kindness, Picture Books

LOVE IS KIND: MOTHER’S DAY is for GRANDMOTHERS too!

I’ve been thinking a lot this week about my mother and my grandmothers, all of whom I remember fondly, especially in May when we celebrate Mother’s Day. My mom and her mom also shared the same birthdate in May (isn’t that neat?) and so that makes the month extra nostalgic for me as I remember the wonderful bonds we shared.

As the author of LOVE IS KIND (Zonderkidz, 2018) I think I can say, with fair certainty, that Little Owl from the book also loves taking time in May and on Mother’s Day to celebrate the special bond he shares with his Grammy.

In the story, for those of you who haven’t read it, Little Owl is on a quest to show Grammy how much he loves her by buying her a box of heart-shaped chocolates. Along the way, however, he encounters obstacle after obstacle, and ends up arriving with nothing. Nothing, that is, until his wonderful Grammy points out that the gift he has to offer is LOVE and that HE is the gift when he shows love along the way, a gift much better than chocolate!

Here’s a sweet glimpse of that special moment when they both celebrate that HE is the gift captured in a special clip illustrator Lison Chaperon made to celebrate the release of LOVE IS KIND:

I love reading LOVE IS KIND any time of year, but I feel a little extra sentimental as we leap into May. And that sentimentality is actually commemorated in the book. If you have a copy near you, open it up to the dedication page. Do you see who I dedicated it to? My grandmothers!

Sadly, both they and mom, passed away before I ever wrote the first word of the story. Still, I always think of them – and the great bonds we shared – every time I read the book. It is my hope that the book might also become a special bonding story for your families, as you read and enjoy it together with your children and grand children.

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!

Note: If you enjoyed this post, please consider following my blog. I post once or twice weekly. Posts are devoted to celebrating reading, writing and life!

kindness

FIVE TIPS TO INSPIRE KINDNESS IN OUR KIDS (Inspired by LOVE IS KIND!)

One of the reasons I wrote LOVE IS KIND was to show in fun story form what love and kindness in action could look like. Now, with Valentine’s Day just around the corner, I thought it would be fun to share a few book-inspired tips to foster kindness in our kids. My hope is that they will inspire you and your little ones to follow in Little Owl’s footsteps and spread love and kindness near and far.

Tip #1  Be kind yourself.  As Grammy from LOVE IS KIND would most certainly remind us, our little owls, I mean kids, are watching our every move. They are learning from us, seeing if our words match our actions. If we want them extend love and kindness to others, we must first be intentional about being kind ourselves in ways big and small.

Tip #2  Brainstorm ways to be kind.  Little Owl was kind and loving every step of the way on his quest to get Grammy those chocolates, but he didn’t realize it until Grammy pointed it out. Sometimes reminders are helpful, so after reading the story, spend a few minutes brainstorming with your children some ways we can be kind to others. Consider having an older child write down your family’s ideas, then put them on the fridge as a visible daily reminder.

Tip #3  Make “good manners” a habit.  Did you notice how polite Little Owl was throughout the story?  And how good manners came so naturally to him?  He said things like, “Have a good day!”, “Congratulations!” and “That’s nice.” I suspect Little Owl’s mama and papa were hard at work on a daily basis instilling those simple niceties. As parents and caregivers, we can do the same with our kids so that when they are out and about those kind and friendly interactions are second nature.  

Tip #4  Wear “kindness glasses.” I like to wrap up author visits by challenging the kids to be kind to those around them just like Little Owl. To to help them remember this, I have them first hold their hands together so that thumbs and fingers touch to form a heart shape. I explain that these are their kindness glasses and I ask them to look through them every morning when they wake up and we all try it, which generates giggles all around. Then, while looking at them through my heart-shaped glasses, I challenge them to find at least one opportunity before the sun sets to extend kindness to another in an unexpected way. The silliness is part of the magic and it sets the tone for a good day.  (Note: This tip pairs nicely with tip #2)

Tip #5  Catch each other being kind! Grammy caught Little Owl completely by surprise when she pointed out that he’d shown love and kindness along the way to Grammy’s. And what was Little Owl’s reaction? He was thrilled! He realized HE was the gift and that his kindnesses towards others were better than any store-bought gift. Likewise, your children will be delighted when you notice their kind deeds. And this, I am certain, will spur them on to more and more and more! And that should make every parent’s heart sing. It sure makes mine!

Blessings to you and your kids as you lovingly instill in them a heart for spreading love and kindness.

