family

Are we worth it?

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As we have been working our way through Maternal Mental Health Month I have been mulling over the biggest obstacles that we, as women, face in achieving stable mental health. Continually, it comes back to this - we do not believe we are worth it. It takes time, sacrifice, and a mindset of worth to get to a PPMD Support Group. If we feel the time is too expensive, the sacrifice to our families too great, and our worth not equal to those we care for; then, quite simply, help will not be sought.

I would say, in this culture, that women have a history of being self-proclaimed martyrs. We learned these behaviors from the women before us. We eat the piece of chicken dropped on the floor, we share the cup - receiving backwash in return, we get up early and go to bed late all for these precious people entrusted to our care.

But, my loves, we must acknowledge that caring for ourselves enables us to care for those we love even better! The time taken to attend a Postpartum and Perinatal Mood Disorders Support Group is well spent! The walk around the park while a friend keeps the children is time well spent. The cup of tea sipped while still hot is time well spent. We must make our Mental Health a priority.

Depression and anxiety are the most common complications surrounding childbirth. They can be experienced in both pregnancy and the postpartum period. There is nothing to be ashamed of and there is hope. But we must take the first step - we must decide that we are worth the fight to be well.

Join me in encouraging mothers around us to fight for their Mental Health, together we are serving women and changing lives.

With all my love,

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What Every Mom Secretly Wants for Mother's Day - courtesy of Birdsong Brooklyn

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by Erica Livingston & Laura Interlandi of Birdsong Brooklyn  

Though the wonderful world of Social Media we have found many friends and kindred spirits. This post was written by two such souls in Brooklyn, NY. We hope it encourages your heart as it did ours. Follow them on Facebook and Instagram - Lauren Barnes | Executive Director | The Motherhood Collective

 

What Every Mom Secretly Wants for Mother's Day - courtesy of Birdsong Brooklyn

The most important holiday of the year is upon us…Mother’s Day.

If you had to guess what every mother wants for Mother’s Day what would it be? The cheap guesses are flowers, chocolate and jewelry…. More creative might be: that wooden teething necklace she pinned last night, a new Sakura Bloom silk ring sling she tried to win on instagram, a new bag for her breast pump, a gift card to the coffee shop around the corner from her work, a bottle of tequila with a pack of salt and a lime, a bi monthly cleaning service, a bag of every single flavor of M&M’s, the seasons pass to MadMen on iTunes, a homemade coupon for a night out with her bestie… Still however, we think the material exchange of thanks is always going to fall short and somehow miss the mark (and for the record… this is a “never instead of, always as well as” scenario so please do get us all of the above plus all of the following….)

What we think every mom is hoping for on mothers day is… to be mothered.

What does this mean? Rocked in a cradle and held and sung to? That sounds nice. But no- not exactly. What we want is to be considered, thought of, and shown in small moment to moment ways that you appreciate us by mirroring back the care we output the other 364 days of the year.

Think about it… its the way she is always thinking several steps ahead of everything going on,  with the burp cloth in her pocket to clean the inevitable impending mess or setting the kettle to brew before anyone has even thought they wanted tea. The way she remembers the kids ever-changing clothing and shoe sizes and knows exactly where everyone left their favorite hat or put the keys or stowed the diaper bag. She wants someone to make the itinerary for HER and make and execute all the choices that day and not be the one who decides what everyone eats and and when they eat it and where. And she definitely doesn’t want to clean it all up afterwards. She wants someone to metaphorically clean off her high chair, to figuratively get her favorite toys out and to symbolically wipe her butt.

Dads, friends, kids here’s what you can do for mom this year: sure, make her the cute card and buy her the gift you were saving up for but also…put a cup of tea or coffee in her hand as she rises. Have the three meals of the day planned, prepped and magically appearing before she can say “What should we do about lunch?”. Do not ask her where anything is that day. If you’ve lost something, find it, or wait and ask her on Monday. Don’t expect her to tell you what she wants to do or pick the kids outfits or make sure everyone eats at least two vegetables. For Mother’s Day this year don’t ask her to make any choices. You make the choices today and make the ones you know she loves: take the route that’s prettiest, decide to eat your lunch outside, and have the picnic blanket and basket all ready to go to her favorite spot in the park or backyard. Have her favorite movie or the bad reality TV show she secretly loves to watch already queued up and set to play after dinner when the littles are put to bed (or maybe while you do bedtime), draw her a lavender bath and put on her favorite pandora station while she soaks. Don’t offer to massage her feet or back just do it. Pick up those tired legs, set them in your lap and get rubbin’.

