top of the tree begins to grow, and before long it’s as big as a house. Inside, James meets a bunch of oversized friends—Grasshopper, Centipede, Ladybug, and more. With a snip of the stem, the peach starts rolling away, and the great adventure begins!

 Food: This is one of the greatest children’s books ever written! It is amazing on so many levels and has many of the same trappings as a fairytale with the hero, James having to overcome great obstacles to finally reach his heart’s desire. Of course, because this is about an enormous peach—I loved getting fresh peaches for the boys to eat while we read it—the juiciest and the freshest peaches, and you can only find them during the summer months. But, if you can’t find fresh peaches, try peach ice cream or peach jam or even canned peaches (not a great choice, but better than no peaches at all!).

 Recipe: Peach Cobbler. I love peach cobbler—there is nothing quite like it and if you can find some blueberries to add to it—delicious! This recipe is to die for—enjoy!

Gregory the Colorful Eater1044Gregory the Terrible Eater by Mitchell Sharmat

 Synopsis:Gregory isn’t like most goats. Instead of indulging in delicacies like old shoes, boxes, and bottle caps, he prefers to eat fruits, vegetables, eggs, and fish. Mother Goat and Father Goat are disgusted, and after several attempts to get Gregory to eat like a proper goat, they finally take him to see Dr. Ram. But when Gregory finally develops a taste for flat tires and broken violins, he’s not just eating like a goat—he’s eating like a pig! Will Gregory be able to find a healthy balance before he eats everything in the house?

 Food: In the beginning of this book, Gregory is a pretty amazing example to children of eating good food. Instead of eating sweets, sodas and French fries, he indulges in fruits, vegetables, eggs and fish. Then he starts eating like a piggy goat and the story changes a bit. However, it was still a favorite in our family and we all enjoyed the funny antics of Gregory. This is one of those books where anything healthy should be tried—especially vegetables.

 Recipe: Use one of your family’s favorite recipes here–and let your kids know the history behind the recipe and why it is so special!

 ReadingAgain—these ideas are just the tip of the iceberg—get your creative juices working and come up with more ideas of your own, unique to your family and your traditions!

Enjoy!

Sharlene 2014

 

 

 

 


I love children’s literature! Reading children’s books takes you to faraway places; allows you to vicariously participate in exciting adventures and overcome impossible feats! And you can have all this for a $15-$20 price tag!

 When our boys were young, I loved reading books to them that included food in some way (think: If You Give a Mouse a Cookie). These books became a wonderful family tradition because our added food activities created a double treat.

Here are some of our family’s favorite children’s books and some ideas on how we added food to the experience. I’m discussing five books today and I will post another five other books later next week as well as the recipes.

Stone Soup by Marcia Brown:

Stone Soup

 Synopsis: This story is about three hungry soldiers who outwit the greedy inhabitants of a village into providing them with a feast. It is based on an old French tale.

 Food: My son’s preschool teachers read this book in class and then had each of the children bring a different vegetable from home to make a soup. So, Mark and I had our boys help plant our vegetable garden; pick the vegetables; help make our soup, as I read the book. It was a vegetable soup and included green peppers, beans, carrots and tomatoes from our garden. Later, the soup became a little more sophisticated as we added additional ingredients. This book is a great way to get your kids to eat veggies and to teach them the joys of sharing.

 Recipe: Pasta Fajioli Soup   pasta fagioli

 

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis

The Lion Witch Wardrobe

 Synopsis: Four adventurous siblings—Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy—step through a wardrobe door and into the land of Narnia, a land frozen in eternal winter and enslaved by the power of the White Witch. But when almost all hope is lost, the return of the Great Lion, Aslan, signals a great change . . . and a great sacrifice.

