Everyday Reading - Practical Family Living for Book Loving Parents

December 1, 2015

Girl Talk: Episode 4

This post is part of a social shopper marketing insight campaign with Pollinate Media Group® and Little Skye Boutique, but all my opinions are my own. #pmedia #embracechildhood http://my-disclosur.es/OBsstV

Watching Star get her six month shots
Ani: Oh, she's getting bandages!
Ani: To keep her legs warm!

After Ani disrupted a game of Tiddlywinks, Ella storms out of the room
Ella: Well, don't expect to ever see me again!

Playing checkers with me, Ella jumps one of my pieces
Ella: I'm getting pretty good at this game. I used to just be a little wimp.

There's a crash in the hallway
Ani: There's nothing going on in here!

Ella: You know what my favorite part of Christmas is?
Janssen: What?
Ella: Well, actually the PRESENTS are my favorite part, but then my second favorite part is celebrating the birth of Jesus.

Ani: Can you take these shoes off? They're making bookmarks on my feet.

Talking about trick-or-treating etiquette
Janssen: And what do you do if someone gives you a piece of candy you don't like?
Ella: I'll just take it and say "thank you."
[long pause]
Ella: But I haven't met much sugar I don't like, so I don't think it's very likely to happen.

Janssen: Ani, what are you thankful for?
Ani: Um. . . .
Ella: I think she's grateful for no smoking
Janssen and Bart: . . . .

Bart: So I hear you want to be an author and illustrator when you grow up?
Ella: Yep. My favorite thing is making my own books.
Bart: Would you be interested in taking art lessons so you can get better?
Ella: Well. . . no. I like my art to just be wild and free.

Man in the grocery store: Well, look at that gorgeous red hair!
Ani: My dad only has a little hair.

Ella: Ani, do you want to play Yahtzee with Mom and me?
Ani: No, I'm just young, remember?

Ella picks up a paper in Ani's room
Ella: Wow, look at this dog Ani drew! Mom, don't you think this is a really really impressive dog? I can't believe how good this drawing is!
Ani: Ella, you drawed that dog.
Ella: Oh, yeah! Wow, that's a good dog.

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November 30, 2015

Better for Baby

Early this summer, Bart and I went to a show in Durham. During intermission, I checked my phone and saw an email from my college roommate, Sherry, telling me that her unborn baby, due in the fall, had just been diagnosed with pulmonary stenosis (she told me all sorts of details, but the basic gist is that one of her heart valves is faulty and would need to be replaced immediately after birth and then every 5-10 years for the rest of her life).

Sherry's baby was induced a few days early so that a full cardiac team could be there, and after her (happily) uneventful birth, their new baby girl was rushed off for heart surgery for an artificial valve. She spent seven days in the hospital before Sherry and Eric were able to take her home.

I've had several friends over the years with babies that had to stay in the hospital for various reasons and my heart breaks for how hard that is on families.

Yesterday was the 15-year anniversary of my youngest brother's death, and I spent an hour or two in the evening reading the book my dad wrote about Shepard's life and fight against cancer. I'm amazed at how normal my parents managed to keep our lives despite Shepard's weekly chemo appointments and monthly hospital stays. Having a little one in the hospital is just not easy.

At the end of June, Pampers launched their Better for Baby campaign (I've embedded the video below and it's just so so good - we got a sneak peek at it when we went to Cincinnati this summer) and they told us that if we had any projects we wanted to work on in our communities that would help make the world better for babies, they'd be happy to make a donation to help us carry those projects out. This wasn't a sponsored project that we'd be paid for (I wasn't paid for this post or any part of this project (in fact, I didn't even have to WRITE this post)), but it'd be a chance for us to make an impact somewhere that mattered to us personally.

Since I'd just learned about Sherry and Eric's baby, I knew I wanted to make a donation to help cover the high medical expenses for their baby, plus help other families like theirs with babies in the hospital.

I've also felt, more strongly than I ever have, a desire to help families who are struggling, whether with poverty or health or in any number of other ways. I look at our warm home and fridge full of food and my healthy little girls, and wonder how I can sit back and not try to help others who aren't so fortunate. I want our family to be involved in our community and in acts of service, not just at the holidays, but all the time.

