The Hummingbird Christmas: A Short Story

Though rain was falling instead of snow, my sense of anticipation was building. It was a typical west coast Christmas.  I watched out my window as carolers gathered. Soon, it would be time for cookies and milk; I had written my note for Santa.

Dear Santa,

All I want for Christmas is a little sparkle of magic so I can know in my heart you are real. 

Your friend,

Bethanie.

My friends told me there was no Santa.  I wanted them to be wrong.  If I could just see something magical at Christmas time, that would be enough.  Would Santa bring the magic?

I stared at the Christmas tree.  The decorations sparkled but they weren’t magic.

I could smell shortbread cookies in the oven.  They were part of every Christmas as long as I could remember.  Delicious, but not magic.

I stepped outside, hoping to hear the carolers’ singing.  The rain was a light sprinkle.  Then something pink and shiny caught my eye.  I heard a hummmmm of beating wings.  A hummingbird darted into view.  I stood completely still.  I saw a most surprising sight.  The hummingbird fed its babies with nectar from its beak.  I watched as it flew from the neighbor’s bird feeder to the nest. The mother hummingbird placed her beak into the mouths of the two babies; they were tiny and perfect.

It wasn’t even springtime.  Baby hummingbirds in winter… it had to be Christmas magic! Maybe Santa is real, I thought.

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This short story was submitted to: Susanna Hill’s Holiday Writing Contest 

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Planning a Children’s Book

I thought it would be fun to share a bit of my process in creating a picture book.  I wish I had this idea when I was making my first picture book, Katie Shaeffer Pancake Maker!  Honestly, this was not my own idea but I have adopted it and it really works.

You may be aware that picture books have a 32 page format.  So I just use 32 sticky notes to represent the pages and then when I get to the point where I’m ready to work out the page turns… voila!  All I do is make notes about where the images will go and plan out the book.

The page turns need to be in just the right places to add interest and create suspense.   Here’s a peek at my current project in partnership with Paula Nasmith as illustrator…IMG_6266

As you may have noticed, this is not the entire story planned out but a portion of the story (only 24 pages shown).  I just love the ease of the sticky notes; I can easily replace or move them around to get the story and page turns just right and it is so quick and easy to make up.

A Sense of Place

Have you ever thought about how living in a place can shape you and the life you live?

I live on the southern tip of an island.  It is a big island; big enough that I’ve never actually driven far enough to see the northern towns of Port Hardy, Port McNeil and Coal Harbour.  Still, living on an island means that I am limited to where I can go by car.  And it also means that unless I want to limit my entire life to staying put on that island, I’ll need to travel by ferry (less costly) or by plane to see other parts of the world.  IMG_4851

Ferry travel shapes our lives here on Vancouver Island.  So much that my preschoolers’ play frequently features ferry boats.  They build ferry boats that have room to carry cars and people.  They create ramps for cars and people to walk or drive onto the ferries, and they even rescue people from the water, tossing in life preservers.  It is a pleasure to watch the ferry boats become more complex with moving parts and new ways to transport people and vehicles.

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Here, we all understand what it means to wait for a ferry.  To miss a ferry and for those of us who’ve spent our lives using ferries as a means of travel, we know how it feels to be the last car on the ferry.

How does the place you live influence your life?  What methods of travel are popular where you live? How do children come to understand their sense of place in your community?  What is your sense of place in the world?

Feel free to leave a comment!

 

 

Ordinary Moments: Surprises

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Being a preschool teacher is wonderful.  Each day if I pay close enough attention, I get these ordinary surprises which are absolutely delightful.  The shelf pictured above with the tree stump blocks is located where you would expect… in the block area.  When I look at the blocks there are certain things I expect the children might do with them.  I can imagine children might want to stack them.  I can imagine children creating a tower as high as possible.  I can imagine children using them a seats.  I can imagine children jumping from one stump to another.

So here’s my ordinary moment of surprise.  This is something I did NOT imagine children doing with these tree stump blocks.  I’m placing the image further down the page just so you can have the opportunity to imagine what other ways these blocks might be used.  Think about it for a little.  Do you have any ideas?  Okay.  Now scroll down for the surprise…

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I just love how children can do unexpected things in creative and imaginative ways.  Don’t you?

Now let’s look at the potential learning through play here:

Children have opportunities for…

-taking turns going over the stumps

-balancing the stumps carefully so that they don’t tip

-gross motor development as children climb over the tree stump blocks and lift and carry the blocks into position

-cooperation to work together to line up the tree stump blocks

-creativity to find new and innovative ways to use materials

And that’s just the beginning. Learning through play is fabulous!

Happy Canada Day!

Hello Fellow Canadians and Readers Abroad,

Today we are celebrating Canada’s 150th birthday.  As I was born in Canada’s Centennial year, it feels extra special for me somehow.

Here’s our Canadian strawberries in the early part of the harvest.  Yes, they are small but my are they ever delicious.

This afternoon we are planning to bake a delicious cake just for the occasion.  It may be a little warm to turn the oven on but it isn’t every day you get to celebrate 150 years of what is an truly amazing and wonderful place to live. (And yes, I realize that the aboriginal people were here thousands of years before now but can we put differences aside and just celebrate that too?)

Yes, we have our flaws but let’s celebrate what’s good about our country and build on that moving forwards.

Oh Canada! The true north strong and free.

I am a Canadian, free to speak without fear, free to worship in my own way, free to stand for what I think right, free to oppose what I believe wrong, or free to choose those who shall govern my country.  This heritage of freedom I pledge to uphold for myself and all mankind.                                                                -John Diefenbaker from the Canadian Bill of Rights, July 1, 1960