 Food: If you have read this book, you will remember Edmund, the White Witch, and Turkish delight. After eating the Turkish delight given to him by the evil White Witch, Edmund loses all desire to help or be with his family. He can only think of his own selfish desires. To make this a memorable moment in our reading, I went to See’s candies and purchased a pound of dark raspberry creme chocolates. I explained to the boys that we were going to pretend we were selfish Edmund and eat the whole pound of candy in one sitting to see how Edmund must have felt. Afterwards, I reminded them that we can’t get full on things we don’t need.  It was a hit!  From that moment on, they called the chocolates “Turkish delight!” I still buy them at Christmas time to everyone’s “delight!”

 Raspberry chocolateRecipe Suggestion: Go to See’s candy and find ONE kind of chocolate that you think is very sweet (the raspberry creme chocolates are very sweet). Remember that Turkish delight was sickening sweet and that is what you want—something that will cause them to feel a bit “woozy” after stuffing themselves with it. Relish this selfish moment!  Btw—there is an actual candy called Turkish delight.

 

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

Hungry Caterpillar

 Synopsis: This book is an all-time classic picture book, from generation to generation, and is sold somewhere in the world every 30 seconds! It has been said that “The very hungry caterpillar literally eats his way through the pages of the book—and right into your child’s heart…”

 Food: this is such a fun book for little kids. Put different foods that the caterpillar eats onto plates for each of your children such as a strawberry, a piece of apple, a pear, a plum, a piece of cheese, and a pickle. As you read about each food the caterpillar eats, take a bite of that food. Turn this into a multi-activity: explain to them what that food does for your body. Let your children know that one of the reasons the caterpillar got sick was that he ate too many junk foods such as the cake, ice cream cone, lollipop, cupcake, pizza, and cherry pie and he had to go back to eating something simple like the leaf to feel better. The leaf would be like eating vegetables each day–they help us to feel better.

Recipe: Layered Finger Jell-O. I made layered finger Jell-O and we used cookie cutters and cut them into the various shapes of the food the caterpillar ate; such as a strawberry, an apple and a pear.

Finger Jello

 

Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss

Green Eggs and Ham

 Synopsis: “Do you like green eggs and ham?” asks Sam-I-am in this Beginner Book by Dr. Seuss. In a house or with a mouse? In a boat or with a goat? On a train or in a tree? Sam keeps asking persistently. With unmistakable characters and signature rhymes, Dr. Seuss’s beloved favorite has cemented its place as a children’s classic. In this most famous of cumulative tales, the list of places to enjoy green eggs and ham, and friends to enjoy them with, gets longer and longer. Follow Sam-I-am as he insists that this unusual treat is indeed a delectable snack to be savored everywhere and in every way.

 Food: If you are feeling adventurous, go ahead and dye some scrambled eggs green and while you are reading this book, have everyone try this gross concoction!  OR, you can explain to your kids you are having a new food that night for dinner, and like the character in the story—each child needs to try at least one bite. This book is really a wonderful example of how difficult it is to get kids to try new foods (unless it is from McDonalds). It has been said that in order for a child to embrace a new food, it needs to be introduced to them from eight to eleven times! So, the next time you want them to eat a new veggie or meat (Brussels sprouts or liver) read this book beforehand—and at the very least, everyone will enjoy the delightful sing-song rhyme!

 

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Joffe Numeroff

If you Give a mouse a cookie

 Synopsis: If a hungry little mouse shows up on your doorstep, you might want to give him a cookie. And if you give him a cookie, he’ll ask for a glass of milk. He’ll want to look in a mirror to make sure he doesn’t have a milk mustache, and then he’ll ask for a pair of scissors to give himself a trim…

 Food: It is impossible to read this book without having a bag of chocolate chip cookies nearby to munch on and a glass of milk to drink. So, make this a fun and memorable experience for your kids and bake some chocolate chip cookies and then read the book while you are munching away—trust me—they will forever associate this book with wonderful, warm, and chocolaty memories!

 Chocolate Chip cookiesRecipe: The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies in the World

Just realize that anytime you use more than one of the five senses when reading to your children, that book remains forever in their minds and in their hearts. Stay tuned for the next  five books coming soon!

Enjoy!

