Category Archives: Family

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

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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.

IsLenaPretty

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.

Time

My daughter is obsessed with time. She is forever asking “What time is it?” Then, hardly a minute later, “What time is it now?” We even bought her a watch, to help with her curiosity about time…but since she’s still working on her numbers, and working on telling time on her digital princess watch, it’s much easier for her to just ask mom.

Today, though, I started to ask myself if her obsession with time is merely a reflection of mine?

I, mom, am constantly setting the (theoretical) timer. “In five minutes, it will be your brother’s turn.”  “In ten minutes, it will be time for bed.” “Five more minutes of TV and that’s it!” Or at the park, there is the countdown until it is time to leave.

The “countdown” technique is awesome because it slowly prepares them for something unpleasant that is fast approaching. Then there’s time to share, time for bed, and time to go home. Time to “share” seems to cause the most battles. Even time to go home usually plays out better. But sharing?

But then time comes back into play when it is time for an appointment:  “Come on guys, we only have ten minutes until we have to be at the doctor’s office!” I usually find myself saying this when it’s at least at 15-20 minute drive to whichever doctor we’re going to today.

These are the hours and minutes in our day. And now that kindergarten is almost here, my five-year-old sponge understands that we also have days, and weeks, and months. Even years.

All of this time, time, time. But with so much to do, I swear most days it feels like I get nothing done.

Today, I wished that there was a way to slow down time. Not because I had so much to do (I did, but that’s nothing new), but because I realized that time was running out.

When I was pregnant, I was warned, time and time again, by many “seasoned” mothers, that time goes by SO fast. But I didn’t understand until today.

As I was watching my two kiddos paint together, it suddenly hit me that this season of their life (and ours) is so very short. Soon these little people will be big people. How crazy is that going to be? I will still be their Mom, yeah sure. But I won’t have magical healing kisses or be able to blow their minds with my ability to make a bubble out of chewing gum.

So for now, I set the timer to count the minutes, and spend my days living in the wonderful chaos, frustration, and beauty that is this gift of motherhood.

I guess it’s like the Shel Silverstein poem, How Many, How Much.

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How much time you have in a day? Depends on how you spend it.

And now, from an obsession with time to time for fun, my book review for this week is What the Dinosaurs Did Last Night: A Very Messy Adventure by Refe TumaSusan Tuma

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This book is amazing! My kids read it over and over and over again. And I don’t mind one bit. The concept is pretty simple: all of those crazy things that happen around your house, be it a mess in the kitchen or art on the walls . . . the dinosaurs did it!

The pictures in this book are definitely the best part. Creators Refe and Susan Tuma have ingeniously used toy dinosaurs with real-life props to create photographs that are hilarious. There are tiny things to discover on every page that will have your kids giggling and pointing and taking the story far beyond the words on each page.

PS– as I was writing this, my son saw the cover picture, and immediately said that it was time to go to the library so we can check this book out again. A must-read, I think.

The Good Choices Mom

My husband and I have taught our two children about choices from an early age. The hardest part of letting your children make choices is that you have to be okay if what they choose isn’t necessarily what you would.  A great example of this would be the sparkly tutu my daughter chose to wear to the park…every single time…for at least a month.

Up until about a week ago I was able to manipulate the choices into things that would be positive either way. “Would you like carrots or cauliflower?” “Do you want to go to the park or the zoo?” But now I find myself saying, “If you choose to be mean, then you will have to play by yourself.” Things are gettin’ real at our house, people!

And it is SO hard to watch them make poor choices and then have to deal with the consequences (especially when I’m the one handing out the consequences). I keep reminding myself that I won’t always be there to discuss the choices that my children will have to make. Eventually the decisions they’ll be making are going to get really tough. “Do you want to go to a party or study for your midterm?” “Do you want to smoke pot or join the swim team?” “Do you want to date the girl who makes you a better person, or the one who is really hot but treats you bad?”

Today, though, we had a breakthrough! After yet another round of “if you choose to be mean, you will have to play by yourself…” my four-year-old came out of her room, and she CHOSE to change her attitude. YES! I think I’m finally doing something right!!!

Then again, maybe some days are just better than others. Or perhaps it was simply that her tummy informed her that it was lunchtime, and that mom only hands out Fruit Snacks when you DON’T make your brother cry…

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This week’s book is a shameless promotion of the children’s book my husband and I just released, The Thumb Book. It turns difficult situations into opportunities to have fun. The lessons are a bit absurd, but behind the silliness there are opportunities to talk with your kids about the mean people of the world. There is also opportunity for creativity because you can make your own “Thumb Stories!” We’ve been making “Thumb Theatre” at home and the kids LOVE it. My daughter even made this video:

So check out The Thumb Book, available through Handersen Publishing. There are also more awesome Thumb videos!

People can be mean, so can thumbs, but maybe you can turn that negative into a positive.
People can be mean. So can thumbs. But maybe you can turn that negative into a positive.

http://handersenpublishing.com/the-thumb-book.html

Reading books with no words . . .

You’ve probably read, or at least heard about The Book with No Pictures by B.J. Novak. If you haven’t, I would definitely recommend it. It’s silly and fun, and also a bit of a novelty because, let’s face it, most children’s books have pictures!

But this blog is actually about the alternate universe of Mr. Novak’s book: picture books with no words. Every time we check one out from the library, I’m surprised by how much my kids LOVE them. Dr. Joanne Meier in her blog about reading Sound it Out, says that reading books without words helps to develop many literacy skills including: listening, speaking, storytelling, vocabulary, comprehension, story structure, inference, cause and effect, and many more.

There are probably thousands of books out there with no actual printed words, but these are a few of our family’s favorites.

With two super-reader kids who check out probably 20 books per visit to the library, I’ve seen my fair share of children’s books. The biggest surprises tend to be how often the books with no words end up chosen at story time. It started with  Bow Wow Bugs a Bug by Mark Newgarden and Megan Montague Cash. The first time we read that one, I thought it would go back in the bag, never to be seen again. Wow, was I ever wrong! Not only did we read it everyday, we exhausted our renewals, took it back to the library, and checked it out again the next time we went to the library.

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Next up, The Adventures of Polo by Regis Faller. This one is a looong one, people. And because it has no words, the story can literally take an hour to read. This might be why this one is a favorite, because what kid doesn’t want to delay bedtime?

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Thunderstorm by Arthur Geisert was a favorite of my two-year-old son, who does not sit still for much of anything. He would stare at the pictures in this book for a VERY long time, though. I think it’s because there are a lot of hidden animals and trucks/tractors. It’s one continuous illustration, and it’s fun to find the connecting points from page to page. (He actually came in while I was typing this, saw the picture, and we had to talk about it all over again. He told me he, “Miss at the library. We see it again.” I guess I know what will be in our bag next time.

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Finally, Journey by Aaron Becker was a recommendation from my mother, who is a children’s librarian. The illustrations are magnificent, and the ways in which you can “tell” the story are endless. I suppose there is a reason why this one is a Caldecott Honor Book.

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What’s your favorite book with no words?