Category Archives: books

Stepping out of your sister’s shadow

Our eldest is a hurricane. She started talking at six months, walking at ten months. The first thing people ask upon meeting her is, “Does she always talk that much?” My answer is, “Yes.” She wears every emotion on the outside, for the world to see.

When our little guy was born, it became clear that he was a completely different kind of kid. We quickly dubbed him the “normal one”. He is an observer, a thinker. He does not run on impulse, instead he takes his time. He looks at little bugs on the sidewalk, clouds in the sky . . .

Then he turned three . . .

He is still an observer, and he is still my Pokey Little Puppy, but there was an explosion, a burst of language and coordination, and silly fun. Now instead of the “normal one” we ask, “Remember when he was the quiet one?”

The timing could not be better. As our daughter is getting into the swing of Kindergarten, our little guy is becoming his own person. He’s stepping out from behind the hurricane and finding his own way to be, which is something like a monsoon, intense torrential rain with beautiful calm sunshine after.

It’s hard not to compare kids, it’s one of the key building blocks to education, sorting and categorizing. As parents, especially moms, that’s how we relate to other parents, we compare children, experiences, lifestyles. I don’t think comparing is a bad thing, it’s important to embrace our differences, but it’s also important not to judge.

I received one of the best compliments from a friend. She said, “You let your kids be who they are.” I replied, “I try to,” because sometimes it’s really hard. But by embracing their natural tendencies, and encouraging kindness and empathy, they are turning into little humans that are ready to take on the world!

 

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Lauren Child has a way of creating stories that seem to have stepped out of any child’s life. The New Small Person, is the perfect example of this.

In this book a family of three turns into a family of four, and the biggest adjustments must come from the boy who was once an only child. As his new baby brother grows this big brother finally comes to the realization that maybe this new small person isn’t so bad after all.

My favorite part of this book is when he finally calls his little brother by name.

This is a very typical Lauren Child book, with the familiar characters and illustrations that go with it. It is full of texture and color and approachable dialogue that is fun and engaging to read together with your favorite “small person”.

 

 

We are bullies . . . all of us

So maybe, just maybe it’s time for us to stop trying to convince others to follow our point of view by trying to make someone else feel stupid?

Maybe we can actually speak to one another instead of posting mean hurtful things on social media?

Maybe we can be honest with ourselves and call ourselves out for being bullies . . . all of us.

Whether you’re right or wrong, aggressor or victim, justified or opposed, just because someone was cruel to you does not give you the right to be cruel back or be cruel to someone else. It doesn’t prove a point, it’s just mean.

At first I thought it was the election year with all of its negative rhetoric, but then I realized it goes so much deeper than that. It’s been a year of Black Lives Matter, Police Lives Matter, All Lives Matter. It’s been another year of justifying hate with belligerence on all sides. It’s been a year of selfishness, ego, and narrow-minded narcism . . . from everyone. Whether I agree with you or not, whether the majority agrees with you or not, this isn’t a post about my beliefs. It’s a post about treating people, like people, not profile pictures on the internet that don’t have feelings or families.

There are consequences for actions like these, and we will see them in the next generation. Our children are reflections of ourselves. They are like fun-house mirrors, turning our behaviors into over exaggerated  versions of what they see. But if this type of behavior gets any bigger, I worry about what that means for us as a society.

I realize that in posting this, in a way, I’m giving into all of these things, but I’m tired . . .

I am a naturally positive person, so much so that I drive my husband nuts with thinking the best of people. But lately the light in people’s eyes has seemed a little dimmer.

There is hope, though, always hope. I see it in several Facebook feeds that I follow.

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Special Books by Special Kids

Positive Attitude Quotes

There are more, I know, and I plan on surrounding myself with them, and blocking/turning off the negative flood that has surrounded the people of our country. And I will pray for our country, for our leaders (whomever they may be), for the next generation. I will pray that they can all find compassion for someone other than themselves. That they can become selfless, humble, and generous. I will pray that we can all embrace our differences and grow together instead of tearing each other down.

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There are thousands of books on bullies, but there is one that is close to my heart, and speaks a lot to the point I’m trying to make. Alexia Versus the Birthday Bear by my husband, Tevin Hansen.

In this book Alexia is a very smart girl who finds herself at the school bully’s birthday party. It is up to her to save her not so nice classmates from a party entertainer that is actually a real bear that wants to eat them all for lunch.

