9 of My Family’s Favorite Children’s Books

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I don’t think it’s any secret that our family loves to read. It’s a source of great pride that all four of us are “hiding under the cover with a flash light and a good book” kind of people. Perhaps the only thing I love more than reading a good book is finding other people a good book to read. So I thought I’d hop on a recent bandwagon of children’s book recommendations (Mommy Shorts has some great picks) and share with you some of our family favorites from the past ten years or so.

Board Books For Babies AKA The Books I Buy For Baby Showers

That’s Not My Bunny by Fiona Watt and Rachel Wells

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This is just one of like a dozen books by Usborne in which the reader flips through a series of bunnies (or dogs, cats, whatever) to find THEIR bunny. Each of the potential bunnies has a defining characteristic that you are encouraged to feel along the way. I love a good touch and feel book for the little ones and my kids were obsessed with this one. It’s a great first board book because there are not too many words, plenty of repetition and lots of bunnies to pet. Way easier than the petting zoo.

We’re Going On a Bear Hunt by Helen Oxenbury and Michael Rosen

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This is one of those books I have a tendency to buy for baby showers. It’s a delight to read out loud which is basically my number one requirement for children’s books. If I feel like I need to paraphrase to get through story time without losing my mind, you aren’t doing it right. This books nails it – it’s got that sweet spot of enough words to not feel brain numbingly simple but not so many that story time needs a glass of wine to get through. Which isn’t to say you can’t have a glass of wine, you just won’t need it to get through page one.

Goodnight Gorilla by Peggy Rathman

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This was one of the few books that I managed to enjoy even after the 800th reading. My son could not get enough of this gorilla and his antics and just how clueless the zoo keeper is. It’s a very visual book so young non-readers will understand what’s going on before you even start reading but the words are good, too. Another well rounded winner for reading out loud.

Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You? by Dr. Seuss

51+BkXslZSL._SX367_BO1,204,203,200_I’ll be honest, this might be the only Dr. Seuss book that doesn’t make me want to run screaming for the hills. Most of his books have that “I need a glass of wine after the first page” quality but this one is awesome and everyone loves it. I fall into a rhythm with this one and still love reading it to babies now. I have the voices and cadence down and get annoyed when other people read it because they don’t do the sound effects right. Yes, I know, I’m a lot.

 

Picture Books You’ll Love More Than Your Kids

We Are In a Book by Mo Willems

51YSqwj-U2L._SX363_BO1,204,203,200_Mo Willems is basically a master of children’s literature and his Piggie and Elephant series is the one you need in your life when your kids start learning to read. There are like a dozen of them and they are all fantastic but this one is my favorite.

Your kids will laugh out loud as you read this to them – it’s one of those stories where the reader kind of becomes a character which is always makes for a lot of laughs. And the repetition is just the right amount to help with beginning readers but not so much that you find yourself dying inside as you read it.

Ladybug Girl by Jacky Davis and David Soman

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This is the first in a series of books about Lulu or Ladybug Girl. The illustrations are stunningly beautiful and kind of turn me into a puddle of emotions. This series captures childhood in a way that is remarkable to me and I have a tendency to gush about it.

This book has a tendency to bring out my inner child and makes for a very impactful story time.

 

The Monster At The End of This Book by Jon Stone and Mike Smollin

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Is there anyone alive who doesn’t love this book? My kids still get a kick out of this story. Heck, I still get a kick out of this story which I remember reading when I was a kid (like a few years ago). It’s kind of similar to the Piggie and Elephant books in the way they play with the fourth wall, bringing the reader into the story. The illustrations are awesome and you will hear Grover’s voice in your head when you are reading it (bonus points if you can pull off a good Grover voice out loud while reading it to your kids).

This one wins the nostalgia for days award in addition to just being an excellent book.

Literally Any Berenstain Bears book

61NKiO9R64LAny time I have some kind of life lesson or milestone that I’m trying to solidify for my kids, I have a tendency to turn to the Berenstain Bears because they have a book for literally any life situation from eating too much candy to talking to strangers to welcoming a new baby into the family. But they never really feel like one big long lecture full of bears. I loved this series as a kid and I’m so thrilled that my kids enjoyed it as much as I did.

