Seven Things: 23

Hay. I’ve missed you. I’m going to flatter myself and imagine that you’ve missed me. Heaps and heaps.

 

Here’s what we’ve been up to!

 

1.) So, Ev has two teeth and he’s pulling up and trying really hard to walk. We just keep pushing him over, hoping to deter him. That kid is ten months old in a few months. I can’t even handle it.

 

 

 

 

2.) Have you guys read the Wildwood series? I just started it, but oh my goodness it’s good. I will report my verdict as soon as I have two minutes together to read it. So, basically, this will be the last you hear about it.

 

 

 

 

.3.) Vin has been out of town for a week watching the world championship of lacrosse. At this point, I think it’s fair to say that my undying respect and admiration goes out to all single parents. This shiz is not easy with two people, but it’s next to impossible for one. Seriously. If you know any single parents, please go hug them. And then take their kids for an evening and give them a six pack of beer and a pillow so they can collapse. They’ve earned it.

 

 

 

4.) So, I saw this thing on Pinterest that was a cutesy little “Library Plan” printable. You know, so you know what books you’re looking for before your passel of little darlings starts ripping books off of the library shelves all willy-nilly. It’s a great plan, actually. 

 

Now, I’m a terrible librarian/mother and I honestly very rarely take the kids to the library. It’s too much work because they go bananas and I get tired of chasing them and I’m enough of a book snob that I’d rather just pick things myself. There. I said it. However, on the occasion that I do take them, I realize that it’d be good to have a plan like the little listy thing. Also they showed Frozen at the library I work at on Friday, so we had. to. go.

 

So, I decided to forgo the adorable printable in favor of a scrap of receipt paper and a marker, because I like to upcycle. The girls were allowed to choose two books each…Mags decided to look for books on koalas and fairies and Lil opted for dinosaur and deer books because she likes alliteration, that’s why.

 

And wouldn’t you know it, miracles happened! When we walked into the library, the girls went to the nonfiction section rather than straight to the toys like a couple of classless hooligans. They chose books and actually sat and read them. Heck, they even gave full reports on earwigs to a couple of my coworkers (because, list or no list, you can’t pass up an earwig book). It was basically the best ever. So, yeah. Make a plan, write a list. Happy library day to everyone.

 

 

 

5.) Did I mention they were showing Frozen at the library? It was fantastic. I’m going to be honest with you. While all the other parents in the world are ruing the day that Frozen came out on DVD, I’m still going strong. Perhaps it helps that my girls didn’t completely obsess over it, but I think it’s fair to say that I want to watch it / sing it / perform dramatic interpretations of it waaay more than my kids do. Nothing will sway my devotion to the wickedly talented Adele Dazeem. And I’m not sorry. 

 

 

 

6.) Maggie met a sweet boy at Frozen who loved her so much, he insisted that his mother let him walk us to our car…at which point he climbed into said car and refused to leave. I have two thoughts on this: 1. Boys better watch out for her daddy because, and I quote, he has “a saw and a grind plan.” and 2. I am so glad that other people’s kids do crazy junk like that and it’s not just me. I think I’m gonna be best friends with that mama.

 

 

 

 

 

7.) Maggie says the darndest things:

“It’ll be as quick as a cake in a pie!” Sooo, slow. It’ll be slow.

“I’m Mama! Look at my mustache!” Excellent.

“I’m taking your eyebrows!”

“It’s the crystal bow of Africaaaaa!”

 

She’s a weird kid. I have no idea where she gets it.

 

 

 

 

8.) BONUS! Here are some cute pictures of our crazy kids I just can’t stop looking at…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So what have YOU been up to?? Spill in the comments! I’ve missed ya!

 

Follow me on Instagram @ohblessyourheart!

Seven Things: #22 – Indoor Activities

I’ve got two words for you: Cabin. Fever.

 

It’s hit hard around here, forcing me to get creative with indoor activities…’cause you know, there’s only so much Dinosaur Train and Daniel Tiger you can watch. Don’t get me wrong, I’m almost as obsessed with Dinosaur Train and Daniel Tiger as my kids are (ugga mugga, by the way), but sometimes you gotta break free (break from the chains). Can you tell I’m going nuts??

 

So here’s our Seven Things for this week…prepare for craftiness!

 

 

1.) Print making. Stamping. Call it what you will, it was a good way to fill a couple of hours with Mags while the littles slept.

I think she did a rather good job…but I’m a bit biased.

 

We used whatever paint we had around and a whole bunch of textured odds and ends to create some interesting art. We had foam hearts with designs on them, various shaped blocks with holes in them, and cars. I had been wanting to try using toy cars for art projects for a while, so this was the perfect excuse! It was pure magic to see Maggie react to the suggestion of getting the tires all covered in paint…I don’t think she believed that I was really okay with it until I did it myself.

 

 

2.) I’ve got two more words for you: Obstacle. Course. With so few opportunities to get out and play, these kids have a ridiculous amount of physical steam built up. Since my house is generally a disaster area anyway I figured I might as well organize some of the larger disaster pieces into an obstacle course. It was a pretty big hit, if I do say so myself!

