Sunday, December 30, 2012

We Love Sandra Boynton Board Books

Belly Button Book!
In this house we are HUGE fans of Sandra Boynton.  I was lucky enough to get an introduction to Sandra Boynton about seven years ago when my friends first started having kids.  So, I knew to keep an eye out for her books while my husband and I were expecting.  I scoured garage sales, thrift stores, library sales, and used book stores swooping up any Sandra Boynton books I could find.  (For as popular as Sandra Boynton board books are, good quality used board books are surprisingly hard to come by.)

For those who are just getting their first introduction to Sandra Boynton through this blog, she's a must get to know author if you have children between the ages of 0 and 3.  She's best known for her board books.  She is both the author and illustrator of her books and they all have a distinctive Boynton look.  What we love about her books in this house are her silly rhymes that grab and hold kids attention.  When they are very young, babies enjoy the rhyming cadence of the words even if they don't hold any meaning for them, but as the kids get older they'll enjoy the silliness of the stories.  Some of her books are very repetitive and so they make wonderful books for early readers because they are predictable and kids can "read" repeated words or phrases.  This list below represents the books that we've managed to get our hands on, but this is by no means an exhaustive list of her books.  Several of her books also incorporate music, which is always a huge hit with children.
The Going to Bed Book
  1. Fifteen Animals
  2. Belly Button Book
  3. The Going to Bed Book
  4. Barnyard Dance
  5. Oh My Oh My Dinosaurs
  6. Pajama Time
  7. Moo Ba La La La
  8. The Going to Bed Book
Of course we have our favorites from the list above.  My husband and I both love the Belly Button Book, and The Going to Bed Book is another popular title in our house.  I'm sure once you read a few Sandra Boynton books you'll fall in love with her the way we have and you'll discover your own favorites.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Book that Help Me Raise My Baby

This year has been full of changes for me because I had my first baby!  To help me prepare for, and cope with, all of the changes to my body and my life I did what every book lover does...I read (and read, and read, and read)!

Here are the books that have so far seemed to be the most helpful to me.  I know books about parenting can be filled with controversy and I'm sure there are folks out there that will read this list and instantly judge me as a bad mother, while others will look at this list and instantly feel as if I'm the same kind of parent as them.  Ultimately the information I learned from all of the many books I read this year got blended into my own unique style of parenting that fits who I am the best.  This list is not all of the books that I read, but it does include those books that I find myself frequently referring back to.  I ended up buying all of the books listed below so I'd have them on-hand when I needed to reference them, but I got them all used at my local used book store and garage sales.  Hopefully if you're expecting right now you'll have time to hunt at your local used book stores, thrift stores, and garage sales to avoid paying full price.  Of course, I'd also recommend you check each title out of the library first so you know if it's worth buying a copy for yourself. 

  1. What to Expect When You're Expecting (Murkoff and Mazel)- Is there a pregnant woman who hasn't read this book?  It was a great and comforting guide to me while I was pregnant.
  2. What to Expect The First Year (Hathaway)- Since I loved What to Expect When Expecting, I thought I'd pick this up when I came across it at a garage sale.  It's been a helpful resource.
  3. Read Aloud Handbook (Trelease) A must read for every parent regardless of how old their kids are!  This book will inspire you to read to your child and to help every child you know grow up in a print rich home.  I know I've blogged about this book many times already, but I just can't say enough good things about this book. 
  4. On Becoming Baby Wise (Ezzo and Bucknam)- Okay, I know this is where some of you are going to groan, and begin to worry about the welfare of my child.  While my husband and I haven't followed this book to the letter, we have really found this book and the general guidelines it lays out helpful.  We've even picked up Babywise II.  I'd recommend that every parent read this book.  Even if you finish it and realize it isn't for you at least you've read it and made up your own mind.  And even if you find just one tip that works for your family, it seems worth it to me.
  5. The Secrets of the Baby Whisperer (Hogg)- I really liked this book.  The author's E.A.S.Y. method is very calming and appealing and seemed to work very well for my son. 
  6. The Wonder Weeks (Van De Rijt) - I fell in love with this book and hunted for months to get my hands on a used copy.  This book is certainly worth owning because it's not the kind of book you read once and move on from.  You'll want this book around each time your baby experiences a "wonder week".  The book takes you through your baby's 10 great fussy periods and explains why your baby is likely fussy at time and what changes your baby is going through.
  7. Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child (Weissbluth)- If you're having trouble with sleep habits in your baby this is the book for you.  It really is a very comprehensive guide to sleep.  A lot of the information seems obvious, but some of the other information was really helpful and enlightening to me as a new mom.
  8. Happiest Baby On the Block (Karp) - I really liked the information in this book, but you really could probably just check this book out from the library.  I only bought it because I found it for $1 after I checked it out from the library and knew it had good information.
  9. Parenting with Love and Logic (Cline and Fay) - This will be a book that I'll probably reread when my son is older.  The information in this book isn't geared toward the first year of a baby's life, but it's still good information and when the time comes I hope I parent like this.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Best Books 2012

