’tis the season…

26 Nov

[First of all, I’ll thank you in advance for ignoring the fact that I fell off the blog train many moons ago.]

I’m back because the holiday spirit has kicked in and I couldn’t resist bringing a little Christmas cheer to my blog.

I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving (more on that later this week, as sometimes I like to go out of order) and are ready to celebrate the most wonderful time of the year! I spent the last few days digging the decorations out of the basement and finding the best spots for display (that won’t tempt Tom and Lucy to touch the too much) so our house looks ready to celebrate. It was so nice just to hang around home for a few days and cross things off my to do list instead of rushing out the door for Black Friday shopping.

Black Friday is just not my thing.

Now I like a good deal as much as the next shopper (seriously I can’t resist coupons), but this year I will say I am not in the mindset to shop just yet. Maybe tomorrow when my email inbox is flooded with super, fantastic Cyber Monday deals I won’t be able to resist.

I will tell you that when I am ready there are two things I’m keeping in mind, that I’d like you to remember too…

1. Shop Local. Now don’t call me a hypocrite because I didn’t rush out on Small Business Saturday to snatch up all the great gifts I’ll be giving. Once I do start my shopping I’ll be supporting as many locally owned businesses as possible. They like my spending any day of the holiday season (and year for that matter!) You’ve probably heard all the statistics so I won’t spout them off. But shopping local just makes sense and is good for the community you live in. You don’t have to be exclusive…I love Target probably more than any other store out there and will surely be snagging some great finds there. I’m just saying that if you can shift a little of your spending this year to a great local restaurant, or independent bookstore, or cute retail boutique (those may or may not be shopping hints for me!) all those great shops will hopefully stick around for many Christmases to come.

 

 

2. Give back. It’s simple but so powerful! And this year I was excited to see that there is a movement starting to give giving back a place at the big shopping days table. #GivingTuesday is challenging consumers to take a break from consuming to share the love. Volunteer, make a donation or drop off some food at a food pantry. It doesn’t have to be big. It just has to be done. And let’s face it, you and I and most of the people we know already have more than enough stuff. So find a cause that you love or they’d love and be a part of #GivingTuesday. I can promise you I’ll be doing my part.

Maybe I’m preaching to the choir here. Or maybe you think I’m just plain bossy when it comes to how you spend your holiday dollars.

Either way, I do hope we all have a merry little Christmas!

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marc and arthur…

4 May

You know Arthur right? A cute, young aardvark (with an obnoxious little sister) who’s been on countless adventures both in books and on TV.

Well, we’re pretty familiar with this character here at our house.

That’s why last night my best boy Tom and I jumped at the chance to hear Marc Brown, prolific author and creator of Arthur, speak. He was visiting Cedar Rapids as part of the Metro Library Network’s Out Loud! author series. He shared insights on how and when he created Arthur (in a bedtime story for his son Tolon 35 years ago), where he works on the Arthur adventures (he lives on Martha’s Vineyard surrounded by lots of animals with entertaining names) and what he is working on now (illustrating a heart warming new book by author Judy Sierra). He even drew a few versions of Arthur…right before our very eyes!

He was very funny and honest and I could have listened to his stories all night. I decided Marc Brown is a kid at heart.

Perhaps that’s one of the keys to being successful in the world of Children’s Literature….for 35 years…and still going!

After he spoke Tom and I waited as patiently as possible for Mr. Brown to sign our Arthur books. Tom was anxious because earlier in the day he’d drawn a picture of Arthur he wanted to give to the Arthur master. He realized when creating his drawing he’d forgotten Arthur’s glasses…no problem, said Marc Brown….borrow my marker and add the glasses. Tom did and handed off the drawing. Marc Brown was genuinely touched. I was told later by another attendee that he saves all the drawings kids make for him. Add that fact to the growing list of reasons I heart Marc Brown.

