Magical Childhood Newsletter
Volume 30
January 6, 2002

Hello magical people!  Here's hoping you're getting a break from the weather and enjoying the new year with your sweeties.  Now it's my birthday and I have two brand new garden magazines and a bathtub just calling my name so I'll get on with the newsletter....

Help needed from parents of teenagers!

Remember when I told you I signed up with The Box Project to sponsor a needy family?  Well I finally got my family and the kids are 10 (girl), 11 (boy) and 14 (boy).  I know they need clothes but I am sooooo out of style and clueless I'd probably send something that went out of date in the 90's.

Can you let me know what brands, styles, colors and trends are "in" right now for teens and pre-teens?  I have had good luck getting good designer clothes at secondhand shops but I need to know what styles and names to look for.  Are clothes at places like Walmart too tacky these days?  They look cute to me but I haven't been in high school for a couple of decades.  :)

The family seems really in need and I'm happy to be able to help.  I'm putting together the first care package this week-- of clothes, nonperishable food and some fun stuff like art supplies, plus a check to use for a few bills and a treat or two.

The mother escaped with her kids from a very violent marriage and has lived through a lot of tragedy and a train wreck that injured her several years ago.  The kids grew up in violence and now live in poverty.  I hope I can get them some clothes, books, supplies and other stuff to help make their lives a little better.

I know sponsoring a family is a commitment and a big responsibility, but I can afford to help and so I'll do my best.  I can get them many quality supplies at very low cost from thrift stores and can afford to buy some food, household items and spare a bit of money every month.  I hope that I can also show them that there is hope for happy endings.  I've been the victim, the poor kid, the teenager without hope.  I would have loved to have had one grown up who'd been there care and say, "I've been there and it does get better."

If you want to give it a shot too, here's the web site. Please let me know how it goes!

I'm heading out with the girls to New Mexico to visit friends for 10 days starting Sunday.  It will be another adventure for us and I'll be sure to write you all about it when we get back.  The  newsletter won't come out next week but I'll try to find extra fun stuff for y'all to make up for it in 2 weeks.  :)  Wish us luck!

From magical mama Jacqueline:
The Very Hungry Caterpillar Felt Project
I love this book! When I had a 3 year old class at the daycare this is what I did.

I took a green tube sock, and many different colors of felt.  I made a face on the end of the sock and antennas. On the inside of the sock, I sewed on beautiful wings and made a face as well. The felt was made into all the different fruits etc.  I cut large circular holes in all of the things the caterpillar ate through. Once he ate through them (as I read the book) the pieces of fruit slid back on my arm.

When we got to the end of the book and all the felt fruit, etc., was up my arm, I would turn him inside out and he would turn into a beautiful butterfly! My kids loved it! Probably did it 100 times!

Imagine with me for a moment.....

You're sitting down to take a break during your favorite TV show and I come in and turn the TV off.  No TV, I tell you.  It's time for you to do the dishes.

You don't want to do the dishes but after 10 minutes of arguing about it, you comply.  I hand you your cup of coffee.  It's black, with saccharine.  You like cream and sugar.  you are grumpy about the dishes and complain about the bad coffee.  I tell you that you'll drink this coffee or none.  You feel like crying.

You take the cup and pour it down the sink.  I tell you to go sit down and do nothing.  You do but you grab a magazine on the way.  I snatch it away from you because last time you read a magazine you wrinkled it when you put it down.  You're not allowed to read magazines now!

You start to cry.  I yell at you and tell you how much you're annoying me.  You ask if I'll do something fun with you.  No, I say, I have important stuff to do.  I put on some music that you don't like and hand you knitting, which you hate.

You start to complain.

"Why can't you ever be happy?" I ask you.  I swear you must think up ways to torment me.

Okay, we all know better than to be a creep like above but sometimes it helps to put yourself in little shoes to remember how tough it can be on children.  It's very easy to accidentally make a child's life suck.  We all need to be reminded of that sometimes!  I do this to myself periodically to make sure I'm acting the way I'd want to be treated.  :)

"Every stage in a child's life is there for a purpose. If we can respect and respond to her needs fully during each stage of her life, she can be done with that stage and move on."
- Naomi Aldort

10 Fun Activities for Babies....

Have a scavenger hunt!

Here's a fun and easy way to occupy the kids.  Make a scavenger hunt!  You can tailor it to their ages with a different list for different kids.  We had the girls search the house for items like balls, paper stars, musical instruments and cans of food.  Victoria  helped Annalee with some of her items and they had a hoot.