 

Get ready…get set…
Go!!
It was kinda easy for Maggie, so I made her wear a cheetah mask to add a level of difficulty. Obvs.
Wipe out!

 

So, they had to climb over the chairs, hop on their horses (incidentally named Barnaby and Seymour), scoot through the tunnel, then cross a body pillow without falling in the “hot lava,” and hit the light on their lantern to make wolf howling sounds and win. It was hilarious and a really good time.

 

 

3.) Another two words: Dress. Up. Now, this one isn’t particularly out of the norm for us. We basically wear ridiculous fabulous get-ups 24/7. However, I took this to the selfish next level and let them wear their dress up tutus to the grocery store yesterday. I say this is selfish because it really did me more good than the girls. I read a blog post the other day, and for the life of me I can’t remember where it was or who wrote it…but it spoke about that rough postpartum period when mamas are stuck in the house going absolutely crazy, feeling out of control and inadequate. This blogger went to a breastfeeding support group and the leader told her to get out of the house more. This takes a lot of work, true, but when we take the babies out and strangers coo over them and tell us how gorgeous they are, we’re reminded that those things are true!

When you’re stuck inside, it’s really easy to get stuck in the rut of viewing your children as little dictators who cry all night, scream all day, take your doors off the hinges (literally, that happened), spill water on purpose, pull each other’s hair, and generally give you migraines. But in public! In public, perfect strangers remind you that your children are fantastic. They’re so well-behaved! Sure, they can have a cookie! Look at their sweet eyelashes/hair/cheeks! Listen to those giggles!

 

Peepin’ the kids in the grocery store play room.

 

If you dress them in tutus beforehand, it’ll take it to the next level. Trust me. And I bet, after you’ve wandered through the grocery store being adored by everyone in a five-mile radius, you’ll be so genuine and really, really mean it when you answer the checkout-lady’s question of whether or not you’re crazy to have so many kids by saying, “I am absolutely not crazy. I’m just the luckiest woman ever.”

 

 

4.) How’s about another two words! Play. Dough. 

Are you a fan of The Imagination Tree? This post is pretty much the Mecca of preschool tactile/sensory/amazing activities. A word of caution, though. If you visit this site, be prepared to want to create everything. I’m not even kidding. There are so many good ideas that are really educational and fun. So, yeah. Go there and have fun.

One of my favorite things from The Imagination Tree is all of the play dough ideas and recipes. We whipped some up today just for funsies and it turned out really well!

 

Sweet girl picked the best colors ever!
Again, we added all kinds of sensory items to work on those fine motor skills and get our imaginations working! And yes, those are poker chips. Doesn’t YOUR three-year-old play with poker chips??

 

Here’s the recipe we used for The Imagination Tree’s No-Cook 4 Minute Play Dough. It seriously never fails.

 

 

5.) Give ’em a mid-day bath. When there’s nothing else to do, this is a great way to let people blow off some steam and keep them contained all at the same time! And odds are, at my house anyway, the little cherubs are covered in some sort of jam or tomato based sauce anyway. Add some kitchen “toys” like measuring cups and whisks or food colored ice cubes. Heck, I may even put mine in their bathing suits and let them pretend they’re at the beach just to mix things up!

 

 

6.) Read books that promote play. If you’re not already familiar with Tana Hobanyou should really check her out. The one we’re obsessed with right now is Over, Under & Through.

 

Please pardon the play dough eggs and the blurriness of the picture…and my dirty table, and on and on.
And, again. Pardon the creepy skeletor hand and the wireless mouse. I have no explanation other than I’m just weird.

 

As you can see, the books have great photography that is paired with concept words like, over/under, in/on, beside/below, etc. These can be tricky concepts for little ones to grasp. But paired with lots of photo examples, these books do a great job of teaching. They also lend themselves very well to “Simon-Says” kinds of games that allow kids to physically explore the concepts and get some energy out. Perfect, I say!

 

 

7.) Take selfies. Because all the cool kids are doing it and, let’s be honest, it’s totally fun. Here are ours from today!

 

“Everybody make a face like Everett!”

Side note: I always think Lily looks like the old Eloise Watkin illustrations of baby Jesus.

jesus

lily
Right??

 

 

Okay, so those are my Seven Things that will hopefully give you an idea of how to spend these seemingly endless snowy days! Anybody else have good ideas for indoor activities?

 

Happy Saturday, y’all!!

5 Reasons You Should Read This Book: The Mysterious Benedict Society Series

Well, I intended to post a Seven Things on Friday, but I worked that day and all weekend…and I just can’t get my life together when I have to work. Also, it’s hard to write blog posts when you’re completely obsessed with a new book series. I had been meaning to read The Mysterious Benedict Society for some time since it was on the bestseller list for a year and it’s got such a fantastic title and cover art (I admittedly judge books by their covers all the time. Not sorry.) so when I finally started it a few weeks ago, I was hooked. Like, seriously hooked.

 

After reading the first book, I immediately jumped on the second, and then miraculously found the third in the book drop at work. Guys, you have no idea how serendipitous that is. The odds of me finding anything I was looking for in the book drop, much less a book I wanted but wasn’t specifically looking for in that location are so incredibly small it’s not even funny. I basically did a happy dance and there was great rejoicing. (“Yaaaay.”)

