Archive for August, 2011

August 22nd, 2011

That Dummy That Lived – An American Fairy Tale

by L. Frank Baum, circa 1901.

In all Fairyland there is no more mischievous a person than Tanko-Mankie the Yellow Ryl. He flew through the city one afternoon—quite invisible to moral eyes, but seeing everything himself—and noticed a figure of a wax lady standing behind the big plate glass window of Mr. Floman’s department store.

The wax lady was beautifully dressed, and extended in her stiff left hand was a card bearing the words:


This Stylish Costume

(Imported from Paris)

Former Price, $20,


The Dummy That Lived by L. Frank Baum, brought to you by Operation Letter To SantaThis impressive announcement had drawn before the window a crowd of women shoppers, who stood looking at the wax lady with critical eyes.

Tanko-Mankie laughed to himself the low, gurgling little laugh that always means mischief. Then he flew close to the wax figure and breathed twice upon its forehead.

From that instant the dummy began to live, but so dazed and astonished was she at the unexpected sensation that she continued to stand stupidly staring at the women outside and holding out the placard as before.

The ryl laughed again and flew away. Anyone but Tanko-Mankie would have remained to help the wax lady out of the troubles that were sure to overtake her; but this naughty elf thought it rare fun to turn the inexperienced lady loose in a cold and heartless world and leave her to shift for herself.

Fortunately it was almost six o’clock when the dummy first realized that she was alive, and before she had collected her new thoughts and decided what to do a man came around and drew down all the window shades, shutting off the view from the curious shoppers.

Then the clerks and cashiers and floorwalkers and cash girls went home and the store was closed for the night, although the sweepers and scrubbers remained to clean the floors for the following day.

The window inhabited by the wax lady was boxed in, like a little room, one small door being left at the side for the window-trimmer to creep in and out of. So the scrubbers never noticed that the dummy, when left to herself, dropped the placard to the floor and sat down upon a pile of silks to wonder who she was, where she was, and how she happened to be alive.

For you must consider, dear reader, that in spite of her size and her rich costume, in spite of her pink cheeks and fluffy yellow hair, this lady was very young—no older, in reality, than a baby born but half an hour. All she knew of the world was contained in the glimpse she had secured of the busy street facing her window; all she knew of people lay in the actions of the group of women which had stood before her on the other side of the window pane and criticised the fit of her dress or remarked upon its stylish appearance.

So she had little enough to think about, and her thoughts moved somewhat slowly; yet one thing she really decided upon, and that was not to remain in the window and be insolently stared at by a lot of women who were not nearly so handsome or well dressed as herself.

By the time she reached this important conclusion, it was after midnight; but dim lights were burning in the big, deserted store, so she crept through the door of her window and walked down the long aisles, pausing now and then to look with much curiosity at the wealth of finery confronting her on every side.

When she came to the glass cases filled with trimmed hats she remembered having seen upon the heads of the women in the street similar creations. So she selected one that suited her fancy and placed it carefully upon her yellow locks. I won’t attempt to explain what instinct it was that made her glance into a near-by mirror to see if the hat was straight, but this she certainly did.  It didn’t correspond with her dress very well, but the poor thing was too young to have much taste in matching colors.

When she reached the glove counter she remembered that gloves were also worn by the women she had seen. She took a pair from the case and tried to fit them upon her stiff, wax-coated fingers; but the gloves were too small and ripped in the seams. Then she tried another pair, and several others, as well; but hours passed before she finally succeeded in getting her hands covered with a pair of pea-green kids.

Next she selected a parasol from a large and varied assortment in the rear of the store. Not that she had any idea what it was used for; but other ladies carried such things, so she also would have one.

When she again examined herself critically in the mirror she decided her outfit was now complete, and to her inexperienced eyes there was no perceptible difference between her and the women who had stood outside the window. Whereupon she tried to leave the store, but found every door fast locked.