Sharlene 2014


When you hear the word, “camping” does it evoke happy memories of hiking amongst breathtaking flora and fauna, witnessing majestic mountain ranges, drinking from sparkling clear rivers, basking in front of serene lakes, experiencing a woodsy aroma or clean fresh air?

Or does it fill your heart with dread?

 Before I launch into talking about camping, let me just say—today my idea of camping is checking into the Marriott and ordering room service. However, 35 years ago I was forced to think differently…because camping with our kids was a family tradition.

Camping029 My husband Mark is a true outdoorsman. He loves anything related to nature and is a dyed-in-the-wool Boy Scout.  So in his opinion, camping with the kids was a “must.” I reluctantly followed along.  We did have some great times camping and I love the outdoors—I just don’t like having four kids rolling around in the dirt with no running water and no indoor plumbing available.

 Just about every summer included some kind of camping—sometimes it was in a tent, sometimes in a pop-up trailer, and many times at my in-laws cabin in Lake Tahoe (can that still be considered camping?)

Here is the breakdown of our fun in the woods:

Camping028The Tent: by far the most rugged experience. The kids loved it and to add to the “experience” I baked apple pies over a campfire oven (the scent attracted every animal and human within a 20-mile radius). We hiked, fished, ate around a campfire, slept on the hard ground and then repeated the experience the next day. I always brought books to read and games to play when the kids had had enough of the great outdoors. During one camping trip to Tuolumne Meadows near Yosemite, I read the now out-of-print book, Inside My Feet: The Story of a Giant and The Half-A-Moon Inn, and Scary Tales to Tell in the Dark, which added to the backwoods experience. And yes, we saw every animal known to man—black bears, raccoons, squirrels, chipmunks and once– a beaver!

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On a scale of 1 to 10 here is the breakdown on everyone’ s experience:

Rating by Mom: O—“Exhausting!”

Rating by Dad: 5—“Not that bad, but would have been better if the kids were older.”

Rating by Kids: 10—“Great, loved the dirt, loved peeing in the bushes, loved roasting marshmallows over the campfire, loved seeing the black bear.”

 

Camping024The Pop-Up Trailer: We rented a pop-up trailer twice and once when I was still nursing Trevor. What compelled us to go camping with a newborn is beyond me—I must have had rocks in my head or been deranged at best. The trailer was okay—I filled up the water tank in the trailer before we left so we had good-ole city water filled with all kinds of chemicals to use on the trip. Still no indoor plumbing, but it was nice not sleeping on the hard ground and the trailer also had a stove, but we still had campfires for the s’mores and hot dogs.  The only problem—two of the kids got sick in the middle of the night—will not tell you what happened.

Camping031

 

Rating by Mom: “Still a O—no indoor plumbing”

Rating by Dad: 8—“Nice to have a “bed” and some running water”

Rating by Kids: 10Fun to go in and out of the trailer all day long”

 

Camping027Cabin in Lake Tahoe: This is what I call camping! A roof over our heads, a real bathroom with a flushing toilet, running hot water, and a comfortable bed.  Actually we loved our yearly outings to Grandpa and Grandma’s cabin. This “cabin” was more like a luxurious house with four bedrooms, a playroom, a Jacuzzi and a deck to play badminton. We took excursions everyday—biking in the woods, fishing (Jason & Ryan each caught a mackinaw on one trip), day-hikes, river-rafting, miniature golfing, visits to the Donner Party Museum, and believe it or not—trips to the bookstore in Reno. We barbecued every night and even roasted marshmallows over a pit. I’m all for camping where you can have the experience of the woods, with some of the creature-comforts of home. We went to the cabin yearly for 20 years. All the boys have wonderful memories of Grandpa & Grandma’s cabin in the woods!

Camping030

 

Rating by Mom: 10—“Amazing experience—the best—highly recommend it!”

Rating by Dad: 10—“Well, this isn’t a true Boy Scout experience but great nevertheless!”

Rating by Kids: 20—“Best memories, best time, best experience!”