 

All that being said, I’m obsessed with this series and I don’t know anybody else who has read it, which is killing me because I’m desperate for someone to talk to about it! Never fear, I’ve forced it on as many friends as possible. And now I’ll force it on you!

 

 

 

 

The series focuses on a group of incredibly brilliant children who answer a newspaper advertisement promising extraordinary opportunities for gifted children willing to take a certain test. The four who pass make up the Mysterious Benedict Society. They are given the challenge of…well, saving the world. Now I won’t say more in regards to plot synopsis because there are really so many puzzles and mysteries that you should read for yourself. I refuse to give anything away!

 

The series, written by Trenton Lee Stewart, consists of three books – The Mysterious Benedict Society, The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey, The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner’s Dilemma – and a prequel, The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict. There’s also a puzzle book entitled Mr. Benedict’s Book of Perplexing Puzzles, Elusive Enigmas, and Curious Conundrums. Guys, titles alone should make you run to the library right now. I’m reading The Prisoner’s Dilemma and I can assure you that these books just keep getting better. Here are a few reasons you should read them!

 

1.) These books are just so clever. The tests and challenges that the children have to solve are really fun, in and of themselves. The books are filled with riddles and questions that must be answered in creative ways. This is a middle-grade series, but the material isn’t necessarily super-easy to solve. And any book that makes me run to the computer to figure out Morse Code is a winner.

Stewart also gets clever with character and location names in the series, which I love. You’ll meet a sailor named Captain Noland and visit places like Nomansan Island. I truly appreciate authors who take the time to creatively and sneakily clue readers in on character development. Once I figured out that some characters have revealing names, the entire book began to read like a code, which is just excellent.

 

 

2.) Stewart’s characters become the reader’s instant friends and instant foes. He establishes a world reminiscent of those created by Roald Dahl, populated by characters both bizarre and lovable. I easily developed a bond with the main characters and the villains are the best kind – the ones you love to hate.

The children who make up the Society are all orphans or runaways…or runaway orphans, in some cases. The group consists of bold, energetic Kate, nervous, but brilliant Sticky, continually grouchy Constance (who complains in verse and who’s full name is Constance Contraire…get it?) and Reynie who finds himself the leader of the group. Stewart does a great job of giving each of these characters personal baggage to work through, a task which can only be accomplished through the friendship and personal accomplishment they develop while mastering the challenges they face.

You’ll also meet characters like Mr. Benedict, Number Two, Cannonball, Rhonda Kazembe, Moochoo Brazos…and on and on. There is literally no end to the kooky companions and dastardly villains Stewart creates. I like a series in which the good are great and the bad are horrid and The Mysterious Benedict Society does not fail here. The bad guys are really, really creatively bad, which is exactly what you want in a series like this.

 

 

3.) These books are page-turners and the action sequences don’t disappoint. Good and bad are definitely at odds in this series, so at times the action can get suspenseful and a little scary. There are fight scenes and clever means of torture and many a sneak attack. The books read like a really great action movie with lots of close calls and impossible-to-escape show downs. Stewart does a great job of leaving details to our imaginations so that it doesn’t get unnecessarily frightening, but I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t get a little nervous while reading these books. These would make great read-aloud books for classrooms, too, because lots of chapters end with cliff-hangers and students would eat that up. Or hate you for it. Mwuahahaha.

 

 

4.) Adults treat children as people valued for their talents and deserving of respect. One of my big hang ups with the world is that many times kids are treated like second-class citizens just because of their age. And that’s just dumb. In The Mysterious Benedict Society children are encouraged to draw their own conclusions and given space to make their own decisions while being guided by loving adults. They are trusted to do the right thing and they are put in situations and environments in which their gifts will thrive. The children are loved despite, and sometimes because of, their weaknesses. Even perpetually grouchy Constance, who very well may be my favorite character, finds acceptance and a healthy outlet for her emotions in these books.

 

 

5.) The value system in this series is on point. Nobility, cleverness, honesty, and justice are honored and, while the main characters all possess these virtues, they are real enough to possess failings, too. Each child struggles with something: pride, impatience, self-doubt. They are not perfect. They fail themselves and each other. But what’s exciting is that these characters take responsibility for their actions. By acknowledging their failings, they gain humility, appreciate forgiveness, and seize opportunities to make things right.

These kids struggle with weighty issues, too. Are most people innately good? Can good things come from bad circumstances? For Mr. Benedict, the answers to these questions are decidedly yes, but he lets the children come to those conclusions on their own. He doesn’t force his beliefs upon them, but gives them every opportunity to see the good in their surroundings, offering a safe place for them to work through these important lessons that every child must face.

This series also teaches that revenge, retaliation, and vengeance aren’t the answer. As in most epic battles of good versus evil, our protagonists are sorely tempted to employ all of those things. At one point Kate is told, “We’re not like them,” but it’s ultimately up to her to decide which path she wants to take. I don’t think there can ever be enough books with this message and I appreciate that Stewart lets his characters find these truths on their own as we all must.