For older kids you could make it much more complicated: find something you last used in the 20th century, find 3 things that start with M, find something that would be illegal in some countries (depending on the country, anything from a bible to makeup would qualify-- what a great discussion starter!).

Not only is this a lot of fun for the kids, but you get a break while they search!  :)

Valentines Themes and other obsessions...

It helps us get through winter if we concentrate on a different fun theme each month for decorating.  After Christmas we take down most of the decorations but I leave up some of the tiny white lights, pine boughs and snowflakes.

We decorate the windows with hearts that we make from all different mediums-- thoroughly color a paper with all different shades of pink and purple crayons, cut out magazine flowers and paste them all over a heart shape, use watercolors to blend shades of reds into one another.... make sure to decorate both sides and fill some windows with them.  For other windows, you can make heart shaped or red paper snowflakes.

We leave out our pink and red ornaments and hang them by ribbons from windows.  Save red bows to decorate for Valentines Day too.

Some days we play with our food by tinting vanilla soy milk, cream of wheat or mashed potatoes pink.  We cut toast and sandwiches into heart shapes with cookie cutters.  There are Valentines crafts on the Magical Childhood site in the crafts section, too.

This year I'm planning on doing a rustic Valentine theme downstairs. I'm going to group pine branches with pink balls on windowsills, decorate the tables with bowls of pine cones and lacy things, fashion little hanging wreaths from twigs and ribbon.

I'll do the bathroom in bright, fun colors-- make a heart around the mirror in lipstick, tuck some silk roses in the baskets, hang up red towels, have the girls help me make paper hearts to tape to the mirrors, and let the paint and stamp red shaving cream hearts all over the bathtub walls.

For some reason, if I can always come up with one holiday theme to focus on per month, I can keep it festive and fun around here no matter how long we're stuck inside.  For the this next month it's Valentines, then St. Patrick's Day, then spring and forced bulbs and all that those entail.

We'll have smaller themes as we go, mainly from whatever books we're reading or whatever is going on with the weather.  Hibernation.  Seeds.  Snowflakes.  Moose.  Then we'll go to the library and check out every book on moose that we can find, I'll search the internet for moose crafts, and we'll learn all about them until the next fascination comes along.

Moose valentines.  Now there's a theme..... :)

And lest you think I've gone Martha Stewart, I assure you that it'll all still be trashed.  It will just be trashed in pink and white, with doilies!

Some neat picture books we've been enjoying lately.....
(if you need authors just drop me a note, I'm doing them from memory)

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie  The darling new classic about the repercussions of a little boy giving a friendly mouse a cookie.
If you Give a Pig a Pancake  The sequel involving a little girl and a pig (next we're trying the moose version).
Sleeping Dragons All Around  A colorfully illustrated rhyming book about a woman tiptoeing through her house past dragons who are quite unique characters, in her quest to get a piece of mocha maple chocolate cake.
The Tiny Seed  Eric Carle is so incredible, and this book so beautifully shows how seeds travel and the odds they fight to grow and bloom.
The Carrot Seed  In the same theme, this short and simple book has a quiet charm.
Boy, Was I Mad!  A little boy decides he's so fed up he's running away, but he has such a fun day on his way that he forgets and comes home.
From Head to Toe  This fun Carle book isn't for bedtime but the girls love mimicking the motions of the animals.
A Lot of Otters  Something about the beautiful illustrations in this sing-song book really appeal to me, and the girls loved the playful otters who gathered, tasted and played with fallen stars they gathered from the bottom of the sea.
Aunt Flossie's Hats (and crab cakes later!)  What a neat book!  Aunt Flossie has a story to go with every carefully preserved hat she owns.  The atmosphere is wonderful in this African American family story.
Chrysanthemum  Another modern classic, about a little mouse who loves her unusual name until the girls at school make fun of it.
Strega Nona: Her Story  This prequel to Strega Nona tells of the childhood and training that led to the famous old lady and her magical pasta pot that so many folks know.

And one that I've been reading and highly recommend:
How to Save the Children  "An innovative resource guide filled with practical ideas to counter the effects of poverty and  neglect on America's children"  by Amy Hatkoff and Karen Kelly Klopp
(this is where I found out about The Box Project, plus many more wonderful organizations and suggestions to make an impact for children everywhere.)

Immortality, catalog style

I made the mistake of watching a movie about a terminally ill woman today and ended up weepy and mad at death.  I have been pretty cool about my mom's death in the year and a half since she died, but I was suddenly upset that all of her stories, knowledge and life are just over.  It seemed like such a waste.  She just had so much to share with the world and it was gone.