I contacted our local hospital and polled some of my friends who had had babies in the NICU to see what would be most helpful to them, and put together some care kits for the families.

We picked up restaurant gift cards from a few nearby eateries, selected baby board books, bought cozy socks (something that the hospital suggested parents could use when they're spending hours at the NICU with their babies), boxes of pretty thank-you cards, and a few other little treats, like these candy bars.

We packaged them all up in Pampers colored gift bags for delivering to the hospital with little cards explaining the program and wishing these families and their babies the best.

I love Pampers and have been so impressed over the years by their dedication to making great products for babies and their families, but I especially appreciate how much they do to give back to the community in such a variety of ways. In my various visits to P&G and Pampers, I've met a bunch of the people running the Pampers brand, most of them moms and dads themselves, and I'm always impressed by how family-focused they are and how much they care about babies.

This was such a sweet project to do as a family, and I loved that my girls were able to help pick out their favorite books to put in each bag. It was so wonderful to start our Christmas shopping buying things for other people instead of ourselves.

And I really hope that all those little babies get to come home for the holidays.


November 25, 2015

24 Christmas Books to Read This December

A great list of picture books to read in December, every day until Christmas. So many good picks, new and old here!
I don't decorate for Christmas or start playing holiday tunes until after Thanksgiving, but you better believe I've got my stack of Christmas picture books ready to go and we've been scoping out the new releases for the past couple of weeks.

In the past, I've always done a mix of books from previous lists and new books, but this year, every book on the list is new to my blog.

Oh, there are some good ones here! I'm posting this before Thanksgiving so you have time to order or request ones that you want to add to your rotation.