Since this time of year everyone seems to publish their lists of Best Books, I thought I'd throw my two cents in and create my list of the Top 10 Books I read this year.  This list is not in any particular order.
    The Language of Flowers
    1.  The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
    I really liked this book, although my dad read it on my recommendation and declared it too "hallmark".  The story weaves together the present day events with the events of the main character's childhood wonderfully and leaves you hoping for something to finally go right in her life.
    The Historian
    2.  The Historian by Elizabeth Hostova
    This book had just the right amount of suspense for me.  There were times when I was reading it at night that I was freaked out, but mostly it had just the perfect amount of suspense.  It perfectly blends the history of Vlad Dracula (the historical figure), Dracula (the myth), with some additional fictional writing.  It had me hooked to the last page and then wishing for more when it was all done. 
    Anna Karenina (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)
    3.  Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
    This book frustrated and delighted me.  I loved the characters and hated them at the same time, and even weeks after finishing it I'm still thinking about the characters, their actions, and my reactions.  I'm looking forward to seeing the movie version of this book and seeing how Kira Knightly and others interpreted the characters in the novel.
    The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
    4. The Guersney Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
    I loved the quirky characters in this novel.  It made me wish that I could actually travel to the island of Guersney (which I'd never heard of before I read this book) and meet these folks.  The books is written as a series of letters and it did take me a beat or two to get used to that, but the plot was too entertaining to let that bog me down for long.
    The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
    5. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
    For me this was the perfect blend of science, history, and writing.  Plus, it was the inspiration for an episode of Law and Order (the original).  I loved this book because it really made me think about what my rights are, and should be, as a patient.  If you're the kind of reader who likes to use history to understand where our society is headed, this is the book for you.  Henrietta Lacks's rights were violated but if not for those violations many medical discovers and advances would not have been possible.  This book invites the reader think about the careful balance between personal rights and the needs of society.
    Cutting for Stone
    6.  Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
    This is simply one of those good books with a plot that brings you full circle so gently you almost don't realize the author is pulling together all the lose ends of the plot until you finish the last page and realize how great the story was.  The story centers around twin boys whose mother dies during a difficult labor, and a father who abandons them at their birth.  Most of the story takes place in Ethiopia which adds a wonderful backdrop for the story.
    7.  Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neal Hurston
    I'd been meaning to read this for quite awhile, but when my family decided to do a classics challenge I finally made the time to read it.  Boy am I glad that I did.  I'm a fan of Toni Morison and this reminded me of her wonderful literary style.
    Half of a Yellow Sun
    8.   Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
    The book takes place during Nigeria's civil war in the late 1960s.  (I hate to admit, but I actually had to look up online to check to see if Nigeria really did have a civil war during that time period.  I guess my knowledge of world history is lacking.)  I loved this book for opening my eyes to what life was like for a middle class family during Nigeria's civil war.  It was also wonderfully written.
    Divergent (Divergent Series #1)
    9.  Divergent by Veronica Roth
    For the fans of the Hunger Games.  If your teenager, or you, enjoyed the Hunger Games trilogy and you haven't discovered this series yet it's time you did.  I'm pretty sure it's going to be a trilogy, but only the first two books are currently published.
    Firefly Lane
    10. Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah
    What a great book about the power of a lifelong friendship.  Reader be warned however, the end is devastating!

