Category Archives: reading

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

DinosaursDidLastNight

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.

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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.

thunderstorm

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?

Fight Song

We all have one song that gets us pumped. My new anthem is Rachel Platten’s Fight Song. Seriously, there are days when in-between getting laundry done, making meals, making snacks, breaking up the 101 scuffles that happen on any given day, making more meals and more snacks, and basically just trying to hold it all together, that nothing can keep me going like the perfect song.

Imagine that you have two different volume dials in your brain. Just turn the chaos down to zero, and then crank your anthem to eleven! Sometimes I even picture myself in my own music video for said anthem . . . call me crazy . . .

Yes, sometimes life can be overwhelming, but sometimes I agree with the mom I overheard at the grocery store when she said to her four-year-old, “Let’s just do what we have to do to get through this.” I will add, “Even if it means starring in your own “in your head” music video.”

So what’s your fight song? Maybe we can start a playlist?

This week’s review is Prisoner 88. It is a “loosely based on a true story” book about a ten-year-old boy who is found guilty of murder in 1885 and sent to an adult prison. He might not have had an anthem, but he was a fighter.

I was a bit surprised at how much I liked this book. The main character, Jake Oliver, has a, never-give-up, matter-of-fact spirit that is both endearing, frustrating, and inspiring, I think it’s the perfect read for kids and adults alike.

The only downside to this book is that it’s written in a bit of an accent, that takes some time to get into. This type of writing can be difficult for younger readers, but I think that the characters and the situations are drawn so clearly that the accent becomes secondary. 

There were just so many levels to this book, and each one helped to build it into something that left me feeling hopeful and encouraged.

http://leahpileggi.com/books/prisoner_88

Hats

My kids, like most, have a dress-up collection that includes everything from old Halloween costumes to scarves to miscellaneous scraps of junk that find themselves repurposed into everything from lasers to magic wands. Then there are the hats. So many hats. Watching my daughter try on almost all of her hats (at the same time, of course) made me start to think about the different “hats” that I wear.

Wife, mother, children’s author, cover designer, editor, avid reader . . . these are a few of the hats that I wear. And now I add “Blogger” to the mix. The strange thing about the blogging hat is that I’ve had to find my own voice. It may seem strange that an author wouldn’t have her own voice, but I’m finding my voice outside of the hats that I put on. I’m finding MY voice, and as I continue to blog and share what I love–my family, reading books, creating books, designing book covers–I’m finding that my voice is becoming this strange combination of everything that I do. I know you more enlightened folks out there might be crying, “Duh!” But I’m guessing there are a few others looking for their voice, as well.

Sometimes we get lost in choosing a hat, and forget completely about the head we’re putting it on.

I initially thought that I would make this blog very formulaic: funny kid story, bit of wisdom, then a book review. But it’s becoming more about who I am as a person, a person who wears many hats that sometimes feel too small, yet are usually too big, but occasionally fit just right.

I recently finished the first installment from Chris Colfer’s Land of Stories series, The Wishing Spell. I REALLY wanted to LOVE this book. It had everything going for it, all the action and adventure and lightning fast pace that I usually enjoy in a middle grade book.

This weeks Book Review:

Last week, I reviewed Rump by Liesl Shurtliff, which I found be  formulaic but enjoyable. This week I finished The Wishing Spell by Chris Colfer (of Glee fame), and I wish I could say the same. Unfortunately, The Wishing Spell fell into a cliched and predictable pattern. I REALLY wanted to LOVE this book. It had everything going for it, all the action and adventure and lightning fast pace that I usually enjoy in a middle grade book, but I just did not like it.

Then I realized something.

I don’t think I was supposed to like this book. This is a middle grade book that is written for–gasp!–middle grade kids. This book is for kids who are just discovering fairytale retellings. It is written in a very approachable way. While I, personally, found it over descriptive and REALLY predictable, I’m guessing that a fifth grader would be totally immersed in Colfer’s new telling of some very familiar tales and characters. I also think they would completely relate to the two central characters, Conner and Alex, who literally fall into The Land of Stories.

(My mom is a children’s librarian. She recommended this book to me, mostly because they couldn’t keep it on the shelf. Kids are checking it out like crazy. And I am always 100% for any book that gets kids reading!)

So as far as hats that fit “just right” . . . The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell was not the book for me. However, it wasn’t written with thirty-something moms in mind. It was written with middle schoolers in mind, and they will think it’s um, like, you know, totally awesome n’stuff…

Keep It Swimple Silly

Yes, SWIMPLE . . . it’s a thing now!

I’m sure almost every first blog begins something like, “I wasn’t sure how to start.” Like so many moms I wear a number of hats, Mom, wife, publisher, editor, author, teacher, maid, laundress, referee . . . the list could go on for days. So when my husband said I should blog the questions (and excuses) started. Who do I want to be? What do you share? Where do I start? When will I find the time? Why is this a good idea?

Then, while purchasing goggles for my four year old, I realized, “It doesn’t have to be so complicated, it’s swimple really!” And as our family kept playing with the word “swimple”, everything from “Baby be a swimple, kind of man” to “Swimple is as swimple does”, I knew that I should blog what I know, books and fun!

So stay tuned for my latest book reviews, I just finished Fairestfrom the Lunar Chronicles. And our latest at home projects . . . are you ready for “Thumb Theatre”?

PS The goggles work great, I would highly recommend them, for swimming, and for inspiration!