Happy Holidays!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, everyone!

(and happy Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and all other holidays)

I probably won't be near the computer much for the next week or so, so I figured I'd extend my holiday wishes now. See you in the New Year!

Where can I find this song?

This morning I heard a song on the radio about a Christmas turkey. It was so cute, and I'd like to get a copy of it, but I can't find out anything about it!

In the song the turkey talks about how he's so happy that a family is having him (over, or so he thinks) for dinner. He figures it must be really nice at their house, because none of the other turkeys who went have come back (hee hee).

Does anyone know the artist or title? The only Christmas turkey song I've found so far is by the Arrogant Worms, and it's not the same one.

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The Christmas... elephant?

We made up tins of Christmas baking for friends and family this year, which were very well received. They seemed to enjoy the treats, but my sugar cookies caused some raised eyebrows.

See, the thing is... I don't have any Christmas cookie cutters. I thought I did, but after I rolled out the dough, I realized - nope! So I made cookies in the shape of hands, feet, maple leaves and elephants. Hubby's cousin's son (follow that?) asked "Mommy, why do these cookie look like feet?"

So I imagine next year I'll get more Christmas cookie cutters than I know what to do with. I saw these cookie cutters at Weary Parent, and, in keeping with the 'unconventional cookie' theme, I'm tempted to buy them!

Might still raise a lot of questions from the kids though.

Movies I watch over and over

...and over again!

A neat idea started at The Burble; these are perennial favourites of mine. I'm the type of person who watches movies multiple times (usually, I'd prefer to watch a movie I've already seen than something on TV), but these are all-time favourites that I've watched so many times I can practically recite the lines. Yes, I realize that most of it's fluff; not all-time great movies, but that's the thing about favourites, at least, for me: they're comforting, safe, and like an old friend that you want to visit again and again.

Aladdin (1992)
Almost Famous (2000)
Annie (1982)
Back to the Future (1985)
Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961)
Chasing Amy (1997)
Cinderella (1950)
Gone With the Wind (1939)
The Many Adventures of Winnie The Pooh (1977)
The Princess Bride (1987)
The Sound of Music (1965)
Star Wars (1977)
When Harry Met Sally (1989)

Seems obvious, but apparently it's not!

This weekend I got an email from Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood which had a link to this year’s TRUCE (Teachers Resisting Unhealthy Children's Entertainment) Toy Action Guide: Toys of Value list, released in time for the holidays. While Hubby and I aren't at the stage where we're buying many toys for the baby-to-be yet (although I can't seem to resist books!), I found the list interesting, and I really like that it reinforces the value of non-electronic toys. While every child will have some battery operated toys, I find a lot of the ones on the market (even the so-called 'educational' toys) to be glorified babysitters which don't give kids much human interaction, and don't let them be creative. I'd prefer that my children have more traditional toys that foster imaginative play.

The email I received also linked to an article that talks about the Toys of Value list, and the prevalence of electronic toys on the market today: Kids Don't Get Building Blocks of Learning from High-Tech Play, which made some interesting points:

Contrast [the Toys of Value list] with the Toys ‘R’ Us 2006 Fabulous 15 Best of the Holiday list, which includes only two toys that don’t use batteries or a screen, or with Hasbro’s Something for Everyone 2006 Holiday list, which boasts the return of the Baby Alive Doll, whose updated version requires four batteries so she can ‘‘eat and poop, just like a real baby,’’ and Star Wars Force Action Lightsaber, ‘‘the most authentic lightsaber-playing experience ever,’’ batteries not included. Of the 26 toys included, all but four are electronic or require batteries.

Levin and others who study the relationship between toys, play, and development say toys with electronics bypass the process by which young children learn about cause and effect, including cause and effect of the human kind, such as body language and nonverbal clues. The more high-tech toys a child has and the younger he or she is when they’re introduced, the bigger the potential problem. ... "These kinds of toys entice parents ..... but they undermine the process of being an active agent, of being a problem solver," Levin says.

"There’s a critical part of the brain thought to be responsible for reading signals and feeling empathy and relating to other people, part of the orbital prefrontal cortex, that develops early on. But it needs input from real-life people," says Healy, author of Your Child’s Growing Mind.