There are so many other books I'd love to put on the list.  (Gone Girl and Menonite In A Little Black Dress come to mind as books I wish I had space to include.)  But, I am determied to keep my Top 10 list a true Top 10 list.  I hope this list helps you discover a great new book to read in 2013!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Favorite Books 5 months

On Christmas Eve our son turned 5 months old.  We ran into some friends of ours at the Christmas Eve service who had their 8 week old with them and my husband and I couldn't believe how big, and old, our son looked at 5 months compared to their 8 week old.  It's amazing how fast they change.  And, this includes our son's reading tastes.  At 4 months he was still really into high contrast books, but his interest seems to be fading as his interest in other types of books grows.  He's now able to reach and grab onto pages which means that to save our other books we mostly read board books and let him play with bath books.  He seems to sit better for books that rhyme right now and he also listens best when he's got something he can chew on while he's read to. 
1) Our family is loving Sandra Boyton books right now.  We've got about 5 of her board books and we just love them.  They mostly rhyme, have silly words, and cheerful illustrations.  She's an author who is worth getting to know.

2) Dr. Seuss ABC book is also growing in popularity with him.  I think he likes this one so much because it rhymes.

3) Bath Books are really a big thing for him.  He can grab and crinkle the pages, put them in his mouth, hold onto the one that has a handle, and just play with them.  It's so much fun watching him explore these books.  My favorite is watching him turn the pages in his bath books.  It really does make it look like he's "reading".  We keep the one with the handle in the play room and the other two we save for bath time.  We have the set pictured above called Sassy 3 Pack Newborn Developmental Book Set.

Anna Karenina: A Review

Well folks, I did it!  I read my first Russian novel, Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy.  (I read it on my Nook with the free copy I downloaded from the Gutenberg Project!  They provide free copies of public access books, which are mostly the type of books you get assigned in high school and college.  So, if you're looking for a great spot to download free "classics" onto your e-reader, check out their website

 I guess I'm not so sure what makes this such a great story, but I did enjoy the book.  There were times I thought the plot dragged a bit, and times when I thought there was too much philosophizing, but then again, there were times when the philosophical musings of the characters added to my reading experience and gave me a glimpse into what makes this book a classic.  I think had I had the benefit of reading this as a part of a reading group, or if I'd read it in high school or college as a part of a class where I could have enjoyed the benefit of insights from someone who could have pointed out to me some of the details I undoubtedly missed, I would better understand what makes this novel appear on so many Best Books lists.

In particular I'm still struggling to decide if I liked Anna Karenina, the title character.  For most of the novel I thought she was selfish and her selfish actions caused pain to those around her.  However, she's not as 2-dimensional as that.  Tolstoy also gave her a lot of goodness, and she struggled with her decisions and their consequences throughout the novel.  I've heard it said that Tolstoy himself disliked Anna Karenina, the character, and I could see why.  She certainly gave me a lot to think about as I read.  I love to put myself in the character's shoes and she was an interesting one to think about.  As many times as I've thought about it I can't decide if I would have made her same decisions or not.  I don't think I would have made the same decision as her at the end of the novel, but prior to that I'm just not sure. 

I finished the novel over a week ago and I'm still struggling to decide just how I feel about the novel.  There were times I really disliked the characters in the novel, times I truly just didn't understand them, and times I wanted to reach into the pages of the book and shake them until they came to their senses.  I guess in some respects, for me anyway, it means I must have enjoyed the book if I cared enough about the characters to have emotional reactions to them.  I liked this book enough that it would make it onto my Top 10 books for 2012, but not enough that it would make it onto my Top 10 Books Ever.  I'd recommend it to a reader who wants a gentler introduction to Russian literature than Crime and Punishment or War and Peace might give, but if you're simply a casual reader or a fan of mostly trade fiction it probably isn't the right choice for you.

Happy Reading!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

My Awesome Secret Santa!

Every year my school does a Secret Santa gift exchange the week before Christmas Break.  It’s always fun to give and receive gifts, but this year it was extra fun to receive gifts.  My Secret Santa knocked it out of the park!  She was amazing!  To help us know what to purchase for our person each participant fills out an wish list information sheet.  I always list books on my wish list information sheet, but no one, until this year, has ever given me a book.  I understand why, I never give information about a specific title or genera because I really do like to read just about anything.  But that makes it intimidating to try to gift a book with no guidance.  But this year my Secret Santa rose to the challenge and gave me not one, not two, but three books!  My wonderful Secret Santa gave me The Eighty-Dollar Champion by Elizabeth Letts, The Dressmaker of Khair Khana by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, an Heaven is for Real by Todd Durpo.  My amazing Secret Santa even thought to include Peek-a-WHO? By Nina Laden for my son!  (This book has been on my list of books I've been hunting for at used book stores.)  It must have been divine intervention that lead my Secret Santa to that title because I know she didn't know I was looking for that book for him.  For now I’m excited to be on Christmas break armed with three New York Times Bestsellers to keep me happily reading over break and a new book to share with my son.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Reading for Inspiration

