September 1, 2020

September 1, 2020

September 1, 2020

Christmas teddy bears

Still Too Early to Decorate

 

Still too early to decorate for Christmas, though I would love to surround myself with reminders of Christmas joy.

Lucky for me, I allow myself to keep my snowman mugs out all year round! I have tall ones and short ones, and all of them delight me. Some have a chickadee or a cardinal perched on the snowman. Others show children playing at the snowman’s feet, throwing snowballs to a Golden Retriever. All of them make me smile! I know that many people relish that first cup of coffee in the morning, but I’ll bet that few of them enjoy it as much as I do, drinking coffee from one of my snowman mugs!

I have tried to like drinking tea since so many of my favorite books mention tea drinking, but for me, the only time I want a cup of tea is late at night when I can’t sleep. Then a hot cup of chamomile tea from my cheerful red teapot is just what I need. But in the morning, my snowman mug and a cup of coffee are exactly the right start for the day.

When my children were small, September was the month when I wanted to start shopping for their Christmas gifts. The risk of bad weather or a sick child was my excuse to start a Christmas list. Even though my children had just started back to school, and the risk of snow was a long way off, it seemed like a good idea to get started early! Some years their most desperate desire was something that was almost impossible to find! I still tease my grown son about the Christmas Eve when I drove through pouring rain because the toy store had ONE Death Star left, and it was the one prize he craved more than any other that Christmas. I came home as triumphant as if I had scored a goal in hockey or kicked a field goal – I had that one thing that my child wanted more than any other.

I remembered what it was like to want – and to ask for – just one thing. It was rarely a big or expensive thing, and I didn’t always get it, but that just made me more determined to try to fill my children’s Christmas wishes. My children weren’t greedy, and they understood the spirit of the season, but it’s hard to escape the commercials for something like a Cabbage Patch doll or a Death Star!

When I write about Christmas, I try to strike that balance between the powerful spiritual meaning of Christmas and the beauty and magic that captures children’s hearts. In these difficult times of staying at home, I am mindful that the children for whom I write need that magic more than ever, and I will do my best to create it on every possible page!

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August 1, 2020

August 1, 2020

August 1, 2020

School

A Getting Ready Month… 

Most of the people I know spend August thinking about school. If they work from home, they’ve been trying to juggle home schooling and their job. If they have to go out of the house to work, a trusted family member or friend is usually caring for the children. But the conversation is all about school. Will schools open? Will children be learning online? Does that work for all children? Do all children have computers and an Internet connection?

My children are grown, so I don’t have to make the difficult decision about sending a precious child to school. But it makes me wonder about other things…

I wonder what a children’s book author can do to help. Can I read stories online for kids? Can I answer questions about what it’s like to write a book for children? Can I help kids figure out whether they might like to write a book? I guess I should start by reading on YouTube and sharing the YouTube address with anyone who is following me!

I hope kids will go to my web site, RedMittenBooks.com, and send me a message about what they would like to hear while they wait to hear about school. Are they thinking about a favorite book? Would they like to tell me about it so I could share it with other kids? Maybe there are kids who have ideas for GREAT books. Books about adventure of exploring or finding treasure. Or books about friends who just like to play together.

I’ve noticed a lot of books that help kids feel better about themselves. Like “It’s ok to cry” and books that make even COVID-19 a little less stressful! An author named Lori Lite writes books like that, and some of them are very funny (like The Angry Octopus)! You might want to check them out. When an octopus is feeling stressed out, it might make it a little bit easier for you to know that you’re not the only one that doesn’t like stress very much!

I wonder how moms and dads will decide if it’s ok to send their children off to school. It’s important that kids play with othe.r kids. And learning is super important. I miss the times when my children were young, but I don’t envy the parents who have difficult decisions to make, protecting their child’s safety and, at the same time, making sure they have the opportunity to experience the kind of learning that will help them grow. Learning has so many parts – it’s so much more than times tables and spelling bees. It’s also about becoming confident, being a friend to others. It’s about becoming who you truly are.

I think that most parents will make a wise decision. They love their children and will pay attention to what the public health people are saying about safety. Most of all, they’ll do their best.

 

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July 1, 2020

July 1, 2020

July 1, 2020

Children playing on the beach

Beach Memories…

Dragging out old photo albums reminds me that July is the most fun month of all – except for December, of course!

I don’t even need pictures to remind me of how funny my little brother was on the beach in July. Our family took a two-week vacation every year, and it was amazing. It wasn’t fancy, and I had to share a room with my terrible little brother, but it was still amazing.

We would start every vacation day covering ourselves with Coppertone. No one knew about “SPF” numbers back then, and many people got as much sun as they could. (Warning! People didn’t know then how dangerous it was, but we know now!)