 

 

Suffice it to say, The Mysterious Benedict Society series by Trenton Lee Stewart has definitely found a home on my most-loved books list. I seriously can’t wait to read it with my kids. I love that Stewart plants surprises around every corner and peppers even the most innocent seeming chapters with clues. Nothing is ever as it seems and only the quick, ingenious, and clever will succeed…which is as it should be.

 

Happy Reading!

 

 

PS. I’m almost through with this series! What should my next great read be?? And, as always, if you have read these books, NO SPOILERS, please! I basically ended a friendship based on the fact that the person ruined The Half-Blood Prince for me and I’m not even kidding…this girl don’t play spoilers, y’all.

Seven Things: Part 14

Writing has been a bit sparse around here because my mom is visiting from Texas and ohmysweetgoodness guys you will not believe the amount of laundry that’s being done.

 

Seriously. Every morning I wake up and discover a little laundry fairy hard at work in our basement folding clothes that have not been folded since their purchase. And she’s made banana bread. And done all our dishes. And I’ve taken an obscene amount of naps since she’s been here.

 

And she’s leaving tomorrow…waaaaaahahahahaha!

 

Therefore, I shall recount our latest happenings in order to make myself feel better.

 

Seven Things, commence!

 

1.) We got to visit my midwife yesterday to check on baby Everett…and Lechen. What’s that? You’re not aware of a “Lechen” in our midst? Lechen is the baby in Maggie’s tummy. She kicks a lot. And I’ve just been informed that she has pink eyes and she likes pink towels. Also, Lechen is blonde and she’s going to eat tomorrow. So, yeah. That’s a thing.

 

So much of a thing, in fact, that after I had my check-up, Maggie insisted that she get up on the table and have the midwife check out her tummy, too. So, after a thorough exam, we can all rest easy knowing that both Everett and Lechen are doing well and “growin’ and growin’.”

 

 

2.) Lily has expanded her vocabulary to include the following words:

  • taco
  • whale
  • woof-woof
  • meow
  • ribbit
  • Rudy (my in-laws’ dog)
  • Dada
  • Mama
  • and some assorted garble that we take to be her doctoral thesis in the works.

 

 

3.) From the mouth of Margaret:

Me: Mags, are those shorts too tight?

Mags: They’re too tight…These shorts are just perfect!! (And so it begins…)

 

 

4.) What I’m reading/have recently read:

The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother

by James McBride.

 

Holy Moly, was this good. This is the real life account of the author’s mother, born an Orthodox Jew in Poland. She immigrated to America and grew up in Virginia in the thirties, married a black man, started a Baptist church in Harlem and put twelve children through college. This is especially interesting because it stems from the author’s personal quest to find himself as a young black man coming of age in the racial turbulence of the sixties. It’s especially, especially interesting in the context of current news.

 

This is a really great read. I wish I had gotten a more profound response from the ending, but overall, so. good.

The Art of the Common-Place: The Agrarian Essays

by Wendell Berry

“We have lived by the assumption that what was good for us would be good for the world. And this has been based on the even flimsier assumption that we could know with any certainty what was good even for us…We have been wrong. We must change our lives, so that it will be possible to live by the contrary assumption that what is good for the world will be good for us. And that requires that we make the effort to know the world and to learn what is good for it.” (p. 20)

Yes. Just yes.

Americanah

by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

So, I’m on like page five of this book and I like what I’ve read. I’ve heard numerous interviews with Adichie on the radio and I’m incredibly fascinated with her as a person. The book has gotten a lot of good reviews, but it’s quite the tome, so we’ll see how fast I muscle through it since I can’t seem to read just one book at a time.

5.) And while we’re on the subject of reading, check out these great blog posts from some of my favorites!

The Earth is a Nursery by Simcha Fisher – Gosh, I love Simcha Fisher. I’m honestly not sure if I’ve already shared this post with you or just smeared it all over my Facebook page, but if you haven’t read it, you should. If you have, you should read it again.

As a 28 year old mother of (almost) three, my vocation to motherhood is pretty counter-cultural, especially when compared with others my age. Sometimes it gets pretty depressing/irritating to hear the “Well, you’ll have your hands full!” comments and the “Three kids under five?? That’ll be ‘fun’…” remarks. It’s nice to have a positive reminder that the Earth is a nursery. It’s also nice to know I’m not the only one in this fight.

And speaking of which, check out Praying With Your Feet by Haley at Carrots for MichaelmasSuch a good reminder that prayer is not only quiet and reverent, but that the loud, the frustrating, the chaotic are prayers, as well.

And I’m currently obsessed with Birth Without Fear, a blog dedicated to helping women make informed decisions about their childbirth experience. This is also an incredibly open and inviting space that celebrates all different kinds of birthing choices. Birth Without Fear is really, really interesting, so if you’re like me and love reading birth stories, check it out!         Note: The pictures can be pretty graphic, so if you’re bothered by placentas, be advised. Also, be advised that people may be weirded out if you leave said photos on the screen for them to find…which is fun. 😉

6.) Speaking of births…I got to visit the water birthing suite we’ll be using when Everett comes and I am so excited I can’t even stand it!! I’ve never had a water birth, so I’m really excited to see the differences between an all natural “land” birth versus the aquatic variety. I’m genuinely looking forward to getting Mr. Everett into the world…but don’t ask me how excited I am when I’m in the throes of vomiting up an Ole Burger.