The premise is silly, but the story speaks to the enormous problem of bullying. Almost every character in the book is a little mean at some point. Even Alexia is a bully to an extent because she holds her intelligence over her classmates. There is a section at the end of the book that asks the reader to answer a few questions about the characters in the book and examine why each are, in their own way, a bully.

This book is a great conversation starter. And hopefully with a little thoughtful dialogue we can be honest with each other and honest with our selves, and finally put an end to bullying.

This is NOT our normal toilet paper.

It looked like the toilet paper that I normally buy. It was the same brand, same packaging . . . I didn’t even read the label. It had been a long day of errands, and this was my last one. With two kids running around the store like maniacs, it was time to go. I just didn’t realize that when we got home and it was time to go, that we would have a problem on our hands.

Growing up, there was one rule in our house: “Don’t buy cheap toilet paper.” And I was grateful for that rule. Now as a mother, I try to live by it as well. Until, that is, Aldis changed their packaging.

My son put the toilet paper away. It’s his one big responsibility and he LOVES stacking the rolls in the bottom cupboard. So I didn’t realize my mistake until it was too late.

“Bogies, mum…” said my 3-year-old, arms at his sides–we’re trying to teach him not to use his shirt, or his arm as a tissue.

“Okay, hold on,” I said.

As I went to grab some TP, I was not greeted with the soft, two-ply, quilted delight that is usually there. This was worse than the toilet paper you find in mall bathrooms. This was one-ply, rough, falls apart, awful.

I went to the trash and checked the packaging. It was the same brand, but it was NOT our normal toilet paper. And now we had a LOT of it because when it’s only one-ply there is a lot more paper on each roll.

I’m pretty frugal, so I thought, “Hey, we can handle this. It’s just TP, right? Nothing to get upset about.” But it’s been over two months with this horrible and never ending cache of toilet paper. Our family will persevere. We will get through this. And from now on, I will take the time to make sure I get the right TP.

 

In honor of going, my new book review is Even Firefighters Go to the Potty by Wendy Wax and Naomi Wax with illustrations by Stephen Gilpin.

Firefighters Potty

This book had the kids and I laughing very hard because, let’s face it, what preschooler or toddler isn’t obsessed with bathroom humor? The premise is pretty simple. Adults from different professions are mysteriously missing. As you lift each flap, you see that they are in the potty.

This was a nice sturdy flap book, but it is not for the faint of heart, or the mom who is so tired of hearing the word poop, and jokes about poop, and kids talking about poop nonstop…that she just might scream. This book encourages dialogue about the bathroom, and all that it entails.

My little guy is already potty-trained, so I can’t say for certain that it would help with that. It might make it less scary to think that even people as brave as firefighters, pilots, and astronauts use the potty.

So if you’re ready for lots of giggles, especially about the train engineer’s locomotive themed underwear, then this book is for you.

 

 

4th of July in Denmark, Kansas

My favorite parts of the Fourth of July are:

  • Homemade Ice cream
  • Annual parade through the mecca of Denmark, KS
  • Patriotic Music (who doesn’t love a marching band?)
  • oohing and ahhing at fireworks – especially the lame ones

There are many reasons to love Independence Day. But my little guy will quickly tell you that the booms are not his favorite–too loud. Last year we spent the evening inside, wearing noise reducing headphones, while looking out a window, shaking with fear (him, not me).

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Maybe this year we can at least sit on the front porch?

So be careful, everyone. Have a fun (and safe) Independence Day.

 

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I am boycotting a book review for this blog because we are on a repeat cycle of Barbie books at the moment. We try to let the kids choose their own books for story time, but if I have to read A Paw-some Mystery (Barbie and Her Sisters in the Great Puppy Adventure) one more time…I’m going to look like this:

Barbie

Expectations

I have a mantra, and it goes like this:

I will not worry, obsess, or dwell on the things, people, or situations I cannot change.

There’s another saying that goes something like “you can’t change the situation, only your perception of it.” Then there’s that one about having no control over anyone’s actions but your own.

What I’ve found, though, is that it all boils down to expectations.

Sometimes what you want isn’t what you get because what the other person has to give doesn’t meet your expectations. Maybe it’s better to change your expectations because sometimes what the other person is giving is more than they ever thought they could.

