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Some of our favorite 2019 memories so far.

Our summer vacation is half over. The kids go back to school in mid- August, a fact which makes most people do a double take because their kids have only been on vacation for like a month. #privateschoollife

We’ve had a BUSY summer and a lot of great summer memories are firmly under our belt. Here’s a not remotely exhaustive round up of some of the highlights of our summer.

Dan found the perfect little fishing pond nearby and he and the kids have been enjoying fishing together on lazy weekend mornings.

We’ve all become obsessed with Pokemon Go this summer. I finally seem to have a phone capable of playing the game without dying and Dan and I are oscillating between competitive and cooperative gameplay which is enough to make any hobby take up a lot of our time. Lots of Pokewalks and raids this summer.

My little Daredevil went on her first Zipline this summer. And then not to be outdone…

This one flew an airplane at the EAA museum the next day!

We took our annual vacation to Massachusetts to visit family and honestly had the best time catching up with everyone. We also went on a quick trip to Mount Wachusett which I’m ashamed to say was my first time despite having grown up basically around the corner from the place.

I made homemade strawberry jam for the first time and the reviews have been seriously ecstatic. I guess I need to make it more often because “best jam ever!” keeps getting thrown around.

My baby turned 10 and we celebrated basically everywhere all month but then for realsies we had a birthday party with some of her besties. The theme was Nancy Drew and I promise to tell you more about it later when I’m done sobbing about all my babies being double digits.

Last night my THIRTEEN year old earned his brown leader stripe in karate. This is the last step before testing for black belt which will probably happen this fall. Remember when he was a gangly first grader taking a free karate class on a whim? I sure do.

What have you been up to this summer?

Where are the Snowdens of yesteryear?

Are you linking up with Mama Kat? Everyone else is doing it! #peerpressure #fomo

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family fun

What I’ve Been Reading This Summer.

Summer vacation is half over and my reading life has been pretty spectacular. I’ve been leaning into my favorite easy reading genres and knocking out titles left and right. Granted, most of these were graphic novels that I knocked out in two sittings. But a summer spent reading happily is basically #lifegoals.

Here are the books I read this summer. I’m linking up with Anne @ Modern Mrs. Darcy for her monthly Quick Lit link up.

