Monday, December 24, 2012

Feliz Navidad from MommyMaestra...

I have decided to take this last week of the year off to enjoy mi familia and relax. I'll be popping in on our Facebook page from time to time, but if I don't respond to emails or messages right away, you'll know why!

I wish all of you a beautiful week spent with your loved ones. May you enjoy nochebuena and have a feliz navidad if you celebrate it.

Be safe and have the happiest of new years!!!

Nos vemos en 2013...

Un abrazo fuerte!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Driving Home the Meaning of Giving

Lately my children have been a little too focused on themselves.

With the holidays quickly approaching, they've been doing a lot of asking for things. They've been keeping lists and asking me to keep one, too. I have a list of things I keep in my head. But mine isn't as long as theirs...and it also focuses on other people, not myself.

So after hearing too many sentences beginning with "I want," the frown on my face appeared and I started thinking about how to teach my children to start saying "I'll give" instead.

I decided to focus on gift giving and asked my children what they would be giving to specific people. My daughter immediately got busy making stuff to give to our family and friends. My son, who is younger, was frustrated and seemed at a loss, but eventually figured out he could make ornaments to give to loved ones, too.

But that's still not enough for me. Because all the things they made, required my buying something for them (wooden ornaments that he got to paint, a loom kit and refills for her to weave), so once again, they were benefitting through consumption.

Don't get me wrong - I LOVE that they are being creative and making gifts on their own, but I also want them to experience the feeling of generosity without directly benefitting from it in a material fashion.

So we started looking at charitable gifts. There are many wonderful and deserving organizations out there who do great work to help the poor around the world. And I would encourage you to consider supporting one of them this holiday season.

But I think that we will be focusing on Oxfam America Unwrapped.

If you visit their website, you'll find a fantastic list of gifts organized by category (Education, Women & Children, Animal Gifts, Green Gifts, Making a Living, and Emergency Essentials). Each gift is based on actual projects funded by Oxfam worldwide. You can go through and read about each one.

We've gone through the website and together we set a budget and selected one project to fund. This year, we'll be giving to one of the worthy projects listed on the site. We've narrowed it down to honey bees, books for kids, or help restore a preschool. I'll let you know what our final decision ends up being.

I hope this will become an annual tradition for us, but more importantly, I hope it will teach my children to be more conscious yearround about helping others in need and giving generously.

I hope you'll consider doing something similar with your children. And if you do, please share it below.

Un abrazo fuerte...

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Sponsor Love: Bish Bash Books

Please welcome our newest sponsor, Bish Bash Books!

Bish Bash Books is a new publishing company out of New York. They have embraced technology and focus on creating quality books in mulitple formats, including eBooks, storybook apps, podcasts, and even traditional bound paper books. The founders are parents themselves, who have been inspired by their own two sons and are working to create a company that focuses on three things: getting kids hooked on reading, nurturing the parent-child connection, and to provide all children with the opportunity to read.

I sat down with my 6 year old and we read their eBook, Boomerang Bear, a very sweet story about a young boy who thinks he's gotten too big for his teddy bear and does everything he can think of to lose him. But his Boomerang Bear keeps coming back! Until one day, he doesn't...

My son is 6 about to turn 7. But he has a teddy bear named Little Ben who holds a special place in his heart. He rarely sleeps without him. So this little story really caught his attention.

We both liked how the book offers a soundtrack that you can turn on or off. You can also set it to turn the pages manually or automatically. But maybe the best part is the option for a read aloud. I read the book to my son, but if he wants to hear the book over again when I'm busy, he can choose the read aloud option or read it himself. The read aloud option also comes with text highlighting, so each word being spoken displays a different color in the book - a great tool for beginning readers!

Boomerang Bear is best suited for children in preschool through 1st grade, though children younger and older may certainly enjoy it. And the best part is that there is a Christmas element to it and would make a great gift!

If you have an iPad (and I know many of you do!), and are looking to explore more eBooks for kids, you can download this and many other Bish Bash Books titles through iBookstore.

This book is available in English only. However, the company has reached out and is exploring the idea of offering Spanish editions of their books. I love that.