I also love their easy reader series and highly recommend it to beginning readers.

Or Little Critter book

61H3NZ5BQ8L._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_My kids love this series, too. I think we have one for every major holiday and I loved All By Myself because I think literally every kid in the universe can relate to this and every parent remembers this phase vividly. The illustrations are so sweet. I love looking to see what the mouse is doing on each page.

What are some of your family’s favorite children’s books?

What I’m Into: Fall 2017

I’ve been a tad bit neglectful of my poor little blog lately. I think this is typical when Fall gets into full swing and life just happens and happens and happens. I thought I’d touch base on what we’ve been up to for those of you following along at home and wondering where I’ve been. Show of hands?

LIVING

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I’ve been a field trip chaperoning machine this fall. And by that I mean “I’ve been on two field trips this month! Woah!” They were both pretty fun. BB’s class went to a local cemetery for a “ghost walk” where local actors portrayed Wisconsin residents involved in the Civil War who told the kids all about their lives. My daughter was particularly smitten with the ghost photographed above who was admittedly a captivating story teller and perhaps more importantly to BB was wearing a gorgeous dress.

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In typical Wisconsin fashion, October has no idea what temperature to be. We’ve been getting a healthy mix of sunny high seventies and dreary mid fifties. My wardrobe is very confused but the kids are just going with the flow.

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I went to my first paint nite with some friends this month and painted the lovely masterpiece photographed above. It’s now hanging in my living room and my kids are pretty sure I’m an up and coming artist. I’m happy to give you a tour of my “gallery” for a very reasonable price. The event was a lot of fun – the teacher was funny and well a good teacher.

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After ignoring my optometrist for ages about not wearing my glasses when I’m reading, I finally bought myself a little chain for my glasses so they can hang out when I’m not wearing them. They are basically the opposite of reading glasses because I like to be difficult.

EATING

My family has given emphatic praise to these recipes recently:

One Pot Stuffed Pepper Casserole from Damn Delicious (accurate)

Crispy Sheet Pan Gnocchi and Veggies from The Kitchn

WATCHING

 

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image source | http://www.thewrap.com

 

Are you guys Jeopardy fans? Can we talk about Austin because he’s seriously the most impressive human I’ve ever seen. I’m a few episodes behind so no spoilers but I love it when funny, clever people have success.

I’ve also been watching old Will & Grace reruns because I’m behind the times and enjoying all of my old favorites coming back for the fall like Big Bang Theory and The Good Place. What are you watching this fall?

READING

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My book club is discussing Before the Fall by Noah Hawley this month which has gotten a lot of good reviews. The first few paragraphs were a little stiff but now that I’ve settled into it I’m really enjoying it. It has a lot of different characters and stories to tell and the initial plot to suss out. Have you read this one? It seems like an ideal book to read on a dreary October afternoon.

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I’m also reading Anne Bogel’s new book, Reading People, and definitely loving that as well. I thought I was pretty familiar with personality types but even just a few chapters in I’ve already had several Ah Ha moments. Anne is really good at getting to the root of how to make your personality work for you.

I’m afraid I might be turning into one of those people who likes to preface my conversations with, “Well as an Introvert…” but hopefully my friends don’t get too annoyed with me. Speaking of personality types, my husband shared this gem with me and if you haven’t seen it yet, well…

So that’s been my life these days. What have you been into lately?

an ode to the summer: because all good things must come to an end

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the hazy glow of summertime has nearly reached its end

though the sweet taste of ice cream is still on our lips

 

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the fairy wings of summer are put away

memories full of music and laughter echo but fade

we can still remember the idle hours of yesterday

as we return to the steady rhythm of today

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we reached for the stars and gazed at the sun

(carefully)

 

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we ran wild, we danced without a care.

howled at the moon and posed with a bear.

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we languished idly when the moment felt right

as it often did.

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but now we’ve memed all the moments

 

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we’ve plunged all the depths

we’ve plenty of chlorine to rinse from our tresses

the beach bags are empty

the sunscreen’s run out.

we know what this means:

school’s in, summer’s out.