Don’t wait until 10AM and ask “Do you want to go for brunch?” and then wait in line with hungry kids making her feel like the day was an after thought. If you don’t have the time or money to plan an outing then make the day easy and special for her- get up and out of bed as soon as you hear the baby cry, change the diaper and let her sleep while you prep coffee (with the brown sugar and extra cream you know she takes).

Do the things she wants before she knows she wants them. She spends her days juggling schedules, commitments, expectations and clingy toddlers all the while trying to be 10 steps ahead reading everyones minds… or in other words- being a mom.

Today- be hers.

Happy Mother’s Day-

by Erica Livingston & Laura Interlandi of Birdsong Brooklyn

Meet The Motherhood Collective© Staff: Mauresa Guelzo

Ever wonder who's behind The Motherhood Collective? Over the next few weeks we'll be introducing you to our dedicated team of volunteers. These women are all mothers - once, twice or many times over. While they come from different backgrounds and have various approaches to pregnancy, birth and parenting, each one is dedicated to creating a place where ALL mothers can find education and support. Meet our Primary Email Correspondent and C0-Founder! Mauresa helped shape who we are today.  We think you'll agree, she's pretty awesome!

0006Without our Mauresa, The Motherhood Collective would not be here. Her dedication to women in our community is simply noteworthy. Over the years, wherever there has been a need, she has served: book-keeper, location liaison, proof-reader, content writer, database analyst, brainstormer, problem solver, party host, blog contributor, group leader, and currently Primary Email Corespondent... the list goes on and on.

On top of the above, she has been raising two beautiful toddlers of her own, both of whom have been fodder for her creative writing on our blog and honest insight in Cafe morning small groups.

Currently Mauresa serves as our Primary Email Correspondent; meaning, if you were to contact us via our main email address, SHE would be the on the receiving end. She'll connect you to whomever you need or answer you herself. She is the perfect woman for this job, since she is one of our original founders and one of the best at explaining what we "actually do". She also scripts our bi-weekly "email blasts" updating those on our subscription list with all of the events, activities and blog posts coming up!

With an Italian directness, down-to-earth reasoning, and genuine kindness, Mauresa consistently, and with a quiet strength, brings our team back to our ORIGINAL vision of Nurturing the Mother to Grow the Child.

Thank you, Mauresa, for serving the women and families of The Motherhood Collective©.

~~~

Have questions about The Motherhood Collective? Would you like to subscribe to our email blasts to be "in the know"?  Email Mauresa at contact@themotherhoodcollective.org. We would love to answer your questions or add you to our list of friends!

Meet the Motherhood Collective Staff: Carrie McGinn

Ever wonder who's behind The Motherhood Collective? Over the next few weeks we'll be introducing you to our dedicated team of volunteers. These women are all mothers - once, twice or many times over. While they come from different backgrounds and have various approaches to pregnancy, birth and parenting, each one is dedicated to creating a place where ALL mothers can find education and support. Meet our Director of Hospitality! Carrie is such fun, you should get to know her too!

0002We met sweet Carrie after the birth of her first son, and had the privilege of walking alongside her during her second pregnancy! After observing all the ways in which she naturally encouraged and supported her fellow mothers, we asked her to come on board as our Director of Hospitality in the Spring of 2013.

Carrie's most important task is the organizing of Postpartum Meals. She interviews mothers who have requested this special service; then, upon the birth of their child, sets up a "train" of meals. These meals are provided by other women of The Motherhood Collective© and are tailored to the needs of each postpartum family's needs. She also volunteers her time on Mondays at The Motherhood Café, serving as a Group Leader and an oh-so-valuable Kitchen Worker.

With a mischievous sparkle in her eye and free-flowing laughter, Carrie's creative thinking, hard work and professionalism bring such value to our team!

Thank you, Carrie, for serving the women and families of The Motherhood Collective©.