Note: A version of this post previously appeared on Jean Matthew Hall’s delightful blog

Christmas, faith, holidays

SNAIL MAIL BLESSINGS: Christmas in the NICU Edition

This past August, I invited you to join me in what I’m calling the Snail Mail Blessings Challenge to write and send one hand-written note to someone each week. I had the idea because in this age of instant texts and emails, I’ve been missing the special connection of a different kind of correspondence – the old-fashioned hand-written note.  

Well, I’m realizing God also was preparing my heart (and hand) for something special because about a month ago I received lovely note from a woman named Jessika Sanders who has a ministry called “Praying through the NICU” which supports families in the NICU through prayer and other forms of encouragement.  

Here’s her note:

 Hi Laura! I just had an idea come to me and I wonder if it is from the Holy Spirit! We were in the NICU with our son on Christmas 2 years ago. It was so hard. The kindness of a stranger gifting us a baby toy touched our hearts—especially because it was the one toy I hadn’t gotten our son but had wanted to. ❤️

 This year I was thinking of doing something special for our local NICU as well as some of the families in our online community that find themselves in the hospital for the holiday. I would love to gift them a Christmas book to read to their baby. My first thought was your “Goodnight Manger” board book. ❤️ Would you prayerfully consider being a part of this somehow? I know you are a NICU mom and your book is a beautiful blessing. Would you pray about it and get back to me? ❤️ God bless you!

I am indeed a NICU mom. Our son, who is now in college, was born 16 weeks early and spent 105 days in the NICU.  And those days were so difficult — facing the unknown, wondering if he would be okay and what the future might hold. 

But just as Jessika experienced, during that time, God used strangers to comfort us with words of encouragement and prayer.  A teenager and former preemie came to visit the NICU one day, stopping at each isolette and serving as testament to God’s presence and mercy.  A monastery of complete strangers prayed for us. A quilting guild of women I didn’t even know, not only prayed, but made a quilt that we still use. Three beautiful examples of strangers reaching out with God’s love in the midst of the difficult.

So, of course, I said, yes.  And what would my special role be?  Writing a note of encouragement for each book donated. 

I also said I would donate three books and my wonderful publisher, Zonderkidz donated 12 more. Jessika was thrilled and she said could match our fifteen with fifteen of her own.  And we were on our way. She also mentioned that she and her team would have a book drive and so the totals might be a little bigger.  Maybe 75?  Would that be okay, she asked.  Of course, I said. I would write as many notes as needed. 

Well, God has knocked my socks off! The number of copies of GOODNIGHT MANGER that have been generously purchased by kind-hearted souls eager to bless those babies and their families is now approaching 450! 

And in the kindness begets kindness department, and because 450+ notes of encouragement is a lot of notes to hand-copy, I have been blessed with a team of friends and family who have offered to pitch in with the letter writing – leaving a space for me to sign.  These include:

  • an 84 year old former preschool teacher
  • my sister and her two kids, ages 10 and 13,
  • a dear friend who I’ve known for ages (who has beautiful penmanship!)
  • a wonderful friend who is also a NICU mom and was one of the first strangers to reach out to me with encouragement and prayer when our son was first born. (That’s how I met her!)
  • a new friend who just loves and idea and wants to pitch in
  • a lovely steward of a local Little Free Library who I met when I dropped a copy of LOVE IS KIND off there last year.  We have become friends and she is a NICU mom and is eager to pitch in a big way
  • and I have a feeling more will join the team in the coming weeks.


I will send the hand-written, signed notes to Jessika. She will then distribute them to her team to be packaged with the books that have been donated. And it’s not just for a couple of NICUs. Her team is comprised of wonderful NICU mamas who have blessed by Jessika Sanders “Praying through the NICU” ministry. They are the ones who will hand deliver the packages to their respective NICUs in at least four states that span the nation!

Learn more about the Praying through the NICU ministry. Interested in being a part of the Christmas in the NICU book drive?  Press here.  (The book drives runs through 11/15/21.)

In closing, perhaps this post will inspire you to make a list of special people in your life (or complete strangers) that you might bless with a note of encouragement in the coming weeks.

Blessings all!

Author Visit, Picture Books

Back-to-School Offer: Celebrate KINDNESS with a Free Author Visit with LAURA SASSI

Back-to-School Time! In celebration of the POWER OF KINDNESS, I’m offering FIVE free 20-minute virtual* visits to classrooms, libraries, church groups, day-cares or homeschool co-ops. (*Note: Can be in-person if you are local.)

 If you are interested, reach out to me via the contact tab in the About section.

IMPORTANT DETAILS

For each FREE 20-minute virtual visit I will:

  • Briefly introduce myself and describe what it means to be an author. I will also share the inspiration behind the book I will be sharing.
  • Read LOVE IS KIND, LITTLE EWE or DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE with a kindness take-away challenge for each.
  • Use puppets to aid in the storytelling.
  • Have a brief Q&A.

