Everyday Reading - Practical Family Living for Book Loving Parents

August 28, 2015

The End of Saggy Bottoms

Back in June, Star and I flew out to Cincinnati for a day with the Pampers Baby Board at the P&G headquarters.

The biggest part of the event was the early unveiling of their new product, which we were sworn to secrecy on, since it wasn't being released for a few more months.

You know when you see something new and you think, "How has no one ever thought of this before?"

The new Pampers Cruisers were one of those innovations for me.

All diapers have a strip down the center of the diaper that absorbs liquid. Of course, when it gets full of liquid, it gets heavier and it starts pulling down toward the center (which is why babies get that saggy diaper look).

With the new Pampers Cruisers, they've made the diaper core into three channels instead of one so the core stays intact and the wetness is evenly distributed throughout the whole diaper instead of congregating in the center (you cannot imagine how many hand motions I've been doing while I wrote this post trying to describe what I saw in person in Cincinnati and now have been using at home).

When we were testing out the new diapers in Cincinnati (with giant pitchers of water around a conference table), one of the product engineers explained it like a quilt. If you have a comforter inside a duvet cover, it's going to probably all drift to the center or one corner. But if you quilt that comforter into the duvet cover by sewing a few long lines across it, the comforter won't move out of place no matter how much tossing and turning you do in your sleep.

You guys - if there is ever a sign you're a mom, it's that you're totally thrilled by better diapers. But when you use a product multiple times a day? A big improvement makes an enormous difference.

And when you have TWO children in diapers? It's an even bigger deal. Although, I'm crossing my fingers that Ani's diaper wearing days are coming to an end.

But at least in the meantime, her diaper won't be sagging out of the leg holes of her shorts. There's a fashion statement no one needs to be making.

After seeing this all in the final stages in Cincinnati earlier this summer, it was pretty exciting to see these new diapers now on the shelves when I stopped by Target recently. Happily, what happens in Cincinnati doesn't stay in Cincinnati.

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

August 27, 2015

25 Picks for Book Clubs

Well, after my post on Monday about starting a book club, I think it's obvious you should all move to my neighborhood and we can have a killer book group (complete with excellent desserts, of course).

If moving to Arizona isn't in the cards for you, I'll just recommend some books for your own book club to read. These 25 are interesting, well-written, and lend themselves to great discussions.

Wondering what books are worth picking for a book club? These 25 are all sure to spark lively discussion!

