Thursday, November 29

Christmas Idea # 3: The Holiday Book Basket

As my regular readers may remember, one of my organizational strategies involves keeping all holiday-themed stuff in bins, which are brought out well in advance of each occasion. This includes not only decorations, but also toys, books, games, etc.

When I pulled out the Christmas bins a couple of weeks ago and let the girls dig in, you would have thought that it was...well...Christmas! There's enough there to keep them busy and entertained right through 'til the holiday actually arrives, including favourites like Nutcracker figures, the Little People nativity, and the light-up village they have split between their two rooms.

Also a very popular item: the book basket. It's amazing how Frannie's reading comes along each year, as she can now enjoy several titles that were too difficult for her last Christmas. Maggie also has the task each holiday of weeding out any "baby" books that we don't need anymore and we pass them along to a coworker's little guy

Other years I've kept the books in a photocopy paper box (the most accessible storage system for teachers but not that attractive sitting on my living room bench). This year I pulled out a basket from the basement to use for a nicer display. Some favourite titles:

The Story of Christmas by Patricia A. Pingry, illustrated by Lorraine Wells

Patricia Pingry's books about various holidays do a great job teaching kids about the religious meaning behind each, while still validating and honouring some of the less "religious" traditions we enjoy.

The Very First Christmas: Hallmark Recordable Storybook

My parents recorded this one for my girls a couple of years ago, and I think it's such a special keepsake to treasure.

The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg

A great story, to be sure, but what I love about our version (also a gift from my parents) is that it comes with a CD and cassette, which provides a wonderful listening and reading opportunity for the kids.

The Night Before Christmas: Classic Edition by Clement Moore

Yep, another gift from my parents (thanks Mom and Dad!) this title is in honour of the tradition I grew up with, when my brother and I would sit with Dad at bedtime on Christmas Eve and he would read this book to us. (This was right after snacking on his homemade fudge.)

And a new addition to the basket this year:

A Bit of Applause for Mrs. Claus

Behind every successful man stands a great woman, and this cute story for young children recounts the hard work Mrs. Claus must undertake when Santa falls ill on Christmas Eve. (Personally, I'm quite sure that Mrs. Claus does more than her share of the work even when her hubby is in good health.)

We will continue to enjoy these books for the next few weeks, because they will be safely stored away on Boxing Day. Or maybe before I go to bed on the 25th. I know, I have issues.

Monday, November 26

Books For Teaching Christian Kids About Hanukkah

While my students are Christian (most Catholic, as are my daughters) I see a great value in reading stories about Judaism (as well as other religions). I mean, we share a whole Old Testament of history and beliefs with the Jewish people, and it creates a great opportunity to teach about differences. The simple bottom line that I share with kids is that the Jews don't believe Jesus is as important as we do, but we still have lots in common.

Two titles I've shared with both sets of "kids" recently:

The Story of Hanukkah by David A. Adler, illustrated by Jill Weber

This picture book has a fairly short chunk of text on each page, along with colourful illustrations that take kids back to Israel at the time of the King Antiochus IV and the Maccabees. My kids were fascinated to learn about the miracle of the oil, and are so innocent that they were shocked to learn religious freedom didn't (and doesn't) exist everywhere.

The back of the book also has a recipe for latkes and instructions for how to play the dreidel game, two other ways to expose kids to other religious traditions.

The Christmas Menorahs: How a Town Fought Hate by Janice Cohn, illustrated by Bill Farnsworth

Also picture book style, this story is actually much longer than a traditional picture book, with many of the 39 pages completely full of text. (Not a quick read-aloud.) I read this to my students over the course of two days, and used it as an exercise in visualization, as the kids sketched what they were picturing as they listened.

The Christmas Menorahs is the true story about the town of Billings, Montana, where a rock was thrown through the window of young Isaac Schnitzer's bedroom simply because it was lit up with a menorah. The book recounts how the community came together, with many of those who were not Jewish placing menorahs in their windows as well to stand up against hate and prejudice.