The Toys of Value guide lists specific toys, both "good" and "bad", and offers some general tips for choosing and avoiding children's toys. The 8-page report has some great suggestions and insights, and I encourage you to read it, but since I know some of you won't, I'll list some of the DOs and DON'Ts here:

Choose toys that promote:

photo by Anissa ThompsonDramatic play
Helps children work out their own ideas about their experiences. Provides a powerful way of learning new skills and a sense of mastery. Blocks are a classic toy that children never outgrow. Adding props encourages, inspires, and extends children's play. Props have the ability to help children recreate real life experiences as well as invent imaginary ones.

Manipulative play with small play objects
Develops small muscle control and eye-hand coordination. Teaches about relationships between objects, essential for understanding math and science. Examples: construction sets and toys with interlocking pieces (Lego, Lincoln Logs), puzzles, pegboards, miniature models, parquetry blocks.

Creative arts
Encourages self-expression and the use of symbols, a vital skill for problem solving and literacy. Develops fine motor skills. Examples: poster and finger paints, assortment of blank paper of all sizes and colors, crayons and markers, scissors, glue, recycled materials, stamps, clay, weaving kits.

Physical play
Promotes healthy body awareness and coordination. Provides opportunities for social interaction. Ideas for toy swaps: bikes, scooters and other wheeled toys, climbing structures.

Game playing
Teaches about taking turns, planning strategy, sequencing, rules, and cooperation. Examples: board games like checkers and chess, card games, jacks.

Try to avoid toys that:

Exploit parents' desire to be "good parents."
Take advantage of parents by promising to make kids smart by teaching the alphabet or numbers at too young an age. These toys undermine the development of appropriate play.

Turn TV into the controller of play
Toys that plug into TV sets so children interact with the TV screen, turn playtime into “screen time.” Frenzied pace and programmed actions can increase children’s expectation for elaborate bells and whistles and make children observers rather than participants in their own play.

Lure infants and toddlers into the electronic media culture
These toys control and limit play and creativity and get children used to being entertained. Very young children learn best by interacting with people and seeing their effect on real things. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends no screen time before age 2.

Make appearance, makeup and sexiness the focus of play
Channel girls into very narrow play scripts where how you look—including being thin and wearing make-up and skimpy clothes—and what you can buy is what matters most. Focus on highly sexy appearance and behavior confuses children.

Heighten gender divisions between boys and girls
Dictate that specific toys and interests are only for boys or only for girls. Encourage rigid gender divisions and stereotyped play. Lead to choosing toys based on gender, not play value of a toy.

Make violent themes the focus of play
Often linked to TV programs, movies, and video games, these toys make violence seem entertaining and fun. Channel children into imitating violent TV scripts and anti-social play that undermines positive lessons caring adults try to teach.

Link non-nutritious food to toys and play
Create an easy market for unhealthy, brand-named foods and their logos and early brand loyalty. Products like these undermine healthy eating and contribute to obesity and eating disorders.

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The White House spends U.S. tax money on a dog film

I wonder how much money it cost to film and produce this holiday movie about President Bush's dog, Barney?

Yes, that's right, this is the FIFTH one.

I think I can hear Bin Laden laughing from here.

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Feel-good story of the day: Rare coin dropped in Salvation Army collection kettle

Coin dropped in Salvation Army collection kettle may be worth $14,000

And nope, it wasn't an accident!

The donated 1908 Indian head coin has a face value of US$2.50, said Capt. Louis Patrick. But it's worth at least at $250 and possibly as much as $14,000, according to a preliminary analysis.

The coin was enclosed in a protective plastic case.

Even Santa needs to read the fine print

New MUN website

Memorial University (of Newfoundland) has launched its new website.

Happiness poll finds bliss in New Brunswick

Woo hoo, good place to live!

Is this why I'm so happy lately?

Maybe, but it probably has more to do with my wonderful husband, a baby on the way, and the Christmas spirit (yeah, yeah, you Grinches out there, I am sickeningly happy!). Now, if only I could finish this report for work and didn't throw my back out lifting strollers in Toys R Us last night, things would be perfect! lol