I know many of you have been asking me for Spanish-language resources. And we have had the discussion about how important translations are because they can make or break a good story. I would love to see more publishers of eBooks offering high-quality stories for Latino children in Spanish or English with Spanish text embedded. eBooks that are by Latino authors and high quality translators who know how to translate the feel of the story, not just word-for-word.

This is an untapped market and with so many Latino families using technology, I think we should encourage more companies like Bish Bash to explore our stories.

So take a moment to click over and look at their titles for little ones. You may find some others you like. And feel free to leave some words of encouragement below for them as they consider creating Spanish-language books.

Un abrazo!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Landfill Harmonic: One Person's Basura...

Have you heard about Paraguay's remarkable orchestra that plays instruments created out of actual trash? All 20 of these young musicians live in Cateura, a slum built on a landfill. In their little town, they have created something beautiful out of other people's refuse. And their story is being documented.

Landfill Harmonic is an upcoming feature-length documentary hoping to finish production in 2013. They have a shoe-string budget, but have been working diligently to get more funding.

They have recently made the semi-finals of the Focus Forward Filmmaker Competition. This funding would help them complete the film. Watch the short film below and then, if you find them worthy, please vote for Landfill Harmonic. All you have to do is click on the vote button in the upper right corner of the video - also worth seeing! - on the site linked to above.

I can't wait to see it! My kids were fascinated by this beautiful trailer...

You can follow their progress on their Facebook page, which the filmmakers created last month and already has over 79,000 followers.

Con mucho cariño...

Handmade Navidad: Tote Bag Craft

by Betty Galvan

This past weekend was all about the children. It normally is all about the children, but Jose and I were extra conscious of our little blessings. We went into the city on Saturday to see the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center and spent some time in our old neighborhood of Tribeca. We wrapped up the weekend on Sunday by making book tote bags for Diego's older cousins. One is finishing up high school and the other one college (!), yet Diego (only in Kindergarten) adores the two and he can't wait to see them at Tita and Tito's house in Chicago in less than a week!

Inspired by an amazing apron Diego made at school for me, I thought that tote bags would be a perfect homemade gift for two young ladies who love to read. I stopped at Michael's to purchase the $2.99 bags, iron on rhinestones, fabric markers and fabric paint.

For the first step, I had Diego stand WAY back as I ironed on the rhinestones. You simply stick the plastic with the stones on the front of the bag, turn it inside-out and iron for about 30 seconds. Once it cools and you pull the plastic off, the stones should be set and your little one is ready to decorate as he or she pleases!

Diego wrote his cousins' names on the bag, drew some hearts, and felt it was important to label, "Books Only!" on the back of the bag, "just in case they don't know what the bag is for."

I painted his hands with a brush so he can leave his hand prints and "signature" on the back of the bags.

I let him make mistakes and helped him correct, after all, this was his special gift project.

Notice the hearts around the word "books"? They are there because he used an apostrophe! Ha! So cute.

The project was simple! My two year-old Santi was running around trying to help, but because this was so easy, he was able to help without us having to direct him to something else. Diego was so proud of his work and he can't wait to see Lisa and Cindy's faces when they open up their homemade gifts.

You can do the exact same project for others! Teachers can also use a tote, abuelitas can use an apron, and siblings can use t-shirts! The possibilities are endless and your little creator's project is memorable, unique and special. Happy Holidays!

Your friend,



Betty Galvan, is helping her readers "find the positive and seek the benefits" over at her blog,
She is the mother of three beautiful little boys and a teacher.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Las Posadas Craft: Luminarias

Las Posadas luminaries

One of the crafts associated with las Posadas, is the luminaria. These paper lanterns often line the sidewalks, porches, and driveways of the home hosting las Posadas. They light the way for the peregrinos outside, who will sing as they are pidiendo posada. Be sure to check out my post Las Posadas Lesson Plans, Crafts, Activities, and Music for a lot more information and resources on this Mexican Christmastime tradition.

Today's Posada craft was so simple to create! My kids had a blast making their farolitos...and I think they all turned out beautifully.

This post contains affiliate links.