Anyway, once we were covered with Coppertone and smelled like walking coconuts, it was time to cover up our swimsuits, grab hats and sunglasses, and head for the beach.

I remember walking down the street toward the beach, waving at the nice old gentleman who sat out on his porch with a beautiful Irish setter. I’d never seen an Irish setter before and saying good morning to “Rusty” was the best part of walking to the beach.

Eventually we would find a spot on the beach, planted our towel, and my father dug a hole and stuffed our beach umbrella into it. The gaily striped umbrella wobbled a bit on a breezy day, but it didn’t matter. I would strip off my beach cover up, throw my sandals on the blanket and head for the ocean. Even though it was July, the water was usually pretty cold. I would wobble around like the umbrella, deciding whether or not to brave the cold water. But not my brother. He was like a tank¾full speed ahead! He never met a wave he didn’t like. And the water was never too cold for him.

Taking a break under the umbrella was fun for me. Friends came over, and we talked about books and games, and I made up stories for them. Especially stories about little girls wearing Coppertone and freckles. They always laughed!

My brother just built sandcastles. He would run back and forth to the edge of the waves, filling a small bucket with water. Once he got back, he dumped water in a hole and made drip castles. They were ugly, but he loved them!

Leaving the beach was always a little bit sad, but not too bad. We knew that after dinner and a quick bath, our family would go to the Boardwalk, and we would ride the Ferris wheel and the carousel and something called the Flying Disc. Sometimes there was even some ice cream before we went back home!

I always loved July, and I’m glad I have silly pictures of my brother’s sand castles to remind me of days in the sun and ice cream and the cold waves of the New Jersey shore.

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June 1, 2020

June 1, 2020

June 1, 2020

Dog wearing mortarboard

June Is a Funny Month

 

June is often filled with graduations (in-person or virtual), and lot of endings. The end of a school year. The end of high school or college. It’s definitely a funny month, full of change.

In this strange time of COVID, many children did not go to school at all in June, and many missed out on their graduations. I was sad to miss two graduations in my family: my daughter’s EMBA from Wharton, and my younger grandson’s graduation from high school. Before the pandemic, I had looked forward to celebrating with both of them, cheering them on to their next adventure. Instead, it was a quiet, online celebration.

In years past, I celebrated so many things with my family. When my older grandson was in high school, I traveled to every marching band competition in the State of South Carolina, ready to cheer my heart out. And when he played a solo gig in a coffee shop, I was there, learning to survive death metal music!

Like many families, we attended dance recitals, school plays, parent-teacher nights. But June was a quiet month for family events this year.

However, unlike many years in the past, June was a beginning for me. I found someone to help me find the best way to tell people about my book. He helped me master Instagram and Facebook and had so many suggestions for things I never thought of. So I have been busy since June, learning and writing and creating new stories to put on my web site.

I found a wonderful young woman to help me rebuild my web site and make it sparkle! I wanted it to be magical, a place that parents and grandparents would want to visit, and children might want to enjoy a story or two!  I knew I wanted the site to have images of Christmas that would delight children and adults alike (they certainly delight me!)

I’m also working on another children’s book. I’m not ready to announce it yet, but this is a good time of year to think about it and start planning adventures for a little boy named Billy. The challenge is – can Billy do a good job of finding Christmas, like his friend, Belinda? Will he have different ideas about what Christmas might be? One thing I know about Billy is that he is full speed ahead, just like Belinda. But he doesn’t have a cat; he has a dog named Boomer, and Boomer is full speed ahead too.

In some ways, I feel that my readers are helping me to write this new book. People have ideas and suggestions, and I am delighted if they share them! The Contact Us page has a form, and I am always ready for suggestions, so be sure to send them along! I’ll keep you posted on my progress on this new book and hope you’ll keep me up to date on your reading favorites!  See you next month!

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May 1, 2020

May 1, 2020

Fun Things to Do…

OK – We have now been indoors for quite a while because of the Pandemic. I am enjoying working on the next book and writing to friends and readers about the book I completed last year, The Girl Who Found Christmas. But some of my reader friends – especially the ones who are not very tall – would like to know why I write so much about snow and snowmen when there are LONG times when there isn’t any snow. That is a GREAT question!

So I asked some of my friends and readers what they thought could be done about it. We can’t make it snow in May (well, unless maybe you live in Alaska??). That is certainly true. But that doesn’t mean you can’t make a snowman even when it isn’t snowing! Here are some ideas for you…

You could DRAW a really great snowman! Give your snowman a name and maybe even some snow friends!

You could write a story about snowmen! (Bet you didn’t think about that one!) Kids write GREAT stories, and if they need a little help, maybe they could just tell their story to a grown up and ask for help with the writing it down part.