  1. Mr. Darcy Forever by Victoria Connelly | Finished 6/6 | I finished this one in spite of myself to find out what happened. I didn’t really enjoy how the book jumps from past tense to present tense though I understand why the author chose to do so. I found some of the characters absurd and spent a lot of time wondering if the main characters might actually be idiots not to see through the Wickham type that tears them apart. Of course it all works out in the end and the Jane Austen references were fun, but I’m disappointed in this one.
  2. Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier | Finished 6/7 | This was a little sad, a little magical and a very sweet. I read it in two sittings. My 9 year old really enjoyed it, too.
  3. Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde | Finished 6/11 | I’ve never been to a convention, so this was a fun peek inside what that might be like. It also had two fun romances, fandom for days, and really fully realized characters with quirks and flaws to overcome and embrace. I really appreciated seeing inside the head of s character with Asperger’s and social anxiety. I thought that was really well done.
  4. Invisible Emmie by Terri Libenson | Finished 6/15 | This was really sweet. I liked how you got to see the story from different perspectives, like how our attitudes can change our outlook on life. The illustrations are great, the story was easy to relate to and the ending was very uplifting.
  5. Positively Izzy by Terri Libenson | Finished 6/18 | Another great graphic novel by Terri Libenson. Invisible Emmie had a surprise twist ending so I figured this one would, too, but I have to be honest, I didn’t see it coming until the last second. I love her characters and the story was sweet.
  6. Smile by Raina Telgemeier | Finished 6/25 | This was really good. It’s the author’s true story of getting braces – and also going through puberty, dealing with first crushes, frenemies, learning to like herself and not focus on appearances so much. I love a good coming of age story. I read this graphic novel in two sittings and would definitely recommend it to tween girls.
  7. Ms. Marvel, Vol. 1 by G. Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphona (Illustrator), Jacob Wyatt (Illustrator) | Finished 6/25 | This was such a cool super hero story. For anyone who has ever wished to be someone else or have the super cool super powers that they read about in comics or see on tv – this explores what it would be like if that actually happened. The main character deals with normal teenage stuff, family trouble, culturual clashes of being a Muslim in America – and then also has to deal with super powers that she doesn’t know how to control! Very cool.
  8. The Fire Within by Chris d’Lacey | Finished 6/26 | I read this out loud to my 9 year old and in all fairness she loved it. I personally found the pacing to be way too slow and I’m still confused as to why this book was marked as being about dragons when 75% of the story was about a squirrel. It almost felt like two entirely different stories that were forced together.
  9. All’s Faire in Middle School by Victoria Jamieson| Finished 6/27 | This was so cute! I loved the premise. Imogene is starting middle school after being homeschooled by her parents who work at a Renaissance faire. She must battle bullies, strict teachers, trying to fit in, owning up to mistakes, finding real friends – you know, normal middle school stuff. I loved the contrast of life at the faire to life in middle school. This one actually made me cry a couple times! *I would caution that this one might not be appropriate for younger readers as Imogene is a fairly typical young teen dealing with puberty on the horizon. Nothing inappropriate happens but parents might want to flip through the book before handing it to younger kids.*
  10. Drama by Raina Telgemeier | Finished 7/2 | I liked this one but not quite as much as her other books. It was very realistic in portraying the complications of crushes growing up, but maybe too realistic. There were a lot of moving parts and it was hard to know what to root for or where things were ultimately going.
  11. Sisters by Raina Telgemeier | Finished 7/3 | Another great graphic memoir by Raina Telgemeier. This is a story about a road trip she took with her mom and siblings when she was fourteen and her tumultuous relationship with her sister growing up.
  12. Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins | Finished 7/9 | I love this series. I think Anna and the French Kiss was still my favorite but I really liked this one. Perkins is good at making me stay up late reading. I appreciated the realness of the characters, the genuine struggles they dealt with, imperfect decision making. Lola was sometimes a little over the top and dense but she definitely won me over in the end.

Right now I’m flitting between a few books. When Dimple Met Rishi and Roller Girl are currently at the top of the heap.

What are you reading right now?

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family fun

June, in Review.

I think I might be turning into a terrible blogger. Or at the very least a very busy mom who shows up to post on her blog once every two months and then makes empty promises to the thin air around her about how she’s going to start writing here more often, honestly.

I’m at that place in my blogging “career” where I’ve been around long enough to get bored of my own voice a couple of times now. I take breaks, I refocus, I go in and out of blogging a lot and not blogging much at all. I don’t think this current dry spell is anything different. But for my loyal fans and family back home wondering what we’ve been up to – here are some photographs from June that show you what life has been looking like whilst I’ve been too busy to write about it. Ready?

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We went camping at my new favorite campground but it was so absurdly cold and rainy that we only stayed one night. That was a hard decision to make because the campground is several hours from home and we’d been fully intending to stay the whole weekend. Next year we will not book a camping trip there quite so early in the season. But before we packed it all in and drove home we managed to sit by a campfire, make an enormous amount of roasted marshmallows and s’mores, cook the perfect steak over the fire, get in a little bit of fishing and hiking and reaffirm that we love this campground. ‘Til next time.

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My kids and Dan spent several weekend mornings fishing this month at a little pond the next town over. I took pictures, caught Pokemon nearby and complained that I was bored like the nice wife that I am.

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My kids somehow morphed into the children that are WAY too big to be playing in a mall play area. When did that happen? Luckily the play area has been relatively empty the last few times that we met a friend to relax and play and I let them go nuts anyway with the stipulation that if they make me regret it, I will Mom Hulk Out on them about it. So far so good. Also remember when they were babies?

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Speaking of Pokemon (I’m always speaking of Pokemon these days – my friends love it), we have been taking lots of Pokewalks this summer. And occasional Pokedrives and Pokesittingincoffeeshopsfightingingymbattles. Do you play Pokemon go? You can totally friend me – hit me up in the comments section with your friend code thing.