DIY luminaries supply list

Supplies for making your own luminarias

Here's what you'll need to create your luminarias:

- Paper bags (any color, though, white is nice!)
Punches with different designs - Try to get at least one all over the page punch
Wavy scissors
Stick-on gems (optional)
Battery-powered tea lights

Directions for DIY luminarias

The key to this craft is finding a magnetic all over the page punch. I happened to be looking through the Marth Stewart section in Michaels the other day and found this one on sale for $11. (If I had used my 50% off sticker it would have been cheaper!! Oops.) But there were MANY more designs to choose from! (I sense a lighter wallet in my future.) If you can't find an all over the page punch, don't worry. You can still do this craft with the ones you have.

DIY luminarias

First, remove the top portion of your punch, and center your bag on the base plate.

DIY luminarias

Next replace the top. You don't have to worry about centering it; the magnets will pull it into place. 

We did find it helpful to hold the paper bag in place, though, with one finger as the motion of the punch sliding into place can pull the bag off to the side.

DIY luminarias

Then your child can simply push down on the top! It should punch very easily.

DIY luminarias

DIY luminarias

Next, let your child use smaller punches to decorate the edges. Be sure to save the punched out shapes for future craft projects. (They also make great confetti...ahem. Cascarones!)

DIY luminarias

If he/she wants to, your child can then use their wavy papercraft scissors to make a decorative edge along the top. I have one child who likes to do it willy-nilly, and the other who likes a perfectly straight edge. If your child is like this, then you can help them by showing them how to draw a line across the top using the bottom edge of another bag as a ruler as shown...

DIY luminarias

DIY luminarias

DIY luminarias

Open your bag and stick in a battery-powered tea light (I don't like to use candles in paper bags with the children around - fire hazard!) And you're done!

If you're kids are artsy like mine, they may enjoy embellishing the outside a little bit with some stick-on gems or stamps/stickers.

Las Posadas Craft: Luminarias

Have your children make a small stack of these for gift giving. Abuelitas are sure to love them!
Oh, and they make good night lights, too!

Happy crafting!

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Monday, December 17, 2012

Las Posadas Craft: Piñata Ornaments

Las Posadas is coming up! So we decided to create some crafts that would remind us of this nine-day tradition. We started by making these ornaments that you can fill with candies or other small goodies. Inspired by elements most closely associated with Las Posadas, we went shopping at our local craft stores. Then came home and tinkered with prototypes until we settled on a good pattern. I hope you enjoy this Las Posadas craft of piñata ornaments!

Las Posadas Inspired Piñata Ornaments


Here's what you'll need to make your own piñata ornaments:

- Different colored cardstock
- 3 different colored ribbon
- Piñata cone pattern
- Scissors
- Tape
- Ruler
- Toothpick (or small crochet hook)
- Round DIY ornaments (the best ones are round, but flattened, not the globe-shaped ones)


First, wash your ornaments out with warm, soapy water and let them dry.

Next, print out your ornament cones on the different colored cardstock using our template, and cut them out along the OUTER lines. Be sure to leave the inner solid line uncut as shown below.

Then take your ruler and lay it over the tab portion of your template lining it up with the solid line...

...and then fold up the larger portion.

Once you've made this initial straight-line fold, it will be easier for you to simply fold this tab down against the larger portion of the template.

Next, curl and tape the template into a cone shape, making sure to keep the tab tucked on the inside. Do not put tape over the pointy end. Don't worry about making it perfect! Younger children may need help with this part.

Next, have your child measure and cut the ribbon into 6 inch lengths. (Por favor, ignore the stain on my son's sleeve. I always make them wear old clothes when we do crafts!)

Now knot the ribbon in the middle to hold them all together. You will need 3 of these tassels per ornament.

Now carefully fold the ribbon at the knot and tuck the knot into the gap at the pointy end of the cone. We used a small crochet hook to push the knot into the gap, but you can use anything like a pencil point or toothpick. The tab should help hold the knot in place and keep it from falling out. Do this with THREE (3) of the cones for a 4-pointed piñata, or 4 of the cones for a 5-pointed one.

Now fill your ornament with jelly beans or M & Ms or other colorful items.

Now cut one length of ribbon long enough to make a big loop that will go through the hoop at the top of your ornament, and stick out the end of your FOURTH (4th) cone. (This length will vary depending on the type of ornament you use.) Then go ahead and tie the ribbon through the hoop. Now you can thread the loop through the large open end of your hoop and out the gap at the small pointy end. I used a small crochet hook to push it through, but you can use a pipe cleaner to pull it through.

