R2: Mouse Christmas

ReadingthuRsday-R2Every year, I lug out a festive holiday container filled with Christmas books I have collected over the years. I bought the container when my daughter was small, and each year I added a Christmas book or two to the collection. Of course, I am past the capacity of the festive holiday container, so a rather plain paper box contains the rest of my collection. Each year, long after my daughter is young enough to really want to do so, I read aloud from that stash of books. indexWhen I read aloud one of the books, I feel all her childhood Christmases rush back at me. The one book that says Christmas to me is The Mouse’s Christmas. I am afraid an English professor might not consider it a classic, but it withstands time for me.

The story is simple, a Mother Mouse is trying to make Christmas for her children. Of course, being children, they want the impossible….a Christmas tree of their very own in their small mouse house. The Mother, after hearing a lot of gloomy lamenting, promises to do her best to find her children a Christmas tree. The mother tries to come up with something that kind of looks like a tree, a small leafless branch that she decorates. Of course, it does not look like a real Christmas tree, so her children are disappointed. reading-book1Then a wonderful series of events happens, the tree a farmer has chosen is too big, so he trims it. A fox came along and takes part of the trimmings, but it is too big, so she drops a part, a rabbit comes along and takes part, and then a bird comes along, and takes a part, until all is left is just one tiny little part that looks like a small Christmas tree. Ah, now we all know what happens. Mother Mouse takes this small part home and decorates it, and her children have a much wanted and much loved Christmas tree.

christmas book tree

Tree of books!

I read this book aloud to my daughter over and over again. I related to that poor Mother who was trying to make Christmas special. I felt I was wholly responsible for my child having a wonderful Christmas with fond childhood memories. My daughter just liked the story, but I felt a connection to Mother Mouse. So every Christmas, whether my daughter wants to hear the story or not, I bring out a much battered copy of Mouse Christmas.

My collection of Christmas books are a testimony to all the holidays of her childhood. My Christmas really begins with the tradition of bringing those books out of storage. This year, our Christmas books have a new home, as we begin a new set of Christmas memories. All the characters in all the books will once again come to life in the glow of a decorated Christmas tree. I will continue to feel blessed as we share a collection of much loved and much read Christmas books.




Party Full of Pleasures

karenThis post is a belated thanks to the Hospitality Committee here at our college. These dear folks recently pulled off The Best Holiday Luncheon Ever. This is high praise from a no-thanks-on-the-parties girl. (One of my favorite contemporary Christmas songs is 1981’s “Christmas Wrapping” by The Waitresses. The opening lines are: “Bah, humbug, no that’s too strong. ‘Cause it is my favorite holiday…” My students hadn’t heard it but asked for a replay. The link includes the lyrics, since the pace is brisk.)

Do you suppose Derek and the Elves have been taking notes from our blog? They seem to have hit every last one of our pleasures:

  • Sensual pleasure: Catering from the Four Seasons, including the best carbs ever—potato casserole and corn pudding–yum. Music from Dan on the grand at the buffet line. More music from Greg in the dining area. Laughter.Beautiful decorations. Warm hugs from colleagues. Sensory overload.

    Anne and Brian sporting their impromptu tinsel

    Anne and Brian sporting their impromptu tinsel

  • Surprise: Too often the games portion at these affairs is just painful. Props to Derek and the Elves for creating two games that incorporated delightful surprises as well as….
  • Humor: The first game was a variation of the old To Tell the Truth TV show. Several colleagues had responded to the team’s request for a unique and little-known fact about themselves. The team collected and distributed the clues, and the attendees guessed which pal had done what. All the contributors gathered for a reading of the clues with a big reveal after each one. The second game offered an…
  • Achievable challenge as each table was asked to choose one member to “play.” The chosen member was then designated the team Christmas tree, to be decorated with random items that attendees had been asked to bring from home or office.
    Chris the IT Superguy is the champ

    Chris the IT Superguy is the champ

    Anne garnered second place. We might have grumbled, but the winner was our IT Superhero Chris.

  • Belonging to a group: It was fun to sit back and watch staff and faculty mingle, sharing hugs and back-slaps as friends who don’t see each other every day exchanged holiday greetings.
  • Autonomy: Bring your own stuff; fill your own plate; have two–or three–desserts; choose your own table; stay as long as you like. No bosses, no ranks, just friends.
  • Owning something of value: A place in the best community college crew around. Now THAT is something precious.