~~~

Are you a cook? Would you love to serve by bringing a meal to those in need? Do you have a heart for mothers figuring out the postpartum stage of motherhood? Would you like to send a gift card from afar? Email Carrie at hospitality@themotherhoodcollective.org. We would love to add you to our hospitality team!

The Gift of Giving--Crazy Love

Les Miserables How far would I go to care for my son? 

This is a thought I have often had during those trembling, earth shattering, lioness raging up in me, crazy love moments where I look at my toddler sleeping in my arms, and wonder if there is ANYTHING I would not do for him.

The story of Les Miserables is gaining quite a bit of popularity right now, and I will say that I have been a fan for years.  It became my favorite piece of literature as soon as Jean Valjean walked away from the priest’s home with those candlesticks that forever shouted grace to his heart.  As soon as I met Fantine, Cosette’s mother, I admired her.  She was placed on my shelf of “people who are passionate above calculating”. You've got to give them credit.  They do things we would probably never do.  Fantine’s love for her daughter, and utter desperation in providing for her, extends further than any other person in literature.  She descends to the darkest depths of misery, eventually selling her body in prostitution to scrape together whatever she can to send to Cosette, who lives miles away under the care of less than admirable people.  I remember shaking my head at her in disbelief.  Does anybody love another person like this?

When I recently revisited the story of Les Miserables in theaters, I didn’t just admire Fantine this time.  I understood.  As a mother now, I understood the desperation that would bring a mother to such sacrifice.  I understood the kind of love it takes to live for years without your child, but still care for them with every breath you take.  I understood how some people (Fantine in mind) summon up the notion to do crazy things for their children.  This crazy love is a gift that Fantine pours out on Cosette, and it’s also one that gives back in greater fold, for as Fantine and Jean Valjean joyously sing at the end, “To love another person is to see the face of God!”

Still, in the day-to-day moments, I am filled with selfishness, and wonder whose ornery kid is destroying my living room.  I am often guilty of desiring an orderly day more than the happiness and creativity of a messy toddler.  I often love myself so much.   That admirable love just seems so very far away because I mother under a roof of relative comfort, ease and safety.

The sad part of it is--there will be broken love in our homes, whether it’s given out of the desperation of a messed up world (as Fantine’s was) or whether it’s given from a heart that simply struggles to love another over self.

The wonderful part of it is?  Even broken love gives back to us beyond measure—in the joys of our children and in the beauty of seeing God.  Perhaps this is what makes love so crazy after all.

Tutorials for Toddler Gifting

Busy at the sewing machineMy winter project list is growing every day as I think about Christmas gifts!  I just finished making a very simple queen sized quilt for our bed because we needed something warmer this winter (tutorial can be found here: http://bloomandblossom.blogspot.com/2010/10/raw-edge-layer-cake-quilt-tutorial.html ).  I had this crazy notion that I should tackle a project this huge.  Though making a large quilt has been on my bucket list for a while, I think it’s one that I should have saved for, I don’t know, another decade.  Finishing it was one of those huge sigh moments, with "Glad that’s over with!” ringing through the house.  My number one project for the new year—don’t be a project super woman.  Let this be a warning to the wise. Still, I can’t resist making things a few small things for my son this holiday!  *nervous laugh*  Here are some ideas that, should you choose this mission, can be easily accomplished during nap times and late night coffee binges.   I don’t know that I will get all of them done, and I’m sure my sewing machine will need a good oiling if I do, but they are easy enough I can work on them throughout the year.  They are grouped from easiest to hardest, and the first four don’t require a sewing machine, so don’t shy away non-seamstresses!