2012 is almost over and so I've been reflecting on this past year.  I can't believe all of the changes my life has gone through.  This year alone I've adjusted to being pregnant, to being a mom, and being a working mom.  I've become a blogger, a knitter (not a good one yet, but maybe someday!).  I've made new friends, learned to interpret the cries of a baby and how to get by on fractured sleep.  I cooked my first Turkey at Thanksgiving (and it actually turned out to be edible!) and I'll host my first Christmas in a about a week for 20 people (yikes!).  In many ways my life is almost unrecognizable to me; it is so different from what it was last year at this time.  But, I've also worked hard to try to keep up with those parts of my life that are mine and in part define me.  I've continued to be a reader and I work hard to find time to work out.  I may not read as many books, or workout as often as I once did, but those are still a part of my life.  My husband and I still attend church weekly, but we take advantage of the Saturday evening service and we've managed to still host a weekly Bible study at our house.  When the weather was nice, and in the spring when it's nice again, we'll use our free time to kayak and hike and to carve out time for our marriage.

With all that in mind I've been reflecting on the type of reading I usually do and how I'd like to use my reading time in the future.  I've never been a big fan of reading inspiration or self help books.  I guess I've always been pleased with my life and so I've never felt the need.  But, the life of a working mom has awakened me to a whole new set of worries and stresses that I never knew I could have, so for 2013 I've found a few books I'd like to make time for to hopefully inspire me when times get tough and I feel overwhelmed.

  1. One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voscamp- A friend of mine recommended this to me.  I've already put my name on the waiting list at the library for the ebook.
  2. Simple Abundance: A Day Book of Comfort and Joy by Sarah Ban Breathnach- I'm a bit skeptical about this book, but it seems popular.  I just wish I actually knew someone who had read it so I could know more about this book than the recommendation of strangers on random website.
  3. The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin- If I like this book, there's a sequel, Happier At Home, which I've also heard some good buzz about.
This is going to be a whole new genre for me.  Everyone though needs a bit of inspiration in their life from time to time.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

When Dad Reads Aloud

One of the many many things that I love about my husband is that he is dedicated to reading aloud to our son.  Truth be told, some weeks he reads aloud to him more than I do!  While I must admit I've never been able to convince my husband to read The Read Aloud Handbook (my all time favorite book on reading aloud to children!) he's a natural when it comes to reading to our son.  Being that our first born is a son I feel like it is extra important that his dad reads aloud to him and that he sees his dad read for pleasure.  In The Read Aloud Handbook author Jim Trelease devotes a special section to trying to convince dads that's it's important.  In referring to the increasing academic achievement of girls and decreasing academic achievement of boys Trelease says this, "The impact on the young male of seeing his dad worshipping daily and nightly at the alter of ESPN, has to have played a damaging role in male attitudes about school.  Girls read and write; guys hit, throw, catch, shoot, and fish."  A bit further on in the same section Trelease lays out some startling (and simple) facts about the impact dads who read can have on their sons.  (The following statistics come from a study conducted in Modesto, California.)
  1. Boys who were read to by their fathers scored significant higher in reading achievement.
  2. When fathers read recreational, their sons read more and scored higher than boys whose fathers did little or no recreational reading.
There are so many parents who are desperate to increase their child's academic achievement.  These parents will shell out thousands of dollars for after-school tutoring programs, summer enrichment programs, online activities designed to increase achievement, but the answer for many children is much more simple and far less expensive...SPEND TIME READING TO YOUR CHILD!