The wax lady was in no hurry. She inherited patience from her previous existence. Just to be alive and to wear beautiful clothes was sufficient enjoyment for her at present. So she sat down upon a stool and waited quietly until daylight.

When the janitor unlocked the door in the morning the wax lady swept past him and walked with stiff but stately strides down the street.  The poor fellow was so completely whuckered at seeing the well-known wax lady leave her window and march away from the store that he fell over in a heap and only saved himself from fainting by striking his funny bone against the doorstep. When he recovered his wits she had turned the corner and disappeared.

The wax lady’s immature mind had reasoned that, since she had come to life, her evident duty was to mix with the world and do whatever other folks did. She could not realize how different she was from people of flesh and blood; nor did she know she was the first dummy that had ever lived, or that she owed her unique experience to Tanko-Mankie’s love of mischief. So ignorance gave her a confidence in herself that she was not justly entitled to.

It was yet early in the day, and the few people she met were hurrying along the streets. Many of them turned into restaurants and eating houses, and following their example the wax lady also entered one and sat upon a stool before a lunch counter.

“Coffee ‘n’ rolls!” said a shop girl on the next stool.

“Coffee ‘n’ rolls!” repeated the dummy, and soon the waiter placed them before her. Of course she had no appetite, as her constitution, being mostly wood, did not require food; but she watched the shop girl, and saw her put the coffee to her mouth and drink it.  Therefore the wax lady did the same, and the next instant was surprised to feel the hot liquid trickling out between her wooden ribs. The coffee also blistered her wax lips, and so disagreeable was the experience that she arose and left the restaurant, paying no attention to the demands of the waiter for “20 cents, mum.” Not that she intended to defraud him, but the poor creature had no idea what he meant by “20 cents, mum.”

As she came out she met the window trimmer at Floman’s store. The man was rather near-sighted, but seeing something familiar in the lady’s features he politely raised his hat. The wax lady also raised her hat, thinking it the proper thing to do, and the man hurried away with a horrified face.

Then a woman touched her arm and said:

“Beg pardon, ma’am; but there’s a price-mark hanging on your dress behind.”

“Yes, I know,” replied the wax lady, stiffly; “it was originally $20, but it’s been reduced to $19.98.”

The woman looked surprised at such indifference and walked on. Some carriages were standing at the edge of the sidewalk, and seeing the dummy hesitate a driver approached her and touched his cap.

“Cab, ma’am?” he asked.

“No,” said she, misunderstanding him; “I’m wax.”

“Oh!” he exclaimed, and looked after her wonderingly.

“Here’s yer mornin’ paper!” yelled a newsboy.

“Mine, did you say?” she asked.

“Sure! Chronicle, ‘Quirer, R’public ‘n’ ‘Spatch! Wot’ll ye ‘ave?”

“What are they for?” inquired the wax lady, simply.

“W’y, ter read, o’ course. All the news, you know.”

She shook her head and glanced at a paper.

“It looks all speckled and mixed up,” she said. “I’m afraid I can’t read.”

“Ever ben to school?” asked the boy, becoming interested.

“No; what’s school?” she inquired.

The boy gave her an indignant look.

“Say!” he cried, “ye’r just a dummy, that’s wot ye are!” and ran away to seek a more promising customer.

“I wonder that he means,” thought the poor lady. “Am I really different in some way from all the others? I look like them, certainly; and I try to act like them; yet that boy called me a dummy and seemed to think I acted queerly.”

This idea worried her a little, but she walked on to the corner, where she noticed a street car stop to let some people on. The wax lady, still determined to do as others did, also boarded the car and sat down quietly in a corner.

After riding a few blocks the conductor approached her and said:

“Fare, please!”

“What’s that?” she inquired, innocently.

“Your fare!” said the man, impatiently.

She stared at him stupidly, trying to think what he meant.

“Come, come!” growled the conductor, “either pay up or get off!”