  1.  A “People Who Love (child’s name)” book — My friend gave me this idea and it’s as simple as printing pictures of close friends and family then arranging them in a book or photo album.  My son says about 20 words, 8 of which are names of family and friends.  For some reason, he is obsessed with naming people!  I figured he would love a book where he can pretty much “read” every page.  I might even have a note written by each family member, or something like “Grandma loves Gabriel” written next to the photo.  Something to be treasured, and if I may, much cheaper than the recordable Hallmark books (although those are adorable).
  2. A Sensory Stocking — Gabriel has loved little sensory activities, so we will be filling his stocking with fun items found mostly at the dollar store!  Homemade play dough (tutorials: http://www.familycorner.com/family/kids/crafts/edible_play_dough.shtml ), more colored rice and pasta (because we just can’t get enough of it!  This tutorial can be used for pasta as well: http://www.doseofhappy.com/blog/2011/11/07/how-to-make-colored-rice/ ), fuzzy pom poms, water beads, mini kitchen gadgets for helping mommy, washable paint, light sticks (for fun glow-in-the-dark baths time), and whatever else tickles my “fancy.”
  3. A Drop Box — This is one I’ve already made for him and it is still a huge hit!  He loves dropping things into the box, opening it to retrieve them, then starting all over again.  Tutorial: http://playathomemom3.blogspot.com/search/label/Drop%20Box
  4. A Light Table — These are so fun for kids, and have a tons of uses.  Play at Home Mom (http://playathomemom3.blogspot.com/) has awesome ideas for using one!  There are a million tutorials on them, but some are quite pricey.  Here’s my favorite so far and one I can easily put together in an afternoon: http://www.teachpreschool.org/2012/01/guest-post-a-homemade-light-table-for-preschool/
  5. A Spy Bag — This will be great for a plane ride, and it is easy enough to make for other little friends too!  Tutorial: http://seweasylemonsqueezy.blogspot.com/2012/03/i-spy-bags.html
  6. A Quiet Book — This is the one that may not get finished until after Christmas but one that I know is worth it!  I remember having one when I was little.  Children love all the little activities on each page, and there are so many creative mamas out there!  Seriously, google “Quiet Book Tutorials,” and be overwhelmed.  The Quiet Book Blog will help get you started: http://quietbook.blogspot.com/.

Whew!  That’s “all.”  We’re excited to try a homemade Christmas this year!  What ideas do you have for your little ones?

Are You Mom Enough?

Last month our writers shared some of their holiday traditions and plans for the upcoming season. In November, we continue our conversation about holidays. How do we juggle visitors, travel with small children, eat well amidst all that delicious food and most importantly, take time to just BREATHE? This time of year can very quickly become stressful, so we hope our writers' words this month will give you a few moments to slow down, think about how you're spending your energy and encourage you during this busy, but wonderful time of year. ~TMC  We all remember the Time Magazine article with this title that was discussing the “freakishness” of attachment parenting trends.  Well, I’m here to ask, “Are you mom enough?”  My question pertains to something totally different, though.  I want to know if you are mom enough to know when you need to take a break.

I find it very difficult to admit when I am in need of a break.  I feel like I go, go, go until burn-out is too quickly approaching.  I’m talking about all forms of burn-out, not just parenting burn-out.  This is a great fault of mine.  I think this is probably a commonly dormant trait for females that gets ignited sometime between conception and birth.

It is very easy to overextend ourselves in the less busy times of the year, but even more so in the holiday season.  With the holidays just around the corner, I highly recommend getting a plan in motion so that burn-out is less likely.

If your baby is 6 months or under, this is probably not the year to invite your 60-member family to your house to demonstrate your Martha Stewart-like cooking skills for Thanksgiving day.  This may be the year to opt out of your family's Black Friday 2am rat race tradition and choose the more peaceful Cyber Monday for Christmas shopping.  While these may be exaggerations, planning this year to be a more peaceful holiday season so that burn-out does not occur may be just what the doctor ordered for you and your family.

So ask yourself this, “Am I mom enough to take care of ME, so that I can take care of my family?”  Plan a little peaceful time during the peaceful season.  Take a walk by yourself.  Enjoy a chapter in a book, or even a whole book.  Drink a latte.  Go on a weekend getaway.

This is supposed to be the time of year that you cuddle everyone a little closer, create life-long memories, start establishing traditions and enjoy your family.  Taking that break and refusing to allow burn-out will only make that time even more precious.

The Gift of Giving: Pondering

A column about how emptying yourself as a mother can become a fulfilling lifestyle. The adage that mothers continually give, give, give is nothing new.  If you’re at the entrance of motherhood this universal is right at the forefront…at 2 am, when your nipples are bleeding from breastfeeding.  Or at 8 pm when you have to leave everything early because it’s bedtime, of course.

