Posts Tagged ‘believing in Santa Claus’

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Best Christmas Books

I love the holidays, especially Christmas. Last week I talked about our Top 10 Christmas Albums we love to listen too. This week I’m thinking about books. We have a pretty big library of children’s books at home. There are so many great books out there but I have a real soft spot for seasonal books. We have 2 shelves on our children’s bookcase devoted to these types of books. This last month we’ve been enjoying a few classics and some new favourites. I thought with Christmas approaching I would share as part of Oh Amanada‘s Top Ten Tuesday blog, 10 of our Favourite Christmas stories, some which we’ve reviewed and others that are just part of our personal collection.

  1. Ten on the SledThis is a fun counting book, counting from 10 back to one, based on the rhyme Ten in the Bed. You can’t help but sing this story instead of reading it.
  2. The Great Reindeer Rebellion –  A fun tale about striking reindeer set to the rhyme of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.
  3. The Nativity Story – This large sturdy board book is great for even little hands, with simply, rhyming text and shiny, uncluttered images.
  4. Peter Claus and the Naughty List – This is a great story illustrating that behaviour isn’t black and white and that doing something that might be deemed bad doesn’t make you an awful person (or child in this case).
  5. Olive the Other Reindeer – I love the work of J.otto Seibold and Vivian Walsh and this tale about a dog named Olive who offers to help Santa pull his sleigh is a delight to read and look at.
  6. Dream Snow – Eric Carle is another staple in a child’s book library and Dream Snow is a fantastic Christmas treat. The story is sweet, the illustrations in Carle’s trademark mosaic style and the surprise at the end is delightful
  7. Little Tree – Based on e. e. cummings’ poem, this is a beautiful story about love and belonging with wonderful whimsical illustrations.
  8. Santa Claus and the Reindeer Chase – This is a great interactive book as kids move a small cut-out Santa through various slots and openings on each page, trying to catch-up with his reindeer in time for Christmas Eve.
  9. The Present – Technically it’s about a birthday present but the concept of anticipation and charity hold true for Christmas also. Plus I just love this story.
  10. Christmas with Rita and Whatsit – Follow the adventures of Rita and her dog Whatsit as they prepare for Christmas as only a child (and child-like dog) would. I love the simple line drawing illustrations with just a splash of orange and green throughout. https://cabadov.wordpress.com/2009/12/02/warw-christmas-with-rita-and-whatsit/

Of course this is just ten of our favourites. There are so many other great Christmas books for kids out there. What are some of your favourites?

25 Days of Christmas: Day 4 – Santa Cruise

We’ve seen Santa in the parade. We’ve seen Santa in the mall. We’ve even seen Santa on a train. But on a boat? Well for the fourth day of our 25 Days of Christmas fun we booked tickets on the Santa Cruise part of the Toronto Waterfront’s Winterfest celebrations. I actually heard about this on twitter through some tweets from WonderMoms, Ashworth Publish Relations and Brandie Weikle (Toronto Star‘s ParentCentral.ca editor). Minutes after hearing about it I booked tickets for the whole family ($10 Cdn per person 6 and over. Kids under 6 are free).

I can’t believe I kept it a secret from my kids. They didn’t know what we were doing until they read the advent card for Day 4: Ahoy there! Is that Santa in a life jacket? Today we set sail around the Harbour with Santa and his elves for some festive fun.

We arrived down at Queen’s Quay early so we could do a little window shopping. It’s been awhile since I’ve been down to the water front. The Santa Cruise was taking place on one of the Mariposa boats, the Northern Spirit. It was all decked out with Christmas garlands as were a few of their other boats (they do Holiday dinner cruises and have a New Year’s Eve dinner cruise that sound wonderful too). I’m glad we bundled up. Although the boat was toasty warm, waiting on the dock to get on board was a bit breezy. You forget how chilly it can get down by the water. The kids didn’t seem to mind at all.

As we boarded the kids were given a reindeer name (we were Dasher). This would be the group they would go up with when it was time to see Santa. This was a great way to organize all the kids and ensure everyone had a chance to see Santa and also avoided standing in line during the whole boat ride. Once on board everyone was given a drink ticket (they had hot chocolate, coffee or apple juice) and a 2-piece cookie from Redpath Sugar. Plus the parents were given a waiver to sign if their kids were getting photos with Santa.