Knowing how important it is that my husband reads aloud to our son I'm so very grateful that he's a natural and that it's something he enjoys doing with our son.  I hope that the time the two boys spend reading aloud now is the beginning of a long and rich tradition of reading aloud in our house.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Favorite Christmas Books

I finally had a bit of free time and I chose to spend to it looking at Pinterest.  (Yes, it's true, I'm obsessed with Pinterest.  I just can't get enough and no matter how many times I look I always seem to find something new to inspire and interest me.)  On Pinterest I stumbled upon a list of 10 Must Read Christmas Books for Kids.  I, of course, had to look at the list.  The first 5 books are classic Christmas books, although I have to admit that I had never even heard of #4, Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree.  The last five on the list are newer books that are sure to become Christmas classics.  Keeping in mind the Advent tradition I'd like to start of wrapping up 24 books, one to unwrap and read each night of Advent, I thought this list was an excellent find.  It gives me several new titles to look for over the next year, or books to try to check out from the library next Christmas.  I can't wait to see what other future favorite Christmas books I stumble upon over the next year.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Reading Nonfiction at Home

The local newspaper this week ran a story about the Common Core.  The Common Core is a set of educational standards that 48 states, and the District of Columbia, have adopted as their educational standards.  Love it or hate it the Common Core is here to stay (at least in the short term) and will impact your child's education.  One of the main drives of the Common Core is to increase the amount of nonfiction reading students do.  While English teachers are feeling the burden, and feeling like they have to cut out some of the beloved pieces of literature, the idea behind the Common Core is that ALL subject areas would increase the amount of reading students are doing.  Thus the burden, in theory, shouldn't fall on the English teachers.  (In practise time will tell how well that will work, but that's the idea behind the increase in nonfiction reading.)

As parents however, we can do our teachers a HUGE favor by getting our children used to reading nonfiction at an early age.  I'll confess, when I envision reading to my son I certainly don't picture sitting down with him to read a manual about auto-repair or an essay about the different between an apple and a pear, but there are plenty of great, fun, and simple ways to increase the amount of nonfiction a child is exposed to.  Here are just two ideas.

1) Read article from a newspaper (or an online news source).  I know I'm probably a bit old fashioned since I still subscribe to a newspaper, but I enjoy my subscription.  With older kids (4th grade on up) read an interesting newspaper article together and discuss the article.  (USA Today, for example is written on a 4th grade reading level.)  It can make for some great dinner time conversations and if you pick the right articles it won't feel like an assignment it'll just feel like an interesting conversation.  You can always modify this by reading the article out loud if your child can't understand the article when (s)he reads it him/herself.  Many of the benefits will still be there for your child.

2) Get your child a subscription to a great nonfiction magazine.  Is there anything more fun than getting a magazine in the mail!?  There is a magazine out there to suit your child's interests and they make magazines for any reading level these days.  Even preschoolers can get a subscription to Ranger Rick Jr (ages 4-7) , which is published by the National Wildlife Federation.  As a bonus, there are no ads in this magazine!  Just pages of great content and beautiful pictures sure to interest the budding naturalist in your life.  Got a kid who loves to travel and wants to be a global explorer?  How about getting them hooked on FACES Magazine.  There are so many other great magazines out there.  I could probably do a month's worth of posts on the magazines that I love that feature nonfiction writing.  If you're looking for other ideas be sure to check out the Cricket family of publications.  They really publish some amazing magazines for children and teens.

There are millions of ways to introduce your child to nonfiction and to show them that it doesn't have to mean reading out of a textbook.  A love of reading starts at home, and that includes a love of nonfiction too!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Freak the Mighty

Today my students finished reading Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick.  I've used this book with my classes several times over the past 10 years and every year it always surprises me how much my students love this book.  This year's class was no exception.  They loved the book, which suits this teacher just fine!  It catches me by surprise each time I teach this book just how much my students love this book.  It's different from what usually catches my student's attention.  There is no bad language, it's not particularly violent, there are no vampires (or other mythical creatures).  What it does have are two main characters who desperately need a friend and form a very unlikely friendship with each other.  Max is a 13 year old boy who is huge for his age and even though he's physically built to be a bully, too often finds himself the target of bullying.  He lives with his grandparents (Grim and Gram) and has no friends and even less self esteem.  Kevin, also called Freak, is a pint-sized genius who seems to be Max's opposite in every way.  However, its these differences that help lead the boys to form the friendship of a lifetime.  If you're looking for a great book for the middle schooler in your life consider Freak the Mighty.  It's as close to a guaranteed hit at you can get with kids that age!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Banned Books

I know it's not banned books awareness week, (That was September 26-October 3 2012) but some friends and I were talking about banned books and how we are always surprised by the books that end up on that list.  We figured by now we would realized that some people will find a reason to object to anything and we really shouldn't be surprised at this point in our lives, but we always are.