7.) Here are some photos that I like.

Mags took some pictures on my phone. Gosh, I love her.

 

 

Here she is modeling the new outfit my mom made her…from a pattern she used to make clothes when I was a little girl. How precious is that?

 

Lils loving on a bunny at the botanical gardens.

 

The Hubz is always super excited to “play cats” when he gets home…almost as excited as he is to have his picture taken.

Hope you’re having a great week, all!! I’m going to go enjoy my mama before we’re parted again til September…le sigh. You should go enjoy your mama, too! Or at least give that lady a call. 🙂

 

Seven Things: Part 13

I haven’t done a Seven Things post in a while and I wanted to squeeze one more in this week before we jet off on our anniversary getaway and eat our weight in Chicago Dogs. Anyway, I’m cheating and writing this early, but scheduling it to post later…cause technolgy’s cool like that.

 

 

1. As I write this, this is happening:

“The cyclone had set the house down gently, very gently – for a cyclone…” L. Frank Baum, The Wizard of Oz

 

 

 

2. And while we’re on the subject of Maggie, here are my favorite things she’s said recently:

-Overheard from the other room, “Oh, Mama! We got a little action here!”

-Also overheard from the other room, “Mama, everything’s under control…”

-About a flower she picked, “It smells like happiness!”

-And last, in a recent conversation Mags said, “Mama, you’re beautiful and I’m beautiful,” to which I replied, “Yep. And what do you think makes someone beautiful?” The brilliant girl just said, “God.”  Girl preaches the truth.

 

 

 

3. Mags and I also filled out this Father’s Day questionnaire for her Daddy.

Do note that his favorite food is “lettuce,” and also that they’ve never played golf together.

 

 

 

4. And in the spirit of Father’s Day, I got a great photo of the clones.

Lily LOVES wearing sunglasses…and kitty masks, which I will attempt to capture for a later post.

 

 

 

5. Guys. I’m reading Wendell Berry. I know, I know…I’m way late to the party on this one, but seriously everything I pick up that he’s written is glooorious! I’m reading “The Art of the Commonplace” and “The Country of Marriage.” His poetry is out of control. I mean, it’s been a long time since I’ve encountered a poet whose works I could just sit down and read. 

 

“And I have a persistent music in me, like water flowing under ice, that says the warmer days will come, blossom and leaf return again. I live in that, a flimsy enclosure, but the song’s for singing, not to dread the end.” 
-From “Zero”

 

So. Good.

 

 

 

6. And speaking of things that’ll make you want to raise chickens…I got my first issue of Mother Earth News in the mail the other day!

 

I’ve got crazy hair, ’cause I’ve been mulching/gardening/hanging laundry on the line…you know, just harnessing my inner pioneer here on the homestead.

 

 

What this really means is that we’re officially hippies and that I’ve officially turned into my father…just with more hair and less mumbling. Or at least more hair.

 

 

7. By the time you all read this we’ll be in Chicago (!!!), so look for updates at some juncture… Have a great weekend, errabody!

 

Love,

Mary Susan

Seven Things: Part Nine

1.) We’re all “secret spies” today… I’m “Secret Spy Mommy” and I’m joined by “Secret Spy Lily” and “Secret Spy Banjo”. We are led fearlessly by “Secret Spy Maggie” who pronounces it, “Speeket Spy” and makes us look through her super spy gadget glasses, which are clear plastic Rapunzel princess slippers held up to our eyes. That’s the best way to see clues, I’m told. Clues to what mystery, I cannot say…

 

2.) We have a crawler, y’all.

 

All my photos are grainy. My apologies…

 

Also, she’s incredibly cute when she sleeps. Just so’s you know…

 

So tiny in the “fancy bed” at Nana’s house…

 

 

3.) Maggie-isms for the week:

 

-Maggie’s new favorite question to ask us is, “Whatchoo think you’re doin’??”

-To my great pride, she likes to talk in a British accent, especially when we’re pretending to be “fancy ladies” or when she’s asking someone if they “wemembah??” something in particular.

-A few moments ago I heard a screech from upstairs where she was watching Little Einsteins. Apparently she’d changed the channel by accident. Mags came bounding down the stairs yelling, “Mama! I turned your show on and it’s real bad!!” I went up to discover that she’d turned on The View. Not “my show,” but definitely bad!

-Life is hard for a girl who insists on wearing a tutu to bed. Especially when your pull-up leaks on said tutu, “Maaaammaa! My tutu’s wet! We needa waaash it!”

Hot cocoa after a FREEZING walk outside with Daddy. Look at those cheeks!

 

4.) I successfully stripped my cloth diapers, which is just a special way of washing them to get rid of the stank and any buildup that might be present. What a difference! I got the “recipe” from a blog I found via Google, A Collection of Passions.  If you use Bum Genius diaps or cloth diaper in general, this is a good resource. Also she rocked my world with this tip: Use a spatula to scoop off the poop. Now this might sound gross, but you obviously don’t use the spatula for food ever again and it sure beats the heck out of paying forty bucks for a diaper sprayer, which I have just never gotten around to.