I’m linking up with Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop. I chose her first prompt this week: Your summer recap in a poem and pictures. Head to her blog for more fun!

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What I’m Into | August 2017

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September is finally here and I don’t know about you but I’m like: Finally. My kids went back to school two weeks ago so it’s felt like September to me for awhile now. The struggles of going back to school earlier than the rest of the city. #thestruggleisnotreal #itsbeenawesome #excepttheearlymornings

I’m linking up with Leigh Kramer to share what I’ve been into lately – books, movies, tv shows, recipes, life, etc.

Here’s what I’ve been up to lately.

READING

I read a ton of graphic novels last month based on classic novels and finished two actual regular type books, too.

the graphic novels

  1. Jane Eyre: The Graphic Novel by by Amy Corzine and Charlotte Brontë – Finished 8/8 – I had a hard time following the plot as I haven’t read the novel. I’d consider this a kind of cliffs note version of the original story but I enjoying the artwork and finished the book in one sitting.

  2. Anne of Green Gables: A Graphic Novel by by Mariah Marsden (Illustrations) and Brenna Thummler (Illustrations) and L.M. Montgomery – Finished 8/17 – This wasn’t a home run for me but not a total loss either. I enjoyed spending some time in Green Gables but I am not sure that someone new to this story would fall for it in quite the same way as you would the original. The pacing felt very fast and the illustrations were not always my favorite. But it was a quick read and a nice way to reexperience an old favorite.

  3. Manga Classics: Pride & Prejudice by Stacy King and Jane Austen – Finished 8/25 – Pride and Prejudice is one of my favorite novels and I tend to enjoy most adaptations of it. This was no different. I’ve read several graphic novel versions of classic novels now but this series of manga classics is my favorite. They go into just enough details and do a good job expressing the heart and essence of the original without feeling overly abridged. Plus the artwork is beautiful.

  4. Manga Classics: The Scarlet Letter by Stacy King and Nathaniel Hawthorne – Finished 8/28 – This is one of those classics that I loathed in high school and never actually finished so I thought it would be a good book to try in manga format. I think any effort to simplify Nathaniel Hawthorne is a good thing and definitely enjoyed this more than the original. The artwork is well done and you definitely get a good understanding of the story. It feels like the important details and the heart of the story are all intact. As for the actual story, it will probably never be a favorite of mine but I can understand its importance and even why it would be a good book to discuss in school.

regular type books

20603758Ready Player One by Ernest Cline – Finished 8/4 – I enjoyed this book but it took me awhile to finish. It felt very long and I picked it up and put it down a few times. I enjoyed all the 80’s pop culture references and the plot of the story. I can see why it’s being made into a movie. The main character has a lot of heart and it was just as much a coming of age story as it was a kind of scifi action adventure story.

24388326The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood – Finished 8/23 – This book can probably be best described as disturbing. I thought the premise was interesting and Atwood definitely took the story to places I didn’t see coming, but basically all the characters are terrible people and it definitely had scenes that made me squirm uncomfortably. Not for the faint of heart. (August Book Club Pick)

Right now I’m kind of floating between books. I haven’t really committed to anything yet. My book club will be reading Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance along with the UW Big Read program.

WATCHING

My husband and I have been making our way through Scrubs together. The kids and I watched a lot of Beat Shazam and Glitter Force before they went back to school. Now that they are in school during the day I have been catching up on The Handmaid’s Tale and watching the newest season of Project Runway. I also just watched season one of Glow on Netflix and OMG I was obsessed. Seriously soooo good. Also NO I have not watched the last Game of Thrones episode so please no spoilers!

Some movies we’ve watched recently:

The original Tron was a solid movie despite the achingly old fashioned vision of ultra modern technology. I think I spent a very large chunk of the movie OMGing over oh so young Jeff Bridges. Now we need to go back and watch the original.

I also finally watched Dirty Dancing and I don’t know what I was waiting for. It was actually way better than I was expecting for some reason.

LISTENING

I am borderline obsessed with Taylor Swift’s new song, Look What You Made Me Do. My husband borderline hates it. This seems to be one of those songs that divides the line between our musical tastes. What say you?

