Christmas Favorites


I hope everyone is enjoying the holidays!

One of my favorite things to do is snuggle up with the family and a stack of treasured holiday books.

This is my list of 25 TOP HOLIDAY STORIES (in no particular order):

  1. The Trees of the Dancing Goats by Patricia Polacco
  2. Winter is the Warmest Season by Lauren Stringer
  3. The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry
  4. The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
  5. The Hat by Jan Brett
  6. An Orange for Frankie by Patricia Polacco
  7. The Missing Mitten Mystery by Steven Kellogg
  8. The Wild Christmas Reindeer by Jan Brett
  9. Snowmen at Night by Caralyn & Mark Buehner
  10. The Christmas Wreath by James Hoffman
  11. How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss
  12. Strega Nona’s Gift by Tomie dePaola
  13. Madeline’s Christmas by Ludwig Bemelmans
  14. Welcome Comfort by Patricia Polacco
  15. An Early American Christmas by Tomie dePaola
  16. The Baker’s Dozen: A Saint Nicholas Tale by Aaron Shepard
  17. Olivia Helps with Christmas by Ian Falconer
  18. It’s Christmas, David! by David Shannon
  19. Christmas Tapestry by Patricia Polacco
  20. The Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore
  21. Book of Christmas Carols by Tomie dePaola
  22. Twelve Days of Christmas by Jan Brett (I learned from this book that traditionally the 12 days of Christmas are celebrated AFTER December 25, until Jan 6, Three Kings Day)
  23. The Snowman by Raymond Briggs
  24. The Three Snow Bears by Jan Brett
  25. The Legend of the Poinsettia by Tomie dePaola


Merry Christmas!

Staying Healthy Through the Winter Months: 6 Tips for Teachers


Staying Healthy Through the Winter Months: 6 Tips for Teachers1. Eat your vegetables

Along with the treats from all the winter holidays, including Valentine’s Day, make sure you are giving your body the vitamins and nutrients it needs. Find fruits and veggies that are in season. Stock up on vegetable juices—it is quick (all teachers need that!) and doesn’t go bad as quickly (I keep a few jugs in the pantry).

2. Create a cleaning routine in the classroom

You know it’s true—the flu bug you caught this month came from the children. Reduce those germs by having a set time daily or weekly for disinfecting desks, chairs, doorknobs, and shelves! Use safe cleaners and be aware of kids with allergies or skin irritation.

3. Maintain your exercise routine

I am adding this one on this list because it is the one I struggle with the most! My motivation to go to the gym or on a quick run plummets in the winter. Why? It is cold. No one will notice any weight change under all the sweaters and scarves. I would rather eat gingerbread. Did I mention the cold?

You may need to set up a new system, give yourself a reward chart (borrow a sticker chart from school . . . ), or track your progress in a public way (that might mean tweeting your goals, having the support of teachers in your building, or asking a family member to keep you accountable).

What works for you? (I might need the extra encouragement & ideas . . . )

4. Set aside time each day to de-stress

It is easy to get tightly wound with all the hustle and bustle. You have tests to give (and grade), plans to make, and meetings to attend. You have to write calming emails to angry parents. And that is just at work. Chances are you have a trouble or two outside of your job. Do yourself a favor and STEP BACK. Give yourself credit for what you are doing.  Choose a 15 minute block of time dedicated to stillness. Find your own brand of unwinding; the possibilities are vast, but you can start with one of these:

  • Breathe deeply
  • Tell yourself 5 things you are good at
  • Slowly eat a square of chocolate
  • Do a yoga move or two
  • Remember all the funny things your students have said recently
  • Make a mental list of all the things you are genuinely grateful for

5. Get enough sleep

A rested body is in a much better place to fight infection—don’t overlook the importance of a consistent bed-time. I know you are tempted to stay up late putting another layer of ruffles on the tree skirt, or watching another re-run of Downton Abbey. Those are strong temptations, but you need time to regenerate for tomorrow. Grab a calming herbal tea or a hot rice bag instead of the remote or your sewing kit.

6. If you need a sick day, TAKE IT!

I know too many teachers who carry on through viruses and fevers needlessly.  The world will not end if you stop to take care of yourself. “But if I leave my students will suffer!” No. They will be fine. Go to bed.

 What do you do to stay healthy?

What Every Child (and Adult) Should Learn about Being Brave


Narnia. We all know it is magic.

I just finished The Voyage of the Dawn Treader this week and was completely wrapped up in its metaphors and movement.

There is a quest, started by Caspian to find the lost lords who served his father.

There is danger and rescue. There is Aslan.

Every person, big ones and little ones, YOU and ME, knows about adventure and danger BECAUSE WE ARE LIVING, we are human, we are vulnerable, we are learning to be brave.

There are things every person must face, and I am glad to have already met in this book ordinary children who fought sea serpents—and won. When my own troubles come slithering in, I already have the victory envisioned.

CSLewis Brave KnightsSo! This is your list of what I learned about being brave—here I will be brief—if you want the full effect, read the book.

1. Direction is Important 

Bravery in this story has purpose. As a constant motif throughout every chapter, the Dawn Treader sails East. Each island is a step along the way. They know where they are going from the moment they set sail. East, east, east, toward the sun.

2. The end of the world is not the end of the world

I want my students to know this.

I want my future kiddos to know this.

I want to know this.

When Lucy, Edmund, Eustace, Caspian, & the gang reach the first island, they are immediately caught and sold as slaves. In the whole scheme of the book, it is a small piece of the adventure, and (spoiler alert!) they do escape the slavetrader. Of course they do. It is not the worst thing to happen—just the first thing.

When my students bring a problem to me, often their eyes are filled with “this-is-the-end-of-the-world.” No, it’s not. It is the beginning.

CSLewis Courage Dear Heart

3. Dragons Can Be Conquered

Even if the dragon is You.

4. Make It Narnian

For children, and more often for adults, life is murky. If something in your world is hard to understand, imagine instead what it would look like in Narnia.

Ordinary people become kings and queens. Your loved one struggling through addiction becomes a knight in armour, battling off the seven snare-clawed demons circling his head. Make the worry into a metaphor and suddenly it snaps into focus.

So be brave like Lucy! Be changed like Eustace! It is nice to read a children’s novel and feel closer to God and closer to he truest version of myself. You don’t get that very often.

CSLewis The Story