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Because I’m bad at learning my lesson the first four times, I signed the kids up for the first session of swim lessons at the local pool and it was COLD. And rainy. And seriously I think one lesson out of the ten might have been warm enough to create happy well adjusted children who wanted to be there.

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At the company picnic, my nine year old went on the Zipline while my thirteen year old and I watched from the ground thinking about how safe and sensible standing on the earth is. Seriously though, she freaking loved it and I’m super proud of her.

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Last but certainly not least, did I mention that the next day my usually cautious thirteen year old flew a freaking airplane for the first time at the EAA Museum. We went there for Father’s Day and somehow stumbled into a very brief flying lesson for my eldest child. My husband was the proudest father who ever existed and I think everyone  collectively was super jealous and impressed.

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books & reading family fun reviews

6 Graphic Novels To Read With Your Tweens.

This summer I have been reading some awesome graphic novels aimed at the tweenage set and I thought I’d share some of my favorites so far. I divided this list into three categories, based on the age range that I see them being best suited for. Because “Tween” can be kind of a broad term as kids grow up and change so much over the course of a few years.

For Younger “Tweens” who are about to enter middle school

34922129._SX318_Invisible Emmie by Terri Libenson | This was really sweet. I liked how you got to see the story from different perspectives, like how our attitudes can change our outlook on life. The illustrations are great, the story was easy to relate to and the ending was very uplifting.

I think this book and the others in its series are perfect for girls getting ready to enter middle school. There are some great life lessons that could serve them well but they aren’t delivered in a forced or obvious way.

This is the story of two totally different girls—quiet, shy, artistic Emmie and popular, outgoing, athletic Katie—and how their lives unexpectedly intersect one day when an embarrassing note falls into the wrong hands.

37559427._SX318_Positively Izzy by Terri Libenson| Another great graphic novel by Terri Libenson. Invisible Emmie had a surprise twist ending so I figured this one would, too, but I have to be honest, I didn’t see it coming until the last second. I love her characters and the story was just as sweet as the first book.

Middle school is all about labels. Izzy is the dreamer. There’s nothing Izzy loves more than acting in skits and making up funny stories. The downside? She can never quite focus enough to get her schoolwork done.

Bri is the brain. But she wants people to see there’s more to her than just a report card full of As. At the same time, she wishes her mom would accept her the way she is and stop bugging her to “break out of her shell” and join drama club.

The girls’ lives converge in unexpected ways on the day of a school talent show, which turns out to be even more dramatic than either Bri or Izzy could have imagined.

For Girls In Middle School Who Want A Story With More Substance

These graphic novels by Raina Telgemeier are also great for tweens but I found them to be a little more real. The characters are very fleshed out, they are dealing with real problems – the emotional stakes are a little bigger than the books from the last section.

28508620._SX318_Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier | My 9 year old daughter and I actually both read this one. She loves the author/illustrator who also illustrated most of the new Babysitters Club graphic novels. This graphic novel is a little sad, a little fantastical and very sweet overall. I read it in two sittings after seeing how much my daughter enjoyed it.

“Catrina and her family are moving to the coast of Northern California because her little sister, Maya, is sick. Cat isn’t happy about leaving her friends for Bahía de la Luna, but Maya has cystic fibrosis and will benefit from the cool, salty air that blows in from the sea. As the girls explore their new home, a neighbor lets them in on a secret: There are ghosts in Bahía de la Luna. Maya is determined to meet one, but Cat wants nothing to do with them. As the time of year when ghosts reunite with their loved ones approaches, Cat must figure out how to put aside her fears for her sister’s sake — and her own.”

6393631Smile by Raina Telgemeier| After reading Ghosts, I was immediately inspired to read another book by the author. This one was really good. It’s the author’s true story of getting braces – and also going through puberty, dealing with first crushes, frenemies, learning to like herself and not focus on appearances so much. I love a good coming of age story. I read this graphic novel in two sittings and would definitely recommend it to tween girls.

