A Valentine List of Books

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“I love you so much I really can’t eat, but maybe you’re hungry so sweets to the sweet.” – David Carter

Here is a list of some of our favorite children’s books that we have enjoyed as we celebrate this great holiday. They’re in no particular order:

1. Valentine Friends by Ann Schweninger (1988, Scholastic) – a very creative story of best friends, Buttercup and Lucy, and all of the wonderful ways they celebrate this holiday; it even includes a how-to on creating construction hearts as well as some great knock-knock jokes!

2. Arthur’s Valentine Countdown by Marc Brown (1999, Random House) – one of the best lift-the-flap holiday books and it stars Arthur!

3. Love Bugs by David Carter (1995, Simon & Schuster) – one of the best holiday pop-up books ever!

4. A Kiss For Little Bear by Else Holmelund Minarik (1968, Weekly Reader Books) – with illustrations by Maurice Sendak!

5. Roses are Pink, Your Feet Really Stink by Diane de Groat (1996, Morrow Junior Books) – the title of this book alone makes it a must-have!

6.  Cranberry Valentine by Wende and Harry Devlin (1986, Aladdin Books) – our friend Rhonda Flint gave us our first “Mr. Whiskers” book and this series is among our favorites to this day.  The illustrations are classic works of art and Mr. Whiskers is hilarious in his quest to discover who is his secret admirer!

7.  Junie B. Jones and the Mushy Gushy Valentine by Barbara Park (1999, Random House) – this was among our first series of books with actual chapters and the Valentine story is among our top three favorites.  This is a kindergartner you must read all about!  Another great secret admirer story, mixed so well into the perspective of the kindergarten mind!

8.  Valentine Cats by Jean Marzollo (1996, Scholastic) – writer cats, artist cats, postal cats, and a few kittens thrown in for good measure!

9.  Emily’s Valentine Party by Claire Masurel (1999, Puffin Books) – our aunt Mary Elise bought this as our oldest’s first book with her name in the title.  Emily the rabbit is having a party for her friends and the reader joins in by lifting the flaps as she prepares for her favorite holiday.

10.  The Valentine Bears by Eve Bunting (1983, Scholastic) – with illustrations by Jan Brett!  This is my personal favorite of the ten:  “Mr. Bear and Mrs. Bear always missed Valentine’s Day because they were hibernating.  But this year they share a wonderful surprise.”

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Happy Valentine’s Reading!!!

I’m Lovin’ It

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If there is one holiday beyond Christmas that we celebrate big at our house, it’s Valentine’s Day. And in a house full of girls, finding new ways to celebrate such an event for nearly twenty years can be quite an endeavor. Thankfully, we take turns. Let me explain.

When our oldest daughter was five or six, I decided to surprise the girls with a prom. We moved all of the furniture out of the living room and turned it into a dance floor with snacks and punch and music, even a disco ball! We danced and laughed and quickly fell in love with the idea of turning Valentine’s into a holiday that we would not soon forget.

Since that day, we have transformed the rooms of our home into all kinds of things – the kitchen has been a secret garden (with long vines and gigantic flowers made of construction paper), a winter wonderland (with bags of sugar for snow!), a Star Wars movie scene (with a camping tent turned into the Millenium Falcon), an Italian grotto with live saxophone music and steaks shaped into hearts, and our kitchen table once became the Love Boat; our walk-in closet served as a mysterious bear cave; and our living room has been everything from a drive-in movie theater (with the two couches turned into a convertible car replete with a window speaker and concession food), to a Beach Boys-themed party with an ironing board surfboard and shark fins and blue paper for water.

Valentine’s Day is a big deal. We love the fun and the surprise of it all, but the memories continue to become the treasure.

This is why we look forward to dedicating this week’s writing to the holiday on Friday. Stay tuned for some great books and thoughts about the day. And whatever you do, celebrate big!

Celebrate Me Home

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There are a million things to do and be when you are a parent.  The list is so long and varied and overwhelming and joyful and exhausting that to write about all of them in one post would be, well, long and varied and overwhelming and joyful and exhausting.  However, there is one particular thing that my wife has taken a special interest in over the years since we first met and that one thing is CELEBRATING.

She has always enjoyed celebrating just about anything, anytime, which became especially useful when we started welcoming children into our lives.  I remember when our first daughter began Kindergarten and, even though we always drove her to school, my wife constructed an amazing schoolbus-shaped cake complete with passengers and the name of the school scrawled in icing across its side.  I’ll never forget that night around the table as we celebrated Emily’s first day of school.  Looking back on it nearly 15 years later, I realize now that it was also a way that my wife was teaching us to celebrate our life together as a family.

We have celebrated so many times since then, especially these smaller moments, that our younger daughters now happily reap the rewards of my wife’s experience in this area.

Just last night we celebrated our youngest’s 9th birthday with her school friends here at the house.  It was what she and my wife dubbed an “Almost-Sleepover Party” in which six of her girlfriends from school came to the house for just a couple of hours and played games and illustrated their own pillowcases and painted their nails and even had me read them a Baby Frederico bedtime story.  The event allowed us to get to know everyone a little better and meet parents and see the friendships among our kids bloom and grow.

Because we only had two hours, my wife had the girls enjoying themselves and smiling and laughing within seconds of entering the house.  Near the end of the evening, a little girl even asked us, “Can this party last longer please?”

A few days from now, we will be celebrating again with our middle daughter as she turns 14 and has invited a handful of her girlfriends from school over for a 1950’s-style sock hop.  She is a Motown music fanatic and loves old records and Chubby Checker dances and Jackie Wilson lyrics.  Her grandfather Mike customized a 50’s sock hop music CD for each attendee.  There will be hula-hoops and soda pop cupcakes, rootbeer floats, and retro-candy like Mike and Ike’s, Sixlets, Pop-Rocks, Jujubees, Cherry Bombs, and Chiclets.  My wife even secured a half dozen poodle skirts and may beat them all in the bubble-gum blowing contest!  The party will culminate in a 1950’s dance moves contest straight out of an Elvis Presley movie – from The Hand Jive and The Twist to The Mashed Potato and The Swim.

These celebrations are among my wife’s favorite ways of helping the girls tell their stories to their friends and to themselves, of hearing what their loves and hobbies and interests are in that particular year, and then creating with them and for them a celebration as personalized as their very names.

I love this place, living among people who love to celebrate life.  The world is so full of difficulties and gloominess and trouble that these brightly shining events really help us and replenish us along the journey together.  I’m thankful I married someone who knows how to celebrate and is willing to help us tell our stories in this way.

So in the immortal words of Loggins and Messina, “Celebrate me…home.”

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