If Derek and the Elves can do it for a party, we can do it in our classes. Thanks again, Friends, for a great time.


Tech Tuesday: Facebook is for Old People, Part 3

Each Tuesday, pleasureinlearning brings you Tech Tuesday.  Come back each week for more ways to become efficient and effective in your use of technology. 


This is the last week of our review of teen apps/websites. This week I’ll talk about Kik and apps that allow anonymous sharing with people who are nearby. I’ll also point out the teen underground of Reddit.

Kik Messenger

  • Description: Think of this as the new AOL Instant Messenger. You set up a username and then you message back and forth with your friends.
  • Appeals to: People looking to hook up. People looking for social networks where they don’t have to be friends with their parents (*cough*Facebook*cough*).
  • Warnings: This app may seem fine on the surface, but the problem is the illicit subculture that has developed around it. Basically, it is like a college with a reputation for being a party school.  Such a school has a reputation for a reason and people go to that school because they want to be a part of the party. The app has become very very popular for sexting. Kik usernames are reportedly shared through sites like reddit to solicit cyber meetups.

Rape Me – Ok, that’s not the name of an app (that I know of!), but there is concern over an entire category of apps where users share text and images with people nearby.  You can imagine the negative implications.

  • Examples: Yik Yak, Whisper, Blendr
  • Description: Each of these apps is intended to share text or video content in such a way that nearby people receive it or can view it. Often these apps require no authentication or are anonymous. Might be a great way to tell friends in 3rd period History what was on the 1st period test.  Also might be a good way to get raped.  Just sayin’.
  • Appeals to: Social types.
  • Warnings:   Is the description and title warning enough?  If you want to read more about an individual app, the Wikipedia articles are usually a good place to start.



  • Description: Public bulletin board website. Used for sharing other web content and original content. Posts are voted up and down by users.
  • Appeals to: Technical individuals. People wishing to participate in a community.
  • Warnings: No email address required to sign up, thus young users are not inhibited by a lack of email address. Similar to craigslist, content may be explicit or solicitous in nature, but usually isn’t. Wide appeal means that there are many people using (and policing) the site.


Last week, I promised you (all 2 of you) some big news.  This is the last Tech Tuesday post because I’m going to be expanding my family from 2 to 5 over Christmas vacation. We’re not having triplets, we’re adopting! Needless to say, we’ll have some adjusting to do, so I’m paring back my commitments.  Hopefully I’ll be able to pop in for a guest post every now and then. It’s been a pleasure facilitating some technology learning amongst you.

Stay tuned for some new and exciting content changes here at pleasureinlearning.


Santa and Logistics

Brian picSanta is problematic in some ways. His lack of adaptation to the modern era is of concern, so in my last letter to him, I asked why he uses a sleigh and reindeer instead of updating to at least a helicopter. His tart reply suggested that I think in terms of tradition and colorful imagery in this case more than flight technology. “Besides,” he said, “the secret has always been magic anyway. What sleigh flies, even with eight reindeer?” He had me on that one.

At least writing him is easier than ever since he emails, and our exchange is rapid fire and not dependent upon the postal system. santaipadSo I asked him why he goes down chimneys when there might be a fire going. After all, most of history wasn’t blessed with the heating systems in houses now that make fireplaces mostly for ambience. Here again, though scientific facts defy someone entering a house down a chimney while a fire is going, his answer was simple: “I have a 60 second spray that makes me temporarily immune to flames and heat, and always have.” What could I say?

Then too, though Santa is corpulent to a diabetes-threatening degree, he survives every era and almost flaunts the advice of every health tip column ever written. I asked how he can keep his weight under 400 pounds with the decadent amount of cookies he eats. He had an answer for that too: “I only eat cookies in that amount one day a year. It’s a free day, you know. Everybody gets a free day, right?”

santa-claus I only had the energy for one more question. How is it that the sleigh and also those reindeer feet can make landings soft enough to avoid waking the children? Santa doesn’t miss a trick. “The North Pole has an RD department which long ago developed a hover technology,” he said. I wondered if this too is magic. “Of course it’s all magic, Brian, you seem a bit slow catching onto that. Merry Christmas!”