As a mom I was drawn to the children's books on the particular list at which we were looking.  I've always kind of  glossed over those in the past, cause who really cared.  But now I was looking at them with new eyes.  Here are the five banned (or challenged) children's books that I was most surprised to see on the list.

  1. Where's Waldo by Martin Handford - Really!?  It's just crazy pictures where you have to find Waldo in nearly impossibly crowded scenes.  How is this a banned book?
  2. The Giving Tree by Shell Silverstein - This book teaches a wonderful lesson on love, sharing, and sacrifice.  I was shocked to see it on the list!
  3. The Lorax by Dr. Seuss - This is another great book that teaches a powerful lesson about caring for our environment.  What happened to going green?
  4. Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein - Okay, to be fair I'm sure buried someplace in this delightful collection of poems is probably some tongue and cheek poem that annoyed someone, but I just remember how much I loved this (and all of Shel Silverstein's poetry) as a child.
  5. The Giver by Lois Lowry - This is one of my all time favorite books.  I just don't understand what could possibly be objectionable about the Newberry winner.
I enjoy reading banned books often just because they have been banned.  It brings out the rebel in me gives me a new reason to read.  Maybe one day my son and I can enjoy reading some baned books together.  (He's already got #1, 2, and 4 in his library!)

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Advent Tradition

When I was a kid, each year my mom would take my brother and I to pick out an Advent Calendar.  Each night at the kitchen table, during dinner, we'd get to open one of the doors on the Advent Calendar and read what was behind the flap.  It was thrilling!  (Although I think most of our excitement came from counting down to Santa, not from counting down to Jesus' birthday.)

Now that my husband and I have our own (young) family I've been thinking about what Christmas traditions I'd like to establish.  On Pinterest a few months ago I came across the idea of wrapping up 24 Christmas books and counting down to Christmas by unwrapping a book each night and reading it together.  I LOVE THIS IDEA!  It combines all of my favorite things: unwrapping items, reading aloud, and Christmas.  The only problem is that this could be an expensive tradition to establish.  Buying 24 books can cost a lot of money.  So I thought I'd start to plan ahead.  My son will be 5 months old on December 24, so this is not a tradition I need to start this year, but if I start planning now when he's old enough I just may have what I need without having to endure the burden of buying all those books at once.

1) I went through the house to see what Christmas books we already own.  We own three already.  The Other Wise Man by Henry Van Dyke and A Tale of Three Trees by Angela Elwell Hunt, and The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg.
2) I plan to buy just 2 Christmas books this year.  I hope I can pick them up at my local used book store.  I'd like to buy Song of the Stars: A Christmas Story by Sally Lloyd-Jones and The Crippled Lamb by Max Lucado.
3) Now that I know this is something I want to do as an Advent tradition I plan to keep an eye out for Christmas picture books at garage sales, thrift stores, flee markets.  I'll also put my friends and family on the hunt.  Hopefully this way I can pick up a few more Christmas books over the next 365 days without having to pay more than $1 per book.

My master plan over the coming years is to acquire about 12-15 Christmas picture books and then check the others out from the library.  This way there will be a nice mix of traditional books that our family reads together each year, and new books for our family to be surprised with.  (Plus, library books are free so it will help keep the cost down!)

I can't wait for next Christmas so our family can begin a new Advent Tradition!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Gifting a Magazine Subscription

It seems like this year a magazine a subscription is the thing to give.  I've never given anyone a subscription to a magazine before, but three people in my family have requested a subscription/renewal to a magazine.  What I like about magazines is that they attract people who classify themselves as "non-readers".  They have short articles with lots of pictures, they are easy to pick up/put down, are centered a topic a person knows they are interested in, and they are tons of fun to get in the mail.  So, if you're stuck on a gift to give someone this year, why not consider a magazine subscription.  You just might turn someone in your family into a reader by getting them hooked on a new publication!

Monday, December 3, 2012

I Love My Nook!