The two level boat had tables and chairs set up on both levels. Santa visits would be on the lower level where a photo area was set-up. At our table the kids started colouring the holiday colouring and activity sheets laid out. The elves were very friendly and helpful, offering new colouring sheets if the kids finished all of theirs and clearing garbage away from the table, like cookie wrappers and drink cups. All the tables lined the inside of the ship, by the windows, so everyone had a chance to see the island and city as we sailed around.

We were one of the first groups on board the ship which meant we were one of the first to see Santa. The kids were so excited to see him and get a photo that they didn’t tell him what they wanted for Christmas (except my oldest daughter, she doesn’t need an invitation to tell you what’s on her mind). My 6-year old son didn’t tell Santa because he said Santa didn’t ask. I think the kids felt they were only there to get a photo and couldn’t afford the time to talk to Santa. It probably would have helped if Santa initiated some conversation about their gift list. Wish lists aside, they kids still had a great time seeing Santa and getting a photo. This image will be a great addition to our Santa Claus photo wall. Even my 4-year old, who at first didn’t want to really see Santa because he looked scary, said he wasn’t that bad, for a man with a weird, curly beard.

Santa visit over, the kids enjoyed their hot chocolate, colouring and Christmas music. My girls couldn’t help but hum or sing along; Christmas music can be infectious like that. I loved just listening to the music and looking at the landscape move by. My son and I even braved the cold weather and went outside for some pictures.

The cruise itself is about an hour-long. It seemed to be just the right enough time to enjoy the sailing and get in some Christmas fun. You can still Cruise with Santa on December 11 and 18th. For more information visit www.mariposacruises.com.

After our Santa Cruise we dropped into Chinatown for a quick lunch at House of Gourmet (one of our favourite spots. We go here for Christmas Eve dinner too). It was pretty busy on a Saturday lunch hour but they have group tables and turnover is pretty quick. We all enjoyed spring roll, shrimp and BBQ pork wanton soup and sliced BBQ pork on rice. Funny thing, one of the gentlemen sitting at our group table was working on a similar job as my husband. Small world.

As if the day wasn’t full enough, my 6-year old son lost his tooth, his first tooth, while out to lunch. He was so excited, he was showing everyone (and sticking straws and chopsticks in the gap where his tooth use to be).

How are you celebrating the Christmas season with your family? See what we’ve been up to for our 25 Days of Christmas.

The Santa Claus Parade Favourites

Last Sunday we went to our local Santa Claus Parade, which just happens to be the biggest in the country. My husband and I have gone to the parade together almost 20-years (only the last 8-years have been with kids). It’s a different feeling seeing the parade with kids in tow. We sang Christmas songs, handed in letters to Santa, caught candy being tossed out by crazy clowns and enjoyed the somewhat commercialized floats.

When I go to the parade, the bands are my favourite, especially a band with bagpipes. Have I told you my deep down desire to learn to play the pipes? That’s a whole other post. For the kids, seeing the floats is their favourite. My kids enjoyed all the floats but it was obvious what their favourites were.

No surprise that my 3-year old went crazy for both the Tangled and Barbie A Fashion Fairytale floats. You may remember we had a chance to see the first Canadian screening of the Tangled move before it was released in theatres and the Barbie a Fashion Fairytale before it came out on DVD. You can imagine her excitement seeing her two favourite characters appearing before her, super-sized. She was thrilled beyond belief.

My son almost fell on the people in front of us he was so excited seeing the Lego float. My son loves Lego. Actually love isn’t nearly strong enough, more like obsessed. And it was a great float. Seeing the larger-than-life characters gave them a sense that they were indeed real, not just a toy. Of course after this float my son wanted to get home and watch the Lego movie The Adventures of Clutch Powers. I actually hope they bring out more Lego movies; even I enjoyed that film.

My oldest daughter was excited to see the Little Big Planet 2 float, though I didn’t get any photos of it. We’re a bit of a gaming family and that’s her game of choice. I liked seeing the Potato Heads. I missed them when I was at BlogHer in New York City but they found me here in Toronto not too long after my return.

But no parade would be complete without the jolly man himself, Santa. I love that both kids and adults alike, waved and wished Santa a Merry Christmas. And now that Santa has arrived, it’s now time for me to get ready for the holidays. Deck the halls and drink some eggnog, fa-la-la-la-la la-la-la-la!

Santa Claus Parade: Wish Lists, Nail Polish and CTV

Tomorrow is the Santa Claus Parade, the start of the Christmas season in our house. We’ve got our parade gear ready to go: air cushions, a blanket, Christmas cookies, a toy for the toy drive, and we’ll be getting our hot chocolate in the morning. All these things are important but of course if you were to ask the kids I’m sure they would say their letters to Santa are the most important.