 

5.) My husband is pretty much the most amazing person ever. He’s jumped in on my cleaning schedule without questioning at all and has gone above and beyond. Plus he does all kinds of cool things with Mags like teaching her to make her own homemade noodles. I ate some and they were awesome!

 

6.) The Newbery and Caldecott awards will be announced on the 28th and I’m super-excited. I’m also super-excited by the past winners display we’ve got up at work. I’m plowing through award-winning books as fast as I can. So, here’s what I’m reading this week: The Underneath by Kathi Appelt with drawings by David Small

Image via Simon and Schuster.com

 

Here’s the book overview from Children’s Bookstore.com :

There is nothing lonelier than a cat who has been loved, at least for a while, and then abandoned on the side of the road.

An abandoned calico cat, about to have kittens, hears the achingly lonely howl of a chained up, abused hound dog deep in the bayou. She dares to find him in the forest and the hound dares to befriend this cat, this feline, this creature he is supposed to hate. They are an unlikely pair, about to become an unlikely family. Ranger urges the cat to hide underneath the porch, to raise Sabine and Puck there because Gar-Face, the man living inside the house, will surely use her or her kittens as alligator bait should he find them. But, they are safe in the underneath…as long as they stay in the underneath.

Kittens, however, are notoriously curious creatures. And one kitten’s one moment of curiosity sets off a chain of events that is astonishing, remarkable, and enormous in its meaning. In the tradition of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Flannery O’Connor, and Carson McCullers, Kathi Appelt spins a harrowing yet keenly sweet tale about the power of love (and its opposite, hate), the fragility of happiness — and the importance of making good on your promises.

It is so, so good!

 

7.) Today is the 4oth anniversary of the March for Life.

 This is a really phenomenal post by Simcha Fischer on why it’s important to use graphic images of aborted babies only when necessary  and not as a go-to tool.

And here’s another great post by Simcha on using our spiritual gifts to promote the pro-life movement.

 

 

I hope you all have had/continue to have a spectacular week!

5 Reasons You Should Read This Book: The Penderwicks

I seriously laaarve this book.

The Penderwicks is Jeanne Birdsall’s glorious beyond glorious story of four sisters, their widowed father, their wild dog, Hound, and the wonderful boy they befriend while vacationing in a cottage located on an estate called Arundel. Whew. The story funny and sweet and the characters are so easy to love. Here are my five reasons for you to read it!

1.)  Probably the best thing about The Penderwicks is that it just feels so old fashioned in a very good way. The family is comprised of four girls: Rosalind, the eldest, most practical sister; Skye, the wild tomboy; Jane, the melodramatic and sometimes flaky aspiring writer; and Batty, the baby who is shy and wears butterfly wings at all times. I can’t really describe it, but this book just “feels like” Little Women or Anne of Green Gables without feeling like a knock-off, which I think is a great accomplishment.

The girls have MOPS (Meeting of Penderwick Sisters) and MOOPS (Meeting of Older Penderwick Sisters). They write and read constantly. They’re encouraged to be themselves and to help others. They get into lots of adventures and “scrapes” as Alcott would say, and the entire book is just a wholesome joy.

2.) Penderwick Family Honor! Whenever a situation arises in which the girls have to make a judgement call – and plenty do – they always revert back to Penderwick Family Honor. I love this because honor is clearly a value that’s been stressed as an integral part of the identity of this family. This is a family that values bravery, loyalty, integrity, imagination, learning, all things I desperately want to impart upon my girls. Mr. Penderwick is portrayed as the slightly flaky professor type, but it’s clear that he has invested deeply in his children and trusts them to live according to the values with which they’ve been brought up.  “Penderwick Family Honor” is the code they all live by, the battle cry recited before challenges, the tie that binds. A lovely picture of family.

3.) I love any book that references other books. Birdsall is very well-read and I love that in an author. She does a great job of peppering her stories with literary references that enable her readers to figure out what she’s all about as a writer and a reader, too. Reading The Penderwicks was a jumping-off point for me to revisit some old favorites and to explore some new things. (Ivy and Bean is a new love of mine, thanks to Birdsall.)

4.) In a sea of books marketed toward girls that are just pure syrup and sparkles, The Penderwicks portrays an idea of girlhood that isn’t shackled to princesses or fairies, but also doesn’t stray so far in the other direction that the girls are all doing very masculine things because they’re trying to prove a point.

Jane is a hopeless romantic who also happens to kick butt on the soccer field. Rosalind has a bit of a crush on a boy, but doesn’t swoon herself silly. I think Birdsall really “gets” the complexities of childhood and it’s apparent in her characters. These are girls who you’d want your own daughter (or son) to be friends with.

And speaking of which, the girls collectively befriend Jeffrey, the son of the snobby socialite who owns Arundel. Their friendship with Jeffrey makes the real meat of the book and it’s nice to see such a healthy friendship develop between them all. The girls adopt Jeffrey as one of their own and are loyal to him without question. The fact that he’s a boy and they’re all girls doesn’t matter at all because none of them are icky caricatures of “how children are” but rather are great examples of what childhood can be. If I were to make a list of books that girls should read, this would definitely be included.