You could get dressed up as a snowman! Get a silly hat,  wear a carrot nose, put big black boots on your feet – and SMILE! That’s the best part about snowmen – they always smile!

And if you want to try to build one, you could make one out of felt. OR you could get a Snowman Kit and build one! 

If you make a snowman (or draw one or write a snowman story), I hope you will send me a picture! I’ll put it here on my web site and share it with other snowman lovers!

Now, what else might we do if we had snow today? We might make cocoa or hot chocolate! And maybe we would have something warm and yummy for dinner, like soup or chili. That would be a great thing to do after a busy time working on your snowman!

Do you have a favorite cold weather treat? Some people really like s’mores. Or cocoa with marshmallows. (You could even make a snowman with marshmallows you know? Put a small one on a tall one and get silly decorating your marshmallow snowman!)

All this talk about snowmen and wintertime food makes me hungry! I remember so many happy times in the snow when I was a little girl. My brother and I shared a sled, and we would walk up the hill over and over again so we could slide down over the snow. But guess what? It made us hungry! We would want to go home and have something warm to eat when our hands were cold, and it was time to go inside. Do you have good memories of snow?

If you live in a place like Florida where you never get snow, maybe your mom and dad could take you on a trip someday to the mountains where snow falls and snowmen live? Right now everyone is stuck inside, but that won’t be forever, and when we can be out and about in the world again, maybe we will have a plan for fun things to do and fun places to go?

I think I’ll start working on my plan right now! 

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April 1, 2020

April 1, 2020

Christmas Memories…

Well, we have been staying home now since the beginning of March because of the very scary COVID virus. Today I decided to celebrate being home by thinking about some memories of a very special Christmas. I don’t know if I would say it was the best Christmas ever, but it was the very first Christmas when my children saw Christmas in a whole new way.

I saw hints of it for weeks ahead of time and just shook my head in surprise. Whispering and secrets between two children who usually existed on different planets! The kids were five years apart, and that was more than enough for disdainful distance (from the older one) and frustrated adoration (from the younger one). But something was definitely in the air, and I had no idea what had changed.

Had I been paying closer attention, I might have noticed the day when brother and sister became co-conspirators, but it seemed like an ordinary, pre-Christmas day to me. Pick the kids up at school, drive to the mall, stop for cookies, and cave in to their latest demand¾this time it was a visit to the “Secret Shop” their friends had talked about. I had heard of it, of course. A curtained off section of a major department store. I knew that the store allowed only children inside, but that it was quite safe, security was tight, and employees were on hand to help the children with their “shopping.”

I gave each child $5, the maximum allowed for Secret Shopping, then found a chair and waited for what seemed like an eternity.

When they finally came out, I looked at my watch, thinking about dinner, homework, and the evening routine. I quickly hustled them to the car without paying much attention to the whispering and giggling in the back seat. “Guess you had fun,” I said, glancing in the rear view mirror at their faces. They definitely looked like they were up to something, but I didn’t have time to worry about it.

From that day on, I started noticing that the improvement in their relationship didn’t disappear but seemed to grow stronger. Instead of bickering, there was more whispering and the occasional giggle. But it wasn’t until Christmas morning that I understood at last what had changed.

They came downstairs that Christmas with so much excitement in their eyes. I assumed they were thinking about gifts, surprises, the beautiful tree, their well-stuffed stockings. But they weren’t looking at the tree or the presents or even the stockings. They moved with a new pride, carrying gaily decorated bags that said, “Secret Shop.”

I smiled when I saw the bags, remembering the day when I took them “shopping.” When I first read about the Secret Shop, it sounded delightful. I liked the idea that kids could shop for “treasures” with very little money and plenty of safe adult supervision. What I didn’t understand until Christmas morning was that going shopping on their own, choosing gifts that they thought would give pleasure to mom and dad and grandparents was¾well¾it was like being a grownup. And they could hardly wait to give presents, perfectly happy to wait for presents of their own.

And they gave us their presents with such dignity and pride. The mom in me wanted to cry, I was so proud of them. They told us all about the Secret Shop¾how the “Elves” in the Shop helped them choose presents, wrapped their gifts, and placed them in the Secret Shop bags. They told us that the treasures in the Shop were amazing. A ring for Pop Pop with a huge red stone! How did they know how much he would love it? A tie for dad with laughing reindeer¾what could be better! AND money left over.

To this day I can picture my son and daughter coming down the stairs that Christmas, carrying their Secret Shop bags. They had an adult dignity I’d never seen in them before, and I will always be thankful that they had that experience. They saw Christmas in a new way that day, and it changed their worlds forever.

 

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