Happy Holiday Reading! 
  1. Samurai Santa: A Very Ninja Christmas by Rubin Pingk. The minute I closed this book, I knew it was one I'd be purchasing for our collection this year - the three-color illustrations (red, black, and white) and the high-action story fit perfectly in this tale about a little ninja who only wants a massive snowball fight for Christmas but can't find any takers because they are all afraid it'll land them on Santa's naughty list. 
  2. Penny's Christmas Jar Miracle by Jason F. Wright, illustrated by Ben Sowards - I may have gotten a little teary toward the end of this out-of-print story of a little girl who decides, with her family, to use all the change they've collected during the year to help a fellow neighbor. 
  3. Christmas Wombat by Jackie French, illustrated by Bruce Whatley. The wombat diary books are hysterically terse, and this one is no exception, when a wombat discovers that her favorite treat (carrots) are being eaten by Santa's reindeer. 
  4. A Homemade Together Christmas by Maryann Cocca-Leffler. This book just came out a few weeks ago, and my girls have LOVED it, about a family of pigs that decides to do homemade Christmas gifts. But the little brother can't figure out what he could possibly make. 
  5. Olive, the Other Reindeer by J.otto Seibold and Vivian Walsh. This one has been popular for almost two decades, but somehow it never really appealed to me. Then I reread it this year and suddenly I loved it just as much as everyone else. I guess I'm just slow to the party. 
  6. Christmas Cricket by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Timothy Bush. Oh, I loved this warm sweet book about a cricket who feels worthless and unloved until he takes refuge in an indoor Christmas tree and a loving father tells his little child that the cricket's song is a reminder of the songs of angels. 
  7. There Was No Snow on Christmas Eve by Pam Munoz Ryan, illustrated by Dennis Nolan.  This quiet story of the first Christmas describes how different Bethlehem was from our traditional Christmases - no snow or warm clothing or roaring indoor fires - but instead desert winds and sandals and barn animals. Oh, I loved it. 
  8. The Best Parts of Christmas by Bethanie Deene Murguia - Fritz loves getting a tree with his family, decorating it, and enjoying its beauty all December long. But then Christmas is over and the dying tree is set out by the curb. Can he still enjoy his favorite part of the season? 
  9. Dear Santa, Love, Rachel Rosenstein by Amanda Peet and Andrea Troyer, illustrated by Christine Davenier - Rachel Rosenstein loves everything about Christmas. Except that her Jewish family doesn't celebrate it. Will Santa bring Christmas to her? I loved this sweet and innocent book about families who don't celebrate Christmas and the other winter holidays. 
  10. Star Bright: A Christmas Story by Alison McGhee and Peter H. Reynolds. I was originally turned off by the cartoony illustrations, but the story ended up being so sweet that there was no question it'd be part of our stack this year. 
  11. The Reindeer Wish by Lori Evert, photographs by Per Breiehagen - I don't think I ever actually read their first book, the wildly popular The Christmas Wish, but now I need to snag a copy because the photographs of this is ridiculously magical. Seriously, GET THIS. 
  12. Santa Claus the World's Number One Toy Expert by Marla Frazee - Who doesn't love a Marla Frazee book? And this one, about Santa Claus, is just darling as he tests toys, makes huge lists, and figures out exactly the right gift for each child. 
  13. The Twelve Days of Christmas by Alison Jay - I was introduced to Alison Jay earlier this year when a sweet reader sent me her book Welcome to the Zoo. This one has the same striking type of illustrations with plenty of clever details to pore over on each pate. 
  14. An Invisible Thread by Laura Schroff and Alex Tresniowski, illustrated by Barry Root - Apparently this is based on a true full-length story about a woman who makes friends with an 11-year-old panhandler and changes his life with her kindness. 
  15. The Gingerbread Pirates by Kristin Kladstrup, illustrated by Matt Tavares - Oh man, this one is just plain fun, about a little boy and his mom who make gingerbread cookies and he wants to decorate them as pirates. Now those pirates need to make sure that Santa doesn't eat them. 
  16. The Spirit of Christmas by Nancy Tillman - This was delightful and just charming Christmas story. And keep an eye out for the Spirit of Christmas image hidden on each page. 
  17. The Finest Christmas Tree by John and Ann Hassett - When Farmer Tuttle's Christmas tree business starts to go downhill, thanks to the rise of artificial trees, he and his wife consider selling the farm. But then they get a letter asking for their very finest Christmas tree. Who would want that for his holiday party? 
  18. The First Christmas Night by Keith Christopher and Christine Kornacki - This version of 'Twas the Night Before Christmas tells the story of Jesus's birth in Bethlehem and it's just gorgeous. 
  19. One Splendid Tree by Marilyn Helmer, illustrated by Dianne Eastman - This one is so different from a lot of picture books, with illustrations that look like a stop-motion animation film. This little family during WWII has moved into a dingy little flat so the mom can work in a factory while their father is away at war. There is an old palm plant that's been left in the apartment and the children decide to decorate it for Christmas. 
  20. Angela and the Baby Jesus by Frank McCourt, illustrated by Raul Colon - You probably know Frank McCourt from Angela's Ashes and this story is about his mother who, as a little girl, is terribly worried about the baby Jesus in the church nativity who she worries will be cold. So she sneaks in late at night and takes him home. 
  21. The Tale of Three Trees: A Traditional Folktale by Angela Elwell Hunt, illustrated by Tim Jonke - We had this one growing up and I love it more every year, about three trees on a hill who all want something different from their lives. Eventually each one is cut down and made into the manager, the boat in the storm, and the cross and somehow each become what they wanted most to be. It is just so touching and beautiful. 
  22. The Night Henry Ford Met Santa by Carol Hagen, illustrated by Matt Faulkner - I loved this clever spin on the Henry Ford story that supposes that the idea of an assembly line came to Henry Ford from seeing the elves in Santa's workshop make toys. 
  23. I Believe in Santa Claus by Diane G. Adamson - This simple story points out the main characteristics of Santa Claus and then similarities with Jesus. It's such a nice cross between the traditional Santa tale and the real meaning of Christmas. 
  24. Can You See What I See? Night Before Christmas by Walter Wick - By the same guy who did I Spy, this is a great book for the day before Christmas when you need something to keep your antsy kids occupied. 
P.S. If you want more recommendations, here's the 2014 list, the 2013 list and the 2012 list. And follow along on Instagram, where I'll be sharing more Christmas titles through December!  


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