This isn’t about lowering standards, like the skit from MadTV. It’s more about empathy and understanding. It’s about being grateful, and working to make yourself a better person outside of the situations you find yourself in.

It’s becoming a better wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend. And when I reflect on past conflict, it mostly comes from ME expecting too much. Too much from myself, and definitely too much from my family and friends.

You have to meet people where they are at, and not expect them to know where you’re coming from or where you’re going. Because they are coming from and going to their own places. Places that are sometimes filled with conflict outside of your own.

I have one more mantra that I sometimes use:

Don’t throw dirt in my hole because I already throw enough on myself.

Okay, so maybe that one’s not as profound as the others. But if you dig yourself into  a hole that you created, that means you’re the one that should dig yourself out. So you better find a large, durable shovel.

As a mother this becomes all too apparent when it comes to scheduling. Especially when you run a small independent publishing house that just took on two new authors. This on top of your mom duties, wife duties, daughter duties, friend duties. Then you buy a house. Next up it’s being the maid of honor at your sister’s wedding. Now it’s time for your husband to start school, then your oldest kiddo starts Kindergarten.

Let’s just say life is full of dirt. It must be time for a bigger shovel.

 

My review for this week is appropriately titled Dig by Andrea Zimmerman and David Clemesha with illustrations by Marc Rosenthal

Dig

This great board book is fantastic for your little ones that are obsessed with construction. And I know there are a lot of them out there. I have two myself.

In Dig, Mr. Rally and his dog, Lightning, have five jobs to do. As they go to each site to complete their tasks, they:

Dig up rock and dig up clay! Dig up dirt and dig all day!

This book has all the elements of a great beginner children’s book. There is counting, rhyming, and a repetitive rhythm that will have your little one “reading” along in no time. The illustrations are bright and offer little things for your child to discover along the way.

The accountability of hardwood floors

We recently moved from an apartment completely covered in carpet (with tile in the kitchen and bathroom) to a house completely covered in beautiful hardwood floors. I’m guessing that there are at least a few of you that know what’s coming next . . .

Hardwood floors are always dirty and dusty and the little balls of lint that float around the corners drive me nuts!

I’m not naive enough to think that this dust and dirt and lint didn’t exist in my carpets (and I am, only now, a little disgusted thinking about it), but now I see it. I see it while I’m gathering laundry, and I sweep. I see it while I’m reading stories, so I sweep. I see it after doing dishes, and I . . .

IGNORE IT.

Because let’s face it, there are a lot of other things I’d rather be doing than sweeping.

But there’s an accountability here, and I am thankful for it in some ways. The dirt isn’t hiding in the carpet, it’s out in the open. And that forces me to look it in the eyes and either say, “Your time is up, it’s time to sweep.” or “Okay, you can stay for now, nasty puff-balls of lint. I am going to jump on the trampoline with my kids.”

Sometimes we need hardwood floors in our lives.

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My book review for this week is one that I won in a Facebook giveaway. And I’m SO glad that I did!

Is Lena Pretty? by Liza Dora is one of those books that has an important lesson to teach, but doesn’t say it in a preachy way. It is also very age appropriate and very approachable. This book is a wonderful tool for teaching character.

It’s important to mention that this is NOT a rhyming book. Don’t get me wrong, I love a whimsical, sing-songy rhyming book. I even write children’s poetry—and yes, it usually rhymes. But it isn’t always necessary.

This book is a breath of fresh air. The illustrations are simple and fit the text nicely. I love what author Liza Dora signed in the front of our copy:  “Smart is the new pretty. And who says you can’t be both?! Keep being kind, and smart, and helpful, and keep reading!”

I really loved this book. And I hope that our household can be accountable for teaching these standards of beauty.

Momma smiles. “If I told you someone was smart, helpful, kind, talented, and brave, would you think they were pretty?”

Lena thinks for a minute before she answers: “I’d think they were beautiful.”

Visit Liza Dora’s website to get your very own copy of Is Lena Pretty? http://www.lizadora.com/books/shop/

 

Happy Birthday Mom

We’ve all had that moment as a mom when you take a deep breath, close your eyes, and try to get through the next 5 minutes. I know my mom did. And I know this because I just did the EXACT same thing I saw her do a million times when I was a kid.

Yes, the fear that every daughter has is slowly coming true: I am becoming my mother. And in a lot of ways, I consider myself one lucky daughter.