One line that really resonated with the students and helped them to relate: "She had been trying to imagine how she would feel if someone threw a rock into her window because she had a Christmas tree."

While on the one hand I think it's very important for children to have a certain awareness about prejudice, I also find it heartwarming that at this point, the idea that someone could be targeted because of their religion is a completely new concept for most of the children in my life.

Thursday, November 22

Easy Sight Words Game

As most of you know, I'm a teacher. And I'm well aware that when it comes to early learning, flashcards are taboo. But you know what? I still think they have their time and place within a balanced approach to literacy (or numeracy, or whatever the case may be).

When it comes to sight words, we've used cards to help our girls learn, and it hasn't hurt them yet. But this time we tweaked the flashcard idea and saw a great improvement in our younger daughter's motivation.

Maggie (who's 4 and in her first year of Ontario's Early Learning Kindergarten Program, which is all-day, every day) wasn't originally very enthused about practising her words. So I used a bunch of my old business cards from when I had a central teaching position (they put "Kathleen" on them instead of "Kate" which really deterred me from using them) and made them into a matching game with Maggie's Year 1 (JK) words. If you find a match, you have to be able to read the words in order to keep them.   Maggie plays this game with her older sister, and she loves it. I'm not kidding: she actually begs to play, and has even cried on nights when we didn't have time. Plus, it's very low-organization and low-supervision for the parent (I realize I must come across as lazy sometimes, but I also try to put myself in the shoes of busy parents - which isn't hard - and I know that if an activity is too lengthy or complicated it just won't happen).

(I also saw Maggie's competitive nature emerge when she came home one night all excited to tell me "My teacher says that when I know the Year 1 words, I get to have the Year 2 words!")

In case you're looking for word suggestions, here's what our Kindergarten parents were given:

Year 1 Words (JK - 4 years old)


Year 2 Words (SK - 5 years old)


(P.S. If "sight words flashcards" is the most taboo topic I've covered here at This Mom Loves, I think I have to resign myself to a "vanilla" designation. For the blog, at least.)

Monday, November 19

Christmas Idea # 2: Displaying Christmas Memories

This idea came from my friend C, after I saw her hall table adorned with years of framed photos of her children with Santa, as well as some Santa shots from when she and her husband were kids.

While I don't have a lot of official Santa shots (there is one gem of my brother and me with Jolly Old Saint Nick) there are lots of Christmas photos of my girls, some which were made into holiday cards, and some that are snapshots of the four of us (we usually take the same photo op on my parents' couch every Christmas Eve). My husband is the eighth of nine children, so there are few photos of him at all, let alone on Santa's knee!

As always, I turned to Dollarama for my supplies, picking up a few silver frames and some Christmas wrapping paper, which I used as mattes behind the photos. The results:

I displayed these last Christmas for the first time, and they're real conversation-starters. I think they'll mean even more as the girls get older and perhaps refuse to wear coordinated red and green velvet outfits...or Santa hats.

Thursday, November 15

Kids' Books For Bedtime

Some of the cutest books I've received for review lately have a common theme. Here they are:

Bedtime is Canceled by Cece Meng, Illustrated by Aurélie Neyret

This is a great story about the mayhem that takes place when a brother and sister write up a notice that "Bedtime is Canceled"...and it gets into the wrong hands! My six and four year olds loved it, and I appreciate the media references (there are newspaper and television reporters, and a lot of texting and e-mailing going on in the story. Kids these days can relate to that.) Both the story and illustrations are very funny.

Sleep Like a Tiger by Mary Logue, Illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski


In this story, a not-so-sleepy little princess asks "Does everything in the world go to sleep?" and learns all about the sleep habits of different animals. I could totally connect to the parents (not because they're royal, of course) and their patient attempts to coax their daughter to bed every time she insisted she wasn't tired: "They nodded their heads and said she didn't have to go to sleep. But she had to put her put her pyjamas on," and "Her parents said that was fine. But she should wash her face and brush her teeth." If only I could be that patient about it! The illustrations are beautiful, and as the jacket says "this bedtime book insipres a gentle fellowship with the natural world..."