  1. What the Dog Saw: And Other Adventures by Malcolm Gladwell. This was the first book I read with my Texas bookclub and it was a fantastic start - this book has so much to talk about and plenty of interesting connections between each of the short articles. (full review here
  2. Wait 'til Next Year by Doris Kearns Goodwin. I've read this book several times and with each re-read, I love it a little more. Goodwin is a noted historian but this is her memoir about growing up as a baseball lover in New York. Wonderful no matter how you feel about sports, it deals a lot with the major shifts in society during her childhood, from an idyllic suburb home to increasing divorce, transient families, and dwindling sense of community. 
  3. Jefferson's Sons by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley. This middle-grade historical fiction title is so well-done, I can hardly stand it. Told from the perspective of Sally Hemming's slave children, growing up on Thomas Jefferson's plantation, knowing their father is the white master. Brilliant and thought-provoking. (full review here).
  4. Nutureshock: New Thinking About Children by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman. If you're starting a new book club, I think this is a perfect book to kick off plenty of lively conversation. I loved the amazing discussion about sleep, racism, praising children, and a whole slew of other parenting topics (full review here). 
  5. The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson. I was not excited about this choice, but it ended up being one of the most interesting of the books we read in 2012. It's about 600 pages long, but it reads almost as quickly as a novel. It tracks the migration of black Americans from the South to the North and West during the 40-70s and their experiences assimilating into new cultures (and the lives they left behind in the South). Fascinating. 
  6. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain. I think with book lovers, you often get a good handful of introverts, so this always makes for a interesting discussion. (full review here
  7. Red China Blues by Jan Wong. In college, I read this memoir about a Canadian girl (of Chinese descent) who goes over to China during the Cultural Revolution, on fire with Mao's vision. During the years she spends there, she comes to realize that Mao's ideas for China might not be all that she's hoped. This book is absolutely fascinating - I even sent my mom a copy for her birthday a couple of years ago (she loved it too). 
  8. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein. This YA historical fiction book takes place during WWII and if you feel like you're totally tired of WWII books, this one will still feel fresh and completely gripping. (full review here)
  9. Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool. One of my favorite Newbery winners in recent years, this story is told by two different voices - a young girl during the Great Depression and a young boy just before WWI breaks out. (full review here
  10. The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt. Only my favorite book ever. My mom picked this for her bookclub and many of the women in her group liked it so much they read the companion book, Okay for Now, before their group even met (full review here
  11. That Used to Be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented and How We Can Come Back by Thomas L. Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum. About China's increasing dominance in the financial and educational world, while America struggles to keep up. This was a fun book to read in an election year and so interesting I read huge passages of it outloud to Bart. You'll want to have a relatively calm group, though, because I could imagine discussion getting a little heated if you have people who are extremely polar on either side of the political aisle (I found the book itself to be very even-handed).
  12. The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton. If you want something that's a fairly quick, fun read, but still has enough heft to make for a good discussion, this story about secrets in families is hard to beat (full review here). 
  13. Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande. If you think a book about growing old and dying is going to be a downer, you're underestimating Atul Gawande. If I was picking a book club book this year, it would be this one (full review here). 
  14. Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World's Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin. Just a warning that, if you read this book, you will not be able to stop telling everyone you know about this. It's juvenile non-fiction, but it's probably some of the best non-fiction you've ever read (full review here).
  15. The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck. If you haven't read this modern classic, it'd be a great pick for a book club with so many interesting themes about culture, marriage, family, and money. 
  16. Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives by Gretchen Rubin. I find habits endlessly interesting and I'm also a huge fan of Gretchen Rubin. So obviously this book really appealed to me - it's fantastic and there's so much you could discuss here (full review here).
  17. The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way by Amanda Ripley. I've found that the book groups I've belonged to always care deeply about education, whether it's as a homeschool parent, a parent with a struggling child, or a teacher or professor. This book, about the differences between public school systems in four different countries, is so engaging and interesting. My mom and my sister both picked this for their book clubs this year (full review here).  
  18. 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think by Laura Vanderkam. I definitely don't agree with her on all counts, but it is so interesting to think about the way you spend your time and what you value. Also, I'd love it if everyone came to book club with a completed list of 100 Dreams and shared some of theirs (full review here).
  19. Still Alice by Lisa Genova. Sometimes it's fun to read a book and then watch the movie version as a group. I haven't seen the film yet, but I was totally captivated by this story of a Harvard professor dealing with Early-onset Alzheimer's (full review here). 
  20. Delancey: A Man, a Woman, a Restaurant, a Marriage by Molly Wizenberg. I don't have any interest in opening a restaurant, but this story about a couple that did just that - with full enthusiasm on the husband's part and deep reluctance on the wife's - is just superb. You'll probably need to serve pizza with this book (full review here). 
  21. First Mothers: The Women Who Shaped the Presidents by Bonnie Angelo. If you're an American History buff, chances are this book will be deeply interesting to you. I read this when I had the flu my freshman year of college. If you're not on death's doorstep, you'll probably like it even more. 
  22. American Wasteland: How America Throws Away Nearly Half of Its Food by Jonathan Bloom. My book club in Texas read a lot of food books, and I wish we'd read this one - waste is such a huge part of the story of modern food, and the discussion would have been amazing. 
  23. The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer. This futuristic sci-fi book about a young clone won the National Book Award and its a fun read with enough topics to keep you chatting all night long (full review here). 
  24. Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us by Michael Moss. If you're into food books or healthy eating, this book is so so fascinating. I sort of want to set up a huge table of processed foods to eat while discussing this book - would that be wrong? (full review here
  25. The Chosen by Chaim Potok. My mom suggested I read this when I was trying to pick a book off a list my sophomore year in high school and I was mega dubious. And then I LOVED it. I think I need to read this book about families, faith and friendship again. 
What have been your favorite book club reads? 