Still she did not understand, and he grabbed her rudely by the arm and lifted her to her feet. But when his hand came in contact with the hard wood of which her arm was made the fellow was filled with surprise. He stooped down and peered into her face, and, seeing it was wax instead of flesh, he gave a yell of fear and jumped from the car, running as if he had seen a ghost.

At this the other passengers also yelled and sprang from the car, fearing a collision; and the motorman, knowing something was wrong, followed suit. The wax lady, seeing the others run, jumped from the car last of all, and stepped in front of another car coming at full speed from the opposite direction.

She heard cries of fear and of warning on all sides, but before she understood her danger she was knocked down and dragged for half a block.

When the car was brought to a stop a policeman reached down and pulled her from under the wheels. Her dress was badly torn and soiled. Her left ear was entirely gone, and the left side of her head was caved in; but she quickly scrambled to her feet and asked for her hat. This a gentleman had already picked up, and when the policeman handed it to her and noticed the great hole in her head and the hollow place it disclosed, the poor fellow trembled so frightfully that his knees actually knocked together.

“Why—why, ma’am, you’re killed!” he gasped.

“What does it mean to be killed?” asked the wax lady.

The policeman shuddered and wiped the perspiration from his forehead.

“You’re it!” he answered, with a groan.

The crowd that had collected were looking upon the lady wonderingly, and a middle-aged gentleman now exclaimed:

“Why, she’s wax!”

“Wax!” echoed the policeman.

“Certainly. She’s one of those dummies they put in the windows,” declared the middle-aged man.

The people who had collected shouted: “You’re right!” “That’s what she is!” “She’s a dummy!”

“Are you?” inquired the policeman, sternly.

The wax lady did not reply. She began to fear she was getting into trouble, and the staring crowd seemed to embarrass her.

Suddenly a bootblack attempted to solve the problem by saying: “You guys is all wrong! Can a dummy talk? Can a dummy walk? Can a dummy live?”

“Hush!” murmured the policeman. “Look here!” and he pointed to the hold in the lady’s head. The newsboy looked, turned pale and whistled to keep himself from shivering.

A second policeman now arrived, and after a brief conference it was decided to take the strange creature to headquarters. So they called a hurry-up wagon, and the damaged wax lady was helped inside and driven to the police station. There the policeman locked her in a cell and hastened to tell Inspector Mugg their wonderful story.

Inspector Mugg had just eaten a poor breakfast, and was not in a pleasant mood; so he roared and stormed at the unlucky policemen, saying they were themselves dummies to bring such a fairy tale to a man of sense. He also hinted that they had been guilty of intemperance.

The policemen tried to explain, but Inspector Mugg would not listen; and while they were still disputing in rushed Mr. Floman, the owner of the department store.

“I want a dozen detectives, at once, inspector!” he cried.

“What for?” demanded Mugg.

“One of the wax ladies has escaped from my store and eloped with a $19.98 costume, a $4.23 hat, a $2.19 parasol and a 76-cent pair of gloves, and I want her arrested!”

While he paused for breath the inspector glared at him in amazement.

“Is everybody going crazy at the same time?” he inquired, sarcastically. “How could a wax dummy run away?”

“I don’t know; but she did. When my janitor opened the door this morning he saw her run out.”

“Why didn’t he stop her?” asked Mugg.

“He was too frightened. But she’s stolen my property, your honor, and I want her arrested!” declared the storekeeper.

The inspector thought for a moment.

“You wouldn’t be able to prosecute her,” he said, “for there’s no law against dummies stealing.”

Mr. Floman sighed bitterly.

“Am I to lose that $19.98 costume and the $4.25 hat and—“

“By no means,” interrupted Inspector Mugg. “The police of this city are ever prompt to act in defense of our worthy citizens. We have already arrested the wax lady, and she is locked up in cell No. 16.  You may go there and recover your property, if you wish, but before you prosecute her for stealing you’d better hunt up a law that applies to dummies.”