Mama I Can't Sleep by Brigitte Raab, Illustrated by Manuela Olten

This title is coincidentally quite similar to the one above, only this time it's a non-royal little one trying to convince her mom that she can't sleep, while attempting to copy the nocturnal manoeuvres of different animals. Oddly enough, she has some difficulty sleeping while standing on one leg like a stork, keeping her eyes open like a fish, or hanging upside down like a bat. My girls had a good laugh over the silly things this girl tried.


Any of these books would be a worthwhile addition to your bedtime story collection.

Monday, November 12

Christmas Idea # 1: The Festive Lantern

So, I've had this beautiful lantern hanging around for years, without really having a great idea for what to do with it. (No offense if you gave it to me. It's lovely, I'm just not creative enough.) Thanks to the inspiration of Pinterest, I decided to pull it out and incorporate it into my Christmas décor this year. A few packs of ornaments from Dollarama, and I was all set:

The original pin that inspired me:

Since I'm adding some new holiday-themed items to my home this year, that means editing out some of the old ones...and my school bag is packed full of the goodies that didn't make the cut, and are destined for my classroom treasure box. (My apologies if your child brings one home.)

Stay tuned for more (usually inspired by Pinterest) Christmas ideas!

Friday, November 9

This Mom Is Everywhere!

Do you ever feel like you just can't get enough of This Mom Loves? (Crickets...crickets...anybody?)

For those (two) who have been asking lately how to find me on various social media, here are all the details:

Twitter (@thismomloves)

Pinterest (katewinn77)

I'm not much of a recipe blogger if that's your thing (but if you're here reading this blog you clearly have other interests). My boards include Decorating/Home, Arts and Crafts, Education, Organization, Fashion, and all of the various holidays. Watch this space for some new as-seen-on-Pinterest Christmas ideas, coming soon!

Leave a comment below with your info if you'd like a Pinterest follow-back. I love scoping out new ideas!


Signing up for e-mail guarantees that you'll receive every new complete post (no partial posts, no link-clicking* required) delivered right to your Inbox. I have my settings so that new posts are mailed out around 9 a.m. each day. (Yes, I am in class at this time, but it is an automatic feature. I'd like to stress that.) Once you sign up, you'll receive a "Feedburner E-mail Subscription Confirmation" message, which very well might go to your spam folder. You need to open it and confirm to be added to the list. Many of my friends and family members do it this way, so they can read posts on their phones and not have to keep checking the blog for updates.


I'm relatively new to Facebook, but I know it is the Holy Grail for some, and you might prefer to get updates from me right in your timeline. Be sure to like, comment on or share anything that interests you! (The more you interact, the bigger the guarantee that Facebook will generously allow my new stuff to appear in your timeline. I currently have 1390 Facebook 'likers', and my last status update was seen by 21 people. What??? Of course Facebook encourages me to pay to promote my updates, in order to have them seen by more people. No thanks.)


If any of these links don't work for you, they're all in my sidebar as well at

*Before I proofread this post, I was assuring you all that there would be no link-licking required. I'm not even sure what that could mean, but it doesn't sound good.

Wednesday, November 7

Anastasia's Picks: Books for Tweens and Teens

Check out the latest book recommendations from my 11 year old niece, "Anastasia":



Jade has always been a quiet girl, until a strange but beautiful cat shows up in her backyard. A boy named Kris shows up at her house, knowing the cat quite well. He tells Jade that it would be be best if Jade and the cat [given the name Feela] should embark with Kris on a journey, for cats are not supposed to just "show up" in people's yards, and cost millions of euros to buy. After the death of a family member, Jade agrees to the plan, and they set off together, to find Feela a better home, themselves a better home, and try to achieve what they want most: to keep their cat as their own.