My mom is an amazing person, and an especially awesome grandma.

She is the one who began my love of reading, and now she is encouraging my kids to start the same journey. Just as she does so many young readers as the children’s librarian in my home town.

So on this day, her most special of days, I wanted to share a few of my favorite books from my childhood:

 

And, I want to add one more special book (which has come back to haunt me).

Planetanimals: Mission Zapton.

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I loved this book when I was little, begging my mom to read it to me over and over. And now, I find myself trudging through it with my little ones. The only problem is that it’s surprisingly awful, completely strange, and hardly makes any sense. The worst part is that it is REALLY long. Thank you mom for suffering through this one, and reading with me, and encouraging me to read on my own. Although the last one might have been a selfish excuse to not read this book anymore.

Happy Birthday, I love you.

 

 

Reality

I remember a few year ago, a friend on Facebook posted pictures of her two young kids watching Finding Nemo. They were finally beginning to understand the seriousness of what was really happening. This was no longer a colorful movie where fish spend their days in the happy ocean, swimming around and meeting other fish friends.

This was chaos! This was underwater Armageddon!

Mothers were being gobbled up! Children were being separated from their parents! Shark attacks! A deadly girl in braces was killing fish!

Reality had come crashing in.

I had a similar moment as a child with Bambi.  They always show the cute little skunk when promoting this epic disaster/horror movie. “You can call me Flower, if you want to…” It was all so deceiving, so traumatizing . . . when reality strikes.

My husband bravely admitted that his movie/reality moment came with Charlotte’s Web.

And now, while our two-year-old is dancing and laughing through the “scary” parts, our five-year-old has a look of terror–actual TERROR–in her eyes, plus the trembling lip, the tears, etc. Every kid’s movie from Hoodwinked to the Little Mermaid, even Barbie and the Dream House (yes, scared of certain parts in a BARBIE movie), along with several episodes of The Octonauts are now off limits.

Knock Knock.

Who is it?

Reality.

Um, Reality who?

Just answer the door, lady. 

There is only one way to get through this stage. Patience, of course, and a good dose of Dinosaur Train (which, right now, is the only TV show that both kids can agree on). I find it funny that just as reality is setting in, my five-year old is obsessed with a show where all species of dinosaur happily co-exist, discuss their different features, and ride a train together through different parts of the Mesozoic Era using glittery time tunnels. Maybe there is a little room left for imagination?

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In honor of reality, my book for this week comes from our family’s new favorite author, Patrick McDonnell (who has actually been around for a long time). Mr. McDonnell is the creator of the comic strip, Mutts. His characters are crazy-cute. But what my family really loves are the stories. We originally fell in love with his book, Art. And now, A Perfectly Messed-Up Story. (We just picked up two more of his children’s books at the library today.)

A Perfectly Messed-Up Story is all about Louie, who is going merrily through his day until a giant blob of jam suddenly ends up on the pages of his story. Then some peanut butter. Then some fingerprints. And then (gasp!) crayon marks. The premise of the book is that even when life is a bit messed up, the show (or story) must go on. And it’s not usually as bad as you thought it was going to be.

My kids’ favorite part is when Louie freaks out. They also really enjoyed the fact that the messed-up parts look like real things. (Note the paper towel, which my daughter tried to peel off of the book–without success.)

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If you have not discovered the children’s books of Patrick McDonnell, A Perfectly Messed-Up Story is a great place to start!

Get Bedder Soon

I haven’t written anything in a while because I’ve been sick–not once, but twice, possibly with the same annoying germs coming back and attacking my immune system for round two.

It’s the cycle of contagion, and it has officially hit our house!

I know, I know–Moms aren’t supposed to get sick. Except, sometimes they do. And while it may feel like it at the time, the whole world did not unexpectedly stop. The world kept moving. Mom just didn’t notice it–especially since her head felt like it was stuck in a dishwasher, unlike the piles of dishes sitting in the sink.

I have my wonderful husband to thank for the continued circling of the earth around the sun…meaning rush trips to the bathroom for potty training, teeth getting brushed, and his excellent referee skills. Poor guy kept it together even though he was completely down in the back.

Now I am back…kind of…maybe 80%. Just in time for our daughter to start round two.