Ending on an Up Note: A Gift Idea

little_girl_big_bookIn Dr. Howard’s delightful debut post yesterday, she confessed her compulsion to give books as gifts. This reminded me of a poem that my children and I enjoyed reading together when they were small. I headed to the family library this morning and found the book, The Family Read Aloud Christmas Treasury, stashed way up high on the children’s holiday shelf, where it awaits another generation of young Dougherty readers. (Fingers crossed on that one!)

A longer read, we know, than our usual Friday post, but I think it’s worth it. You may recognize your younger self in these lines. And I love the presumption that thank-you notes will, of course, be written.


A Merry Literary Christmas
When Christmas shopping time
draws nigh.
And I am faced with gifts to buy,
I think about one relative
Who always had one gift to give.
And every year her present came.
And every year it was the same.
While other gifts were round and fat,
(Their secrets hidden) hers was flat.
Rectangular, the corners square,
I knew exactly what was there.
I’d pass it by without a look—
My aunt had sent another book!
I’d only open it to write
A “thank you” that was too polite,
But every year when Christmas went
I’d read the book my aunt had sent,
And looking back, I realize
Each gift was treasure in disguise.
So now it’s time to write her here
A thank-you note that is sincere.
So—thanks for Alice and Sara Crewe,
For Christopher Robin and Piglet and Pooh,
For Little Nell and William Tell
And Peter and Wendy and Tinker Bell.
Thanks for Tom and Jim and Huck,
For Robinson Crusoe and Dab-Dab the duck,
For Meg and Jo and Johnny Crow
And Papa Geppeto’s Pinocchio
For Mary Poppins and Rat and Toad
King Arthur and Dorothy’s Yellow Brick Road,
For Kipling’s Kim and tales from Grimm,
And Ferdinand, Babar and Tiny Tim.I loved them all, I’m glad I met them.
They’re with me still, I won’t forget them.
So I’ll give books on Christmas Day
Though I know what all my nieces say–
I know it from the way they write
A “thank-you” that is too polite.

Alice Low
(The Family Read-Aloud Christmas Treasury by Alice Low, Little, Brown, and Company, 1989)
Enjoy your weekend…and buy someone a book.

Right Book, Right Hand, Right Time

ReadingthuRsday-R2pleasureteam note: We are delighted to reprise last year’s popular “R²: Reading on Thursday” feature. Dr. YeVette Howard, director of our college’s Quality Enhancement Plan, gets us back on track today with the first in a series of tips to help us maximize our students’ reading skills and enjoyment.

During a recent faculty professional development event, I talked about how much I truly believed the “Right Book in the Right Hand at the Right Time” made the difference in helping someone become a reader. As I prepared my remarks, I noticed my reading success was largely due to someone pointing out a “good book.” I think a lot about getting the right book into the right hand at the right time.image_mini

As a teacher and a reader, I continue to look for ways to entice readers; thus, the right book is always on my mind. Although I no longer work with children and young adolescents, I continue to read reviews and peruse book store for books I think they might like. I still go into the Children’s section of libraries and in bookstores; instantly drawn to their energy and proclamations of good books. I am currently thinking about the books for community college students who either need to be drawn back to reading or who need to become a reader. I want to be ready if someone asks me about a good book.

Quotes by Audrey Hepburn Reading -1I find I am compelled to give books for gifts; one again, hoping to give just the “right book.” On my daughter’s Christmas list, she indicated I could give her ONE book of my choice because she knew I had to give “a book to be a happy person.” She is on target, I want her to have the right book, I want my cousins to have the right book, I want my friends to have the right book, and let’s be truthful, I want everyone to have the right book.

I also want to know what might be my next right book, so I am always looking and listening when I am at the library, at the bookstore, and at the Goodwill. I listen to students, I listen to children, I listen to friends, and I listen to folks I don’t know very well as we bond quickly over books. While reading may be a quiet isolated activity, the “talking about books” is often lively. Books make unlikely conversations possible. I also strive to be in the right place when the talk turns to books.books4.jpg

All this talk of books is giving me the urge to go to the library….just to see what “right books” might be waiting.