Raina just wants to be a normal sixth grader. But one night after Girl Scouts she trips and falls, severely injuring her two front teeth, and what follows is a long and frustrating journey with on-again, off-again braces, surgery, embarrassing headgear, and even a retainer with fake teeth attached. And on top of all that, there’s still more to deal with: a major earthquake, boy confusion, and friends who turn out to be not so friendly. This coming-of-age true story is sure to resonate with anyone who has ever been in middle school, and especially those who have ever had a bit of their own dental drama.”

For Older Tweens and Teens Who Have Already “Had the Talk”

These last two are books that I read which by all rights fit the same theme as the other four but contain moments that would have given me pause if my nine year old was reading them. I still might be fine with her reading them to be honest, now that I’ve read them and would be prepared for possible talking points – but I feel the need to add a caution to my recommendation if you and your daughter have yet to discuss birds, bees and the like. I’d maybe flip through the book / comic yourself before passing it along to a younger kid.

33517044All’s Faire in Middle School by Victoria JamiesonThis book might have actually been my personal favorite of the bunch. I loved the premise. Imogene is starting middle school after being home schooled by her parents who work at a Renaissance faire. They pretty much had me at hello with this premise.

She must battle bullies, strict teachers, trying to fit in, owning up to mistakes, finding real friends – you know, normal middle school stuff. I loved the contrast of life at the faire to life in middle school. This one actually made me cry a couple times!

For the most part this book is totally appropriate for tweens and nothing untoward actually happens but there is a chapter in the book where the main character has puberty on the mind for sure and a younger child or her parent might be a little taken by surprise. As a parent, I’d recommend flipping through this one yourself first and deciding if you want to pass it along to your younger kids.

Eleven-year-old Imogene (Impy) has grown up with two parents working at the Renaissance Faire, and she’s eager to begin her own training as a squire. First, though, she’ll need to prove her bravery. Luckily Impy has just the quest in mind–she’ll go to public school after a life of being homeschooled! But it’s not easy to act like a noble knight-in-training in middle school. Impy falls in with a group of girls who seem really nice (until they don’t) and starts to be embarrassed of her thrift shop apparel, her family’s unusual lifestyle, and their small, messy apartment. Impy has always thought of herself as a heroic knight, but when she does something really mean in order to fit in, she begins to wonder whether she might be more of a dragon after all.

23433847._SY475_Ms. Marvel, Vol. 1 by G. Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphona (Illustrator), Jacob Wyatt (Illustrator)| This was such a cool super hero story. For anyone who has ever wished to be someone else or have the super cool super powers that they read about in comics or see on tv – this explores what it would be like if that actually happened. The main character deals with normal teenage stuff, family trouble, cultural clashes of being a Muslim in America – and then also has to deal with super powers that she doesn’t know how to control! Very cool.

This comic is honestly fairly tame but the main character is in high school so she’s dealing with normal high school stuff. Again, parents might want to flip through it themselves first to be aware of anything that might be worth having a conversation about.

“Marvel Comics presents the all-new Ms. Marvel, the groundbreaking heroine that has become an international sensation! Kamala Khan is an ordinary girl from Jersey City – until she is suddenly empowered with extraordinary gifts. But who truly is the all-new Ms. Marvel? Teenager? Muslim? Inhuman? Find out as she takes the Marvel Universe by storm! As Kamala discovers the dangers of her newfound powers, she unlocks a secret behind them as well. Is Kamala ready to wield these immense new gifts? Or will the weight of the legacy before her be too much to handle? Kamala has no idea either. But she’s comin’ for you, New York!”

Okay so what graphic novels should I be reading next?

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books & reading family fun reviews

What My Kids Are Reading This Summer

Summer vacation is in full swing here and for us that means copious amounts of reading and trips to the library. We’re taking advantage of all the things our library has to offer this summer from arts and crafts events for tweens to outdoor Quidditch games for teens, summer reading programs, adult reading programs, and all the books, movies and board games we can fit in our tote bag.