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 So,please share something about your camping experiences—were they good or bad and are they traditions in your home?

Camping033

 

Enjoy!

Sharlene 2014


If you are a parent, I think you will agree—most parents want to be a lot of different things to their children—their protector, their provider, their example, their hero, their counselor, their friend, their confidante—all qualities that add up to…a parent and parenting.

 Traditions018As a parent, what was really important to me was to build a strong and loving relationship with each one of my sons. As a result, I was always looking for ideas that would help and assist me with that goal. Mark and I actually did several things to accomplish this, but today, I want to share with you one idea we used to build a close and caring relationship with our sons. It became a tradition in our home. It is fun, your kids will love it, and it will be the starting point of constructing an amazing bond between you and your child. Traditions010

Date Nights

 In 1980 Mark and I started the tradition of taking each of our sons on a monthly “Date Night.” At the beginning of each month we sat down with the boys and marked four dates on the calendar—one date night for each child. Most the time we tried to make it a date with both parents, but there were months when only one parent would go with the child. We always planned these dates the first couple of days in the month so they were “cast in stone;” thereby avoiding a conflict and interference of other activities.

 Traditions013Mark and I kept the date nights simple, yet fun. When they were young we took them to the park (to feed the ducks); to a bookstore; to the beach; a farm, swimming, fishing, the zoo, sleigh-riding, a music activity, a cooking night, or a special visit to the library. And every date night included food—lunch, dinner or some special treat like ice cream, popcorn, etc.

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Traditions011As they got older the venue of the date nights changed—now they were interested in golfing, sporting events, music concerts, plays and other activities. We tried to choose activities that would allow for interaction and not places like Disneyland where you are mindlessly going from one ride to another or movies where you sit mute in a theater. Those activities were saved for later.

 But no matter where we took them, our goals were the same—alone time with each son; time to interact one-on-one and have a good time—separate from their other siblings.

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Here are some tips to making it a perfect outing:

**Make date nights interactive: We asked a lot of open-ended questions about school, sports, the music they were learning and the music they liked, their friends, their concerns, hopes and dreams, etc. We wanted them to talk–a lot!

**Avoid criticism or preaching and stay away from topics that could evoke hurt feelings or anger.

**Focus on having fun, laughing together, enjoying one another’s company and communicating.

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Traditions012We also made some mistakes with date nights. When our oldest son Jason was four we took him to see the Vienna Boys Choir. We erroneously thought that since they were young boys singing (and Jason loved to sing) that he would enjoy seeing this choir. Wrong, wrong, wrong! We barely lasted until intermission and the only redeeming part of that date night was taking him to McDonald’s (his choice) afterwards.

 However, “Date Nights,” paid off in other ways. The boys loved them, looked forward to them and even when they were teens, (and do not want to be seen with their parents) they still wanted to go and participate in these monthly rituals.

 For example, when Ryan was 16 he wanted to go hear David Helfgott play the piano at the Hollywood Bowl. If you are interested in the story of David Helfgott, read the book, Love You to Bits and Pieces: Life with David Helfgott. Ryan had seen the movie, “Shine” and wanted to see Helfgott up close and personal. So we went. It was actually a turning point for Ryan and his music. He was getting bored with practicing, but seeing Helfgott and understanding his life story and all he had to overcome, Ryan became inspired. From that point on he practiced with a vengeance until he left for college.

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So, try it with your children. Set aside a day each month; mark it on your calendar; and decide together with each of your children what you are going to do. Leave your cell phones behind and focus entirely on your child. You will be amazed how this will begin to build a bond of trust and appreciation for one another and open the flood-gates of communication. Plus it speaks volumes to your child that you are willing to sacrifice your time to build a relationship with them.

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(these are all pictures of our sons–Jason, Ryan, Brandon and Trevor when then were young–each one represents a date night we took them on. They are all grown now and taking their own kids on date nights–thus another family tradition has become a legacy for future generations!)