OPTIONAL: If you are interested in a longer virtual visit that includes a presentation of the journey a picture book takes from spark to publication, using early sketches, drafts and more, I also offer longer virtual visits that are fee-based. If a fuller visit interests you, please let me know that. My fees are reasonable and we will make the visit work to fit your budget.

Either way, I respectfully request that you or your school purchase a copy the book you select for your class library. I also request that book orders be made available to families so they can order books from the vendor of their/your choice.  I do not sell my books, but they are readily available through your favorite bookseller. I will provide a signed personally inscribed book plate for each book purchased. 

I look forward to spreading kindness in this special way this fall!  

Visits must be booked by December 1, 2021. Spots will fill quickly, so reach out to me soon via my contact tab in the About section. 

Happy Fall!

Inspiration, Life, Writing

SNAIL MAIL BLESSINGS: Fostering KINDNESS the Old-Fashioned Way

In this age of instant texts and emails, I’ve been missing the special connection of a different kind of correspondence – the old-fashioned hand-written note. 

Beginning in my tweens through my twenties, I regularly wrote hand-written notes. Some were condolence letters. Some were thank you notes. Most were letters to friends in places I’d previously lived.  Many were letters to my now-husband of 29 years! All were written from the heart and they were my favorite way to connect across the miles.  

Each letter began with a connection point where I reminded the recipient how much I missed them or had been thinking about them. Then I would ask a question or two about how they were doing. Next, I’d share some of the meaningful things that were going on in my neck of the woods, often continuing a conversation thread from a letter I’d received from them.  I’d close with a reminder once again of how much they meant to me and how I looked forward to hearing from them. 

Looking back, I see there was an art to those letters and a special connection built through the bond of writing – an art and connection that I fear we are only a few texts and social media posts away from losing forever.

So now, with September just around corner, I’ve decided to shake the dust off my stationary stash and develop a new habit of writing one old-fashioned note once a week to someone special.

Would you like to join me in this letter writing journey, which I’m calling “Snail Mail Blessings”?  If so, please let me know in the comments section so we can encourage each other along the way.

Getting started is easy. Just grab paper, pen, a stamp and an envelope. Find a comfortable spot to write. Pause quietly for a moment and see if someone comes to mind – an old classmate perhaps, or a special aunt or uncle you haven’t written to in awhile. Maybe you know someone who needs a little boost of encouragement this week. Your heart will tell you when you’ve got the right person for this week. 

Then write the letter and send it the old-fashioned way- via snail mail.  

I hope that this challenge is a blessing to your week, as I know it will be to mine. And be on the look out in coming weeks for more thoughts and inspiration for ways we can bless those around us (and be blessed in return) through the simple act of writing letters and sending them the old-fashioned way.

Snail Mail Blessings to your and yours!

Laura 

Inspiration, Life

FEELING BLESSED by a … BOUQUET!

This post fits squarely in the “celebrating life” category of this blog. I wrote it just now on my Facebook page, but feel moved to share it here as well. I hope the joy I felt as I wrote it comes through in the reading of it. And now, the post:

This lovely bouquet, which now sits in a vase on my porch, is a LOVELY reminder to me of what happens when we SLOW down and show KINDNESS in the places we find ourselves.

Here’s the story: I am all ready to check out at Trader Joe’s yesterday, so I pull my cart up to one of the check out lanes. The cashier welcomes me and says it will just be a moment. The customer before me (whose bags were already packed and ready to go) has remembered at the last minute that she needs coffee. She has promised it will be just a moment and has dashed off to get coffee. Well, it isn’t just a moment. It takes many moments. Many, many moments.

I’m tired and hungry and want to get home, but I’ve been working on slowing things down, allowing for margin, so I have time to connect with others and choose kindness. So, instead of complaining to the cashier, who I can tell is feeling bad about the situation, I say not to worry, and we fill the time with conversation.

Before the customer comes back, the check out line next to the one I am in opens up, and the cashier there invites me to check out in his line, which I do. While I am busy with that, the customer comes back. She’s had to wait for someone to grind the coffee, apparently. In my mind, it is not a big deal. But just as I am paying for my groceries, I feel a tap on my shoulder. I turn and it’s the first cashier. She’s holding a bouquet for me. “Thank you,” she says. I’m stunned. The bouquet is not necessary, I say. But as I carry it out, I feel this overwhelming sense of joy at the positive human connection that is found when we take the time to both be a blessing to others and to allow ourselves to be blessed by others. My heart is full. And now, as I start my weekend, I wonder what other opportunities will come my way, and perhaps your way too. Blessings all!