We chatted with Mr. Brown for just a moment while he signed books. We chuckled at the fact that we have a D.W. at home (Lucy of course!) Marc Brown made the point to say that even though little sisters can be a little much when you are young (he would know…he has three!), that they grow up to be fun people. Again, bonus points for the author. He knows his stuff.

We snapped a cute picture…

Aren’t they cute? Marc Brown is saying “pizza!”

…thanked Marc Brown, and were on our way. And I am sure the memories will last, like Arthur, for at least 35 years.

being a giver…

26 Apr

Monday night I had the distinct pleasure of being a “Book Giver” for World Book Night.

The idea was simple and powerful. I was given a box of 20 copies of The Hunger Games (yes, I was squealing like a teenage girl!) to give away to random people…reluctant readers, readers who might not necessarily be able to get their hands on a book, or whomever I thought might just need a random act of bookness as part of their Monday night.

First, let me tell you I love this book…OK, I’ll say it…I’m obsessed with this book and all things related to it. So how cool that I found myself  holding copies in my hand that would allow me to share something so exciting with others?!

(my box of books just before distribution...and look at the fun cover!)

What might be even cooler is that there were something like 50 people chosen to do this (with a wide variety of titles…check them all out on the website) all over Cedar Rapids. Think about that…1,000 books were given out on Monday night right here in my hometown. It brings a smile to my face just thinking about it. Cedar Rapids was, in fact, one of the top twenty-five cities in the world participating in this event!

My dear friend Sara (whom I’ve gone on literary adventures with before) was also a giver (handing out The Book Thief…another of my favs and a must read). We decided to make a stop at Foundation 2, a local emergency shelter for youth between the ages of 11 and 17, who are experiencing a personal or family crisis, which makes it necessary to temporarily live away from home. I’ve known about this organization for quite some time and value the work they do in our community. We thought those kids just might like a new book on a random Monday night.

As soon as we set foot inside the door and mentioned free books the teens swarmed us like tracker jackers (oh but not venomous and out to kill us…bad analogy!) Let’s just say they were eager to get a copy and it was such fun handing the books out. But the best part was they’d take the book from us–very graciously I might add–then plop down on the couch, flip it open and start reading. Right then and there. Magical! And exactly the point.

Next Sara and I stopped to visit our old high school English teacher and surprise her with some books that she could then share with others. She was delighted. As we chatted it struck me that it was a very neat moment to be sharing with someone who helped shape and inspire my love of literature, especially young adult novels (with strong female protagonists I might add.)

As expected the whole thing was an awesome experience and I can’t wait for the official World Book Night to roll around again.

Maybe next year you’ll join me!

oh how lucky we are…

16 Mar

I love St. Patrick’s Day…or rather I love being Irish. Here in the Giorgio household (despite the origins of our last name) we celebrate the spirit of good cheer all year along. And I’d like to wish you the same…from my little Irish lass and lad.

Sláinte!

read ALOUD!

2 Mar

You may or may not be aware that this coming Wednesday, March 7th has been deemed World Read Aloud Day, which may very well be my new favorite holiday. I mean it’s obvious that I love books, but I also happen to love to read them aloud to anyone who will listen. Usually it happens to be these two characters…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

wait…here they are prepared to be better listeners…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I love reading to my kiddos…it’s the best part of my day, every day. As part of our nighttime routine we read anywhere from two to six books…that we pick out from the St. Matthew School Library, the Cedar Rapids Public Library, or our own ever growing library here at home.

Today–because it’s snowing and frankly we thought we were done with the white stuff–we snuggled up and read Ponyella (Lucy’s pick and recommendation) by Laura Numeroff and Nate Evans, Stick (which Tom actually read to me and Lucy…LOVE!) by Steve Breen, and Dr. Seuss’s ABC (which my 60-year-old father-in-law still has memorized from reading to my husband when he was little) written by none other than Dr. Seuss (whose birthday is being celebrated in a big way today…he would have been 108!)

You see I think reading to your kids is a requirement of parenting. It is not only fun, quality time together, but it also helps you raise a child who loves to read (and boost their brain power, among other benefits while you do it.)