My favourite part of the book is when Kris and Jade are in impossible situations. It keeps you on the edge of your seat, wondering "what's going to happen next?"

I would recommend this book for 12 to 16 year olds. A good action read definitely! Out of 10 stars, a definite 9!

DARK OF THE MOON by Tracy Barrett

"She who will be goddess"[lets just call her 'swwbg'] is preparing to become "she who is goddess." But SWWBG has a secret. Her brother is the feared minotaur of Athens! But as SWWBG learns more about her past, she starts to doubt her future. Meeting a new boy sent as tribute from another country, SWWBG realizes that her brother just wants to die instead of living his life in horror, and that there is more to her life than the falling city of Athens.

My favourite part of the book is when SWWBG is caught in a terrible dilemma, and she uses her smarts to pull together a last minute solution! Right before a very important moment too!

I would recommend this book for 13 to 16 year olds. A very descriptive read. 7 out of 10 stars.


After a fight with her mother, Amy moves into her aunt's house. But something scary is happening! An adorable little dollhouse in the attic makes scratching sounds at night, lights come on and the dolls move by themselves! After hearing terrible stories about a murder involved with her family, Amy decides to find out the mystery of the dollhouse with the help of her sister; and possibly find out who was the killer himself.

My favourite part of the book is when Amy hears scratching sounds from the attic and goes up to the attic to try and find out what [or who] is making that noise.

I would recommend this book for 10 to 13 year olds. A very suspenseful read. 8 out of 10 stars.


Jermaine wants to become famous, and what better way to do it by making her own reality show! But when an uncle disappears, a tarantula is lost,and other things start getting out of hand, Jermaine has to decide: family and friends or being famous?

My favourite part is when Jermaine can't find her tarantula! Funny and suspenseful.

I would recommend this book for 9 to 12 year olds. 6 out of 10 stars.


The sisters 8 disappear into a magic snow globe in an attempt to find their father. There they meet 8 boys with the same powers as them, and are offered 8 challenges to compete against each other: If they win they find Daddy! A story about not underestimating your own limits and determination.

My favourite part in the book is when one of the sisters takes up a challenge. They are so serious it's funny!

I would recommend this book 7 to 10 year olds. 7 out of 10 stars.


A great non-fiction book: everything you need to know about blood. From legend and myth to science, "The Book of Blood' is your guide and go-to about the world's most puzzling mystery: blood.

I love reading about how doctors have progressed through the years. Fascinating!

This book is for 14 and up. A whopping 9 stars!

Friday, November 2

Halloween 2012 Recap!

Our Halloween Recap:

  • Spent too much on costumes, but Maggie has only ever had hand-me-downs and Frannie has only ever had one new costume (plus, I've been at the same school long enough now that I've run through all of my old ideas and needed something new too!)
  • I was impressed that Frannie went with something not "pretty" (although I can't say I really set a good example for her, with my princess look, did I?) and really enjoyed freaking people out as a scary raccoon.
  • As organized as I may appear, our candy was purchased on the 29th (why did we buy 48 full-sized boxes of Smarties when we usually get a dozen trick-or-treaters?) and pumpkin carved on the 30th (we did a neat idea from Pinterest - using the drill to make holes in the pumpkin. The light from that is really pretty).

  • Living in the country has many benefits. The four of us went out trick-or-treating as a family, and left our goodies on the porch for visitors to help themselves. (I think we missed 8 or 9 kids, who all helped themselves to 'one of each' as per my posted instructions.) I am told this system would not work in the city.
  • My biggest compliment was at school, from a parent who had popped in for our Halloween Fashion Show: "I feel like I'm at Disney World! It's always been a dream of mine to meet Cinderella!"
  • My fall/Halloween decorations were cleared away before I went to bed that night. The house looks pretty bare at the moment, but as soon as Remembrance Day is over, the Christmas decor will be out!
  • Hope you had a wonderful Halloween!