Extension Activity, Inspiration, Picture Books

LOVE IS KIND: FIVE TIPS for Fostering KINDNESS in our Kids

I’m excited to share that a lovely little interaction on Twitter with a first grade teacher who shared how she had just read LOVE IS KIND to her students and tagged me – has resulted in an end of the year virtual school visit with the first graders at her school! I sometimes get discouraged  that all this social media socializing doesn’t seem to make a difference – but here’s a positive example of it working in a special way to make a very memorable experience for some first graders (and their parents and teachers) during these stressful times. I will let you know how it goes!

What makes this special visit extra special is that one of the very reasons I wrote LOVE IS KIND was to show in fun story form what love and kindness in action could look like. Now, in celebration of this teacher and her class, I thought it would be fun to share a few book-inspired tips to foster kindness in our kids. My hope is that they will inspire you and your little ones to follow in Little Owl’s footsteps and spread love and kindness near and far.

Tip #1: Be kind yourself. As Grammy from LOVE IS KIND would most certainly remind us, our little owls, I mean kids, are watching our every move. They are learning from us, seeing if our words match our actions. If we want them extend love and kindness to others, we must first be intentional about being kind ourselves in ways big and small.

Tip #2: Brainstorm ways to be kind. Little Owl was kind and loving every step of the way on his quest to get Grammy those chocolates, but he didn’t realize it until Grammy pointed it out. Sometimes reminders are helpful, so after reading the story, spend a few minutes brainstorming with your children some ways we can be kind to others. Consider having an older child write down your family’s ideas, then put them on the fridge as a visible daily reminder.

Tip #3: Make “good manners” a habit. Did you notice how polite Little Owl was throughout the story? And how good manners came so naturally to him? He said things like, “Have a good day!”, “Congratulations!” and “That’s nice.” I suspect Little Owl’s mama and papa and teacher were hard at work on a daily basis instilling those simple niceties. As parents (and grandparents) and caregivers, we can do the same with our kids so that when they are out and about those kind and friendly interactions are second nature.

Tip #4: Wear “kindness glasses.” I like to wrap up author visits by challenging the kids to be kind to those around them just like Little Owl. To help them remember this, I have them first hold their hands together so that thumbs and fingers touch to form a heart shape. I explain that these are their kindness glasses and I ask them to look through them every morning when they wake up and we all try it, which generates giggles all around. Then, while looking at them through my heart-shaped glasses, I challenge them to find at least one opportunity before the sun sets to extend kindness to another in an unexpected way. The silliness is part of the magic and it sets the tone for a good day. (Note: This tip pairs nicely with tip #2)

Tip #5: Catch each other being kind! Grammy caught Little Owl completely by surprise when she pointed out that he’d shown love and kindness along the way to Grammy’s house. And what was Little Owl’s reaction? He was thrilled! He realized HE was the gift and that his kindnesses towards others were better than any store-bought gift. Likewise, your children will be delighted when you notice their kind deeds. And this, I am certain, will spur them on to more and more and more! And that should make every parent’s heart sing. It sure makes mine!

Blessings to you and your kids as you lovingly instill in them hearts for spreading love and kindness.

Note: A version of this post previously appeared on Jean Matthew Hall’s delightful blog.  Please also enjoy her review of my book GOODNIGHT, MANGER, along with her rich archive of posts about both the writing and reading of picture books. And while you are there, be sure to check out her Bountiful Blessings Picture Book Series. Thank you, Jean!

Inspiration, Interview, Picture Books

LOVE IS KIND Valentine Blog Tour: STOP THREE

One of the reasons I wrote LOVE IS KIND was to show in fun story form what love and kindness in action could look like. And today I’m excited to be the guest of picture book author Jean Matthew Hall. Please join me over at her blog as we chat about ways to foster kindness in our kids. My hope is that our conversation will inspire you and your little ones to follow in Little Owl’s footsteps and spread love and kindness near and far. (Oh, and there’s a giveaway plus Jean has created a beautiful bookmark freebie!) I’ll make it easy for you. Here’s the link.

Inspiration, Life

LOVE IS KIND Blog Tour: FINAL Stop

Since a central theme of LOVE IS KIND is spreading love and kindness, for this last stop on my blog tour, Darlene Beck Jacobson asked me to reflect on three acts of kindness that have touched me as a picture book author. However, as I pondered which to choose, one stood out from the rest. It’s one that I’ve been wanting to honor for a long time, but wasn’t sure how.  So thank you, Darlene, for asking me to write this post because, as it turns out, this was exactly the “how” I was looking for.  So, dear readers, grab a cup of tea – and some tissues – and head on over. I’ll make it easy.  Here’s the link.