“All I want,” said Mr. Floman, “is that $19.98 costume and—“

“Come along!” interrupted the policeman. “I’ll take you to the cell.”

But when they entered No. 16 they found only a lifeless dummy lying prone upon the floor. Its wax was cracked and blistered, its head was badly damaged, and the bargain costume was dusty, soiled and much bedraggled. For the mischief-loving Tanko-Mankie had flown by and breathed once more upon the poor wax lady, and in that instant her brief life ended.

“It’s just as I thought,” said Inspector Mugg, leaning back in his chair contentedly. “I knew all the time the thing was a fake. It seems sometimes as though the whole world would go crazy if there wasn’t some level-headed man around to bring ‘em to their senses.  Dummies are wood an’ wax, an’ that’s all there is of ‘em.”

“That may be the rule,” whispered the policeman to himself, “but this one were a dummy as lived!”

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August 19th, 2011

End of Summer Activities

End of Summer Activities for Kids from Operation Letter to SantaSummer is not quite over, being that it is only mid-August, but the school year begins soon, effectively spelling the end of long lazy summer days for most kids. Try these nine family activities for an exciting end to your summer.

1. Make a memory book. Have everyone in the family get together and make a memory book or scrapbook. Collect photos from your summer or other scraps and artwork that would fit into a book of memories. This will give you a lasting memento of the good times you had over the summer.

2. Have a splashing good time. The summer usually means a good time around water. Throw a pool party or play around in the sprinklers. Have a water balloon fight with your family. Involve water while you still can, before the cold days of winter arrive.

3. Make summertime recipes. Pick out your favorite summertime recipes and make food and drinks with your family. Start with drinks like iced tea and lemonade, or pick another family favorite that you associate with summer. Then, make summer treats or throw a barbeque.

4. Throw a summer party. Get together with your family and throw an end of the summer bash for all of your friends. Your family can plan the party together, cook the food and make decorations. Take lots of photos of your party so you can remember the good time you had.

5. Go to the zoo. Summer is a great time to enjoy the zoo during your free time. Go to the zoo with your family one last time before school takes away much of that free time. It’s also a great way to learn about many different kinds of animals.

6. Play video games. Video games can be fun for the whole family. Some game consoles even have games that’ll get the whole family active. Choose a sports game, a family board game or a racing game and compete against your family for an exciting time together.

7. Go to the beach. The end of the summer might be one of your last opportunities to hit the beach this year. Wear sunscreen to protect your skin. Bring plenty of towels and beach toys. Build a sand castle with your kids. Bury one of your family members in the sand.

8. Get ready for school. Enjoy getting ready for the school year with your family. Find the fun in shopping for clothing and school supplies. Get the whole family involved. Allow your kids to make some of the clothing decisions and to pick out some of their favorite school supplies.

9. Relax at home. Enjoy some quiet time at home before the craziness of the school year starts. Order takeout and talk around the dinner table. Rent some family friendly movies to enjoy while you beat the heat together.

Pick one of these, or come up with your own end of summer activity ideas. The most important thing is that you take the time to enjoy your family. The end of summer can be an exciting time for your family to bond and experience priceless memories.

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August 18th, 2011

When Kids Don’t Want To Play Outside

Mom, It’s Too Hot!

Hula-Hoop and other fun outdoor activity tips from Operation Letter To SantaKids… gotta love ’em. But sometimes they can make you want to pull your hair out, as every mom knows. In the winter, it’s too cold to go outside. In the summer, it’s too hot. What’s a mom to do? Actually, you can encourage your kids to get outside and enjoy some simple summer exercises by making them fun and a family fitness event.

The joy of summer fitness activities is that you really don’t need a lot of equipment, planning, or preparation. You can always go for a long walk on the beach, a hike in the woods, or a few laps around the block.