5.) It’s a series! There are currently three Penderwicks books published, with Birdsall working on number four and planning for a total of five in the series. Huzzah! The second and third books are just as lovely as the first. The second book, The Penderwicks on Gardam Street is hilarious…

…and number three, The Penderwicks at Point Mouette  is a tear jerker and, incidentally, made me want to listen to a lot of Copland, which is never a bad thing.

As usual, I urge you to get thee to a library and quickly, too! Get more information about the books at Jeanne Birdsall’s website and read some hints about book numero four here! 

And, last, read a great interview with Birdsall here!

If you’ve already fallen in love with the Penderwicks, let’s chat it up in the comments! Who is your favorite character? What’s your favorite shenanigan the girls and Jeffrey get into? No spoilers, please! 🙂

Seven Things:Part 6

The first week of Advent is behind us and now we’re on to week two! I seriously can’t believe that it goes by so fast. I sort of wish we had more time to linger in Advent because I love the anticipation of Christmas so much. Alas, ’tis not to be.

 

But, what ‘tis to be is our Seven Things for this week! Here goes…

 

1.) Middle Earth exploded on the Cleveland Heights Public Library and it was ah-mazing. It was also exhausting, but very, very worth it! We had 108 people go on our quest and some even wondered if the program was put on by a nationally travelling group. We ain’t yo’ mama’s librarians! Here are some pictures of the amazingness:

Isn’t that the greatest thing you’ve ever seen? And the fact that it’s also an accidental Hidden Mickey makes my Cast Member heart smile!

 

 

The Shire

 

 

I need you to know that there was a speaker hidden in that rock so that the dragon could taunt people and then let out horrible shrieks of death when pierced by arrows. Legit.

 

 

And that is why you should support your public library system! And also why you should read The Hobbit.

 

(Please note that I had nothing to do with the creation of these really amazing set pieces except to gawk at the glory that oozes from my coworkers’ hands. However I did make all of the rocks, so you can stand in awe there.)

 

2.) On a completely different note, my sweet friend, Kate, has given me one of the most thoughtful and creative Christmas gifts of all time. I have never read Dickens’ A Christmas Carol (shameful, I know) and she reads it every year. This year she’s reading it aloud and recording it so that I can listen to it! Isn’t that awesome? Aaand I’m loving it. I’d really forgotten how much I enjoy Dickens!

 

3.) Continuing on the literary strand, I’m currently reading this…

 

“One morning, as Gregor Samsa was waking up from anxious dreams, he discovered that he had been changed into an adorable kitten.” Yes. Yes. Yes.

 

4.) Our church has gorgeous paintings of the saints on the ceiling. Last night at mass, Mag, who had to bring her Nativity people with her, was convinced that the depiction of St. Francis of Assisi was a shepherd. She then proceeded to look for the wise men and I’m fairly certain that she settled on St. Patrick for one of them. No word on the other two, but we’ll keep you posted.

 

5.) Last night I couldn’t figure out why it was so bright in our bedroom until I realized that one of our neighbors went all Clark Griswald on their house with Christmas lights. It is pretty awesome, I’m not gonna lie…there are moving reindeer and I’m pretty sure that there’s a helicopter involved somehow. Not sure what that has to do with the holiday, but we don’t ask questions.

 

6.) Lily is sitting up by herself. Which means she’ll be crawling soon. Which means that mayhaps I should start cleaning the floor now…

Why is my baby big enough to sit up all on her own? And why is there a walkie-talkie under my couch? Mysteries that plague me daily…

 

Also, I seriously can’t get over how much she looks like her Aunt Lauren in this picture. And I love the fact that Lil always makes this face in pictures…like a boss.

 

7.) Final thought for you today, from my Advent devotional by Henri J. M. Nouwen:

“Jesus didn’t live alone. He had Peter, John, and James around him. There were the Twelve and the other disciples. They formed circles of intimacy around Jesus. We too need these circles of intimacy, but it’s a discipline. ...Where are you getting your affection? Who’s touching you? Who’s holding you? Who makes you feel alive? Who says, ‘You are a beautiful person, you are the beloved of God, don’t forget it?’ “

 

I’m daily grateful for the circle of intimacy this blog provides me. Thank you for making me feel loved! And I hope you have a wonderfully restful day today in which you feel how deeply loved and treasured you are…because you truly, truly are!

5 Reasons You Should Read This Book: “Twelve Kinds of Ice” by Ellen Bryan Obed

Last night we decorated the Christmas tree and witnessed a true holiday miracle. The  hubz and I were able to sit and enjoy each other’s company alone because both of the children were asleep. Wonders never cease.

 

As we were winding down the evening, I finished reading “Twelve Kinds of Ice” by Ellen Bryan Obed, illustrated by  Barbara McClintock. And because it’s so accessible at 61 pages, I read it again immediately. This book is gorgeous. Oh, my soul, do I love it!

 

Twelve Kinds of Ice

 

It’s a first-person recollection of a family’s winter traditions all centered around ice and the different forms it takes in their lives. There’s the first ice that forms on buckets and can be easily broken, but as the ice gets thicker and comes in different ways, anticipation builds as the narrator looks forward to skating on streams and ponds, and finally on the family ice rink in the garden. Get thee to the library and read it asap. Here’s why!