My mother was a teacher, a tutor, a prison psychologist, a secretary, a friend, a writer, a researcher.  She wrote presidents, companies and former students.  She told stories and clipped cartoons and sent me things she learned on the Discovery channel about otters and lemmings.

A year after her death I went to my grandmother's house in Ohio to go through her dozens of boxes of papers.  She saved everything-- class handouts, articles, letters, 35 copies of Erickson's stages of development, 30 copies of Jungian theory, the card I made her when I was 8.

I found letters from famous psychologists, friends in Europe and even a personal letter from President Clinton (she was a fierce democrat).  I brought back boxes and boxes of every piece of paper that I thought I might need or want.  I didn't want to let her knowledge, her life or her ideas go to waste.

A month after I left, my grandma sent me more papers that she found that I'd missed.  Included was a TigerDirect computer catalog.  Now that, I thought, was getting a little silly.  I could part with her junk mail.  :)

Then I opened it and found the letter, and saw the signatures all over the catalog.  They are now framed on the wall as a reminder to me of my mother and what she taught me.

I thought I'd share it with you.

December 2, 1996

Dear Ms. Bayer:

You called me a little over a week ago to ask to be removed from our mailing list, so that we will no longer mail you our catalogs.  To this request, I asked a question in jest as to why you were wanting to be removed, "do you just not like PCs?".  To this question you answered, "no, actually I'm dying of cancer, and I thought I'd save a few trees."  Of course, you left me speechless.  How do you respond to a request like this?

I have requested to our list department that all occurrences of your name be removed from our database.  I do this at your request.  Even though all record of your name will soon be absent from our database, the memory of your call to me will remain forever.  You touched my life in a special way.

I took it upon myself to send you one last (and very special) catalog from all of us at TigerDirect.  You will find that it has been signed by the employees here at Tiger, who wish you nothing but the best on the journey you are on.  This is a journey you need not walk alone, nor in fear.

Since our phone conversation, your name has been brought up in prayer in the churches of various Tiger employees, in private prayers of those same individuals, even at the family dinner table before my Thanksgiving feast.  You are in our thoughts and our hearts.

It takes a special person to think of "saving a few trees" at a time like this.  If your shoes were on my feet, I don't believe that I would care enough to make that phone call.  Your display of unselfishness and courage has changed my life in some small way.  Although we have never met in person, you have touched my life, and made it a better place.  I'm certain that if you leave us here on earth, that your touching heaven will make it a better place too.

Thank you.

My mother was not lost to the world when she died.  She passed her self, her knowledge, principles and her spirit on to the children she taught, the prisoners she counseled, the stories she told.

She once taught a young woman in an abusive marriage how to read using some of my very feminist poetry (she's now successful and single).  She became a second mother to a sexually abused boy in a mental institution.  She made friends with old men, young women and children.  I have many letters from old students who continued to write her and share their lives with her.

She is in my goofy mom voice, my love of animals, my love of knowledge and art.  She is in my girls.  She is a tiny part of some TigerDirect employees she never met.  She lives on.

I only found my father after he was already dead, but he lives on as well.  He lives on through the art that hangs on my walls, the stories his nieces and nephews told me all night when we met, the memories of his sister, and the way those who knew him still laugh and cry at once when they talk about him almost fifteen years after his death.  He is in the shape of my nose, my sense of humor, my love of animals (the one and only thing my parents seemed to have in common!) and my art.

My friend Jackie's sister tragically died a year and a half ago.  She was a loving, funny devoted mom who not only gave her children a magical life but two foster children as well.  Jackie has told me so many stories of Jennifer and I mourn her even though I never met her.  She put up a memorial web page and some of Jackie's memories have become mine.  A woman I never met is a role model to me on how to be a fun mama.  She lives on for everybody who visits that page, hears her family's stories and loves her children.  She is still affecting the world and making it better.

So I'm  here to remind you to tell your stories, teach your children and share your grandma's recipes.  Write letters to your kids at 3 a.m. when you're suddenly struck by how much you love them.  Pass on your wisdom, your talents and your love.

In all the ways that matter, we do live forever.  Maybe a hundred years from now some child will laugh my mother's laugh, never knowing how far it's traveled to be part of her.

Some things, like junk mail, are eternal.

And despite Brannon's best efforts, she's still on that %#$& mailing list.  ;)

Until next time,


A Magical Childhood
Copyright 2002, Alicia Bayer

A Magical Childhood Newsletter is just something I throw together because I love children and those who love them.  To subscribe, send a message to  We do not use ads.  It's not about money.  :)

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