Tag Archives: books

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.



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.



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


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…


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.


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.


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?


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.


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.


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.



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…

Outside Looking In

Here’s a hypothetical situation: Let’s say that you and your two “hypothetical” children come home from the pool, exhausted, a little sunburned, but happy. The oldest gets in the tub to rinse off the chlorine, the youngest you strip down to a diaper–he is next in line for the tub. Then you step outside for a quick moment so you can hang all of the wet bathing suits, pool toys, and wet towels on the balcony to dry. (You’ll be back to the pool tomorrow, and everything will be dry by then).

You close the balcony door as you go out (wouldn’t want to waste that glorious air conditioning, you’re on a budget after all). Once everything is secured and blowing in the breeze, you take a moment to consider what to make for supper. After deciding on “breakfast food for dinner”, (thankfully, a family favorite), you go to open the door, and find it is locked . . .

On the "line"

Staring back at you is the cutest two-year-old that you have ever seen. He resembles a little naked garden gnome. And he is SO proud that he finally figured out how to get the little lever to go down on the door. You never noticed how soundproof balcony doors are until this moment. You find yourself shouting, doing wild arm movements,  along with over-exaggerated hand gestures  and sign language attempts in order to get said garden gnome to lift the lever up. But he stares at you blankly, wondering why you aren’t coming in to fix supper.

It’s time to change tactics.


This is followed by more knocking, more pointing, more laughing. The laughing is strictly coming from the mostly naked 2-year old, thinking we’re playing a new silly game.


The little guy runs away, comes back, runs away, comes back. Each time he is grinning, or playing peek-a-boo from around the corner, or behind the couch.


You try this method several more times, each time with the same result. There is one more person in your apartment, so it is time for Plan C.


Once again, he runs away and comes back grinning. What seems like an hour goes by, but it’s probably only fifteen minutes.

Finally, you see your husband. All this time, he’s been cordoned off in the bedroom/office/art studio with ear plugs in, working on homework for his online class.

Ah. Rescued at last…or not.

He doesn’t immediately come to the rescue…?  He’s talking to your oldest child, who is still in the bathtub, calling for mom. Then he looks at you, on the balcony, giving you a look that says why are you out there on the balcony pondering life while your children clearly need you?  You can see frustration in his eyes, wondering why that kid is only wearing a diaper, and why that one has been hollering at you for the last ten minutes.

You point at the door latch, distinctly, three times.

And then you see it–the “hypothetical” light bulb. Twenty-five minutes later, you are free!

Thank God for husbands who (eventually) come to the rescue.

There’s probably a beautiful metaphor here about seeing your family from the outside, but I’m really just glad that there was eventually someone to unlock the door. It was REALLY hot outside, and I might have been “hypothetically” wearing my swimsuit.

That being said…

In honor of my truly awkward moment, my book review this week is Liesl Shurtliff’s Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin. In this new telling of the classic tale, Shurtliff makes the villain of Rumpelstiltskin into an unlikely, and very awkward hero.

There are a ton of fairy tale retells out right now (new and old, and in varying genres), Sister’s Grimm, Wicked, The Lunar Chronicles, etc. I’ve read a lot of the YA and Middle Grade ones. Rump did little to break the mold, but I wasn’t disappointed. In fact, I really enjoyed this book.

There was a simplicity to it that didn’t overcomplicate the original story with needless extras just to prove that this “new” version was better than the last. Shurtliff included other fairy tale characters in varying degrees, including Red (Little Red Riding Hood) as Rump’s only friend. There were also many traditional fairy tale creatures such as pixies, who were a bit like gold-obsessed bugs, and gnomes, who were the message delivery service of the time.

If you don’t LOVE fairy tale retells, then Rump will probably do little to change your mind. However, if you are like me and enjoy the familiarity of old characters in new situations, you will not be disappointed.


The Organized Pack Rat

For $5-$50/100 you can purchase a delightful egg!
For $5-$50/100 you can purchase a delightful egg!
Just some friends enjoying a show!
Just some friends enjoying a show!
This one was never quite finished . . . I guess everyone had to go to the drive-in!
This one was never quite finished . . . I guess everyone had to go to the drive-in!

No purse is safe . . . No box untouched . . . And I don’t even want to talk about Walmart bags! My four year old is going to be the end of me. Why, you ask? She is an organized pack rat. The only problem is that her organizational skills only make sense to her. I’ve finally given up on keeping a “tidy” home. Instead, we have a once a week “sorting party” where we empty every box, purse, bag, tote, basket, and drawer into a giant pile on the floor and commence to sort like mad. It’s nice when it’s done! But it only lasts for about five minutes, but it puts a little order into our chaos. I need that little bit of order.

Seriously, I need it.

Giving her “talents” a name started me thinking about free play. It’s something that I don’t think kids get enough of these days. As we were sorting her bags and piles, she would say things like, “Mom, that’s my store!” or “My stuffed animals are at the movie theater!”  Then there was “Mom, you can’t clean my mermaid pond!” It was a blanket on the floor with random toys thrown on it–one toy from each of our recently sorted bins. They were “seashells”. So much imagination for someone so small!

I recently read an article about why it’s important for kids to be bored (http://bit.ly/1DBQEAY), and I mostly agreed. Being bored gives them time to use those brains that we sometimes think have been misplaced. The article had a giant Boredom Buster Jar list that included things from build a fort to writing Grandma a letter (or an email). My favorite, though, was read a book. In our family, that translates into reading a giant pile of books.

So now I try very hard during every sorting party to remember that all of these toys, in their random strange places, are actually hours of free playtime that are building one little girl (and her brother, too) into a child that can think creatively and work independently.

In honor of sorting parties, my book this week is Kelly DiPucchio’s Mrs. McBloom Clean Up Your Classroom:

This book is about a teacher who is retiring, and hasn’t cleaned her classroom in 50 years! She challenges her class to “Come up with an idea to get Room #5 tidy, lickety-split.” The idea for the book is very sweet, and Mrs. McBloom is likable enough. I love the idea of community, and that if everyone takes just one thing the room will be tidy “lickety-split”. The illustrations are fabulous, and all of the insanely crazy items that they find are hilarious. The book is a bit wordy, and my four year old’s interest wavered at about the 3/4 mark. I don’t think it will make the check-it-out-every-other-time-we-go-to-the-library list, but still a great read.