Sharlene 2014


Book Curious GeorgeI love to read! I remember my kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Shelby reading to our class the classic tale of Curious George; that engaging little monkey who was always getting into trouble. In the third grade we studied American Indians and Mrs. Jensen read us a book about a little Navajo boy. In school, my favorite time of the day was when my teachers read to the class.  My summers were filled with reading dozens of books and I was one of the first in our neighborhood to join the yearly Summer Library Reading Program.

 On Sundays my father read to us from the funny papers and each year my mother bought all of us a new book for Christmas.

 Reading is one of those activities that takes you to places of the heart and mind and leaves you with a longing to return often. I think I’d rather read a book than eat a chocolate bar.

 I raised my sons to be readers and did this by reading to them every day until they left home for college. We were a read-aloud family. Both reading aloud and reading alone were important traditions in our home and one that reaped big rewards.

 When our first son Jason was born, I took books with me to the hospital and started reading to him almost immediately. The nurses thought I was loony. I didn’t care—I was starting a tradition.  My goal for reading to all my babies was the same: hear my voice; know that I love them; and introduce them to the wonderful world of books.

  Reading became a ritual in our home. We read books before school, after school, before bedtime, on trips, in the car and sometimes at the dinner table. We made weekly trips to the library (where we checked out at least 50 books at a time) and our favorite outings were spent at bookstores (it is sad that they are disappearing…)

Book Miss Nelson is MissingWhen our sons were young, their favorites like Curious George, Goodnight Moon, Where the Wild Things Are, Mr. & Mrs. Pig’s Evening OutThe Monkeys Tale, The Widow’s Broom, The Cut-Ups, Miss Nelson Is Missing, (and too many others to mention here) were read dozens of times. Later some of their favorites included books with more text than pictures like: James and the Giant Peach, The Half-a-Moon Inn, Inside My Feet: The Story of Giant, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and many others.  As they went into their teens, the reading became more sophisticated and now we discussed “great literature.”Book

 In the early years of reading, I noticed that each of my sons looked at different things on the pages of the books which later correlated to other interests they had.

For instance:

 Traditions004Jason was always captivated by the words on the pages and would point to the words and ask—“What does that word say?” Today he practices law; continues to love words, think in words, and is an excellent writer.

 Traditions003Ryan was fascinated with the illustrations and words. Today, he is working on his PhD in English and he is a talented artist. He still loves pictures, words and is an exceptional writer and has been published in numerous journals.

 Brandon was mesmerized by the expressions on each character’s face. He would ask, “Why do they look that way?” “Why are they looking mad? Sad? Angry? Happy?” Brandon has a degree in Film and Philosophy. He is a gentle soul; is always concerned about how people feel and is an avid reader and superb writer.Brandon

 Traditions005Trevor wanted to break down the parts of the book and talk about them. He loved a lot of different kinds of books including How Things Work, and books on science and the world. He has a business degree, reads a book a week and is an incredible writer. (For his birthday this year, his wife made him a cake in the shape of a book that said: “To My Bookworm”).

 All four boys continue to be avid readers and outstanding writers. Thankfully their wives love reading so the tradition of reading aloud to my grandchildren continues to yet another generation.

 Reading to childrenIn the past 30 years there have been many books written on the importance of reading aloud to your children each and every day. Here are just a few of the findings of what reading aloud each day to your children can do for them:

**Builds early readers, early talkers

**Increases vocabulary, spelling and writing

**Increases attention span

**Builds Imagination and creativity

**Stimulates questioning—the best way for a child to learn

**Builds a bond between the child and parent

So, what are you waiting for? Grab your child, grab a stack of books and begin reading! It will be the best tradition you will start in your home!Reading

 Reading Suggestion: The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease. This book was my “Bible” from 1980 on. It’s an incredible book that should stay on your nightstand and read every year until your children leave the nest. It includes reasons to read-aloud, how to read-aloud, and books to whet your child’s appetite. It is a MUST!

Book 2Enjoy!

Sharlene 2014

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