Now lay your ornament on the table and arrange the cones around it to determine if you'd like to have a 4-point piñata or a 5-point one. If you are using a flattened ornament like we did, it helps to squeeze the cone un poquito to make them cup the plastic and touch all the way around.

Once you are happy with your arrangement, simply tape the cones in place on both the front and back! If you use clear tape, it will disappear nicely. Be sure you DON'T tape the top cone! It will rest in place, but will easily slide up the loop to allow the owner easy access to the goodies inside!

Now just hang them on your tree or use them as decoration around your house during the holidays as a joyful reminder of Las Posadas! They also make wonderful handmade gifts...

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Sunday, December 16, 2012

Las Posadas y Abuelitas

When I think of Las Posadas celebrations from my childhood, I think of twinkling winter nights and the sound of voices young and old blending sweetly together. I remember how my boots would pinch my feet as I shifted from left foot to right foot, holding my little candle and sheet music, or lifting the small platform upon which the little statues of the peregrinos stood. My breath would make moist clouds rise in the cold air.

When I think of Las Posadas, I think of entering warm homes to the sound of joyful singing, and the smell of chocolate and canela filling up my senses. I remember broad smiles and warm embraces that squeeze me with soft arms, my own stretching - but not meeting - around huggable bodies. 

There is laughter and food, and thoroughly cleaned rooms with little nacimientos carefully arranged on table tops covered in white felt. Tamales are piled high on the table and hot chocolate with canela is served in paper cups.

Today, as the season approaches, I have no Posadas to which I can take my children. The only other Latina I know in town is from Colombia and sadly our paths do not often cross. But I still cling to the memories with the desperation of one who is afraid of losing pieces of her childhood. I remember snuggling with my 'Buelita, and I miss her wide smile, beautiful laugh, and loving arms.

So I create new traditions for my children by telling them about my own childhood and reading them books related to Las Posadas. We fill out activity sheets, create projects, and I ask my children to try recipes that I remember or must recreate, like tamales, Abuelita's chocolate, and even buñuelos. 

But for me the best thing about the holidays is not the traditions, or the gifts, or even the giving. Instead it is seeing my children embraced by their abuelita and grandpa as they walk in the door. It is in seeing the smiles that stretch from ear to ear as they peek out at me wrapped in their 'Buelita's arms. And it is in knowing that these are the moments that they will remember their whole lives, perhaps most bittersweetly when they themselves become grandparents.

This giveaway has now ended and the winner notified. 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Mirta the Super Fly Bilingual App

Continuing with our Apps for Gifts series, today's featured app is Mirta the Super Fly - Brainy Fables. It is created by Next Stage, a developer out of Spain.

Name: Mirta the Super Fly And her Sad Fate/Mirta la super mosca y su triste destino - Brainy Fables series
Subject(s): reading, writing, critical thinking, fine motor skills
Brief Description: An interactive eBook in both English and Spanish that encourages flexible thinking and teaches valuable lessons.
Price: FREE
Ages: 4 - 7

What my kids like:

The story line. My kids just love a good story and Mirta is a cute and engaging tale about a little fly who longs to escape the house and travel the world.

And they like the fact that they can either write their own ending to the story, or choose an alternative. The app also comes with a couple of coloring pages at the end.

What I like:

This is a short book. There are not a lot of bells and whistles with it. My kids (or I) have the option to turn off the narrator's voice so that the kids can read it themselves.

Written by Franco Soldi and illustrated by Pedro Bascón, the best part may be listening to the Spanish narrator, who speaks with a Castilian accent. Both the English and the Spanish versions are excellent, no bad translations here! The illustrations have a very European style to them. Very simplistic and monochromatic.

Mirta is just one of the Brainy Fables series, but it is the only one that is free. Take a look and download it. If you like this type of story, you'll be happy to know there are many others to purchase.