Or take a swim. If you don’t have a pool in your backyard, take a trip to the lake or beach if there’s one nearby. Or drop by a community pool. While it’s not as private as your own home, you can have a lot of fun and still get in some good exercise swimming laps, racing the kids from end to end or side to side, or just jumping around in the water doing your own thing.

Other water exercises are great for summer. You can stay cool while getting in some family fitness time. Consider water skiing and build up those leg muscles, water volleyball, or underwater scavenging contests where everyone takes turns swimming to the bottom of the pool to find a “lost” object.

Dust off the bicycles and take a long ride around town, or strap a picnic lunch on the back and head over to the park for an afternoon playing on the swings and merry-go-round. Don’t forget the monkey bars, which are great for building the muscles in your arms and developing strength, or the slide which is just plain fun!

Dig out your old hula hoop and teach the kids to use it. Remember how much fun you had swinging and swaying to keep that thing from hitting the floor? That’s a tremendous way to exercise your whole body! And the kids will love it, too. They’ll not only have a blast laughing at your antics, but of course, they’ll want to prove they can do it better so the whole family will get a great workout.

Frisbee is a fun way to spend an afternoon as well. If the kids aren’t home, or aren’t interested, get the dog involved. They love chasing the disc, and many of them are better than humans at catching it.

Like to skate? In-line skating is good exercise for everyone in the family. Skates are relatively inexpensive, you can even find them at yard sales at times, and some communities offer rentals places, so check around. If your town has a bike trail or greenbelt, chances are you can find other skaters enjoying the ride and getting some good exercise in the process.

Whatever you like to do, summer is a great time to be outdoors, playing with the kids, and having fun—all in the name of family fitness! Sure, you’ll sweat, but why pay a gym for that privilege when you can sweat for free in your own backyard or neighborhood?

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August 17th, 2011

Rolling In The Grass – Remember When?

Rolling in the Grass - Outdoor family fun from Operation Letters To SantaThere was a time not too long ago when families didn’t have to go out and buy equipment to become fit. Time was spent rolling in the grass, playing in the yard, or jumping around on the floor instead of watching television or getting hooked on computer games. While it may seem those times are past, it’s not too late to remember when family fitness was naturally fun and look for some ways to make it that way again.

  • Put on some old play clothes that you don’t mind getting grass stained and spend some outside family fitness time with the kids. Play in the yard. Grab a football and toss it around, or get out the mitts and baseball and play a game of catch. Volleyball, badminton, or tennis are excellent ways to enjoy the outdoors, and the workout you get will rival anything you’ll find in the gym.
  • Teach your kids how to do a somersault. Somersaults are simple for even very young children. In case you’ve forgotten how, you simply have your child stand on a flat section of grass and lean over slightly with arms outstretched. He or she then places their hands on the ground, and tucking the head in close to the chest to prevent injury, they just “roll” forward landing in a sitting position. Children can also turn a somersault from a sitting position once they get used to “flipping” over. It’s very similar, just remind them to not let their heads touch the floor to avoid injury.
  • Another great outdoor activity is turning cartwheels. Little girls, especially love this (but boys do, too!). Cartwheels are a basic gymnastics move and many children are able to do these at an early age as well, though they do require a little more coordination that somersaults. Turning cartwheels is great for strengthening the upper body and developing skills needed for later gymnastic efforts including handsprings or walk-offs. Allow plenty of room for turning a cartwheel. While a front to back cartwheel is common, side-to-side cartwheels are more popular so you can start with those. The method for doing cartwheels is lowering first one hand, then the other, then lowering one foot and then the other. Think of the spokes of a bicycle. You’ll become that wheel with your arms and legs the spokes. For the best results, keep your arms, legs, and back straight and strong as you turn. Cartwheels may take some practice, but even if children can’t turn them fully, they’ll have fun and get lots of exercise playing in the grass and rolling around on the ground.