I truly view Gabriel’s birth as my own birth as well—the birth of a mother.  I strongly believe that life begins at conception, and so I know I had been a mother for nine months already, but birthing my son brought something out of me that wasn’t there before.  I also view Gabriel’s first 12 weeks of life as my “chrysalis” stage, if you will.  I felt cocooned into myself, separated from the world, and cut off from the person I used to be, as I attempted to transform into a mother and, in the process, die to my old self.  (This sounds very dramatic, I know…but please bear with the illustration).  I emerged, not a perfect butterfly mother, but a mother nonetheless.  One willing to give of myself.  One willing to find joy in giving, and thus embrace the gift of giving. Butterfly One of my favorite quotes about mothers is from Tenneva Jordan:   “A mother is a person who seeing there are only four pieces of pie for five people, promptly announces she never did care for pie.” To me, it’s such a funny and practical illustration of what I want to be—not fulfilled by eating the pie (and I do LOVE pie, and would have a hard time denying it), but fulfilled by watching my family enjoy eating the pie.

One of my biggest fears about motherhood is not what I’ll do wrong to my kids, but what I’ll do wrong with my heart.  I fear the bitterness and resentment that I see overcome attitudes in moms—something that will harm me, my husband and my kids.  I fear the temptations to say “You don’t know how hard it is to be a mom,” or “I never get a break as a mom,” or “why do you always need, need, need.” These feelings are embarrassing to even admit.  Especially when I am rewarded with the love of my son, that smile when I treat him to something special, the unexpected (though snotty) kisses I get on my nose, and the way his arms reach out to me when I pick him up from childcare.

These things and more make it all worth it.  They fill me with more joy than my petty, selfish complaints.  They give me a fresher outlook than my inward focused one.  They give me more energy than my self-pity.

The gift of giving becomes fulfilling when we ponder all things motherhood in our hearts.  During this time of year I am reminded of the nativity story, and how Mary rode on a donkey at 9 months pregnant, was denied even a private bed and room for birthing, labored and birthed in a stable surrounded by the smell of manure, and wrapped her newborn in strips of cloth (go mama, right?).  Their only visitors were shepherds (again with the manure).  What does it say at the end of this humble story (which I doubt went according to her birth plan)?  Mary pondered all these things in her heart.  Not just when the heating blankets arrived, or the sitz bath, or lactation consultant (because she probably had none of these things).  She pondered the treasure and gift she had been given.

I was surprised when I looked up the verb “to ponder.” These days, it means “to consider something deeply and thoroughly,” but I like the archaic meaning, “to estimate the worth of, to appraise.”

This holiday season, I am encouraged to ponder the worth of motherhood, to appraise how it can satisfy me when I sacrificially give.  It is a priceless gift.  This may not make the days less hard, but it will certainly make them more worthwhile.

 

The Most Wonderful(ly busy) Time of the Year

Last month our writers shared some of their holiday traditions and plans for the upcoming season. In November, we continue our conversation about holidays. How do we juggle visitors, travel with small children, eat well amidst all that delicious food and most importantly, take time to just BREATHE? This time of year can very quickly become stressful, so we hope our writers' words this month will give you a few moments to slow down, think about how you're spending your energy and encourage you during this busy, but wonderful time of year. ~TMC  As I write this, it's a Saturday night, 9 pm, and I've just finished changing the sheets on our bed, doing a quick-clean of the bathroom and have a load of laundry in the washer. I also still have a pile of ironing next to me, dishes in the kitchen and I can see the dust glowing smugly under the lamplight of my desk. And I know that next Saturday, the dust may be gone and the ironing will be caught up (OK, that's a flat out lie. I'm pretty sure it's been there for a month)...but there will be other things to do, things I feel should have been done already. It's a constant cycle for me - for any mom I think - and a hard one to win in my mind. 

I had a mini-silent-panic-attack today, as I realized that in 2 weeks, our son is turning one and the party I've planned, while so much fun, is a lot of work. Once that is over, the holiday season is in full swing, and I'm letting myself worry about how it's going to go. Last year, I had a newborn who had just been diagnosed with some seriously awful reflux, so while we tried to enjoy the holiday season, it's all a bit of a sleepless-nights/crazy hormonal blur. This year, while I still really have no clue what I'm doing, I'm at least comfortable having a baby (most days),  but have never had one during the 'normal' holiday season. What will be the same? What will change? Will I miss parts of it from before? Mostly - how in the world am I going to actually take time to enjoy it?