August 26, 2015

10 Ways I Like to Relax

The other day, I jotted down a little list of goals for my blog and one of them was "Don't work on nights or weekends."

I don't know that it's totally possible for me to do that, at least not right now, but I function much better if I have dedicated down time. When I work in the afternoon while the girls are napping and doing quiet time, and then work the whole evening after they go to bed, then get up and be the mom all morning, it wears me down fast.

Of course, I also don't want to just spend my down-time scrolling endlessly through Instagram, so I've been putting together a list of things that help me relax without making me feel like I'm wasting my time.

10 simple ways to relax after the kids go to bed
  1. Read. Aren't you unbelievably shocked to see this on the list? I feel like I sometimes have to force myself to put down my phone and pick up a book, but I'm always more engaged and relaxed by having read an actual book instead of captions and articles on my phone. I've also started checking out magazines from the library. 
  2. Paint my nails. Since I am always barefoot at home and wearing sandals when I'm not, my toenails are on display 99% of the time, so I try to paint them every week or two. There's something really nice about being forced to wait around for your polish to dry. And if I'm feeling really luxurious, I paint my finger nails too. 
  3. Color. I find this super relaxing (this coloring book is The Time Garden and it is so so beautiful). Plus, it's a nice way to keep my hands busy while I listen to an audiobook or podcast. 
  4. Eating snacks without sharing. If this is wrong, so be it. I bought a box of these ZonePerfect Perfectly Simple bars at Target last weekend (I got the Roasted Cashew & Dark Chocolate but I am seriously tempted by the Almond Toffee Crunch and the Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk). My children have no idea these exist, and even less idea that they're in our pantry. Just the way it should be. There's also a printable coupon for $1 off, and let's be honest - nothing relaxes me more than saving money). 
  5. Going for a walk. We're running a family 5K in October, so this probably should say running, but I would much prefer to walk. When the girls are all tucked in bed and the evening is cooling off, I love going for a walk in the neighborhood by myself. 
  6. Cooking for fun. I do a lot of cooking on a daily basis, what with dinner and all, plus breakfast muffins and granola, etc., but sometimes it's just really nice to make something from one of my Pinterest boards for no more reason than that I just want to try a new recipe (the bars in this photo are Cinnamon Roll Blondies and they are delicious but they are also so sugar-y I couldn't really stomach them. I took a few bites after I snapped this photo and I had an instant headache). 
  7. Watch a movie. I'm actually not much of a movie watcher - it's hard for me to just sit down and watch something, but sometimes if I'm in the mood, I'll put in an old favorite (Anne of Green Gables forever!) and watch while I do some ironing or paint my nails. 
  8. Organize something. I like order, and I find it calming to clean something up as long as it's not actual cleaning. But sorting my jewelry, organizing a drawer, or cleaning a shelf? That I like to do. (Also! Prime time to listen to more audiobooks). 
  9. Plan. I know - what nerd. But making my to-do list for the next day, going through the calendar for the upcoming week, and making appointments gives me a huge burst of satisfaction and helps me fight that feeling that I can't go to bed on time because I haven't done anything yet! 
  10. Work on a project with Bart. We have a lot of similar interests and it's fun to spend some time making future plans, organizing a party, dreaming about house updates, or outlining projects. 

Now I just need to remind myself nightly that I'll be happier if I do one of these things instead of squander an hour thumbing through my apps one after another.

I'd love to hear your favorite things to do when your kids are snoozing away and the house is quiet.


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