 

1.) This book is superbly written. It begs to be read aloud, preferably by firelight with hot cocoa in hand. Here’s an excerpt of one of my favorite parts, in which the children skate on the large pond near their home,

“We sped to silver speeds at which lungs and legs, clouds and sun, wind and cold, raced together. Our blades spit out silver. Our lungs breathed out silver. Our minds burst with silver while the winter sun danced silver down our bending backs.”

Stunning.

 

2.) I think this story is just magical because it captures the emotions that I truly associate with childhood: anticipation, joy, and longing. The manner in which the book is written, so simply yet with such detail, really conveys the feeling of being a child waiting and waiting and waiting for a much-loved event and the magnitude of enjoyment that comes from finally getting to experience it. Oh, and the dreaming, the pretending, the planning… of Rink Rules and ice shows and future Olympics. That’s what childhood is all about, in some form or another.

 

3.) The family in this book absolutely adores one another. Obed depicts parents who are deeply involved in their children’s lives, who teach and challenge, and yet allow freedom to explore. I especially love that there’s a devoted and involved father in this book. He leads the family on adventures, shows them how to maintain their rink, and puts on comical skating shows for everyone to watch from the bedroom window at night. Precious and perfect.

 

4.) Barbara McClintock’s illustrations are really, really great. They strike the right balance between realism and fancy. They’re simple, lovely drawings that add to the story without stealing the show and yet there’s an incredible attention to detail that I really appreciated upon closer inspection.

“The second ice was thicker. We would pick it out of the pails like panes of glass.” (p. 10)

 

 

5.) Winter is magical. Ice is magical. Ice skating, though I’ve only gone once and practically killed myself trying, is magical. “Twelve Kinds of Ice” is magical.  I really think it’s the perfect book to read with a buddy, a school-aged kid, a sweetheart, a sister. It’s quick and short, but so, so joyful and sweet. It truly reminded me of how a child observes the mystery of winter and, for a stressed out adult, that’s pretty magical in and of itself!

“The Ice Show” (p. 52)

 

 

 

 

 

*Nobody involved in the writing, illustrating, or publishing of this book knows who the heck I am. I just love sharing good books with good people…Enjoy!

5 Reasons You Should Read This Book: “In My Heart” by Molly Bang

Since I work in a library and sometimes get to -gasp!- actually read books, I thought it’d be a good idea to start a new segment entitled, “5 Reasons You Should Read This Book.” I’ll be reviewing and recommending books, mostly children’s but possibly adult, too, and giving you 5 reasons I think you should read them. Pretty simple.

 

Okay, so my first pick is, “In My Heart” by Molly Bang

 

1.) This is the perfect book for working families who are separated from one another during the day. It has been the biggest help for Mags who sometimes has trouble with me going to work…at least for the five seconds it takes for me to get out the door.

The book starts with the mother going to work and reminding her child that he’s always in her heart no matter what she’s doing throughout the day. And she’s in his heart, too! I really haven’t found a book that deals with this issue so sensitively and without condescending to the reader. The writing is natural and sweet.

 

2.) And speaking of sensitive and perfect, as you can see from the cover, the child and parents are of different races, so this book is wonderful for adoptive or foster families, too!

 

3.) Which leads me to my third point: Molly Bang is one of the few children’s authors who is able to achieve diversity in her work without trying too hard. Too many authors and illustrators attempt to tackle big issues like race and adoption but make the mistake of putting out work that says, “Look at me! Did you see what I did! Look how diverse and culturally sensitive I am!!” I have no time for that jazz.

Molly Bang is kind of like the Ernest Hemingway of children’s literature… it’s the iceberg theory in perfect, glorious practice and I love her for it.

 

4.) The illustrations in this book are absolutely gorgeous! The illustrations for “In My Heart” were inspired by the work of medieval monks, which is cool, so look for pictures that create beginning letters of words. Also be aware that Molly Bang has the most amazing eye for detail ever, so take your time to really absorb all of the pictures. And, AND, the more familiar you are with Bang’s work, the more you’ll get out of her illustrations because she likes to hide characters from other books in the pictures. Sneaky and fun!

 

5.) “In My Heart” should be the gateway book that gets you hooked on the rest of Molly Bang’s work. (Can you tell I’m sort of obsessed with her?) She’s won oodles (yes, oodles) of awards and honors for her work which include such wonderful titles as:

Depicts a little girl dealing with her anger in a healthy way…another favorite at our house!

 

 

A book of thankfulness… ‘Tis the season!

 

Incredible art and no words. Very fun!

 

I really could go on and on about how much I love Molly Bang’s books. Visit her website to find more about additional titles and subjects (lots of great science books!).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Note: Do remember that none of the authors/illustrators/publishers/book binders/publisher’s lackeys/book binder’s lackeys have any idea that I exist, nor are they affiliated with me in any way. Feel free to write them and request that they pay me a zilliondy dollars for telling my peeps about their books. Yes,   I just said “peeps” because I’m a child of the 90’s.