Each night this past week my husband has taken one child at a time to wander the isles of the toy store, making a list and taking pictures of the items they wanted to add to their wish list to Santa. On Friday we all sat down and worked on the letters together. We had crayons and stickers and flyers and tape and glue and paper to put the letters together. My 8-year old decided to write her list out in full, alternating the colours red and green. Of course a list of 17 items takes a while to rewrite (she stopped at 5). My 6-year old did a combination of writing and pictures and my 3-year old filled her paper with a drawing on one side and pictures of pink dolls on the other. They had a great time putting their letters and notes together. They even worked on them without fighting.

The folks from CTV Toronto even popped by to talk to us about our preparations for the parade.

For some added Christmas fun, my two girls had me paint their nails too. It could have been red. It could have been green. Why decide when you can have both.

How did you get ready for your Santa Claus Parade experience?

Flip Friday: Christmas Concerts and Wish Lists

I received my Flip Mino HD yesterday, just in time for my kids Christmas concert at school; what a perfect place to try it out. I had to charge my Flip before heading out and since my computer wasn’t turned on at the moment I thought I’d use my mophie USB dual charger or car charger, but neither seemed to work. So on went the computer. My mac’s USB was behind the screen so it was a little awkward to plug-in (I could use my USB buddy without a problem which helped).

At the concert I realized I didn’t look at the instructions on how to use my Flip Mino HD but it was pretty intuitive. All the buttons are on the back of the camera (except for the power button and the switch to pop out the USB). The placement works well as you’re holding the camera up in front of you and moving your thumb over the buttons. The record button is indented making it easy to find without really looking at the camera. You can zoom in a out easily, but the zoom is somewhat limited if you are shooting from a distance. Having the buttons back-lit really helped at the Christmas concert too (no squinting to try to make out where the buttons were) and I was able to record this:

You’ll have to excuse the shakiness. One thing I did discover that since the video screen is small it’s hard to detect hand movement when you’re holding the Flip Mino HD (and we were holding our hand up in front of us for a quite a bit). These small shaky movements seem to be exaggerated when viewing them in the editing software.

FlipShare (editing software)

A great feature of the Flip Mino HD is that it comes loaded with all the software you’ll need to edit and share your videos. The FlipShare software enabled me to trim my video clips by using a slider. Once all your clips are edited and saved to your computer, you can create a movie with either the one or multiple files. Just drop and drag them in the order you want your clips to appear, create a title and add credits, you can even include music and save. The FlipShare window has a status bar to let you know at what stage of saving your movie is at. If your movie has multiple clips, FlipShare automatically adds a dissolve treatment between each clip so the movie doesn’t seem jarring (though the smoothness of the dissolve is sometimes a little muddled on playback).

After filming distant activities, I tried a closer, one-on-one shot by recording my two daughter’s Santa wish lists (my son was at a Beaver’s Christmas party or else I’d have a clip of him also):

When I film I tend to talk and record a lot of material but I usually don’t keep most of it so editing is important. The FlipShare isn’t as easy to use as my iMovie software, but then again, my iMovie software didn’t seem that easy to use the first few times either. The FlipShare enabled me to take one clip and cut and save multiple mini clips and then put them all together into one movie.

Sharing on Youtube

One your movies are done, FlipShare gives you the option to upload right to your Youtube account (or other account) and like with making your movie, FlipShare will give you the status of how your upload is going. The only thing that’s missing with the upload is the option to add your video details (title, description, tags, categories). FlipShare adds information from Flip so if you want something different to appear you need to log into your account and update it. A minor inconvenience I guess.

Win a Flip Mino HD

As I mentioned in my original Flip post, pictures of kids are important but somethings are best on video. Capturing your child performing in their school concert (or goofing off as my son did) and the excitement when your child talks about what they want for Christmas, these things are best captured in video. Flip and Mom Central Canada want to give one of my readers their very own Flip Mino HD to record their own memories. To enter, visit my first post and comment as per that post’s instructions. After you’ve done, you can earn an bonus entry by commenting here, in this post, one thing you would record with your Flip Mino HD. And don’t forget, there’s one more Flip Friday (December 25) and therefore one more bonus entry to come.

Good luck. Let the flipping begin.

Breakfast with Santa

You know Christmas is around the corner when you have breakfast with Santa.  