We were driving in the car yesterday and an older Ed Sheeran song was playing and my eleven year old was singing along in the backseat. I commented on it and my husband said, “Well yeah, he loves Ed Sheeran.” How did I not notice this? But then, we all love Ed Sheeran. And yet I have not gotten around to buying any of his music which seems absurd. I’m chalking it up to the music always been readily available on Top 40 – but is it more than that?

What songs do you end up purchasing like immediately and which ones do you always enjoy but never buy?

EATING

We made this cabbage and kielbasa skillet recipe from Budget Bytes over the weekend and my husband was basically writing love songs about it. Our other favorite kielbasa recipe is this one from Dude Mom with roasted potatoes and broccoli.

LOVING

We crammed in a lot of last minute summer fun last month – a trip to Dubuque to see the Mississippi River Museum, an afternoon at the Renaissance Faire and a day trip to one of our favorite state parks for some fishing and beach time.

52164268I found ballet flats at Target that my feet didn’t immediately hate for a price that didn’t make my heart hurt. I don’t think these are wear them all day flats (at least for me) but they seem to be solid wear for an hour or two around town flats.

I want to go to all of these hotels for book lovers. And like move in and live there forever.

And God Created Millennial Earth at McSweeney’s is the LOL you need today. And possibly the one you deserve.

This Buzzfeed Quiz will tell you which Babysitter’s Club member you are – it’s surprisingly accurate. It won’t just tell you who your favorite member is (because those are rarely the same person). I got Mallory – how about you?

So what have you been into lately?

The Best Books My Eight Year Old Read This Summer | Video Review

My kids basically read the entire public library this summer and they have a lot of feels about it that I thought you might enjoy. I made these video reviews starring my eight year old because her recaps are so cute they basically begged to be recorded. And then edited a tad to cut out some of the umms and uhhhs and staring blankly at the camera bits. And given a snazzy postorized effect because anything starring my daughter should probably more colorful than seems necessary.

BB fell in love with the world of graphic novels this summer so it is not very surprising that her two favorites are both from that section.

6389496Pigling is a graphic novel Cinderella story by Dan Jolley and Anne Timmons but it definitely stands on its own as a unique tale.

Pear Blossom, a young Korean girl, leads a happy life … until her mother dies and her father remarries. Her new wicked stepmother and stepsister make Pear Blossom the victim of their cruelty. But … one day, the girl meets a handsome magistrate. Will Pear Blossom’s luck change for the better? Or is she destined to suffer at her stepfamily’s hands forever?

This was just one of the incredible graphic novelized renditions of a classic tale that we found and devoured this summer. You can read my thoughts on a few more here.

Here are all of my daughter’s thoughts about Pigling:


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My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic by  Katie Cook and Andy Price stars those ponies that you are probably already a little familiar with. Just in case you are not well versed in all things My Little Pony though…

Welcome to Ponyville, home of Twilight Sparkle, Rainbow Dash, Rarity, Fluttershy, Pinkie Pie, Applejack, and all your other favorite Ponies! Something’s not right in the town though, as some of the inhabitants are acting very, very strange! It’s up to the Mane Six to find the source of the weirdness before it’s too late!

And if your darling enjoys this one, don’t worry as there are many more books that follow it.

Here’s what my eight year old has to say about this one:


What books are your kids reading right now?

What book should my daughter read next?

First Day of School / Solar Eclipse

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My kids started school today and of course I was there with my camera to photograph every minute of our morning. In lieu of a printout with their grade written on it, I decided to try  something new and have them hold up a playing card with the number that corresponds to their grade in school this year. I used Phase 10 cards because the numbers are huge and bold. I think it came out pretty cute.

This is a big milestone year for us at school because both of my kids are in the downstairs portion of the school that is sort of considered the land of the Big Kids. The other moms in my daughter’s 3rd grade class all commiserated / celebrated the moment with me – we all agreed it was surreal to see them downstairs this year. We are excited for the year to come.

I spent the morning having coffee with school parents and then a quick trip to Target (of course) for a few random items still on my shopping list. I was feeling pretty much pure bliss driving in my oh so quiet car. Before I knew it though it was time to pick them up – they only had a half day today so we met Dan for lunch and then drove over to a nearby park to watch the solar eclipse.