There are hundreds of ways to play outdoors with the kids and get in a great workout at the same time. Just remember all the fun you used to have as a child and give your own children a taste of the same simple pleasures. You’ll be building family ties, strengthening the bond with your children, and helping them to develop healthy living habits at the same time. Nothing could be better than that!

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August 16th, 2011

Summer Reading Activities for Kids

Summer Reading Activities for Kids by Operation Letters To SantaIt is so important to keep our children’s brains engaged over the summer months, so they don’t lose their place in academics. Studies have shown that children fall three months behind in the learning progress they’ve made when they don’t do anything in the summer to keep up. Staying academically active in the summer doesn’t have to be dry and boring, though. There are many creative ways to keep the wheels in your child’s brains rolling!

  1. Have a themed dinner night for family and friends. Pick a theme, like maybe the 1950s or even carnivals, and have everyone dress up according to your theme. Find coordinating foods for your theme to serve to everyone. And most importantly, have lots of books on hand about your theme. After dinner, everyone can take turns reading all of the books together.
  2. A great way to bring new life to old books is to have a book swap party. Invite some friends to gather up old books they no longer want and bring them over. As everyone comes in, take their books and set them all up on a table so they are easy to browse. Have your guests gather and mingle in the living room, but, set the books up in the dining room. Once everyone has arrived, file into the dining room so that everyone can choose some new books to take home.
  3. Children can get together with a small group of friends and write a storybook. They can do so in a round robin way, where each child writes some and then passes it to the next for their turn. Or they can collaborate as they go along. When they are finished writing the story, they can work on some illustrations. They might even have fun finding pictures in magazines to use for the illustrations. They can put it all together with some cardboard pieces for the book cover. They will probably need your help with that part, as it will be hard to cut. When it is all done, they can take turns keeping the book each weekend to show grandparents and whoever else they would like to show it off to.
  4. And of course, don’t forget your public library’s summer reading program. It is a great initiative to keep your kids interested in books. They can choose their own books to read for the programs and that is a big deal. It is not only fun for the child, but, it really helps to keep their desire to read going strong. The child who is always told exactly what to read sees it as nothing more than a chore. The library’s programs usually all have prizes for certain numbers of books read – and then main prizes at the end of the program. And a lot of the programs have a kick-off party and a party for when it’s over, too.

So many kids fall behind, just from the gaps that happen over the accumulated summers. It can be really hard to catch up when school starts back up in the fall and by the time the child reaches middle school, they may be several grades behind in reading alone. We don’t have to make kids’ summers all work and no play, but, keeping their brains in operation is imperative for them to keep up in school.

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August 15th, 2011

Back To School Coloring Pages and Printables

Back to School coloring page and activity links from Operation Letter to SantaIt is time to head back to school and there are thousands of web sites with free coloring books and printable coloring sheets to print and color in. Here are just a few to help your children look forward to going back to school.

Back to School Coloring Printables

Letters and Numbers Coloring Pages

  • Alphabet Coloring Printables: Alphabet coloring pages are one of the first art and learning activities for preschoolers. Alphabet coloring pages and bubble letter printable sheets are a wonderful resource for artists and teachers. Designers, crafters and homeschoolers use letter outlines, monograms and alphabet letters for arts projects.
  • Alphabet Worksheets: Learn to recognize, read, and write letters of the alphabet. Dozens of free worksheets for learning the ABCs. Includes uppercase (capital) and lowercase letters.

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August 12th, 2011

Fun Rice Krispies Summer Treats

Tangy Watermelon Rice Krispies TreatsJust paid a visit to the Kellogg’s® Rice Krispies® website to see what kind of fun summer treats suggestions they have and found some wonderful recipes. These are not only lovely to look at but look like a LOT of fun for parents and kids to have in the kitchen.

Here are some recipes that keep summer days from melting away and that will build some great family memories at the same time!

This is also a very fun recipe page with some original recipes from the Rice Krispies® Making Memories Challenge.

Do you have some fun family summer treats? We would love for you to share them with us!

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