I'm a full time working mom, who is also still nursing.  Needless to say there's not much free time in my life.  My friends and family are amazed that I've managed to find the time to still read and I tell them it's all thanks to my Nook.  Last year for my birthday my husband bought me a Nook Color.  I was thrilled to get a Nook and about 30% of the books I read last year I read on my Nook.  Since having our son though just about every book I've read has been on my Nook.  There are so many things about my Nook (or just about any e-reader) that make it TONS easier to read with a baby in the house.

1)  I only need one hand free to read.  With one hand I can hold my Nook and simply use my thumb on the same hand to turn the pages.  I don't have to worry that it is going to flop closed and that I'll lose my spot.  This comes in very handy when I'm nursing or pumping.

2)  I can read my Nook in a dark room.  Late at night when I'm nursing I want to keep the room dark so my son falls right back to sleep.  Without my Nook that would be time I wouldn't be able to read, but since my Nook is back light, I can keep the room dark and read while he's nursing. 

3)  I can read while I'm pumping at work.  Pumping (at least for my style of pump) keeps my hands occupied, but I can bring up whatever book(s) I've downloaded onto my Nook and read them off of my computer screen while I pump.  That way instead of just having to stare at a blank wall, or worse, stare at my computer and think of all the work I need to be doing at that time, I can relax and read a few pages.  It has been a life saver, and really helped me de-stress and not think about the millions of other things I need to get done. 

4)  I can download free books!  Yes, I do sometimes still pay for books, but just because my husband and I are both working doesn't mean we're rich.  (Far from it!)  We save money where we can, and one way is to utilize free books.  Many "classics" (think books you read - or should have read- in high school) are free.  Right now I'm reading Anna Karenina which I downloaded free from  I also check e-books out from the public library, and make use of sights like

I love my Nook because without it, I simply wouldn't have the time to read which would make me very sad.  If you're a mom who loves to read and you don't already have one, treat yourself to a Nook (or another type of e-reader).

*I am not affiliated with, nor is this post in anyway sponsored by Barns and Noble.

Favorite Books at 4 months

Over the Thanksgiving holiday our son turned 4 months.  So I thought I'd take a moment to write about his current favorite books.

Cluck and Moo (High Contrast Books)
1. High Contrast Books- I've written about these before.  These books are my son's favorite books and have been for about 2 months.  The high contrast books we have feature simple, very large black and white pictures.  Each page has one or two words so we mostly fill in the story as he stares at the pictures.  We picked up our set at our local used book store and they have proved to be worth every penny.  No other books at this stage come close to holding his attention the way these books do.
(Shop: Sock and Shoe, Fish and Canoe, Me and You, Cluck and Moo)

2. Barnyard Dance by Sandra Boynton- We have several Sandra Boynton books, but my son seems to prefer this one right now.  This book features a simple rhyming story about some barnyard animals square dancing.  It is simple, cute, and silly.  It has Boynton's trademark illustrations.  When we read this to him we try to get him physically involved with the story.  For example, when the text says "stomp your feet" we'll take his feet and tap them on the floor.  So he may just enjoy this one since we make it so interactive for him.

I know the list seems short, but 4 month old babies don't have a huge attention span for reading at this point.  I can't wait to see how his reading interests grow and change as he develops.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Chewable Baby Books

My husband and I have recently introduced chewable baby books, or what in our house we call bath books.  We think of bath books as short books (3-5 pages), made of soft foam and covered in plastic.  They can get wet and stand up to a drooling baby or bath time. (Thus the nickname bath books.)  We have a set that has a handle for him to grab onto, but not all of our bath books have handles.  At 4 months our son is just starting to want to put things into his mouth and also just beginning to become a drooler.  In an effort to protect some of his board books, while still letting him explore books we decided to break out our small collection of bath books. 

But, the thing is we're not using them at bath time...we're using them during play time.  From what my friends with slightly older children have said his interest in bath books will really pick up around 6 months.  For now he likes to grab onto the book with the handle and shake it around.  Sometimes he'll grab and squeeze one of the pages.  At this stage they really only hold his attention for about 5 minutes tops.  He does like to look at the bright colors of the illustrations though.  We have the set pictured above from Sassy and so far we like it.  The cube holds no interest for him at this stage, but I'm sure in a few months he will enjoy that more.  Right now it's just too big for his hands.  I'm excited to watch him play with these books now and I can't wait to see him interact with these books as his skills continue to grow and develop.