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Dan found these nifty glasses online several months ago – they have all the certifications that they have been tested and are safe to use and even on a pretty cloudy day they totally worked. Just looking around without the glasses it didn’t look like anything was really happening. The sun was only partially covered by the moon and the cloudiness honestly made it look like just a normal overcast day. But through the glasses we were able to watch the moon travel across the sun, covering all but a small crescent shaped portion of it. Pretty cool!

Were you able to see the eclipse at all from where you live?

When do your kids go back to school?

Who else wants my daughter’s unicorn dress to be made in grown up size?

PRINTABLE | A Quick & Easy Summer Reading Challenge

Our summer vacation is coming to a close – two more weeks until my kiddos go back to school. I was looking over the summer reading bingo sheets today and thinking about what’s working and what isn’t working.

I love a lot of things about this set up – my kids didn’t seem to get much use out of the coupons that you can win at our library’s summer reading program and keeping track of reading minutes or titles all summer sounded a lot like homework. Thus my bingo sheets were born.

Fast forward two years though and I feel like the bingo sheets are met with enthusiasm for the first week or so and then mostly forgotten. Every so often I’d go over the sheet, asking them questions like “Did you read any books about animals?” or “Did you start reading a new series this summer?” and even though the answer might have been yes, they were often unsure having forgotten exact titles.

My kids have been reading a ton this summer – quantity has not been an issue. If anything, our system just seems to be unnecessarily complicated. And we’ve been busy enough to not have time for unnecessarily complicated systems. So I decided to make a pared down reading challenge that highlights our favorite aspects of the current system.

Anne @ Modern Mrs Darcy does an annual reading challenge that I love and this year’s challenge included a handy bookmark to keep tucked in your current read. I loved this idea and decided to incorporate it into a new reading challenge for next year.

I know a lot of you still have several weeks of summer left and thought I’d share this here in case you want to motivate your kids to squeeze in some extra reading time before school starts.

BEHOLD: The Summer Reading Challenge For People With No Time For Summer Reading Challenges

2018 summer reading

Print it as a bookmark or open up your favorite photo editing site and make your own – I use picmonkey.com to make all my graphics and highly recommend it. It’s all online and has tons of graphics and fonts and flexibility. / Plug

Currently | 08-02-2017

I’m having a hard time remembering to post with any regularity this summer – it’s like my kids want me to look at them all day or something. Ugh. I’ve checked in a few times with some pictures of summer fun and talking about books, per usual, but that’s about it. That’s What She Read posted a Currently post recently and I thought – perfect! What better way for me to slow down and write about everything going on these days.

So here you go. Right now I am…

Currently reading: If you look at my goodreads.com list of books currently being read, you are probably thinking, “Wow, Jen reads a lot of books at once!” but the truth is that I’m only giving my full attention to two books right now.

20603758I jumped back into reading Ready Player One by Earnest Cline after seeing a trailer for the movie coming out. I had already read about half of it before I put it down to prioritize a book club pick and then couldn’t get back into it. But I had been enjoying it and it was rankling me. The movie trailer lit a fire under my butt to get back to it. (Speaking of the trailer – I’m not loving it. It looks much more action adventure and much less nerdy 80’s kid dream story. But I know it’s a lot of plot to cram into a trailer and maybe 2 minutes of Wade geeking out over a Rush album wouldn’t have been as globally compelling.)

24388326My book club is discussing The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood this month and my library copy just came in! Yay! This is the same author who wrote The Handmaid’s Tale which you probably know was turned into a mini series on Hulu (unless you are that actual person who lives under a rock – nice to meet you!). This one is another dystopian story about America after a pretty brutal financial collapse that has it’s main characters living out of their car before agreeing to join a society that promises them a nice house, steady job, good life for 6 months out of the year – the other 6 months they are in prison. Obviously things only get more interesting from there.

Currently listening to: a healthy mix of the Trolls soundtrack, John Mayer’s new album and whatever the radio station deigns to play between commercials and terrible talk radio shows.