Working between 25 - 30 hours a week outside of the home, one of my biggest struggles as a mom is taking time to stop and enjoy the moment. There is always something that should be done, and the ever-lingering 'mommy guilt' (that I know is not from God) likes to lurk around in the shadows, trying to steal those moments because 'this one more thing' must get done. Often it feels like I'll never not feel like I'm running to catch up.

But tonight, while doing those quotidian tasks, I was thinking: what is it I remember about holidays growing up? What do I love even now, now that I've been 'on my own' for a good number of years? I love: cramming a bunch of family around a table and giving thanks and eating way too much; watching football in our sweats and eating leftover turkey for a week; going to the Christmas tree farm every year the first weekend after Thanksgiving; celebrating Advent by lighting the candles every evening and singing; going to stores and hearing Christmas music everywhere; taking time to wrap each gift carefully and place it 'just so' under the tree; pulling out the 'partridge in a pear tree' towel for the kitchen; watching movies like You've Got Mail and White Christmas and Miracle on 34th Street; traveling and welcoming family; celebrating with friends into the wee hours to welcome the New Year.

You know what I don't remember? I don't remember if my laundry was done, or if everything was perfectly dusted, or if there were dishes piled in the sink. In fact, those dishes represented a house full of family, love and laughter. So, this year, while it may be new and a little bit different than before, those are the things I want to focus on. Things like the sound of my baby boy laughing with his daddy, things that 30 years from now, I'll still remember and cherish...while I do the ironing that most assuredly will still be there. 

 

 

Consider Your Holidays

With the changing leaves and falling temperatures, there's no doubt that fall is here! As mothers, we always try to stay a step ahead of the chaos and this month we're taking some time to share our thoughts on holiday celebrations, family traditions and maybe some new ideas about how to enjoy the upcoming season. So grab that cup of cinnamon-spiced coffee, prop your feet up on a pumpkin and enjoy what our writers have to say this month. ~TMC  

The holidays can be such a hectic time and we as mothers shoulder much of the responsibility for decorating, baking, shopping, costume-making, hostessing, among many other things. We are goaded by commercials and sale papers to buy, buy, buy to make the perfect house and have happy children. We walk into stores and are bombarded by sales encouraging us to buy generic gifts that no one needs or just one more cute decoration we never knew we needed. We spend money we don’t have, use time we don’t have and end up feeling burnt out and unable to really enjoy and rest.

 

I would encourage you to think about all the things you tend to do for various holidays. Then think about what each of those holidays actually means to you. What you are trying to communicate to your family through all the activities you do? Does decorating make you feel invigorated and your family feel blessed? Then do it! Is it a burden to you that makes you feel overwhelmed? Then don’t feel obligated to do it or do less. Does the idea of making another Thanksgiving turkey give you a panic attack? Then ditch it and make something you enjoy making that your family enjoys eating!

Jesse Tree

 

Build in time to be with your family and friends to reflect on what each holiday really means to you. Find activities that point your children to the meaning of the holiday and encourages giving and generosity and a focus on others. Last year our family began using a Jesse tree as an advent activity. Each day for the month leading up to Christmas, we read a different Bible passage related to the coming of Christ and hung an ornament on the tree that stands for that passage. It was a great way to keep us centered on the true meaning and doing it each day provided a built in time for reflection, a moment of rest, as well as time together.

 

Simplifying your holiday activities to ones that really mean something to you and are a blessing to your family help to make the time more meaningful, reflective and restful—as it is meant to be!

Holiday Traditions: Books Provided, Just Add Hot Chocolate and Cozy Blanket

With the changing leaves and falling temperatures, there's no doubt that fall is here! As mothers, we always try to stay a step ahead of the chaos and this month we're taking some time to share our thoughts on holiday celebrations, family traditions and maybe some new ideas about how to enjoy the upcoming season. So grab that cup of cinnamon-spiced coffee, prop your feet up on a pumpkin and enjoy what our writers have to say this month. ~TMC I love this time of year.  November and December are two of my favorite months.  Cold enough to snuggle up, but not the bitter cold of January and February.  Lots of family time.  Mounting excitement from our three-year-old.  Holiday parties with friends.