I thought I’d share a couple of their favorite reads so far this summer in case you are looking for some Next Great Read inspiration for your own kids.

What My 9 Year Old Has Been Reading This Summer

28508620._SX318_Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier | My daughter and I actually both read this one. She loves the author/illustrator who also illustrated most of the new Babysitters Club graphic novels. This graphic novel is a little sad, a little fantastical and very sweet overall. I read it in two sittings after seeing how much my daughter enjoyed it. It was so good I fell into a graphic novel binge fest to see what other middle reader graphic novels were out there.

“Catrina and her family are moving to the coast of Northern California because her little sister, Maya, is sick. Cat isn’t happy about leaving her friends for Bahía de la Luna, but Maya has cystic fibrosis and will benefit from the cool, salty air that blows in from the sea. As the girls explore their new home, a neighbor lets them in on a secret: There are ghosts in Bahía de la Luna. Maya is determined to meet one, but Cat wants nothing to do with them. As the time of year when ghosts reunite with their loved ones approaches, Cat must figure out how to put aside her fears for her sister’s sake — and her own.”

1239726The Fire Within by Chris d’Lacey | My daughter and I actually read this one together as a bedtime story over the last few months and in all fairness she loved it and can’t wait to read the next book in the series. I personally found the pacing to be way too slow and I’m still confused as to why this book was marketed as being about dragons when 75% of the story was about a squirrel. It almost felt like two entirely different stories that were forced together.

“When David moves in with Elizabeth Pennykettle and her eleven-year-old daughter, Lucy, he discovers a collection of clay dragons that come to life. David’s own special dragon inspires him to write a story, which reveals the secrets behind a mystery. In order to solve the mystery and save his dragon, David must master the magic of the fire within – not only with his hands but also with his heart.”

These are the books I remember the most gushing about over the last month but in all fairness my daughter read another 28 books besides these two. Add in a lot of graphic novel fairy tales, Baby Mouse books, books about fairies and Babysitters Club to get an idea of the full picture.

What My 13 Year Old Has Been Reading This Summer

25817553Herobrine’s Message (The Elementia Chronicles, Book 3) by Sean Fay Wolfe | This is book three in a trilogy based in the Minecraft universe. It is a massive tome of a book at 784 pages, so my son has spent much of the past month working his way through it. He’s a huge fan of the series – and all things Minecraft – and pretty much spent every waking minute with it until it was finished.

The Republic of Elementia is in ruins after the Noctem Alliance wages war on Element City. President Stan and his council are scattered across the server, trying to find their way back to one another to continue their fight for freedom. And a mysterious figure has joined their world—one with the power to save or destroy them all. In the stunning conclusion to the Elementia Chronicles trilogy, Stan, Kat, Charlie, and their friends make a last stand for the world they love in an epic battle of good vs. evil.

Written when he was seventeen years old, Sean Fay Wolfe’s The Elementia Chronicles Book III: Herobrine’s Message is the third and final novel in The Elementia Chronicles trilogy.

41081306The Next Great Paulie Fink by Ali Benjamin | This was one of the books we got in our Owl Crate Jr. boxes this summer and MM continues to rave about it. We’re planning to read it together as a family read aloud soon.

“When Caitlyn Breen enters the tiny Mitchell School in rural Mitchell, Vermont, she is a complete outsider: the seventh grade has just ten other kids, and they’ve known each other since kindergarten. Her classmates are in for a shock of their own: Paulie Fink–the class clown, oddball, troublemaker, and evil genius–is gone this year.

As stories of Paulie’s hijinks unfold, his legend builds, until they realize there’s only one way to fill the Paulie-sized hole in their class. They’ll find their next great Paulie Fink through a reality-show style competition, to be judged by the only objective person around: Caitlyn, who never even met Paulie Fink.”

When he wasn’t reading these he was devouring Calvin and Hobbes and Foxtrot comic book collections and reading Minecraft manuals. Or playing video games.

What books are your kids reading right now?