Disclosure: I was notified about this series by a PR company. I was not compensated for this posts. All opinions expressed above are my own.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Latino Children's Literature: 3 Things You Can Do to Make a Difference

In response to the New York Times article about the lack of Latino authors and books for children, Latina bloggers are launching a coordinated response that correctly identifies the problem and gives solutions. As aspiring authors, many of us have experienced first-hand being shut out by the mainstream publishing industry, not being given the time of day by the powerful editors of publishing houses. Some editors can't figure out our "niche"; some can't find Hispanic authors; some believe Latinos "don't read." They're WRONG. In a series of posts, we're exploring the different dimensions and demanding more Latin@s be mentored, published, and that the top of publishing houses becomes more diverse. To help the publishing houses and readers, we're providing our top picks of Latin@ writers. And we're not done.  Look out for forthcoming Google hangouts, twitter parties, and follow-up posts as this coordinated effort continues, working towards providing quality books for an emerging group of readers.

So a fantastic thing is happening.

As you can read above, the initial outburst over the New York Times article about the lack of Latino children's literature is changing into something more constructive. There is a group of us Latina bloggers who are raising our voices to prove to publishers that, yes, there is a need for Latino children's literature and that yes, we do buy books. (Seriously? I find it absurd that I even have to type that last part.)

I've already expressed my opinion about how these books are important for more reasons than just literacy. They provide children with a voice, motivation, and even inspiration to follow their dreams. They instill a sense of possibility and hope, and they help to boost a child's self-esteem giving them the courage to pursue those possibilities.

AND I've also explained why we aren't seeing more Latino children's literature being published today. Even though the publishing industry started an attempt to produce more stories for Latino children by Latino authors, their marketing strategy failed and the timing was wrong. The explosion of titles occurred just before the recession hit, and as we all know, Latinos were the hardest hit group. In fact, last year, the Pew Research Center released a report saying that 6.1 million Latino children live in poverty - a record-breaking number. So it is really no surprise that these children struggle with literacy.

It's hard to make books a priority when you're wondering if you have enough money to buy groceries.

Consider these problems

Parents who are struggling to make ends meet and work more than one job, may not be able to find the time to read to their children. Reading to your children is a major technique for developing literacy skills.

Those who do find the time, probably don't have the extra cash to buy books to read to their children. The more books in your home, the greater the chances of your child’s academic achievement.

Those who do have the cash, are not very likely to buy children's books. (Though they might be more inclined to do so if they were to discover some of the Latino children' literature which centers around characters and lifestyles to which they themselves can relate!)

But they can't find any of the Latino children's literature on the shelves of their local bookstores.

Many Latino families don't use their local libraries, and even those that do, sometimes can't find Latino children's literature in stock.

Latino children are more likely to attend low-income schools which struggle to find funding for school library resources (and for purchasing Latino children's lit).

Now consider these solutions

Some libraries across the country are developing bilingual programs and are investing in titles for children by Latino authors, but more need to follow suit. AND they need to find a way to reach out to the Latino community and encourage them to use the library by showing them how it works.

Latino parents need access to the bilingual or bicultural books that they are more likely to take the time to read to their kids.

Major booksellers such as Barnes & Noble, need to carry a healthy selection of Latino children's literature from publishers like Groundwood Books, Lorito Books, Children's Book Press, Piñata Books, and others.

Some bigger publishers such as Candlewick Press and Penguin Books are venturing into this area, but they need to be encouraged to invest in more Latino authors from diverse backgrounds.

All publishers need to rethink their marketing strategy. It's not just the big bookstore chains that should carry these titles. We need to think about the stores that are actually found in Latino communities and reach out to them.


We're really tired of hearing the same old line: Latinos don't buy books.

That's a load of caca. (Well, it is!)

So we're reaching out to you to help change this situation. Here's what you can do:

1) Save the banner at the top of this post and put it on your own blog or Facebook page. Make it known that you support Latino authors and illustrators, and that you want to see Latino children's literature available in stores near you.

2) Join us in showing publishers that - Yes! We really DO buy books! To help you with our Latino Children's Book Buy Out, we've all listed some of our favorite books and authors on our blogs. We hope you'll consider buying at least one of these titles to give as a gift this holiday season - or keep it for yourself!

3) Talk to your friends and encourage them to do the same. If you write about it on your own site, add your link at the bottom of this post so we can all read it and share it!

Without further ado, here are some of our (my kids included) favorite authors and books. It was really hard to keep it down to 10 books. The link will take you to our sister site's (the LBBC's) online bookshop, but you can easily buy these directly from, if you prefer...

Written by Pat Mora
Illustrated by Magaly Morales

Floating on Mama's Song
by Laura Lacamara


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