It all catches up with me in January and I spend that entire month recovering, but that's something I'll worry about then.

In our house, books are a part of our daily lives, but I also have seasonal books that only come out at certain times of the year.  I keep a box of books in our living room that are rotated about once a month, and as certain holidays come up, I pull the corresponding books out of hiding and we read them during that season.  Once the season is over, those books go away for another year.  Today, I thought I'd share some of our favorite books for the upcoming season.

Fall/Halloween:

If you have not yet discovered Tad Hills and his Duck and Goose books (available in both board book and hardcover format), you're in for a treat.  These adorable friends are well-loved in our house, and my preschooler can recite Duck and Goose Find A Pumpkin by heart.  Following the theme of "it's always in the last place you look", Duck and Goose search all over for the perfect pumpkin.  Except, of course, the one place they're most likely to find one.  Once you meet these two, you're going to want to run out and gather every book you can get your hands on.

You might already be familiar with the Five Little Pumpkins poem, but I particularly like this version, illustrated by Dan Yaccarino.  Available in board book format, the illustrations show ghosts, and jack-o-lanterns, and witches, but in a manner that is almost cute, and not scary to little ones.   This is another book that my preschooler can recite.  She particularly likes the ghostly "Woooooo" of the wind and enthusiastically clapping her hands together while yelling, "And OUT went the lights!".  Because, after all, a good book MUST contain shouting.

Thanksgiving:

For a fun twist on a classical story, try I Know An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Pie by Alison Jackson, illustrated by Judy Schachner.  This elderly relative travels to Thanksgiving dinner with her pie contribution.  But she's so ravenous that the pie is gone before she even reaches the house.  So then she needs cider to wash it down.  And then a roll.  And then...well, you know how the story goes.  This version is truly giggle-inducing.

This next book might not be appropriate for the preschool set, but add it to your collection as a classic for future years.  Molly's Pilgrim is not a new book, in fact it was first published in 1983.  Based on author Barbara Cohen's real family history, this is the tale of Molly, a Jewish, Russian immigrant who struggles to participate in the Thanksgiving discussions of her third grade classroom.  When the class is given the assignment of creating a pilgrim, Molly goes to her mother for help, but her mother's interpretation just embarrasses Molly even more.  This story goes beyond Thanksgiving to discuss bullying, confidence, and acceptance.

Christmas/Hannukah:

There are so many Christmas books out there, it's just about impossible to select one. The one I want to share is one that you may not be familiar with, but is one of the most moving, beautifully illustrated picture books for the Christmas season that I think I've ever read.  Angela and the Baby Jesus, written by Frank McCourt of Angela's Ashes fame, and illustrated by the award-winning Loren Long, revisits McCourt's mother, Angela, this time as a child.  The young Angela is distressed by the thought of the baby Jesus, resting in the village church's nativity, freezing in the winter night.  So she steals him (of course!), and takes him home to warm and care for him.  What follows is a story of family ties, faith, and Christmas forgiveness.  Simultaneously touching and humorous (and did I mention amazingly illustrated?), you will find yourself reading this book even when the children are not around.

For Hanukkah, one of my favorite books is The Miracle Jar: A Hanukkah Story by Audrey Penn (author of The Kissing Hand), illustrated by Lea Lyon.  This is the story of a poor family busily preparing for the arrival of Hanukkah.  When Mother shares her concern that there may not be enough oil to last through eight days of cooking, the children's spirits are dampened.  As the days go by, Father recalls the story of the miracle of the oil and the family watches their own oil disappear bit by bit, wondering if it will last to the final day.  While this is a story celebrating the Hanukkah holiday, it also has a universal theme of love and perseverance.

These books only scratch the surface.  My own collection for each season grows each year as I rediscover old classics and fall in love with new ones that I want my children to experience.  Please share your favorites! And enjoy the chance the colder weather offers to cuddle up on the couch.  Even if it only lasts for a few seconds.