Currently watching: Howl’s Moving Castle with the kids and it was so good that I want to watch a whole lot more movies by the writer, Hayao Miyazaki. But none of them are really available streaming and this was the only one I noticed at our video rental place. Since I can’t afford to buy them all, I think this leaves the local library. Fans of Miyazaki, which ones should we watch first?

20479562_10101317581308706_7582190183688617313_nCurrently eating: a lot of fun exotic food. I’m teaching the kids about different Asian cultures this week so we’ve had ramen of course, bubble tea, chinese food from our favorite buffet and tonight we’re ordering Indian food. Next week I’ll need to plan dinners a little more frugally but we’ve been having a lot of fun with it.

Currently drinking: Throwback Mountain Dew because I’m far too obsessed. I’ve also been making iced coffee with these new pods from Nespresso. So basically I don’t sleep anymore.

Currently rewatching: Scrubs with my husband. I’ve never watched it in order before so I’m loving it more than before and especially loving all the cameos from actors that I wouldn’t have recognized back then. Mike Heck as the Janitor that harasses JD is basically everything.

Currently opened tabs: You so don’t even want to see all of them but highlights include gmail of course, a blog tag at Birdie Bookworm that I’m thinking about playing along with, 5 Things Anne @ Modern Mrs Darcy Learned Last Month, a comic from Hedger Humor, and blogging prompts from Mama Kat.

Currently on my book to-buy list: I preordered a copy of Anne Bogel’s book, Reading People, which comes out next month. Other than that I don’t have any big book purchases planned except that I’ll probably break down and buy book two in the Throne of Glass series very soon because – seriously hooked.

28763485Currently on my TBR list: I have been meaning to really crack into The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon for a few weeks now. Once my reading pile clears out a bit, I’m planning to make that a priority along  with Always & Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han which showed up on my doorstep recently after a moment of weakness of the hardcover persuasion.

Currently recommending: the cheesecake at Costco because it is outrageously delicious but make sure you have an army to help you eat it because it is massive and decadent.

Currently talking about on the blog: I’m wringing my hands over how old my children are getting after my daughter’s 8th birthday, talking about the difference between my kids’ summer and my summer, discussing slip covers on books (which I hate but some people love), and other reading habits and literary would you rather questions.

What are you currently loving, reading, doing? 

Don’t Blink: Her 8th Birthday

When people ask me how long we’ve lived in Wisconsin, I quickly consider the age of my daughter before responding and it always catches me by surprise. We’ve lived here for EIGHT years now and the proof is in how big my youngest child is. Which seems to be bigger every time I look at her lately.

Sometimes it feels like ten minutes ago she looked like this:

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And then I blinked and she looked like this:

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Like when did that even happen? But then I look through that Facebook “on this day” feature and watch the years slide by and ohhh it really does go so fast…

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Last week she turned officially eight years old. There was much birthday cake and merriment. We invited friends over for a Trolls themed birthday party complete with sing-a-long. She blew out candles.

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And then I blinked again and the moment was over. Life got busy and she was simply eight years old. But in between dropping kids off for summer camps and buying groceries and switching loads of laundry I keep looking at her in amazement, wondering when all my littles became bigs, where those cheek bones came from and what she’ll look like after I blink next.

Happy 8th Birthday, Darling, But Please Slow Down.

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linking up with Mama Kat | you should, too

My Summer vs. My kids’ Summer

I’m linking up with Mama Kat’s writers workshop again this week. Her 5th prompt jumped out at me pretty much right away: Your summer vs. Your kids summer. I’m probably not alone in thinking that my summer looks pretty different from my kids’ summer. Not in a bad way, just different.

Their summer so far has looked like this:

copious photo ops at the zoo, camping  trips, swim lessons, backgammon at Grammy’s, boundless energy, ice cream everywhere, Icees and bowling with friends, video games for days and watermelon as big as your face (or dress)

My summer meanwhile has looked more like this…

Reading in the in between moments, watching swim lessons from the comfort of a beach chair in the shade, finding the perfect Moscato, eight million selfies with my fashionista soon to be eight year old, driving literally everywhere and making homemade pickles

Honestly, both summers look pretty awesome. I don’t even think I’m jealous of all the fun my kids are having because my summer has been pretty great all on its own. What about you?

What is your summer looking like this year?