There are a few things we like to do as a family to get ready for Christmas: attend the Santa Claus parade, read some of our favourite Christmas stories, and write letters to Santa. Another favourite activity with my kids is having breakfast with Santa at Ikea.  

Okay, so it means we have to get up early (8:00 a.m.), but at least I don’t have to worry about feeding the kids (they get eggs, sausage, potatoes, pancakes and milk).  

Eating Ikea breakfast while waiting for Santa

After breakfast the kids get their turn to sit with Santa and tell him their Christmas wish. My oldest of course volunteered to go first. My son went second (he had made a picture at home the night before to bring to the breakfast).  

All I want for Christmas..

...and transformers and walkie-talkies and ...

My youngest wasn’t so sure about seeing Santa, but with a little encouragement she actually sat on his lap. I don’t think she actually talked to Santa; she looked anxious to get off his lap. At least this year she sat for a photo with Santa without gripping me right beside her. Each child was given one of those crazy little stuffed animals that only Ikea could sell.  

Are we done yet?

Group Santa hug

After visiting Santa, while we waited for the pictures to print, the kids we’re given a picture frame, glitter pens, stickers, and stamps to decorate their frame. All three kids loved decorating, though my youngest two quickly lost interest and started playing attack animals with the toys they received from Santa.  

Decorating photo frames for Santa pictures

Working on her work of art

Playing 'animal attack', very festive

And the best part of this, Ikea Santa breakfast only costs $5 Cdn per person. You can’t go wrong with that. Now if only we’d get some snow (that’s not included in the ticket price).

Have you been bad or good?

It’s funny the affect one person can have on kids, at least on my kids. I’m talking Santa. And don’t I use it for all it’s worth:

  • You better clean your room. Santa doesn’t like messy rooms
  • If you three don’t stop fighting and learn to share, Santa might have to skip this house

You get the idea. Now that the Christmas season is upon us (any time after the Santa Clause parade is the Christmas season in my book) one of the first things my kids do is write letters to Santa.

Now with my kids, a standard pen to paper type letter just won’t do. There has to be crayons, markers, scissors, glue, stickers and glitter. And let’s not forget the images cut out of magazines and flyers illustrating the exact toy each child wants (my kids are so considerate of Santa’s senility).

So with Christmas music playing through the iPod and hot chocolate from our Tassimo beverage system, the Christmas letter mayhem started:

Making a snow scene on the back of his letter

My 5yo making a snow scene on the back of his letter to Santa

My 2yo writing her letter to Santa (big sister helped)

My 7yo creating a picture for Rudolph

My 7yo making a picture for Rudolph

Everyone working together

Everyone working together

The letters Santa and crew will be receiving from our house this year.

The letters Santa and crew will be receiving from our house this year.

Have you sent your letters in yet?

We believe in Santa Claus

santalooking

Discovering Santa 2008

There’s great excitement in our house this week. We’ve just discovered that the cities big Santa Claus parade is this Sunday. Yes, it is only mid November, but that means we can jump right into the Christmas season that much sooner. The walk to school consisted of the kids talking about what they were going to ask Santa Claus for (we’re writing letters this week to give to Santa at the parade).

I love seeing my kids so excited; they’ve already started being extra nice to each other. Flyers now have big holes in them from the kids cutting out pictures to include in their letters. I know one day their belief in the jolly fat man will wain so I’m enjoying the moment while it lasts. I can’t imagine what Christmas will be like without Santa Claus. Sure we’ll still have baking and songs and cards and gifts, but something magical will be missing.

I know there are many people who don’t believe in Santa Claus. My sister’s family celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ. We do as well and my kids understand the real purpose of Christmas (for us), but I love having the fun part of Santa too. 

Some people don’t believe in any of those fantasy characters, like the tooth fairy or the Easter Bunny or leprechaun.

Since these characters aren’t real, why fool your kids telling them they are. One day they’ll discover the truth and be devastated.

Yes, that might be true. There will probably be some tears on the day my kids realize the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus aren’t real; tears from them and myself. But the years of enjoyment we get from these beliefs far outweighs the disappointment to come (I say now, though I haven’t yet hit that disappointment stage yet). Am I really doing such a disservice to my kids by letting them believe? Isn’t childhood all about imagination and fantasy and all the stuff we lose when we move into adulthood. Somehow having my kids believe in these characters makes me believe, just a little. And believing in a fairy who rewards children as they move from babyhood into childhood or a jolly man who encourages being nice and taking care of others seems to fill my heart with love and understanding and everyone can benefit from that right?