Let’s just say that after four days, I am upright, caught up on the laundry, and both kids are relatively clean. Tomorrow is another day. Perhaps then I will tackle the dishes. Perhaps.

Luckily, the downtime has lead to lots of reading, which I get to share with you all! My review for this week is Mustache Baby Meets His Match by Bridget Heos, with illustrations by Joy Ang.

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I think I’m the only one in the house that truly appreciated this book for all of the utter awesomeness that it contained. Because it seriously contains A LOT of awesome.

Baby Billy was born with a mustache. Usually it was a good-guy mustache, but occasionally it curled up at the ends into a–well, you know. Good mustache or bad, Billy’s family loved him.

Then one day, Javier came to town. He was new and had a lot to learn, so Billy decided to show him a thing to two.

Did I mention that Baby Javier has a full beard? If this isn’t enough to convince you that this is the best book in the entire world, then the vibrant illustrations and clever interactions between the two babies should do the trick.

The only downside to this book…and it’s a pretty big flaw, here…is that the entire thing went completely above the heads of my two kiddos. They will agree to read it with me because they know how much I like it. But honestly, they don’t get the jokes. It doesn’t click that Billy wants Javier to be his sidekick. They don’t see the humor in the epic battles as the two become each other’s nemesis. And they don’t have the “That’s so cute!” moment when the two heroes of the story become “pardners in crime”. After all, a picture book is meant for the kids–not grownups.

So, while I would give this book five stars, my (nearly) five-year-old and my two-year-old would probably disagree. Unfortunately, although I LOVED this book, Mustache Baby will probably not make it into our well-worn, heavy duty, reusable library book bag again . . . unless I sneak it in.

Chasing a girl on a bike down a hill

It was like a scene from a movie. We were having a family evening at the park, I was pushing our little guy on his trike, and my husband was getting our four-year-old helmeted up and ready to ride her bike. It’s been a summer filled with trips to the pool, learning to be a fish. Most days it was too hot to go to the park and ride her bike. She hadn’t gone for a cruise on her cool Princess two-wheeler in a while.

Then there was that moment. That slo-motion, watching-in-horror moment that freezes you.

My husband and daughter caught up to us quickly, with him on his skateboard (where he sometimes hitches a ride like Marty in BACK TO THE FUTURE) and she on her bike. They got ahead of us quickly, cruising side by side. I only looked away for a moment. When I looked back, I saw my husband disappear full-speed down a steep grassy hill, running like mad. My daughter was nowhere to be seen. As my son and I hurried down the path to where they had last been seen, I watched as my husband sprinted after our daughter as she bombed down the hill, holding tight, feet no longer on the pedals. She was heading full-speed towards a very large, very sturdy tree, and picking up speed.

All ended well, but that was a close call.

As we explained (once again) how the brakes on her bike worked, I looked closely at her face. I quickly noticed that there wasn’t any fear . . . only excitement. She had absolutely no idea that she was about to crash head-first into a tree (and possibly inadvertently aiming straight for it). She didn’t see the panic/relief on her father’s face, didn’t know that he was about to kick off his shoes (loosely laced Converse) so that he could run even faster, and was even contemplating diving to catch her as the tree approached. All she knew was that she went fast, really, really fast, down a steep grassy hill!

That was when the panic in her mother’s face set in. How am I supposed to catch her as she plummets into life? How can I warn her about the “trees” without killing the excitement of going fast? Because let’s be honest…going fast is the best part!

Our fearless little girl is about to turn five. She started preschool this year, and I want so badly to slow down time. But that’s not an option. So for now, we run full-speed to catch her, to keep her safe, and protected. But we let her explore, we let her go fast, and we let her learn. All this in hope that the lessons along the way come together, and she can learn to slow down, or at least go around the trees.

My review this week is Crab Cab (Flip-A-Word Series) by Harriet ZiefertYukiko Kido

Crab Cab

This is an amazing book for teaching early readers to sound out words. The book is divided into three word families, -ab, -ot, and -it. Each page is either divided in half or has a peeking hole to foreshadow the next word. The best part was that after only one reading, my four-year-old could sound out/read the entire book by herself! The second best part was found in the “-ot” family and featured a witch blowing her nose into a cauldron . . . the “Snot Pot.” My two kids loved this book! Early reader books are abundant, but this one was a definite success. And we are going to go on the hunt for more on our next trip to the library.