It will come as no surprise that I signed up in support of World Read Aloud Day…you can too! The best part is that you don’t have to jump through any hoops or make a huge commitment to be part of something so important. Just read to your kids…or with a friend…or to an elderly person. Heck, even your dog would enjoy a  good read aloud session. I plan to read to the kids at Tom and Lucy’s school…and to Tom and Lucy of course.

The way I see it, every day should be read aloud day!

writing in the cracks…

13 Jan

OK, OK, OK…I know it’s been FAR too long! But I’m here now…so here goes.

I just got back from an evening spent at the OneBookTwoBook Festival in Iowa City with my dear friend Sara. We listened to twenty 4th through 6th graders read their poems and stories aloud, which was truly inspiring. As we grow older (at least in my case) it becomes increasingly difficult to stand in front of a crowd and read your own work.

Then we got to hear from author and National Book Award winner (for her book Mockingbird) Katheryn Erskine. She said many wonderful things about why we tell stories and how important it is to make sure kids of all ages and abilities feel understood and appreciated.

But the one little nugget that I know I’ll remember for quite some time came when someone asked Erskine what her writing process is. She not only said she isn’t the type of writer that sits down every day to write but she also said she is often “writing in the cracks.” It’s a phrase I’ve heard before that totally hits home for me. And I don’t think you have to have a husband, two young kids, a dog, two part time jobs and a freelance writing career to (not to mention the rest of life) to understand what it means.

The cracks may be all I’ve got at this point in my life, but I walked out of the room where Katheryn Erskine was standing and thought “you can win the National Book Award just writing in the cracks.”

Call me an eternal optimist…I’ll see you when I find the next crack.

c is for cabin and canoe

20 Sep

Last week our family took a mid-week break (because we all work really hard by golly!) and spent the night camping at Pinocon Ridge Park near Central City, Iowa. We stayed in a great little cabin (please, I’m not really the tent camping type) with two sets of bunk beds (which the kids loved but I can’t say were very comfortable.)

We grilled cheeseburgers, roasted marshmallows and stayed up late. It was a wonderful crisp fall night.

The next morning we got up and headed out on a canoeing adventure (which I consider brave with a three-year-old in the canoe!) The morning was a bit brisk but the sun came out eventually and it was a marvelous day. The water on the Wapsipinicon River was very low (we actually got stuck on the bottom a time or two.) And we were quite literally the only ones out on the water, except for the wildlife that is. I would say it was peaceful, but then again I was in a small canoe with a three-year-old and a six-year-old who have no concept of being quiet while observing nature.

Since I allowed Tom to miss a day of school (which I rationalized because it was only a half day) I told him we had to make a list of all the wildlife we saw on our two-hour tour so he could share it with his class the next day. And despite the obnoxious noises being made by my wildlife, we were able to spot a few creatures.

Here’s the final list Tom came up with…*

On Our Canoe Trip We Saw

1. Turkey Vulture

2. Elk

3. Bald Eagle (actually we saw two and they were amazing)

4. Crane

5. Blue Heron

6. A Squirrel (this actually swam all the way across the river…had no idea squirrels could swim!)

7. Minnows

8. Deer

9. Goats

10. Horses

11. Cows

12. Sand Piper

13. Geese

14. Water Bugs

15. Dragonfly

16. A ? Head (yes, that’s right. We kept seeing a mysterious head pop out of the water but it would always dive back under the water before we could get close enough–or quiet enough–to see what it was. I’m told Tom’s class guessed it was a great white shark or an alligator. Thankfully I think they were wrong.)

There you have it. Just a lazy fall day on the river in Eastern Iowa with the Giorgio family. I’ll leave you with my favorite photo from our adventure.**

*Please note: I tried to scan the list Tom wrote up but it didn’t scan well. Which is unfortunate because it shows off his wonderful 1st grade penmanship 😉

**Again please note: Lucy is not actually scared in this photo. She is ULTRA dramatic and was just acting for effect 😉